Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Afghan Failure

Since 2001, 453 British forces personnel have been killed in Afghanistan and more than 2600 wounded; 247 British soldiers have had limbs amputated (the Ministry of Defence refuses to categorise the severity of these amputations on the grounds that releasing the information would help ‘the enemy’). Unknown numbers have psychological injuries.

In “Investment in Blood: The True Cost of Britain’s Afghan War” Frank Ledwidge puts the cost of the Afghan War at £40 billion. The British forces wanted to have all the equipment the Americans had, but couldn’t afford quite enough of it, quite so up to date or quite so soon. Britain built a base in Helmand, Camp Bastion, bigger than any it had constructed since the end of the Second World War, occupying an area the size of Reading. It has now handed Camp Bastion over to the Afghan military which, at the time of writing, was struggling to prevent it being overrun by attackers. Everything the military did depended on the petrol, diesel and kerosene trucked in from Central Asia or Pakistan; one US estimate calculated that the price of fuel increased by 14,000 per cent in its journey from the refinery to the Afghan front line. In firefights, British troops used Javelin missiles costing £70,000 each to destroy houses made of mud bricks.  Ledwidge adds in the cost of buying four huge American transport planes to shore up the air bridge between Afghanistan and the UK (£800 million), 14 new helicopters (£1 billion), a delay in previously planned cuts in the size of the army (£3 billion) and the cost of returning and restoring war-battered units (£2 billion). More contentiously, he includes the £2.1 billion spent on aid and development, not all of which was stolen or wasted – although much of it was. Ledwidge highlights the grotesque sums spent on providing security and creature comforts to foreign consultants: an annual cost of around half a million pounds per head. He was a consultant in Afghanistan himself, besides serving there as an officer. ‘A great many people, several hundred,’ he writes, ‘could be employed in Helmand for the price of a single consultant plus security team and “life-support”.

“The soldiers who are killed and wounded today are not victims – they are not the conscript ex-civilians of the First World War. They are professionals, willingly trained in the business of killing, and (by and large) well paid and well treated while they are soldiers … Servicemen are under no illusions as to the risks they sign up to … In looking so closely at the human costs of this war, the key point that must be borne in mind is not ‘How terrible! Those poor soldiers …’ Rather it must be a realistic and firm realisation: ‘We sent them, now we must take care of the consequences.’ ”
Ledwidge estimates the cost of the British military’s bloodshed and psychological trauma – the amount spent on the ongoing treatment of damaged veterans, compensation under the recently introduced Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS), and an actuarial estimate of the financial value of human life – at £3.8 billion. He points out that, despite the AFCS, Britain’s care for its veterans falls short of the elaborate system in the United States.

An Afghan who sought compensation from the British in Helmand after losing his sight as a result of a military operation might expect a payment of £4500. A British soldier suffering the same injury would be entitled to £570,000.

British troops were moved into Helmand. The defence minister John Reid said he hoped the operation could be carried out without a shot being fired. In those first six months, The commander of the paratroopers, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Tootal’s men fired half a million bullets. Eventually the Americans sent in the Marines, bailing Britain out. Blair and the generals had bitten off far more than the British armed forces could chew.

An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict 1978-2012 by Mike Martin, a Pashto speaker, a British officer who served in Helmand in the late 2000s argues that ‘insurgency is a pejorative term, one that is useful to governments in establishing their legitimacy or that of their allies and in defining their enemies.’ Martin believes that the conflict in Helmand should be seen as ‘a continuing civil war’. Because the British were ignorant of what was really going on – due, in large part, to their short six-month tours of duty and lack of linguists – they were manipulated into becoming pawns in long-running conflicts over land, water, drugs and power between local leaders. Hostility towards the British among the Pashto-speaking Pashtun tribes of Helmand goes back to the early 19th century. The British were hated in Helmand before they’d fired a shot. A popular local assumption was that the British had come for revenge. The British, Martin explains, were never fighting waves of Taliban coming over the border from Pakistan: they were overwhelmingly fighting local men led by local barons who felt shut out by the British and their friends in ‘government’ and sought an alternative patron in Quetta. The Taliban provided money, via their sponsors in the Gulf, and a ready-made, Pashtun-friendly ideological framework the barons could franchise. Since the British were hated even before they arrived, recruitment of foot soldiers was easy.

Looking at it from the Helmandi perspective, the population might well ask, ‘how can you protect us from ourselves when we are resisting you?’ This idea was recognised during the Soviet era as well. Neither the Soviets nor Nato had conceptual space in their doctrines for large sections of the population resisting them, so instead they were painted as Maoist-style insurgents from outside who were terrorising the community.

Thursday, December 04, 2014


Many Americans always believe that they too will someday join the 1%. As John Steinbeck noted, “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

However, Gregory Clark, a researcher at the University of California, Davis, found that social mobility had diminished significantly in the past 100 years in the US.

“America has no higher rate of social mobility than medieval England or pre-industrial Sweden,” Clark said. “That’s the most difficult part of talking about social mobility, is because it is shattering people’s dreams.” He said social mobility is little different in the United States than in other countries, where ancestry strongly predicts adult social status. “The status of your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren, and your great-great grandchildren will be quite closely related to your average status now”.

The only way to change this is to remove the mechanism that creates it. End this market/money system, and instead build system based on access to the wealth and abundance of the world that would eliminate the need for politics, the market, money and many other ills that plague the world. The American Dream is no dream at all. It’s just propaganda. It keeps the hamsters on wheel, hoping for a better life that never really arrives. Rags-to-riches is a reigning US myth. Most life histories consist of riches-to-riches, and rags-to-rags.

There are only two contending classes in our society, the working class and the capitalist class. The former has nothing to sell but their ability to work, in exchange for a wage or salary, or claim benefits if unable to find work or too sick or elderly to work. The latter, on the other hand, own all of society's means of production and distribution, and so can command the labor-powers of the former. The latter literally lives off the collective labor of the former. If social mobility is defined as movement out of the working class and into the capitalist class, and vice versa, then there is very little of it. However, the improvement of such mobility shouldn't be our goal because the division of society into classes and their relationship to each other is exploitative, oppressive and unjust. Anyone who thinks otherwise is lying to themselves and others. Our true goal should be the abolition of the capitalist class system and the state, fought for by the working class, united and self-organized.

George Carlin summed it up best many years ago, " They call it the American Dream because the only time most people will ever experience it is when they are asleep."

It's always been a lie that America's economic system supplied some sort of equal opportunity to everyone for social mobility. Sure we occasionally see the cliche of a small business started in a garage lead to vast wealth, but statistically for everyone of those that succeeds there are hundreds of thousands that don't. For working class capitalism is like the lottery. Some people do occasionally win, but it's very rare. And as John Lennon said “The rich let a few of us succeed, to give the rest of us false hope.”

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Trusting in God-men

A fine article on health-care and religion on the Countercurrents website.

Millions of rural people in India succumb to deaths due to diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, kala azar and Japanese Encephalitis that could have been avoided with basic medication or treatment. Most of these preventable deaths in villages are due to infections of communicable, parasitic and respiratory diseases. Deaths in villages from conditions like nutritional deficiencies or perinatal deaths are also avoidable if they could have accessed some kind of affordable, basic health care at the right time. Around 40% of the rural morbidity in India is thanks to water born infectious diseases. These diseases are (1) of the gastrointestinal tract - such as diarrhoea, amoebiasis, typhoid fever, infectious hepatitis, worm infestations and poliomyelitis, (2) carried in the air through coughing, sneezing or even breathing -such as measles, tuberculosis, whooping cough and pneumonia, or (3) the difficult ones - like malaria, filariasis and kala-azar. About 100 million people get diarrhoea and cholera every year. There are 12 million tuberculosis cases currently in India with 1.2 million cases added every year. Around 37, 000 cases of measles are reported every year. About 2.3 million episodes and over 1000 malarial deaths occur every year in India. An estimated 45 million people are carriers of microfilaria. Around 1.2 million cases of leprosy exist in India with 500, 000 cases being added every year. More than 85% of rural children are undernourished and around 150, 000 of them die every year.

Many primary causes of ill health are based on factors such as poverty, deprivation and environmental abuse. The health support systems of the poor are clean water, air, forests and land. Threat to these resources is the root cause of their ill health.

