Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sexual harassment

Women who work in Asian factories making clothes for the global retail giant Walmart are at "daily risk" of slapping, sexual abuse and other harassment, rights groups said on Friday.
Based on interviews with workers in 60 Walmart supplier factories in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Indonesia, a coalition of charities said women were "systematically exposed to violence" and faced retaliation if they reported the attacks.
The charities said they found widespread sex harassment, verbal and physical abuse such as slapping and threats of retaliation when women refused sexual advances from bosses.
"This is a very urgent and serious issue," Anannya Bhattacharjee of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a group which represents garment workers, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "All people see are the glittering, fast-moving and affordable fashion. No one has any ideas about the deep-rooted violence against women that is propagated in the supply chains."
The alliance, which probed the abuses with four other groups, said in a 43-page report that the incidents represented the tip of the iceberg. Stigma and the risk of retaliation means that many women keep quiet, according to the rights groups.
"The difficulty is women don't feel comfortable to report. How can they seek intervention from the unions when the union leaders are mostly men?" said Khun Tharo from the Phnom Penh-based charity Center for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights. "There is no legal mechanism for them to file complaints."
Campaigners said the level of pressure and harassment faced by the workers in the study was approaching forced labour.
"Any time you have retaliation against workers, and coercion and control ... you are coming close to the line of forced labour," said Jennifer Rosenbaum with Global Labor Justice, a trans-national network of worker and migrant organisations.

Guns and a Prince to Israel

British defence contractors are selling record amounts of arms to Israel, new figures reveal, just days after it was confirmed that Prince William will represent the UK government on a visit to the country next monthNetanyahu has said it will be “a historic visit, the first of its kind”.

Campaign Against Arms Trade reveal that last year the UK issued £221m worth of arms licences to defence companies exporting to Israel. This made Israel the UK’s eighth largest market for UK arms companies, a huge increase on the previous year’s figure of £86m, itself a substantial rise on the £20m worth of arms licensed in 2015. In total, over the past five years, Israel has bought more than £350m worth of UK military hardware.

Licences issued to UK defence contractors exporting to Israel last year include those for targeting equipment, small arms ammunition, missiles, weapon sights and sniper rifles. In 2016 the UK issued licences for anti-armour ammunition, gun mountings, components for air-to-air missiles, targeting equipment, components for assault rifles, components for grenade-launchers and anti-riot shields.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The shootings we have seen over recent weeks have been an awful reminder of the appalling collective punishment and oppression that has been inflicted on the people of Gaza. By the government’s own admission, UK arms have been used time and again against Palestinians. Yet the arms sales have continued unabated. There must be a full investigation into if any UK arms have been used in the atrocities we have seen over recent months.”

Human rights groups have questioned the wisdom of sending a senior royal to a country whose use of lethal force last month has been the subject of concern from the UK government.
“After the appallingly excessive response of the Israeli security forces at the Gaza border, tensions in the occupied Palestinian territories are likely to be close to boiling point when Prince William makes this historic visit,” said Kerry Moscogiuri, Amnesty International UK’s campaigns director. Moscogiuri said: “When he’s in Ramallah, we’d like to see Prince William going beyond the usual royal meet-and-greet by spending time talking with some of the Palestinian communities who’ve been affected by Israel’s 51-year occupation. Like everyone in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, people in Ramallah have endured years of discriminatory restrictions on their movement, with roadblocks, militarised checkpoints and off-limits roads which are for the exclusive use of those in the illegal Israeli settlements.”

The Jewish Problem (1947)

The Jewish Problem, as is the case with all minority problems, constitutes one of the countless issues which a sickly social system based upon economic classes constantly throws up. It will take much more than tear-jerker ads in the newspapers; much more than impassioned orations by prominent civic, national and world figures; much more than all the money that can ever pour into the coffers of organized charities to solve. A problem which arises out of the nature of class society can only be solved by the eradication of class society. Needless to say, this is one task which organized Jewry leaves strictly alone.

In order to see clearly what is behind the Jewish Problem it is necessary to understand first and foremost just what and who the Jewish people are.

Origin and History of the Jews (*)
There are many strange theories prevalent in the world today concerning the "Jewish race." We even find an occasional anthropologist still holding forth on the difference in skull measurements of Jews and non-Jews. The "findings" of these "scientists" like the arguments on racial differences that the Jews themselves maintain, should make important additions to the Mother Goose tales of the future. One only needs to dip into Jewish history to see through this ridiculous thesis.

