Saturday, June 25, 2016

Fact of the Day

0 comments
For every person with more than $30 million, there are over 4800 people living in extreme poverty. 

The wealth gap keeps growing as the world's richest get richer at the expense of the poor. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

JUST A THOUGHT (poem)

0 comments

JUST A THOUGHT

The Brexiteers, the Brexiteers,
Have played upon on the people’s fears;
But when their promises go lame,
And there is no E.U. to blame,
Who will they scapegoat for the tears?

© Richard Layton 


World Socialism and Solidarity

0 comments
The number of people displaced from their homes due to conflict and persecution is now greater than the population of the United Kingdom, or of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined.

The Global Trends 2015 report now notes that 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of more than 5 million from 59.5 million a year earlier. The tally comprises 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 40.8 million people internally displaced within their own countries, says the new report, which has been compiled by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Measured against the world’s population of 7.4 billion people, 1 in every 113 people globally is now either a refugee, an asylum-seeker or internally displaced.  

On average, 24 people were forced to flee each minute in 2015, four times more than a decade earlier, when six people fled every 60 seconds. Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia produce half the world’s refugees, at 4.9 million, 2.7 million and 1.1 million, respectively.

And Colombia had the largest numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs), at 6.9 million, followed by Syria’s 6.6 million and Iraq’s 4.4 million, according to the new Global Trends report.

Children make up 51 per cent of the world’s refugees in 2015, with many separated from their parents or travelling alone, the UN reported.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’ stated, “Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers,”

Mogens Lykketoft, UN General Assembly President declared that “violations of international humanitarian and human rights law are of grave concern… Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to becoming more socially and politically acceptable…”

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said, “divisive political rhetoric on asylum and migration issues, rising xenophobia, and restrictions on access to asylum have become increasingly visible in certain regions, and the spirit of shared responsibility has been replaced by a hate-filled narrative of intolerance.”

The persecution of minorities in many countries has made more acute the problem of the refugee, seeking a land where he or she will be permitted to live in comparative peace. But with hardly a single exception there are no countries which will freely admit the penniless wanderer, no matter how good his or her credentials or how great the need. The truth is that capitalism to-day is an anti-social arrangement and produces anti-social ideas, even contradictory ones. Why should something as arbitrary as where one is born determine where one is allowed to live?  The answer, sadly, is that under capitalism, artificial lines on maps divide the world into different camps, which enable those who own the earth to defend their bit of it and to make claims on other bits. A sensible society would have no concept of refugeehood or any of the other states of oppression.

The real clamour to help refugees is not coming from governments, but ordinary people from all walks of life, organising as best they can, in their groups, communities, and often as individuals. For socialists, it is reassuring that so many workers refuse to see those they are rallying to support as anything other than human beings, homeless, frightened, displaced, and have refused to see them as migrants, illegal immigrants, refugees, Syrian, Libyan, Moslem, black or any of the other categories into which our species is labelled and pigeonholed. It is an encouraging aspect the way that local people, from Sicily to Australia, have rallied to support and help refugees in their midst. It is one thing to rail against those who are allegedly coming to steal jobs or live as scroungers, but it is quite another to encounter the hopelessness and destitution of people who just want somewhere to live without persecution and bring up their family. We can only hope this solidarity grows into a revolutionary class consciousness – when these same workers demand the eradication of borders and frontiers and every other artificial boundary that divides us, realising that same solidarity can help us fashion a world in our own interests if taken a step further.

It is hopeless to appeal to the conscience of political leaders who have been directly responsible for such a monstrous crisis. Far better to have a world where men, women and children can be free to travel over its surface without the futile restrictions of nationality, and where they can satisfy their needs from a sufficiency of wealth that only socialism can make available. What an extraordinary notion it is that so many members of the human race should be forced to remain on that small section of the earth's surface in which they happened to be born. Who gave the world's rulers the right to tell us which bit of land we should live on? The apologists for capitalism who try to foment ill-feeling towards "foreigners" arriving here, whether they come to escape persecution, or to obtain slightly higher wages, never attack those many members of the upper class, including many newspaper proprietors, who swan about the world as if there were no such thing as state boundaries. The competitive struggle arising out of capitalism makes the worker shun his or her foreign fellow-workers in distress, yet they welcome the wealthy idlers born at home or abroad who consume the wealth produced by the working-class.

 Capitalism is a frightening, hate-filled system that turns everyone's hand against everyone else. Inside socialism, where the whole Earth is the common property of the whole world's population, we will all be able to travel our planet to work wherever we desire, safe in the knowledge that our brothers and sisters will welcome us on whichever shore we land.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

How to vote in the EU referendum

1 comments

Migrant Facts

0 comments
Fact: In a survey of 15 European countries, the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) found that, for every 1 per cent increase in the country’s population caused by immigration, its GDP grew between 1.25 and 1.5 per cent.

Fact: According to the ILO, low skilled migrants do “dirty, dangerous and difficult jobs, which locals do not want – crop picking, care work, cleaning.” Meanwhile highly skilled migrants fill chronic labour shortages in healthcare, education and IT. Nearly a third of UK doctors and 13 per cent of nurses are foreign born. The NHS would collapse without immigrants. What of the strain “they” put on services? Not borne out by evidence. Immigrants go where there are jobs, not benefits.