Most who flock to the god-men for miracle cures in India are from the groups of poor women, dalits and backward communities. They work as small farmers, agricultural labourers and artisans. They struggle hard at their work places under adverse weather conditions to produce food and other commodities for their urban counterparts. When they get sick, they have no one else to turn to except their God and these god-men who claim to have miracle cures for their ailments. They look for solutions in quacks, sorcerers and god-men. India has many such individuals, families and trusts (which are managed like modern corporations) who claim to have miracle cures for all kind of ailments. They often have a very huge fan following in the rural heartland of India. They are omnipresent and they travel to many places to conduct mass healing sessions in emotionally charged gatherings. These god-men like the shamans of yester years play multiple roles as a magician, medicine person, miracle-worker, healer, priest, mystic and master of all spiritual energies and enjoy the company of powerful business tycoons and politicians.

Such healing individuals who claim shamanic powers are not limited to Hinduism only, they present in all other religions including Islam and Christianity. Thousands of people from Kerala rush to ‘divine healing centres’ set up around the clout of healing Christian priests who are believed to have the ability to perform miracles, exorcise demons and heal afflictions.

It does not matter even if the evidence of healing offered by these God-men does not stand up to scientific scrutiny. Their followers continue to believe in the testimony of those who got healed, though their healing is only a subjective experience. Critics of faith healers are usually dealt with personal attacks and they are blamed of not having enough faith. They gather support from members of their mother religion by crying ‘attack on their holy faith by nonbelieving outsiders’. They survive as medical science too does not have answers to all the questions about health, diseases and the multiple ways through which healing takes place.

In theory, the government provides some kind of health services - a three tier structure of health care consisting of Community Health Centres, Primary Health Centres and Subcentres is set up for the rural areas. But whatever limited services exist in the rural areas are either nonfunctional, dysfunctional, or are with extremely ‘poor quality’. Most often the service providers, especially doctors are not present in the rural facilities. India has just six doctors and nine hospital beds for every 10,000 of its people, compared to 14 doctors and 30 hospital beds in China. About 75% of health infrastructure, medical manpower, and other health resources are concentrated in urban areas where 28% of the populations live in villages. A recent survey of 15,000 households across 12 states noted that about half the people in India and over three-fifths of those who live in rural areas have to travel beyond 5 km to reach a healthcare centre. The survey further points out that the availability of healthcare services is skewed towards urban centers with these residents, who make up only 28% of the country's population, enjoying access to 66% of India's available hospital beds, while the remaining 72%, who live in rural areas, have access to just one-third of the bed.

Villages in the heartland of India are inhabited by poor landless laborers, small holders, and artisans. They spent their money mostly on food and some money on clothing and housing. Considering their ‘subsistence existence’, spending money on health care is indeed a luxury to them. Most of them could not afford to buy health care from the urban centers just because they are poor. Therefore in case of extreme illnesses, the rural masses turn to the private providers for which they have to borrow money from the money lenders. Many studies  have shown that medical treatment is the most important cause of rural indebtedness, next only to dowry in the rural India. Those who are indebted and those who are unable to afford a loan finally turn to quacks, sorcerers and god-men. Not only in remote rural and tribal areas but also in urban slums, the phenomenon of god-men is rampant and these god-men meet a felt need of these ailing masses.

The problem of poor access to health care by the masses is well documented by researchers umpteen times. The policy and program measures to deal with this issue are also known to experts. What we lack is the political will and guts to implement certain drastic measures. Today we are left with two options in front of us. We can either continue to leave the health care of the masses to shamans, sorcerers and godmen; and when they rally behind their miracle cures, we can blame them for their ignorance and superstitious habits and plan media campaigns to educate them! Or we can take bold steps to ensure universal access to health care.

One man's terrorist is an immature youth

A soldier who wrote of murdering immigrants and who praised Adolf Hitler has been jailed for two years after building a viable nailbomb packed with 181 pieces of shrapnel to maximise the carnage it would cause.
Ryan McGee wrote in a journal: “I vow to drag every last immigrant into the fires of hell with me.”

He downloaded a video of two bound and gagged men beneath a swastika flag, one being beheaded and the other killed by a gunshot to the head and went online to tell people to do something if they hated immigration. He supported the English Defence League, Ku Klux Klan and praised then British National party leader Nick Griffin.

A nail-bomb and cache of weapons including an imitation firearm, an air pistol, axes and knives were found in the bedroom of his family home in Eccles, Salford, and he had researched buying guns on the web. McGee also posted several pictures of himself in EDL and Ku Klux Klan clothing and standing next to EDL flags. When he was interviewed by police, McGee said he was interested in rightwing politics because he did not like mass immigration. He came from a family, the court heard, with far-rightwing views. He had attended an EDL rally and had a “No Surrender” EDL flag and an EDL T-shirt and jumper – all bought for him by his mother for his 18th birthday.

Prosecutor Roger Smart accepted McGee was not a terrorist. The CPS said it had decided not to prosecute McGee as a terrorist because “it was never McGee’s intention to use the device for any terrorist or violent purpose, and that he had no firm intention to activate the device. That’s why he was prosecuted under the Explosive Substance Act.”

Imran Khan, solicitor for Mohommod Nawaz, jailed for four and a half years for travelling to a terrorist training camp in Syria, said: “It seems that if you are a Muslim, justice is not blind.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The way forward - with the people

More than half of the world’s population is adversely affected by malnutrition according to FAO. Worldwide, 200 million children suffer from under-nutrition while two billion women and children suffer from anaemia and other types of nutrition deficiencies.

More than 20 years after the first Conference on Nutrition (ICN), held in 1992, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, finally conceded the need for democracy to tackle the problem. The participation of non-State actors in ICN2, evidence shows that encouraging participants enables greater transparency, inclusion and plurality in policy discussion, which leads to a greater sense of ownership and consensus. As such, the preparation for the ICN2 was a first step in building alliances between civil society organisations (CSOs)  and social movements involved in working with food, nutrition, health and agriculture.

Flavio Valente, Secretary-General of FIAN International, an organisation advocating for the right to adequate food. “It is the first time that civil society constituencies have worked with FAO, WHO and the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) to discuss nutrition.” This gave the opportunity to social movements, “including a vast array of stakeholders such as peasants, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, women, pastoralists, landless people and urban poor to have their voices heard and be able to discuss with NGOs, academics and nutritionists….This means that governments have already started to listen to our joint demands and proposals, in particular those related to the governance of food and nutrition,” he explained. According to Valente, “things are changing” – civil society organisations have organised around food and nutrition issues, the food sovereignty movement has grown in resistance since the 1980s and societies are now demanding action from their governments in an organised way.

In the heart of the Pijol mountains in the northern Honduran province of Yoro, the Tolupan indigenous community of Pueblo Nuevo has a lot to celebrate: famine is no longer a problem for them, and their youngest children were rescued from the grip of child malnutrition. The Tolupan indigenous people in Pueblo Nuevo are no longer suffering from the drought that hit much of the country this year, severely affecting the production of staple crops like beans and maize, as a result of climate change and the global El Niño weather phenomenon. For the last two years, the Tolupan of Pueblo Nuevo have had food reserves that they store in a community warehouse. The “black Junes” are a thing of the past, the villagers told IPS.

“From June to August, things were always really hard, we didn’t have enough food, we had to eat roots. It was a time of subsistence, we always said: black June is on its way,” said the leader of the tribe, 27-year-old Tomás Cruz, a schoolteacher. “But today we can smile and say: black June is gone. Now we have food for our children, who had serious malnutrition problems here .because there wasn’t enough food.”

Pueblo Nuevo’s experience was a success because the tribe understood that they had to change their way of life, implementing good practices in cropping, hygiene and food security. The villagers was key to the community’s transformation. The tribe no longer uses the slash-and-burn technique to clear the land, and they now use organic fertiliser and recycle their garbage. They have a community savings fund where they deposit part of their earnings, which has made it possible to have clean drinking water and provisions. They managed to improve the yield per hectare of beans from 600 to 1,800 kg, and of maize from 900 to 3,000 kg, and now they know that a family of six needs 2,400 to 2,800 kg of maize a year, for example. In Pueblo Nuevo they are also proud that they don’t have to hire themselves out to work, or sell their livestock to ranchers or merchants in the area to eat. “Now they say they’re rich because they no longer have to work for a boss,” Sandro Martínez, the mayor of Victoria, told IPS.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Class War

Workers at a tea plantation in eastern India killed the owner during negotiations over a pay dispute. The owner of the Sonali tea estate in West Bengal was dragged out of talks on Saturday, beaten up and stabbed by a crowd. The workers had reportedly not been paid for two or three months. Many workers in India's tea plantations are malnourished and poorly paid.