The word "Jew" itself is derived from Judah, or in Hebrew, Yehudah — the Biblical character who with his brother Benjamin were the reputed founders of the two tribes which constituted one of the two rival kingdoms which were established in Palestine about 975 B. C. The Israelites, constituting twelve tribes in all, were supposed to be descended from Father Abraham, who, if he actually did exist, probably lived around 1500 B. C. But even in those early times, the inhabitants of the "land of milk and honey" must have constituted a strange mixture. For we find that at the time of the patriarchs, the land of Canaan was occupied by the following tribes: Kenites, Venizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, Hivites, Philistines and Phoenicians. Since it is also established that the Hebrews originated in Mesopotamia (Iraq), and the Mesopotamians themselves sprang from the Chaldaeans, Cushites and from "the descendants of Sham of the tribe of Thara", it can readily toe seen that father Abraham had a fairly representative crew of homo sapiens to work upon with his startling new theory of one God.

Furthermore, it must be remembered that Palestine is situated between Asia and Africa. Across this ancient pathway, the caravans and armies of the early Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek and Egyptian empires crossed and recrossed. Since it is highly improbable that soldiers and travelling men were more chaste in those times than they are today, it can safely be assumed that by the time (584 B. C.) the last of the Israelites were exiled to Babylon the Jewish people were as pure, in the sense representative of mankind generally, as any people could be.

From those times right on through the ancient, medieval and modern eras, the Jews have scattered into every continent and every civilized part of the world. Legal inter-marriage and other types 'of sex relationship with Mongols from Asia, Moors from Africa and the Christians of Europe have continually taken place. The early practice of proselytising brought into the picture Negro and Chinese Jews. Until today we have this "descendant" of Abraham, through the tribe of Judah, as thoroughly mixed as any other of the "races of mankind" by the cocktail shaker of history.
There is no such thing as a Jewish "type". Nor are there any distinct and separate Jewish characteristics. An Eastern European Jew is a different "type" than the Western or Sephardic Jew. No more nor less different than the non-Jews of those areas. The characteristics and customs of the Russian or Polish Jews, are quite foreign to those of the German or English or Dutch Jews. They are the customs and characteristics of their adopted countries. There are major differences in their methods of prayer and there is no common basis in their political outlook. Yet despite all of the foregoing, there is in society today, the Jew and the Jewish Problem. It would seem that in face of all of the evidence, the only scientific definition of Jew today, is one who believes in the Jewish Religion or who accepts an unsound political doctrine, fostered by Zionism, of a Hebrew nation and a Hebrew nationality.

Strictly speaking, the term anti-semitism as applied against the Jews is a mis-nomer. The Arabs, whose national fervour has been stirred up against the admission of Jews to Palestine can hardly be called anti-semites. For they are nearer to being Semites than are the Jews in the Displaced Persons camps of Europe. Nor does the average non-Jew of Europe or America who hates Jews have any particular feeling against the Semitic Arabs, who are not in sufficient numbers in these Continents to constitute a problem. So it is not because they are classified as Semites that Jews are hated, whether in the Christian or Moslem world.

There have been various reasons behind the hatred for Jews in the past. In their early history, Palestine was never a completely independent political unit, nor has it ever been one since. The Jews in the days of the kings were always under the suzerainty of some great empire or other and as a vassal people they received the contempt of a vassal people. Especially since they propagated new and inimical religious theories to those of the powerful empires.

In medieval times, they became associated in the minds of the non-Jews with money-lenders or usurers Since Church law frowned upon usury, and Jews were forbidden to learn useful trades, many of them became money lenders. They charged exorbitant interest rates because first there was little if any competition, and second, they were taking a terrific gamble at a time when Christianity held the bulk of political and consequently legal power.

After the advent of capitalist dominance, Jew-baiting took on the nature of a political weapon, and the Jewish people have variously been designated as an international gang of capitalists who seek to dominate the world by means of a financial oligarchy; and an international gang of communists who seek to overthrow the capitalist system. Even in modern times, they have been accused of starting the first and second world wars and of poisoning the minds of our youth by their control of the movie industry, etc, ad nauseam.

Such is the nature of anti-Jewish propaganda and in our times it can be stated unequivocally that the cause is bound up with the need for capitalist society to maintain division in the ranks of the working class. Anti-Jewish, anti-Negro or any other type of "racial" discrimination is all part of the whole process of the suppression of the working class.

Modern Torquemadas
The torture and persecutions which Jews suffered under the Spanish Inquisition had nothing on the punishment and "experimentation upon" that many of them have been going through during this most civilized and cultured of centuries. The pogroms instituted in Czarist Russia, in which Cossack troops wiped out whole Jewish communities might be excused on the grounds that Russia was at that time a backward country, lacking in the finer sensibilities which capitalist society brings into being. The same excuse might have been given for “democratic” Poland where millions of poverty-stricken Jews were herded into cellars and garrets to live and die like rats with all sorts of government tolerated indignities heaped upon them. But then came the Nazis in cultured Germany and the tempo of Jewish persecution became greatly accelerated.

