Thursday, March 23, 2017

Work til you drop

An analysis for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has suggested that workers under the age of 30 may not get a pension until the age of 70.
At least six million people face the prospect of having to work longer.
"This report is going to be particularly unwelcome for anyone in their early 40s, as they're now likely to see their state pension age pushed back another year," said Tom McPhail, head of retirement at Hargreaves Lansdown.
"For those in their 30s and younger, it reinforces the expectation of a state pension from age 70, which means an extra two years of work."

US Inequality

1.) The total wealth of the members of Forbes 400 wealthiest individuals in the United States adds up to a record $2.34 trillion, more than the GDP of India, a nation of over a billion people.  All 400 of these people have fortunes that are worth at least $1.7 billion.
2.) An estimated 115,000 U.S. households (the top one-thousandth of America’s population) owns more than 20 percent of U.S. household wealth, up from 7 percent in 1970.
3.) The wealthiest 400 people in the United States have more wealth than the bottom 61 percent of the U.S. population which is comprised of 70 million households or 194 million people.
4.) The wealthiest 20 people in the United States have as much wealth as 152 million people who live in the 57 million households that make up the bottom half of the United States population.  These people include the following:
Their combined wealth totals $732 billion.  It is interesting to see that six of the top twenty are in the tech sector and nine have inherited their wealth from the previous generation.
5.) A typical U.S. household has $81,000 in total wealth.  The Forbes 400 have more wealth than 36 million American households, equal to the number of households that own cats!
6.) The Forbes 400 have as much wealth as all of America’s African-American households plus one-third of America’s Latino population combined.  The wealthiest 100 members of the Forbes 400 have as much wealth as the entire African-American population of 42 million people.  The wealthiest 186 members of the Forbes 400 have as much wealth as the entire Latino population of over 55 million people.
7.) African-Americans make up 13.2 percent of the United States population but have only 2.5 percent of the nation’s total wealth.  Latinos make up 17 percent of the United States population but have only 2.9 percent of the nation’s total wealth.  Here is a table showing the inequality in wealth by race:

Poor Canadians

Five million people in Canada are living in poverty.

  • On a per capita basis, the poverty rate in Canada is nearly as high as it is in the United States. With 45 million Americans out of a total population of 320 million living in poverty, that works out to roughly one in seven. In Canada, with 5 million people in poverty out of a total population of 37 million, that works out to be just marginally (one-third of a percentage point) lower than the U.S. rate. Certainly nothing to boast about. 
  • Three million Canadian households are living in housing conditions that are sub-standard – overcrowded, inadequately furnished, and barely affordable for low-income families. One in every five households are being forced to spend 50 percent of their income on rent.
  • Canada is one of the few advanced industrialized countries with a public health care system that doesn’t cover pharmacare, dental and vision care, as well as the services of doctors and hospitals. One in 10 Canadians often can’t afford to fill their medical prescriptions.
  • Three million Canadian children – one in five – are living in poverty. UNICEF ranks Canada 17thamong 29 wealthy countries due to its high rate of child poverty, and 26th for its dismal overall rate of child care. The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) has ranked Canada dead last out of 25 countries for the inadequacy and inaccessibility of its child care programs.
  • Unlike most countries in Europe, Canada still doesn’t have a national, accessible, affordable, and quality child care network. Most European countries have committed to providing an ECEC (Early Childhood Education and Care) place for all children, either by legislating a legal entitlement or by making attendance compulsory. Eight European nations – Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany, Slovenia, Estonia and Malta – guarantee a legal right to ECEC for all children soon after their birth.
  • 21 percent of single mothers in Canada have to raise their children while living in poverty.
  • Among Canadian cities, Toronto has the most children living in poverty: 133,000 – 27 percent, one in four. Montreal is a close second.
  • One in eight Canadian households struggle to put food on the table, even though 62 percent of their breadwinners have low-wage (obviously underpaid) jobs. Only the food banks save them from starvation. Since 2008, food bank usage has increased in all provinces except Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • Between 1980 and 2005, average earnings among the poorest in Canada fell by 20 percent, and part-time, low-wage employment has risen by 50 percent over the last two decades.
  • Nearly two million Canadian seniors rely on the GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) and live on about $17,000 a year — $1,000 below the basic standard of living for a single person.
  • An estimated 235,000 people in Canada were homeless on any given night in 2016.
This is just a sample of the statistical evidence that makes it clear that the lives of millions of Canadians and their children are wretched, precarious, unhappy, and often plagued by cold and hunger.

