Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Naxalite Uprising

Seven hundred and fifty million Indians, about 75% of the country’s population, live in poverty while the top 5% of Indian families hold 38% of total assets. India has the third highest number of billionaires in the world, after the U.S. and China.

The Naxalite  insurgency has spread  over 40% of India’s land area, encompassing 20 of the country’s 28 states, including 223 districts (up from 55 in 2003) out of a total of 640. The seven most affected Indian states in terms of fatalities are Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Orissa, Bihar, and Andhra Pradesh, in that order.  These regions comprise the “Red Corridor.” About 10,000 people have been killed in the expanding civil war since 1980. The Maoists wield about 20,000 armed fighters and another 50,000 supporters.

The long-term objective of the  Communist Party of India (Maoist) is the armed overthrow of the Indian state and the creation of a “socialist-communist” government. The Maoists term this a “democratic revolution, which would remain directed against imperialism, feudalism, and comprador bureaucratic capitalism.” The insurgents do not consider the Indian electoral system and governments to be democratic, but rather tools that benefit the landlord and capitalist classes.
The Indian state’s response to the Maoist challenge has been to send 81,000 paramilitary troops into the affected areas in “Operation Greenhunt,” which, by attacking Adivasis, has only driven them further into the arms of the Maoists. In addition to paramilitary troops, the state has also used death squads known as Salwa Judum (SJ), meaning Purification Hunt, to spread a reign of terror and drive out Adivasis from villages for the benefit of companies. The Salwa Judum was responsible for displacing 300,000 Adivasis, killing, raping, and looting them and burning down their villages. Five hundred charges of murder, 103 of arson, and 99 of rape have been levelled by citizens against the Salwa Judum, but the Chattisgarh government has not investigated or processed a single case. According to Human Rights Watch,
“Since mid-2005, government security forces and members of the Salwa Judum have attacked villages, killed and raped villagers, and burned down huts to force people into government camps… The conflict has given rise to one of the largest internal displacement crises in India.”
. The Indian Supreme Court declared the SJ illegal in 2011 and ordered the Chattisgarh government to disband it.

The state of Jharkhand in eastern India is a main focus of the insurgency. According to one observer, corruption is rampant in Jharkhand, which is turning away from electoral politics and “slipping into the hands of the Maoists.” During the last 12 years, not a single provincial government in Jharkhand has completed its term, and there have been eight of these during this period. India’s electricity generation is mainly dependent on coal, and Jharkhand, along with four other states in which the insurgency is strongest, accounts for 85% of India’s coal deposits. Jharkhand also contains the world’s biggest iron ore deposit.  The corrupt Jharkhand government has signed 42 Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with various large iron and steel companies, including Tata, Jindal, Mittal, and Essar. The Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), India’s top official investigating agency, has launched a probe into the giving of coal mines by the state to Jindal Steel and Power and other companies. Jindal has benefited greatly from a policy that gave away coal mines without auctions – a policy that may have cost the government $30 billion, according to the state auditor’s 2012 report.

 The Adivasis, the original people of India, were among the poorest people in the country to begin with, being denied basic services by the Indian state with their land being stolen by New Delhi since 1947 when the country became independent. This thievery violates the Indian Constitution itself, which protects the land rights of Adivasis. Adivasis make up 26% of Jharkhand’s population, and many depend on forests for their livelihood. These kinds of industrial projects have already ravaged the forests, and their increase will expand such damage. Jharkhand contains the Saranda forest, Asia’s largest sal tree sanctuary, for which the government has granted 19 mining licenses. Saranda is where the world’s biggest iron ore deposit is located. At present, there is one state-owned mine operating in Saranda.

According to Indian journalist Sayantan Bera:
“Saranda is to eastern India what the Amazon rainforests are to the world. Its springs feed rivers like the Karo, the Baitarani, and the Sanjay. Extensive mining operations are killing these perennial streams. Wastewater from washaries of iron ore mines on the periphery has already contaminated the groundwater aquifers. Mine workers and residents in the periphery of Saranda are dying from liver disease caused by contaminated groundwater.”

Says Indigenous activist Gladson Dungdung, convener of the Jharkhand Indigenous Peoples’ Forum: “The government has been helping in securing land, water, and minerals for the corporate giants through military operations. In Saranda in June, July, and August 2011, there were three massive operations: Operation Monsoon, Operation Bravo Boy, and Operation Anaconda. The security forces killed two Adivasis, raped several women, and tortured more than 500 Adivasis. They also disrupted the Adivasis food grain supply, destroyed the harvest, ate livestock, and destroyed all official identification papers of the Adivasis (ration cards, voter ID, land titles). The Adivasis were forced to leave their villages and they only returned after our intervention. The end result is that the the government gave mining leases to 19 mining companies in the region including Tata, Jindal, Mittal, Rungta Mines and others.” Dungdung explains, “Today, we live in the corporate Indian state, not in a welfare state. The government makes all the laws and policies in favour of the corporate houses. For example, the Jharkhand government introduced the Industrial Policy of 2012, which clearly says that 25 kilometers of both sides of the four-lane road from Kodarma to Bahragora [towns in Jharkhand] will be handed over to the corporations as a Special Economic Zone. Where can people go from here? The state is simply not bothered about its people. See the example of the state of Chattisgarh, where 644 villages were forcibly vacated by Salwa Judum and handed over to corporations.”

“It’s the genocide of the Adivasis,” says Xavier Dias about the opening of Saranda to mining companies. Dias is spokesperson for the Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee “Today Jharkhand is a fully militarized zone. There are over a hundred bases with a total of 50,000 official paramilitary troops involved in military action. There are Indian Army bases, too, but these are not involved in direct action yet. Aside from government paramilitary forces here, we also have the mining corporations’ security forces. The government claims that its troops are there to counter the Maoists, but in actuality it is the democratic movements such as people resisting land grabs or fighting police repression that are intimidated into silence. By creating this drastic panic among the people, the corporations are free to suck out the minerals and forest resources.”

 According to Dias, in Jharkhand, the insurgents also attack Adivasi villages, extort money from mining companies, and protect the ones that are grabbing land from Adivasis. He says:
“No corporate boss has so far been killed by the Maoists. When the Maoists call a general strike, those companies that pay levies to them are allowed to function and the rest are attacked. I do not believe that a mining company can function here without paying levies to the Maoists. Jharkhand is the place from where Maoists finance their operations in other states, too.” Xavier Dias, however, admits that “there are places where the Maoists are providing some good services to the Adivasis, such as Bastar [a town] in the state of Chattisgarh. He also does not think that the Maoists are corrupt, but considers them “misguided.” Dias does not see armed struggle as the way to solve India’s class and Adivasi problems.

Gladson Dungdung is critical of the Maoists, too, saying that, “As far my knowledge and experience is concerned, they are not fighting for the Adivasis [in Jharkhand]. Instead, they have created more problems for the democratic people’s movement.  It’s very easy for the government to call these democratic struggles Maoist and suppress them. I think the Maoists are part of the problem, not the solution.”

Dayamani Barla, an Adivasi activist also based in Jharkhand, says that Adivasis support the Maoists. She points out that “New Delhi’s failure to protect the interests of the tribals has led them to lend their support to the Maoists, whom they believe are fighting for their basic rights.”

According to  Al Jazeera in many of these places the insurgents have organized the Adivasis and taken up community projects to provide services the government doesn’t. In  one such village, Tholkobad in Jharkhand state, where, under the name of the ‘agrarian revolution,’ the Maoists were providing support to the villagers to improve farming methods. One village leader told Al Jazeera that the Maoists frequently visited their villages, and treated everyone equally.”

 Indian novelist Arundhati Roy referring to the Adivasis’ and Maoists’ fight against the Indian Forest Department in the Dandakaranya area, states: “Emboldened by the people’s participation in these struggles, the party decided to confront the forest department. It encouraged people to take over forest land and cultivate it. The forest department retaliated by burning new villages that came up in forest areas. In 1986, it announced a National Park in Bijapur, which meant the eviction of 60 villages. More than half of them had already been moved out, and construction of national park infrastructure had begun when the party moved in. It demolished the construction and stopped the eviction of the remaining villages. It prevented the forest department from entering the area. On a few occasions, officials were captured, tied to trees, and beaten by villagers. It was cathartic revenge for generations of exploitation. Eventually, the forest department fled. Between 1986 and 2000, the party redistributed 300,000 acres of forest land. Today, Comrade Venu says, there are no landless peasants in Dandakaranya.”

