Monday, December 31, 2007

Bast*rd Branson

Richard Branson has told Virgin Atlantic staff unhappy with the wages offered by the airline to quit. In a letter to 4,800 cabin crew, the Virgin boss warned he would not be meeting pay demands. It comes after union members voted to strike in January in protest against pay they say is lower than at other airlines, including British Airways. Branson admitted that rival airlines often offered better basic wages but said that they did not offer the perks that came with working for a "smaller, more friendly" company. The 48-hour strikes are scheduled for 9 and 10 January, and 16 and 17 January.

"For some of you, more pay than Virgin Atlantic can afford may be critical to your lifestyle and if that is the case you should consider working elsewhere," Branson said.

Easy for this parasite to say when his extravagent lifestyle depends upon the labour and toil of others . He was 9th in the Sunday Times Rich List 2006 worth just over £3 billion . Today, his net worth is estimated at over US$8 billion according to Forbes magazine . Branson's Virgin Atlantic admitted to colluding with British Airways on a fuel price-fixing scheme which cheated the customers of both airlines out of many millions of pounds.Branson did not see fit to apologise personally for his company's actions.
Branson's business empire is owned by a complicated series of offshore trusts and companies. The Sunday Times stated that his wealth is calculated at £3.065 billion; if he were to retire to his Caribbean island and liquidate all of this he would pay relatively little in tax. As the respected ex-City editor Frank Kane has written of Branson: "Financial journalists can make no sense of the figures filed by his companies, a mish-mash of around 250 private and offshore corporations, further confused by frequent changes of name at year-end."

Branson has a criminal record for tax evasion. When caught, he was fined £20,000 plus £40,000 in taxes, the equivalent today of nearly £1 million. In 1988, Branson wanted by buy Virgin Music back for the same amount of money, per share, that he had sold it for, valuing the company at £248m. The shareholders agreed, although they were unaware that Branson had already agreed to sell the same shares to Pony Canyon, a Japanese media company, for £377m.
During his launch of Virgin Cola in 1995, he claimed that his new drink had 10 per cent of the market, while, in truth, it had fallen to just 3.3 pc.
"We're earning £1m profits a week from Virgin Cola," Branson claimed.
However, insiders knew the business was actually losing money and was worth a fraction of his assessment.
Branson's ventures involving clothes, cosmetics and a Belgian-based airline, Virgin Express. In all three companies, the original investors lost money. He made a bid to buy Northern Rock on the cheap and the Daily Mail , no friend of the workers , describes Branson as the last man to be trusted with the company .

This self-seeking self-publicist should take a flying f*ck at himself .

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The State and the Socialist Revolution

Update on Martov

The full text for The State and the Socialist Revolution can be found here

The first two sections of this pamphlet, ‘The Ideology of "Sovietism"’ and ‘Destruction or Conquest of the State?’ were written early in 1919. The first was serialised in the Kharkov periodical Mysl. The introductory section of the second appeared in 1921 in Sozialisticheski Vestnik and the remainder in 1923 in Mirovoi Bolshevism (both published in Berlin). The final section, ‘Marx and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ was published in 1918 in the Moscow journal Workers' International, of which Martov was editor.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Starve 'em

Saddam Hussein Provided More Food Than the U.S. does to Iraqis

The Iraqi government announcement that monthly food rations will be cut by half has left many Iraqis asking how they can survive.The government also wants to reduce the number of people depending on the rationing system by five million by June 2008.

The imminent move will affect nearly 10 million people who depend on the rationing system. According to an Oxfam International report released in July this year 43 percent of Iraqis suffer from absolute poverty . Child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 percent before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 to 28 percent now . 60 percent of Iraqis currently have access to rations through the government-run Public Distribution System .

The trade ministry is now preparing to slash the list of subsidised items by half to five basic food items, flour, sugar, rice, oil, and infant milk . The previous food ration consisted of two kilos of rice, sugar, soap, tea, detergent, wheat flour, lentils, chick-peas, and other items for every individual

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Marx , Lenin and Martov

Still concentrating on the previous blog about Martov , here is is the final lecture from Stephen Coleman which discusses the Blanquist Bolshevik Lenin and the Marxist Menshevik Martov .

It can be got by going to Darren's blog and following the link .
The role of the soviets in Russia's bourgeois revolution: the point of view of Julius Martov
This article originally appeared in the French political journal, Economies et societes, cahiers de l'ISMEA, Paris, serie S, Number 18, April-May 1976 issue. It first appeared on the internet for the first time here but to widen its circulation i am re-posting in full once more .

The basic principle defended by Marx throughout his forty years of socialist activity can be summed up in the clause of the General Rules of the First International that "the emancipation of the working class must be conquered by the working classes themselves". This is a rejection of the view that socialism can be introduced for the working class or that the working class can be led to socialism by some enlightened minority.

Those who set themselves up as leaders of the working class fall into two groups. First, there are the parliamentary reformists who tell the workers: "vote for us and we will introduce socialism for you". And then there are the various "vanguards" who see themselves leading the workers in a violent assault on the capitalist state. Both groups, despite being bitter antagonists, share a common standpoint: a denial that the majority of workers are capable of understanding and of organising themselves, without leaders, in order to achieve it.

But to deny this is to in effect deny that socialism can be established. For socialism, as a fully democratic society based on the common ownership of the means of production(1), demands, in order to function, the voluntary co-operation and conscious participation of the immense majority of the population. It is a society which simply cannot be established by a minority, however enlightened, determined or benevolent. Leaders, whether reformist parliamentarians or insurrectionist vanguards, cannot establish socialism; all they can and have established is some form of state capitalism.

During and after the first world war a number of working class thinkers and militants (such as Luxemburg, Gorter and Pannekoek) came to recognise that the traditional Social Democratic policy of seeking to win a parliamentary majority on an electoral programme of reforms of capitalism could never lead to socialism but only to state capitalism. They re-asserted that only the working class, socialist-minded and democratically-organised, could establish socialism. However, under the impact of the events of November 1917 in Russia, they imagined that the form of working class organisation to overthrow capitalism and establish socialism has been found in the workers' "soviets" or councils that had come into being after the overthrow of the Tsar in March 1917.

It is understandable, and perhaps excusable, that in the early days of the "soviet regime" people outside of Russia should have been mistaken about its nature. War-time censorship and the lies of the capitalist press, together with the exaggerations of some of its supporters, meant that little accurate information about what was happening in Russia was available. On the face of it, in November 1917 the Congress of Soviets, a body of working class delegates from all over Russia, had deposed the capitalist Provisional Government and itself taken control of governmental power; capitalist rule had been overthrown and a socialist regime established - at least this is what appeared to have happened.

But those who had some knowledge of Marx's theory of social development ought to have quickly had some doubts. Without denying that capitalist political rule had been overthrown or that power had passed into the hands of people calling themselves socialists, they could have questioned whether the outcome could be socialism. Quite apart from the fact that socialism could only have been established as a world system, neither the economic nor the political conditions for a socialist revolution existed in Russia in 1917. Russia was an industrially backward country, with an overwhelmingly peasant population engaged in individual, rather than socialised, production. The workers and peasants of Russia certainly were discontented, but wanted "Peace, Bread and Land" (as the slogans put it) rather than socialism properly-understood.