To contact the Socialist Party of Canada send postal mail to:
Socialist Party of Canada
PO Box 31024
Victoria, B.C.
V8N 6J3 

Or, e-mail the Socialist Party

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Selling mothers' mik

Breast milk is in great demand by women who cannot feed their own babies in the US.

The UN children’s fund has strongly criticised the sale by a commercial company of breast milk bought from Cambodian mothers to women in the US, warning it could lead to the babies of poor and vulnerable women becoming malnourished. Unicef condemned the trade by Utah-based company Ambrosia Labs. Cambodia’s customs department said the finance minister, Aun Porn Moniroth, had signed a letter blocking further exports.

“Breast milk banks should never be operated by exploiting vulnerable and poor women for profit and commercial purposes,” said Iman Morooka, of Unicef in Cambodia. “Breast milk could be considered as human tissue, the same as blood, and as such its commercialisation should be banned. Malnutrition remains a threat to children’s wellbeing in Cambodia, and proper breastfeeding is one of the key factors contributing to a child’s good health and nutrition.”
There is a substantial online trade in breast milk in the US, where women advertise their expressed milk for sale. Many claim to eat only healthy food and be free from disease. Ambrosia, however, claims to offer a safer service, by importing breast milk on a large scale from women in Cambodia. The women are given blood tests to ensure they are healthy and the milk is shipped frozen and then sterilised once in the US. Ambrosia Labs employs about 30 women in slum areas to 'donate' milk. 

CEO Inequality

The average FTSE chief executive earns 386 times more than a worker on the national living wage, according to an analysis published by the Equality Trust as it steps up its campaign for new government rules to expose pay gaps.
The charity used annual reports from 2015 for all the companies in the FTSE 100 to calculate that their CEOs pocket an average of £5.3m each year, compared with £13,662 for someone on the national living wage of £7.20 an hour.
The Equality Trust analysis found that FTSE 100 chief executives are now paid 165 times more than a nurse, 140 times more than a teacher, 132 times more than a police officer and 312 times more than a care worker.
“The people who educate our children, look after our grandparents, and keep our families safe have seen their pay frozen, while fat cat CEOs continue to gorge themselves on obscene and undeserved rewards,” said equality trust executive director Wanda Wyporska.