Fact: The World Bank estimates that if immigrants increased the workforce of wealthy countries by 3 per cent, that would boost world GDP by $356 billion by 2025. Further, a meta-analysis of several independent mathematical models suggests that removing all barriers to immigration would increase world GDP by between 50 and 150 per cent.

Fact: Just 3.3 per cent of the world’s population are migrants, little more than in 1990. Even within the EU, where citizens are free to live wherever they want, only 2.8 per cent reside outside their own country.
“The idea that, without border controls, everyone moves is contradicted by the evidence,” says Phillippe Legrain of the London School of Economics. “Sweden is 6 times richer than Romania and, despite free movement within the EU being permissible, Romania is not depopulated.”

Fact: The Organisation of Economic Co-Operation and Development, which represents 34 of the world’s richest nations, calculates that its immigrants on average pay as much in taxes as they take in benefits. Research suggests that EU workers in the UK take less in benefits than native Brits do. Based on recent numbers, Britain should conservatively expect 140,000 net immigrants a year for the next 50 years.

Fact: The Office for Budget Responsibility, the UK’s fiscal watchdog, calculates that if that number doubled, it would cut UK government debt by almost a third while stopping immigration would increase our debt by almost 50 per cent.

Fact: Immigrants largely aren’t to blame for housing and school place shortages. These are just as much a direct result of government cuts, underinvestment and austerity. The global economic crash wasn’t caused by immigrants, either.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The EU Debate

0 comments
A compendium of comments made on our discussion forum by our members

The whole referendum is a huge irrelevancy and a waste of time. Our limited part in the campaign has been attacking those calling themselves socialists who are on the Leave side, for encouraging nationalism. In terms of the working class, the vote won’t bring socialism closer, either way, so as a class we have no specific interest in the vote. We can envisage that some workers may feel they have an interest in staying in, for instance if your job is working for the EU, or if you are in a post financed through the European Social Fund, similarly there may be those who think they may directly benefit from a withdrawal, Border Agency staff may envisage getting more overtime if we withdraw, but as a class we have no interest. Beating the anti-foreigner drum seems to be paying off. A bit disturbing. The bigots and xenophobes who seem to be swinging the vote will be disappointed, though. Even in the event of a Leave vote there will still be immigration (as British capitalism needs more workers if it is to keep growing), only it would be "controlled". This would add a new category of "illegal" immigrants too, from Eastern Europe (in fact from anywhere in the EU) to join those from Asia and Africa. The section of the police and border agency staff dealing with this will have their workload doubled (at least) as will the profits of the people smugglers.

Many capitalists financing the Leave campaign are not "petty bourgeois" but mainly filthy rich financiers who don't want their activities to be regulated by the EU. They are regulation dodgers. Workers would be complete mugs to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for them. The main debate, in our opinion, is between National (relatively small capital) and multinational (relatively large capital). For those capitalists trading largely with the UK, the EU generates extra cost through regulation, etc. so they tend to be in favour of withdrawal. For multinationals the EU provides a huge standardised market and they tend to be in favour of staying in. Historically big capital wins out against small capital. Both sides are being criticised for exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims, but what do they expect? The protagonists on both sides are professional politicians used to telling lies and making false promises. They are not going to change their spots just because it's a referendum and not an ordinary election. All this is grist to our mill.

Paul Mason made an interesting point: it doesn't make much difference if UK stays or goes, there is now a two-speed Europe, and the Euro/Schengen countries will continue to integrate without Britrain.  It is in effect a complete waste of time and effort to vote at all in this farce, which is just a huge distraction from real issues of poverty, housing and human needs. Calling on people to stay away in their droves is a clear message, but our policy of write-in votes is about building the party's support.  We don't see how much change either in or out can make.  Any new 'free trade treaty' would have to inlude some element of free movement (no government wants those ex-pat Britons being repatriated); there'll have to be some sort of arbitration in any free trade treaty.  This really is one for the passing show.

Of course, British capitalism will survive in the event of an OUT vote and adapt, probably ending up like Norway (with access to the single EU market but no say in its rules) but, given its economic weight, something less unfavourable maybe. It wouldn't be the end of the world for them even if it doesn't make complete economic sense from their point of view. The EU referendum is just another political and economic argument amongst the boss class. The case for voting Remain is stronger than the case for voting Leave but not strong enough for suspending our view that the "lesser evil" is not a valid argument for making a choice between two capitalist options. In or out of the EU does not restrict the class struggle.  And we don't say it’s "nothing to do with me" what we are saying is to abstain from the bosses struggle(s) and support the struggle for socialism.

