Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Big Pharma at it again

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Drugs giant Pfizer has been fined a record £84.2m by the UK's competition watchdog for overcharging the NHS for an anti-epilepsy drug, Epanutin (phenytoin sodium). 

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also fined distributor Flynn Pharma £5.2m for the 2,600% price increase for the drug in 2012.

NHS spending on the capsules, used by 48,000 UK patients, rose from £2m a year in 2012 to about £50m in 2013. UK prices for the drug were many times higher than in Europe.


Poverty in the UK

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People with less than 60% of median income once housing costs are deducted. are classified as poor. There were 13.5 million people living in households classified as poor in 2014-15. This is 21% of the UK population, a proportion barely changed in more than a decade. The report found, 55% of those in poverty are now in working households, a record high. This comprises a total of 7.4 million people – 1.1 million more than in 2010-11 – among them 2.6 million children.

High rental housing costs mean an estimated 3.8 million workers - one in eight - are in poverty, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). It said in-work poverty was up by 1.1 million since 2010-11, and 55% of those in poverty were in working families.

"The economy has been growing since 2010 but during this time high rents, low wages and cuts to working-age benefits mean that many families, including working households, have actually seen their risk of poverty grow," said Helen Barnard, head of analysis at the JRF. “This report shows that people on low incomes cannot rely on economic growth and rising employment alone to improve their financial prospects. Families who are just about managing urgently need action to drive up real-term wages, provide more genuinely affordable homes and fill the gap caused by cuts to Universal Credit, which will cost a working family of four almost £1,000 per year." 

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "A fair day's work should mean a fair day's pay. But wages are simply too low, and millions are struggling to afford the basics, even when they are working hard. After the financial crisis, UK wages fell further than in any other developed country except Greece. It is time for employers to give their staff fair pay and decent hours, while the government should lift the public sector pay cap and invest in our economy."

The chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham, said: "Since 2010, the poverty gap - the distance below the poverty line that the typical family living in poverty finds themselves - increased by 13%. A typical family under the poverty line is now £57.40 per week short, after housing costs, of the official poverty line. Parents in poverty are more deprived than they were at the start of the financial crisis."

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) suggested workers would feel the squeeze on pay for more than a decade - earning less in real terms in 2021 than they did in 2008.

The Resolution Foundation also suggested that the biggest losers between now and 2020 would be lower income families, with the poorest third likely to see incomes drop.


Poverty in the EU

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 Almost one in four people in the EU lives at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Today, almost 23 million children in the EU grow up in poverty. 10 % of households struggle in terms of feeding their families, paying utility bills or keeping homes adequately warm. Significant numbers of Europeans do not have sufficient savings to face unexpected financial expenses (40 % of women and 36 % of men) or cannot afford a holiday away from home at least once a year (37 % of women and 35 % of men)

More women and men are living on the edge of poverty and social exclusion today compared to 2010, according to a new study by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). Young people, lone parents, migrants, people with disabilities and families with three or more children are most at risk of poverty. 

A third (36 %) of men and a quarter (25 %) of women who are poor are employed. Many working men live in poor households because their wives or partners are out of the labour market or earn very low income.

There is clear evidence that a heavy dependence on a father’s income in many families increases the risk of poverty and insecurity. Especially when unexpected life events occur, such as job loss, family break-up, serious illness or even death. The study shows that if a father were to lose his job, 70 % of couples with children would fall into poverty.



Fact of the Day (New Zealand)

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 60% of the wealth in New Zealand is concentrated in the hands of the top 10%.

If you want to end inequality contact:
The World Socialist Party (New Zealand)

E-mail: wsp.nz@worldsocialism.org

Looting the developing countries

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Global Financial Integrity (GFI) has revealed how developing countries lost about $16.3 trillion to leakages in the balance of payments, trade mis-invoicing, and recorded financial transfers between 1980 and 2012.
“GFI’s estimates show that, over the past decade, an average of more than $1 trillion per year, have flowed out of developing countries unrecorded. Viewed another way, for every dollar of development assistance received by developing countries, more than ten dollars disappear from these countries,” the report noted.

As of 2011, about $2.6 trillion of developing countries’ private wealth and over half of the $4.4 trillion of total assets were held in tax havens alone.

“There is perhaps no greater driver of inequality within developing countries than the combination of illicit financial flows and offshore tax havens,” lamented GFI President, Raymond Baker.


According to the report, a total of about $3 trillion in recorded transfers (about $90 billion per annum on average) flowed out of those developing countries, depending on available statistics. Further details of the study showed that developing countries lost $13.4 trillion dollars ($10.6 trillion, excluding China) through broad leakages in the balance of payments and trade mis-invoicing. Also, total portfolio investment and foreign direct investment of developing country residents in tax havens increased from $0.9 trillion at end 2009 to $1.3 trillion at the end of 2012.

Poverty in the USA

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Obama legacy is that he trimmed the top 1-percenters’ share, after taxes and transfers, to only 15.4 percent, from 16.6 percent of the nation’s income and increased the slice going to the poorest fifth of families by 0.6 percentage point, to a grand total of 4 percent. Not much of an achievement. But probably the best he could accomplish. Walter Scheidel, a professor of history at Stanford, however, in his new book, “The Great Leveler” reckons that “only all-out thermonuclear war might fundamentally reset the existing distribution of resources.”

Scheidel’s depressing view is based upon his interpretation of the effects of catastrophes in history.

The collapse of the Roman Empire in the second half of the fifth century, reinforced by a bubonic plague pandemic, brought about Western Europe’s first great leveling. Productivity collapsed and the aristocracy’s far-flung assets were expropriated, while Rome’s trade networks and fiscal structures were destroyed. Inequality bounced back, of course. By 1300 the richest 5 percent of people had amassed nearly half the wealth in the cities of Italy’s Piedmont. But another bubonic plague known in history as the Black Death changed all that, killing a quarter of Europe’s population in the 14th century and cutting the share of wealth of Piedmont’s rich to under 35 percent. World War II was also a game changer. It significantly improved the earnings of those at the bottom of the social system by vastly raising demand for unskilled labor to serve the war effort. Between 1939 and 1945 the income share of the richest 10 percent dropped by more than 10 percentage points.