According to Raja Das, Secretary of Terai Indian Planters’ Association (TIPA) the tea estate had been plagued with a series of issues relating to non-payment of dues. “It had long history of defaulting in payment of statutory dues to workers. According to initial reports the garden did not implement the industry-wide wage settlement, and, denied supplying the promised rations. On top of all, it had failed to pay wages in time,”

 Several incidents of attacks on tea executives by workers have been reported in recent years. In 2012 a tea plantation owner and his wife were burned to death in the neighbouring state of Assam.

WHO said what?

World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Dr. Margaret Chan recently stated: "Ebola emerged nearly four decades ago. Why are clinicians still empty-handed, with no vaccines and no cure? Because Ebola has historically been confined to poor African nations. The R&D incentive is virtually non-existent. A profit-driven industry does not invest in products for markets that cannot pay." Dr. Chan  noted that "My budget is highly earmarked, so it is driven by what I call donor interests."

A study in  The Lancet of medical products registered in 2000-11 revealed that "Only four new chemical entities were approved for neglected diseases (three for malaria, one for diarrhoeal disease), accounting for 1% of the 336 new chemical entities approved during the study period."

For women's rights

The Bread of the World Institute is a non-partisan, Christian citizens' movement aimed at educating policymakers, opinion leaders, and the public about hunger, shows that discrimination against women is a major cause of persistent hunger and that increasing women’s earning potential by boosting bargaining power, reducing gender inequality in unpaid work, increasing women’s political representation, and eliminating the wage gap between male and female labor could help stem the worldwide epidemic.

According to their new report "Neither women nor men living in poverty have much economic bargaining power—that is, an ability to negotiate favorable economic outcomes for themselves—especially in developing countries, as the vast majority of people do low-paying, low-productivity work," However, it goes on to explain "Even within the constraints of poverty, however, working conditions for men and women are far from equal: women suffer many more forms of discrimination, which worsen the effects of poverty on their lives. Discrimination that establishes and reinforces women’s lower status in society starts within the family and extends through community customs and national laws… Discrimination is why women farmers labor with fewer productive resources than their male counterparts, why women in all sectors of the economy earn less than men, and why girls are pulled out of school to work or to marry… we must identify and adopt policies that help eliminate entrenched and interconnected sexism and racism.""

Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute says "We must not tolerate discrimination against women and instead, demand a comprehensive approach to women’s empowerment that includes applying a gender lens to all programs and policies."

Monday, November 17, 2014

Some people are more equal than others.

Today, the United States has the fourth most uneven income distribution among economically developed nations. According to Forbes, a leading business magazine, the combined wealth of the 400 richest Americans has now reached the staggering total of $2.3 trillion. This gives them an average net worth of $5.7 billion–an increase of 14 percent over the previous year.

Other Americans aren’t doing nearly as well. According to the Census Bureau, more than 45 million Americans are living in poverty, which it defines as under $11,490 a year for an individual and under $23,550 for a family of four. Many of them endure lives of hunger, misery, and despair, helped along by a Congress that has slashed billions from government food stamp programs, ended extended unemployment benefits, and refused to raise the minimum wage.

From 1978 to 2013, CEO compensation, inflation-adjusted, grew by 937 percent, while the typical worker’s compensation over that same period grew by only 10 percent. Thus, although the CEO-to-worker compensation ratio was 20-to-1 in 1965, it stood at 296-to-1 in 2013. 

Americans on middle income, plagued by stagnant income and declining wealth, has also suffered. According to the Federal Reserve, between 2010 and 2013 median income in the United States fell by five percent. Indeed, since 1989, the median net worth of the statistical ‘middle class’–the middle 20 percent of Americans–has dropped by nearly 18 percent.

From 1989 to 2013, the wealthiest three percent of Americans increased their share of the wealth from 44.8 percent to 54.4 percent, while the bottom 90 percent found their share of the wealth dropping from 33.2 percent to 24.7 percent.

The wealthiest Americans have grown richer at the expense of others. In 2005, Larry Ellison ho now is worth $50 billion, and reportedly has 15 or so homes scattered all around the world. Among his yachts are two exceptionally big ones, each over half as long as a football field. bought out PeopleSoft, an 11,000-employee competitor, and then eliminated the jobs of 5,000 of them.
Or consider the four members of the Walton family–owners of Wal-Mart, the country’s biggest private employer–who rank among the top 10 richest Americans, with a combined net worth of $143.7 billion. Most of their full-time workers are paid less than $25,000 a year. Wal-Mart’s cashiers, for example, average $8.48 an hour, and thousands of Wal-Mart workers receive no more than the minimum wage ($7.25 an hour). These low wages keep many of the company’s workers mired in poverty and dependent upon government assistance. Indeed, it is estimated that Wal-Mart’s low-wage workers cost American taxpayers $6.2 billion a year in public assistance, including food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing.

Charles and David Koch, the sons of a wealthy founder of the John Birch Society, as well as the fourth and fifth richest Americans (with $84 billion). Over the years, the Koch brothers have used their vast wealth to champion the abolition of public schools, the postal system, minimum wage laws, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Bankrolling a broad variety of right-wing groups and foundations, they have zealously opposed legislation providing for environmental protection, health care reform, and limits on campaign contributions. As massive financiers of right-wing election campaigns–including more than $400 million to candidates in 2011-2012 alone–they have been very effective in pulling the Republican Party and American politics rightward.

pt foundations often use them for questionable purposes. Since 2008, the Gates Foundation–funded by Bill Gates (the nation’s wealthiest individual, with $81 billion)–has spent at least $2 billion to undermine public schools by promoting charter schools, high-stakes standardized testing, and other corporate educational initiatives. The Gates Foundation has also played a key role in creating organizations opposing teacher unions and teacher tenure. Meanwhile, the Walton Foundation contributed more than $750 million to these efforts. Both the Gates and Walton Foundations have funded the work of ALEC, the right-wing operation that has successfully promoted the passage of state laws that restrict voting rights, weaken unions, privatize education, harass immigrants, encourage “Stand Your Ground” behavior, and, of course, provide big tax cuts for the rich.

According to Forbes, the top “industry” among the 400 richest Americans is “investments.” Are these stock market and hedge fund speculators really the most valuable members of society?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

our choice

While science and technology have increased the land’s capacity for producing food, it is sobering thought to realize that of the 7 billion people inhabiting the earth, 1 billion are hungry.

Sustainability. That’s the popular word today in discussions of food production and the environment. But for farmers, ‘sustainability’ means not only those practices that are good for managing soil, water, and land, it also means a few things practical to the business side of the farm, such as having enough land and feed to sustain the cattle, or managing the farm to stay profitable and in business, or managing the land in a way that brings opportunities to future generations. At its basic level, sustainability can mean maximizing the land’s potential to produce more forage per acre and more milk per cow. Profitability. Whatever the specific definition of ‘sustainable,’ one thing is for certain: economics drive solutions within capitalism.

We humans face a choice. As populations grow towards crisis levels and earth resources come under near-intolerable pressure, we have to decide how to feed ourselves.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Another Day of Infamy

October 2003, an independent, blue-ribbon commission released its findings from an investigation into an internationally significant 36-year-old attack on a US Navy ship that left more than 200 American sailors killed or wounded.

The commission consists of:

A former ambassador to one of the US’s most important allies
A US Navy rear admiral and former head of the Navy’s legal division
A Marine general, America’s highest ranking recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the former Assistant Commandant of Marines
A US Navy four-star admiral, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (the highest military position in the country), former Chief of Naval Operations, a World War II hero, and the only Naval admiral to have commanded both the Pacific and the Atlantic fleets
The panel is moderated by a former ambassador who served as Chief of Mission in Iraq and Deputy Director of Ronald Reagan's White House Task Force on Terrorism.