The concentration camps, sterilisation centres, gas chambers and brothels of the Nazis brought a reaction of shock to the civilised British capitalists who had become used to treating the Jewish question in Palestine with more finesse, more polish. It was not nearly so bad form to handle the problem by pitting them against the Arabs. Let someone else do your dirty work, don't you know. This, of course with the cooperation of their American capitalist brethren.

The end of World War II, however, brought British and American capitalism up against a new set of realities. With a "socialist" government in power in Britain the Jewish people took heart. Surely the "socialists" had always been their champions. But this "socialist" government was elected on a mandate to continue class society, not to do away with it. And because capitalism is basically the same, regardless of who sits in the government, Ernest Bevin, the Labor Government's foreign secretary has assumed the "honours" in Jewish eyes, formerly held by Messrs Hitler, Rosenberg, etc. In a desperate effort to maintain good Arab relationships, British "socialist" concentration camps were erected to house the refugee Jewish workers who had only just left the horrors of Europe. And truncheons, bayonets, and bullets, produced in "socialist" Britain were wielded against recalcitrant Jewish refugees. In the background sits Uncle Sam, more or less directing the orchestra in which Britain now plays second fiddle. Palestine can no sooner become a separate political unit today, even with Partition, than it could at any time in its history. The reason today is OIL which American interests control in the Near East.

So the Jewish Problem goes on into the last quarter of 1947 with the Jewish philanthropies growing as rapidly as the problem itself.

The Cure
Socialists see a worse minority problem in the world today than the Jewish Problem — serious as it may be. Society as a whole is organized on the basis of classes — the master or capitalist class constituting a minority with a problem of keeping a majority — the working class — in subjection. On the other hand, the socialists, an insignificant minority of the working class are confronted with the terrific problem of getting their message across to their fellow workers. To join in the fight that nationalistic Jews are making for a Jewish "homeland" is to fight for the prolongation of class society. The capitalist Jews do not need our sympathy. Nor do we expect them to join in the main fight. The Jewish workers on the other hand, who make up the overwhelming majority of the Jews, must shake a lot of unsound ideas before they can do much toward their own emancipation.

Zionism would have its adherents believe that a Jewish state in Palestine is the answer to their problem. The organised Jewish charities want us to believe that the plight of the Displaced Persons's in Europe can be cured by an appeal to the heartstrings to loosen the purse strings. This sort of approach is completely unsound and will solve nothing. The class struggle rages in Palestine between Jew and Jew, Jew and Arab, Arab and Arab — in short between capitalists and workers — just as it does throughout civilisation. The "Bulletin", issued by the Council on Jewish-Arab Cooperation, N. Y., May-June 1947, tells of working class celebrations in Haifa and Jerusalem, mass strikes involving as many as 30,000 Arab and 10,000 Jewish workers in Palestine cities; a strike in the all Jewish city of Tel-Aviv. So much for Palestine as a solution to the Jewish Problem. The United Jewish Appeal and all other such Funds, sincere as they may be, cannot but help prolong the very conditions that make for a Jewish Problem.

The socialist appeal is based upon reason and a scientific evaluation of the nature of class society. We say, get rid of capitalism and all minority problems will cease to exist.

(*)The historical data on early Jewish history used in this article was gleamed from the encyclopedias Americana, Britannica and the Jewish Encyclopedia.


(The Western Socialist, Boston, November 1947)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Ending starvation as a weapon of war

Wars dramatically worsen starvation, and about two-thirds of the 815 million chronically hungry people around the world live in conflict areas, according to U.N. food agencies. 

Syria, Yemen and South Sudan, in particular, have erected "systematic obstruction and road blocks" to aid efforts, said Jan Egeland, former U.N. Under Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator and now secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council. In Yemen, years of conflict have left roughly a quarter of its 28 million people severely short of food and at risk of starvation. Another 6.5 million people in Syria and 5.3 million in South Sudan, both torn by conflict, also have uncertain access to enough food.

A United Nations vote condemning starvation as a means of warfare is historic but will be useless. The 15-member Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Thursday that threatens sanctions on countries that obstruct efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to avert food shortages and potential famine. The resolution will remain a piece of paper. The resolution recognises the impact of conflict on food supplies and the need to protect agricultural livelihoods, said Dominique Burgeon, director of the emergency and rehabilitation division at the Food and Agriculture Organization. Enforcement is critical, said Megan Doherty, senior director at Mercy Corps.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Pay Sick Leave !

People with no paid sick leave benefits are more likely to experience food insecurity and require welfare services. Currently, only seven states mandate that employers provide paid sick leave benefits and nearly one-third of all workers in the United States lack these protections.