Taken from this article

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Marx v Rand

"Behind the abolition of taxation lurks the abolition of the state. The abolition of the state has meaning with the Communists, only as the necessary consequence of the abolition of classes, with which the need for the organised might of one class to keep the others down automatically disappears. In bourgeois countries the abolition of the state means that the power of the state is reduced to the level found in North America. "

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Body Count

More than one million people in America have been killed by guns since 1980.  By a conservative estimate, at least 194 children have been killed by guns in the year since the Sandy Hook tragedy last December.  In 2011 police shot more than 1,100 people, killing 607.  Shootings by police accounted for almost 10 percent of the homicides in Los Angeles County in 2010, according to the Los Angeles Times. According to the FBI, 323 people were killed nationwide by rifles in 2011 — less than 4 percent of the total deaths by firearms. Nationwide, 10 percent of the killings with rifles were committed by law enforcement officers, according to the FBI.

Maryland police are protected by a Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights that prohibits questioning a police officer for 10 days after any incident in which he or she used deadly force. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, police between 1990 and 2001 police shot 122 people, 47 killed. Almost half of those shot were unarmed, and many had committed no crime. Among the shootings the P.G. police department ruled as justified: An unarmed construction worker was shot in the back after he was detained in a fast-food restaurant. An unarmed suspect died in a fusillade of 66 bullets as he tried to flee in a car from police. A homeless man was shot when police mistook his portable radio for a gun. And an unarmed man was killed after he pulled off the road to relieve himself.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal  in  2011 noted, “In 142 fatal police shootings in the Las Vegas Valley over a little more than the past 20 years, no coroner’s jury has returned a ruling adverse to police.” But that nonconviction rate actually convicts the entire system. “The deck is stacked in favor of police well before the case gets to the [coroner’s] jurors. That’s because the ‘neutral arbiter of the facts’ is the deputy district attorney who already believes that no crime has been committed. In a comparison of inquest transcripts, evidence files, and police reports dating to 1990, the Review-Journal found that prosecutors commonly act more like defense attorneys, shaping inquest presentations to cast officers in the most positive light.” Another problem is that, as Nevada lawyer Brent Bryson observed, “Frequently in fatal shootings, you just have officers’ testimony and no other witnesses. And most people just don’t want to believe that a police officer would behave wrongly.” Investigations of shootings by police in Las Vegas were stymied in 2010 and 2011 because “police unions balked at inquest reforms, first by advising members not to testify at the hearings and then helping officers file a lawsuit challenging the new system’s constitutionality,” according to the Review-Journal. Las Vegas is so deferential to police that, in cases “where an officer shoots but only wounds or misses entirely … the district attorney looks at the case only if the shooting subject is being prosecuted,” the Review-Journal noted.

Federal agents who kill Americans enjoy similar legal privileges. The Justice Department’s view of the untouchability of federal lawmen is clear from its action in the Idaho trial of FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi. Horiuchi gained renown in 1992 after he shot and killed 42-year-old Vicki Weaver as she stood in the door of her cabin holding her 10-month-old baby. Horiuchi had shot her husband in the back moments earlier, though Randy Weaver posed no threat to federal agents at the time. The judge blamed Vicki Weaver for her own death, ruling that “it would be objectively reasonable for Mr. Horiuchi to believe that one would not expect a mother to place herself and her baby behind an open door outside the cabin after a shot had been fired and her husband had called out that he had been hit.” Thus, if an FBI agent wrongfully shoots one family member, the government somehow becomes entitled to slay the rest of the family unless they run and hide.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Immigration Rights?

Michael Huemer’s book The Problem of Political Authority,  pages 142-143:
Marvin is in need of food, without which he will suffer from malnutrition or starvation. He plans to travel to a nearby marketplace, where he will be able to trade for food. But before he can reach the marketplace, he is accosted by Sam, who does not want Marvin to trade in the marketplace, for two reasons. First, Sam’s daughter is going to be shopping in the marketplace, and Sam fears that Marvin might bid up the price of food. Some vendors might even run out of bread if too many people come to the marketplace. Second, Marvin comes from a different culture from most people presently at the marketplace, and Sam fears that Marvin might influence other people and thus alter the culture of the marketplace. Sam decides to solve the problem by force. He points his gun at Marvin and orders Marvin to turn around. The starving Marvin is thus forced to return home empty-handed. 
Sam’s reasons for coercing Marvin in this story are clearly inadequate. Furthermore, Sam will be culpable for whatever harms Marvin suffers as a result of being unable to reach the marketplace; they will be harms that Sam inflicted upon Marvin. If Marvin starves to death, then Sam will have killed him. This is true even though Sam was not responsible for Marvin’s initial situation of being hungry and out of food; it is true because Sam actively prevented Marvin from obtaining more food. If a person is starving, and you refuse to give him food, then you allow him to starve. But if you take the extra step of coercively interfering with his obtaining food from someone else, then you do no merely allow him to starve; you starve him. The same point applies to lesser harms: If, for example, Marvin merely suffers malnutrition as a result of being unable to reach the marketplace, Sam will have inflicted this harm upon him. 
The behavior of Sam in the story is analogous to that of the government of any modern country that excludes poor immigrants. Potential immigrants from developing nations come to participate in the marketplaces of wealthier countries. The governments of the wealthier countries routinely forcibly exclude these potential immigrants. As a result, many suffer greatly diminished life prospects. The government does not merely allow harms to befall these would-be immigrants. If the government merely stood by passively and refused to give aid to potential immigrants, then it would be allowing harms to occur. But it does not stand by passively; the government of every wealthy country in the world deliberately hires armed guards to forcibly exclude or expel unwanted persons. This coercive intervention constitutes an active infliction of harm upon them, just as Sam inflicts harm on Marvin in the story above. 
The most common reasons given for immigration restrictions are twofold. First, that new immigrants compete with existing Americans in the labor market, thus driving down wages for unskilled labor and making it more difficult for American workers to find jobs. Second, that if too many immigrants enter the country, they will alter the country’s culture. The first concern is analogous to Sam’s concern about Marvin’s competing with Sam’s daughter in the marketplace. It is not permissible to use force against another person simply to prevent a third party from suffering economic disadvantage through normal marketplace competition. The second concern is analogous to Sam’s concern about the culture of the marketplace. It is not permissible to use force against another person simply to prevent that person from influencing the culture of one’s society in undesired ways. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Nepalese lost hopes

 Nepal is a country where a quarter of the population is steeped in poverty and the man who once led a 10-year Maoist insurgency before joining the political mainstream has come under scathing criticism.  Pushpa Kamal Dahal, a former school teacher was a guerrilla leader who went on to become prime minister after the monarchy was abolished in the Himalayan nation.

“The Maoists came to power promising to end inequality and poverty,” says Matrika Prasad Yadav, once the most senior Maoist leader in the southern Terai plains. “But they have betrayed the war that saw over 15,000 people die.”

Even the rich are critical of how a “proletariat leader” and “self-touted messiah” can rule such a divided nation

“I feel embarrassed when I go abroad,” says Binod Chaudhary, head of a Nepali business group and the first billionaire from Nepal to make it to Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s richest.“Every day, a thousand Nepalis go abroad in search of jobs because there are no jobs here. We have 16-hour power cuts daily though Nepal has tremendous hydropower potential,” he tells IPS. “We don’t even have enough drinking water in Kathmandu [the capital], let alone in villages.People ask me, you are a billionaire, yet Nepal is so poor. What is the reason?”

Thai Hopes

Thai Spring is a hopeful article on the current political position in Thailand.

 "It is now clear that Thaksin's populist policies served as political cover for enriching himself.... It is one thing to say the government must go, and it is another thing to be prepared to mount the campaign necessary to change society...The Thai people now have that opportunity, but it will not grow from large demonstrations. A new movement can grow only where its roots can take hold, and that is at the local level. Otherwise, we are left with the owners of political parties telling us what we want and expecting us to support them. We need to develop to the point where we tell those who want our support what they must do to receive our support. It is hard work; it involves respecting all others, and there are no shortcuts."