The commission findings:

»   That the attack, by a US ally, was a “deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew”
»   That the ally committed “acts of murder against American servicemen and an act of war against the United States”
»   That the attack involved the machine-gunning of stretcher-bearers and life rafts
»   That “the White House deliberately prevented the U.S. Navy from coming to the defense of the [ship]... never before in American naval history has a rescue mission been cancelled when an American ship was under attack”
»   That surviving crew members were later threatened with “court-martial, imprisonment or worse” if they talked to anyone about what had happened to them; and were “abandoned by their own government”
»   That due to the influence of the ally’s “powerful supporters in the United States, the White House deliberately covered up the facts of this attack from the American people”
»   That due to continuing pressure by this lobby, this attack remains “the only serious naval incident that has never been thoroughly investigated by Congress”
»   That “there has been an official cover-up without precedent in American naval history”
»   That “the truth about Israel's attack and subsequent White House cover-up continues to be officially concealed from the American people to the present day and is a national disgrace”
»   That “a danger to the national security exists whenever our elected officials are willing to subordinate American interests to those of any foreign nation...” and that this policy “endangers the safety of Americans and the security of the United States”

In 1967, at the height of the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War, the Israeli Air Force launched an unprovoked attack on the USS Liberty, a US Navy spy ship that was monitoring the conflict from the safety of international waters in the Mediterranean. Israeli jet fighters hit the vessel with rockets, cannon fire and napalm, before three Israeli torpedo boats moved in to launch a second more devastating attack. Though she did not sink, the Liberty was badly damaged. Thirty-four US servicemen and civilian analysts were killed, another 171 were wounded. The official claim is that the Israeli attack – which lasted two hourswas somehow accidental.

Few Americans realize that a US president chose to sacrifice US interests and US servicemen (specifically, the 25 of the 34 dead who were killed after US rescue missions were recalled) to Israeli interests, and then ordered a cover-up of his actions. The official investigation gave  one week to conduct an investigation that normally would have been allotted a minimum of six months, found the attack to be a case of “mistaken identity.” Its conclusions had been a sham. President Lyndon Johnson and his secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, had ordered the court to cover up the fact that all the evidence had indicated clearly that the attack had been intentional.

One of the Israeli pilots Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Yiftach Spector explained, "There was a mistake. Mistakes happen. As far as I know, the mistake was of the USS Liberty being there in the first place…" said Spector, "…The fool is one who wanders about in the dark in dangerous places, so they should not come with any complaints."

Or that Israel quibbled for years over what it would pay in compensation to the widows, children, and parents of those it killed and to the United States for the ship it destroyed. (Thirteen years later it grudgingly paid $6 million for a ship valued at $40 million.)

From here

Friday, October 17, 2014

Chomsky Thoughts

Noam Chomsky is a highly respected political commentator and activist over a number of decades. Chomsky has often often dubbed as the world's greatest living philosopher, a man who is steadfastly opposed to icons of any description, to human sheep following political shepherds. He even opposed the documentary about the book he co-wrote with Edward S. Herman (Manufacturing Consent) on the grounds that it personalised grand political issues. Noam Chomsky, one of the world’s most important intellectual figures in both the sciences and the humanities, and one of the ten most quoted writers of all time, ranking with Marx, the Bible and Shakespeare, has admitted that his speeches are very boring. But, he says, that’s the way he likes it. It means that, when people turn up to listen to him, and millions do, they’re doing so because they’re interested in the issues Chomsky is talking about, not in Chomsky himself as some kind of intellectual celebrity. Therefore it is always surprising to witness the degree of personal adulation bestowed on this man by many people. We do not underestimate the immeasurable contribution that Noam Chomsky has made, and is making, to radically change the world, but to treat him as a saviour is to misunderstand his arguments.  His popularity cannot be doubted. Books and lectures are bought and attended in the thousands and he has a strong influence amongst the left and anarchists. But mere anti-capitalism is not enough as it can encourage reformism.

Chomsky's opposition to the wages-system is always clearly put: "I don't think that many people ought to be forced to rent themselves in order to survive", as he once put it. He's quoted at on point as saying, "capitalist relations of production, wage labor, competitiveness, the ideology of 'possessive individualism' - all must be regarded as fundamentally antihuman." Another time he said “Presupposing that there have to be states is like saying, what kind of feudal system should we have that would be the best one? What kind of slavery would be the best kind?"  Noam Chomsky puts it, “the effort to overcome ‘wage-slavery’ has been going on since the beginnings of the industrial revolution, [and] we haven’t advanced an inch. In fact, we’re worse off than we were a hundred years ago in terms of understanding the issues.” Chomsky is right, and it’s the reason we in the Socialist Party devote so much of our time and energy to promoting an understanding of the issues. We seem, in fact, to be the only political organisation in this country to take this task at all seriously.

Chomsky has argued that the problem of human rights abuse was just a necessary consequence of having a system run by bankers not by philanthropists or moral philosophers, yet the reformers want him to approve of huge human efforts to plead with governments to act more kindly. Chomsky seems to treat legal interference with capitalism as an unreliable solution to the problems of human rights violations. Chomsky patiently explains there was no convincing evidence that governments could be persuaded by moralists to run capitalism in accordance with anything but the principles of accounting. Many people on the Left  have an unwarranted optimistic view of what can be achieved by using the law to tame and control commerce. History has shown them to be nothing but disposable guarantees whenever they prove an inconvenience to the ruling class. Chomsky's analysis of capitalist society broadly hits the mark and socialists could find little to disagree with generally. However, the leftist and anarchist supporters who look to Chomsky for inspiration miss the wider point. While Chomsky blames capitalism for poverty, human rights abuse, limited democracy and so on, his adherents support  fruitless reformist campaigns banging the capitalist table with a begging bowl, waiting for some new "right" like a dog barking for a crumb from his master's plate. To blame Chomsky for his supporters may seem a touch harsh, especially as he has consistently spoken out against the following of leaders. many who read or hear Chomsky will arrive at something close to anti-capitalist conclusions but without the aim of abolishing capitalism itself this means relatively little. If Chomsky can be accused of a fault it is he does little to redress this.  He does not oppose reformism as such and so unfortunately his analysis serves to assist futile reformism, however much this may not be his aim. While Chomsky's anti-leadership, anti-capitalism stance is sincere it runs counter to the adoring leftists who persist in quoting his analysis while campaigning for minimal gains and not for the abolition of the system which creates the need for such demands that seek to address problems which capitalism inevitably cannot solve.

According to Noam Chomsky, writing in On Power and Ideology and referring to the US as a 'capitalist democracy', true capitalism isn't possible, state intervention being a necessary component for several reasons: to regulate markets, to support business interests and to employ its means of violence in the international arena on behalf of  business. Many would agree with this assertion and with his comment that democracy is a commodity – you can have as much of it as you can afford. It is probably pertinent to add to Chomsky's statement that true democracy also is not possible in capitalism because the system (and the market) is manipulated by the capitalists to fit their agenda by use of media, advertising and lobbying. The incompatibility of capitalism and democracy, which follow opposing principles, render democratic capitalism an oxymoron.  Chomsky has said, 'Propaganda is as necessary to bourgeois democracy as repression is to the totalitarian state.' The purpose of both to keep control.

He is scathing of the so-called libertarians . “If you care about other people, you might try to organize to undermine power and authority. That’s not going to happen if you care only about yourself. Maybe you can become rich, but you don’t care whether other people’s kids can go to school, or can afford food to eat, or things like that. In the United States, that’s called “libertarian” for some wild reason. I mean, it’s actually highly authoritarian, but that doctrine is extremely important for power systems as a way of atomizing and undermining the public.”

Socialists aren't the only people pointing out that it is useless pleading with governments to end the problems which are endemic to capitalism. Noam Chomsky reiterates this. Chomsky’s conception of socialism is not quite the same as ours. He is against the idea of providing a detailed plan of a future society, preferring to rely on general principles. He favours making changes piecemeal, since we cannot know the effects of large social changes; and if one change works out well, make further changes. But he does not explain how a major change to abolish the wages system could be carried out piecemeal.  Many anarchists also disagree with him when he advocates defending and strengthening some aspects of state authority. His stance is that only the (US) federal government can protect people from the tyranny of corporations. Chomsky has also often expressed his support for 'left wing' governments such as Lula and Chavez. He gives the example of environmental regulations, but admits that these have only a limited effect. Chomsky points out that in capitalism "politics takes place in the shadow cast by big business". His objective is to get out of that shadow. “Once democracy has been enlarged far enough for citizens to control the means of production and trade, and they take part in the overall running and management of the environment in which they live, then the state will gradually be able to disappear. It will be replaced by voluntary associations at our place of work and where we live.”