"Numerous studies have shown the negative effects lack of paid sick leave has on society, but this is the first time a direct correlation has been observed between the absence of these benefits and the incidence of poverty," said Patricia Stoddard Dare, Ph.D., associate professor of social work at Cleveland State. "This adds to the growing body of evidence that paid sick leave is a key factor in health care affordability and economic security."

Studies published in two academic, peer-reviewed journals, Social Work in Health Care and the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, utilized data collected from the 2015 National Health Interview Survey to assess the effect of no paid sick leave on two key indicators of poverty, income and the need to utilize welfare services. 

On top of being three times more likely to live below the poverty line, working adults between the ages of 18 and 64 were also nearly 1.5 times more likely to receive income support from state and county welfare programs and nearly 1.4 times more likely to receive food stamps.

"Paid sick leave benefits serve as a structural mechanism for preventing working families from becoming the working poor," says LeaAnne DeRigne, Ph.D., associate professor of FAU's Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work. "Given the public investments made in welfare, food stamps and other social services, mandating paid sick leave is a clear policy lever for reducing the need for these services among millions of individuals nationally."

'Where do we go from here? (Brighton 27/5)

Brighton Discussion Group

Sunday, 27 May - 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Venue: The Victory Pub (upstairs), 
6 Duke St,
Brighton BN1 1AH

The Socialist Party of Great Britain stands by its analysis that we should use Parliament, not to try to reform capitalism but for the purpose of abolishing capitalism and that at the same time, the working class will also be organising itself, at the various places of work, in order to keep production going. The Socialist Party's case is for the primacy of political action. Another principle held by the SPGB is the need for the majority to understand and support the socialist transformation of society.

Control of parliament by representatives of a conscious revolutionary movement will enable the bureaucratic-military apparatus to be dismantled and the oppressive forces of the state to be neutralised, so that socialism may be introduced with the least possible violence and disruption. Parliament and local councils, to the extent that their functions are administrative and not governmental, can and will be used to co-ordinate the immediate measures to transform society when socialism is established. Far better, is it not, if only to minimise the risk of violence, to organise to win a majority in parliament, not to form a government, but to end capitalism and dismantle the state.

The Socialist Party say that the capitalist’s legitimacy comes from their ‘democratic’ rule, so we believe that the capitalist’s legitimacy can be totally be broken by taking a majority in Parliament. But “capturing” Parliament is only a measure of acceptance of socialism and a coup de grace to capitalist rule. The owning class has a supreme weapon within its grasp: political power, – control of the army, navy, air and police forces.

That power is conferred upon the representatives of the owners at election times and they, recognising its importance, spend large amounts of wealth and much time and effort to secure it. In countries like Britain the workers form the bulk of the voters; a situation the employers are compelled to face and deal with. Hence the incessant stream of opinion-forming influences which stems from their ownership and control of press, radio, schools to influence the workers to the view that capitalism is the best of all possible social forms. And that only political groups who accept this view are worthy of workers votes. It is the Achilles heel of capitalism and makes a non-violent revolution possible. Therefore, the first, most important battle is to continue the destruction of capitalism’s legitimacy in the minds of our fellow class members. That is, to drive the development of our class as a class-for-itself, mindful of the fact that capitalism is a thing that can be destroyed and a thing that should be destroyed. They must withdraw their consent to capitalism and class rule.

The Socialist Party view its function to be to make socialists, to propagate socialism, and to point out to the workers that they must achieve their own emancipation. The abolition of capitalism MUST entail organisation without leaders or leadership. 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. That knowledge must precede intelligent action. And intelligent action in this instance means an intelligent organisation (a lack of unity of ideas and purpose always ends in defeat even for the non-socialist and non-revolutionary groups and parties.) The working class must want and understand a socialist society of common ownership and democratic control. We need to organise politically, into a political party, a socialist party, a mass party that has yet to emerge, not a small educational and propagandist group such as the SPGB . This future party will neutralise the state and its repressive forces and there is no question of forming a government and "taking office", and then it will proceed to take over the means of production for which the working class has also organised themselves to do at their places of work. This done, the repressive state is disbanded and its remaining administrative and service features, reorganised on a democratic basis, are merged with the organisations which the majority will have formed (workers councils or whatever) to take over and run production, to form the democratic administrative structure of the state-free society of common ownership that socialism will be.

 The members of the Socialist Party are labelled pure and simple parliamentarians but “capturing” Parliament is only a measure of acceptance of socialism and a coup de grace to capitalist rule. The real revolution in social relations will be made in our lives and by ourselves, not Parliament. What really matters is a conscious socialist majority outside parliament, ready and organised, to take over and run industry and society. Electing a socialist majority in parliament is essentially just a reflection of this. It is not parliament that establishes socialism, but the socialist working-class majority outside parliament and they do this, not by their votes, but by their active participating beyond this in the transformation of society.