Worth a read from 2010

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Commons Versus Common Ownership

There is within the environmental movement a growing element that adhere to the politics of developing the Commons.
SOYMB can only acknowledge that such proponents have gone beyond the prevailing ideas of conventional capitalist private property economics. They share our object for a 'fairer world’.and in one way or another they highlight major flaws in the capitalist system and offer deas on how many things could be improved to work better for more people.

There is an increasing call for the global food supply to be treated as a common good in the transition toward a more sustainable food system. food is according to the advocates is a:
basic human need and should be available to all and a fundamental human right that should be guaranteed to every citizen.

They argue:
 “Food, a limited yet renewable resource that comes in both wild and cultivated forms, is essential for human existence. Over time, it has evolved from a local resource held in common into a private, transnational commodity. This process of commodification has involved the development of certain traits within food to fit the mechanized processes and regulations put in practice by the industrial food system, and it is also the latest stage in the objectification of food—a social phenomenon that has deprived food of all its non-economic attributes.”

They explain that:
 “The industrial food system’s enclosure of food through the privatization of seeds and land, legislation, excessive pricing, and patents, has played a large role in limiting our access to food as a public good. The system now feeds the majority of people living on the planet and has created a market of mass consumption where eaters become mere consumers.”

It is pointed out that:
“”Within the mainstream “no money no food” worldview, hunger still prevails in a world of abundance. Globally speaking, the industrial food system is increasingly failing to fulfill its basic goals of producing food in a sustainable manner, feeding people adequately, and avoiding hunger.”

What is proposed as solutions is:
“ the “re-commonification” of food — or, in other words, a transition where we work toward considering food as a commons...Food would need to be dealt with outside of trade agreements made for pure private goods, and, as a result, we would need to establish a particular system of governance for the production, distribution, and access to food at a global level. That system might involve binding legal frameworks to fight hunger and guarantee everyone the right to food, cosmopolitan global policies, ethical and legal frameworks, universal Basic Food Entitlements or Food Security Floors guaranteed by the state, minimum salaries matched to food prices, bans on the financial speculation of food, or limits on alternative uses of food, such as biofuels.”

Food is to remain a “marketable product subject to fair trade” The supporters of this food democracy movement  inform us “Unregulated markets simply cannot provide the necessary quantity of food for everyone — even if low-income groups were given the means to procure it. An industrial food system that views food as a commodity to be distributed according to market rules will never achieve food security for all. There won’t be a market-driven panacea for our unsustainable and unjust food system” (SOYMB emphasis) Their “unconventional and radical perspectives” turns out to be a solution based upon “market-led, state-led, and collective action-led” approaches.(again SOYMB emphasis)

This failing to comprehend the basic nature of capitalism reveals the confusion that leads to such contradictory propositions. There is not  a call for a non-capitalist alternative, just adjustments even if some of them are quite major. but where the market can still be retained but a new system can be organised around it without the negative aspects that now abound. It is a forlorn hope.

In socialism the producers, the immediate users of the common resources, would not be trying to make an independent living for themselves but would be carrying out a particular function on behalf of the community in a social context where the aim of production would be to satisfy needs on a sustainable basis. Let’s apply this call for food to be produced and distributed for the common good to all the means of production: let them all be owned in common and used for the good of people by means of production for use. There will be no need for rules to guarantee this in a socialist society based on cooperation and democracy, where decisions are made at the most appropriate level. This is not the kind of ‘one size fits all’ solution since socialism need not be exactly the same everywhere and at all times, though plainly its basic principles will not vary. The solution is socialism,  a system of economic production and consumption where the commons is for all and wealth is shared by all but owned by none.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The migrants Australia don't hunt down

We have grown accustomed to the tragic news of the migrant boat-people and their desperate attempts to reach the safety and security of Australia, which the Australian government is determined to frustrate.

But little appears to be said about the “flood”, as the BBC puts it, of  young Europeans on temporary working visas is squeezing young Australians out of the jobs market. Most arrive on one-year working holiday permits, which can be extended or upgraded to longer employment visas that can lead to residency and eventually citizenship although the process can take years.

"If we look at between 15-19-year-olds, we have 14.5% unemployment. Still well below many other places in the world but still significant enough to say that we aren't absorbing and giving skill opportunities to many young Australians, so the government has failed to get the balance right," says Tony Sheldon, from the Australian Transport Workers Union. "That means that labour has been brought in as an alternative, which is being more exploited, has less rights and is seen as a cheap form of labour but also an exploited form of labour." He fears that foreigners could also be under-paid and mistreated by unscrupulous bosses.

Academics now worry that a lack of training could increasingly leave young Australians unable to compete with temporary foreign workers especially in low or unskilled jobs.

 Michaela Kelly, from Drogheda, earns twice as much working in an office in Sydney than she did in Ireland. Like many Irish backpackers Michaela is well qualified with a degree in business.But with youth unemployment so stubbornly high in Australia, soaring up to 40% in parts of its major cities does she feel guilty that she could be taking a job from a local? "Is that bad if I say no?" she asks. "Irish workers come over here to work and they work hard because at home you are made to work hard, whereas Australians over here are just so laid back, they put things off and don't do it, basically. So, I don't feel bad."

Where are all the detention camps set up in Papua New Guinea to deter those, dare Mailstrom, say it - white Anglo-Saxons. Isn't it time for a fair deal for the peoples of all the world to better their lives?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Economic Forecast - The Future is Bleak

Stronger economic growth in the UK over the next few years will not be accompanied by a big rise in employment, a survey has suggested. Instead, companies are looking for improved productivity from existing staff, the CIPD said. Fewer than one in five firms are planning to significantly raise staffing levels should growth pick up. Just 17% were planning to increase their headcount by more than 2% over the medium term, even with a period of stable economic growth.

"Our data on medium-term recruitment intentions suggest that stronger economic growth in the next few years will not be accompanied by big rises in employment," said Gerwyn Davies, labour market advisor at the CIPD. "Instead, many employers tell us they are focused on the need to raise productivity. The prospects of better economic conditions might therefore persuade them to invest more in the business and make more intensive use of existing staff, for example, by increasing working hours."

Meanwhile,  Revenue and Customs  is targeting 200 employers who recently advertised internships to ensure they are paying the minimum wage. The agency, which is responsible for enforcing the national minimum wage, is sending out letters to the companies, and will carry out "targeted checks". There is concern some employers are using unpaid interns as cheap labour. The TUC has previously estimated that up to 250,000 workers are not being paid the minimum wage. The Unite union suggests that more than a third of the top 50 charities in the UK hire unpaid interns.

No Arab Spring for Migrants

At least two people have been killed and scores wounded as Saudi police clashed with protesting foreign workers in a district of the capital, Riyadh. Vigilante Saudi residents in Manfuhah reportedly joined the fighting and even detained some Ethiopians. Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister Tedros Adhanom said he had information that three Ethiopian citizens had been killed, one last Tuesday and two in the latest clashes. Last week police rounded up thousands of migrant workers after an amnesty linked to new employment rules expired.

An estimated nine million migrant workers are in Saudi Arabia - more than half the workforce - filling manual, clerical, and service jobs. Nearly a million Bangladeshis, Indians, Filipinos, Nepalis, Pakistanis and Yemenis are estimated to have left the country in the past three months. More than 30,000 Yemenis have reportedly crossed to their home country in the past 10 days alone. Four million other migrants obtained work permits before last Sunday's deadline.

Human Rights Watch has denounced the country's labour system as "abusive". "The kafala, or sponsorship system ties migrant workers' residency permits to sponsoring employers, whose written consent is required for workers to change employers or leave the country," it has said.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Quote of the Day

The Rev Iain May, of South Leith Parish Church, described taking the two journalists on a tour of Leith, showing them both affluence and poverty.

“I think they were quite surprised that Edinburgh being Edinburgh and an affluent city they could come into Leith and see such a very different world. They saw the contrast between a Michelin-starred restaurant like Martin Wishart’s on the Shore and that within six feet away there were people living in poverty and struggling with the effects of the 21st century.”

Friday, November 08, 2013

The Future Must Be Red And Green

This article had much of value to say so here are some extracts, re-edited.