A Water Crisis

About one on four child on the planet will die, have their growth stunted or otherwise suffer from a lack of water by 2040, Unicef has warned in a new report, Thirsting for a Future.
36 countries in the world face “extremely high levels of water stress”, the report by the UN children’s agency said. 
Every day more than 800 children under five die from diarrhoea linked to a lack of clean water and poor sanitation. The same conditions have resulted in an astonishing 156 million children under five suffering from stunted growth, which causes irreversible physical and mental damage.
 Professor Anthony Lake, executive director of Unicef, wrote: “Water is elemental. Without it, nothing can grow. And without safe water, children may not survive. Children without access to safe water are more likely to die in infancy – and throughout childhood – from diseases caused by water-borne bacteria, to which their small bodies are more vulnerable. When these diseases don’t kill outright, they can contribute to the stunting of children’s bodies and minds – and the blighting of their futures – by undermining their ability to absorb nutrients. 
“When a community’s water supply dries up or becomes contaminated – because of drought, because of flooding, because of conflicts that undermine infrastructure and prevent people from reaching safe water sources – such diseases abound.”
Parts of Africa and the Middle East are currently in the grip of a serve drought.
“We see the terrible effects of water scarcity today all over the world – and nowhere more tragically than in parts of Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, where drought conditions and conflict are producing deadly effects,” Professor Lake said.
“Nearly 1.4 million children face imminent risk of death from severe acute malnutrition as famine grows in these areas. In Ethiopia alone, we anticipate that more than nine million people will be without safe drinking water in 2017."
global warming will result in higher rates of evaporation and less rainfall in many areas – such as the Middle East – “water will become even scarcer”, it added.
“Rising temperatures increase the atmosphere’s water storage capacity, which essentially reduces water availability on the ground, particularly during the warmer months of the year,” it said.
“Then, when the air eventually cools, more intense rainfall occurs, this can lead to increased frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones and other extreme weather events. Rising temperatures also impact water by creating an environment for bacteria, protozoa and algae to grow, which can lead to illness and death in children.”
Higher sea levels can contaminate freshwater with salt, rendering it undrinkable. Low-lying areas and small islands, the places most affected by this problem, are home to about 25 per cent of the world’s population.
"The changing climate is one of many forces contributing to an unfolding water crisis. In the coming years, demand for water will increase as populations grow and move, industries develop and consumption increases," the report said.
"This can lead to water stress, as increasing demand and use of water strains available supplies. By 2040, almost 600 million children [one in four of the total] are projected to be living in areas of extremely high water stress. If action is not taken to plan for water stress, and to safeguard access to safe water and sanitation, many of these children will face a higher risk of death, disease, and malnutrition."
But Unicef stressed that a “growing water crisis” was “not inevitable, if we act now”.
It said countries should prioritise access to safe water for the most vulnerable children; increase the capacity of water storage facilities; factor in climate risks to water and sanitation policies; and get businesses to work with communities to prevent contamination and depletion of clean water supplies.

Farmers need Migrants

California’s Central Valley, the hub of the state’s agricultural business, provides more than half the produce grown in the United States, and in 2016 the region overwhelmingly supported for Donald Trump. Now, the farmers who helped put Trump in office are experiencing a critical shortage of farmworkers—and nobody is stepping up to take the jobs.

The flow of labor began drying up when President Obama tightened the border but now Trump’s immigration and deportation policies are starting to hurt California farmers  who are being forced to make difficult choices about whether to abandon some of the state’s hallmark fruits and vegetables, move operations abroad, import workers under a special visa or replace them altogether with machines. The pay rises and new perks have not tempted native-born Americans to leave their day jobs for the fields,” they continue. “Nine in 10 agriculture workers in California are still foreign born, and more than half are undocumented, according to a federal survey.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Words of hate hurt.

“Politics of division and the rhetoric of intolerance are targeting racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, and migrants and refugees. Words of fear and loathing can, and do, have real consequences,” warns the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,  Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
Zeid said that States do not have any excuse to allow racism and xenophobia to fester.
States “have the legal obligation to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination, to guarantee the right of everyone, no matter their race, colour, national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law,” the senior UN official said. “It is not an attack on free speech or the silencing of controversial ideas or criticism, but a recognition that the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities,” Zeid said. 
 Zeid denounced “reckless political profiteers” who threaten the multilateral system or intend to withdraw from parts of it. “Without a commitment to fundamental human rights, to the dignity and worth of the human person and to the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, our world will become chaos, misery and warfare,” he warned. “Of all the great post-war achievements, it is this assertion of the universality of rights in human rights law that may be the most noteworthy.” Zeid said “the sirens of historical experience ought to ring clear” and pledged that “we will not sit idly by” in the face of violations. “Our rights, the rights of others, the very future of our planet cannot, must not be thrown aside by these reckless political profiteers,” he added.

Can't Pay - Can't Have

Africa is facing a severe food crisis affecting up to 60 million people. Christina Bennet is head of the humanitarian policy group at the Overseas Development Institute in the UK explains  these famines aren't caused necessarily by a lack of access to food. 

 It is not so much that there is no available food in many of these places, it's more that there is not the possibility of accessing food. If people can access food through cash, quickly, that would be the fastest way to resolve some of the food situation in these countries.

That gives people access to cash so that they can buy food which is available to them at their local markets. 