Many reformists would like to propose higher minimum wages, perhaps even a universal basic income; or maybe helicopter in some cash to each citizen so all can benefit from the high returns on investment to help curb poverty; sharply higher income tax rates for the rich along with a wealth tax; a weakening of intellectual property rules, curbs on monopolies and coordination of labor standards around the world.


Again, Scheidel’s prognosis for change is a pessimistic one. “Serious consideration of the means required to mobilize political majorities for implementing any of this advocacy is conspicuous by its absence.”

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The Gulf Cooperation Council - UK’s Allies

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Bahrain
Bahraini police after dispersing protesters earlier this year (Getty Images)
Police fired live ammunition into crowds during the Arab Spring protests
Authorities have shut down newspapers and TV stations that air criticism of the Government
Security services used torture in response to protests – with methods so extreme they resulted in deaths
The British think-tank, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, that bills itself as a global authority on military and diplomatic affairs has secretly received £25m from the Bahraini royal family

Saudi Arabia
Accused of committing war crimes in its on-going military campaign in Yemen
Women’s rights severely curtailed
Death penalty by beheading followed by crucifixion of bodies in use

Oman
Hereditary monarchy with no democratic institutions
Tight restrictions on protesting and freedom of assembly
Reporters of journalists and activists critical of government ‘disappearing’

Qatar
Builders at work on the construction of a new office site in Qatar (Getty)
Forced labour of migrant workers with hundreds of deaths reported on major projects
Flogging enforceable as a punishment under Sharia law for drinking alcohol or ‘illicit sexual relations’
Death penalty or prison sentences for gay people

United Arab Emirates
 No democratically elected government
Has not signed international human rights and workers’ rights treaties
Death penalty or prison for gay people

Kuwait
Stateless minority groups lack citizenship rights
All citizens must provide DNA samples to government

Far-reaching restrictions on freedom of speech and criticism of the Government

Wood Green Street Stall

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Which side are you on?

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We frequently hear that trade unions are now obsolete and anachronistic, that they’re essentially useless, but that simply isn’t true. If unions were “useless,” the employers wouldn’t fear them. But they do fear them. They fear them because they realise they are the one and only institution capable of mobilising working people and resisting the power of the ruling class. It is the time to speak up and push for long-overdue action. We must stand up for ourselves and our communities. Don’t listen to the right-wing lies about the unions. Know the truth, and act on it.

Workers may influence their wages and working conditions only by collective effort and only by being in the position to stop working if their demands are not met. The ability to withhold their service in a strike is one weapon in their possession (work-to-rules and overtime bans are others). It is the only final logic known to employers. Without it, wages tend to sink below subsistence level. With it, a substantial check can often be placed on the encroachments of the employers and improvements both in wages and working conditions can be made. The strike is not a sure means of victory for workers in dispute with employers. There are many cases of workers being compelled to return to work without gains, even sometimes with losses. Strikes should not be employed recklessly but should be entered into with caution, particularly during times when production falls off and there are growing numbers of unemployed. Nor should not be thought that victory can be gained only by means of the strike. Sometimes more can be gained simply by the threat of a strike. The most effective strike as the one that did not take place. Workers must bear all these things in mind if they are to make the most effective use of the trade union and the power which it gives them.

The Socialist Party urges that the existing unions provide the medium through which the workers should continue their efforts to obtain the best conditions they can get from the master class in the sale of their labour-power. We do not criticise the unions for not being revolutionary, but we do criticise them when they depart from the principle of an antagonism of interests between workers and employers; when they collaborate with employers, the state or political parties; when they put the corporate interests of a particular section of workers above that of the general interest of the working class as a whole.

Trade unions, in general, have languished in a role which provides little scope for action beyond preparing for the next self-repeating battle with employers. They tended to be bogged down in bureaucracy and run by careerists and timeserving officials for whom the future means little more than their pensions and peerage. It has to be admitted that this does present itself as a sterile accommodation with the capitalist system. It would be wrong to write off the unions as anti-working-class organisations. The union has indeed tended to become an institution apart from its members but the policy of a union is still influenced by the views of its members. It may be a truism but a union is only as strong as its members. Most unions have formal democratic constitutions which provide for a wide degree of membership participation and democratic control. In practice, however, these provisions are sometimes ineffective and actual control of many unions is in the hands of a well-entrenched full-time leadership. It is these leaders who frequently collaborate with the State and employers in the administration of capitalism; who get involved in supporting political parties and governments which act against the interest of the working class. We are hostile to the mis-leading by the trade union leaders and the ignorance of the rank and file which make such mis-leading possible. Workers must come to see through the illusion that all that is needed in the class war are good generals. Trade union officials voicing militant slogans are impotent in the face of a system which still has majority support – or at least the acquiescence – of the working class. Nevertheless, we accept trade unions as they are, fully understanding that all their undeniable faults are but the reflection of the shortcomings of the members. The Socialist Party avoided the mistake of the syndicalists, the IWW, the American SLP - and later of the CPGB during the "Third Period" after 1929 - of "dual unionism", i.e. of trying to form "revolutionary" unions to rival the existing "reformist" unions.

Obviously, being part of the class struggle, trade union activity has the potential to develop into full class consciousness, i.e. the recognition of the need to get rid of capitalism and to take political action to do this. But it's not going to develop into socialist consciousness automatically without those involved hearing the case for socialism. Discontent over wage levels or conditions at work can be a catalyst for socialist understanding but so can many other things such as concern about the environment or war or the threat of war or bad housing or the just the general "culture" of capitalism. History has not borne out the view that there is some sort of automatic evolution from trade union consciousness to reformist political consciousness to revolutionary socialist consciousness (as Marx and Engels and Social Democrats tended to assume). It's just not happened. In fact, the opposite has: trade unions have dropped talking about the class struggle and socialism to present themselves as on a par with insurance companies, complete with user-friendly names such as UNITE, or whatever, to deal with problems at work.