We don't think leaving the EU will see a bonfire of workers' rights, no matter how much Labour Remain likes to say so; the truce in class struggle these 'rights' represent is in the interests of the masters, as much as the workers.  Some international trade treaties, such as the deal between the EU and Canadia mandate ILO standards, so there's no reason why future trade deals might not do the same.  Also, there is the element of democracy, that relying on supranational bodies to inhibit government action is not healthy, it's likely that any government that does go for a bonfire of employment rights will find itself heavily voted out.  Further, it's most likely the UK will remain within the EEA, which will also mandate worker's rights. Our position of calling for an active refusal to settle disputes within the ruling class is the right one. We actively oppose the notion that any constitution of government or nation states is a solution to the problems workers face inside capitalism. We endorse the stance workers in France have taken recently in opposition to reductions in their working standards. "Workers rights at work" is not a key issue in the EU debate. They're basically nothing to do with the EU but with what workers in their unions can stop employers getting away with. Certainly, the EU doesn't seem to be effective in preserving workers rights in France. No, the only two arguable reasons for voting Remain are the two that have been aired:
(1) to maintain the free movement of labour and
 (2) to protest against the xenophobia behind the Leave case. People will make up their own mind how much weight to attach to these.
Even in the event of a Leave win, the free movement of labour stands a good chance of staying. British capitalism needs free access to the single market and there's no chance they are going to get this unless they agree to the free movement of workers.

Britain withdrawing from the EU may give an elected government here more formal control over what it decides but not any more real control as it's not governments that control the way capitalism works but the other way wrong as governments are forced to give priority to profits and conditions for profit-making. As a capitalist trading nation on its own outside a bigger block Leaving might even give the government less control. The argument is also based on the illusion of "reformism in one country" which has tried and failed many times. You can't fight capitalism exclusively in one country. For the same reason you can’t have "socialism in one country" despite what the Stalinists say. This strand of leftism that has been drawn to state capitalist versions of what it misleadingly calls socialism has been a constant source of confusion from the word go.
The referendum debate, if nothing else, is bringing all sorts of things out of the woodwork. Nationalistic claptrap inspired by nationalist sentiments have got sod all to do with socialism and are anathema to everything socialists stand for. 

Some left-wingers place themselves in the Leave camp on the specious ground that this would enhance "popular sovereignity" and "democracy in one country" Even if it was the case, what difference would a slightly enhanced political democracy in Britain make? The traditional leftwing/Social Democrat policy of "reformism in one country" has always failed, one reason being, precisely, the international nature of capitalism. Which would remain the case and in the end force any breakaway UK government to put profits before people to maintain or enhance British capitalism PLC's competitiveness on world markets, which has been the fate and experience of all Labour governments here.

If British capitalism left (and if it is decided not to protect UK farmers – a big IF) there would be lower food prices. But this would not benefit workers. Lower food prices by reducing the cost of living would lead to lower wages, leaving workers in the same position as before. So, while this might earn them a point against the Remain camp, it cuts no ice from the working class point of view.

We are not going to waste valuable time advocating versions of capitalist management over workers there are too few socialists as it is.



Tuesday, June 21, 2016

European capitalism or world socialism ?

0 comments

Our analysis for the European Union referendum

 MILLIONS ARE BEING CALLED UPON TO CHOOSE BETWEEN STAYING IN OR EXITING THE EU.

Such differences as may exist between them are about how to administer this system. none wish to go beyond the wages-prices-profits system. BOTH CAMPS want to retain producing for the market, buying and selling, money and working for wages. None of them – not even those who describe themselves as “socialist” – stand for socialism in its original meaning of a society of common ownership and democratic control with production for use not profit and moneyless distribution in accordance with the principle “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”.

What’s wrong with capitalism?
But, you may ask, what’s wrong with capitalism? What’s wrong with capitalism is that it is based on class privilege and exploitation. The means of wealth production – the means by which society survives – are monopolised by a tiny minority of the population, either directly or indirectly via the state, with the result that the rest of us have to sell our working skills to them for a wage for a salary which can never be equal to the value of what we produce – otherwise there would be no profit, the source of their privileged income and the overriding aim of production under capitalism.
What’s wrong with capitalism is that its competitive struggle for profits leads to speed-up, stress and insecurity at work, to damage to the environment, to wars and the waste of preparations for war that arms spending represents.

Capitalism can only work in the way that it does work – as a profit-making system putting profits before everything else – and cannot be reformed to work in any other way. This is why changing governments changes nothing. Governments, whatever their political colour, cannot alter the economic laws of capitalism. Just the opposite in fact. They have to apply these laws, as we have seen many times when governments elected on a promise to reform capitalism to make it work in the interest of all have ended up squeezing wages, state benefits and public services in order to protect profits. No doubt in some cases the members of these governments – like some of the candidates in this election – were perfectly sincere. But that’s not the point. It’s not a question of what they want to do, but of what they can do – or rather cannot do – within the framework of the profit system.

Capitalism simply cannot be reformed to work in the interest of the majority class of wage and salary workers. Which is why we in the World Socialist Movement say workers should organise to end it, not to try and reform it.

Socialism has not been tried
But hasn’t socialism been tried and failed? Certainly not. What was tried and what failed in Russia and Eastern Europe was not socialism, but state capitalism under the dictatorship of a single political party. What happened in these countries proved, not that socialism cannot work, but that not even the most ruthless political dictatorship can make capitalism work in the interest of the majority – since the economic system in Russia was always based on capitalist principles: goods and services were produced for sale and people had to sell their working skills for a wage in order to get money to buy the things they needed to live. True, there was essentially only one big employer, the state, but, as with private employers in the West, the aim was to make a profit, out of which the privileged nomenklatura that controlled the state maintained itself.