The future of the human species - if there is to be a future - must be radically green, red, black and female...Our chances for a decent future depend in part on our ability to develop more sustainable technology that draws on the best of our science and on our ability to hold onto traditional ideas of shared humanity.

Red: The human future, if there is to be a future, will be socialist. By that, we must be explicitly anticapitalist. An economic system that magnifies human greed and encourages short-term thinking, while pretending there are no physical limits on human consumption, is a death cult. To endorse capitalism is to sign onto a suicide pact. We need not pretend there exists a fully elaborated plan for a replacement system that we can take off the shelf and implement immediately. But the absence of a fully explicated alternative doesn't justify an economic system that has dramatically intensified the human assault on the larger living world. Capitalism is not the system through which we will craft a sustainable future. If we put aside the fantasies about capitalism found in economics textbooks and deal with the real world, we recognize that capitalism is a wealth-concentrating system that allows a small number of people to dominate not only economic, but also political decision-making - which makes a mockery of our alleged commitment to moral principles rooted in solidarity and political principles rooted in democracy. In capitalism, domination is self-justifying - if one can amass wealth, one can dominate without question, trumping all other values.

Green:  The human future, if there is to be a future, will be green, meaning the ecological worldview will be central in all discussions of all of human affairs. We will start all conversations about all decisions we make in all arenas of life by recognizing that we are one species in complex ecosystems that make up a single ecosphere. We will abide by the laws of physics, chemistry and biology, as we understand them today, realizing the ecosystems on which we depend are far more complex than we can understand. As a result of the ecological worldview, we will practice real humility in our interventions into those ecosystems. Our quest to exploit the larger living world is based on an assumption that humans have a right, rooted in either theological or secular beliefs, to dominate based on our sense of being the superior species. Whether we believe the big brain comes from God or through evolution, in cognitive terms we certainly do rank first among species. But ask yourself, within the human family, is being smart the only thing of value? Do we rank each other only on cognitive ability? We understand that within our species, no one has a right to dominate another simply because of a claim of being smarter. Yet we treat the world as if that status as the smartest species is all that is needed to dominate everything else.

If the story of a human future is not green, there is no future. If the story is not red, it cannot be green. If we can manage to restructure our world along new understandings of ecology and economics, there is a chance we can salvage something. But we will not be able magically to continue business as usual; our longstanding assumption of endlessly expanding bounty must be abandoned. Radical politics does not mean that every person must always be involved in organizing on all of these issues, which would be impossible.  When someone says, "All that matters now is focusing on ecological sustainability" (asserting the primacy of green), we must make it clear that such sustainability is impossible within capitalism. We require steady-state economics, not capital accumulation and growth.

We must make it clear that getting through the day isn't the goal. "One day at a time" may be a useful guide for an individual in recovery from an addiction to substance abuse, but it is a dead-end for a species on the brink of dramatic and potentially irreversible changes. Any time someone wants to think long term but narrow the scope of our inquiry to make it easier to tackle a specific problem, we must make it clear that fixing a specific problem won't save us. "One broken system at a time" may be a sensible short-term political strategy in a stable world in which there is time for a long trajectory of change, but it is a dead-end in the unstable world in which we live. We have to reject stories about last-minute miracles, whether of divine or technological origins. There is nothing to be gained by magical thinking. When we tell stories that lead us to believe that what is unreal can be real, then our stories are delusional, not imaginative. They don't help us understand ourselves and our situation, but instead offer only the illusory comfort of false hope.  When we face the painful reality that there is no hope, it is in that moment that we earn the right to hope.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

JFK - The right winger's president

Kennedy certainly didn't die for the poor, or assassinated because he was anti-business.

"Noam Chomsky. when asked about Kennedy as noted in his book, Secrets, Lies and Democracy, replied with the following: “…Kennedy was very pro-business. He was essentially a business candidate. His assassination had no significant effect on policy that anybody was able to detect.” At the same time, Howard Zinn, his collegue and people’s historian, wrote that after JFK presented his first budget, it was clear there “would be no major change in the distribution of income or wealth or tax advantages” and then proceeded to quote New York Timescolumnist James Reston, who wrote that Kennedy “agreed to a tax break for business investment in plant expansion and modernization. He is not spoiling for a fight with the Southern conservatives over civil rights. He has been urging the unions to keep wage demands down…he has been trying to reassure the business community that he does not want any cold war with them…"

see here
and here

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Union Label

The old idea well worth returning to combat sweatshop conditions we buy our clothes. It is 2013 and yet slavery conditions still flourishes. The garment industry has been plagued by an “image problem” for a long time, and it’s gotten worse in recent years. The actual working people, as a class, are largely invisible except as fatality statistics in the tragic fires and building collapses.

The union label  is a label, mark or emblem sewn or pressed onto a garment which advertises that the employees who make a product are represented by the labor union or group of unions whose label appears, in order to attract customers who prefer to buy union-made products. It protects against anti- or non-union shops that might otherwise profess union working conditions.

These days it’s harder for unions to stamp their work, but it’s not impossible.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Selling cheap...going ...going...gone!

JP Morgan, one of the world's largest investment banks told ministers ahead of the Royal Mail flotation that they could sell the postal business for £10 billion, around two and a half times more than the government finally received for it. Others pitching to sell the Royal Mail on behalf of the government had also priced the mail company as high as £7bn.

The government sold shares in Royal Mail for 330p each, valuing the business at £3.3bn. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Who are the Gypsies?

Although they have been living in our own continent for over eight centuries,  this is a question still widespread among European people, as an inexplicable enigma. In their  travels - often running away from the hostility of who, not knowing them, fear them and doesn’t  want to be their neighbours - when Gypsies arrive in a city and decide to settle in a district, people  immediately watch them with open hostility. In those eyes full of distrust and fear there is always  the same question: who are you?

Over the centuries Roma people have been defined by many names. Their assumed Egyptian origin is the reason of the name “gypsies”. Historians and linguists now agree on the Indian origin of Roma people. The Romani (or Romanes)  language is a neo-Aryan language related to the ancient Sanskrit, and it is now spoken, in different  dialects, in several Asiatic and European countries. It is undeniable that Roma have been subjected to prejudice and slander, sources of discriminatory  attitudes and violent persecution. Since their arrival in Europe, they have been received with  suspicion and irrational fear. Observing their nomad life, their  ethnic traditions and their religious costumes, they were assumed people with no law and no moral  code. They were supposed worshiping Pagan Gods and devoting themselves to divination and  witchcraft. It was said that, as the  Jews were responsible of Jesus’ death, the Gypsies, excellent smiths, forged the nails used to crucify  him; for this reason they were damned people, doomed to travel forever, without any homeland. Roma, as reported in the ancient chronicles, were greeted by European citizens with initial  suspicion mixed with curiosity, but soon their appearance, their clothes, their mysterious language  and their customs aroused irrational fears, followed by intolerance and rejection, as it still happens today.

In England, in 1530 the first laws  allowing the expulsion of Roma motivated only by their race were introduced. King Henry VIII was  not in a good mood that year, when the Pope forbade him to marry Anne Boleyn and demanded her  expulsion from the court. It was the straw that breaks the camel's back: Henry VIII declared himself  head of the Church of England and married Anna. It was one of those "epochal" changes, and it gave way to the Lutheran Reformation. However, this innovative spirit did not light the king when  he faced the issue of Gypsies. To correct what he considered an emergency, he forbade the  transportation of Roma to the UK, imposing a fine of 40 pounds for the master or the ship-owner  who would have disobeyed the decree. The penalty for Roma immigrants was the hanging. Some  years later, in 1547, Edward VI of England, after the death of his father Henry VIII, listened to his  advisers and changed the laws concerning Roma. The new rules, however, were equally ruthless, but the death penalty was cancelled: Gypsies had to be arrested and branded with a V on their  chest, and then enslaved for a period of two years. If they tried to escape and were caught, they were marked with an S and made slaves for life. On July 25th 1554, the day of  the marriage between Mary Tudor and Philip II of Spain, the terror of the Inquisition materialized  for the gypsies living in England and Ireland. Bloody Mary's commitment to restore Catholicism  also targeted Roma living in the territory of the kingdom. An act was issued which established the  capital punishment not only for Roma but also for anyone serving in their communities. Eight years  later, under the reign of Elizabeth I, a new law was enacted, under which the Gypsies born in  England and Wales had to leave the country, or waive their traditions and dissolve their  communities. All others Roma would have had suffer the confiscation of land and property and the  death sentence. In 1596, during the reign of Elizabeth I 106 travellers were sentenced to death in the city of York, with no indictment out of belonging to a race hated by the authorities and the public. Nine sentences were executed, while the  others managed to prove that they were born in England. Executions on the basis of race continued  until 1650, the year after the execution of Charles I, when the era of Oliver Cromwell began and the  English interregnum, first with the republic called the Commonwealth of England, then with the  Protectorate of England, Scotland and Ireland. Despite the atmosphere of political and social  change, that year a Roma was executed in Suffolk, while others were deported to America.