To be fair, those who supported the Bolshevik coup d'etat because they believed it to have been a soviet or workers' council revolution did eventually - by about 1921 - come to recognise the real nature of the Bolshevik regime as a minority dictatorship forced by economic circumstances to continue the development of capitalism in Russia. But these "Left Communists" (or "Council Communists" as some of them later called themselves) still continued to believe in workers' councils as the form of working class organisation for establishing socialism.

One man, however, was not taken in by "sovietism": Julius Martov. Martov was one of the second generation of Russian Social Democrats who, at the turn of the century, worked to build up the Social Democratic movement inside Russia. With Plekhanov, Lenin and others he was one of the editors of the journal Iskra which had been launched in 1900 to counter the nebulous theories of "economism". When, however, the Iskra group, together with the rest of Russian Social Democracy, split over the organisation question Martov was amongst the minority (or "Mensheviks", from the Russian word for minority) who opposed Lenin's proposal for a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries which was supported by a majority (or "Bolsheviks"). Martov favoured the traditional Social Democratic idea of a mass, open - and, let it be admitted, reformist - workers' party. Unlike most Mensheviks, however, Martov was an opponent of the first world war, being a member of the small group of "Internationalists" who took up a working-class position on this issue. He was a respected writer (even by Lenin) on Marx and socialist theory and, indeed, it was because of his criticism of the Bolshevik regime from a Marxian point of view that he was forced into exile in 1922, where he died a year later.

Some of the articles he wrote in the period 1919-23 were published in English translation in 1939 under the title The State and the Socialist Revolution (2). Reading these articles it is easy to see why he was such an embarrassment to the Bolshevik government. Not for one moment was he taken in by their claims that the "soviet regime" represented the "dictatorship of the proletariat" as envisaged by Marx (3). For him, it was a cover for the dictatorship, albeit revolutionary, of the Bolshevik Party.

It is instructive to see why the Bolsheviks were, for a few years, advocates of workers' councils. The "constitutional' basis for their seizure of power in November 1917 had been a decision of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets to depose the Provisional Government of Kerensky and set up instead a "Provisional Workers and Peasants Government". Thus the Bolsheviks popularised the slogan, in the rest of Europe as well as in Russia, of "all power to the soviets" (i.e., workers' councils). After they had dissolved the Constituent Assembly in January 1918 they were forced, in order to justify this action, to step up their propaganda in favour of the soviets as an alternative to parliament. The election of a Constituent Assembly, which would decide the future constitution of Russia, had long been a demand of all Russian revolutionaries, including the Bolsheviks. Elections, even though held after the Bolsheviks take-over of power, gave the Bolsheviks only a quarter of the seats, a majority going to the peasant party, the Social Revolutionaries. Lenin gave a number of reasons why the Assembly had had to be dissolved such as out-of-date electoral lists and a split in the Social Revolutionary party between the presentation of candidates and the election. But all these could have been remedied by fresh elections. This the Bolsheviks wished to avoid since they were fully aware that the result would be more or less the same. They determined to hold on to power, while still wishing to be regarded as democrats. Hence Lenin proclaimed that the soviet system was a higher form of democracy than the "bourgeois" parliamentary system.

Martov knew this to be hypocrisy. Lenin favoured the soviet rather than the parliamentary system because he knew that he could get a majority under the former but not the latter - a sure sign, we may add, that the soviet system was not more representative or democratic than the election of a central assembly by universal, direct, equal and secret ballot.

The reason for this was that the soviets - the soviets as they really existed in revolutionary Russia as opposed to the ideal workers' councils of Left Communist theory - as loose makeshift bodies were easily manipulable by a well-organised group such as were the professional revolutionaries of the Bolshevik Party under Lenin's leadership. Indeed it could be said that it was precisely because they were the best-organised and disciplined group that the Bolsheviks finally emerged as the government of revolutionary Russia following the collapse of the Tsarist regime - and they came to power by successfully manipulating the soviets.

The soviet system served the Bolsheviks' purpose because elections to the All-Russia Congress of Soviets were neither universal nor direct nor secret. The Congress was composed of delegates from local soviets who were in their turn delegates from local factories. Its members were thus only indirectly elected. Urban areas were over-represented. There were no set procedures for the election of the delegates to the local soviets; in most cases they would have been chosen by a show of hands at a general assembly of the workforce of a factory, with all the drawbacks of this method of election.

We mention these points not to defend parliamentary democracy but to show how the soviet system was far from being the highest form of political democracy.

It is of course a reasonable point to say that in a revolutionary situation such as existed in Russia in 1917 democratic perfection was not to be expected. The soviets were only makeshift representative organisations which had come into being precisely because working class opinion had been denied expression under the Tsarist regime. They thus played a useful role, filling a void until such time as a more permanent, and structured, system of representation could be set up. To praise their makeshift, unstructured character as being a sign of their ultra-democratic nature is to make a virtue out of necessity and to forget that this made not just for flexibility but also meant that it was easier for a determined minority to manipulate them.

A second argument put forward by the Bolsheviks in favour of the soviet system was that it gave power to the more determined revolutionary elements in Russia whereas to have let power pass into the hands of a parliamentary government responsible to a Constituent Assembly elected by universal suffrage would have led to a slowing-down of the revolutionary process. This is undoubtedly true, but it shows clearly that the Russian revolution was essentially a bourgeois rather than a socialist revolution.

The socialist revolution can only be a revolution carried out consciously by the immense working-class majority acting in their own interests. In these circumstances any system of representation - whether soviets or parliament - would give a majority for the revolution. This is not necessarily the case during a bourgeois revolution, however, where the revolutionaries can find themselves impeded by the lack of revolutionary will of the masses. Martov describes a typical bourgeois revolution thus:

"The role of active factor in the overturn belonged to minorities of the social classes in whose interest the revolution developed. These minorities exploited the confused discontent and the sporadic explosions of anger arising among scattered and socially inconsistent elements within the revolutionary class. They guided the latter in the destruction of the old social forms. In certain cases, the active leader minorities had to use the power of their concentrated energy in order to shatter the inertia of the elements they tried to wield for revolutionary purposes. Therefore, these active leader minorities sometimes made efforts - often successful efforts - to repress the passive resistance of the manipulated elements, when the latter refused to move forward toward the broadening and deepening of the revolution. The dictatorship of an active revolutionary minority, a dictatorship that tended to be terrorist, was the normal coming-to-a-head of the situation in which the old social order had confined the popular mass, now called on by the revolutionaries to forge their own destiny". (The State and the Socialist Revolution, p. 16).

That an enlightened minority of revolutionists were justified in ignoring the views of the unenlightened majority in order to carry through the revolution was an idea that had first made its appearance, in the form of Jacobinism, during the French bourgeois revolution. It was inherited by utopian Communists such as Buonarotti, Weitling and Blanqui. And it was, as Martov points out, an element in Bolshevik thinking too.