Bangladesh Misery

Children as young as eight, working in the tanneries of Bangladesh producing leather that is in demand across Europe and the USA, are exposed to toxic chemical cocktails that are likely to shorten their lives, according to a new report.
Approximately 90% of those who live and work in the overcrowded urban slums of Hazaribagh and Kamrangirchar, where hazardous chemicals are discharged into the air, streets and river, die before they reach 50, according to the World Health Organisation.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to set up clinics in the area to diagnose and treat those who are the victims of their workplace. It is, says a paper published in BMJ Case Reports, “the first time they have intervened in an area for reasons other than natural disasters or war”. MSF’s intervention was triggered by “the widespread industrial negligence and apathy of owners of tanneries and other hazardous material factories” towards the more than 600,000 largely migrant population who have no access to government-funded healthcare.
The hazards of the 250 or so tanneries in Hazaribagh – which are 30 to 35 years old and discharge 6,000 cubic metres of toxic effluent and 10 tonnes of solid waste every day – are best known. In 2012, Human Rights Watch produced a report called “Toxic Tanneries” which revealed the flouting of Bangladesh’s own laws as well as international law in the employment of children under 18 in work that is harmful or hazardous.
The factories douse animal skins in cauldrons of chemicals as part of the processing of “Bengali black” leather, which is exported to European leather goods manufacturers in Italy, Spain and elsewhere. “Apart from heavy metals like chromium, cadmium, lead and mercury, a conglomerate of chemicals are discharged by the tanneries into the environment,” says the paper. “Workers aged eight and older are soaked to the skin, breathing the fumes for most of the day and eat and live in these surroundings throughout the year. Personal protective equipment [is] not provided.”
Child workers clad in no more than loin cloths and wellington boots are exposed to chemicals including formaldehyde, hydrogen sulphide and sulphuric acid, write Venkiteswaran Muralidhar, associate professor at the Sri Balaji Medical college in Chennai, and colleagues.
The other factories– for plastics recycling, garments and metals – are in Kamrangirchar, an urban slum which is not officially part of Dhaka city. “In these, there are complex risk hazards from cotton dust, heavy metals and chemicals like mercury, phthalates, acids and dioxins and ergonomic hazards,” says the paper.
Chronic skin and lung diseases are common, say the authors. Within six months of the setting up of the clinics, 3,200 of the 5,000 eligible workers had come forward for at least one consultation. Among them, 468 (14.6%) were diagnosed with suspected work-related diseases, and 30 (0.9%) had work-related injuries.



Oscar Wilde said “A cynic is someone who knows
the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
-- but what if cynics see the world as it really is..?

If real truth has a cynic’s ring,
I’m guilty of the charge;
There’s strings attached to everything,
In the real world at large.                             

We know false values have a price,
Where everything is  sold;
We throw the dice for a large slice,
Of pyrite or fool’s gold.

We know true value’s snuffed at birth,
In this flawed world we’ve made;
But on this Earth, things of real worth,
Should need no money paid.

If cynicism is the truth,
It says how real things are;
And all the truth sold us since youth,
Is fiction gone too far.

© Richard Layton 

Trump Attacks the Working Class

There is a hierarchy to oppression under capitalism. It begins with the most vulnerable then works upward.

The Trump administration's 21% budget cut or $2.5 billion to the Department of Labor's would devastate worker safety, job training programs and legal services essential to low-income workers. The budget would reduce funding for or eliminate programs that provide job training to low-income workers, unemployed seniors, disadvantaged youth and for state-based job training grants. It eliminates the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) training grants as well as the independent Chemical Safety Board. Also targeted for elimination is the Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal assistance to low-income Americans.

Judy Conti, National Employment Law Project (NELP) federal advocacy coordinator, didn't mince words. "This budget will mean more illness, injury and death on the job."

The budget would close Job Corps centers that serve "disadvantaged youth," eliminate the Senior Community Service Employment Program, decrease federal funding for state and local job training grants—shifting more financial responsibility to employers and state and local governments. The budget would also eliminate certain grants to the Office of Disability Employment Policy, which helps people with disabilities stay in the job market.