Scotland,  that in 1540 had allowed Roma to live within the country while maintaining their traditions, had a  sudden afterthought and the following year enacted laws against the Gypsies. In 1573, the Gypsies hiding in Scotland were ordered to get married and develop a  stable working activity, otherwise leave the country.

From nine to twelve million Roma are currently living in Europe. In Romania the estimated Roma  population is between one million and a half to two and a half; in Bulgaria from 700,000 to  800,000; in Spain - where they are called Gypsies or Kale - around 600,000; in France half a  million. In 2006, about 160,000 Roma lived in Italy, then reduced to less than half due to the  indiscriminate evictions and the institutional persecution, which forced them to seek refuge in other  countries, causing in the meantime a high degree of mortality within the settlements. Roma from  Eastern Europe constitute about 85% of the total, Kale - or Gypsies - 10%, Sintis (in France called Manouche) 4% and Romanichal in UK 0.5 %. In Europe Roma are primarily sedentary, although  the persecution often oblige them to a form of forced nomadism. The stereotypes on Roma community during a thousand years are always the same: they are  children rapers, thieves, lawless and dirty people etc. Most European citizens are frightened by misinformation concerning Roma people, and the role the  media play in this case, cannot be considered negligible. For centuries the marginalization and mistrust towards Roma people have not changed and Roma communities are quite always and everywhere discriminated, ghettoized and kept away from  citizens, mass media and often from public administrations also.The decades spent in this situation of neglect have brought communities to a complete isolation  causing distrust and rancor towards the host countries.

Crime Pays

JP Morgan was a 19th century robber baron born to a great banking fortune and, by hook and crook, leveraged it to become the “King of American Finance.” During the Gilded Age, Morgan cornered U.S. financial markets, gained monopoly ownership of railroads, amassed a vast supply of the nation’s gold and used his investment power to create U.S. Steel and take control of that market.  Morgan was a hustler who often traded on the shady side. In the Civil War, for example, his family bought his way out of military duty, but he saw another way to serve. Himself, that is. Morgan bought defective rifles for $3.50 each and sold them to a general in the Union Army for $22 each. The rifles blew off soldiers’ thumbs, but Morgan pleaded ignorance, and government investigators graciously absolved the young, wealthy, well-connected financier of any fault. He had a lifetime of anti-trust violations, union busting and  profiteering practices. He drew numerous official charges—but of course, he never did any jail time.

The banking giant JPMorgan Chase bears his name.  It too has committed multiple illegalities and walked away scot-free, except for a few fines. Not a single one of the top bankers who committed gross wrongdoing were charged or even fired—much less sent to jail. Fining banks is not a crime-stopper, for banks don’t commit crimes. Bankers do. And they won’t ever stop if they don’t have to pay for their crimes.

Regulators say it’s easier to get bankers to settle a case if they can hand the fine to shareholders, who don’t even get a say in the decision. But going after the bankers, they claim, would require a jury trial—and jurors might not convict. Wouldn’t every criminal just love to have such defenders of justice in charge.

PMorgan has agreed a provisional deal with the US government to pay $14 billion to settle investigations into bad mortgage loans the bank sold to investors before the financial crisis.
Under the agreement, the bank will pay $9 billion in fines to the US government and $4 billion for relief for struggling homeowners. JPMorgan disclosed it had stockpiled $23 billion in reserves for settlements and other legal expenses to help cover the myriad investigations into its conduct before and after the financial crisis.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Roma Racism

The media has on a number of occasions provoked panic among the public about Roma immigration. Often the metaphors used (“deluge”, “flood”) have considerably distorted the scale of the issue, which frequently involves no more than a few score or several hundred persons. Discussion of  “floods” of Romani migrants arriving at Western European ports frequently masks the fact that what is at issue are human beings pursuing their own interests, rights and visions of a good life, acting on personal decisions as to how best to improve their personal circumstances, which are often extremely difficult and also considerably influenced by the fact or the probability of racial discrimination.

“Roma migration” frequently conjures up an image of unified masses of people. The impact of this media attention, as well as other factors, seems to have resulted in the authorities frequently regarding arriving Roma as “fraudulent” when they approach the public authority for legitimate entitlements, including social welfare assistance, access to refugee determination proceedings, etc. Finally, authorities at national level have come under pressure from the media and inflamed public opinion to undertake draconian measures to stop Roma from arriving.

It is now generally accepted by scholars that the Romani people of Europe are descended from groups which left India around 1,000 years ago and began arriving on the territory of today’s European Union in or around the 14th century. The history of Roma in Europe – and the Romani identity itself – is to a great extent bound up with ideas around migration, “nomadism”, diaspora and exile. Nevertheless, the great majority of the Roma of Europe is sedentary. Roma occupy a particular place in the European imagination as “nomads”, a fact many if not most regard as stigmatizing and erroneous. The abolition of slavery of Roma in Romania, and the subsequent destitution of the freed slaves and their descendents made the end of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century a time when many Roma fled South-Eastern Europe for points West and North, in search of a better life, and at times in search simply of food. Some Roma were excluded from citizenship of new states as the three major Eastern Bloc  federations – Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union – collapsed and new nation-states were formed. Following 1989, old ideas about “Gypsies” have been dramatically reawakened in Western Europe, in part as a result of the return of Romani migration from Central and South-Eastern Europe.

Today, more than ten million Roma live in Europe, a large proportion of them in the EU.  Most
 Austrian, German and Czech Roma were killed in the Holocaust. The Roma of Europe are an immensely diverse group of individuals and communities. Some speak Romani and their national language. Some speak only their national language, possibly together with second languages. Some may speak as a home language other minority languages such as Beash, Jenisch, Shelta or Pogadi Chib. Many Roma and others identified as “Gypsies” choose to conceal their ethnic identity – particularly when asked by a public authority.

The Romanian Embassy in London provided an unofficial estimate of around 100,000 Romanian nationals arriving in the United Kingdom in recent years. Romanian activists and journalists living in the United Kingdom believe that in reality only 50,000 to 60,000 Romanians arrived in the United Kingdom in recent years and that 5 to 10 per cent of them are Romani. The basis for both of these estimates is unknown. If the latter is the case, Romani migrants from Romania may comprise not more than 5,000 to 6,000 people. However, this may be an underestimate. Whatever the case, here again, the numbers of persons at issue is comparatively small: all told – including the much larger native Traveller and Gypsy community – Roma, Gypsies and Travellers make up 0.40 per cent of the general population in the United Kingdom.

All Roma in Europe are covered by bans on discrimination yet many European states have resorted on a number of occasions to individual and collective expulsion as a means of addressing the arrival of Roma. Expulsions of Roma have been carried out by France, Italy, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. Despite the obvious impact of these actions on the human lives involved, as well as on communities and societies, few European states have resisted applying such measures with respect to Roma at one time or another. States have also exercised bilateral influence. For example Poland’s Roma policy came about as a result of pressure by the United Kingdom Government to stop Roma from migrating to the country. Romani migration has also sometimes threatened to derail EU expansion and/or integration. For example, when
scores of Roma from Hungary were granted asylum in France in 2000 in a high-profile case, questions were raised as to Hungary’s readiness for free movement. Similar discussions took place periodically in a number of EU Member States with respect to Slovakia’s then-candidacy for the EU. Canada also re-imposed visa requirements for Hungarian citizens, in order to stop Roma from emigrating from Hungary to Canada, and discussions about lifting the visa requirement centred primarily around “seeking guarantees that Roma will not
migrate to Canada”.