The Bolsheviks supported the soviet system because it enabled them, as a determined revolutionary minority, to come to power:

"The 'soviet regime' becomes the means of bringing into power and maintaining in power a revolutionary minority which claims to defend the interests of a majority, though the latter has not recognised these interests as its own, though this majority has not attached itself sufficiently to these interests to defend them with all its energy and determination." (p. 19).

This, Martov goes on, applied equally to the partisans of the soviet idea (workers' councils) outside of Russia. They too saw workers' councils as a short-cut to power, as a means of by-passing the need to have majority socialist understanding amongst the working class before trying to overthrow capitalism:

"The mystery of the 'soviet regime' is now deciphered. We see now how an organism that is supposedly created by the specific peculiarities of a labor movement corresponding to the highest development of capitalism is revealed to be, at the same time, suitable to the needs of countries knowing neither large capitalist production, nor a powerful bourgeoisie, nor a proletariat that has evolved through the experiences of the class struggle.

"In other words, in the advanced countries, the proletariat resorts, we are told, to the soviet form of the dictatorship as soon as its elan toward the social revolution strikes against the impossibility of realizing its power in any other way than through the dictatorship of a minority, a minority within the proletariat itself.

"The thesis of the 'finally discovered form', the thesis of the political form that, belonging to the specific circumstances of the imperialist phase of capitalism, is said to be the only form that can realize the social enfranchisement of the proletariat, constitutes the historically necessary illusion by whose effect the revolutionary section of the proletariat renounces its belief in its ability to draw behind it the majority of the population of the country and resuscitates the idea of the minority dictatorship of the
Jacobins in the very form used by the bourgeois revolution of the 18th century. Must we recall here that this revolutionary method has been repudiated by the working class to the extent that it has freed itself from its heritage of petty-bourgeois revolutionism?" (p. 21-22).

The view that a revolutionary minority could and should establish its dictatorship in order to try to introduce socialism is of course a denial of the basic principle upheld by Marx that "the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself". That this view should be popular amongst revolutionaries in Russia was no coincidence. For, as we have seen, the Russian revolution - as the process of overthrowing, root and branch, the Tsarist social order - was essentially bourgeois. The soviets had a role to play in this bourgeois revolution: to allow the determined revolutionary minority to come to power. After noting how in July 1917, when the Congress of Soviets was dominated by the vacillating Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries, Lenin had thought of abandoning the slogan "all power to the soviets" in favour of an open demand for "all power to the Bolshevik Party", Martov goes on:

"The consequent course of the Russian revolution cured Lenin of his passing 'lack of faith'. The soviets fulfilled the role expected of them. The rising tide of bourgeois revolutionary enthusiasm set in motion the worker and peasant masses, washing away their 'meanness'. Lifted by the wave, the Bolsheviks possessed themselves of the government apparatus. Then the role of the insurrectionary element came to an end. The Moor had accomplished his task. The State that came into power with the aid of the 'Power of the Soviets' became the 'Soviet Power'. The Communist minority incorporated into this State made itself secure, once for always, against a possible return of the spirit of 'meanness'" (p. 28).

The coming to power of the Bolsheviks did not represent, as they themselves believed, progress from Russia's bourgeois revolution to its "proletarian revolution". It was, says Martov, echoing what Marx had said about the so-called Reign of Terror in France in 1794, "a point in the process of the bourgeois revolution itself". Commenting on the passage in Marx's 1847 article in which this phrase occurred (4), Martov says:

"One might say that Marx wrote this specially for the benefit of those people who consider the simple fact of a fortuitous conquest of power by the democratic small bourgeoisie and the proletariat as proof of the maturity of society for the socialist revolution. But it may also be said that he wrote this specially for the benefit of those socialists who believe that never in the course of a revolution that is bourgeois in its objectives can there occur a possibility permitting the political power to escape from the hands of the bourgeoisie and pass to the democratic masses. One may say that Marx wrote this also for the benefit of those socialists who consider utopian the mere idea of such a displacement of power and who do not realize that this phenomenon is 'only a point in the process of the bourgeois revolution itself', that it is a factor assuring, under certain conditions, the most complete and radical suppression of the obstacles rising in the way of this bourgeois revolution" (p. 59-60).

It only remains to add that, unlike in 1794 in France where the determined minority were replaced by the traditional bourgeoisie after having done their dirty work for them, in Russia the determined minority remained in power and that it was from amongst their ranks that evolved the ruling and exploiting class of the capitalist Russia they had no alternative but to develop.

So, from a bourgeois revolutionary point of view, the Bolsheviks were justified in maintaining their minority dictatorship. Where they were wrong was in imagining, and propagating amongst the workers of the rest of Europe, that this had something to do with "socialism". Their sympathisers in the West, including the Left and Council Communists, were equally mistaken in imagining that the soviets (or workers' councils), which had served as a cover for the Bolshevik minority to come to power, were the form of working class organisation for socialism in advanced capitalist countries.

Certainly, workers' councils or something akin to them, as workplace organisations of the workers, are bound to arise in the course of the socialist revolution. But to claim that they are the only possible form of working class self-organisation is to go too far, is in fact to make a fetish of a mere organisational form. What is important in working class self-organisation, however, is not the form but the principle.

The principles of democratic self-organisation - which are in fact democratic principles generally - can be applied, given a sufficient democratic consciousness, to any working class organisation, including even organisation to contest elections and to control central parliaments and local councils. There is no reason whatsoever in theory why a workers' socialist political party could not be organised on the same basis as has been proposed by Left Communists for workers' councils: no leadership and so no division into leaders and led; the candidates, including those elected, just like the delegates to the ideal workers' council, could be subject to continual control and, if need be, instantly recalled; they could be strictly mandated to fight for socialism and not to pursue reforms of capitalism. In other words, there is no necessary connexion between the principle of democratic working class self-organisation and organisation at the place of work. As stated, what is important is not the form of organisation but the democratic - and socialist - consciousness of the working class. This can express itself in a great variety of organisational forms, including a mass political party. Indeed, this was the form Marx himself expected it to take.

Martov, whose writings are unfortunately not generally known, must be given credit for having demystified a little the idea of workers' councils by showing the essentially bourgeois revolutionary role that the soviets played in Russia in 1917.

Adam Buick

(1) Common ownership is not the same as State ownership. Since the State is a feature only of class societies State ownership is a form of sectional or class monopoly of the means of production. In socialism the State is replaced by the democratic administration of social affairs, including production which would be directed solely to satisfying human needs, with the resulting disappearance of production for sale, profits, wages, money, banks and all the other paraphernalia of buying and selling.

(2) The State and the Socialist Revolution, translated by Integer, International Review, New York, 1939. Integer gives as the source of the articles translated:
"The first two sections of this book, The Ideology of Sovietism and The Conquest of the State, were written early in 1919. They form a compact whole and should be read as such. The first essay appeared serially in the periodical Mysl of Kharkov. The introductory section of the second was first published in the issues of July 8 and September 1, 1921, of the Sozialisticheski Vestnik (Berlin). The remainder of the second essay appeared for the first time in Mirovoi Bolshevism (World Bolshevism), Berlin, 1923, from the text of which the entire present translation was made. The final section, entitled Marx and the Problem of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat was first published in 1918 in the Workers International of Moscow, edited by Martov".