Tough at the Top?

What do you do if your business suffers a 2 per cent fall in underlying profits, a 1 per cent fall in revenues, and the expectation that the coming year isn’t going to be much better? The share price started at 438.6p. It finished it at 227.5p.  

BT chose to sack 13,000 of its employees.

However, if you are its CEO you award yourself a 2.5 per cent pay rise and add in a £1.3m special bonus to that near seven-figure salary he got paid.

Gavin Patterson ended the 12 months covered by the just-released annual report with £2.3m in his pocket before tax, nearly £1m more than in the previous year. Patterson’s overall package is in a year during which the share price fell by nearly half. 

Companies Response to Pay Hardships

The latest study, released by PwC on Tuesday, found that a quarter of U.S. workers said financial worries caused them health problems. Forty percent said finances distracted them at work and 15 percent said these problems made them miss work.

“They are starting to see that a 401(k) is not enough. Employees say: I have present-day needs I have to take care of before I can take care of retirement,” said Chris Whitlow, chief executive officer of Edukate, a workplace financial provider.

A study released in May by Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health found that 90 percent of the 162 companies they follow now include financial advice programs, such as debt management and budgeting. About three-quarters offer some form of stress management training. Many companies are even providing discounted services for everything from car-buying to pet insurance or access to mortgage brokers or tax preparation services.

Walmart allows employees to get a pay advance, so they did not have to use expensive payday loans.

The Irish Abortion Referendum

The Socialist Party has in the past commented on abortion and here is a couple of extracts'
"Clearly there are very real medical and ethical problems involved in the question of abortion and ultimately it is for the individuals themselves to decide. However, these problems are exacerbated because of the nature of the society in which we live. In a sane world, probably no one would opt for abortion as a method of contraception. The fact that women are forced to do so in present society says something about that society and the conflicting pressures to which people are subjected; for example the cost and responsibility of parenthood, the ambivalent attitude towards contraception advice for young people and the lack of resources that are devoted to researching and developing new, safer and more effective alternatives to present methods of contraception."

"Abortion is a very serious issue and should not be viewed as an extension of the means of contraception. Today, these latter means are generally readily available. This writer feels that, where a sexually-active couple wants to avoid what is a traumatic experience, especially for the female partner, then there is a responsibility to avail of suitable means of contraception. Ultimately, this is simply respect for the female participant in the sex act and this respect should be a fundamental aspect of sex education. Unfortunately, many of those who support the so-called “pro-life” stance are bitterly opposed to sex education beyond the most vague biological facts. As we have already observed, they are the same people who have fought a bitter rearguard action against the easy availability of contraceptive devices. As far as their opposition to abortion is concerned, most of the religious “pro-lifers” are less concerned about human life and more concerned with religious strictures...Socialists can respect the views of people motivated by the idea of protecting all forms of human life out of regard for the supremacy of humanity. That after all is what Socialism is about. Unfortunately, most of those within the so-called pro-life organisation are concerned more with the strictures of religious leaders and less with genuine concern for human beings."
As we said in our pamphlet on women "ultimately it is for the individuals themselves to decide", this blogger personally believes that a meaningful choice, therefore, expects the law to permit abortions so a woman can indeed choose for herself.

Slaughter in Tamil Nadu

Protests against the proposed expansion of Sterlite copper smelting plant, a mining subsidiary of the UK-based Vedanta Resources, has been happening for the past 100 days in Tuticorin. Police opened fire on a planned protest on Tuesday against the expansion of a copper smelter which, activists said, was already polluting air and water for local residents and fisheries, taking the death toll among demonstrators against a major mining operation up to 13.

In the wake of the violence, the high court in the state capital Chennai ordered Sterlite Copper, to halt its proposed expansion in Thoothukudi. But the court order represents only a temporary stay of action; it requires Vedanta to carry out a public consultation over its plan to double the smelter’s capacity, and for the local agency to make a new hearing on environmental impacts public.

The plant, one of India's biggest, had already been shut for more than 50 days and will remain closed until at least 6 June because the local pollution regulator has said the facility is not complying with environmental rules.  In March 2013, hundreds of people suffered breathing difficulty, nausea and throat infection following a gas leak from the plant. Though the plant was ordered to shut down following allegations of violating pollution control norms, the National Green Tribunal had ultimately allowed it to be reopened. The same year in another case spearheaded by MDMK chief Vaiko, the Supreme Court had slapped a 100 crore fine on the plant for polluting over the years.