The priority of workers organising at the workplace should not have the politics of ideologies interfering in that organising. The Socialist Party has always insisted that there should be a separation between a political party and a trade union and that no political party should use unions as an economic wing, until a time much closer to the Revolution when there are substantial and sufficient numbers of socialist conscious workers. And for the foreseeable, that’s far-off in the future. Unions to be effective are required to recruit members on an open-house principle irrespective of political opinions. The ideal trade-union, from a socialist point of view, would be one that recognised the irreconcilable conflict of interest between workers and employers, that had no leaders but was organised democratically and controlled by its members, that sought to organise all workers irrespective of nationality, colour, religious or political views, first by industry then into One Big Union, and which struggled not just for higher wages but also for the abolition of the wages system. The trouble is that this cannot become a full reality till large numbers of workers are socialists. In other words, you can't have a union organised on entirely socialist principles without a socialist membership.

In our view, trade-union action is necessary under capitalism but is limited by being of an essentially defensive nature. Trade unions can - and do - enable workers to get the full value of their labour-power, but they cannot stop the exploitation of the working class. Trade unions are essentially fighting over the crumbs. Socialists long ago raised our sights beyond the crumbs (necessary though that fight is within the system) to fight not for control of the whole bakery but the wheat-fields, too. That way we will not be perpetually doomed to repeat the battles of the past. To overcome this limitation the workers need to organise themselves into a socialist political party aiming solely at the capture of political power to establish socialism. Our advice to fellow-workers has been:
1. Try to push wages and salaries as high as they are allowed to go by the owners and management
2. Organise democratically to achieve your aims, without reliance on leaders, who will sell you down the river
3. Recognise that any union struggle is necessarily a defensive one as there can be no real and lasting victory within the profit system.

The task of Socialist Party members is to carry on the work of socialist education. We welcome any upsurge in the militancy and resistance and organisation of our class but we also know, from bitter experience, that work of a more patient, more political kind is also needed. The class war must be fought but we must also put an end to the endless skirmishing of the class struggle by winning the class war. That means that fellow-workers must understand the issues, and organise and fight for these ends themselves. Here is where socialists have their most vital contribution to make to make clear the alternative is not mere utopianism, but an important ingredient in inspiring successful struggle. Capitalism will continue to throw up situations where an escalation of class struggle towards socialism is possible, but the more workers there are who are consciously aware of the alternative to capitalism, the greater the likelihood there is of actually getting rid of the system. It is inconceivable that people who are socialists in the political field are not likewise socialists everywhere they may be, whether at work in the office, in their neighbourhood, or wherever they may be. People are not split-personalities one half a socialist and the other half not. In the factories, co-ops, unions, we are fragmented, sectionalised and tied to our individual vested interests, but on the political field, we can make our numbers tell in a way which they cannot use the state to strangle.

Of course, experiences in the day to day struggles lead some people to become revolutionaries. Upsurges in class struggle and periods of crisis in capitalism provide a potential revolutionary springboard. The contradictions, class relationships and miseries inherent to capitalism inevitably lead the workers to confront capital and when this happens there is, of course the potential for revolutionary consciousness to grow through the realisation of class position and the nature of capitalism. As the current recession within capitalism continues, squeezing and stamping down upon the working class ever more relentlessly, alongside the growing realisation of the failure of all forms of running the system; then there is definitely a growing potential for the escalation of struggle towards the overthrow of the system. However, how many times has the potential been there in past moments of escalated struggle and capitalist crisis only to disappear or to be channeled into reformist, pro-capitalist directions? Discontent over wages or conditions can be a catalyst for socialist understanding but so can many other things such as concern about the environment or war (or the threat of war) or bad housing or the just the general culture of capitalism. Also, importantly, there is no reason in our interactions with capitalism that dictates that we must necessarily become revolutionary socialists. Experience could just as easily turn us towards UKIP (or in America, into Trump-supporters). Our interaction with the world around us is mediated by ideas. How are we supposed to become a "revolutionary" without engaging - and eventually agreeing - at some point with the idea of what such a revolution would entail. Why is this? Workers must acquire the consciousness which can enable them to do the above. This consciousness must comprise, first of all, a knowledge of their class position. They must realise that, while they produce all wealth, their share of it will not, under the present system, be more than sufficient to enable them to reproduce their efficiency as wealth producers. They must realise that also, under the system they will remain subject to all the misery of unemployment, the anxiety of the threat of unemployment, and the deprivations of poverty. They must understand the implications of their position – that the only hope of any real betterment lies in abolishing the social system which reduces them to mere sellers of their labor power, exploited by the capitalists. A class which understands all this is class-conscious. It has only to find the means and methods by which to proceed, in order to become the instrument of revolution and of change. Class-consciousness is the breaking-down of all barriers to understanding. Without it, militancy means nothing. The class-conscious worker knows where s/he stands in society. Their interests are opposed at every point to those of the capitalist class. Without that understanding, militancy can mean little. Class-conscious people need no leaders.

The Socialist Party does not minimise the necessity or importance of the workers keeping up the struggle to maintain wage-levels and resisting cuts, etc. If they always yielded to the demands of their exploiters without resistance they would not be worth their salt, nor be fit for waging the class struggle to put an end to exploitation. Are the workers to sit down and have their wages reduced? Are they to starve while capitalism lasts? This, if we are to believe our critics, is our attitude. The class war is far from over but it can only end with the dispossession of the owning minority and the consequent disappearance of classes and class-divided society. Workers can never win the class struggle while it is confined simply to the level of trade union militancy. It requires to be transformed into socialist consciousness. Conversely, socialist consciousness cannot simply rely for its own increase on ideological persuasion. It has to link up with the practical struggle. The success of the socialist revolution will depend on the growth of socialist consciousness on a mass scale and that these changed ideas can only develop through a practical movement. To bring about socialist consciousness involves understanding socialism which means talking about it, sharing ideas about it, educating ourselves and our fellow workers about it. Socialism will also be established by the working class as a result of the intensification and escalation of the class struggle. To overthrow capitalism, the class struggle must be stepped up. Success through striking may well encourage other workers to stand up for their rights in the workplace more. Workers' strength, however, will continue to be determined by their position within the capitalist economy, and their victories partial ones within the market system. Only by looking to the political situation, the reality of class ownership and power within capitalism, and organising to make themselves a party to the political battle in the name of common ownership for their mutual needs will a general gain come to workers, and an end to these sectional battles. Otherwise, the ultimate result of the strikes will be the need to strike again in the future and the ceaseless treadmill of class conflict. Contrary to rumour, the Socialist Party does not argue that fellow workers will be convinced one-by-one by the party. The success of the socialist revolution will depend on the growth of socialist consciousness on a mass scale and that these changed ideas can only develop through a practical movement.