(3) For Marx the "dictatorship of the proletariat" was the political form of the period during which the working class would be transforming capitalism into socialism. He advocated that it take the form of a fully democratised State controlled by the working class. See H. Draper 'Marx and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat', New Politics, Vol. I, Number 4, Summer 1962.

(4) "Die moralisierende Kritik und die kritische Moral". A recent English translation of the passage in question reads:
"If the proletariat destroys the political rule of the bourgeoisie, this will only be a temporary victory, only an element in the service of the bourgeois revolution itself, as in 1974, so long as in the course of history, in its movement', the material conditions are not yet created which make necessary the abolition of the bourgeois mode of production and thus the definitive overthrow of bourgeois political rule" (Karl Marx, Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy, edited by T. B. Bottomore and Maximilien Rubel, Penguin Books, London, 1963, p. 244).

Further reading:
Review of Martov's 'The State and the Socialist Revolution' that originally appeared in the Socialist Standard in 1940.

Martov: a Russian Social-Democrat (A review of Israel Getzler's biography of Julius Martov that first appeared in the November 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard.)

Little Boxes

Call centre and other outsourced businesses such as software writing, medical transcription and back-office work employ more than 1.6 million young men and women in India .

They are, however, facing sleep disorders, heart disease, depression and family discord, according to doctors and several industry surveys. The IHT writes that the outsourcing industry has come under fire because the sedentary lifestyle of its employees combined with often stressful working conditions makes them more vulnerable to heart disease, digestive problems and weight gain than others. Some complain of psychological distress. A recent survey showed sleep disorders topped health complaints among outsourcing industry workers. About 32 percent of respondents complained of sleep disorders; 25 percent had digestive troubles; and 20 percent reported eyesight problems, said the survey. Sleep and digestive disorders, doctors say, can grow into bigger problems: hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

One out of 10 persons aged 35 years or more in India is prone to heart attack.Heart disease is projected to account for 35 percent of deaths among India's working age population between 2000 and 2030 according to a World Health Organization study. That number is about 12 percent for the United States, 22 percent for China and 25 percent for Russia.

Most call center jobs involve responding to phone calls through the night from customers in the United States and Europe -- some of whom can be angry and rude. It is monotonous and there is little meaningful personal interaction among co-workers. That can also be true of other jobs such as software writing and back-office work. Long, odd working hours means couples don't have much time together.

Loneliness can also take a toll."There is no social life," said Vats, who worked at night and either slept or watched television during the day. "You are not meeting new people"

The outsourcing boom has created new employment opportunities for Indian women, but there has been little change in social expectations. Adding workplace demands to responsibilities at home, which often includes taking care of in-laws, leaves women workers with multiple stresses

According to this article Indian outsourcers are suffering from high staff turnover rates because many workers see it as a “dead end job”, according to a new report . The study puts the current staff attrition rate in Indian call centres as high as 40%. This turnover has previously been blamed on long, unsocial hours associated with servicing overseas customers in different time zones and higher salary offers from rival firms. But the survey of agents found more than 50% said they considered call centres a dead end job.
The staff attributed their exits to a lack of growth opportunities, expectation mismatches and dissatisfaction with company policies. Night shifts, monotony of work and better salary offers elsewhere were given as reasons for moving on by only 39% of respondents.

Here , we read , that in the past five years, more than 100,000 young Indian graduates have made the move to Bangalore, or the suburban New Delhi city of Gurgaon, to answer calls from credit card holders, make sales pitches or maintain records. The jobs are eagerly sought with pay from 500 to 1,000 dollars a month, compared to per capita annual income in India of around 600 dollars. But late hours far from home led to high staff turnover and companies found that a good salary was not enough to attract employees who were increasingly eager to return to small-town India.

"I was hating every minute of my call centre job in New Delhi," says Sanjeev Rana "I barely got four hours sleep between shifts and meals were at dingy roadside restaurants..." he adds.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sustainable Steady-State Socialism

The richest 20 percent of people consume 86 percent of everything that is sold for private consumption.

The poorest 20 percent consume 1 percent of it.

A typical American buys 53 times as many products as someone from China, one American's consumption of resources is equal to that of 35 Indians, the average American will create 13 times as much environmental damage as the average Brazilian.

The average "footprint" -- the amount of biologically productive space allocated per person in resources to sustain them -- is 2.3 global hectares. But the average American's footprint is 9.7 global hectares, while the average Chinese is only 1.6. If just China and India wanted to achieve Japan's per capita footprint, for example, they would require an extra planet Earth's worth or resources to meet their needs.

If the Chinese on a per capita basis were to consume the same amount of grain as Americans (291 kilograms, or 642 pounds compared to 935 kg, or 2,061 pounds today), China's total consumption would represent two-thirds of all the grain harvested worldwide in 2006 , OneWorld reports. And if the Chinese ate as much meat per person as the Americans do now, they would be consuming around four-fifths of the world's total meat production.
"China will, of course, not tolerate being told not to aspire to First-World levels. But the world cannot sustain China and other Third World countries and current First-World countries all operating at first-world levels." Jared Diamond in "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive":

Encouraging the developing world to consume like the West simply isn't a sustainable strategy. Encouraging Americans ( and others of the developed world ) to buy less doesn't seem a likely option either when for capitalism the retail industry that makes $7 trillion a year and consumer spending represents two-thirds of the $10 trillion U.S. economy.

"Shopping habits represent such a large part of greenhouse gas emissions that even if every household switched to renewable energy and stopped driving cars tomorrow, total household emissions would fall by less than 20 percent", the Sydney Morning Herald reports, quoting a study.

The enormous rise in living standards for the majority of the world’s population which is entailed by the establishment of Socialism is certain to mean a great increase in energy consumption. Even if Socialism is far less wasteful than capitalism, it will still follow that new energy sources will have to be found . There are two reasons why renewable sources are not used today as much as they could be. Firstly, there is concern over the cost and economic viability of such supplies. Secondly, relatively few resources are put into researching and developing renewable sources. Besides new sources of energy, more efficient consumption of energy will be an important step, with more of the energy supplied in some process being delivered as useful energy at the end. the capitalist system creates vast amounts of energy waste in the military and its socially useless jobs such as marketing, finance and banking which are part of its profit making machine. This waste would not happen in socialism which would be solely concerned to provide for real needs.

We can set out a possible way of achieving an eventual zero growth society operating in a stable and ecologically benign way. This could be achieved in three main phases. First, there would have to be emergency action to relieve the worst problems of food shortages, health care and housing which affect billions of people throughout the world. Secondly, longer term action to construct means of production and infrastructures such as transport systems for the supply of permanent housing and durable consumption goods. These could be designed in line with conservation principles, which means they would be made to last for a long time, using materials that where possible could be re-cycled and would require minimum maintenance. Thirdly, with these objectives achieved there could be an eventual fall in production, and society could move into a stable mode. This would achieve a rhythm of daily production in line with daily needs with no significant growth. On this basis, the world community could reconcile two great needs, the need to live in material well being whilst looking after the planet which is our shared home in space.

