Saturday, December 28, 2019

Our Planet Is Still Large

There exists some prevalent myths about population that pervades the environment movement. Too often our ecological emergency is blamed on too many people for the current carrying capacity of our planet.

This webpage and its the images it depicts is a helpful reminder that we have a long way to go before our planet is over-crowded.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Postal workers bring down a prime minister

Finland now has the youngest prime minister in the world, 34-year-old Sanna Marin who was catapulted into power when her predecessor, Antti Rinne, was forced to resign after a postal worker dispute escalated into a nationwide general strike.

At the end of August, the government proposed changes to the classification of around 700 workers in the postal service, known as Posti. 

The proposal was to shift 700 Posti employees working in packaging and e-commerce shipping into a separate collective bargaining unit. That move would’ve cut their pay by 30 percent to 50 percent.

In response, the Postal and Logistics Union went on strike on November 11. Two weeks later, solidarity strikes from unions in other industries shut the nation down, as flights, ferries, and other services halted. Polling from the Finnish magazine Maaseudun Tulevaisuus also showed that around 60 percent of the general public sided with the workers — despite the disruption to their daily lives. UNI Global Union, an international umbrella for service sector unions, also supported the strikers.

Two days later, the postal workers reached an agreement with the government that protected their pay. But the public backlash to the bungled pay cut proposal was too much for the prime minister to overcome. 

Rinne resigned on December 3.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Taxing the rich

America’s overall tax system is only barely progressive – meaning that the richest Americans pay only a bit more in taxes as a share of their income than everyone else. And at the very top, among those taking home hundreds of millions each year, the tax code is actually regressive, meaning the more they make the less they pay. The richest 1% own nearly 40% of all the wealth, but pay only 20% of all the taxes.

Over the next 10 years, the richest 1% of American households will take home about another $22tn, after federal taxes. Right now they pay about 30% of their income in taxes. Increasing their overall average tax rate by about 10 percentage points would generate roughly $3tn in revenue over the next 10 years, while still leaving the 1% with an average post-tax annual income of more than $1.4m. (That new tax rate, by the way, would be about the same as the overall rate the richest 1% paid back in the 1940s and 1950s.)

Three trillion dollars in new revenue is enough to make college free at all public universities, make a massive new investment in infrastructure along the lines of what Senate Democrats have proposed, and triple the budget for the National Institutes of Health. 

Raise the top 1%’s effective tax rate by as much as 25 percentage points. Doing that would generate about $8tn in revenue, which is enough to send every household in the bottom 75% a check for nearly $8,500 every year for 10 years.

Whereas income is new money that comes in each year, wealth is the accumulated money that has built up over time. As of 2016, the wealthiest 1% of American households owned about $27tn in total, an average of about $23m per household.

A tax that took about 1% of that wealth each year would yield about $4tn over the next decade. To put that amount in perspective, $4tn is more than the federal government will spend over the next decade on foster care, school lunch, school breakfast, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps, unemployment compensation, supplemental security income for the elderly, blind people and those with disabilities, and all the tax credits for working families combined.

Income and wealth taxes at those levels would, of course, be a lot higher than we have now, but they wouldn’t be so high as to actually, directly, “abolish billionaires”. The rich would still be richer than everyone else, just slightly less so.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Anti-Zionism Peace Prize

Jewish Australian writer, journalist and film-maker Antony Loewenstein has been awarded the 2019 Jerusalem (Al Quds) Peace Prize by Palestinian Australian human rights activists. The day before the award, pro-Israeli Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, was awarded the Jerusalem Prize.