When the protesters gathered in front of the collector office on May 22, 2018 the police resorted to violence. Civilians including women and children were brutally attacked by the hundreds of policemen who were deployed on the spot. In what appears to be a planned operation, tear gas was first used to disperse the crowd and they were herded into an open ground and then shot at. The Jallianwallabagh style operation was carried out using sophisticated weapons. Chilling videos of policemen in t-shirts, standing on top of the vans and aiming at the protesters to take a precise shot emerged in the media. Soon the media were also pressurized by the state to stop covering the police atrocities. Most of the media switched its narrative to “police taking actions to control the rioters”. Thousands of men, women and children gathered just months before, peacefully for their livelihood. They suddenly became rioters in the eyes of the state and its media.

TamilNadu has been seeing an increased number of police atrocities in recent years.  Be it the protests against the Koodankulam Nuclear power plant or ONGC oil exploration the state has responded to genuine people demands with mass state violence. The people in the Cauvery Delta region in TamilNadu have been protesting against the proposed methane extraction project. The Centre has responded with the deployment of around 2000 para-military forces in the region to quell the protests. Even lighting a candle in memory of the massacred Eelam Tamils is a crime.

Who gave the order to shoot at the peaceful protesters is still not known. Several times the question was raised to the police officers and none of them gave any reply to the question. The people’s protests were neither against the ruling government nor against any political party. Yet the state machinery has exposed itself as being a mere tool to the corporate looting.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

How to Commit Genocide

Umit Kurt,  a Harvard scholar, in a detailed paper on the slaughter of the Armenians of Antep in southern Turkey in 1915, which appears in the latest edition of the Journal of Genocide Researchsuggests a genocidal government must have the local support of every branch of respectable society: tax officials, judges, magistrates, junior police officers, clergymen, lawyers, bankers and, most painfully, the neighbours of the victims.

He concentrates on the dispossession, rape, and murder of just 20,000 of the one and a half million Armenian Christians slaughtered by the Ottoman Turks in the first holocaust of the 20th century. It not only details the series of carefully prepared deportations from Antep and the pathetic hopes of those who were temporarily spared – a story tragically familiar to so many stories of the Jewish ghettoes of Eastern Europe – but lists the property and possessions which the city authorities and peasants sought to loot from those they sent to their deaths.

The local perpetrators thus seized farms, pistachio groves, orchards, vineyards, coffee houses, shops, watermills, church property, schools and a library. Officially this was called “expropriation” or “confiscation”, but as Umit Kurt points out, “huge numbers of people were bound together in a circle of profit that was at the same time a circle of complicity”. One of the most powerful of Kurt’s arguments is that a central government cannot succeed in exterminating a minority of its people without the support of their fellow citizens: the Ottomans needed the Muslims of Antep to carry out the deportation orders in 1915 – rewarded with the property of those they were helping to liquidate – just as the local people needed the central authority to legitimise what we would today call war crimes.

He draws no parallels between the Armenian holocaust – a phrase the Israelis themselves use of the Armenians – and the Jewish holocaust nor the current genocidal outrages in the modern Middle East. But no one can read Umit Kurt’s words without being reminded of the armies of ghosts who haunt later history; the collaborators of Nazi-occupied France, of the Polish collaborators of the Nazis in Warsaw and Krakow and of the tens of thousands of Sunni Muslim civilians who allowed Isis to enslave Yazidi women and destroy the Christians of Nineveh. These victims, too, found themselves dispossessed by their neighbours, their homes looted and their property sold off by the officials who should have protected them as they faced their own extermination.

The growing economic power of the Ottoman Armenians in the decades before the genocide and “the Muslim community’s envy and resentment played a central role in the hatemongering atmosphere”. 

So, too, did repeated Ottoman claims that the Armenians were helping Turkey’s enemies – the same “stab in the back” betrayal routine which Hitler used to rally the Nazis against communists and Jews in the Weimar Republic. In the Middle East today, it is the “infidels” – the “Crusader” (ie pro-Western) Christians – who have been fleeing for their lives for supposedly betraying Islam.

 War criminals need their people to complete their projects or – to use an old German expression – “to help to give the wheel a push.”

Abridged from here

Philanthrocapitalism’ - corporate hypocrisy?

More and more wealthy CEOs are pledging to give away parts of their fortunes – often to help fix problems their companies caused.

It is easy to think of Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg as some kind of hero – a once regular kid whose genius made him one of the richest men in the world, and who decided to use that wealth for the benefit of others by setting up a charity foundation. The image he projects is of altruism untainted by self-interest. A quick scratch of the surface reveals that the structure of Zuckerberg’s charity enterprise is informed by much more than good-hearted altruism. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, though, is not a not-for-profit charitable foundation, but a limited liability company. This legal status has significant practical implications, especially when it comes to tax. As a company, the Initiative can do much more than charitable activity: its legal status gives it rights to invest in other companies, and to make political donations. Effectively the company does not restrict Zuckerberg’s decision-making as to what he wants to do with his money; he is very much the boss. Zuckerberg can control the company’s investments as he sees fit, while accruing significant commercial, tax and political benefits.  Journalist  Jesse Eisinger explained Zuckerberg simply “moved money from one pocket to the other” while being “likely never to pay any taxes on it”.

