Friday, November 30, 2007

One Leader , Two Leaders or No Leaders ??

The Green Party in England and Wales are due to announce if their members have voted to change the party's policy of having two "principal speakers" as leaders. About 7,000 people have been balloted on whether the current set-up should remain, or if the party should have a single figurehead instead.

Changing over to a single leader would help to strengthen "democracy, participation and effectiveness" according to Caroline Lucas , at present one of the "co-principal spoke-persons " to use Green Party nu-speak for leader . "Leadership is the inspiring, organising, motivating force that makes sure good ideas actually get put into practice," she said

Well , whats wrong with a political party that has a membership who don't require a leadership to make its decisions , that has an executive council which doesn't determine policies , that has a general secretary whose role is to administer and not to control ?
Whatever failings the Socialist Party has , it is the failings of its members and not of a leader. There are no continual recriminations about sell-outs or betrayals . No eternal search for the correct guru .
As Eugene Debs said
"I don't want you to follow me or anyone else. If you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of the capitalist wilderness you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into this promised land if I could, because if I could lead you in, someone else could lead you out.”

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Before it was the strikers in France , this week the youth of the housing estates took up the battle .

"Violence is wrong. But it comes from somewhere," said Ali Hammudi, a worker in Villiers-le-Bel, where the unrest broke out on Sunday after two teenagers died in a collision with a police car. "Youths here have so many problems -- unemployment , housing, poverty. They don't know how to get out of it ... and the government hasn't done anything about it,"

Many young people say they feel stigmatised by police and discriminated against when trying to find a job or an apartment. They say they struggle to leave the often isolated estates . Unemployment of 40 per cent

"They drew no lessons from 2005. And things can start again elsewhere any time," said the 17-year old Zicara ."We need to make ourselves heard," said Zacara, who declined to give his last name. "Violence isn't good. But we must get people's attention somehow, no?"

Saving Earth or Saving Profits

The environment is not under threat from industrial production as such, but from this in the service of profit-seeking

All forms of vegetable and animal life are part of a network of relations called an “ecosystem” in ecology. Normally this system is self-regulating to the extent that, if an imbalance develops, this is rectified spontaneously, either by the restoration of the previous balance or by the establishment of a new balance.

The problem is that there’s been the industrial revolution: the pollution of water and the ground due to the massive disposal of toxic or non-recyclable wastes and to the use in intensive agriculture of chemical fertilisers, nitrates and pesticides; the pollution of the oceans due to the increase of maritime traffic, the flow from polluted rivers, the shipwreck of oil tankers (70 alone in 1996!), the discharge of toxic, chemical and radioactive waste, desludging at sea, etc; overfishing; the pollution of the air due to the massive use of fossil fuels, the development of the individual motor car, and the clearance by fire of forests (despite these being the lungs of the planet!); industrial accidents (Seveso (1996), Bhopal (1984), Chernobyl (1986), Toulouse (2001)); the emission of greenhouse gases (CO2) by petrol vehicles and factories, deforestation, leading to global warming and its consequences (rise in the sea level due to the melting of the icepack and of polar and continental glaciers, floods, desertification, storms); acid rain; extinction of living species; introduction of GM organisms; storage of nuclear waste; expansion of towns (where now more than half the world’s population live).

And for a good reason! No State is going to implement legislation which would penalise the competitiveness of its national enterprises in the face of foreign competition. States only take into account environmental questions if they can find an agreement at international level which will disadvantage none of them. But that’s the snag because competition for the appropriation of world profits is one of the bases of the present system. Attempts at international cooperation have already been made: the League of Nations, then the UN, for example, were set up to “maintain” peace. But the 20th century saw the most devastating and murderous wars in history!

No agreement to limit the activities of the multinationals in their relentless quest for profits is possible. Measures in favour of the environment (and the far-reaching transformation of the productive apparatus and transport system these imply) come up against the interests of enterprises (and their shareholders!) because by increasing costs they decrease profits.

Humans are capable, whatever the form of production, of integrating themselves into a stable ecosystem. That was the case of many “primitive” societies which coexisted in complete harmony with the rest of nature, and there is nothing whatsoever that prevents this being possible today on the basis of industrial technology and methods of production, all the more so that renewable energies exist (wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, waves, biomass, etc) but, for the capitalists, these are a “cost” which penalises them in face of international competition.

So it’s not production as such (i. e., the fashioning of nature to meet human needs) which is incompatible with a stable balance of nature, but the application of certain productive methods which disregard natural balances or which involve changes that are too rapid to allow a natural balance to develop.

The preservation of the environment is a social problem which requires humanity to establish a viable and stable relationship with the rest of nature. In practice this implies a society which uses, as far as possible, renewable energy and raw material resources and which practises the recycling of non-renewable resources; a society which, once an appropriate balance with nature has been formed, will tend towards a stable level of production, indeed towards “zero growth”. This does not mean that changes are to be excluded on principle, but that any change will have to respect the environment by taking place at a pace to which nature can adapt. But the employment by capitalism of destructive methods of production has, over two centuries, upset the balance of nature.

Whether it is called “the market economy”, “economic liberalism”, “free enterprise” or any other euphemism, the social system under which we live is capitalism. Under this system the means of the production and distribution of social wealth – the means of society’s existence – are the exclusive property of a dominant parasitic minority – the holders of capital, or capitalist class – for whose benefit they are inevitably managed.

As a system governed by economic laws which impose themselves as external constraints on human productive activities, and in which enterprises are in competition with each other to obtain short-term economic gains, capitalism pushes economic decision-makers to adopt productive methods which serve profitability rather than concern for the future.

So it is not “Man” but the capitalist economic system itself which is responsible for ecological problems. In fact, not only have workers no influence over the decisions taken by enterprises but those who do have the power to decide - the capitalists - are themselves subject to the laws of profit and competition.

Of course capitalism has sooner or later to face up to the ecological problems caused by the search for profit, but only afterwards, after the damage has been done. But the ecologists, so critical of “liberal” capitalism, accept, like all the other varieties of reformism, the economic dictatorship of the owning minority since they don’t understand the link that exists between the destruction of the environment and the private ownership of the means of production. That is why the Greens were forced to make concessions when, from 1997-2002, they were part of the Jospin government: over the authorisations given by this government of the “plural” Left, in November 1997 and July 1998, for transgenetic maize, over nuclear questions and other matters, not to mention their complicity over “social” questions such as the suppression of 3100 jobs with the closure of the Renault factory at Vilvord or the repression of the occupation of employment offices by the unemployed in 1997, the closure of the naval shipyards in Le Havre in 1998, the calling into question of retirement at age 60 with a full pension, or the suppression of 10,000 hospital beds in the Ile de France in 1999, etc.

Because by definition capitalism can only function in the interest of the capitalists, no palliative, no rearrangement, no measure, no reform can (nor ever will be able to) subordinate capitalist private property to the general interest. For this reason only the threat of a socialist movement setting down as the only realistic and immediate aim the establishment of social property (hence the name socialism) of society’s means of existence so as to ensure their management by (and so in the interest of) the whole community, would be able to force the capitalists to concede reforms favourable to the workers for fear of losing the whole cake.

So it is for building such a movement that we launch an appeal to all workers who understand the opposition and incompatibility of their interests with those of the capitalists, to all those who, concerned about the ceaseless attacks of which we are the victims and of the dangers to which the capitalists are exposing our planet, want not to patch up but to end existing society. Our numerical superiority allows all hope.

It is only after having placed the means of society’s existence under the control of the community that we will be able to at last ensure their management, no longer in the selfish interest of their present owners, but this time really in the general interest.