Antony Loewenstein acceptance speech raised some of the key issues:
Re ostracism and defamation of anti-racist Jews by bigoted Zionists and pro-Zionists: “I also want to acknowledge my father, Jeffrey [present at the award] who has been unwavering in his support of my work. Both he and my mother, Violet, who sadly died three years ago, paid a steep personal price for supporting the Palestinian cause. Perhaps predictably, many in the Jewish community have no tolerance for any hint of sympathy for Palestinians, preferring to label them terrorists and a threat to Jewish self-determination. This is the bigotry and racism that I continue to fight on a regular basis.”
Re the shame of anti-racist Jews over Apartheid Israel:  “ We live in occupied East Jerusalem and barely a week goes by when I don’t see an armed Israeli soldier or policeman harass or humiliate a Palestinian man, woman or child near my home. As an atheist Jew – I don’t believe in God but feel culturally connected to the dissenting traditions of my religion – I’ve long despaired at the depths to which the self-declared spokespeople of the Jewish faith, from Rabbis to Zionist leaders, have defended the now 52-year occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights and justified or denied the Zionist massacres of Palestinian innocents at the birth of the Jewish state in 1948. It’s inexcusable and makes me ashamed to be Jewish.”
Re ongoing Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine: “Think about the constant Israeli house demolitions of Palestinian homes, extremist Jewish settlers physically throwing out Palestinians from their homes, I’ve witnessed this myself in East Jerusalem, the predictable onslaughts against the besieged people of Gaza and the creeping annexation of the West Bank where hundreds of thousands of Israeli colonists squat illegally on Palestinian land, notwithstanding the Trump administration trying to ignore international law this week by saying that they no longer regard the settlements as illegal. These are daily realities for millions of Palestinians, often ignored in the corporate media or defended as necessary in the never-ending “war on terror”. Too often their voices are shunned.”
Re anti-racist Jewish groups critical of Apartheid Israel: “Nonetheless, I’m heartened by powerful US Jewish groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace, Never Again Action and IfNotNow and Jews Against the Occupation in Australia because they articulate the kind of Judaism and humanity that isn’t blinded by loyalty to the Zionist tribe. These Jews, from the religious to secular, believe that adherence to the Zionist cause isn’t the only way to be a good person in the 21stcentury. If anything, Zionism is now associated with the longest running occupation in modern history. That’s the shameful legacy of a people who 75 years ago lost six million people including many in my family, killed by the genocidal carnage unleashed by Nazi Germany.”
Re the siege and bombing of the Gaza Concentration Camp: “My first visit to Gaza was in 2009, six months after Operation Cast Lead, an Israeli massacre that killed 1400 Palestinians, many of them civilians. I wrote back then that, “the Jabaliyah area near the Israel/Gaza border looks like a nuclear bomb has wiped out any signs of life. In particular pockets, all the houses are flattened. I’ve never seen so much destruction in my life. Twisted concrete, computer keyboards, teddy bears, mattresses, plates and toys thrown randomly as if by an act of God. The Israeli God.” Although I had already spent years documenting the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, seeing Gaza with its resilient yet traumatised people was bracing. Little did I know then that the Israeli and Egyptian imposed siege, backed by many of the world’s supposed enlightened nations including Australia, would continue into 2019, still crushing the dreams, hopes and health of two million Palestinians. The siege should end immediately.”
Re the present Apartheid versus a   non-racist, one-state, secular  democracy for Palestine/Israel: “My  personal vision is a secular one-state solution, where all citizens of the state, Jewish, Muslim, Christian or atheist, live in a democratic nation that doesn’t prioritise one racial group over another. Today’s Israel is a deeply undemocratic entity. Remember that five million occupied Palestinians, in the West Bank and Gaza, can’t vote during Israeli elections despite the fact that the Israeli government determines which favoured Palestinians receive permits to work, study, travel and access decent medical care. There’s a word for this; apartheid.”
Re Apartheid Israel and global anti-Jewish anti-Semitism: “At a time of rising anti-Semitism across the globe, where synagogues are attacked and Jews are killed for simply being Jewish, it’s vital to stand against all forms of hate and join in solidarity with those who are fighting for a world free of violence. We must oppose the dangerous conflation of real anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the Jewish state. When real anti-Semitism is rising and a serious threat to Jewish life and liberty, conflating the two is pernicious and diminishes the real dangers to us all.”
Re Trump and racist Zionist plans for endless Apartheid in Palestine: “Where to from here? We need to be aware of the Israeli nationalist agenda, supported by Washington and Australia, that imagines an indefinite Israeli occupation and dependent Palestinians. Just this week the former mayor of Jerusalem, the right-wing Nir Barkat, announced that his vision, relayed to the Trump White House, involved huge Israeli industrial parks employing 250,000 Palestinians while prioritising Bible tourism for evangelical Christians. Without massive outside pressure, Israel has no incentive to end its decades-long plan of control over the entire land of Palestine.”
Re Australia and Apartheid Israel: “ Australia could play a constructive, albeit small role, if a brave federal government severed military ties with Israel or stopped signing deals with Israeli security companies that are complicit in Israel’s subjugation of the Palestinian people. History is replete with inspiring examples of how committed individuals, groups and movements worked to end discrimination and occupation. Palestine will be eventually liberated and it will be thanks to the dedication of the Palestinian people, committed citizens, enlightened Jews and people like you in this room. Thank you again for recognising my work. Rest assured, I’ve only just begun.”