Members of the Socialist Party take part in every struggle in the economic field to improve conditions. We are as militant as anybody else. The socialist is involved in the economic struggle by the fact that we are members of the working class which naturally resists capital. But this is not the same thing as stating that the socialist party engages in activity for higher wages and better conditions. This is not the function of the socialist party. Its task is to fight for socialism. All we are doing in the SPGB, essentially, is trying to help the emergence of majority socialist consciousness, but even if the sort of activities we engage in can't be the main thing that will bring this consciousness about, it is still nevertheless essential. People can, and do, come to socialist conclusions without us, but they can come to this more quickly if they hear it from an organised group dedicated exclusively to putting over the case for socialism. We can't force or brainwash people into wanting to be free, they can only learn this from their own experience. We see majority socialist consciousness emerging from people's experiences of capitalism coupled with them hearing the case for socialism. Not necessarily from us, though it would seem that we are the only group that takes doing this seriously. Socialists know that it is difficult for the workers to recognise their slave status because wage-slavery is cloaked with many disguises. The absence of legal forms of slavery and serfdom serve to hide the true nature of modern slavery. And because the capitalist class or the capitalist state owns the media of propaganda, it is indeed difficult to air the truth. This is why the worker usually believes that he lives in a free society. If the worker would but peep beneath the cloak of superficialities he would glimpse the real nature of society. Socialists are not superior to society's other members. Nevertheless, we do understand how the class society basically works. That is the difference to the majority of the working class, which do not understand and therefore do not see the need to abolish capitalism. The act of abolition of capitalist society requires a primary prerequisite and that's knowledge on the part of the individual as to what it is that is responsible for his or her enslavement. Without that knowledge s/he can only blunder and make mistakes that leave their class just where they were in the beginning - still enslaved.

THE SAUCERERS APPRENTICE! (weekly poem)

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THE SAUCERERS APPRENTICE!

“I’ve succeeded in business because I’ve employed people
with dedication, motivation and persistence. When I met
some apprentices recently, I was really impressed by their
attitude. They’re ambitious, they’re doers - they make
things happen; … Success is down to finding people like
this. People that make businesses grow”.
Sir Alan Sugar, TV advert for apprentices, 2009.

You’ll note in ‘The Apprentice’ that’s,
On TV now each week;
The entrants are a motley crew,
Exuding wind and cheek.

And when one of these chinless twerps,
Has the good luck to win;
They usually last a year or two,
Before they chuck it in. (1)

Back in the real world if they make,
Lord Sugar’s business grow;
Why isn’t it apprentices,
Who earn most of the dough?

If his success is really down,
To people just like this;
How come his pay is way beyond,
The dreams of avarice?

If they’re the “doers” and they make,
Things happen every day;
How come that he’s got all the wealth,
And they their piddling pay?

They do not get what they create,
Their pickings are quite slim;
How come they earn a thousandth of,
The total paid to him?

(1) Under the old format where the Apprentice worked for
one of Lord Sugar’s companies, all six Apprentices left.

© Richard Layton

We must organise ourselves better and more.

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Marx’s materialist conception of history makes the way humans are organised to meet their material needs the basis of any society. Humans meet their material needs by transforming parts of the rest of nature into things that are useful to them; this, in fact, is what production is. So the basis of any society is its mode of production which, again, is the same thing as its relationship to the rest of nature. Humans survive by interfering with the rest of nature to change it for their own benefit. A lot of environmental activists are wrong to see this interference as inherently destructive of nature. For sure, it might do this, but there is no reason why it has to. That humans have to interfere in nature is a fact of human existence. But how humans interfere in nature, on the other hand, depends on the kind of society they live in. It is absurd to regard human intervention in nature as some outside disturbing force since humans are precisely that part of nature which has evolved that consciously intervenes in the rest of nature; it is our nature to do so. True, that at the present time, the form human intervention in the rest of nature takes is upsetting natural balances and cycles, but the point is that humans, unlike other life-forms, are capable of changing their behaviour. In this sense the human species is the brain and voice of nature i.e. nature become self-conscious. But to fulfill this role humans must change the social system which mediates their intervention in nature.

Capitalism is the social system under which we live. Capitalism is primarily an economic system of competitive capital accumulation out of the surplus value produced by wage labour. As a system, it must continually accumulate or go into crisis. Consequently, human needs and the needs of our natural environment take second place to this imperative. Capitalism is an ever-expanding economy of capital accumulation. In other words, most of the profits are capitalised, i.e. reinvested in production, so that production, the stock of means of production, and the amount of capital, all tend to increase over time. The economic circuit is thus money - commodities - more money - more commodities, even more money. This is not the conscious choice of the owners of the means of production. It is something that is imposed on them as a condition for not losing their original investment. Competition with other capitalists forces them to re-invest as much of their profits as they can afford to in keeping their means and methods of production up to date. As a result, there is continuous technological innovation. Defenders of capitalism see this as one of its merits and in the past, it was insofar as this has led to the creation of the basis for a non-capitalist society in which the technologically-developed means of production can be now used to satisfy people’s wants and needs. Under capitalism, this whole process of capital accumulation and technical innovation is a disorganised, impersonal process which causes all sorts of problems—particularly on a world-scale where it is leading to the destruction of the environment. Capitalism differs from previous class societies in that under it production is not for direct use, not even of the ruling class, but for sale on a market. Competitive pressures to minimise costs and maximise sales, profit-seeking and blind economic growth, with all their destructive effects on the rest of nature, are built-in to capitalism. These make capitalism inherently environmentally unfriendly. Under capitalism, there is a very large industry devoted to creating needs. Capitalism requires consumption, whether it improves our lives or not, and drives us to consume up to, and past, our ability to pay for that consumption. In a system of capitalist competition, there is a built-in tendency to stimulate demand to a maximum extent. Firms, for example, need to persuade customers to buy their products or they go out of business. They would not otherwise spend the vast amounts they do spend on advertising. Endless “growth” and the growing consumption of nature-given materials this involves – is built into capitalism. However, this is not the growth of useful things as such but rather the growth of money-values. Socialists, in contrast, seek a "steady-state economy" which is a situation where human needs are in balance with the resources needed to satisfy them. Production would not be ever-increasing and all that would be produced would be products for consumption and the products needed to replace and repair the raw materials and instruments of production used up in producing these consumer goods. There would be no imperative need to expand productivity as exerted under capitalism through the market.