Real socialism, we repeat, is something quite different. It is a world without frontiers, without armed states, without privileged classes, where the resources of the Earth have become the common heritage of all the people of the world and are used for the mutual benefit of all. This is the only framework within which the problems facing humanity in general and working people in particular – stress at work, inadequate public services, war and the threat of war, ecological destruction, world hunger, and the rest – can be solved. Which is why working towards this goal is ultimately the only constructive and worthwhile political activity.

How to vote?
It is not up to us to tell you how to vote in the referendum. If you see no alternative to capitalism no doubt you will vote for one or other of the  options on offer. If you want socialism, you can indicate this by writing “WORLD SOCIALISM” across your voting paper.

 But, more important, we would urge you to get in touch with us at spgb@worldsocialism.org or at 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN, Great Britain, with a view to finding out more about the alternative to capitalism. 
You can also find out more about us at: www.worldsocialism.org .



Adapted from the Socialist Standard, May 2004


Remember history

0 comments

Camp Polonia (now called Campolo, though the origin of that name is no longer widely known locally) was a district of Ahvaz, Iran, which housed Polish refugees during World War II.

 After enduring terrible conditions travelling across Russia, 115,000 Poles ended up in Iran

In Tehran's Dulab cemetery, situated in a rundown area of the city, are the graves of thousands of Polish men, women and children. It is not the only such cemetery in Iran, but it is the largest and most well-known. All of the gravestones, row upon row of them, bear the same date: 1942

The Poles have forgotten their own history and forgotten the debt they owe Muslims. 

China's democratic future

0 comments
The SOYMB blog posts articles or extracts from articles of non-members when there appears to be an overlap of ideas or if the observations appear to be relevant to the socialist case. The following article represents the view shared by the Socialist Party that capitalism will create not only the economic pre-conditions for socialism but often the means for the political transmission of socialist ideas – a basic democracy.

Ordinary people in China are increasingly free to pursue their own destinies ... but for millions of industrial workers that destiny may be poverty and unemployment.

Twenty-seven years after Tiananmen, China is no longer quite the totalitarian police state it once was.  Is China democratic?  No.  Is China free?  No.  China still relentlessly harasses and imprisons human rights lawyers and other dissidents.  But for most people, most of the time China is a country of individual choice and even (it must be admitted) a country where (some) protest is allowed.  It's nowhere near ideal but it's better than it was and better than many peer countries are today.  Such progress should be recognized, and occasionally applauded:

Unfortunately "individual choice" also has its problems.  Just ask any American or European who has been downsized out of a job.  One of the most rapidly increasing freedoms in China is the freedom to be unemployed.  The industrial workers of northeast China's Dongbei region encompassing the provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang have been beset by downsizing and unemployment for more than a decade.  The privatization, asset-stripping and plant closures they have experienced are now set to be rolled out nationally as what might be called the "Dongbei Model" goes national:

In the end, it's all about profits.

 When an economy grows at 12% per year, even incompetent businesses can turn a profit.  Now that China's economy is slowing, the easy profits are gone and China's working class is going to feel the squeeze.  The days of double-digit increases in minimum wages are over.  Chinese businesses used to seek rising profits from revenue growth.  Now they're going to have to look for it in cost control.  That's a much tougher game to play -- for workers most of all.

Most protests in China are sparked by one of two causes - labour disputes or land disputes. Labour disputes often pit workers against business owners who have not paid wages or are accused of embezzling workers' social security contributions. Land disputes arise when developers harass homeowners to force them to sell cheaply or move out.

In a country where the government has a hand in everything, both land and labour protests can take on anti-government dimensions. By the government's own reckoning, 44 percent of public protests involve complaints about government officials. All this suggests that one of the most fulfilling everyday freedoms, the freedom to complain, is coming to be accepted as a basic human right in China. The government has even started to integrate the freedom to complain into its system of governance. It increasingly uses public protests as a tool for identifying corruption and other problems. When people complain, higher-ups take notice: A good official is one who has no complaints. It may not be an ideal way to govern, but it does give ordinary people a voice - however small - in an otherwise alienating political system.

 One should not sugar-coat the Chinese regime. The fact is that China relentlessly harasses and even imprisons human rights lawyers and others who inconvenience the party and the government. But at the same time one should applaud the fact that everyday freedoms are increasing every day in China. From the standpoint of freedom, the past may look dark and the present dim in China, but the future looks promising and, with a little polishing, maybe even bright.

Salvatore Babones


THE EU-SELESS ELECTION! (weekly poem)

1 comments
THE EU-SELESS ELECTION! 

Politicians in both the remain and leave Europe camps are making ludicrous
claims. In reality, the result will only marginally affect the majority of people.

Come men and women, voters all,
And heed the E.U. call;
The Referendum needs your vote,
To wholly change ‘naff all’!
Gove, Johnson, Grayling, IDS,
Claim in their Brexit drive;  
That Britain left the ‘Good Old Days’,
In One-Nine-Seven-Five. (1)

There was no unemployment then,
With poverty unknown;
Our politicians told no lies,
When we were on our own!
We had the Empire and the Queen,
Our footballers were ace;
And all those beastly foreigners,
Why!-they all knew their place!