Only then will we be in a position to achieve a world in which the present system of rival States will be replaced by a world community without frontiers, the rationing of money and the wages system by free access to the wealth produced, competition by cooperation, and class antagonism by social equality.

We can only “cure the planet” by establishing a society without private productive property or profit where humans will be freed from the uncontrollable economic laws of the pursuit of profit and the accumulation of capital. In short, only a world socialist society, based on the common ownership and democratic control of natural resources, is compatible with production that respects the natural environment.

translated from a leaflet distributed by socialists in France.

Anarcho - Racists

We had the anarcho-capitalists , now we have this new and invidious development National Anarchism , part of what is being called the New Right .

Already accused by The Green Anarchist magazine of advocating "... a decentralized economic and political system which features ethnically-pure villages which are defined by racial separatism, anti-semitism and homophobia..."

They themselves claim that "National Anarchism places no special emphasis on race but on the identity of who people are, culturally and ethnically." - that certainly sounds like a sub-text to me for white nationalism and anti-immigration .

And from the website Folk and Faith we read :-
" We are believers in National Revolution, Social Justice, Ecological Preservation, and Cultural Identity...Yet, we acknowlege the effects unbridled immigration has had on our planet and are staunchly opposed to continuation of this... We are defenders of our noble European ancestry and of the orthodox Christian faith. We are neither left nor right-wing...We aim to build a homogenous society where our peoples' cultural identity, our sacred Christian faith (as it was originally taught, not the Judeo'ized antithesis taught today)...we are advocates of a folk-centered agrarian society...etc etc etc "

It is simple rightist populism masquerading under the black flag . Nor is it particularly a new development ( see the National Bolshevism of pre-Nazi Germany ) .

For more on these so-called anarchists see WIKI

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"They never told us that it would kill you,"

A story of working class courage

It is estimated that up to 56,000 Australians will be affected by asbestos-related illnesses by 2020 . Asbestos was mined in Western Australia until the 1960s and widely used in building products – until the dangers of exposure to its dust became clear. Australia has one of the world's highest rates of asbestos-related disease.

Some people submitted to their fate, but not Bernie Banton, who led a protracted international battle for proper compensation for himself and his fellow victims. Yesterday, the man who became the human face of a struggle for justice – a familiar figure who breathed with the help of an ever-present portable oxygen bottle connected via tubes to his nose – died of an asbestos-related cancer . He had fought James Hardie Industries, a multinational building products company and Australia's biggest asbestos manufacturer, earned him admiration from many. He battled to the very end. In 2001, the company bowed to pressure and set up a foundation to compensate victims of diseases caused by its products. But the sum it set aside – A$293m (£123m) – was laughable. When that fact was pointed out, the company refused to increase the fund. Then it moved its headquarters from Sydney to the Netherlands, saying this was for tax reasons. Critics accused of it of trying to avoid lawsuits.

Just last week, knowing he had only days to live, Bernie was still fighting for compensation for other sufferers from his hospital bed. "What a wonderful opportunity I've had to represent all those victims out there, and to be able to fight for them who were not well enough to do it," he told the assembled media.

The large plant where Bernie worked was one of Hardie's deadliest work environments. Of his 137 fellow employees, who included his two brothers, fewer than 10 are still alive.

John Howard's Health minister, Tony Abbott, was forced to apologise to Mr Banton last month after accusing him of staging a "stunt" when he handed in a 17,000-name petition to his office. Mr Abbott also suggested that Mr Banton's motives were "not pure". The petition requested a government subsidy for a new palliative drug for mesothelioma – the disease with which Mr Banton was diagnosed in August and which was ultimately to kill him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Drug Dealers

Drug firms are failing to make drugs affordable for the world's poor, a report by charity Oxfam suggests.

The world's biggest drug firms have done little research into diseases that affect poor people, the report said. And their overzealous protection of patents means many poor people cannot afford the drugs they need. Currently 85% of the world's population is priced out of the industry's market . Those who cannot afford drugs often pay with their lives.

Malaria claims the lives of one million people every year, while two million people die annually from TB.

Between 1999 and 2004, there were only three new drugs targeted at diseases affecting the developing world out of 163 drugs brought to market .

Yet for all its no doubt sincere bleatings for a fairness and justice , Oxfam can see no further than the continuance of the very same same capitalist system that causes these problems .

In response to the drug companies , who argue they need to charge higher prices to justify the billions of dollars they spend on research and development and that high taxes and mark-ups by pharmacists and dispensing doctors also push medicine prices higher, they point out and that in addition, their drugs and brands are often ripped off in countries with poor copyright protection , all Oxfam can do is offer the Third World as a bigger market to exploit and source for lower development costs and cheaper manufacturing. Oxfam want "prices for essential medicines need to be tiered, in line with people's ability to pay"

Surely , it must be medical needs that should determine access to medicines and not the ability to pay , no matter how the pricing system may be organised . It is this free access to all the means of life which is the demand of socialists .

The self organisation of the working class

Came across this intriguing story . Several hundred vigilante women of India's northern Uttar Pradesh state's Banda area call themselves the "gulabi gang" (pink gang) striking fear in the hearts of wrongdoers . The `Gulabi gang' shot into limelight in April 2006 when it seized three tractors of wheat being pilfered from the public distribution system and thrashed the guilty persons. Later, action was taken against the `kotedar' ( wholesaler).

The pink women of Banda shun political parties and NGOs because, in the words of their feisty leader, Sampat Pal Devi, "they are always looking for kickbacks when they offer to fund us".

Two years after they gave themselves a name and an attire, the pink women have thrashed men who have abandoned or beaten their wives and unearthed corruption in the distribution of food grains for the poor. They have also stormed a police station and thrashed a policeman who refused to register a case after they took in an untouchable man .

"Nobody comes to our help in these parts. The officials and the police are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law in our hands. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers," says Sampat Pal Devi, between teaching a "gang" member on how to use a lathi (traditional Indian stick) in self defence. "Mind you , we are not a gang in the usual sense of the term. We are a gang for justice."

Banda is at the heart of the blighted region that is Bundelkhand, one of the poorest parts of one of India's most populous states. It is one of the poorest 200 districts in India which were first targeted for the federal government's massive jobs for work programme. Over 20% of its 1.6 million people living in 600 villages are lower castes or untouchables. Drought has parched its already arid, single-crop lands. To make matters worse, women bear the brunt of poverty and discrimination in Banda's highly caste-ridden, feudalistic and male dominated society. Dowry demands, domestic and sexual violence are common.

"Village society in India is loaded against women. It refuses to educate them, marries them off too early, barters them for money. Village women need to study and become independent to sort it out themselves," .

Nor has it been a women - only movement . Men like Jai Prakash Shivhari join the "gulabi" gang and talk about child marriages, dowry deaths, depleting water resources, farm subsidies, and how funds are being stolen in government works.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

King Billy's Orangeman

First there was King Billy , now there a new Orange Order super-hero . Orangeman David Hume says the idea is to make themselves more relevant to the young and "appear less stuffy".
Perhaps forgetting all about 1690 and the Battle of the Boyne would be start

Friday, November 23, 2007

Quotes of the Day 2

William Morris designer of furniture and wallpaper, printer, architect, novelist and poet and Socialist agitator.

"We believe that to hold out hopes of amelioration of the condition of the workers, to be wrung out of the necessities of the rival factions of our privileged rulers, is delusive and mischievous." Letter of resignation from the SDF, William Morris

"Those who believe that they can deal with capitalism in a piecemeal way very much underrate the strength of the tremendous organisation under which we live… ; it will not suffer itself to be dismembered, nor to lose anything which is its essence…" - William Morris 1886

"The palliatives over which many worthy people are busying themselves now are useless because they are but unorganised partial revolts against a vast, wide-spreading, grasping organisation which will, with the unconscious instinct of a plant, meet every attempt at bettering the conditions of the people with an attack on a fresh side. "

"I believe that the Socialists will certainly send members to Parliament when they are strong enough to do so; in itself I see no harm in that, so long as it is understood that they go there as rebels, and not as members of the governing body prepared to pass palliative measures to keep Society alive."