The main criticism to level at Chomsky, although he would not see it as a criticism at all, is that he is insufficiently Marxian. He understands, as he puts it in the book, that many of the crimes he documents are “rooted in deeper features of prevailing socioeconomic and political systems”. But he is unconvinced of the power of Marxist theory.  It means that Chomsky is able to applaud efforts to democratise capitalist commodity production, without having anything much to say about whether it might be necessary to go beyond this if humanity is ever to achieve a truly free society.

 Capitalism subverts human need to profit and this is at the heart of the problems Chomsky so ably denounces. No amount of tinkering within capitalism can change this essential characteristic. Two centuries of hope has produced nothing but more capitalist misery and failed reformist efforts. Only organisation for socialism will do. The working class must organise not to reform capitalism but to abolish it and establish a society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of productive wealth. A society of free access and real democracy and an end to classes, states, governments, frontiers, leaders and coercion. A world without vested "interests" and freed from the constraints of profit.

The last word should be left to Chomsky:
“There are no set anarchist principles, no libertarian creed to which we must all swear allegiance. Anarchism - at least as I understand it - is a movement that tries to identify organisations exerting authority and domination, to ask them to justify their actions and, if they are unable to do so, as often happens, to try to supersede them. Far from collapsing, anarchism and libertarian thought are flourishing. They have given rise to real progress in many fields. Forms of oppression and injustice that were once barely recognised, less still disputed, are no longer allowed. That in itself is a success, a step forward for all humankind, certainly not a failure.”

Sunday, August 03, 2014

The Independence Ref...errr?...end...ummmm?

The Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of Great Britain on the 2nd August adopted the following as a statement on the Scottish Breakaway Referendum on 18 September:-

Most of us don’t own a single square inch of Scotland.

It doesn’t belong to us: we just live here and work for the people who do own it. In or out of the Union, that won’t change.

In Scotland, society is run in the interests of those who own the wealth. They argue among each other over billions of barrels of oil, GDP rates, profits and exports, because where the borders lie matters to them. Every border is an opportunity to wring cash out of other property owners. Scotland will remain dependent upon their whims and interests whatever the outcome of the referendum.

They’ll try to sway us one way or another with crumbs (or the promises of crumbs) but we’ll only get what they feel they can spare to protect their privilege and wealth. We will remain dependent upon their investments making a profit for them before we can get our needs and interests seen to

The only way to stop this dependency would be for us to take ownership and control of the wealth of the world into our own hands. We could, together, use the wealth of the world to meet our mutual needs and grant the true independence of being able to control our work and our lives in free and voluntary association of equals.

Though the outcome of this referendum is irrelevant, it is an opportunity for us to tell our fellow workers that this is what we want. We don’t have to suffer in silence, we can go to the ballot stations and write “NEITHER YES NOR NO BUT WORLD SOCIALISM” across the voting paper. Then, join The Socialist Party to fight for an independent world."

The Israeli PR

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gaza - The Doctors' Response

Well worth linking to is this letter in The Lancet

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Global Warming

The American West is locked in what’s likely to be recorded as the worst drought in U.S. history as farmers and industry from Texas to California despair over conditions so severe that California is expected to introduce statewide mandatory water restrictions for the first time ever.

But the U.S. isn’t alone. In South America, a drought in northeastern Brazil has wreaked havoc among coffee growers and spiked coffee prices around the world. Severe drought conditions are also plaguing Australia and some regions in Africa, threatening to cause food shortages in some of the poorest nations on earth and higher prices across the world.

Ethiopia: An estimated 8 million of Ethiopia's 60 million people are at immediate risk due to drought. UNICEF estimates that 1.4 million of those at risk are children under five.

Eritrea: Successive years of drought, combined with the border war with Ethiopia, has created major food shortages. Nearly 1.3 million people are at risk.

Somalia: Due to seven consecutive poor harvests coupled with chronic insecurity in some regions, food stability is deteriorating, affecting as many as 1 million people, including 300,000 children aged under 5 years.

Sudan: An estimated 2.8 million people in the south face food insecurity in the coming months.

Uganda: About 550,000 people face food insecurity.

Morocco: The worst drought for a decade. About 70 percent of the country's arable land has been affected.

Afghanistan: Large parts of the south are severely affected, where 60 to 80 percent of livestock have died. Almost 2.5 million people, or 10 percent of the population, are at risk.

China: In the northern Shanxi province, nearly 3 million people don't have enough water. About one-third of the province's wheat crop has been hit by the drought and more than 60 percent of its soil lacks water.

India: Madhya Pradesh, along with the western states of Rajasthan and Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh in the south, are in the grip of a severe drought following the failure of last year's monsoon rains. Nearly 130 million people living in 12 states have been seriously affected by what some officials call the worst drought in 100 years.

Pakistan: Government officials estimate that nearly 3 million people - mostly villagers - face possible starvation. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Pakistan's southern Thar Desert. The drought has devastated crops and livestock in the desert, home to 1 million people, sparking fears of a massive humanitarian crisis.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Rise of the Right

A spokesman said police had been called to "reports of a disturbance" but no arrests had been made.
He added: “The incident is being investigated by detectives from Bexley Community Safety Unit to establish whether any offences have been committed.

I can name one offence...Public Order Offence 1936 - the wearing of political uniform in public places


Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Scottish Poor

The number of people living in poverty in Scotland increased to 820,000 last year, Scottish government-published figures have said.

The 2012-13 figure, which accounts for 16% of the population, was 110,000 more than in the previous year.

The number of children in poverty rose by 30,000 to 180,000. 15% of pensioners (150,000) were living in relative poverty in 2012-13, 10,000 more than the previous year

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

right wing terrorists

 Fox News will chose to either:
1) ignore the events in Las Vegas;
2) highlight those tragic events as an example for why concealed carry gun laws should be the rule of the land;
3) that it is Barack Obama's fault;
4) advance a lazy, intellectually bankrupt, and morally empty deflection: black people in Chicago shoot each other all the time!;
5) argue that these people are "sick" and "crazy", so why are we even talking about their politics?;
6) lie and commit an intellectually rapacious and craven assault on the historical record by suggesting that white supremacist Nazis are in fact really "liberals".

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

War and Peace

The United States has roughly 5% of the world’s population and 50% of the world’s military spending. The U.S. military swallows 55.2 percent of federal discretionary spending, according to the National Priorities Project. No other nation spends remotely comparable funds on militarism. The U.S. spend SEVERAL TIMES what any other nation spends on war and war preparation. Military spending produces fewer jobs than spending on education or infrastructure, or even on tax cuts for working people, according to studies by the Political Economy Research Institute. It is the ethics of a sociopath to justify killing for economic gain, but of a fool to do so for economic loss. The military is the top consumer of petroleum.

 Foreign aid is $23 billion now.  It would cost very little to make the U.S. the most beloved rather than most feared nation on earth. It would cost about $30 billion per year to end starvation and hunger around the world.  It would cost about $11 billion per year to provide the world with clean water. Round up to $50 billion per year to provide the world with both food and water. That’s 5 percent of the roughly $1 trillion the U.S. wastes every year on militarism.

 Instead a WIN/Gallup poll of 65 nations at the end of 2013 found the U.S. far ahead of any other as the nation people believed was the greatest threat to peace in the world.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fight Big Mac

Chanting “Hey McDonald’s, You Can’t Hide, We Can See Your Greedy Side,” and “No Big Macs, No French Fries, Make our Wage Supersize,” protesters blocked the entrance to McDonald’s Hamburger University training facility in Oakbrook. Thousands of McDonald's workers demanding higher wages and the right to form a union without retaliation. Protesters want the fast food giant pay a minimum wage of $15 per hour. According to organizers, more than 100 McDonald's workers  and supporters were arrested.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

workers are better people

1. The Poor Don't Cheat As Much

An analysis of seven different psychological studies found that "upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals." A series of experiments showed that upper-class individuals were more likely to break traffic laws, take valued goods from others, lie in a negotiation, and cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize.