Our trains were clean, our Motorways,
Weren’t filled with foreign cars;
We didn’t waste our cash to send,
Tim Peake to bleedin’ Mars.
But there, again, both Dave and George,
Have begged us to remain,
Austerity will end sometime,
So we’ve so much to gain!

The politicians on both sides,
Are prone to sermonize;
The public voting either way,
Are hearing porky pies!
So on the 23rd of June,
They’ll have the E.U. Poll,
But in the future, millions,
Will still be on the dole! (2)

(1) The Referendum to join the European Community took place 5th June 1975.

(2) In the mid-1970s, post-war unemployment exceeded one million for
the first time and has not dropped below since. The present rate of 5.1%
is projected to increase to 6.30% (1.69 million) by 2020. (Arima model)

© Richard Layton


The plight of refugee children

0 comments
 It is estimated that approximately half of the 19.5 million registered refugees at a global level are children and youth. They are the most vulnerable victims of these conflicts. An estimated 37,000 children have been born as refugees and over 83,000 Syrian pregnant women are living as refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, placing a heavy burden on those countries health and social systems. For example, Lebanon is planning for 600,000 schoolchildren this year –twice the number currently enrolled.

 Three years of conflict have turned Syria into one of the most dangerous places to be a child, according to UNICEF. Out of a population of 21.9 million, more than 9 million are under 18.  It is estimated that 5.5 million children are affected by the conflict, a number that is almost double from the year before. More than 4.29 million children inside Syria are poor, displaced or caught in the line of fire.

In Syria, one million children are living in areas that aid workers cannot reach regularly, thus depriving them of vital support. More than a third of Syrian families are no longer living in their own homes or communities, seriously affecting their health and quality of life.

As a result of the fall in immunization rates –from 99 percent before the war to less than 50 percent now -polio has reemerged in Syria, after a 14-year absence. At the same time, doctors report an increase in the number and severity of cases of measles, pneumonia and diarrhea.

The capacity of the country’s health care system to provide assistance to the population has been seriously affected. Many doctors and health personnel have either been killed or have left the country. 60 percent of the public hospitals have been damaged or are out of service. Many times, militants bomb health care facilities, wait for first responders and emergency crews to come in and then strike again, thus maximizing the impact of their attacks.
Dr. Abdo El Ezz, an Aleppo physician says, “The war in Syria has violated and destroyed anything called “agreements” or “an agreement” or “human rights” or anything humanitarian…Hospitals are looking for coffins because people are pouring in, some are completely burned and soon die. We need to bury them…Some people wish to die so they can finally rest and not live in constant terror and see constant destruction.”

According to Europol, Europe’s policy agency, more than 10,000 thousand unaccompanied refugee and migrant children have disappeared, raising fears they are being exploited and used for sex.

In his poem “Children in Exile” Fenton writes,

‘What I am is not important, whether I live or die –
            It is the same for me, the same for you.
What we do is important. This is what I have learnt.
            It is not what we are but what we do,’

 Says a child in exile, one of a family
           Once happy in its size. Now there are four
Students of calamity, graduates of famine,
            Those whom geography condemns to war…’

From here

Is life worth living?

0 comments
Death comes to all of us as the saying goes, whether by design or an accident of evolution. Death is not our only enemy. There is also the machine called capitalism, which both builds and blocks the future. As it mobilises resources to accumulate economic value, the potential for liberation unfolds in terms of technological advancement—including new drugs and treatments that extend our life-spans significantly. But so does the human cost of its economic imperatives: costs that extend into an old age of isolation and poverty for too many people. Capitalism might acknowledge the existence of inequality, but not the degree to which this system thrives on it, nor the responsibility to attend to those who are rendered more vulnerable to poor health, low education, poverty and crime—facts that are falsely attributed to personal as opposed to structural failings. The mismatch between the promise of an extended life and the reality of declining living standards in old age forms a central dilemma of contemporary capitalism.  This is a sad reflection of the state of capitalism. It seems like the dog-eat-dog world has claimed any sense of meaning and purpose that people may have otherwise had.

The fear of ageing might be greater than a fear of death, and for good reason. Physical decline is increasingly accompanied by the loss of those ingredients that make up a meaningful life: family, friends, social networks, experiences, accomplishments, recognition and knowledge.

Faced with the prospects of at least 35 per cent of the country being over 65 before the end of the century, a rapidly diminishing population, and the need to recruit more immigrant labour, the Japanese government has expressed concerns about its inability to pay off the country's rising debts.

As if things weren't hard enough for the government, a peculiar psychological condition called Hikikomori has reduced the future workforce in Japan by a further one million people and rising. Characterised by social withdrawal and a poor sense of self, Hikikomori appears to be the response of many young Japanese to the acute stress that’s brought on by the less than satisfying prospects of modern day capitalism and its lack of provision for a meaningful existence. By ‘meaningful’ they include the possibilities of enjoying outdoor pursuits, since many remain in their homes for periods that range from six months to several years and never venture out.