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Only the Working Class Can Save the Planet

Only in a communist world without states and borders will human beings be able to really tackle the damage that has been done to their natural surroundings.
"Even an entire society, a nation or all simultaneously existing societies taken together are not owners of the earth, they are simply its holders, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations..." - Marx
Human beings cannot exist without disturbing the natural environment. It is also historical fact that some human communities destroyed the very basis of their own existence. Take the ancient city states of Mesopotamia with their great irrigation projects which diverted the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This allowed a great increase in population and the first urban communities which, however, collapsed one by one as the waters became saline and the soil turned into desert. There must have been tremendous human suffering, not to mention class war between the haves and have-nots in the process.
But today's environmental crisis is of a very different order. For a start it is global and threatens the very existence of life on planet earth. It is also multi-pronged. From water pollution to plastic waste islands the size of Texas, from poisoned rivers and degraded soils to the over 80,000 chemicals now in existence, the quality and scope of life on planet earth is being reduced. But the fact of global warming due to carbon emissions is now undeniable (unless you are Donald Trump). The knock-on effects and likely consequences are so serious it's no wonder that the Green movement is becoming more radical and gaining momentum. Like a modern-day Joan of Arc, Greta Thunberg's warnings to the powers-that-be (from the Swedish parliament to the G7 and now the United Nations) are sparking a wider protest movement. The outrage is palpable. The cause is admirable.
Unfortunately for those who believe this movement is everything, there is no way that it can force the "self-interested politicians" to "to take immediate transformative action towards a society that can sustain us and the planet" [activists' invitation for people to join the 20th September protests]. It is not just about numbers of protesters. In places where the movement takes hold governments and politicians may well be pressured into adopting more radical environmental goals. Indeed they already are, although with questionable results. (As we know, China is now the world's largest carbon polluter and overall global carbon emissions are at an all-time high.) But as for any deeper "transformative action", the sort that could start to remedy the damage already done, that requires no less than revolutionary change. On a world scale. A revolution to overthrow capitalism.
More and more environmentalists agree with this. But...

What Does It Mean to Overthrow Capitalism?

First we need to understand what capitalism is. In a world where the 26 richest people own as much as the poorest 50% [Oxfam report 2019], it's easy to focus on getting rid of 'elites' in order to create a more just world. Certainly sequestrating the assets of a Bill Gates or a Warren Buffett will be part of any anti-capitalist revolution but that in itself won't alter the system that spawns such gross unfairness.
The heart of the matter is that capitalism does not produce things to satisfy human needs. It produces “commodities” to be sold in order to make a profit for the capitalists. Or rather the people employed by the capitalists produce the goods. The more commodities that are produced and sold, the more profit. (Hence all the market research and advertising campaigns.) It is an infernal cycle of endless growth or more precisely accumulation of capital where human beings are reduced to instruments of production on the one hand and consumers of the products on the other.
As for the natural environment, capitalism still treats it as a source of free raw materials or a barrier to be broken down in the search for more profit and a dump for toxic trash. Now they talk of 'sustainable' solutions. What they mean is sustainable for capitalism.
Even carbon emissions have been turned into commodities to be traded on financial markets. And every company worth its salt has a comforting sustainability statement to reassure its customers and investors. Some firms are so keen to present a Green image that they are encouraging workers to take the day off and join in the September protests.
No matter how many people change their lifestyle, there is no way that a consumer rebellion can get rid of capitalism. At best it could accelerate the phasing out of the traditional carbon polluters but at what cost? Increased dependence on rare earths mined by children with their bare hands in Namibia or Rwanda. There is a comforting illusion that smoke-free digital technology is carbon-neutral. On the contrary, "digital technologies now emit 4 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than civil aviation" []. Life-style changing is a province confined to consumers who can afford to choose to pay more. This has absolutely nothing to do with overthrowing the capitalist system of production for profit based on workers' unpaid labour time.

