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