Also slated for elimination are OSHA's Susan Harwood training grants that have provided more than 2.1 million workers, especially underserved and low-literacy workers in high-hazard industries, with health and safety training since 1978. These trainings are designed to multiply their effects by "training trainers" so that both workers and employers learn how to prevent and respond to workplace hazards. They've trained healthcare workers on pandemic hazards, helped construction workers avoid devastating accidents, and workers in food processing and landscaping prevent ergonomic injuries. The program also helps workers for whom English is not their first language obtain essential safety training.
"The cuts to OSHA training grants will hurt workers and small employers," said David Michaels, former assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. "Training is a proven, and in fact necessary method to prevent worker injuries and illnesses. OSHA's training grants are very cost effective, reaching large numbers of workers and small employers who would otherwise not be trained in injury and illness prevention." 

"Everyone, labor and management, believes that a workforce educated in safety and health is essential to saving lives and preventing occupational disease. That is the purpose of the Harwood grants," said Michael Wright, director of health, safety and environment at United Steelworkers.

Eliminating the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) would mean no independent federal agency dedicated to investing devastating industrial accidents such as the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the West Fertilizer plant explosion, Freedom Industries chemical release in Charleston, West Virginia, and the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond, California. Those are among the hundreds of cases CSB has investigated over the past 20 years or so.

"Our recommendations have resulted in banned natural gas blows in Connecticut, an improved fire code in New York City, and increased public safety at oil and gas sites across the State of Mississippi. The CSB has been able to accomplish all of this with a small and limited budget. The American public are safer today as a result of the work of the dedicated and professional staff of the CSB," said CSB chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland in a statement.
"The cost of even one such accident would be more than the CSB's budget over its entire history. And that calculation is only economic. The human cost of a catastrophic accident would be enormous," said Wright. "The CSB's work has saved the lives of workers in chemical plants and oil refineries, residents who could be caught in a toxic cloud, even students in high school chemistry labs."

Capitalism doesn’t give a damn about workers. It constantly attack worker’s rights. From essentially making it impossible to unionize to eliminating or cutting funding for worker safety, both parties of the duopoly have completely acceded to the corrupt demands of capital. Republicans are simply more overt about it. Democrats have long ago abandoned working people, despite the still-held belief of many, including union leadership, that they are the party of workers.

We can continue to fight rear-guard actions to try and maintain the few governmental benefits available to us or we can take a more revolutionary comprehensive approach and fight the hold capital has over us. If we don’t take to the streets and our workplaces to fight for a better life for our families and our communities we will simply remain hostage to politicians who will do nothing for us. We have to fight back and fight for socialism.


Over the weekend, the Italian coastguard rescued around 3,000 migrants off the coast of Libya. 

According to the Italian government, 16,206 people have been rescued from the sea until March 18 of this year. Last year, this number was 11,911. According to the Italian coast guard, good weather is the reason for a rise in the numbers.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that altogether, 19,722 migrants have entered Europe by sea in 2017 until now. Eighty percent of the arrivals landed in Italy, with the rest coming to Spain and Greece. Last year by this time, around 154,416 migrants had arrived in Europe through the Mediterranean route, the IOM said.
The IOM says that refugees arriving in Italy through Libya usually flee because of conflicts, persecution, poverty and reasons related to climate change. However, most of these migrants don't want to come to Europe. They travel to Libya, which is still perceived as a country where they can find a job and send money home, but the situation in Libya is very dangerous.
Once they cross the borders, they become targets of abuse and human rights violations. They are kidnapped, detained illegally, tortured or raped and even killed. A majority of them don't want to come to Europe, but they see the sea crossing as the only way to save their lives.
The EU is  trying to seal deals with North African countries, including Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, to stem the flow of refugees. Proposed measures, for example, by Libya's UN-backed unity government include a 800-million-euro grant from the EU for equipment to patrol its coast and territorial waters as well as to buy helicopters, radars and boats, according to Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Rights groups however have launched protests against Libya's detention centers for refugees, home to severe rights violations. Refugees who are caught by the Libyan Coast Guard are taken back to Libya and held in detention centers there.