“. . . it should be our special aim to make Socialists, by putting before people, and especially the working classes, the elementary truths of Socialism; since we feel sure, in the first place, that in spite of the stir in the ranks of labour there are comparatively few who understand what Socialism is, or have had opportunities of arguing on the subject with those who have at least begun to understand it; and, in the second place, we are no less sure that before any definite Socialist action can be attempted, it must be backed up by a great body of intelligent opinion – the opinion of a great mass of people who are already Socialists, people who know what they want, and are prepared to accept the responsibilities of self-government, which must form a part of their claims.” - Hammersmith Socialist Society , Statement of Principles , 1890

" This time when people are excited about Socialism, and when many who know nothing about it think themselves Socialists, is the time of all others to put forward the simple principles of Socialism regardless of the policy of the passing hour. I say for us to make Socialists is the business at present, and at present I do not think we can have any other useful business. Those who are not really Socialists - who are Trade Unionists, disturbance-breeders, or what not -
will do what they are impelled to do, and we cannot help it. At the worst there will be some good in what they do; but we need not and cannot heartily work with them, when we know that their methods are beside the right way. Our business, I repeat, is the making of Socialists, i.e. convincing people that Socialism is good for them and is possible. When we have enough people of that way of thinking, they will find out what action is necessary for putting their principles into practice. Until we have that mass of opinion, action for a general change that will benefit the whole people is impossible. Have we that body of opinion? Surely not. . .Therefore, I say, make Socialists. We Socialists can do nothing else that is useful, and preaching and teaching is not out of date for that purpose; but rather for those who, like myself, do not believe in State Socialism, it is the only rational means of attaining to the new Order of Things " - Commonweal 15 November 1890,

"We had better confine ourselves to the old teaching and preaching of Socialism pure and simple, which is I fear more or less neglected amidst the said futile attempt to act as a party when we have no party"

" I confess I am no great lover of political tactics, the sordid squabble of an election is unpleasant enough for a straight-forward man to deal in: yet I cannot fail to see that it is necessary somehow to get hold of the machine which has at its back the executive power of the country, however that may be done and that by means of the ballot-box will, to say the least of it, be little indeed compared with what would be necessary to effect it by open revolt; besides that
the change effected by peaceful means would be done more completely and with little chance, indeed with no chance of counter-revolution. On the other hand I feel sure that some action is even now demanded by the growth of Socialism, and will be more and more imperatively demanded as time goes on. In short I do not believe in the possible success of revolt until the Socialist party has grown so powerful in numbers that it can gain its end by peaceful means, and that therefore what is called violence will never be needed, unless indeed the reactionaries were to refuse the decision of the ballot-box and try the matter by arms; which after all I am pretty sure they could not attempt by the time things had gone as far as that. As to the attempt of a small minority to terrify a vast majority into accepting something which they do not understand, by spasmodic acts of violence, mostly involving the death or mutilation of non-combatants, I can call that nothing else than sheer madness " - "What we have to look for" spring 1895

"As to mere politics, Absolutism, Constitutionalism, Republicanism. All have been tried in our day and under our present system, and all have failed in dealing with the real evils of life.
Nor, on the other hand, will certain incomplete schemes of social reform now before the public solve the question.
Co-operation so-called—that is, competitive co-operation for profit—would merely increase the number of small joint-stock capitalists, under the mask of creating an aristocracy of labour, while it would intensify the severity of labour by its temptations to overwork.
Nationalisation of the land alone, which many earnest and sincere persons are now preaching, would be useless so long as labour was subject to the fleecing of surplus value inevitable under the Capitalist system.
No better solution would be that State Socialism, by whatever name it may be called, whose aim it would be to make concessions to the working class while leaving the present system of capital and wages in operation: no number of merely administrative changes; until the workers are in a possession of all political power, would make any real approach to Socialism.
The Socialist League therefore aims at the realisation of complete Revolutionary Socialism, and well knows that this can never happen in any one country without the help of the workers of all civilisation." - Manifesto of the Socialist League, drafted by Morris and Bax and adopted in 1885

"As long as men are slaves, woman can be no better. Let the women's rights societies adopt that last sentence as a motto - and act on it"

"...the interests of the workmen are the same in all countries and they can never really be enemies of each other"

Irish Nationalism - would merely impose a "new tyranny" on the peasantry by turning them into "...a fresh Irish proletariat to be robbed for the benefit of national capitalists".

"Undoubtedly when there is a parliament in Dublin the struggle of the Irish people for freedom will have to be begun again".

"Of course , as long as people are ignorant, compromise plus sentiment always looks better to them than the real article."

"Intelligence enough to conceive, courage enough to will, power enough to compel. If our ideas of a new society are anything more than a dream, these three qualities must animate the due effective majority of the working people: and then I say the thing will be done."

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Their fight is our fight .

Give thanks - for what ??

Some food bank outlets said they would not be able to distribute turkey rations for Thanksgiving on Thursday, because their federal supplies of food had been cut by as much as three-quarters.

Stories of Amrerica's failure to provide adequate amount of food for its citizens have now reached the main media , although you heard it here first .

But just to go over old ground once more the BBC reports Over 1.3 million people, one in six New Yorkers, cannot afford enough food , that the number of people who use food pantries and soup kitchens in the city increased by 20% in 2007 .

The annual survey of food pantries and soup kitchens shows that more working families, children, and seniors are being forced to seek emergency food . 59% of New York's food programmes, up from 48% last year, said they did not have enough resources to meet demand.

The US Department of Agriculture says 12.6 million households nationwide, or more than 30 million people - 10% of the population - did not have enough food at some point in 2006.
According to the Independent Those earning $1million, $10million, $100million have more than doubled over the past decade and the wealthy of America are wealthier than most countries, with the top one per cent controlling $17 TRILLION.
But none of this wealth seems to have trickled down to the poor despite the promises from supply-side economists that it would.
Instead of charity - End poverty

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Quotes of the day

"Incidentally, if the bourgeoisie is politically, that is, by its state power, “maintaining injustice in property relations”, it is not creating it. The “injustice in property relations” which is determined by the modern division of labour, the modern form of exchange, competition, concentration, etc., by no means arises from the political rule of the bourgeois class, but vice versa, the political rule of the bourgeois class arises from these modern relations of production which bourgeois economists proclaim to be necessary and eternal laws. If therefore the proletariat overthrows the political rule of the bourgeoisie, its victory will only be temporary, only an element in the service of the bourgeois revolution itself, as in the year 1794, as long as in the course of history, in its “movement”, the material conditions have not yet been created which make necessary the abolition of the bourgeois mode of production and therefore also the definitive overthrow of the political rule of the bourgeoisie." [ my emphasis ]

As Martov says "It appears therefore that Marx admitted the possibility of a political victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie at a point of historic development when the previously necessary conditions for a socialist revolution were not yet mature...and he predicted with the prescience of genius that a conquest of political power by the proletariat that is premature from the historic viewpoint would “only be a point in the process of the bourgeois revolution itself.”

Which was exactly what the Russian Revolution proved to be - premature .


" The economic existence of the state is taxes.

The economic existence of the worker is wages.

To be ascertained: the relationship between taxes and wages.