To make matters even more complex, a number of European states – including EU Member States such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Poland – have become both countries of migrant origin and countries of emigration for Roma. Roma  from the Czech Republic, for example, continue to migrate particularly to the United Kingdom, while Roma from Romania and Slovakia – also EU Member States – migrate to, among other places, the Czech Republic. Russia is a target country of migration for Roma from Moldova, Ukraine and the countries of Central Asia, as well as possibly from other countries; Ukraine is both a target country of Romani migrants (particularly from Moldova) and a country of Romani migrant origin. Like other Europeans, Roma have frequently exercised the EU right of free movement, and have also crossed the external Union borders or other third-country borders in Europe, either (i) temporarily; (ii) as migrants seeking to establish themselves in a country other than their own; or (iii) because they were fleeing persecution.

The ability of Roma to access goods and services is limited throughout Europe by factors including lack of educational qualifications among significant segments of the Romani communities, as well as by ethnic or racial discrimination, driven in particular by anti- Gypsyism -- that is, a widespread, deeply rooted prejudice and intolerance directed against Roma in Europe. Denial of access to key goods and services has concrete
implications notably for the exercise of the right to freedom of movement in the EU, where the Roma concerned leave one EU member State and arrive in another, as well as for the ability of Roma from outside the EU to arrive in and settle legally in an EU member state, or another state in the OSCE region. In addition, anti-Romani sentiment has in some cases resulted in an erosion of the right under international law to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution.

In some cases Roma are unable to prove their citizenship of any country, notwithstanding their genuine and effective links to particular European States, because of rigid legal practices, restrictive laws in the context of State succession, or for other reasons. Since 1989, the issue has been particularly pronounced in countries that adopted new citizenship laws in the context of State succession (particularly Croatia, the Czech
Republic, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia), as well as where other large-scale transformations of the legal regime governing citizenship and/or personal documents has taken place (Russia).

In addition to the absence of documents and statelessness giving rise to the denial of legal status, certain types of residence or protection status provided in particular European States are of concern. Authorities in some countries have apparently developed practices stopping short of deportation from the country, but which aim at making the lives of the Roma concerned miserable, in the hope that they may leave on their own. In Italy, for example, the authorities have regularly engaged in forced eviction of Romani migrants
from their homes, frequently in contravention of international law, as well as involving the destruction of property. In some cases, whole Romani settlements have been summarily destroyed, and the inhabitants simply left on the street.

Vigilante mobs have attacked Roma encampments. In May 2008, assailants burned the Ponticelli Romani camp in Naples, Italy, to the ground, causing the approximately 800 residents to flee, while Italians stood by and cheered. It is unclear what is preventing the Italian authorities from identifying and prosecuting perpetrators of the attacks. High ranking Italian officials have not spoken out to unequivocally condemn any of the recent attacks on Roma taking place in the country.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Selling cheap

In the first Royal Mail privatisation under Thatcher, the Post Office bank, a highly successful and innovative bank was sold off at 300-odd million pounds to Alliance and Leicester. Within a year, A and L were valuing Girobank at a billion.

We now know that the present Cameron government in its sale of Royal Mail has also undervalued it at between 650 and 700 million pounds.  A £1 billion profit for investors but prompting criticism that the company had been sold too cheaply. 
They never learn. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

France V UK

Ever reluctant to engage in holier than thou arguments, i did, nevertheless come across this comparison between the UK and France which makes good reading.

Risk of Poverty

Fr:  15.8%         UK:  25.7%

Child Poverty

Fr: 7.9%            UK: 19.6%

Poverty Rate Overall

France: 7.8%   UK: 14%

Population Below Median Income

Fr: 8%      UK: 12.5%

GINI Coefficient

Fr:  .293       UK:  .345

The GINI coefficient measures the inequality among values of a frequency distribution (for example levels of income). A Gini coefficient of zero expresses perfect equality, where all values are the same (for example, where everyone has an exactly equal income).

France’s health system is ranked no. 1 by the W.H.O.; the UK is ranked no. 18 France spends markedly more on health care than does the United Kingdom

Health Care Spending

Fr: $2,239 per capita                                           UK: $1,764 per capita

It shows in these statistics.

Life expectancy at 65:

Fr:  21.4                            UK: 19.7


Fr: 9.4%                               UK: 23%

Heart Disease Deaths per 100,000 people

Fr: 39.8        UK: 122

Hospital Beds per 1,000 people

Fr: 8.4           UK: 4.1

Practicing Physicians per 100,000

Fr: 310           UK: 270

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Anarchy of production or socialist planning

Present-day society does not concern itself with determining the needs of society. Planned economy and capitalism are irreconcilable contradictions; the one excludes the other. If an economy is planned, then it has also ceased to be a capitalist economy. Experience has proved that planning under capitalism is impossible. When we socialists speak of planned economy we do not mean a plan which leaves all the wastefulness, all the inefficiency and all the criminal parasitism of capitalism untouched. When we socialists speak of a society organized on the basis of planned production and distribution we mean something entirely different. What we have in mind is very simple. It is clear-cut. Do away with production for profit.

The application of new technologies to human society shows what immense possibilities for the satisfaction of human wants are contained in the achievements of science and in its future growth. It can reduce human labour to the easy task of monitoring computerised automated machinery a few hours a day. It leaves mankind free to engage in other pursuits. Everybody is responsible for the welfare of all, everybody works according to his or her ability and everybody receives from the common stock of goods according to need. No exploitation, no oppression, no insecurity, no poverty. Life is made humane. This isn’t a utopia. This isn’t a dream. What we propose is real,  capable of fulfillment, by the forces that already exist and are in operation.

Capitalism is production for the market. The surplus-value created by the workers cannot be realized by the capitalist in the form of profit until the product has been sold on the market. It should be borne in mind that the market, under capitalism, has a far wider meaning than is usually understood by that term. The capitalist market is not confined to the consumers who buy the simple commodities required for life – food, clothing, home furnishings and the like. Every capitalist enterprise produces for the market. But each one is itself a market. Mines buy lumber, tools and machines. Steel mills buy coal, brick, concrete, iron, machinery. Machine-tool plants buy machines and metals. Automobile factories buy machine tools, metals, glass, rubber, woolens and even agricultural products. Textile mills buy machines, cotton, wool and synthetic materials.

How does a capitalist enterprise know how many of its products can be sold on the market, in other words, how many it can safely turn out for any given period? It does not know. It cannot know. All it can do is to depend on the market price and a judgment of its trend. Prices are regulated by supply and demand. Low supply and great demand usually mean high prices, and vice versa. If prices are relatively high and it looks from the trend that they will stay high or go higher, the enterprise is stimulated to produce and to capture from its rivals as large a share of the market as possible. The market is the only basic regulator of capitalist production. As we shall see, however, it is a blind regulator.

The capitalist enterprise begins to produce. It acquires machinery or replaces its old equipment with new, more modern, more efficient equipment. It purchases raw materials, and uses more fuel and electrical energy. It may set up an annex to its building, not only to produce a greater quantity of its commodity but to produce each unit cheaper. It hires a larger working force.

By these very acts, it stimulates production in other enterprises. Wages in the pocket of the worker means a greater demand for ordinary consumers’ goods; the industries producing them therefore increase their activities. The machine-tool industry expands production; so do those industries which supply it with raw materials, construction materials, tools, etc. The raw materials’ industries – chemicals, mining, cotton and leather, steel and iron – likewise speed up production. Multiply all this a thousand times and you get a clearer picture of how production gets under way and develops on an even-wider scale. As the market expands, each capitalist is impelled to produce more, in the hope of capturing a greater share of the market and out of fear of losing out to his competitors. They, meanwhile, are prompted by the same considerations and act in the same way. Even in boom times, therefore, or rather precisely in time of economic boom, capitalist production has an inherent tendency to over-production. This tendency to over-produce does not refer to the real needs of society. There is over-production in relation to the capitalist market, that is, there is a tendency to produce more than can be disposed of on the market at a profit.