Wlliam Morris - Socialist Visionary

Stephen Coleman now discusses William Morris's vision of Socialism in the latest of Darren's downloads that can be found here .
I have previously given a list of some insightful Morris quotes here .

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Belfort Bax

Another of Darren's uploads of Stephen Coleman's talks which can be down-loaded here .

This lecture is about the 19th Century Socialist thinker Ernest Belfort Bax .

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Other Karl

Once more Darren has uploaded a Stephen Coleman talk on socialist thinkers , which can be downloaded via the link here .

The subject is Karl Kautsky and the Socialist Critique of Religion

Friday, December 21, 2007

Putin's Pennies

Citing sources inside the president's administration, Russian political expert Stanislav Belkovsky claims that after eight years in power Putin has secretly accumulated more than $40 billion (£20bn). The sum would make him Russia's - and Europe's - richest man.

In an interview with the Guardian , Belkovsky repeated his claims that Putin owns vast holdings in three Russian oil and gas companies, concealed behind a "non-transparent network of offshore trusts".
Putin "effectively" controls 37% of the shares of Surgutneftegaz, an oil exploration company and Russia's third biggest oil producer, worth $20bn, he says. He also owns 4.5% of Gazprom, and "at least 75%" of Gunvor, a mysterious Swiss-based oil trader, founded by Gennady Timchenko, a friend of the president's .
"Putin's name doesn't appear on any shareholders' register, of course. There is a non-transparent scheme of successive ownership of offshore companies and funds. The final point is in Zug in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Vladimir Putin should be the beneficiary owner."

Belkovsky adds that the west has misunderstood Putin and has been distracted by his "neo-Soviet" image. Putin, Belkovsky claims, is ultimately a "classic" businessman who believes money can solve any problem .

The wave of renationalisations under Putin has transformed Putin's associates into multimillionaires. Members of Putin's cabinet personally control the most important sectors of the economy - oil, gas and defence. Medvedev is chairman of Gazprom; Sechin runs Rosneft; other ministers are chairmen of Russian railways, Aeroflot, a nuclear fuel giant and an energy transport enterprise . Putin has created a new, more streamlined oligarchy, his critics say.
"The crown jewels of the country's wealth have ended up in the hands of Putin's inner circle," Vladimir Rzyhkov - a former independent MP .

Putin has not commented on Belkovsky's claims . Putin's chief spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, was not available for comment . Gunvor, which has its head office in Geneva, failed to comment

A free Lakota

"We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us," said Russell Means, an Indian rights activist.
The Lakota Indians, whose territory includes parts of Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming, sent a delegation to the State Department in Washington to deliver the news that the tribal group was unilaterally pulling out from a series of treaties signed in the 19th century that it described as "worthless words on worthless paper" because they had been "repeatedly violated in order to steal our culture, our land and our ability to maintain our way of life".

The Lakota reservations are among the most impoverished areas in North America, a shameful legacy of broken treaties and apartheid policies. Lakota has the highest death rate in the United States and Lakota men have the lowest life expectancy of any nation on earth, excluding AIDS, at approximately 44 years. Lakota infant mortality rate is five times the United States average and teen suicide rates 150% more than national average . 97% of Lakota people live below the poverty line and unemployment hovers near 85%.

Lakotah Unilateral Withdrawal from All Agreements and Treaties with the United States of America

We as the freedom loving Lakotah People are the predecessor sovereign of Dakota Territory as evidenced by the Treaties with the United States Government, including, but not limited to, the Treaty of 1851 and the Treaty of 1868 at Fort Laramie.

Lakotah, formally and unilaterally withdraws from all agreements and treaties imposed by the United States Government on the Lakotah People.

Lakotah , and the population therein, have waited for at least 155 years for the United States of America to adhere to the provisions of the above referenced treaties. The continuing violations of these treaties’ terms have resulted in the near annihilation of our people physically, spiritually, and culturally.

Lakotah rejects United States Termination By Appropriation policy from 1871 to the present.
In addition, the evidence of gross violations of the above referenced treaties are listed herein.

Lakotah encourages the United States of America, through its Government ,to enter into dialogue with Lakotah regarding the boundaries, the land and the resources therein.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Under-reported Humanitarian Crises List

Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières releases Tenth Annual "Top Ten" Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2007 :-

Displaced Fleeing War in Somalia Face Humanitarian Crisis

Political and Economic Turmoil Sparks Health-Care Crisis in Zimbabwe

Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Spreads As New Drugs Go Untested

Expanded Use of Nutrient Dense Ready-to-Use Foods Crucial for Reducing Childhood Malnutrition

Civilians Increasingly Under Fire in Sri Lankan Conflict

Conditions Worsen in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

Living Precariously in Colombia’s Conflict Zones

Humanitarian Aid Restricted in Myanmar

Civilians Caught Between Armed Groups in Central African Republic

As Chechen Conflict Ebbs, Critical Humanitarian Needs Still Remain

Indeed , sadly , many of those stories featured on the MSF/DWB 2006 list of under-reported humanitarian crises stories . Some were in even earlier years lists and that only goes to demonstrate that old adage - nothing changes - and we add - capitalism is unable to solve the World's social problems .

Plekhanov and the MCH

Another audio file of the Socialist Thinkers series can be found at Darren's blog . This time it is the Russian Marxist George Plekhanov and the Materialist Conception of History , and once again the speaker is Stephen Coleman .

A High-Class Ho ?

A woman who has amassed £18 million after three divorces is pursuing her fourth husband for a slice of his declared £45 million fortune.Susan Crossley, once married to racing magnate Robert Sangster, is claiming that a pre-nuptial agreement she signed with property developer Stuart Crossley is invalid because he failed to tell her about "tens of millions" more he had in offshore accounts.

Marital History

Husband 1: Was aged 18 when she married first husband, Kevin Nicholson, whose family founded the Kwik Save supermarket chain. The marriage lasted 18 months.

Husband 2: When aged 22 she married second husband Peter Lilley, an Isle of Man tax exile and heir to the Lilley and Skinner shoe fortune.