Competition necessarily reduces the average wage to the minimum, that is to say, to a wage which permits the workers penuriously to eke out their lives and the lives of their race. Taxes form a part of this minimum, for the political calling of the workers consists precisely in paying taxes. If all taxes which bear on the working class were abolished root and branch, the necessary consequence would be the reduction of wages by the whole amount of taxes which today goes into them. Either the employers’ profit would rise as a direct consequence by the same quantity, or else no more than an alteration in the form of tax-collecting would have taken place. Instead of the present system, whereby the capitalist also advances, as part of the wage, the taxes which the worker has to pay, he [the capitalist] would no longer pay them in this roundabout way, but directly to the state.

If in North America wages are higher than in Europe, this is by no means the consequence of lower taxes there. It is the consequence of the territorial, commercial and industrial situation there. The demand for workers in relation to the supply of workers is significantly greater than in Europe. And any novice knows the truth of this already from Adam Smith."

BOTH QUOTES FROM Moralising Criticism and Critical Morality ,1847

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Anti-women violence in Basra

Anti-women violence in Basra, Iraq's second largest city, about 600 km south of the capital, Baghdad, has increased markedly in recent months and has forced women to stay indoors, police and local NGOs have said.

"Basra is facing a new type of terror which leaves at least 10 women killed monthly, some of them are later found in garbage dumps with bullet holes while others are found decapitated or mutilated," the city's police chief Maj. Gen. Abdel Jalil Khalaf told IRIN in a telephone interview. "...They are trying to impose a life style like banning women from wearing western clothes or forcing them to wear head scarf,"

Speaking only on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, a woman activist with a local NGO in Basra said "Sunni and Shia extremists are imposing an extremist culture on the community of Basra, a new culture in our society which leads to bloody violence against women," she said. "And this culture, which surfaced after the US-led invasion in 2003, added more to the already existing tribal culture which condones family violence against women," she added.

Like other parts of Iraq, Basra before the US-led invasion in 2003 was known for its mixed population and active night life with social and night clubs. Basra women had the right to choose their own life-style although it was considered a tribal society. But now vigilantes patrol the streets of Basra on motorbikes or in cars with dark-tinted windows and no license plates. They accost women who are not wearing the traditional dress and head scarf known as hijab. They also attack men for clothes or haircuts deemed too Western.

And they called it liberation !!

Banking on Food Hand-outs

"I'm pretty good at making things stretch as far as I can, but food is so high now and I have to have gas in my car to do my job," said Diana Blasingame, who earns $9 an hour as a home health aide. "I work full time, but I don't have health insurance and sometimes there just isn't enough to pay bills and buy food."

Operators of free food banks say they are seeing more working people needing assistance. The increased demand is outstripping supplies and forcing many food banks to cut portions. Demand is being driven up by rising costs of food, housing, utilities, health care and gasoline, while food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers are finding they have less surplus food to donate and government help has decreased, according of Second Harvest Foodbanks.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual hunger survey released showed that more than 35.5 million people in the United States were hungry in 2006. While that number was about the same as the previous year, heads of food banks say many more people are seeking their assistance.
1,700 local Catholic Charities agencies and institutions served nearly 8 million people in 2006, including 4.1 million living below the poverty line. Catholic Charities agencies are serving a rising percentage of people who live below the federal poverty line, which in 2006 was $20,000 for a family of four. The report found that 52 percent of Catholic Charities clients in 2006 were from below the federal poverty line—up from 43 percent in 2002.
Local Catholic Charities agencies saw a 12 percent increase in the need for food service programs in 2006. Between 2002 and 2006, the number of clients receiving food services—such as soup kitchens, food banks and food pantries, home delivered meals and congregate dining—increased by 2.7 million, or nearly 60 percent.
Almost 1.3 million New Yorkers visited food pantries, soup kitchens and similar programs in 2007, up 24 percent from 2004, according to a report prepared the Food Bank for New York City. New York's food banks have seen federal food aid drop by almost half from 2004 level.

Ross Fraser, a spokesman for America's Second Harvest — The Nation's Food Bank Network, the nation's largest hunger relief group, said Friday. ""We have food banks in virtually every city in the country, and what we are hearing is that they are all facing severe shortages with demand so high...One of our food banks in Florida said demand is up 35 percent over this time last year."

Tony Hall, vice president of the Food Bank of Southwest Georgia, estimates a 10 percent to 20 percent increase in demand for food in the 20-county area the organization serves. "...Each year the demand gets bigger and bigger."

" We've lost factory jobs and many service jobs don't pay a livable wage," said Dick Stevens, director the food and nutrition division of Hocking-Athens-Perry Community Action, in southeast Ohio. "We see a lot of desperation in families who are trying to figure out how to pay higher fuel and utility costs and still put food on the table."

Liz Carter, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul food pantry in Cincinnati , said "... it's so difficult when you see the desperation and have to tell them you just don't have enough to give them what they need."

"We're bracing ourselves for a very tough winter, especially with home heating fuel prices at record highs in the Northeast," Quandt said, of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York , "People living in poverty or near poverty just can't sustain those types of increases."

Nor is it only a food shortage crisis . It is homelessness .

Shelters are already reporting more need among households.

One shelter in Minneapolis served as many people by the end of September as in all of last year. For the first time in 10 years, a homeless shelter in Joliet, Ill., is full, said Lorri Nagle, director of development at the Catholic Charities USA agency . Requests for temporary shelters increased 24 percent over the past five years. In 2006, Catholic Charities managed more than 176 temporary shelters (nearly 7,800 beds). Yet they were unable to serve more than 31,000 people because all available beds were full.

And we are told capitalism is the system that works and satisfies needs !!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sylvia's Socialism

I thought i would post this article just to demonstrate that we were never alone .

Socialism means plenty for all. We do not preach a gospel of want and scarcity, but of abundance.

Our desire is not to make poor those who to-day are rich, in order to put the poor in the place where the rich now are. Our desire is not to pull down the present rulers to put other rulers in their places.

We wish to abolish poverty and to provide abundance for all.

We do not call for limitation of births, for penurious thrift, and self-denial. We call for a great production that will supply all, and more than all the people can consume.

Such a great production is already possible, with the knowledge already possessed by mankind.
To-day production is artificially checked, consumption still more so.

How is production checked?

Production is checked by private ownership of land, the means of production and transport. In Scotland large areas of agricultural land are turned into deer forests. In every English county numerous large private parks are kept for the pleasure of single families. Production on farms is limited because farmers lack capital to enable them to employ the labour and materials necessary to work their land fully. Landowners with capital find more profitable means of employing their capital in agriculture or stock raising. Country landowners refuse to build cottages on their estates in order to preserve their own privacy. Landowners in and about towns put up the price of land till it becomes prohibitive to the purpose of building houses for any but the rich. Vacant plots remain for years until they are bought for factories or cinemas.

Production is also limited by inability to secure raw material owing to carefully organised cornering of supplies by persons who make money by such immoral practices, and by inability to pay the prices demanded for raw material.

Production is deliberately limited in order to secure high prices for short supplies, and because the market in which the produce can be sold at a profit is limited.

Production is to a minor extent limited by wage-workers in order to keep up the price of labour.

Consumption is cruelly limited by lack of means to purchase.

Our cities teem with people lacking the decencies and necessaries of life because they cannot afford to pay. Even Mr. Neville Chamberlain, a Tory Minister of Health, has admitted that a large proportion of the population of this relatively prosperous country is herded together under conditions which are scarcely human.

Entire nations are plunged into scarcity under which the poor die of starvation and even the middle and professional classes are reduced to hunger because the whirligig of finance has reduced the exchange value of the currency of such nations.