Import cheap workers - export cheap meat

 Many of the workers in the German meat industry come from Eastern Europe.Starvation wages, subcontractors and outsourcing have made conditions difficult for Eastern European workers in the German meat industry. "The entire production process from the slaughtering to the final meat product is the hands of foreign subcontractors,"Szabolcs Sepsi from the counseling center "Faire Mobilität" ("Fair Mobility"), said. "German companies are not responsible for their employees.

A Bulgarian worker suffered a painful accident during his third day on the job at a cutting plant near the German city of Gütersloh. A saw sliced through his protective glove and injured his little finger. Yet no one called a doctor for the 50-year-old. Instead, he was expected to continue working despite the pain. He ended up going to the hospital three days after the accident. He underwent surgery and stayed in the facilty for two days to be treated. He did not receive any help from his employer. Instead, his employer rented out the injured Bulgarian's bed in the workers' accommodation to a new employee. The Bulgarian lost his job and the roof over his head. He was on his trial period and did not even know the name of the subcontractor for whom he was working.

The minimum wage, now 8.75 euros ($9.39) per hour, was implemented in the meat industry in 2014. Nonetheless, employers always try to skirt around it. For example, work hours are calculated incorrectly, fees are charged for sharpening knives or for work uniforms or penalties imposed for supposedly bad results.  At the end of the month, workers may end up with 200 euros less than promised.

Outsourcing contracts is the biggest problem in the German meat industry, explains Matthias Brümmer, director of the Food, Beverages and Catering Industry Trade Union (NGG), - the companies offer very few permanent staff contracts. "The system makes exploitation easy," he said. Brümmer added that such practices offer advantages for meat companies. One of them is a tariff charged under the German Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), from which businesses could be exempt if their energy costs reached 14 percent of gross value added. Personnel costs for contract staff members are part of gross value added, so anyone who outsources staff raises their chances of being exempt from the levy, thus saving money for overhead costs. Outsourced workers are calculated as material costs and not personnel costs.

This helps create cheap German meat that dominates foreign markets. The industry is booming; 1.9 million animals are slaughtered every day in Germany. The 10 largest corporations have a total revenue of 20 billion euros - with low production costs, notes the food union NGG. It only costs 1.5 euros to slaughter a pig if subcontractors are hired. "We import cheap workers and export cheap meat," explains the NGG.

The Banksters, Crime Inc.

Britain’s high street banks processed nearly $740m from a vast money-laundering operation run by Russian criminals with links to the Russian government and the KGB, the Guardian revealed. HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Barclays and Coutts are among 17 banks based in the UK, or with branches here, that are facing questions over what they knew about the international scheme and why they did not turn away suspicious money transfers. $20bn appears to have been moved out of Russia during a four-year period between 2010 and 2014. The true figure could be $80bn, detectives believe. The money from Russia was “obviously either stolen or with criminal origin”. They estimate a group of about 500 people were involved. These include oligarchs, Moscow bankers, and figures working for or connected to the FSB, the successor spy agency to the KGB. Igor Putin, the cousin of Russia’s president, Vladimir, sat on the board of a Moscow bank which held accounts involved in the fraud. British-registered companies played a prominent role in this extensive money-laundering network. The real owners of most of the firms used in the scheme remain secret, however, because of the anonymity provided by controversial offshore laws.
Detectives have unravelled a conspiracy that involved billions of dollars being sent from suspected criminals in Russia via accounts in Latvia and Moldova held at banks notorious for their exposure to money-laundering scams.  The trail led investigators to 96 countries and to a network of anonymously owned firms, most of them registered at Companies House in London. Most of the 21 core companies under scrutiny have been dissolved. The scale of the operation has staggered law enforcement officials. The records show British banks and foreign banks with offices in London processed $738.1m in transactions apparently involving criminal money from Moscow.
HSBC processed $545.3m,  mostly routed through its Hong Kong branch. The troubled Royal Bank of Scotland – which is 71% owned by the UK government – handled $113.1m. Coutts – used by the Queen and owned by RBS – accepted $32.8m worth of payments via its office in Zurich, Switzerland. Coutts is winding down its Swiss operation and was last month fined by regulators for money laundering in a different case. Other high street banks that appear in the Laundromat data include Barclays, NatWest and Lloyds. NatWest – also owned by RBS – allowed through $1.1m. In the US, big banks processed more than $63.7m. They include Citibank ($37m) and Bank of America ($14m).