Husband 3: At 28, she was pursued by legendary Manx tax exile, Robert Sangster. She married him in 1985. The marriage ended in divorce and a £15 million settlement

Husband 4: She met multimillionaire Stuart Crossley on a blind date in June 2005. The couple were engaged within weeks and wed seven months later. The marriage lasted 18 months.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Hollywood War Continues

Update on the Hollywood screen - writers strike posted about previously .
Hollywood's film and television writers are in the seventh week of a strike that shows no signs of ending . The Writers Guild membership are refusing to grant a waiver for the Golden Globes awards show on 13 January, which means no participation by any writers or their sympathisers, including the actors' union, and turning down an initial request by the motion picture Academy to show movie or television clips at the Oscars in February.
The writers have shown remarkable unity of purpose in their quest to seek fair compensation for use of their work through new media outlets – the internet, mobile phones, and the rest – and a striking degree of consistency in their line that they were cheated out of their fair share of the video and DVD market, starting back in the 1980s, and have no intention of being cheated all over again. In 1988, they walked out for five months because they felt short-changed and cheated over video residuals – a stoppage that netted them precisely nothing.
They closed down the late-night chat shows and satirical fake newscasts on day one. They persuaded the so-called show-runners – writer-producers who commission, guide and polish scripts – to come out on strike with the rank and file, thus greatly speeding the rate at which popular series such as Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy and Lost ran out of material and were forced into reruns. Assuming the strike lasts into January and beyond, they will effectively sabotage next autumn's line-up of new television shows, because no writers means no pilot episodes for network executives to view and test-run.
But as the Independent points out , as with all industrial disputes , the employers holds an advantage over the workers .
The stoppage has lost the writers $100m (£50m) or more in lost pay cheques. In a plummeting property market and a stagnant economy, that means real worry about meeting mortgage payments and keeping family budgets afloat – worries that will only increase with every passing week.
Also the studios have already suspended standing deals with many writers and have the power, as of this week, to invoke force majeure and cancel those deals outright if they choose to. That's not without its advantages: it's an opportunity for the boss class to cut out a lot of dead wood and free up funds to commission new sorts of shows, shows that do not depend on unionised writers – the whole genre of reality programming with their good audience ratings at a fraction of the production costs .
Then there is the fact that the script -writers are taking on , not just the one employer but the whole industry . When car workers go on strike, they target just one big company – Ford, or General Motors – and hope the competitive disadvantage felt by that company will pressure them into making a deal. But the writers are striking against every single major media conglomerate – Disney, and News Corp, and Viacom and Time Warner, and the rest. Just one would probably be too much on its own; taking on all of them all at once is ain't at all easy. That explains, perhaps, why the WGA has belatedly decided to negotiate with the studios one-on-one and allowed independent production companies, such as the one that produces David Letterman's late-night chat show on CBS, to reach its own deal with its writers.
Hopefully , it will be the the escalation and unity of the workers that pays off next year when The Screen Actors Guild contract is up for renewal in June, and the the two Guilds will make common cause and bring the entire entertainment media business to a halt.
"Your fight is our fight," SAG's president, Alan Rosenberg said this week. "We are proud to walk shoulder-to-shoulder with you and SAG will be there for as long as it takes."
Perhaps not so united in solidarity are the the Directors Guild, whose contract is also up for renewal in June . Big-name directors can secure lucrative, so-called, "back-end" deals through one-on-one negotiation brokered by their agents, so they don't need the minimums that any union deal might guarantee. At the other end of the scale, the assistant and second-unit directors who make up about 40 per cent of the DGA's membership don't care about residuals because they are considered "below the line" – Hollywood's equivalent of blue-collar workers along with the gaffers and grips and camera operators – and don't qualify for any kind of profit-sharing in the first place.
The sad scenario - a familiar story-line that has been suffered by many workers throughout the world and throughout history - is that the producers cabal will give up on talking to the writers ( in fact it gave up last week, much to the fury of the WGA ) and focus instead on brokering a deal with the directors. The DGA talks will probably begin in January and, barring some big sticking point, wrap up in February or early March. At that point the guilds will be split, the writers will be hungry for work and a sizeable faction is likely to emerge to challenge the hard line adopted by the WGA leadership. Maybe the strike will last long enough to bring the actors on board, maybe it won't – but sooner or later the writers will have to realise they don't have anything like the deep pockets of the media conglomerates who own the studios and the networks, and they will be forced to give in.
It is a reminder that all unions fight against the effects of capitalism and when faced with a determined ruling class , the workers are at a disadvantage in this war between employer and the hired -hand .

The REAL Illegal Immigration problem

The front page story of the Independent is featuring three Florida fruit-pickers, held captive and brutalised by their employer for more than a year, finally broke free of their bonds by punching their way through the ventilator hatch of the van in which they were imprisoned. Once outside, they dashed for freedom. When they found sanctuary one recent Sunday morning, all bore the marks of heavy beatings to the head and body. One of the pickers had a nasty, untreated knife wound on his arm. Police would learn later that another man had his hands chained behind his back every night to prevent him escaping, leaving his wrists swollen. The migrants were not only forced to work in sub-human conditions but mistreated and forced into debt. They were locked up at night and had to pay for sub-standard food. If they took a shower with a garden hose or bucket, it cost them $5.

A week after the escapees managed to emerge from the van in which they had been locked up for the night, police discovered that a forced labour operation was supplying fruit-pickers to local growers. Court papers describe how migrant workers were forced into debt and beaten into going to work on farms in Florida, as well as in North and South Carolina. Detectives found another 11 men who were being kept against their will in the grounds of a Florida house .The men had to pay to live in the back of vans and for food. Their entire pay cheques went to the Navarettes and they were still in debt. They slept in decrepit sheds and vehicles in a yard littered with rubbish. When one man did not want to go to work because he was sick, he was allegedly pushed and kicked .
The complaint reveals that the men were forced to pay rent of $20 (£10) a week to sleep in a locked furniture van where they had no option but to urinate and defecate in a corner. They had to pay $50 a week for meals – mostly rice and beans with meat perhaps twice a week if they were lucky. The fruit-pickers' caravans, which they share with up to 15 other men, rent for $2,400 a month – more per square foot than a New York apartment .

Their story of slavery and abuse in the fruit fields of sub-tropical Florida threatens to lift the lid on some appalling human rights abuses in America today.

Between December and May, Florida produces virtually the entire US crop of field-grown fresh tomatoes. Fruit picked here in the winter months ends up on the shelves of supermarkets and is also served in the country's top restaurants and in tens of thousands of fast-food outlets. But conditions in the state's fruit-picking industry range from straightforward exploitation to forced labour. Tens of thousands of men, women and children – excluded from the protection of America's employment laws and banned from unionising – work their fingers to the bone for rates of pay which have hardly budged in 30 years.

Fruit-pickers, who typically earn about $200 (£100) a week, are part of an unregulated system designed to keep food prices low and the plates of America's overweight families piled high. The migrants, largely Hispanic and with many of them from Mexico, are the last wretched link in a long chain of exploitation and abuse. They are paid 45 cents (22p) for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes collected. A worker has to pick nearly two-and-a-half tons of tomatoes – a near impossibility – in order to reach minimum wage. So bad are their working and living conditions that the US Department of Labour, which is not known for its sympathy to the underdog, has called it "a labour force in considerable distress". Florida has a long history of exploiting migrant workers. Farm labourers have no protection under US law and can be fired at will.

A campaign has been under way to improve the workers' conditions. After years of talks, a scheme to pay the tomato pickers a penny extra per pound has been signed off by McDonald's, the world's biggest restaurant chain, and by Yum!, which owns 35,000 restaurants including KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. But Burger King, which also buys its tomatoes in Immokalee, has so far refused to participate, threatening the entire scheme.

Burger King will not pay the extra penny a pound that the tomato-pickers are demanding he said. "If we agreed to the penny per pound, Burger King would pay about $250,000 annually, or $100 per worker. How does that solve exploitation and poverty?" the vice-president of Burger King asked. Indeed it would not but improved wages could ameliorate their condition a little .