Capitalism offers no hope of ending this reign of poverty.

Millions of men and women, trained in the arts of production and transport, are unemployed, factories stand idle or run at half speed, land lies fallow, shops and warehouses teem with goods for which there are insufficient purchasers.

The majority of the population is not engaged in productive work. The greater part of the non-producers is employed in the buying, selling and advertising of the commodities produced by the minority. A large number of non-producers is employed in administering insurance doles, pensions, Poor Law relief and charity to the unemployed and to those whose wages do not suffice to maintain them. A considerable minority is living on rent and dividends drawn from the labour of the producers. This minority includes the people with a small unearned income just large enough to maintain them, and also the very rich who keep hundreds of persons uselessly employed in waiting upon them, who monopolise thousands of acres of land for their pleasure-grounds, and who sometimes consume inordinate quantities of manufactured goods to satisfy their insatiable desire for artificial pleasure and extravagant display.

This is the private property system.

We wish to replace it by Socialism.

Under Socialism the land, the means of production and transport are no longer privately owned: they belong to all the people. The title to be one of the joint owners of the earth and its products and the inheritance of collective human labour does not rest on any question of inheritance or purchase; the only title required is that one is alive on this planet. Under Socialism no one can be disinherited; no one can lose the right to a share or the common possession.

The share is not so many feet of land, so much food, so many manufactured goods, so much money with which to buy, sell, and carry on trade. The share of a member of the Socialist Commonwealth is the right and the possibility of the abundant satisfaction of the needs from the common store-house, the right to be served by the common service, the right to assist as an equal in the common production.

Under Socialism production will be for use, not profit. The community will ascertain what are the requirements of the people in food, clothing, housing, transport, educational facilities, books, pictures, music, theatres, flowers, statuary, wireless telegraphy - anything and everything that the people desire. Food, clothing, housing, transport, sanitation — these come first; all effort will be bent first to supply these; everyone will feel it a duty to take some part in supplying these. Then will follow the adornments and amusements, a comfortable, cultured and leisured people will produce artistic and scientific work for pleasure, and with spontaneity. Large numbers of people will have the ability and the desire to paint, to carve, to embroider, to play, and to compose music.

They will adorn their dwellings with their artistic productions, and will give them freely to whoever admires them.

When a book is written the fact will be made known, and whoever desires a copy of it, either to read or to keep, will make that known to the printers in order that enough copies may be printed to supply all who desire the book. So with a musical composition, so with a piece of statuary.

So, too, with the necessaries of life. Each person, each household, will notify the necessary agency the requirements in milk, in bread, and all the various foods, in footwear, in clothing.

Very soon the average consumption in all continuous staples will be ascertained. Consumption will be much higher than at present, but production will be vastly increased: all those who are to-day unemployed or employed in the useless toil involved in the private property and commercial system, will be taking part in actual productive work; all effort will be concentrated on supplying the popular needs.

How will production be organised?

Each branch of production will be organised by those actually engaged in it. The various branches of production will be co-ordinated for the convenient supply of raw material and the distribution of the finished product.

Since production will be for use, not profit, the people will be freely supplied on application.

There will be no buying and selling, no money, no barter or exchange of commodities.

Future Society
The words Socialism and Communism have the same meaning. They indicate a condition of society in which the wealth of the community: the land and the means of production, distribution and transport are held in common, production being for use and not for profit.

Socialism being an ideal towards which we are working, it is natural that there should be some differences of opinion in that future society. Since we are living under Capitalism it is natural that many people's ideas of Socialism should be coloured by their experiences of life under the present system. We must not be surprised that some who recognise the present system is bad should yet lack the imagination to realise the possibility of abolishing all the institutions of Capitalist society. Nevertheless there can be no real advantage in setting up a half-way-house to socialism. A combination of Socialism and Capitalism would produce all sorts of injustice, difficulty and waste. Those who happen to suffer under the anomalies would continually struggle for a return to the old system.

Full and complete Socialism entails the total abolition of money, buying and selling, and the wages system.

It means the community must set itself the task of providing rather more than the people can use of all the things that the people need and desire, and of supplying these when and as the people require them.

Any system by which the buying and selling system is retained means the employment of vast sections of the population in unproductive work. It leaves the productive work to be done by one portion of the people whilst the other portion is spending its energies in keeping shop, banking, making advertisements and all the various developments of commerce which, in fact, employ more than two-thirds of the people today.

Given the money system, the wage system is inevitable. If things needed and desired are obtainable only by payment those who do the work must be paid in order that they may obtain the means of life. The wages system entails such institutions as the old-age pension, sick and unemployment insurance and widow's pensions, or the Poor Law, and probably plus the Poor Law. These involve large numbers of people drawn from productive work to do purely administrative work. Thus useless toil is manufactured, and the burden of non-producers maintained by the productive workers is increased.

Moreover social conditions are preserved which are quite out of harmony with Communist fraternity. The wage system makes the worker's life precarious. The payment of wages entails the power to dismiss the worker by an official or officials.

So long as the money system remains, each productive enterprise must be run on a paying basis. Therefore it will tend to aim at employing as few workers as possible, in order to spend less on wages. It will also tend to dismiss the less efficient worker who, becoming unemployed, becomes less efficient. Thus an unemployable class tends to grow up.

The existence of a wage system almost inevitably leads to unequal wages; overtime, bonuses, higher pay for work requiring special qualifications. Class distinctions are purely differences of education, material comfort and environment.

Buying and selling by the Government opens the door to official corruption. To check that, high salaried positions are created in order that those occupying them have too much to lose to make pilfering and jobbery worth while.
Sylvia Pankhurst "The Future Society" originally published in One Big Union Bulletin, 2 August 1923 found here
Another interesting article can be found at this webpage - Reformism or Communism , The Mistakes of the Communist Party of Ireland , calling for the abolition of money and "Free use by all of the common products and possessions according to need and desire. "
And also explaining that "So long as money is in circulation and profits can be made by trading, the evils of capitalism will remain, and must go on growing. Have we not seen the return to Russia of the old barbarous customs - inheritance, patent law, rent interest, and profit, and all the other capitalist methods of mis-managing production and distribution, and of surrounding it by useless toil ?"
Anton Pannekoeks endorsement of the artice can be found here
"...the essence of Communist thought is that the great transformation of society from Capitalism to Communism can only be accomplished by the common efforts of the workers themselves, all of them acting where they stand in the process of production. The belief that some foreign power, the State, may accomplish it for the workers by decrees and laws is a social-democratic belief – nay, only the most narrow-minded social democrats believe it; most social democrats in former times knew quite well that the chief force of transformation must come from below.
The state is not a supernatural being; it is the organised host of politicians, leaders and officials backed by armed force. The belief that the State may establish Communism by legislative means is the belief that this small host of officials and lenders, by their wisdom, may save the mass of the workers from slavery - these workers having nothing to do but vote for them. Now the experience of Germany has proved that placing Labour leaders at the head of the State is simply a change of rulers, which cannot bring any real revolution. " -Pannekoek

Friday, November 16, 2007

Child Poverty Rises in Germany

Child poverty in Germany is increasing in spite of a buoyant economy and falling unemployment. Since the introduction three years ago of the Hartz reforms of the social security system the number of boys and girls dependent on social security has doubled to over 2.5 million according to Thomas Kr├╝ger, the head of the children’s charity Kinderhilfswerk .

The report reveals that 14 per cent of all children in Germany are poor. In 1965 only one child in 75 below the age of seven was dependent on welfare. Today the figure is one in six and is doubling every ten years.