Many political parties profess to exist for the purpose of assisting the working class and they have numerous platforms of social reforms which they guarantee would if the workers would only trust them and vote for them; solve all the ills which afflict the working class. The Socialist Party possesses no programme of palliatives and is opposed to all parties who ask the workers to support a policy of amelioration. Reform of capitalism would still leave workers in their slave position. The Socialist Party point the signs that say “Private Property” and “Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted” and describe them as advertising billboards for the cause of poverty, slums, disease, crime, war and all the other ailments inflicting the human race. It is claimed, not just by supporters of capitalism but those so-called socialists, that it is impossible to have an economy which excludes such things as wages, prices, and money, and that any society’s economy is necessarily going to include those concepts, particularly wages and prices despite it being well documented by anthropologists, that there have been many societies which have not involved a monetary economy – in fact, some exist even today in isolated parts of the world. Pound and pence, wage slips and price tags are not an intrinsic part of the human essence. The Left’s tendency to be nothing more than the reformist advocates of some sort of state-administered capitalism, paying lip service to authentic socialism obstructs any real movement towards socialism. The Left, by and large, does not stand for socialism and persistently misrepresents what socialism is by identifying it with some kind of state involvement in the economy. We are sure the capitalist class will be gratified that the Left springs to the defence of their system against the socialist alternative. The Left has aligned itself with the arguments of the pro-capitalist Ludwig von Mises in asserting the need for a common universal unit of accounting.

Anything less than the demand for free-access socialism does not go far enough. The Left proves to be quite a conservative movement.

Fact of the Day

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Poverty cuts an average of almost 10 years off American men’s lives and seven off women’s, a new study shows.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Asylum seekers kept in poverty

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Poverty and even destitution are very common among asylum seekers and refused asylum seekers in the U.K. The impacts of such deprivations upon asylum seekers include mental health problems, high levels of hunger, high levels of maternal and infant mortality, and difficulty navigating the legal process. Politicians argue that welfare benefits and the possibility of working act as pull factors encouraging economic migrants to claim asylum, thus they state it is necessary to limit financial support for asylum seekers.

Welfare support for asylum seekers is being held below poverty levels on purpose. If you believed the media coverage of asylum seekers in the U.K. one might assume that they are all well off. That would be wrong. Asylum support payments are deliberately set low – at just £36.95 per week. Asylum seekers are living on an income which is less than a third of the income of the poorest 10 percent of British households.


The Home Office spent £173.6 million in 2014-15 on asylum support, whereas the U.K. spends about £146 billion on means-tested benefits, to help the poorest members of society. If asylum seekers were given the full level of income support, the cost would increase by £36.2 million. When set within the context of a £146 billion welfare bill these figures appear relatively low, £36.2 million would add 0.02% to the total welfare bill.

Rejecting the market

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Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warned that people will turn their backs on free and open markets unless something is done to help those left behind by the financial crisis. 

In a speech, he said: "Globalisation is associated with low wages, insecure employment, stateless corporations and striking inequalities."

In many advanced economies there are "staggering wealth inequalities," he added.


"Just 2% of households have deposit holdings in excess of £5,000, [they have] few other financial assets, and don't own a home.”

Agency Workers

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Agency workers is as serious an issue as zero-hours contracts, with full-time agency staff earning hundreds of pounds a year less than employees doing the same jobs, according to a new report into the issue. The “exploitation of agency staff remains unaddressed,” while the treatment of staff on zero-hours contracts at workplaces like the Sports Direct warehouse has made headlines and prompted changes. 

Lindsay Judge, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “While zero-hours contracts are often in the news, agency workers are the ‘forgotten face’ of the modern workforce, despite being just as prevalent across the labour market. This fast growing group is not just made up of young people looking for temporary employment as some have suggested, but instead includes many older full-time, permanent workers.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady believes many agency workers are getting an unfair deal.
“Agency workers don’t deserve to be treated like second-class citizens. But they are often paid less than their permanent colleagues, even when they do exactly the same job,” says O’Grady. “We need the government to toughen the law to create a level playing field for agency workers. Too many employers are getting away with treating them unfairly.”

That data shows that:
The number of temporary agency workers providing holiday cover, Christmas temps and seasonal agricultural workers has risen to a 25-year high of around 340,000.
The foundation has also identified 440,000 permanent agency workers; a further 66,000 who are officially self-employed; and 20,000 who are agency workers in their second jobs.
Over the last 18 months, 14% of agency workers were also employed on zero-hours contracts.
Agency work is most prevalent in the healthcare and social sector, where 18% of all agency staff work, closely followed by manufacturing (17%) and business activities (17%).
Nearly one in five agency workers are in London, but the East Midlands has the largest share of the local labour force working in this way (3.2%).

The system is rotten to the core

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Capitalism is proving every day that it can offer the world’s workers nothing but endless horrors. Under the profit system, which operates through the blind anarchy of the market, the futures of millions of workers is gambled away as if at the roulette table. The environmental condition of the planet is becoming more and more critical. Besides discussing the interaction between classes, socialists look at the interaction between capitalism and nature. Capitalism is a social organisation that systematically destroys nature. It is a system driven not by need, and particularly not by the need to preserve the natural sources of its bounty, but rather by profit. Profit-making requires efficiency only within the individual business, but the competition inherent in profit-making requires that all businesses maximize profits continually, and particularly over the short term, or go bust. Capitalism prevents the world’s peoples from acting in accord with our need to preserve nature for ourselves and for future generations. Capitalists and their corporations appropriate nature for their own class needs, in effect stealing it from the rest of us, enforcing their control over us and over the Earth through their control of state power. They strip-mine and destroy entire mountains, they overfishing of the oceans in the competitive drive for profits, they clear-cut forests, they drain wetlands, and they dump toxic waste into soil, rivers, oceans, and the atmosphere. The overall destruction of lives and the environment accelerates everywhere. In its single-minded drive for profit, world capitalism is fast exhausting the earth’s resources, and what is left is fast being ruined by pollution. Protecting resources is vital for humanity but simply not profitable in the short term for capitalism, and short term is the only level on which capital can possibly function. A lapse in profitability means the closure of businesses. The capitalists are incapable of seriously addressing the problem as seen by their pitifully ineffective gestures at addressing global warming. Climate change is not some future disaster, but a real effect today of burning fossil fuels. The frequency of violent hurricanes continues to increase. Heat waves are now occurring of a magnitude never before seen in certain places. Droughts are increasing. Along with droughts are more floods.  We also face a rise in sea level resulting from the melting ice-caps and the changes in ocean currents and circulation. Entire island nations in the Pacific are threatened and the millions who live in the coastal cities. We have dying coral reefs, disappearing forests, and thawing permafrost. Another likely effect of global warming is the spread of tropical diseases to new geographical locations and the introduction of new diseases to populations of people or animals that have not seen them before and have not developed immunities can have disastrous effects (Ebola, Zika).