And this doesn't even begin to examine the many, many significant  cases of fraudulent behavior in the banking industry. Or private equity firms that cheat their investors over 50 percent of the time. Or the many unscrupulous corporate  tax avoidance strategies.

2. The Poor Care More About Other People

Numerous reputable  sources have concluded that lower class individuals tend to be more generous and trusting and helpful, compared to the upper class. As people gain in wealth, they  depend less on others, and thus they have  less reason to understand the  feelings and needs of the less fortunate. The poor are better at  interpersonal relationships because they need other people.

In addition, careful studies have determined that money pushes people further to the  right, making them  less egalitarian, and less willing, as a practical consequence, to provide broad  educational opportunities to all members of society.

One neuro-imaging  analysis even suggested that the super-wealthy view photos of impoverished people as  things rather than as human beings. They react to the poor not with sympathy, but with contempt.

3. The Rich Focus on Me, Me, Me

The authors of a recent psychological  study argue that rich people are different because they have the  freedom to focus on  self. In support of this, a number of  studies have demonstrated that higher social class is associated with increased  narcissism, even to the point of looking at themselves more frequently in a mirror. The rich feel entitled. They  attribute success to their 'superior' traits, while people from lower economic backgrounds attribute success to societal values, such as educational opportunities.

4. The Poor Give a Greater Percentage of Their Money to Others

Research has shown that low-income Americans spend a much higher percentage of their income on charitable giving.  Results from three studies average out to 4.5% from low-income people, 2.7% from those with high incomes. With respect to helping people in need, the rich give even less. As Robert Reich  notes, about  two-thirds of 'charitable' donations from the rich go to their foundations and alma maters, and to "culture palaces" – operas, art museums, symphonies, and theaters.

Charles Koch said, "I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington." The well-being of  high society, perhaps.

5. Entrepreneurs are not in the Capitalist Class

The meritorious behavior of job creation comes from the  “middle class”, which is quickly  sliding toward lower-income status. The very rich generally don't risk their money in job-creating startup businesses.  Over 90% of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), the stock market, and real estate.

With the demise of the “middle class”,  entrepreneurship is decreasing. According to a Brookings Institute  report, the "firm entry rate," a measure of new firms and thus of entrepreneurial startup activity,  fell by nearly half in the thirty-plus years between 1978 and 2011. America's average entrepreneur is  26 years old, but most of our 26-year-olds are burdened by student loan debt.

 9 out of 10 of the fastest-growing  occupations are considered low-wage, generally not requiring a college degree.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Screening Out Poverty

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

class war america

Forget the pro-Soviet sympathies and enjoy certain other truths in this video.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Insanity Of Nuclear War Thinking

First posted on the Countercurrents website

“If the adversary feels that you are unpredictable, even rash, he will be deterred from pressing you too far. The odds that he will fold increase greatly, and the unpredictable president will win another hand.” - Richard Nixon

The UK-based military think-tank has produced a report (1) that uses many declassified documents, testimonies and interviews suggests that the world has, indeed, been lucky avoiding nuclear catastrophe, given the number of instances in which nuclear weapons were nearly used inadvertently as a result of miscalculation or error. Historical cases of war resulting from misunderstanding demonstrate the importance of the ‘human judgment factor' in decision-making. The report describes the history of the Indian-Pakistan nuclear stand-offs, the latest being the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks which risked nuclear escalation through a possible rapid conventional response by India and a potential nuclear response by Pakistan.

India maintains civilian control over its nuclear weapons, routinely separates its warheads and missiles, and has an official policy of no first use. Its strategic posture evolved significantly as a result of the 1999 and 2002 incidents. After the 2001–02 crisis, it developed a rapid response conventional posture (dubbed the ‘Cold Start' doctrine). India's military doctrine centres on the use of conventional military force in order to gain territory as quickly as possible, which might be used later as potential leverage in demanding concessions from the Pakistani government. A cable from US Ambassador to India Tim Roemer, entitled ‘A Mixture of Myth and Reality', expressed doubts that India's conventional force posture would ever be used beyond the purpose of deterrence owing to operational and logistical complications, and referred to this type of military planning as rolling “the nuclear dice”.

India particularly relies on a significant degree of unpredictability in the deployment of eight specialized divisions known as Integrated Battle Groups (IBG)– including infantry and artillery units – in Pakistan's territory to strike at its military's cohesion. In response, Pakistan has fielded the nuclear-tipped short-range Nasr missile, thus introducing tactical nuclear weapons into an already charged atmosphere.

Pakistan's nuclear command-and-control structure is officially divided between three authorities. The first is the National Command Authority, which is chaired by the prime minister. The second is the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), a body comprising government and military representatives set up as the result of command-and-control reforms between 1999 and 2001. The third is Strategic Forces Command, comprised of the military. The storage status of Pakistan's nuclear weapons during peacetime has not been explicitly clarified, but it is widely believed that the SPD exercises heightened vigilance against the possibility that they could go missing. Reports indicate that Pakistan does separate its warheads from its delivery systems, and that the warheads themselves are separated by ‘isolating the fissile “core” or trigger from the weapon and storing it elsewhere'. While Pakistan's nuclear weapons are therefore not susceptible to being used while on a hair-trigger alert, the warhead's components are nevertheless stored at military bases and can be put together at short notice. The disputed nature of command and control over Pakistan's military raises questions regarding the stability of its nuclear forces in a context where conventional confrontations can potentially escalate without authorization from the civilian leadership. The Chatham House authors describe the near use of nuclear weapons in the confrontations between India and Pakistan.


Brasstacks, was an Indian military exercise that took place in 1986–87 and involved and involved 400,000 Indian troops within 100 miles of the Rajasthan border with Pakistan, which responded with its own exercises, Flying Horse and Sledgehammer. The Indian military leadership spent two weeks debating how to respond before passing on news of the escalation to newly elected Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. On 18 January 1987, the US ambassador intervened by meeting with the Indian minister of state for defence and securing an agreement to resolve the crisis, a message he subsequently passed to Pakistani officials. Only then did India and Pakistan activate the crisis hotline. Brasstacks demonstrated miscommunication and misperception on both sides. India, for example, did not fully notify Pakistan of the exercise beforehand. In addition, Pakistan claims that Gandhi earlier agreed that Brasstacks should be reviewed and provided vague assurances. However, the exercise continued as planned and the situation escalated further, possibly because Gandhi knew so little about it.

Leading the Operation Brasstacks was Indian Chief of Army Staff General K. Sundarji, and there is reason to believe he intentionally escalated the crisis in the hope of provoking Pakistan into a military confrontation that would allow India to take out Pakistan's burgeoning nuclear weapons programme. The Pakistani intelligence service, which, rightly or wrongly, interpreted Brasstacks as a test of will with the potential for confrontation and chose to reciprocate with its own military exercises. Shortly afterwards the nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan acknowledged the existence of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

Kargil Crisis

The 1999 Kargil crisis arose out of a conventional military conflict between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir. In May 1999, Pakistani troops and pro-Pakistani militants were spotted by Indian intelligence in the Kargil region of Kashmir on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC). The Indian Air Force bombed Pakistani bases along the LoC in Kargil.

The incident soon escalated into a military confrontation involving the threat to use nuclear weapons. In the midst of the crisis, Pakistan moved its nuclear weapons from storage. At the end of May, Shamshad Ahmad, Pakistan's foreign secretary, declared that Pakistan would “not hesitate to use any weapon in its arsenal to protect its territorial integrity”.

The conflict ended thanks to the successful mediation of US President Bill Clinton, who was able to persuade Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, to withdraw his forces from the Indian side of the LoC in Kargil. It then emerged how little Sharif knew of the Kargil incursion relative to the head of the military, General Musharraf. A government minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, later commented that Pakistan's army “very consciously only provided [Sharif] an outline of the exercise in which the focus was totally different … [It] did not involve the armed forces or crossing the [Line of Control].”

Clinton explicitly asked Sharif if he was aware of how “advanced the threat of nuclear war really was” and whether he knew that Pakistan's military had begun preparing its nuclear arsenal. Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif explained “I was taken aback by this revelation because I knew nothing about it. The American President further told me during the meeting that the nuclear warheads have been moved so that these could be used against India.”