Many foreign families are in a particularly precarious position. In North-Rhine-Westphalia one child in three is poor, and in the cities the proportion is 40 per cent. The situation is worst in Bielefeld, where half of all children of migrant background are welfare dependent. Those of Turkish and Yugoslavian background are hardest hit, and the second generation harder than the first. A large proportion of migrants’ children find themselves in a vicious circle of poverty leading to poor education and work opportunities. One third of them leave school with no qualifications, largely because of a poor command of German.

Nevertheless , the Kinderhilfswerk also notes that an increasing number of middle-class children are threatened with poverty. Today average earners, including skilled workers, can no longer feed a family of four and has to rely on supplementary welfare.

Capitalism just can't deliver regardless of all the claims made for this exploitative system .

American Nightmares

Touched on the American Dream and the lack of thereof for many of the black population but of course the real American nightmare is not simply restricted to race .

Michigan, by some calculations, has lost 400,000 jobs in the past seven years. That's in a state whose population is only 10 million. Detroit is seeing unemployment running at nearly 8%, twice the national average. The number of homes in the city "foreclosed" - or repossessed by mortgage lenders - is among the highest in the country. An economic storm is hitting this state - falling property prices, a credit crunch, a shrinking tax base and rising oil prices.

"This is ground zero when it comes to poverty..." an organiser at Gleaners Community Food Bank, a charity which provides food to needy people, reported .

A marked increase in the number of professional workers who are seeking food assistance.

Daniel Wolfe worked in civil engineering for 22 years. He lost his job eight months ago. Daniel had been earning $90,000 a year . Daniel and Cynthia thought of themselves as middle class. He was laid off when the state government cut back on contracts to private companies. His unemployment benefits expired. Much of that money had been spent on trying keep up the family health insurance. And his savings disappeared . In the course of eight months, Daniel and his family have gone from prosperity to poverty. Daniel and his wife Cynthia collect free groceries from a charity food bank .

"To find myself in a position where I couldn't afford a gallon of milk, I couldn't afford a loaf of bread - it was very humbling," he says. "For want of a better term it made me feel like a loser...I think we're on the poverty line right now..."

So will Michigan's pain spread to the rest of the country?

"Keep an eye on Michigan . I believe what's happening here could happen to the rest of America ..." - Augie Fernandez at Gleaners food bank
Hat-tip to PB at World Socialist Movement Forum for link

Scab !!!

The Hollywood writers' strike has identified its first celebrity scab. Ellen DeGeneres, the comedian and television host, has found she is no longer welcome on the streets of New York because of her decision to keep recording – and writing – her daytime chat show. DeGeneres has announced she won't be taping her show in New York next week as planned, but will stay in Los Angeles and record in the entertainment-industry suburb of Burbank, where the union is less militant and has yet to voice any objection.

"She knows that the Writers Guild East would have been there to protest her lack of solidarity, not only with her Guild writing staff but all the striking members of the Writers Guild, of which she is a member," Michael Winship , the head of the Guild's East Coast branch, said

DeGeneres took just one day off to show her solidarity with her writing staff, then crossed the picket lines and went back to work. The Writers Guild has contrasted the way she has, in their view, failed to stand by her writing staff and the way she broke down on air a month ago over a tug-of-war she had with a pet adoption agency over a stray dog.
"We find it sad that Ellen spent an entire week crying and fighting for a dog that she gave away, yet she couldn't even stand by writers for more than one day – writers who have helped make her extremely successful," the Guild said.

Meanwhile some other performers have more integrity .

Garth Brooks has canceled upcoming appearances on The View and The Ellen DeGeneres Show in support of the ongoing writers strike.

Fox is moving forward with the taping of new episodes of its animated series Family Guy without the participation of creator/executive producer Seth MacFarlane who, like many Hollywood showrunners, is on strike with the Writers Guild of America. MacFarlane voices Peter, Stewie, and Brian Griffin.

Michael Winship, said DeGeneres should "look to her conscience".

After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, he had some awful substance left which he made a scab. A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water-logged brain, and a combination backbone made of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles.
When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs, and angels weep in heaven, and the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out. No man has a right to scab as long as there is a pool of water deep enough to drown his body in, or a rope long enough to hang his carcass with. Judas Iscariot was a gentleman compared with a scab for betraying his Master, he had character enough to hang himself. A scab hasn't!!
Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. Judas Iscariot sold his savior for thirty pieces of silver. Benedict Arnold his Country for a promise of a commission in the British army. The modern strikebreaker sells his birthright, his Country, his wife, his children, and his fellowmen for an unfulfilled promise from his employer, trust or corporation.
Esau was a traitor to himself, Judas Iscariot was a traitor to his God, Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his Country.
A strikebreaker is a traitor to his God, his Country, his family, and his class!!

Jack London

Millions or Billions - Why Care

Lakshmi Mittal has been ranked as India's wealthiest person for a fourth year by Forbes Asia magazine. It put Mr Mittal's fortune at $51 billion (£25 billion), double last year's level.

Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries is snapping at Mr Mittal's heels in second place. His net worth grew at a faster pace than Mr Mittal's last year to a total of $49 billion. Mukesh Ambani is building a 27-storey house in Mumbai for his family and this month gave his wife an Airbus 319 as a birthday gift .
"It matters little to me whether my personal fortunes are measured in billions or millions.'' he has said

Ambani's brother, Anil, ranks third, with his net worth rising by $30.2billion to $45billion.

Kushal Pal Singh is fourth on list with a net worth of $35 billion, making him the world's richest real-estate developer. Mr Singh's wealth has more than tripled from the $10billion he had last year after his company, DLF, listed on the stock market in June this year and its stock surged 60% in value.

Fifth position is Azim Premji, the head of technology giant Wipro who is currently valued at $14.8 billion

The net worth of India's 40 richest people now totals $351 billion, with the top three alone worth more than China's top 40, who have a net worth of $120 billion.
India now has 54 billionaires, 18 more than last year . The stock market has roared 53% higher in the past year, and a rupee has appreciated 12% during the same period

We have previous reported the flip side here and here .

But , in case there is a need of reminding half of the nation's 1.1 billion people live on less than $2 a day. The country has among the world's highest prevalence of underweight children at 47 percent, according to the United Nations Children's Fund. About 22 percent of the country's 193.6 million households don't have safe drinking water.
India’s ranking on the basis of the global hunger index (GHI), compiled by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), is No. 96 among 119 developing countries . The rich get richer but the IFPRI survey shows no progress on hunger alleviation between 1997 and 2003 at the same time .Yet , the fact was that the country was net surplus in food, and also a net exporter of food during that period . The economic access of the poor to food has not improved. Even schemes like Antyodaya , aimed at supplying highly subsidised foodgrain to the poorest of the poor, do not seem to have produced the desired results.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Dead Spy

The new spy chief , Alex Allan , chairman of the joint intelligence committee , is a Deadhead .

A Grateful Dead fan , he maintains a lyric and song-finder site for the band.

Jerry will be turning in his grave .

Sick and Forgotten

Previously posted was how the US treats its loyal ex-servants in the military at Homes Fit For Heroes .

But it doesn't stop at lack of homes . 1.8 million veterans or 12.7 percent of non-elderly veterans had no health insurance in 2004, up 290,000 since 2000, a study found.

Of the 1.768 million uninsured, 645,628 were Vietnam-era veterans while 1,105,891 were veterans who served during other eras including the Iraq and Gulf Wars. Of the medical uninsured veterans, 56.5 percent were older than 44.

More than 26 percent of uninsured veterans reported that they had failed to get needed care due to costs; 31.2 percent had delayed care due to costs; 49 percent had not seen a doctor within the past year; and two-thirds failed to receive preventive care.