Let us illustrate the process. The supply of automobiles is low, the demand high; the market price is therefore high. The capitalist is stimulated to produce. Each automobile factory begins. None of them has anything like an exact idea of how much the market can absorb. None of them has an exact idea of how many automobiles its rivals are planning to produce. The competitive race commences. This race stimulates the same kind of unplanned production among the manufacturers of tires and other  articles that go into the making of automobiles. This, in turn, stimulates the production of raw rubber for the tyres and the machinery required to process it. The production in the steel mills and aluminum plants is stimulated in the same blind way, each plant producing more and more in the hope of capturing a larger and larger share of the growing market. The same holds true of leather factories; the machine-tool industry; the coal mining and iron ore industries; the plate glass industry; and a hundred others.

The more they expand production, the more complex the problem becomes. The expansion in an industry that supplies automobile manufacturers, in turn stimulates all the industries that supply that one. The echo of the initial stimulus to production reverberates to the most distant parts of economic life and back again.  The trouble is that this expansion of production in boom times is in its very nature unplanned. For example, a 100 per cent increase in wheat production does not require a 100 per cent increase in the production of threshing machines. A 100 per cent increase in the production of threshing machines may mean a 100 per cent increase in the iron that goes into the machines, but only a 10 per cent increase in the production of the tools by which the threshers are made. A 100 per cent increase in cotton textiles may require only a 25 per cent increase in the production of textile machinery. What is more, this small increase in textile machinery for one year may suffice to keep textile production at the higher rate for five years – the market for textiles themselves is more continuous than the market for textile machinery, the one used up far more rapidly than the other.

If all the enterprises could be joined under one roof, and production  planned with meticulous care, it would be possible to work out a schedule of expansion for each industry so that each would develop in harmonious proportion to the other. Planning  could regulate the proportions in which each industry should be expanded so that the whole of economic life advances harmoniously. But we do not and cannot have that under capitalism. In place of planned production, there is anarchy of production, competitive production for the market.

Does the development of monopoly put an end to competition and anarchy of production? No, under capitalism, monopoly exists side by side with competition, even though it dominates it. As a matter of fact, monopoly makes competition fiercer and more brutal.

Under the conditions of “free enterprise,” a big multitude of capitalist enterprises compete with each other for the market. The weaker fall by the wayside or are absorbed by the stronger. The many are centralized into a few. The few tend to unite with each other into a cartel or a single trust, which has a complete monopoly in the industry. All the branches of industry undergo the same process, in one degree or another. But inasmuch as each combination or merger of enterprises is much stronger than all these enterprises when they existed independently, the competition between monopolies for the rule of the market becomes more violent.

If competition between one steel mill and another is replaced by a cartel in which they agree to share the market, or by a single trust which they establish, a new competition for the market develops between the steel trust and the aluminum trust, or between both of them and the newly-developed plastics industry. If coal and oil and electrical companies cease to compete with other coal and oil and electrical companies by establishing “horizontal trusts” (trusts covering a whole branch of economic life, like all of coal mining, all of steel making, etc.), a violent competition develops for the “fuel” or “energy” market between the coal monopoly and the oil monopoly. The competition is now between mighty and extremely ruthless giants.Competition between monopolies extend on a world-wide scale, in the form of struggles between the monopolies of one nation and those of the others.

 Production is carried on in every capitalist country in an anarchic, unplanned manner, and that it cannot be otherwise. What is the result?

As production gathers speed, free rein is given to what we have called the inherent tendency to over-production. Remember, the capitalist enterprise does not have an exact knowledge of the state of its particular industry, to say nothing of the market as a whole. Rising prices give the capitalist both the urge to produce in greater quantity and the confidence he will find a profitable market for his products. Each one produces without a knowledge of the proportions in which his enterprise or industry should expand with relation to the expansion of the other enterprises in the industry, or in relation to the expansion of other industries. Capitalism has no way of establishing what the total demand is, and therefore cannot organize the production of the total supply to meet this demand.

The automobile manufacturers (assuming that all of them work it out together) decide that the market will absorb sufficient automobiles to warrant an increase of production of fifty per cent. Steel, however, may very well increase sixty per cent in the rising market; rubber, seventy per cent; plate glass, eighty per cent; aluminum, ninety per cent. Each of these increases is based not only on a judgment of what automobile production will require, but on a judgment of what will be required in the form of steel, rubber, glass, aluminum and the like, in a hundred other industries, in tens of thousands of other enterprises, each of which operates independently, with its own production schedule, separate from all others.

There is no way of telling immediately that the demand has been exceeded by the supply. The rising market stimulates production in expectation of sales. Machinery and raw materials are not bought only for the orders received and guaranteed, but also for orders that are expected. Finished products, as well as raw materials, begin to accumulate, in the stores, in the warehouses and in the factories themselves. Industry begins to overproduce without knowing it and without being in a position to know it in advance.

At a certain point a collapse takes place, and very suddenly. Not enough buyers are to be found for the accumulated commodities of one enterprise or industry. Because of over-production, supply exceeds demand. Therefore, prices fall. If the enterprise is not ruined entirely by the fall in prices, it is at least compelled to suspend production or to cut down drastically. Workers are discharged or their wages reduced. Orders which the enterprise previously placed with other concerns are reduced or canceled altogether. Laid-off workers mean a reduction in the market of consumer goods. Canceled orders means a reduction in the market of industrial consumption.

Each enterprise is connected with all the others by thousands of ties. The collapse of one directly or indirectly, immediately or soon, affects others, and they in turn affect still others, until virtually all are involved. If, for example, automobile production declines, the production of steel, coal, aluminum, brass, rubber, glass and all the others which were dependent upon automobile production, also declines. There is in turn a decline in production in the enterprises and industries which depended for their market upon them.

Banking, which is inseparably connected with industry, is stricken by the collapse. In the boom period there were large borrowings by industries which were expanding to meet the rising market. With the fall of prices, the collapse or retrenchment of enterprises, the latter are unable to meet their obligations to the banks. What is more, individual depositors begin to withdraw their funds, fearing a coming crisis or needing money because they are now without work. The difficulties in the sphere of production, on one side, and the difficulties in the sphere of finance, on the other, combine meanwhile to upset or knock out entirely the small retailers and businessmen, dragged down by large stock accumulations, loans they made to finance these accumulations and falling prices.

Capitalist economy thus reaches the stage of crisis, which it experiences periodically. It is the kind of crisis that occurs only under capitalism, a crisis generated by over-production. Thousands of enterprises go bankrupt. Industries slow down production or stop producing altogether. Millions of workers are thrown on the street, without employment and without a source of income, except, possibly, inadequate relief or unemployment insurance. Plants do not operate because too many machines and too much raw material have been produced! People cannot buy the food and clothing and home furnishings they need because too much of them have been produced! Small businessmen are ruined. Millions of workers go hungry. Their homes are lost. Their family life becomes a nightmare of insecurity. Suffering and privation spread like wildfire.

The inevitable result of capitalist production is capitalist collapse. Production expands under capitalism only to come to a periodic standstill. Crises of general over-production can be delayed in appearing, but so long as capitalism exists they cannot be abolished.

The periodic crisis and collapse of production affects all the classes of society, but in different ways and in different degrees. The ruin of the middle classes is speeded up and strikes more and more of them. The weak ones who are driven to the wall by the crisis end up in the ranks of the working class. Their enterprises are absorbed by the more powerful capitalists, who are able to weather the storm with greater ease. The higher standard of living which the worker enjoyed during the “prosperity days” is “evened out,” so to speak, in the days of crisis, depression and stagnation. The modest savings with which he may have hoped to enjoy a comfortable old age, or which he may have planned to use presently in order to “go into business for himself,” are wiped out. The comforts and little luxuries he may have accumulated during the boom – a partly-paid-for home, a good radio, an automobile, time-and-back-saving electrical appliances for the home – must be disposed of for a song during the crisis.

Just as the boom brings big capital the overwhelming bulk of the benefits, in the form of stupendous profits, so the crisis brings the working class the great bulk of the burdens. The capitalists have large reserves, the workers have next to none. The capitalist class suffers some losses, but on the whole it survives the crisis with comparative ease. The big ones emerge from the crisis even stronger than before. While it rages, they swallow up their smaller and weaker competitors. They enter the new boom period with increased monopolistic strength. The crisis period shows most glaringly how reactionary anti-outworn a social system is capitalism. It allows the spectacle – what else can it do, being what it is? – of millions without work who want to work, of millions without adequate food because there is too much food, of industries shut down tight when there is just as urgent a need as ever for industrial products. The consequences of production for profit, of planless, unorganized, anarchic production, are shown in all their ugliness.