Bruce Riedel, an adviser to Clinton at the time of the Kargil incident, implied that Sharif was under considerable pressure to reach a solution which would allow Pakistan to save face.

Sharif feared that otherwise “fundamentalists would move against him and this meeting would be his last with Clinton”. Furthermore, Sharif's denial that he gave the order to prepare Pakistan's missile forces raised concerns about the nature of military and civilian control at the time of the Kargil conflict.

The Kashmir Again

In 2001 and 2002, India and Pakistan went into a renewed cycle of hostility as a result of the unresolved Kashmir conflict and additional provocations. For 10 months, between December 2001 and October 2002, India and Pakistan kept one million soldiers in a state of high readiness. India had rejected the first use of nuclear weapons, but President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan refused to do the same and stated that the “possession of nuclear weapons by any state obviously implies they will be used under some circumstances”.

The Chatham House report describes:

“The crisis was a combination of logical decision-making and seemingly irrational behaviour by decision-makers on both sides, most likely owing to misperceptions.”

India assumed that Pakistan would not resort to nuclear use if it was involved in a limited conventional war, as the United States would intervene early before the crisis escalated to that level. India's defence minister maintained that Pakistan would eventually refrain from a nuclear strike because a nuclear exchange would ‘destroy' Pakistan while India would ‘win' and lose ‘only a part of its population'.

The conflict was resolved when US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage made public a pledge by Musharraf to move against specific terrorist groups (such as Lashkar-e-Taiba) and seek negotiations with India. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, was also involved in the talks with the Pakistani side to defuse the nuclear dimension of the crisis. “All this chatter about nuclear weapons is very interesting, but let's talk general-to-general,' Powell on one occasion maintained in a conversation with the Pakistani military leadership. “You know and I know that you can't possibly use nuclear weapons […] It's really an existential weapon that has not been used since 1945. So stop scaring everyone.”

One socialist journal at the time wrote “What a barbaric age we live in. Still, borders are to be fought over. Still, gods to be avenged and, still, that age-old cursed prize – profit – to be sought in every stinking orifice. And were the mushroom clouds to start rising over Islamabad and New Delhi, western capitalists would still ponder how they could cash in on this hell, this hell of their system's making.” (2)


India and Pakistan rely heavily on the diplomatic mediation of third-party states, particularly the US, to resolve their stand-offs and its presence in the region as “insurance against escalation to war". Yet the 2001–02 crisis highlighted that “what-if"... is it possible in the next crisis, US diplomacy may fail to prevent nuclear first use by Pakistan and/or nuclear retaliation by India.

Decisions about nuclear use in many of these cases came down to only a handful of people. Nuclear weapons require constant vigilance and caution. For as long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of an inadvertent, accidental or deliberate detonation remains.

(1) “Too Close for Comfort”

(2) Socialist Standard, July 2002.

May Day

Into the Streets May First

Into the streets May First!
Into the roaring Square!
Shake the midtown towers!
Shatter the downtown air!
Come with a storm of banners,
Come with an earthquake tread,
Bells, hurl out of your belfries,
Red flag, leap out your red!
Out of the shops and factories,
Up with the sickle and hammer,
Comrades, these are our tools,
A song and a banner!
Roll song, from the sea of our hearts,
Banner, leap and be free;
Song and banner together,
Down with the bourgeoisie!
Sweep the big city, march forward,
The day is a barricade;
We hurl the bright bomb of the sun,
The moon like a hand grenade.
Pour forth like a second flood!
Thunder the alps of the air!
Subways are roaring our milllons--
Comrades, into the square!

Alfred Hayes
New Masses, May, 1934.

This world is run by a small clique – a tiny group of people who own and control the wealth and power – the 1% that controls the majority. And they have at their beck and call a host of bought and paid for politicians that do their bidding.

The economic system we live under exists to serve this small elite. In this society you don’t get rich by working hard, you get rich by having others work hard for you. In fact: the harder the work, the less you get paid. Everything of value is the product of human labor; it was created by women and men working hard. The capitalists own the places where we work, we produce the goods and services and everything worthwhile – they get the profits. We are dealing with a class that is made up of parasites. Malcolm X was entirely right to say “Show me a capitalist and I’ll show you a bloodsucker.”

We seek to end the rule of the rich and build a socialist system – a system where all political and economic power is in the hands of the people. This is not a dream. Working people are the majority. We have every right to reorganise society in such a way that it serves our interests. Provided that we have the democratic organisation, determination, and understanding necessary, the future is ours.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Our Task

In the next 30 to 40 years, we must make significant progress toward solving one of the world’s grand challenges by providing a safe, affordable, nutritious food supply for a growing population. It is estimated the earth will have 9 billion people by the year 2050. Even today, almost 1 billion of the 7 billion inhabitants are malnourished. Global climate change could make the situation even more dire.

Specifically, food production will have to increase 60 percent to 100 percent as population grows and people in developing countries consume more meat and dairy products. (It takes a lot of acres to rear life-stock.)

It is likely that new acres won’t be as productive, so we’ll need to raise yields on the land we have. Otherwise, there won’t be very much wild habitat left for future generations.

A recent study by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) says, “As experts have been suspecting for a while, people’s diets around the world have become very similar and in the past 50 years the world has come to rely increasingly on just a few crops for most of its food supplies.”   While rice remains a top cereal, people in several countries are increasingly moving from rice to a wheat and meat-based diet due to changing lifestyles and economic growth. According to the CIAT study, many local crops that used to be important in Africa or Asia such as sorghum, millet, rye, sweet potato, cassava, and yam are being eaten less and less;the same could be said of rice as is seen in Japan, South Korea and several other Asian countries. Some major crops like soybeans and corn are mostly used for animal feed and energy production, a trend blamed on urbanization and economic development.  

Globalized food poses several health risks, but the real danger of relying upon just a few crops increases the risk of food crises. Similar to the concept of portfolio diversification in finance, a diversified agriculture is more resilient to major threats like drought, insect pests, and diseases, all expected to worsen with climate change. And can we rule out a food crisis due to war, or war due to a food crisis?

Prior to globalization, the risk was a local crop failure could endanger the lives of local people and trade was much more cumbersome and expensive.  Now, relatively speaking, many consumers have the world at their fingertips but the vulnerability of the food system has become global.  We take it for granted that we can go order a pizza because the restaurant assumes it can buy flour, and the flour mill is betting on a good wheat crop…on the other side of the world.

The socialists task is to feed the world and  protect the planet

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Socialism in the Euro-Elections

Open the Borders

Willie fort

The influx of eastern Europeans is nothing new to the labour movement, particularly in Scotland. Upon reading “class-struggle trade unionist” Willie Hunter’s letter, what struck me was the absence of a class response, and particularly a trade union one, to foreign workers. Instead there is an expectation that the capitalist state will protect the ‘privileges’ of the native-born worker.

At the beginning of the 20th century in Lanarkshire, there was much vitriol against Lithuanian incomers. They were employed in the iron works and the coal pits, and they too were accused of wage-cutting and scabbing. Nevertheless, the Lanarkshire County Miners’ Union, in the space of some 15 years, went from offering support to miners willing to strike against Lithuanian workers to demanding that Lithuanian miners in Lanarkshire should not be deported. During those 15 years, the Lithuanians had joined the union in large numbers and were active in it. Unionisation was the key to improved relations between the Lithuanian labour force and the LCMU.

Once the Lithuanians began to respond positively to local strike demands, the other allegations made against them were simply not an issue. The adoption of a more class-conscious attitude and the strength of their new found loyalty to the union was in part due to the fact that the union had taken some very positive steps to encourage Lithuanian membership, such as printing the rules in Lithuanian and offering entitlement to claim full benefits.

I suggest Willie refreshes his class-struggle credentials with a read of A voice from the aliens from 1895 and one of the earliest appeals against immigration controls (

Yes, Willie, we are worlds apart. Fear-mongering and divisive politics play well in creating more xenophobia and it has a long history, as I have shown. But those who fall for the propaganda should know that keeping out immigrants with a ‘fortress Britain’ (or a ‘fortress Europe’) has not and will not solve our problems and make us better off.

Alan Johnstone
Socialist Party of Great Britain


I cannot escape the conclusion that there exists a nasty xenophobic undertone to Dave Vincent’s reply (Letters, March 13).