Whole Foods Market, which recently expanded into Britain with a store in London's upmarket suburb of Kensington, has been discovered stocking tomatoes from one of the most notorious Florida sweatshop producers. Whole Foods ignored an appeal by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to pay an extra penny a pound for its tomatoes. So much for their much vaunted claim to be "committed to supporting and promoting economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable agriculture" and supporting "the right of all workers to be treated fairly and humanely."

Little has changed since 1960 when the journalist Edward R Murrow shocked Americans with Harvest Of Shame, a television broadcast about the bleak and underpaid lives of the workers who put food on their tables and famously stated
"We used to own our slaves but now we just rent them,"

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Ominous Future

The soaring cost of food is threatening millions of people in poor countries, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has warned. Food prices have risen an unprecedented 40% in the last year and many nations may be unable to cope, the agency says. It is calling for help for farmers in poor countries to buy seeds and fertiliser, and for a review of the impact of bio-fuels on food production. The FAO says 37 countries face food crises due to conflict and disaster.

"Without support for poor farmers and their families in the hardest-hit countries, they will not be able to cope," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.

International cereal prices have already sparked food riots in several countries, the FAO points out

The causes of the rise food prices are a mixture of reasons .
Partly due to droughts and floods linked to climate change .
Changing diet in fast-developing nations such as China is also considered a factor, with more land needed to raise livestock to meet increasing demand for meat.
Rising oil prices boosting demand for bio-fuels , the use of land to grow plants which can be used to make alternative fuels - and the use of food crops themselves for fuel - has reduced food supplies and helped push up prices.

Coleman on Dietzgen

Once more Brooklyn Darren has uploaded another Stephen Coleman talk . This time the subject is Joseph Dietzgen , the working class materialist philosopher , who i have already featured in a posting here .

The talk can be downloaded in two parts here

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Price of Games

"...We can't just hide our poor or wish them away," said Bakshi, founder of Project Why, a charity that provides free primary education for children from New Delhi's many slums.

India is spending more than $400 million (£200m) to polish Delhi's image as a first-rate capital with many urban renewal projects spurred by the forthcoming 2010 Commonwealth Games . India hopes to use the games as a springboard for its planned 2020 Olympic bid.

New Delhi has 150,000 homeless residents - the vast majority of them women and children . In the months leading up to the games, more than 5000 families have been forced from their homes as the city authorities demolished hundreds of slums and encampments around New Delhi .

"Most of these families were moved here from another part of Delhi to make way for 1982 Asian Games," said Kumar, 35, an ironworker and toolmaker. "Now, the city is moving us again to make way for the Commonwealth Games...Whether they make this city into another Singapore or Hong Kong doesn't matter to us," said Kumar as he eyed the tangle of traffic near his stand of handmade tools. "We're happy the games are here, but we're the ones paying the price to have them.""

Delhi's chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, has vowed to rid the city of slums . In public statements, she has said that demolishing slums is a humane act, mainly because it forces people to seek alternatives to the crowded squalor of the settlements, which are often illegal and have no running water or electricity.

Some city planners have pitched an idea to relocate thousands of the city's beggars, mostly children and handicapped people, into camps on the city's fringes before and during the Commonwealth Games, a plan that critics say hides, rather than solves, the problem. One plan involves moving about 3000 homeless women and children from the streets of Delhi into an abandoned 14-acre ashram in Rishikesh - about five hours by train north of Delhi

The city's facelift leading up to the games is contributing to its homeless problem as thousands of unskilled labourers and their families migrate to Delhi for construction jobs, most of which pay minimum wage of roughly $4 per day or less. The influx of unskilled workers has led to a sudden mushrooming of tent cities around many of the construction sites.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Swedish Meat-Balls

Liberal Sweden , my ar*e !!

Swedish authorities have recently ruled that failed asylum seekers from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, can be sent back as there is no "armed conflict" there.

The Swedish immigration agency said that Swedish law says there is no armed conflict in Mogadishu because rebels there do not control territory. Sweden automatically grants asylum to anyone from an area in which something "more like your traditional civil war" exists, where "rebellion forces have territorial control in a part of the city, the country or the region," senior immigration official Dan Eliasson told AFP news agency. "This is not the case in Mogadishu," said Mr Eliasson, the general director of the Swedish Migration Board.

This after 17 people were killed in a mortar attack on Mogadishu's main market on Thursday. The UN says one million people are living rough in Somalia - including 60% of Mogadishu's population. About 200,000 people have fled the city in the last month. The UN's describes Somalia as the world's worst humanitarian disaster . Somali asylum seekers in Sweden can be sent home unless they prove lives personally under threat.

The immigration service also ruled last July that there was "no armed conflict in Iraq" on the same grounds, determining that Sweden could send Iraqi asylum seekers back to the war-torn country if they could not prove they would personally be threatened there.

Coleman on The Chartists

Once more , Inveresk St Ingrate has struck that mother lode and has uploaded another talk by Stephen Coleman .

This time it is about Chartism and in particular James Bronterre O'Brien

Go to HERE to hear .

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bush - no cash for kids health

"What a sad day that the president would say that rather than insuring millions of children, 'I don't want to raise the cigarette tax,' " said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

President Bush vetoed an expansion of the federally funded, state-run health insurance program for poor children for a second time Wednesday, telling Congress the bill "moves our country's health care system in the wrong direction."

The bill would have expanded the State Children's Health Insurance Program by adding another 4 million children whose families still can't afford private insurance to the 6 million already covered by the program whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid .

The reform would have been financed by a 61 cents increase in the federal tax on a pack of cigarettes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

children - beasts of burden

A TELEVISION broadcast, which seems to show underage children working on a farm owned by a government minister, has reopened the debate about India's commitment to fighting child labour. The footage was filmed on a field owned by Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, India's rural development minister. Initially the minister denied he was employing children to work in his fields. He told reporters that "the whole episode was stage managed" by television journalists. He did not specify how the reporters had stage managed the report. He later told the station that broadcast the video there was no harm in children doing small jobs on the land.

The "small jobs" ? - The video showed two boys dragging a makeshift plough through a muddy field. They were barefooted and wearing torn, dirty clothing. The boys had rope from the plough, tied around their waists, and a man walked behind them, apparently making sure they kept up a suitable pace.

The farm manager, who is also the brother of the rural development minister, said the boys were working the land due to the rain. Raghuraj Prasad Singh said: "It rained so much this year that the fields are still muddy and oxen and tractors cannot move on them."

The government of India estimates that 11 million children aged between five and 14 are working, but local charitable organisations put the figure at 50 to 60 million - a fifth of the child population. One estimate saying that 20 percent of India's economy is dependent on children under 14.
In October, children as young as 10 were found sewing clothes for the American retailer Gap Inc. in a New Delhi sweat shop. The children said they had been sold to the sweatshop by their impoverished families and were not paid.