The Forbes Wealthy

Microsoft founder Bill Gates again tops Forbes' list of the world's richest people, in a year when the number of billionaires rose 13% to 2,043.
According to the magazine's annual rich list, Mr Gates' fortune rose to $86bn, from $75bn, followed by investor Warren Buffett, up $14.8bn to $75.6bn. Others in the top 10 included Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who moved up to number three with the biggest gain of any person on the planet, a $27.6bn rise in his fortune of $72.8bn. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was number five and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison was number seven.
There were 183 tech billionaires on the Forbes list, with a combined $1tn in wealth.
The global population of billionaires, now put at a record 2,043, marks the biggest annual increase in the 31 years since the magazine began compiling the list. The number of US billionaires on the list was 565, which Forbes attributed to the recent stock market surge. China was second with 319 billionaires, and Germany was third with 114.
Forbes' top ten:
  • Bill Gates (Microsoft co-founder): $86bn
  • Warren Buffett (US investor): $75.6bn
  • Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder): $72.8bn
  • Amancio Ortega (Inditex founder): $71.3bn
  • Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder): $56bn
  • Carlos Slim (Mexican magnate): $54.5bn
  • Larry Ellison (Oracle co-founder): $52.2bn
  • Charles Koch (US businessman): $48.3bn
  • David Koch (US businessman): $48.3bn
  • Michael Bloomberg (Bloomberg founder): $47.5bn

Monday, March 20, 2017

What is Socialism? (Public forum - London)


  • Thursday, March 23, 

    7:00 PM to 
  • London School of Economics

    99 Aldwych,
    WC2B 4JF 
    Discussion panel includes:
    Adam Buick (SPGB)

    Jack Conrad (CPGB and Weekly Worker) 

    Robin Halpin (International Marxist-Humanist Organisation)

  • This panel invites you to reflect on the history of social democracy from a leftist viewpoint. Such a perspective raises the spectre of the socialist Second International, the Marxist political organisation that led the workers’ movement for socialism around the turn of the 20th century.
    In the U.S., this politics found its expression in Eugene Debs, a radical labour leader converted to Marxism in prison by reading the German Marxist, Karl Kautsky. In Germany, in Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht’s Communist Party of Germany, inheritor of the Spartacus League’s opposition to joining the German state’s war effort during the First World War. And in Russia, most famously, in the capture of state power by the Bolshevik Party led by Lenin. Thus the Second International gave rise to what is arguably the greatest attempt to change the world in history: the revolutions of 1917–19 in Russia, Germany, Hungary, and Italy. In these revolutions, Communists split from Social Democrats, the latter of whom formed the bulwark of counterrevolution.
    During much of the 20th century, a Marxist-Leninist approach to history prevailed on much of the hard left, according to which the Second International revolutionaries had effectively superseded the politics of more right-wing figures within social democracy, such as Kautsky. The Third International has in this respect been widely accepted as an advance upon the Second. In the 1930s, the rise of fascism seemed to sideline the Communist vs. Social Democrat controversy. A generation later, after World War II, these same Social Democratic parties in the West engaged in wide-ranging reforms, while still opposing Communism in the East. For a few decades of supposed “convergence” between East and West, it seemed that the earlier evolutionary view of achieving socialism, contra Communist revolution, might be proven correct.
    But the New Left in the West emerged in opposition to such reformism, in search of a more radical politics. The New Left saw itself as in keeping with the earlier revolutionary tradition, even with the significant changes offered to it. In the neoliberal era, however, the division between reform and revolution has been blurred if not erased. Today, by contrast, social democracy is on the defensive against neoliberalism, even while its memory is resuscitated by such phenomena as SYRIZA, Podemos, Jeremy Corbyn, and Bernie Sanders. But, do we in fact need to reckon with the earlier history of Marxism—the split between Communists and Social Democrats—in order to understand the problem and project of social democracy today? How are the questions of social democracy and social revolution related today, in light of history? What has social democracy come to signify politically?