Only the Working Class can Save the Planet from Capitalism

Capitalism will be abolished when the producers themselves — the world's working class — rise up against their position as wage slaves; when we organise production communally to directly provide for human needs. In such a world no individual can profit from the work of others since 'who does what' will be a matter of how best to allocate our collective labour time. Money will be unnecessary and tales of financial crashes leading to trade wars, human misery and real wars will belong to the past. Only in such a world — a communist world without states and borders — will human beings be able to really tackle the damage that has been done to their natural surroundings. Only then will we be able to devote the necessary time and effort to devising ways of living without destroying the natural basis for human existence.
No matter how 'democratic' the set-up, no government would act to abolish capitalism. A new world cannot come about simply through demonstrations, civil disobedience or other actions to pressurise the representatives of the capitalist class to act against their own interests.
On the other hand, crisis-torn capitalism itself is creating the conditions for a working class upsurge. Anyone who seriously wants to get rid of capitalism has no choice but to join with the internationalist communists and fight for the communist programme inside their school, university, workplace and local community as the battle between the haves and have-nots becomes a struggle for a new society.
The above article is taken from the current edition (No. 48) of Aurora, bulletin of the Communist Workers’ Organisation.

Friday, November 15, 2019

No state solution in Gaza

Once more Israel employed its overwhelming military power to bomb Gaza. This article from anarchist group on a previous onslaught against Gazans is a useful read. 

Statement distributed by the Manchester and Sheffield Anarchist Federation groups on the conflict in Gaza, in solidarity with the victims of the conflict, and for internationalism.
One thing is absolutely clear about the current situation in Gaza: the Israeli state is committing atrocities which must end immediately. With hundreds dead and thousands wounded, it has become increasingly clear that the aim of the military operation, which has been in the planning stages since the signing of the original ceasefire in June, is to break Hamas completely. The attack follows the crippling blockade throughout the supposed ‘ceasefire’, which has destroyed the livelihoods of Gazans, ruined the civilian infrastructure and created a humanitarian disaster which anyone with an ounce of humanity would seek an end to.
But that's not all there is to say about the situation. On both sides of the conflict, the idea that opposing Israel has to mean supporting Hamas and its ‘resistance’ movement is worryingly common. We totally reject this argument. Just like any other set of rulers, Hamas, like all the other major Palestinian factions, are happy and willing to sacrifice ordinary Palestinians to increase their power. This isn’t some vague theoretical point – for a period recently most deaths in Gaza were a result of fighting between Hamas and Fatah. The ‘choices’ offered to ordinary Palestinian people are between Islamist gangsters (Hamas, Islamic Jihad) or nationalist gangsters (Fatah, Al-Aqsa Martyrs brigades). These groups have shown their willingness to attack working-class attempts to improve their living conditions, seizing union offices, kidnapping prominent trade unionists, and breaking strikes. One spectacular example is the attack on Palestine Workers Radio by Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, for “stoking internal conflicts”. Clearly, a “free Palestine” under the control of any of these groups would be nothing of the sort.
As anarchists, we are internationalists, opposing the idea that the rulers and ruled within a nation have any interests in common. Therefore, anarchists reject Palestinian nationalism just as we reject Israeli nationalism (Zionism). Ethnicity does not grant “rights” to lands, which require the state to enforce them. People, on the other hand, have a right to having their human needs met, and should be able to live where they choose, freely.
Therefore, against the divisions and false choices set up by nationalism, we fully support the ordinary inhabitants of Gaza and Israel against state warfare – not because of their nationality, ethnicity, or religion, but simply because they're real living, feeling, thinking, suffering, struggling human beings. And this support has to mean total hostility to all those who would oppress and exploit them –the Israeli state and the Western governments and corporations that supply it with weapons, but also any other capitalist factions who seek to use ordinary working-class Palestinians as pawns in their power struggles. The only real solution is one which is collective, based on the fact that as a class, globally, we ultimately have nothing but our ability to work for others, and everything to gain in ending this system – capitalism – and the states and wars it needs .
That this seems like a “difficult” solution does not stop it from being the right one. Any “solution” that means endless cycles of conflict, which is what nationalism represents, is no solution at all. And if that is the case, the fact that it is “easier” is irrelevant. There are sectors of Palestinian society which are not dominated by the would-be rulers – protests organised by village committees in the West Bank for instance. These deserve our support. As do those in Israel who refuse to fight, and who resist the war. But not the groups who call on Palestinians to be slaughtered on their behalf by one of the most advanced armies in the world, and who wilfully attack civilians on the other side of the border.
Neither one state nor two states, but no states
Whoever dies, Hamas and the Israeli state win