What was known as The Giving Pledge, is a philanthropy campaign initiated by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates in 2010. The campaign targets billionaires around the world, encouraging them to give away the majority of their wealth. There is nothing in the pledge that specifies what exactly the donations will be used for, or even whether they are to be made now or willed after death; it is just a general commitment to using private wealth for ostensibly public good. It is not legally binding either, but a moral commitment. There is a long list of people and families who have made the pledge. Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan are there, and so are some 174 others, including household names such as Richard and Joan Branson, Michael Bloomberg, Barron Hilton and David Rockefeller. It would seem that many of the world’s richest people simply want to give their money away to good causes. 

 Human geographers Iain Hay and Samantha Muller wrote in a 2014 paper, suggest that this “golden age of philanthropy” has been “diverting attention and resources away from the failings of contemporary manifestations of capitalism”, and may also be serving as a substitute for public spending withdrawn by the state.  They say what we are witnessing is the transfer of responsibility for public goods and services from democratic institutions to the wealthy, to be administered by an executive class. In the CEO society, the exercise of social responsibilities is no longer debated in terms of whether corporations should or shouldn’t be responsible for more than their own business interests. Instead, it is about how philanthropy can be used to reinforce a politico-economic system that enables such a small number of people to accumulate obscene amounts of wealth.  The reliance on billionaire businesspeople’s charity to support public projects is a part of what has been called “philanthrocapitalism”.  This resolves the apparent antinomy between charity (traditionally focused on giving) and capitalism (based on the pursuit of economic self-interest). As historian Mikkel Thorup explains, philanthrocapitalism rests on the claim that “capitalist mechanisms are superior to all others (especially the state) when it comes to not only creating economic but also human progress, and that the market and market actors are or should be made the prime creators of the good society”. Philanthropy serves to legitimise capitalism, as well as to extend it further and further into all domains of social, cultural and political activity.  It involves the inculcation of neo-liberal values personified by the billionaire CEOs. Philanthropy is recast in the same terms in which a CEO would consider a business venture. Charitable giving is translated into a business model that employs market-based solutions characterised by efficiency and quantified costs and benefits. Philanthrocapitalism takes the application of management discourses and practices from business corporations and adapts them to charitable work. The focus is on entrepreneurship, market-based approaches and performance metrics. The process is funded by super-rich businesspeople and managed by those experienced in business. The result, at a practical level, is that philanthropy is undertaken by CEOs in a manner similar to how they would run businesses.

 Garry Jenkins, a professor of law at the University of Minnesota, escribes how charity foundations now involves becoming “increasingly directive, controlling, metric-focused and business-oriented with respect to their interactions with grantee public charities, in an attempt to demonstrate that the work of the foundation is ‘strategic’ and ‘accountable’” - a CEO style to “save the world through business thinking and market methods”, as Jenkins puts it.

 Accepting fair trade policies and closing sweatshops may be good for the world, but is potentially disastrous for a firm’s immediate financial success.  Exploitative labour practices or corporate malpractice are swept under the carpet as companies publicise tax-efficient contributions to good causes. Such contributions may be a relatively small price to pay compared with changing fundamental operational practices. Likewise, giving to charity is a prime opportunity for CEOs to be seen to be doing good without having to sacrifice their commitment to making profit at any social cost. Charitable activity permits CEOs to be philanthropic rather than economically progressive or politically democratic. At the personal level, CEOs can take advantage of promoting their individual charity to distract from other, less savoury activities; as an executive, they can cash in on the capital gains that can be made from introducing high-profile charity strategies. The image of the powerful autocrat is, to this effect, transformed into a potentially positive figure, a forward-thinking political leader who can guide their country on the correct market path in the face of “irrational” opposition. Charity becomes a conduit for CEOs to fund these “good” authoritarians.

In 2000 the Institute for Policy Studies in the US reported, after comparing corporate revenues with gross domestic product (GDP), that 51 of the largest economies in the world were corporations, and 49 were national economies. The world’s 10 biggest corporations having revenues that exceed the total combined revenues of the 180 least wealthy nations.  The biggest corporations were General Motors, Walmart and Ford, each of which was larger economically than Poland, Norway and South Africa. As the heads of these corporations, CEOs are now quasi-politicians. One only has to think of the increasing power of the World Economic Forum, whose annual meeting in Davos in Switzerland sees corporate CEOs and senior politicians getting together with the ostensible goal of “improving the world”, a now time-honoured ritual that symbolises the global power and agency of CEOs.