First, has Dave never heard of the Irish immigration to Scotland and in particular to the Lanarkshire coal pits? So the Lithuanians were indeed not the only immigrant population used as cheaper labour by the bosses. Indeed many encouraged the division and the bitter consequences are still felt today every time an Orange Walk takes place locally.

But, that aside, he writes: “[Lithuanians] joined unions in their own defence” (my emphasis). How’s that for a jaundiced interpretation? The local union sought them out to join for everybody’s mutual defence, Dave. He then goes on to claim that “many foreign workers coming here readily line up with the employers and Tories by denigrating the British unemployed as lazy and workshy”. Perhaps some do, but I hazard to guess that they are heavily outnumbered by native-born who are just as ready to point the finger at those on the so-called ‘Benefit Streets’ as shirkers.

Many years ago I would hear seasoned trade unionists justify pay differentials between women and male workers by claiming they worked only for pin-money and stole jobs from those who had families to raise. Dave’s argument proves to be little different from those against these earlier ‘interlopers’ into the labour market.

The plea that immigration controls should be imposed and certain foreigners excluded should have no place in a workers’ movement that is calling upon the exploited of all the world to unite for their emancipation. Any policy for the exclusion of other suffering wage-slaves is more consistent with the attitudes of the callous capitalist class rather than of the movement whose proud boast it is that it stands uncompromisingly for the oppressed and downtrodden of all the world. Immigrants have just as good a right to enter this country as British workers have in exiting it.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain will not sacrifice principle and jeopardise our goal for some immediate advantage. We will not spurn fellow workers lured here by the glimmer of hope that their burdens may be lightened by the promise of some improvement in conditions. If revolutionary socialism does not stand unflinchingly and uncompromisingly for the working class and for the exploited of all lands, then it stands for none and its claim is a false pretence.

If the Socialist Party risk losing support because we refuse to call for the border gates to be closed in the faces of our own brothers and sisters, we will be none the weaker for spurning such tactics to acquire false friends. All the votes gained would do us little good if our party ceases to be a revolutionary party, yielding to public opinion to modify our principles for the sake of popularity and membership numbers.

In the centenary year of when other supposed socialists abandoned the workers’ internationalism and embraced national chauvinism - with one group under HM Hyndman going as far to demonstrate their patriotic ardour by setting up a National ‘Socialist’ Party - we in the Socialist Party are the party of all workers, regardless of place of birth. We stand resolutely for world socialism and if this is too encompassing for some despite them paying lip-service to the claim - so be it. We shall leave them to their various national ‘socialisms’.

“Marx didn’t advocate open borders because at the time he wrote border controls didn’t exist. So no-one can definitively assert what he would have said then!” True enough (and fortunately for him nor was there any asylum-seekers legislation for political refugees), but Eleanor, his daughter, was particularly active in distributing the statement, “The voice of the aliens’, which I recommended as a read.

I will end with a quote from it: “To punish the alien worker for the sin of the native capitalist is like the man who struck the boy because he was not strong enough to strike his father.”

Alan Johnstone
Socialist Party of Great Britain

Same evils

I’m pleased that many correspondents also disagree with Dave Vincent that the nation-state is a necessary evil (Letters, March 27). It has been asked what Marx would have done. We can easily answer by describing what the First International, of which he was a member, did. They organised!

The International announced that “the emancipation of labour is neither a local nor a national, but a social problem, embracing all countries” and that “Each member of the International Association, on removing his domicile from one country to another, will receive the fraternal support of the Associated Working Men”. Furthermore, “To counteract the intrigues of capitalists - always ready, in cases of strikes and lockouts, to misuse the foreign workman as a tool against the native workman - is one of the particular functions which our society has hitherto performed with success. It is one of the great purposes of the Association to make the workmen of different countries not only feel but act as brethren and comrades in the army of emancipation.”

The International consequently addressed fellow workers: “Help us, then, in the noble enterprise, help us to bring about a common understanding between the peoples of all countries, so that in the struggles of labour with unprincipled capitalists they may not be able to execute the threat which they so often indulge in, of using the working men of one country as instruments to defeat the just demands of the workmen in another. This has been done in the past, and seeds of discord and national antipathies have been thereby created and perpetuated. A part of our mission is to prevent the recurrence of such evils, and you can help us to achieve our aims.”

Marx, in the name of the International, writes: “If the Edinburgh masters succeeded, through the import of German labour, in nullifying the concessions they had already made, it would inevitably lead to repercussions in England. No-one would suffer more than the German workers themselves, who constitute in Great Britain a larger number than the workers of all the other continental nations. And the newly imported workers, being completely helpless in a strange land, would soon sink to the level of pariahs. Furthermore, it is a point of honour with the German workers to prove to other countries that they, like their brothers in France, Belgium and Switzerland, know how to defend the common interests of their class and will not become obedient mercenaries of capital in its struggle against labour.”

There is never an appeal to the capitalist state to impose immigration laws, but a call to the workers to unionise.

Borders are a means by which capitalists protect their assets, which include us. It is immigration controls that give employers greater power over migrants, particularly new arrivals or those who are dependent on them for their visa status, a power they do not always have over native workers. Nationalism is a huge barrier to developing class-consciousness. Borders cause workers in countries to care less about the other workers in the world. Across the world, national states are imposing ever more restrictive immigration policies. Nevertheless, people have become more internationalised and are acquiring a cosmopolitan identity.

Making the demand, ‘No borders’, reveals the importance of border controls to capitalist social relations - relationships dependent on the practices of expropriation and exploitation. The rights of property consist of the right to exclude others, while anti-nationalism is a part of a global reshaping of societies in a way that is not compatible with capitalism or of the state. Socialists must reject the concept of borders that are used as control devices over labour. By opposing the idea of borders we begin to perceive nation-states as ‘theirs’ and not part of ‘our world’.

I’ll end with another quote from the First International: “The poor have no country; in all lands they suffer from the same evils; and they therefore realise that the barriers put up by the powers that be, the more thoroughly to enslave the people, must fall.”

Alan Johnstone

First here

Firstly, if I recollect correctly, nobody in this exchange about immigration has tried to deny that supply and demand has an effect on the price of labour - which is a commodity, after all, to be bought and sold on the market.

Stephen Diamond (Letters, April 10) refers to Peter Turchin, who gives us a history lesson, in that the Black Death killed half of the population and consequently real wages tripled. Turchin also refers to high birth rates in the past as an additional cause of an increase in labour supply. Surely Stephen Diamond is not suggesting enforced eugenics as a means of protecting our living standards.

Likewise I previously mentioned in passing that the entry of women into the labour market lowered wages. In the US the demands for job equality of African Americans also had its own effect in slowing down wages. Should the labour movement have supported discrimination on the grounds of sex and race? Or shall we allot blame to those older workers who insist upon staying in their jobs, while youth unemployment soars? After all, young people do not possess the sort of savings, paid-off mortgage or upcoming pension that the elderly allegedly enjoy, do they? Let’s be ageist in our search for scapegoats.

It is often pointed out that immigration rules are largely in the interests of businesses - they let in workers from low-wage countries so they can be more easily exploited and used to drive down the wage levels of the locals. But we must realise that the only way to change this would be through a powerful working class movement which had the ability to force change upon the government. And if this were the case, then it could also force change on the concrete material issues which migration impacts on (low wages, less jobs to go around, lack of affordable housing) - and, of course, a united working class is much more effective at fighting for its own interests, as opposed to one divided along national/racial/citizenship lines. So we are more likely to actually achieve something by being internationalist in regards to immigration.

The reasonable-sounding position that ‘There’s not enough to go around for everyone, so what we have should be kept solely for those first here’ is totally antithetical to a socialist perspective. A truly working class perspective leads us to resent not each other, but what causes the shortages of resources in the first place.

Migration, for sure, generates a lot of problems, but what is the alternative? Any attempt to simply curtail it leads to a lot of suffering and plenty of draconian policies. From a working class perspective, workers from another country are not qualitatively different from workers from another gender, younger workers or workers from a different area of the same country. We are socialists for one reason only - to remove the root cause of our social problems: capitalism. The solution doesn’t lie in withdrawing into these sectional interests of (simplistically put) ‘First here, first served’.

Alan Johnstone
Socialist Party of Great Britain

From an exchange on the Weekly Worker Letter Page