Under conditions like these, the gift of youthfulness may no longer be so attractive, or perhaps young people simply dread the reality of the alternative: of ageing and losing control, of entering the realm of the forgotten. Better nutrition, environmental improvements, and medical advances have greatly increased the chances for most people in Japan and elsewhere in the West to live considerably longer lives, but there has been no corresponding advancement in terms of their long-term quality of life: the prospects of longevity don’t coincide with the prospects for people’s future happiness. As the late Jenny Diski put it, “Old, lonely, unwanted, invisible...we see them repeatedly on the television news, dying of solitude and neglect, even in the crowded day room of a care home... I can’t think of anything about the reality of ageing which improves a person’s life.”

It has increased dramatically in recent years—up by around fifteen per cent among the over fifty-fives in Britain, for example, and standing at a thirty-year high in the USA. Capitalism articulates the meaning of ‘independence’ in the language of market fundamentalism, showing the ideal form of individual behaviour to be competitive, autonomous, possessive, self-reliant, self-sufficient and self-interested—or as greedy, grasping and egregious if you prefer. Community is more or less disregarded, and dependency is equated with sickness or inadequacy. Not many people want to live longer if they not only have to live in pain but in poverty as well.

Around 20 per cent of the older UK population live in poverty, and their plight is intensified by the infirmities that are associated with old age, and by older people’s increasing dependence on diminishing resources of quality elder care in an age of austerity and budget cuts. In the USA it is 48% of seniors living in poverty who cannot afford housing, and more than that in some states, California it is 56% of seniors. Life without money to pay your bills is not a happy one. You are constantly under pressure to get enough income to meet the high cost of everything. And going without food is often an issue due to it being the only place you can cut and still keep the ultilities on and keep the rent paid.

There used to be a place for older people back when several generations lived under one roof. The elders could do child care, do some housekeeping, as well as participate in the emotional life of the family. With the nuclear family, they are cut loose to fend for themselves, perhaps to be placed in an eldercare facility. They serve no purpose. Elders should not be isolated from other generations coming up. They can perform valuable tasks, each person in his/her own way. Society must find ways to bring together children, those in their middle years, and other elders so they can converse, interact, create together, and--even--ease the exit of the elderly from this world. The point is that elderly people can contribute to the well-being of society, all members benefiting from including them in the life of the community.

The proper response to ageing should be to work on strategies that liberate time for creative pursuits, build community networks that are antagonistic to profit and conducive to shared caring, cultivate resources for regeneration, and enhance the quality of life for everyone. In other words, to guarantee a social order beyond capitalism that allows human beings to flourish however old or young they are. The only way any of those ideas will ever be implemented is through a socialist revolution. There's no way the one-percent class will retract its blood-sucking tentacles and stand aside without social revolution. Living longer truly means nothing if you aren't really "living" and you're existence is one of constant insecurity. 

Living with the 1% in power gives new meaning to "The Walking Dead."  

This insane profit-based  system must end. Capitalism determines human worth on the basis of income/employment status. The elderly poor and the disabled are of no practical use to us. If they are not rich, or not of current use to employers, what purpose do they serve. Having enough money to continue being relevant in our capitalist society is the only way to maintain any dignity in old age because money talks no matter what age.

Taken from here

Monday, June 20, 2016

What immigration problem?

0 comments
About 4 million migrants have moved into OECD countries each year since 2007. And 60 percent of Europe’s 3.4 million immigrants in 2013 came from other European Union member states or already held EU citizenship. Those from outside amounted to less than 0.3 percent of the EU’s population. The urge for a better life is the main driving force for migration, both local and international.

Extreme poverty is found mainly in rural communities, where most internal migration begins. Poverty is not simply a matter of low incomes but also of limited access to adequate housing, clean water, energy, decent education and health services. On almost every score, rural people are worse off than city dwellers and also more vulnerable to shocks. Paradoxically, the incidence of hunger and malnutrition is highest in the very communities that produce much of the world’s food. In 1950, 746 million people lived in cities, 30 percent of the world’s population. By 2014, urban population reached 3.9 billion (54 percent).

In some recipient countries there has been calls for fences and walls to cut migrant flows. Some destination countries have cut social security allowances for new arrivals.

A report by The International Longevity Centre think-tank found that that on average, areas with higher employment rates for immigrants also tended to have more of the white UK-born population in work. The report also used Office for Budget Responsibility projections to calculate that by 2064-65, the UK’s GDP would be 11.4% (£625bn) larger with high migration than it would with low migration.

The report’s authors argued, the idea that immigrants crowd native Britons out of the jobs market “is built on the false premise that there are a fixed number of jobs in the economy.” Instead, they said: “An increase in the number of migrants in the labour force can actually help increase employment opportunities. Increased employment means greater demand for goods and services. As supply increases to match this demand, even more jobs may be created.”

They added: “Arguing that migrant workers will ‘crowd out’ UK-born workers is the same as arguing that women will crowd out men or older workers will crowd out younger workers. This is based on the same lump of labour fallacy. “An increasing proportion of women have joined the labour force over the last 30 years, but these increases have not coincided with falling employment rates for men.”

The report’s authors concluded: “The evidence suggests migrants have had an overall positive impact on the economy and on government finances and that concerns that migrants will ‘crowd out’ UK-born workers or be a burden on public finances may have been overblown.”