Capitalism has had a profound impact on the planet. It turns out that it is not just denialists who we must fear but also those scientists who do not recognize the significance of the culpability of the social system we live under. And those politicians who acknowledge the threat of climate change are guilty of tokenism in their policy approaches that cannot endanger the operation the economic system’s fundamental raison d’etre - capital accumulation and expansion. Grow or die is the law of capitalism. Capitalism is a planless system in which each capitalist corporation acts without regard to cooperation but instead competes with other corporations in order to stay alive and in business. In order to stay alive, each must grow and thus must try to expand its profits without limit, so that further investment can maintain its share of the market. If market share shrinks enough the corporation is doomed. And when corporations go under, they don’t simply vanish from the face of the earth. Rather their assets are acquired for ten cents, or so, on the dollar by surviving corporations that thereby become much bigger in terms of real estate and equipment. Thus large corporations end up much bigger corporations. The members of the capitalist class are similar to any suicide-bomber – in the destruction of the planet they will take down themselves as well as every innocent victim. They are incapable of actions to save themselves or to save the earth from consequences of global warming, no matter how many summits are held and the only remedial response will be to those problems that cuts into their profits by making it more expensive to extract resources or to manufacture products. Capitalist corporations, in order to survive competition, resist having a long-range outlook for their return on investment. So do the stockholders, or they will put their money into other corporations that do bring in quick returns. The corporations must make back their initial investment in plant and equipment quickly so that their future profits show up on their stock-market and higher dividends. Concern for the environment, on the other hand, is a long-term process that requires giving up the concept of profit in favour of satisfying human needs. Capitalism does not operate to satisfy human needs.

Capitalist competition also calls for the creation of new market demands, a continual stream of new products that have little to no use value to the consumer. After all, how many different brands of tooth-paste can we actually need? Capitalism creates wants rather than satisfying needs.Through massive manipulative advertising, products like iPhones, plasma TVs, fashion clothes, or giant SUVs appear on our shopping list, useless or harmful products produced for our increased consumption and damaging to the planet at both ends of the process – raw material input and waste disposal output. Capitalism is the opposite of an ecologically self-sufficient system.

The capitalist class holds state power, and actions that interfere with profits are forbidden by the government, regardless of who is elected. Therefore since a world free of greenhouse gases, with sustainable clean energy sources would interfere with the profits of the vast majority of capitalists, we cannot look to capitalism to solve the problems. Capitalism, after all, is the cause of all these problems, and not because it hasn’t been pointed out or has never occurred to the ruling class. Growth is not simply some sort of “fetish” among capitalists over which the capitalists have control and could be convinced to give up. Capitalists only have control over their own corporations, and competition drives each to maximize profits and grow, in order to survive. The growth of all is an unintended consequence of the growth of each. So, while it may also be a fetish, there is nothing that capitalism can do about it. Competition, profit maximization, and wage slavery drive economic life under capitalism. Only replacing it with communism will meet our needs around the world and permit us to stop global warming. Certainly, some new green industries such as solar power may very well become very profitable. The problem is the trillions of dollars, euros and pounds worth of existing plants, buildings, houses, mines, and vehicles. A system that runs on exchange value or money will not willingly destroy its own massive investments in these forms of physical capital. Thus only a system in which use value, rather than exchange value, is the basis of society can even contemplate removing carbon emitting physical capital from its productive base. But a system that the working class controls for its own collective needs (socialism), rather than a system that a relatively small class controls for its own individual profit (capitalism) can in fact act in this way. The capitalists’ refusal to destroy their own profit-producing capital holds even when that profit is destructive of much of the rest of the world - the suicide bomber syndrome once again. When environmentalists call for government legislation and regulation they are merely subscribing to the myth that the state stands above society and mediates among the various classes. It is a misunderstanding of political power and the nature of the state to expect the state to intervene to save the environment. The media and politicians add insult to injury by blaming us for the irresponsibility in our consumerist lifestyle and tells us to make our own personal individualist savings, and, of course, they insist that the poor are having too many children. They assert that the Earth’s carrying capacity has been exceeded. The problem is not too many people, but rather capitalism’s enforced poverty. It is the capitalists, in their imperative drive to sell commodities in order to realize profits, who completely determine the consumption practices. As long as capitalism exists, with its expansionist tendencies our advance toward the proverbial cliff’s edge will continue unabated.

The real environmental solution will not come from buying long-life light bulbs or “eco-friendly” laundry detergent. Instead, it will require taking on the capitalist corporations that have devastated the water, soil and air in search of profit. Doing so challenges for the mainstream business-friendly environmental movement. Socialism alone is capable restoring a sustainable relationship between humanity and the rest of nature. Climate change and other ecological perils loom larger than ever, and we must learn all we can from the struggles of the past if we intend to have a future. In socialism people will rationally plan the production of the things we really need, and they will coordinate cooperative planning in a socialist society without the interference of the profit motive.  


Protect the earth

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Agriculture minister V S Sunilkumar cautioned farmers against agriculture practices that affect the health of soil. "There are serious impacts in Wayanad and Kuttanad because of unscientific agriculture practices which harm the soil…The government will take immediate actions for soil conservation for the sake of survival. The basic human needs of water and food are also at stake because of soil degradation", he said. 

It now takes only 48 hours for the water from the Western Ghats to reach Arabian Sea as the level of soil erosion is high. The rain water used to take a fortnight to travel this distance.