"Childhood only happens once. For some it doesn't happen at all." said Save the Children.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The SPGB in History

Darren of Inveresk St Ingrate fame has once more surpassed himself by making available on the internet a talk given by Stephen Coleman on the historic place of the SPGB .

A history of the Socialist Party of Great Britain can be found here .

Friday, December 07, 2007

Together towards a new world

The Irish diaspora consists at the top estimate and interpretation contains over 80 million people, which is over fourteen times the population of the island of Ireland itself (5.9 million in 2006). The governement of Ireland defines it in legal terms: the Irish diaspora are those of Irish nationality who habitually reside outside of the island of Ireland. This includes Irish citizens who have emigrated abroad and their children also grand children in some cases ), who are Irish citizens by descent under Irish law. . Under this legal definition, the Irish diaspora is considerably smaller than popular belief - some 3 million persons, of whom 1.2 million are Irish-born emigrants.

Therefore one would think that the Irish would understand the need for others to leave their lands and seek out new shores . The i read this BBC report with interest .

Siobhan O'Donahue , director of a drop-in centre that looks after immigrants in Dublin , describes it thus :-

"We saw them essentially as units of labour. We didn't see them as people with social and community needs. "

An economic boom turned a relatively-poor, agricultural nation into a "Celtic Tiger". To fuel this growth, Ireland needed to allow in workers from the new Eastern European members of the European Union . The result is that now, more than one in seven people in Ireland was born outside the country. Ireland invited immigrants to come and work, without giving any thought to their wider impact. The planning and infrastructure wasn't put in place . Nobody has sought fit to deal with the social needs : schooling, housing, access to healthcare.

The Education Department , for instance , had belatedly realised there were not enough places for immigrants' children . They had been turned down by the local schools. The result was that they ended up in an emergency facility, one that caters almost exclusively for boys and girls of African or Arab origin.

"I would rather my children knew how Irish children live," says one mother there, disappointed to see her son going to school only with other black children.

The Herald carries an article that Scotland needs to attract 20,000 immigrants a year to counter a declining population and to save the economy from collapse over the next 30 years, a government-backed report warns . The alternative is an impoverished future, with a shrinking younger workforce supporting an ageing population. It predicts that by 2017 the country's population may fall below five million for the first time since the 1940s.

The report says "In the last few years, Scotland has recorded clear net in-migration gains. Maintaining or improving this current balance of migration could prove key to addressing the challenges posed by Scotland's ageing population and projected population decline."

Yet Scotland follows the example of Ireland .

Michael Luby, national sales manager at the Big Issue

"It's unbelievable," he said "we're seeing Romanian people come over here expecting work, only to find that they don't get access to the housing, benefits and services any other people get..."

An Edinburgh landlord has been profiting from housing over 50 Romanian migrants in squalid conditions . One of the occupants described the conditions as “misery” while others made allegations of mistreatment .

Yet the mass media choose to concentrate on perpetuating urban myths about the arrival of foreign workers , furthering divisions and mistrust . Eastern European bar staff and doormen are now among the most common victims of racial abuse and assault in Edinburgh.

In 2006 some 400,000 people left Britain, more than half of whom were UK citizens. Britain is becoming a country of revolving doors rather than overflowing floodgates .

There’s cheats and there’s cheats...

From the World Socialist Movement discussion forum

copy of e-mail to BBC, Sky News ITN and Channel 4 News

Dear Sir or Madam

There’s cheats and there’s cheats, apparently, as there’s victims and victims

As a viewer, I’m watching all the coverage of the John Darwin and his wife Anne, the alleged insurance fraudsters and the huge expense that TV stations and newspapers are expending to cover this story. They are alleged to have cheated insurance companies of some 200 thousand pounds?

A couple of months ago, however, the Office of Fair Trading signalled an investigation into the allegations that the main supermarkets are colluding to cheat the public over the price of milk, butter and cheese. Today, 7 December2007, the Office of Fair Trade announced that the supermarkets were indeed guilty of cheating the public of 250 million pounds.

The Darwins’ alleged cheating, like those who actually cheat the government in benefit fraud etc are not directly cheating working class people, but insurance companies. Is there more urgency among the media to expose the cheats of government and private companies than the cheats of working class people? It rather seems so.

The supermarkets are cheating against the principles or ideologies of both‘free trade’ and of ‘competition’, which are bound into capitalist law and aresaid to create the condition for cheaper goods and services. The supermarkets broke this law. A supermarket doesn’t operate itself; it needs human involvement to direct its operations, legal and illegal.

Why, then, both months ago and today are not the faces of the supermarket individuals, (the directors, who orchestrated the cheating and law breaking), handcuffed arrested and all over the TV and newspapers branded as ‘cheats’? Oh no, don’t tell me, that they too like the cheating police chief, the cheating British Airways directors, the cheating Virgin Atlantic directors and the cheating politicians too are getting off ‘toff free’? In Great Britain, a worker who has cheated is a branded a cheat for life, so why are not a company and its cheating directors cheats for life?

Incidentally, the man called Branson who owns or certainly runs the cheating Virgin Atlantic, is being allowed to buy Northern Rock Bank, the bank that’s gone bust, and be in charge of peoples savings?

Ah, Loony Tunes or what!

JB Books

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Roma - Europe's poor of the poor

Further to an earlier blog here , Europe's roughly 10 million Roma remain the poorest of the poor, often migrating abroad in search of work .

The Czech Republic guilty of discriminating against Roma children by placing them in special schools for the mentally handicapped. In Slovakia at least 90% of Roma children attend special schools for the mentally retarded. In Hungary, several local courts have ruled in favour of Roma children who sued the state for discrimination, for placing them in special schools. In Romania and Bulgaria up to one-third of Roma children were not in school, a proportion which reaches 80% in Bosnia-Hercegovina. A report from Amnesty International criticised shortcomings in primary education in Slovenia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia which it said "deprive Romani children of the chance of fulfilling their true potential".

"Although a lot of improvements have been made in the education system, the level of illiteracy in the Roma community is still high and 35-40% of Roma children don't have access to school," Magda Matache, executive director for Romani Criss, a Roma human rights group says

About one million Roma children "remain invisible" in South-East Europe, without documents or adequate healthcare, a Unicef report says. 50,000 Roma children live as refugees in Germany.

The Roma suffer three fold-prejudice in the UK. Firstly because they are Gypsies, secondly because they are often asylum seekers or refugees and thirdly because many are Romanian.

The Romanian author Mircea Cartarescu points out that it was the Romanians who forced the Roma into a life of misery and delinquency - by enslaving them.

"For centuries they could be bought and sold, families were torn apart, children taken from their mothers, women separated from their men. The young women were generally raped by their owners and the 'flock of crows', as they were called, was the target of general contempt and discrimination. One of the voivodes, or provincial governors, used to have them climb trees and then shot them down with arrows. He called it crow-hunting. Tied to one place and kept like animals, the gypsies multiplied more quickly in the Romanian principalities than anywhere else in Europe. Therefore we only have ourselves to blame for creating the gypsy problem. It is our historical guilt. ... We are appalled when other countries perceive us as a nation of criminals, but we see the gypsies in exactly the same way." he said