The report argued, migration could help support a population where the number of pensioners is expected to double between 2000 and 2050 and the number of over-85s is thought to be on course to more than quadruple in the same period. By contrast, said the report’s authors: “A reduction in the level of migration may require unpopular changes to government policy in other areas.  “An increase in the state pension age or national insurance contributions, or a decrease in pensioner benefits may be necessary to offset some of the negative economic impacts [of] a reduction in migration. Since migration helps to support growth and the sustainability of public finances as our society ages,” they added, “We need not fear it.”

The refugee crisis grows

2 comments
The number of people displaced by conflict is at the highest level ever recorded, the UN refugee agency says. It estimates that 65.3m people were either refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of 5m in a year.

This represents one in every 113 people on the planet, the UN agency says.

Turkey is the biggest host country for refugees worldwide, with 2.5m people, followed by Pakistan and Lebanon.

European leaders needed to do more to coordinate policies and to combat negative stereotypes about refugees.
"Those who do the opposite, who stir up public opinion against refugees and migrants, have a responsibility in creating a climate of xenophobia that is very worrying in today's Europe," Filippo Grandi, the UN refugee chief,  told AFP news agency. 


Whitlow & Boyle (Engineers) – 1998 short story

0 comments
A Short Story from the May 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr Whitlow kept me waiting while he made a couple of phone calls and wrote something down in a ledger. I was used to this, it was deliberate, it happened every time I went for a job interview. I was beginning to understand the psychology behind it.

"So you want to work here do you?" he asked at last. Of course I didn't want to work there, but I had to work somewhere, so I nodded. He picked up a piece of paper from his desk and handed it to me. "You've worked a capstan lathe before, you say, draw me one." Astonished I told him I wasn't very good at drawing, but he insisted. "Draw me a capstan lathe."

About ten minutes later I handed the piece of paper back to him, and he studied it for what seemed like ages, turning it one way and then another, even upside-down. "This doesn't look anything like a capstan lathe."

"Well, as I said I'm not very good at drawing."

Mr Whitlow glared at me across his desk making me feel more than usually conscious of my appearance, of my black skirt and white blouse and the new handbag I'd bought for the occasion. I wondered if Mr Whitlow found it hard to imagine me clad in a greasy overall and a turban to protect my hair.

"How are your legs?" he asked. Thankfully he didn't seem to require an answer so I waited. "Any varicose veins?"

"I'm only twenty three," I replied with a nervous smile.

He waved a hand in the direction of a glass-panelled door in a corner of his office. "That lot out there, that's Doris on the back machine. Came in to see me only this morning." He mimicked, "'Could I have a sitting-down job today, Mr Whitlow, me varicose veins are playing me up?' Do they think this is a bloody holiday camp? There's Ethel with her bunions and corns and Vera with her aching leg joints, all of them wanting sitting-down jobs. So if you're wanting a sitting-down job, forget it. And this drawing is nothing like a capstan lathe."

Nettled, I told him I'd thought the vacancy was for a machine operator not for someone skilled in the art of drawing, but to my relief he ignored this feeble attempt to defend myself.

"What about family?"

"Yes, mother, father, four brothers."

Mr Whitlow picked up a pencil and stabbed it at the surface of his desk to emphasise his next words. "Don't get funny with me girl. Any children, babies, buns in the oven?"

"Oh no."

"Not in a union, are you?"

"The AEU," I told him proudly.

"Well, forget that, we're non-union here."

Employers always said that, I'd noticed, as though some power from on high had decreed a state of non-trade unionism for their particular company. Another much-used argument was that conditions in their factory were so good as to discount any justification for a union.

"There's a slump coming," continued Mr Whitlow, "and when it gets here me and my kind are going to have the pick of the workforce. Not only will there not be any sitting-down jobs there won't be any jobs at all and people like you will be begging for work."

I froze in my chair. I resented Mr Whitlow's class attitude to someone he believed was hardly in a position to retaliate. I thought about the boredom and misery of standing at a capstan lathe for nine hours a day and the pittance I would be likely to receive for this each week. I even began to feel that Mr Whitlow detected something in my manner (a kind of contempt perhaps) that made him speak to me in this way.

"Well if you want the job be here at a quarter to eight sharp on Monday morning."

"But I thought it was an eight o'clock start."

"It is, but there's queue at the clocking-in machine and anyone clocking in after eight loses an hour's pay. And then there's the time taken up in the cloakroom with all the titivating that goes on with you women. Christ knows why; you're all covered in machine oil by the end of the day. And you'll need an overall, we don't supply them and you're responsible for laundering too."

Suddenly my career as a capstan lathe operator seemed less attractive than ever before.

"There it is," said Mr Whitlow, "take it or leave it."

I rose to my feet, checked to see that my nylons' seams were straight and then headed for the door. There I turned to face him which as much dignity as I could muster.

"I'll leave it," I said.