If you wish a world in harmony with nature contact:
The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,
E-mail: wspindia@hotmail.com

Website: http://www.worldsocialistpartyindia.org/

The Food Industry

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With globalisation, agriculture as an independent sector has ceased to exist, becoming instead, just one part of an integrated supply chain. The hungry all over the world are linked by a common threat: the tightening of control over the most basic human need – food. The process of increasing concentration of control over land and other productive resources. Because of the selective way news is transmitted to us, we are often unaware of the courageous struggle of millions of people everywhere to gain control over food-producing resources. Distribution of food is a reflection of the control of the resources that produce food. Whoever controls the land determines who can grow food; what is grown; and where it goes. Thus fair-trade redistribution programmes cannot solve the problem of hunger. Instead, we must face up to the real question: how can people everywhere begin to democratise the control of food resources?

There is sufficient capacity in the world to produce enough food to feed everyone adequately. Most of the world’s poor live in rural areas. Hunger and food insecurity above all are expressions of rural poverty. Scarcity cannot be considered the cause of hunger when even in the worst years of famine there is always plenty of food in the world – enough in grain alone to provide everyone in the world with 3000 to 4000 calories a day, not counting all the beans, root crops, fruits, nuts, vegetables and non grain-fed meat? In Central America and in the Caribbean, where as much as 70% of the children are undernourished, at least half of the agricultural land (and the best land) grows crops for export – not food for the local people. Fertile lands are thus made to produce largely low-nutrition crops (sugar, coffee, cocoa) exclusively for export. The same land now growing cocoa, coffee, rubber, tea, or sugar, could grow an incredible diversity of nutritious crops – grains, high-protein legumes, vegetables, fruits and root crops.

Some people say that population growth is the major cause of world hunger. They tell us hunger is caused by too many people pressing against finite resources and we must have strict population control before we can hope to alleviate hunger. The relationship between hunger and population levels is not a simple one. For example, population densities in the Netherlands and Singapore are among the highest in the world but few people would say they are over-populated and starving. Hunger is not caused by too many people sharing the land. If ‘too many people’ cause hunger, we would expect to find more hungry people in countries with more people per agricultural hectare.  Yet we can find no such correlation. Bangladesh, for example, has just half the people per cultivated hectare that Taiwan has. Yet Taiwan has no starvation while people in Bangladesh often experience food shortages. South Korea has just under half the farmland per person found in Bangladesh, yet no one speaks of overcrowding causing hunger in South Korea. Countries with comparatively large amounts of agricultural land per person have some of the most severe and chronic hunger in the world. While severe hunger is a recurring problem for many people in Bolivia, for example, they live in a country with well over one-half acre of cultivated land per person, significantly more than in France. Brazil has more cultivated land per person than the United States. Mexico, where many rural people have suffered from undernourishment, has more cultivated land per person than Cuba, where now virtually no-one is underfed. In the Central America and Caribbean region, for example, Trinidad and Tobago show the lowest percentage of stunted children under five and Guatemala the highest (almost twelve times greater); yet Trinidad and Tobago's cropland per person - a key indicator of human population density - is less than half that of Guatemala's. Costa Rica, with only half of Honduras' cropped acres per person, boasts a life expectancy - one indicator of nutrition-eleven years longer than that of Honduras and close to that of northern countries. The Netherlands, where there is very little land per person, it has not prevented it from eliminating hunger and becoming a large net exporter of food

A study of 83 countries reveals that just over 3% of the landholders control about 80% of the farmland. Yet research shows that in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Guatemala the small farmer to be three to fourteen times more productive per hectare than the larger farmer. In Thailand plots of one to two hectares yield almost 60% more rice per acre than farms of 55 hectares or more. Other proof that justice for the small farmer increases production comes from the experience of countries in which the redistribution of land and other basic agricultural resources like water has resulted in rapid growth in agricultural production: Japan, Taiwan, and China stand out.

Diagnosing the cause of hunger as scarcity inevitably leads to the conclusion that increased production in itself will solve the problem. Techniques to boost production have thus been the central thrust of the ‘war on hunger’ for at least 50 years. Governments, international agencies and agribusiness corporations have promoted ‘modernisation’, chemical fertilisers, pesticides, all to make the land produce more.. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that some American farmers once used 50 million pounds of pesticides and lost 7% of their crop before harvest. Today they use 12 times more pesticides yet the percentage of the crop lost before harvest has almost doubled. The quantities of pesticides injected into the world’s environment, therefore, have little to do with the food needs of the hungry.

World hunger is extensive in spite of sufficient global food resources. Therefore increased food production is no solution. The problem is that many people are too poor to buy readily available food. We need to replace the harmful myth of the importance of financial success – so important to modern capitalism– with the idea of well-being of community and the individual, of people aware of their connectedness with others and their environment, sharing their knowledge with each other.

With globalisation, agriculture as an independent sector has ceased to exist, becoming instead, just one part of an integrated supply chain. The hungry all over the world are linked through a common threat: the tightening of control over the most basic human need – food. The process of increasing concentration of control over land and other productive resources. Because of the selective way news is transmitted to us, we are often unaware of the courageous struggle of millions of people everywhere to gain control over food-producing resources. Distribution of food is a reflection of the control of the resources that produce food. Whoever controls the land determines who can grow food; what is grown; and where it goes. Thus fair-trade redistribution programmes cannot solve the problem of hunger. Instead we must face up to the real question: how can people everywhere begin to democratise the control of food resources?

There is sufficient capacity in the world to produce enough food to feed everyone adequately. Most of the world’s poor live in rural areas. Hunger and food insecurity above all are expressions of rural poverty. Scarcity cannot be considered the cause of hunger when even in the worst years of famine there is always plenty of food in the world – enough in grain alone to provide everyone in the world with 3000 to 4000 calories a day, not counting all the beans, root crops, fruits, nuts, vegetables and non grain-fed meat? In Central America and in the Caribbean, where as much as 70% of the children are undernourished, at least half of the agricultural land (and the best land) grows crops for export – not food for the local people. Fertile lands are thus made to produce largely low-nutrition crops (sugar, coffee, cocoa) exclusively for export. The same land now growing cocoa, coffee, rubber, tea, or sugar, could grow an incredible diversity of nutritious crops – grains, high-protein legumes, vegetables, fruits and root crops.