Nearly two-thirds of uninsured veterans were employed. The report states that many uninsured veterans are barred from VA care because of a 2003 Bush Administration order that halted enrollment of most middle income veterans.

“Since President Bush took office the number of uninsured vets has skyrocketed, and he’s cut eligibility, barring hundreds of thousands of veterans from care,” said Dr. David Himmelstein, co-author of the study and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program. “This administration has put troops in harm’s way overseas and abandoned them and their families once they got home.”

Is it no wonder then that the US military is experiencing a "suicide epidemic" with veterans killing themselves at the rate of 120 a week, according to an investigation .

At least 6256 US veterans committed suicide in 2005 - an average of 17 a day , with veterans overall more than twice as likely to take their own lives as the rest of the general population.

While the suicide rate among the general population was 8.9 per 100,000, the level among veterans was between 18.7 and 20.8 per 100,000. That figure rose to 22.9 to 31.9 suicides per 100,000 among veterans aged 20 to 24 - almost four times the non-veteran average for the age group.

"Those numbers clearly show an epidemic of mental health problems,'' veterans' rights advocate Paul Sullivan said .

There are 25 million veterans in the United States, 1.6 million of whom served in Afghanistan and Iraq . Having served the interests of US capital they are discarded .

Thirsting for Water

On Tuesday, with Bibles and crucifixes held aloft, hundreds of church ministers, lawmakers, unemployed landscapers and office workers, swayed and linked arms in a special prayer service for rain outside the Georgia Capitol. Sonny Perdue, governor of Georgia publicly prayed for a downpour.

A drought tightens its grip across a wide region, which includes much of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida. The government's "drought monitor" says that 32 per cent of the region is in "exceptional drought", its most severe designation. The first five months of this year were the driest in 118 years of record-keeping by the Tennessee Valley authority.The US drought is now so acute that, in some southern communities, the water supply is cut off for 21 hours a day

Atlanta is a teeming city of more than three million residents . Thanks to profligate water consumption and drought, they may have no drinking water at all by January as the city's only source of drinking water, Lake Lanier, is running critically low. The reservoir's water must be shared by three neighbouring states. Soon the level will be lower than when it was built in the 1950s. The state's leaders are also bickering, with Mr Perdue threatening to go to court to reduce the amount of water sent south from Lake Lanier to Florida. The amount of water flowing to Florida's Apalachicola river was cut by 16 per cent . Although scientists do not know how long it will take for the environmental damage to become irreversible in Apalachicola, Florida state officials recently warned against an agreement between Alabama, Georgia and Florida that would have reduced water to the area.

In spite of the drought, Georgia now wants to build a new coal-powered plant that will suck away another 25 million extra gallons of water . Southern Company, a huge electrical utility that wields huge influence all the way to the White House. More than any other company, Southern has been responsible for steering President George Bush away from action to halt global warming. It has done so by spreading largesse – $8m (£4m) on contributions to politicians in the past nine years, an amount far outweighing the political contributions of any other utility. Sonny Perdue has received large campaign contributions from Southern executives and even hired his chief of staff from its subsidiary, Georgia Power. Georgia's state assembly recently organised a climate change summit in which three of the four experts invited were global-warming sceptics.

Governor Perdue , bowed his head and beseeched to the Almighty "We have come together, very simply, for one reason and one reason only: To very reverently and respectfully pray up a storm. We ask God to shower our state, our region, our nation with the blessings of water "

But what's going to happen to Atlanta where millions of people are running out of water?
What are they going to do if the rains don't come?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The American Dream - Whites Only

Black Americans are failing to climb the social ladder, while a worrying number born into the middle classes are now actually poorer than their parents, according to a study .

The report found blacks were missing out on a cherished American dream that their children will be economically better off.

"Children from middle- and upper middle-class black families experience a generational drop in income that is in sharp contrast to the traditional American expectation that each generation will do better than the one that came before it,"

Two out of three Americans who were children in 1968 grow up to have higher income than their parentsbut less than a third of black children born in the middle classes do better financially than their parents.
Being born into a financially secure home is no guarantee of dying in one, with blacks enjoying significantly less economic protection than white peers .

"A startling 45 percent of black children whose parents were solidly middle income end up falling to the bottom income quintile, while only 16 percent of white children born to parents in the middle make this descent,"

Median black family incomes in 2004 were $35,000, compared with $60,000 for whites of similar age, and almost one-quarter of blacks live below federally defined poverty lines, three times more than whites. There has been the decline in the relative economic well-being of black men , which got worse between 1974 and 2004. In fact, black men now in their 30s earn roughly 12 percent less than their fathers' generation.

"In terms of absolute, relative and integrated mobility measures, white children have substantially more upward mobility than black children of comparable incomes,"

Price of war

US Democrats say the wars are costing the US too muchThe US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing nearly double the amount previously thought, according to a report .

Democrats say the wars have cost $1.5 trillion - almost twice the requested $804bn (£402bn) - because of "hidden costs".

The report calculates that the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the average US family of four more than $20,000. It adds that the amount could rise to $46,300 over the next decade

Contributing to the higher cost of the conflicts are higher oil costs and payments to war veterans. The costs of treating wounded veterans and mounting interest payments on money borrowed to finance the wars. The committee's Democrats estimate that treating veterans could add more than $30bn to war costs, including disability payments and lost earnings for veterans affected by post-traumatic stress disorder.

Greek Poverty

A third of Greeks live close to the poverty line or under, a new survey has found. The poverty limit is drawn at an income of 470 euros a month per adult. The survey says that slowly but steadily a 'third world' is being created inside Greece, an EU member state with a population of 11 million.

According to the General Union of Workers in Greece , there are 832,456 poor households in the country, which adds up to 2,088,000 persons .

Besides, over the last ten years many Greek families have fallen into a new kind of poverty, developing dependency on easy credit from an aggressive banking system.

"Five hundred thousand households pay more than half their income to cover their debt,"

Many other families with relatively large income, and thus far above the official poverty limit, pay huge amounts for covering their debt. The report says this puts them in extreme financial difficulties and close to net poverty even though they are not officially considered poor.
60 percent of Greeks live with the fear that they might one day fall under the poverty limit and become dependent on a problematic welfare system.

The Dalai Lama and Marxism

The Dalai Lama speaks

Q: You have often stated that you would like to achieve a synthesis between Buddhism and Marxism. What is the appeal of Marxism for you?

A: Of all the modern economic theories, the economic system of Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability. Marxism is concerned with the distribution of wealth on an equal basis and the equitable utilization of the means of production. It is also concerned with the fate of the working classes--that is, the majority--as well as with the fate of those who are underprivileged and in need, and Marxism cares about the victims of minority-imposed exploitation. For those reasons the system appeals to me, and it seems fair. I just recently read an article in a paper where His Holiness the Pope also pointed out some positive aspects of Marxism.
As for the failure of the Marxist regimes, first of all I do not consider the former USSR, or China, or even Vietnam, to have been true Marxist regimes, for they were far more concerned with their narrow national interests than with the Workers' International; this is why there were conflicts, for example, between China and the USSR, or between China and Vietnam. If those three regimes had truly been based upon Marxist principles, those conflicts would never have occurred.

I think the major flaw of the Marxist regimes is that they have placed too much emphasis on the need to destroy the ruling class, on class struggle, and this causes them to encourage hatred and to neglect compassion. Although their initial aim might have been to serve the cause of the majority, when they try to implement it all their energy is deflected into destructive activities. Once the revolution is over and the ruling class is destroyed, there is not much left to offer the people; at this point the entire country is impoverished and unfortunately it is almost as if the initial aim were to become poor. I think that this is due to the lack of human solidarity and compassion. The principal disadvantage of such a regime is the insistence placed on hatred to the detriment of compassion.