Heather Ball


Sunday, June 19, 2016

The real fear

0 comments
 ...“It’s not your fault” is an incredibly seductive argument. “It’s theirs”. Because there’s always a ‘them’. Always. That’s easy. “You’re not being treated fairly. We have too many people. That’s the problem.” And the argument becomes who has a right to be here…
….That’s the point where we start debating which people have rights and which people don’t. And it’s based on who was here longest. And when you start basing it on that, you start basing it on where you were born. And somehow, we let them say that wasn’t racist. “It’s not racist to want control over immigration!” “It’s not racist to say they should go elsewhere!” “It’s not racist to want to stop them coming here!” “It’s not racist to say they should be sent back!” And the message has become more seductive and more powerful. And it’s overtaken logic and it’s based purely on emotion… the problem is that the emotional argument is an impossible one to win.
 …Gove says “people have heard too much from experts”. Yes. They’re exhausted and frustrated and angry and afraid. They want control back. And the good talkers who have no problems lying and no problems creating hatred and fear tell them “this is how you get control back”. And we’ve had a right wing media that has been telling us for decades that immigrants are the problem and Europe is the problem…
 …My fear is that we treat people as ‘other’ and as ‘wrong’ and as ‘they shouldn’t be here’ and as something other than people…."
Taken from here

fact of the day (food waste)

0 comments
Last year, Tesco’s food waste mountain amounted to 59,400 tonnes. If you’re finding that figure hard to envisage, it’s the equivalent of 119 million meals, and an increase of 4% on the year before. 

The Commerce of War

0 comments
Global defence trade reached a record-breaking $65 billion in 2015, according to the annual Global Defence Trade Report. The entire market is covered except for munitions and small arms; however, anything under 57mm calibre has not been included in this study. The study only tracked programs with a primarily military function, removing homeland security and Intelligence programs.

“The global defence trade market has never seen an increase as large as the one we saw between 2014 and 2015,” said Ben Moores, senior analyst at IHS. “2015 was a record-breaking year.” Markets rose $6.6 billion, bringing the value of the global defence market in 2015 to $65 billion. IHS forecasts that the market will increase further to $69 billion in 2016.

1. The Middle East was the largest importing region, with $21.6 billion in deliveries of defence equipment;
2. Total defence spending accelerated in Asia-Pacific as states bordering the South China Sea boosted defence spending;
3. France has doubled its backlog of orders from $36 billion in 2014 to $55 billion, meaning that $55 billion worth of defence equipment has yet to be exported. This increase means that France will overtake Russia as the second-largest global defence equipment exporter.
4. Germany moved from fifth- to third- largest exporter and the UK dropped from fourth to fifth;
5. The largest global exporter, the United States, saw another 10 percent increase in exports over the past year, bringing the total to $23 billion (35 percent of the global total);
6. South Korea saw exports climb again to $871 million;
7. There was significant change in the top five importing countries, with Taiwan, China and Indonesia all dropping out of the top five and Australia, Egypt and South Korea replacing them.

The largest Middle Eastern importers remain among the largest globally in 2015. Saudi Arabia and the UAE imported $11.4 billion (17.5 percent of the global total) worth of defence systems in 2015, up from $8.6 billion in 2014.
“The combined value of Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s defence imports is more than all of Western Europe’s defence imports combined,” Moores said. Saudi Arabia’s imports grew from $6 billion to $9.3 billion; an increase that is three times that of the entire sub-Saharan Africa market. “The US, Canada, France and the UK are the main exporters of defence equipment to the Middle East and beneficiaries of this spending boom.”
The IHS report indicates that US trade flow to the Middle East has been driven by sales of military aircraft and associated mission systems.
Canada is the second-largest exporter of defence equipment to the Middle East with $2.7 billion in sales, moving the UK down the table to fourth place, just behind France. Germany and Russia each saw a 25 percent growth in exports to the region of $1.4 and $1.3 billion, respectively. Russia is likely to increase its trade in the region as post-sanctions Iran begins to replace its exhausted aviation assets.

In 2018, France will move from the third to the second largest global exporter of defence equipment, pushing Russia down the table for the first time in decades. “France has revived its defence industry and had spectacular back-to-back year of sales,” Moores said. “2014 and 2015 were France’s best-selling years in decades.” France sold $26 billion of defence equipment, $8 billion in 2014 and $18 billion in 2015. In 2016, France secured the record-breaking $38.7 billion Australian submarine order. This extended run has increased the French 10-year backlog for defence exports from $36.1 billion to $54 billion in 2016. These sales have included Rafale multi-role fighter aircraft, submarines and helicopters. The bulk of the sales went to India, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Qatar, Egypt and the UAE.

The value of military imports throughout Western Europe rose from $7.9 billion in 2013 to $9.6 billion in 2015. “This notable climb takes Western European imports back to 2010 levels but not their 2009 high point of $12 billion,” Moores said. Nearly all of Western Europe’s military import gains in 2015 have come from Norway, pan-European programmes and the UK. UK imports nearly doubled as imports of MARS tanker ships from South Korea and CH-47 helicopters from the United States have commenced.
Total defence spending accelerated in Asia Pacific as states bordering the South China Sea boosted their defence spending. Between 2009 and 2016, defence imports rose 71 percent in the region.

The United States continued to top the export table in 2015 having supplied $22.9 billion worth of goods and equipment compared with $20.7 billion worth 2014, $18.3 billion in 2013 and $12.9 billion in 2009. This dramatic rate of growth cannot be tied to one particular factor but, going forwards, the total may exceed $30 billion as deliveries of the F-35 begin to ramp up. This rise could be derailed by sustained low oil prices because, for the US, the Middle East is a key region for exports. The United States delivered $8.8 billion worth of equipment to the Middle East in 2015.