A 2017 report by Oxfam states: “When corporations increasingly work for the rich, the benefits of economic growth are denied to those who need them most. In pursuit of delivering high returns to those at the top, corporations are driven to squeeze their workers and producers ever harder – and to avoid paying taxes which would benefit everyone, and the poorest people in particular.”

Wealth redistribution is placed in the hands of the wealthy, and social responsibility in the hands of those who have exploited society for personal gain.

Full article here

Modern Slavery

Human trafficking for labour exploitation is on the rise, according to the latest report by the Council of Europe.
The victims are often undocumented immigrants, and all vulnerable groups living in precarious economic conditions are at risk.
What seems a job opportunity can turn into a living hell: the victims often depend on their traffickers for work and housing.
They work in a wide range of services, like food production, the restaurant industry, personal care, and construction sites.
They are often forced to work under threat but rarely denounce their conditions for fear of deportation or retaliation.
The association as-Surya in Belgium helps victims of human trafficking by offering shelter.
“Because of this amplification of illegal immigration there are more and more different people of foreign origin exploited here. And then the economic crisis increased the need to have workers available to work for practically nothing," said Christian Meulders.
Frederic Kurz, a prosecutor in Liege, explains how hard it is to get successful prosecutions and convictions for traffickers .
"Their first words will rarely explain all that they have lived because they have post traumatic stress. The difficulty is that the lawyers of the traffickers in court will tell us: you see the victim is not credible, She or he made a statement and then changed stories," explained Kurz.
Who can fix the problem - politicians. Who controls the politicians directly or indirectly - the capitalists. Who is benefitting from slavery - the capitalists.

'The Media and Capitalism' (Public Meeting London 26/5)

'The Media and Capitalism' 

Saturday, 26 May  
2:00pm - 4:00pm
Venue: Quaker Meeting House, 
20 Nigel Playfair Avenue, 
London W6 9JY
Speaker: Stephen Harper

Abusing Kids

Fleeing violence and poverty in Central America, tens of thousands of children come to the United States each year and are detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 

The report (pdf) from the ACLU and University of Chicago Law School says detained children have faced "physical and psychological abuse, unsanitary and inhumane living conditions, isolation from family members, extended periods of detention, and denial of access to legal and medical services."

The amount of children who have come forward about various forms of abuse suggests that such treatment by U.S. officials is commonplace. The report notes that:
  • 1. a quarter of kids reported physical abuse, including sexual assault and beatings by CBP agents;
  • 2. more than half reported verbal abuse such death threats, and denial of necessary medical care, including cases that led to children requiring hospitalization; and
  • 3. 80 percent reported inadequate food and water.
"Beyond the misconduct detailed," the report points out that these "documents are shocking for the independent reason that they do not contain any evidence of disciplinary action or other meaningful accountability for abusive CBP officials," in spite of the fact that DHS has multiple internal oversight agencies.

"The misconduct demonstrated in these records is breathtaking, as is the government's complete failure to hold officials who abuse their power accountable," said ACLU Border Litigation Project staff attorney Mitra Ebadolahi. "These documents provide a glimpse into a federal immigration enforcement system marked by brutality and lawlessness."

This was during the Obama administration, not Trump's.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Suffering and not benefiting

The stock market has been on a boom in recent years and many corporations are reporting strong profits.
Four in 10 Americans are unable to cover an unexpected expense of $400 or more without resorting to borrowing money or selling some of their possessions, a Federal Reserve annual economic survey has found.
At the same time, in 2017 one in five Americans knew someone who was addicted to opioids or painkillers.
“Even with the improvement in financial outlook, however, 40% of Americans still say they cannot cover a $400 emergency expense, or would do so by borrowing or selling something,” said Federal Reserve Board governor Lael Brainard in a statement.

Supping with the devil

America's largest corporations continue their unprecedented stock buyback spree in the wake of President Donald Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cut, and new government data published on Tuesday showed that U.S. banks are also smashing records thanks to the GOP tax law, raking in $56 billion in net profits during the first quarter of 2018—an all-time high.

America's most profitable corporations are posting obscene profits and using that cash to reward wealthy shareholders through stock buybacks while investing little to nothing in workers, despite their lofty promises.

According to a CNN analysis published on Sunday, "S&P 500 companies showered Wall Street with at least $178 billion of stock buybacks during the first three months of 2018." As Common Dreams reportedearlier this month, major corporations are on track to send $1 trillion to rich investors through buybacks and dividend increases by the end of the year.

Most Americans, meanwhile, have said they are seeing very few noticeable benefits from the massive tax cuts and—according to a new study by United Way—nearly half of the U.S. population is still struggling to afford basic necessities like food, housing, and healthcare.