Some people say that population growth is the major cause of world hunger. They tell us hunger is caused by too many people pressing against finite resources and we must have strict population control before we can hope to alleviate hunger. The relationship between hunger and population levels is not a simple one. For example, population densities in the Netherlands and Singapore are among the highest in the world but few people would say they are over-populated and starving. Hunger is not caused by too many people sharing the land. If ‘too many people’ cause hunger, we would expect to find more hungry people in countries with more people per agricultural hectare.  Yet we can find no such correlation. Bangladesh, for example, has just half the people per cultivated hectare that Taiwan has. Yet Taiwan has no starvation while people in Bangladesh often experience food shortages. South Korea has just under half the farmland per person found in Bangladesh, yet no one speaks of overcrowding causing hunger in South Korea. Countries with comparatively large amounts of agricultural land per person have some of the most severe and chronic hunger in the world. While severe hunger is a recurring problem for many people in Bolivia, for example, they live in a country with well over one-half acre of cultivated land per person, significantly more than in France. Brazil has more cultivated land per person then the United States. Mexico, where many rural people have suffered from undernourishment, has more cultivated land per person than Cuba, where now virtually no-one is underfed. In the Central America and Caribbean region, for example, Trinidad and Tobago show the lowest percentage of stunted children under five and Guatemala the highest (almost twelve times greater); yet Trinidad and Tobago's cropland per person-a key indicator of human population density-is less than half that of Guatemala's. Costa Rica, with only half of Honduras' cropped acres per person, boasts a life expectancy-one indicator of nutrition-eleven years longer than that of Honduras and close to that of northern countries. The Netherlands, where there is very little land per person, it has not prevented it from eliminating hunger and becoming a large net exporter of food

A study of 83 countries reveals that just over 3% of the landholders control about 80% of the farmland. Yet research shows that in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Guatemala the small farmer to be three to fourteen times more productive per hectare than the larger farmer. In Thailand plots of one to two hectares yield almost 60% more rice per acre than farms of 55 hectares or more. Other proof that justice for the small farmer increases production comes from the experience of countries in which the redistribution of land and other basic agricultural resources like water has resulted in rapid growth in agricultural production: Japan, Taiwan, and China stand out.

Diagnosing the cause of hunger as scarcity inevitably leads to the conclusion that increased production in itself will solve the problem. Techniques to boost production have thus been the central thrust of the ‘war on hunger’ for at least 50 years. Governments, international agencies and agribusiness corporations have promoted ‘modernisation’, chemical fertilisers, pesticides, all to make the land produce more.. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that some American farmers once used 50 million pounds of pesticides and lost 7% of their crop before harvest. Today they use 12 times more pesticides yet the percentage of the crop lost before harvest has almost doubled. The quantities of pesticides injected into the world’s environment therefore have little to do with the food needs of the hungry.

World hunger is extensive in spite of sufficient global food resources. Therefore increased food production is no solution. The problem is that many people are too poor to buy readily available food. We need to replace the harmful myth of the importance of financial success – so important to modern capitalism– with the idea of well-being of community and the individual, of people aware of their connectedness with others and their environment, sharing their knowledge with each other.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Feeding the mind to feed the world and to feed the future

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Monoculture or Agroecology
"There is food on the shelves but people are priced out of the market."... World Hunger Program's executive director, Josette Sheeran

Capitalism, poverty, and hunger are intimately connected. Feeding the growing world’s population is not about increasing food production; it’s about ending the capitalist system. One of the aims of socialists is a world free of hunger. People are hungry because the "global food system" we've built prioritizes corporate profits while failing to either feed people or steward our land and water resources for future generations. This is true whether we live in Detroit or Denver, in Delhi or Dakar. Despite what Monsanto & Co. would have us believe, widespread, intensive production of a few commodity crops — many of them pesticide-promoting — is not the answer to global hunger. In fact, it’s a major contributor to the problem. The problem is that hungry people are trapped in severe poverty. They lack the money to buy enough food to nourish themselves. Being constantly malnourished, they become weaker and often sick. This makes them increasingly less able to work, which then makes them even poorer and hungrier. This downward spiral often continues until death for them and their families.

There are an oft-repeated claims that "there are too many people in the world” and “overpopulation is the cause of hunger. One origin of this belief arose just as the Industrial Revolution was arising. The Enclosure Acts evicted the peasants from the land so that the gentry could make money raising wool for the new and highly productive power looms in the new towns. Massive starvation was the inevitable result of this expropriation. The intellectual elite had to then rationalise the consequences and absolve the new capitalist class for the responsibility in the upsurge of the poor.

 Today we witness a similar scapegoating of the poor by placing the responsibility of their poverty and hunger upon their numbers. While the mill-owners got their initial start in Great Britain, they and others soon expanded to colonise the world. And as they did with the Enclosures, they simply expropriated the natives and assumed land title. Once established they proceeded to eradicate centuries-old customs and practices to permit the plunder and looting of resources and raw materials and eliminating any potential competition. The empire-builders placed the local people into impoverishment. And is this legacy that generates much of to-days hunger. Food is grown often for export while local people go hungry. Valuable fertile land is therefore misused to rear cattle, sugar, tobacco, tea, coffee and other luxuries.

In 2011, 27% of U.S. grain crops were fed to cars. More than five billion bushels of corn went to U.S. ethanol distilleries that year.
In 2011, China used approximately 70% of its total corn production for livestock feed, 20% for industrial use and only 5% for food.

The problem is not that there is too little food to go around. In fact, the figures have nothing to do with the global food supply, according to Michael Windfuhr of the German Institute for Human Rights. "We've seen a global surplus for over five decades now."

There is enough water in the world's rivers to meet the demands of the expanding global population, but the rivers have to be better managed, according to a series of studies at the 14th World Water Congress in Porto de Galinhas, Brazil. The key problem for water use is not scarcity but inefficient use of supplies because of poor governance and regulation, concludes a special issue of the Water International coordinated by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research's Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF).

Famine is, by and large, preventable. There are still disasters and droughts, but much of the problem is a man-made catastrophe.  Hunger is not a matter of scarcity. Alongside social democracy, economic democracy, we must be demanding food democracy.