The failure of the regime in the former Soviet Union was, for me, not the failure of Marxism but the failure of totalitarianism. For this reason I still think of myself as half-Marxist, half-Buddhist.

Also quoted here the Dalai Lama is said to have told an audience :-

'I am humanitarian Marxist, I am Buddhist Marxist, I am not nationalistic Marxist, I am also a socialist. Marxist economic theory is for all,' the Dalai Lama said. 'It propagates for equal distribution and Marxism and Buddhism are working in a similar line. I am totally against totalitarian system and using force,' the Buddhist leader added.

A useful article on Tibet can be read here .

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Ultra Poor

A new report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) , The World's Most Deprived: Characteristics and Causes of Extreme Poverty and Hunger, finds that 162 million of the world's poorest people - the "ultra poor" - survive on less than 50 cents a day. If concentrated in a single nation, they would comprise the world's seventh most populous country.

"About one billion people today live on less than a dollar a day," said Akhter Ahmed, IFPRI senior research fellow and lead author of the report.

Three categories of poverty in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa are examined in the study: subjacent poor (those living on between $0.75 and $1 a day), medial poor (those living on between $0.50 and $0.75 a day), and ultra poor (those living on less than $0.50 a day).

The report finds that the very poorest people have benefited the least from substantial reductions in poverty around the world during the past 15 years. Ultra poverty rates have fallen only minimally in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the region is currently home to three-quarters of the world's poorest people.

The poorest people typically belong to socially excluded groups, live in remote rural areas with little access to roads, markets, education, and health services, and have few assets. Households living in ultra poverty are on average four times less likely to have electricity than households living above the dollar-a-day line, and the poorest adults, men and women alike, are significantly less likely to have access to education.

The daily challenges faced by the ultra poor can over time lead to poverty traps - conditions from which individuals or groups cannot emerge without outside assistance. The report identifies three common causes of poverty traps: inability of poor families to invest in the education of their children; limited access to credit for those with few assets; and reduced productivity due to malnutrition. In the poorest households, children are less likely to go to school and have fewer chances for a more secure future. Poverty and hunger inherited at birth, or resulting from unexpected events, can also persist for years. These circumstances - particularly serious illness - explain the descent of many households into extreme poverty. Additionally, the exclusion of certain groups, such as ethnic minorities, disadvantaged castes and tribes, and those suffering from ill-health and disability, prevents much-needed access to resources and markets and increases the likelihood of poverty.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The real price of capitalism's failures

From the Independent

All she wanted was a bicycle, a pair of new shoes and to be able to finish her schooling. But her family was dirt poor, and eventually the 12-year-old Filipina girl grew so demoralised that she hanged herself.

Mariannet Amper left a letter under her pillow describing her failed hopes and aspirations.The letter found under her pillow was addressed to a television programme, I Just Wish, which grants viewers' wishes.
In it, Mariannet wrote: "I wish for new shoes, a bag and jobs for my mother and my father. My dad does not have a job and my mum just gets laundry jobs." She added: "I would like to finish my schooling and I would very much like to buy a new bike."

Her family also found a diary in which she described the privations of a life with no money in Davao City, on southern Mindanao island. The night before she killed herself with a nylon rope in their modest hut, which has no electricity or running water, Mariannet had asked her father, Isabelo, for 100 pesos (about £1) for a school project. But he had no money. The next day, he managed to get a 1,000-pesos cash advance for some building work on a chapel. But when he got home to tell her, his daughter was already dead.

In the Philippines, nearly 14 per cent of the 87 million population lives on less than a dollar a day, despite government claims that the economy is booming.

In a recent survey, the Social Weather Stations institute found that about nine million Filipino families regarded themselves as poor. Most live in the south of the country. Many of them said they had experienced "severe hunger" in the past three months.

The Global Call for Action Against Poverty, a coalition of anti- poverty groups, said its own research showed that economic growth was not trickling down to the people who needed it.

Yet , President Gloria Arroyo told a business forum yesterday that "The common people are now feeling the benefits of a growing economy,"

In her diary, Mariannet wrote : "We were not able to hear Mass because we did not have fare and my father had a fever. So my mum and I just washed clothes for money."

Princely Sums

Paying the price of high-risk investment strategies which have left some of Wall Street's biggest names with billions of virtually worthless that resulted in the sub-prime mortgage fiasco are the heads of the US banks . Although , it is a price that any member of the working class would gladly pay .

The former head of Citigroup, who stepped down on Sunday after the bank revealed huge sub-prime related losses, could walk away with up to $95 million (£45 million). Citigroup confirmed Charles Prince would receive $29.5 million in share awards, share options and pension entitlements.
He is entitled to an incentive bonus based on share performance, currently worth about $12 million, and he also owns $53 million worth of Citigroup shares himself. Prince - who was paid $25 million last year - would continue to receive a salary until the end of the year. In addition, he will be entitled to the use of an office and a driver for the next five years or until he finds alternative employment.

Stan O'Neal parted company with Merrill Lynch last month after it disclosed huge financial liabilities stemming from deteriorating US mortgage-backed investments. Mr O'Neal is expected to receive up to $161.5 million in share and retirement benefits.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Conservative Leftists

My , Oh , My , aren't the Tories changing .

David Cameron plans to create the Conservative Co-operative Movement , to steal the clothes of Robert Owen, founder of the Co-operative movement and since dubbed the father of English socialism.

Mr Cameron's argument is that the Co-operative movement is not necessarily socialist and, by using the title Pioneer Schools - after the Rochdale Pioneers - for his first proposals under this new co-operative approach, he is harking back to the very early days of the movement before it was irrevocably aligned with socialism.

"The co-operative principle captures precisely the vision of social progress that we on the centre-right believe in - the idea of social responsibility, that we're all in this together, that there is such a thing as society, it's just not the same thing as the state," he said. Similarly, his statement that the movement will campaign for "public ownership of public services and public facilities", does not mean he believes in state ownership of those services.

Out-doing the Co-operative Party and those nostalgic adherents to guild socialism within the Labour Party , and perhaps even out-doing the anarcho-capitalists of the libertarian right with his apparent anti-statism

"All over Britain, all over the world, something is happening which I find really exciting. People are coming together in new forms of collective activity - bespoke organisations designed to tackle entrenched social and economic problems...We need to break that centralised control...

...Manchester became great in the 19th century when the words 'Manchester liberalism' stood for free trade and capitalism.

And of course the city also inspired another idea - Friedrich Engels lived here for many years and he wrote about the dark side of the industrial revolution.

But capitalism and communism weren't the only ideas to take their inspiration from Manchester.

In 1844, a few miles up the road from here, a group of 28 weavers and other artisans formed the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers - a local store, selling household necessities and owned by members of the local community. The Rochdale Pioneers created the first successful co-operative in the world. And for me the co-operative model represents an enormously exciting possibility for public service reform and the fight against poverty and social breakdown.
A co-op has a flexibility and dynamism that a central state agency lacks.
Like the Rochdale Pioneers, a co-op is part of the community it serves. Its interests are their interests. And it is able to respond to the needs of the community immediately and directly...

...I've asked Greg Clark, the shadow minister for charities and social enterprise, to make mutualisation a core part of our policy framework for the voluntary sector...

...Social justice really means neighbourhoods acting collectively and voluntarily. It means people fulfilling their duties to each other through the natural networks, the institutions and associations of a community.
Social justice means social responsibility: the idea that we're all in this together, that there is such a thing as society - it's just not the same thing as the state.

That is my political philosophy in a nutshell "-
David Cameron , Leader of the Conservative Party

What next ? - Che Guevara in a business suit ?