Capitalism refuses to resume production – because it cannot – until it has been stimulated once more by the prospect of a profitable market. It awaits the rise cold-bloodedly. Just as cold-bloodedly, it undertakes the wholesale destruction of useful commodities. Crops are burned in vast funeral pyres. Vegetables, coffee and other foodstuffs are dumped into the sea and destroyed as though they were poisonous. Hundreds of thousands are paid subsidies out of the public funds to “plow under,” to annihilate the precious yield of agriculture – cotton, wool, corn, wheat, rice, fruit, tobacco, hogs, sheep and cattle. Hunger stalks a land of plenty!

It is then we see the system in all its hideous absurdity, as the great destroyer of social wealth, and of human happiness, security and life itself. The wondrous productive machine which it developed and which, if rationally organized, could easily supply the needs and comforts of all, proves to be a mechanism that degrades the people to poverty, wretchedness, suffering and every social iniquity.

In a rational, planned society, people released from tasks in one sector of the economy could easily be found work turning out a new range of goods elsewhere. But we do not live in a rational, planned society. People only get new jobs in this society if the goods they make can be sold at a profit. There are three ways in which they can be sold: as consumer goods (to other workers), as capital goods (to the owners of other factories), or as exports (to workers or factory owners abroad). If none of these three markets is expanding, then you can make the most wonderful and useful things in the world, and still end up on the dole queue.

 Production can be worked by plan, the people as a whole deciding what they need and producing a sufficient supply to meet it. . Leisure could be used for creative development. All could live a comfortable life.Service replacing profit, planning replacing person whim, production could become both scientific and moral having for its motive the provision of the means of well-being for all.

This age, marred by the private ownership of the means of life, with all its crippling effects on science and industry with its immoral emphasis on acquisition, and with it: inevitable consequence of wealth and poverty, of class; distinctions and class discords, must go.  The regulation of production must not be left to the whim of individual producers, nor to groups of producers. That was why the instruments of production must be vested in public, not private hands. The interest of consumers and their need are the pivot around which productive industry should and must revolve. Consumers must be consulted, and consumers' needs must be ascertained. In proportion to the relative importance and urgency of those needs, goods must be supplied. Data to gauge those needs must be collected and then weighed need against need.

When it has been determined in which order and to what extent the various needs are to be supplied, then orders can be issued to producers specifying what commodities and in what quantities goods shall be produced. In that way factory workers and groups of factory workers, peasants and groups of peasants, will know what, where, and when to produce. There will be no glut, because need has been gauged; no slump, no boom, no unemployment. The Plan demanded, not only the ownership and control of all the resources of production, but also that the pace of production should be speeded up, in order that commodities of every kind might be available for distribution without delay.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cheap money for the rich

It’s easy to forget that cash costs money to access, until you’re paying an A.T.M. fee.

A study has quantified the cost of cash, and who gets hit the hardest. The unsurprising answer: low-income people.

In the U.S., the poorest individuals surveyed spend an average of more than three times as much as the wealthiest ones to access cash—specifically, about 81cents a month for those earning under $21,000 annually, compared with  25 cents for those earning more than a $100,000.

What’s more, low-income people tend to spend far more time getting cash.  On average, Americans spend twenty-eight minutes a month travelling to get cash, but that time isn’t evenly distributed. People who don’t use a bank spend about five minutes longer getting to the place where they can get cash, and unemployed people spent nearly nine minutes more—and that’s not including time spent standing in line.

“The truth is every payment instrument adds a disproportionate cost onto the poor,” said Bhaskar Chakravorti, senior associate dean for international business and finance at Tufts’ Fletcher School and co-author of the study. “Yet cash we tend to think of as the poor man’s best friend. That is where we’re wrong.”

Wealthier people and lower-income people tend to access cash differently. Wealthier people are more likely to have bank accounts, which means that they can visit an A.T.M. run by their bank without paying a fee; the same goes for cashing checks. Lower-income people, meanwhile, disproportionately use check-cashing services, which are known for their high add-on charges. Plus, employers have started compensating low-paid, hourly workers with prepaid cards that come with huge fees.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Love and marriage costs

The rich can marry who they like - the poor cannot.

Rules brought into force last July, which insist on a minimum £18,600 salary for a period of 6 months  anyone sponsoring a visa for a non-EU spouse with an additional £850 application fee.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon A Time
By John Spritzler
03 September, 2013

Once upon a time there was a country ruled by a small number of rich and evil men and women. The rulers led the country into one evil war after another. To get The People of the country to go along with the wars, the rulers told them Big Lies. Some people believed the lies and some didn't. But whether they believed the lies or not didn't matter very much because The People were not in power, only the evil rulers were.
One day, some of The People who did not believe the lies--"dissidents" they called themselves--got together to figure out what to do. They didn't like the wars for a lot of reasons. The wars killed innocent people without any moral justification. The wars strengthened the power of the evil rich rulers and made things worse for The People.
One dissident said, "I know. Lets educate The People so they won't believe the Big Lies." Another dissident replied, "What good would that do? Opinion polls already show a majority of The People oppose these wars but the rulers wage them just the same." The first dissident replied, "The opinion polls only ask if people support this or that war, but they don't ask if people believe the Big Lies. I think a lot of The People do believe the Big Lies, and so their opposition to the wars is too shallow to make the rulers end them. I stand by my proposal to educate The People so they won't believe the Big Lies."
Then a third dissident said, "Refuting the Big Lies that justify the wars is an important thing to do. But it's not the MOST important thing. The most important thing is removing the rich and evil rulers from power. I'd rather have The People believing the Big Lies but in power than have the people not believing the Big Lies with the rich and evil rulers still in power."
"How come?" the other dissidents asked. "Because," said the third dissident, "The People have no reason or desire to believe Big Lies and if they were in power they would quickly discover that the Big Lies were lies and decide to stop waging the evil wars those lies justified. But until The People are in power, the evil rulers will keep waging their evil wars no matter what The People think."
"OK," said the other dissidents, "we can educate people about the Big Lies and urge them to make a revolution to remove the evil rulers from power so that the evil wars will end. What do you think about that?"
The third dissident replied, "You still don't seem to get it. If The People ever make a revolution, it will be for lots of reasons, and disagreement with the evil wars may, for many people, be very low on their list of reasons if it is even on their list at all. We should be urging people to make a revolution for every reason that they are concerned about, whether that reason is about the evil wars or not."
"Hmmmmm," replied the other dissidents.
I would like to tell you what happened. I would like to tell you if there ever was a revolution in the country. But I don't know what the dissidents decided to do, or what eventually happened. Only time will tell.
John Spritzler, editor

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The American Dream was a dream

The "too big to fail" motto echoed in the Wall Street crisis in late 2007 as a definitive statement of the ties to the corporate world and their abandonment of small businesses. "Crony capitalism" has been coined to describe this symbiotic relationship.

Since the over $800 billion bailout, the "one percenters" of the uber rich have increased their wealth by 28 percent while the middle class has lost 5 percent of their earning power. There have been an incredible 9 million jobs-plus lost in the past five years of the Obama administration, as well as a whopping 11.5 million unemployed and 4.2 million people who have been out of jobs for six months.

Even the meager number of jobs being created are 93 percent part-time, low-paying positions primarily in fast food and retail marketing. Thirty-six percent of the Millennial generation is still living at home.  The economy is growing at a pathetic 1.4 growth rate (as usual, it will be revised lower next month) and a 7.4 unemployment rate, which is actually hovering at 14-16 percent.
The stock market has gone through the roof, setting an all-time high with the aid of the Federal Reserve increasing the money supply each month by $87 billion. These QE policies 1, 2 and 3 have devaluated our dollar and have kept the stock market revved up for the one-percenters. Additionally, the cheaper dollar has made it easier for international corporations to sell their products overseas. Although it has made foreign items much more expensive at home.