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

We want a new society...

"In today’s society we are reduced to working in whatever job we find, without much say in how things are run. Although we depend on the work of many others, we have no relationships with them. A small group of people at the top make decisions, but as we have seen, they themselves are not really in control of this system.
We can easily imagine a different society. A society where we don't work for someone else's profits, but for a good life with everyone. Most of the jobs in the current society only exist because of the need to increase and defend profits: through advertising, insurances, stock-markets, useless goods, military interventions. If we abolish these jobs and focus on what we need for a good life we would have to work much less. Working less means we have more time not only for joy, creativity and inventiveness, but also for making decisions about life together. We would not have to let politicians and pen-pushers decide our fate, who might send us to war or announce another round of cuts.... Movements against austerity, against corruption, for better living conditions will erupt again and again, no question - in the current system this is like a law of nature. We have to help these movements find a direction. Instead of banging our heads against the walls of town halls and government buildings we have to prepare ourselves to take things over. In the end it all boils down to the old question: revolution, or waiting for things to get worse."

  Full pamphlet can be read here

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Our Election Leaflet

For distribution outside the two constituencies that we are contesting (Cardiff Central and Folkestone & Hythe).

Monday, November 04, 2019

Profit or Needs?

Profit or Needs, not Leave or Remain, is the real issue
This election, we’re told, is about Brexit. Whether ‘we’ will be richer or poorer, freer or more subservient if we stay in or leave the European Union, with or without a deal.
But does anyone seriously expect that Leaving or Remaining will end child poverty? Homelessness and food banks? Collapsing health and social services? Unemployment – or the mass insecurity of zero-hour-contracts? War and forced migration? The destruction of the Earth’s wildlife and natural resources? The threat of disastrous climate change?
The Brexit ‘debate’ simply obscures the real issue: a failed economic system where nothing is produced unless a profit can be made from it. Where human needs are everywhere subject to the inhuman demands of market forces. And this system will continue to rule our lives whether our new leaders are based in Brussels or London, Belfast or Edinburgh.
The Socialist Party stands for putting an end to this profit system. For replacing it with a society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the world’s natural and industrial resources.
We live in a world of potential plenty, where we could meet our needs by freely cooperating on the basis of ‘from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.’ There is no need for anyone anywhere in the world to go without what they need to live a happy, healthy and fulfilled life. What prevents this is the ownership of resources today by a privileged few and production for sale with the aim of making a profit.
The parties committed to running the market system – and that includes the Labour Party and the Greens – are making empty promises. A vote for them is a wasted vote as this system operates on the basis that making profits must always come before meeting needs, whatever those in government might want or have promised.
You can show that you reject the profit-driven market system, and want a classless society of equal men and women geared to directly satisfying people’s needs, by casting a write-in vote for “WORLD SOCIALISM” on your ballot paper.”