Thursday, 26 February 2009
The wage system that we must all adhere too as workers because of economic necessity is a brutal and savage trap. I was reminded of this when reading about the shy and polite; Jolanta Bledaitem, who was said to be one of the most conscientious of eastern European migrants who toiled in the daffodil fields and vegetable farms up and down the country, diligently saving as much as she could from the miserly £100 she took home every week. The 35-year-old was close to fulfilling her dream when two fellow Lithuanians concocted and then executed a plan to kill her, chop up her body and dump it in the North Sea so they could get their hands on the few thousand pounds she had saved for a better life back home. Jolanta was exploited for her labour and murdered for her money; her hard earned cash, hardly a fortune but was her passport to a better future. The murders of Jolanta Bledaitem, were eventually caught tried and jailed for this most horrid crime, but what of her exploiters and the capricious system that allows the violent manipulation of workers wherever they hale from: it remains in tack and throughout the world, squashing and squeezing people, like the cogs in a machine, forcing us all into a lifetime of drudgery and useless toil. Capitalist employers as always will act with almost complete ruthlessness in pursuit of maximum profits; they will take advantage of unemployment and encourage immigrant workers to work for reduced wages as was evidently the fate of Jolanta and many thousands like her, it wasn’t long ago that the full catalogue of intimidation and exploitation of some migrant workers was revealed to the public when 21 Chinese cockle pickers drowned at Morecambe Bay in 2004. It is believed that two more also died, but their bodies have never been found. The pickers came to Britain full of aspiration and hope for a better life but died cold and lonely, thousands and miles from their families.
Each of the victims paid £12,000 to be smuggled across borders into the country. They were then paid a pittance wage by their gangmaster in the UK who would reduce their money with deductions for housing and travel.
A bag of cockles picked by the workers would fetch £15, but gangmaster Lin Liang Ren, later convicted of 21 counts of manslaughter, would take £10 of that. The cockle pickers would receive £5, but it was enough to see them easily exceed the average £40 a month income back home in the rural provinces of China.
"Yet the whole history of modern industry shows that capital, if not checked, will recklessly and ruthlessly work to cast down the whole working class to this utmost state of degradation." Karl Marx: Value, Price And Profit:
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
World capitalist crisis poses greatest threat
In testimony before the Senate Committee on Intelligence; Washington’s new director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, warned that the deepening world capitalist crisis posed the paramount threat to US national security and warned that its continuation could trigger a return to the "violent extremism" of the 1920s and 1930s.
This frank assessment, contained in the unclassified version of the "annual threat assessment" presented by Blair on behalf of 16 separate US intelligence agencies, represented a striking departure from earlier years, in which a supposedly ubiquitous threat from Al Qaeda terrorism and the two wars launched under the Bush administration topped the list of concerns.
Clearly underlying his remarks are fears within the massive US intelligence apparatus as well as among more conscious layers of the American ruling elite that a protracted economic crisis accompanied by rising unemployment and reduced social spending will trigger a global eruption. The presentation was not only the first for Blair, a former Navy admiral who took over as director of national intelligence; marked the first detailed elaboration of the perspective of the US intelligence apparatus since the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Monday, 23 February 2009
Apparently a senior police officer is predicting a summer of riots and saying that victims of the economic downturn will take to the streets to demonstrate against financial institutions.
Britain's most senior police officer with responsibility for public order raised the spectre of a return of the riots of the 1980s, with people who have lost their jobs, homes or savings becoming "footsoldiers" in a wave of potentially violent mass protests.
Superintendent David Hartshorn, who heads the Metropolitan police's public order branch, has told the Guardian that middle-class individuals who would never have considered joining demonstrations may now seek to vent their anger through protests this year.
I can certainly imagine this as a real possibility, with many ingredients flowing into the pool of discontent here in Britain. With over 200 homes repossessed each and every day, thousands become unemployed, struggling to pay for the necessities of life such as for food and the utility bills. Some of this may well bring people out on to the streets in protest. The deterioration in the economic situation already stirred riots in Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria, not forgetting Iceland and China or the 100,000 people who marched through Dublin on Saturday, to protest at government cutbacks in the face of a deepening recession and bailouts for the banks. The current financial crisis means a fall in living standards for the working class of the world. A Capitalist earthquake shaking workers like apples falling from a tree but landing on the hard concrete of reality.
Is this not evident enough that our system of society based on class ownership of the means of production and distribution in which wealth is produced the world over by wage/salary workers – doesn’t - or has ever worked in our best interests – that human needs are only met under capitalism to the extent that they can be paid for when workers are in paid employment; or that the wage system is nothing more than a form of rationing, that in reality it restricts a worker’s consumption to what he needs to keep himself in efficient working order. It means that he along with his family are deprived of the best that is available in food, clothing, housing, entertainment, travel and the like. And is this not made all the more worse because there could, on the basis of modern technology, be plenty of the best for everyone. A police officer fears violence could erupt on our streets this summer; but what about the violence that takes a home, flings a worker on the dole and allows a child to live in poverty, why don’t that count?
Thursday, 19 February 2009
So sensitive are the government to any suggestion of Britain's economic collapse that business secretary Peter Mandelson exploded at the chief of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, at a diplomatic cocktail reception in New York yesterday. Schultz said the UK was in an economic "spiral" with "very, very poor" consumer confidence. Mandelson accused him of spreading unnecessary gloom, "Why should I have this guy running down the country? Who the f**k is he? How the hell are they [Starbucks] doing?"
Monday, 16 February 2009
The World Bank has warned as a result of the global economic slump that up to 53 million people will be driven like a heard of cattle into the corral of poverty, and up to 400,000 more children could die each year as a result of rising infant mortality, a catastrophe being caused by the deepening crisis.
Lower economic growth rates will force 53 million more people to exist on less than $2 this is on top of the 130-155 million people pushed into poverty during 2008 because of soaring food and fuel prices. Preliminary estimates for 2009 to 2015 forecasts that an average 200,000 to 400,000 more children a year, a total of 1.4 to 2.8 million over the six-year period, may die if the crisis persists.
In addition, millions of people already living in poverty "will be pushed further below the poverty line," according to the World Bank policy note, “The Global Economic Crisis: Assessing Vulnerability with a Poverty Lens."
The note states: "Almost all developed and developing countries are suffering from the global economic crisis. While developed countries are experiencing some of the sharpest contractions, households in developing countries are much more vulnerable and likely to experience acute negative consequences in the short- and long-term."
Almost 40 percent of 107 developing countries are "highly exposed" to the poverty and hardship effects of the crisis and the remainder are "moderately exposed," according to the report. The bank warns that three quarters of these countries will be unable to raise funds domestically or internationally to finance job-creation, the delivery of basic infrastructure and essential services—including health, education and core public administration—and safety net programs for the vulnerable.
The statistics provide only a pale outline of the impoverishment, malnutrition and misery caused by the global recession. These outcomes are an indictment of the anarchy of the private profit system. First, the speculative escalation of food and fuel prices of 2007-08 threw up to 155 million people into poverty; and now the financial crash is threatening many millions more.
Sunday, 15 February 2009
In testimony before the Senate Committee on Intelligence this Thursday, Washington's new director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, warned that the deepening world capitalist crisis posed the paramount threat to US national security and warned that its continuation could trigger a return to the "violent extremism" of the 1920s and 1930s.
Clearly underlying his remarks are fears within the massive US intelligence apparatus as well as among more conscious layers of the American ruling elite that a protracted economic crisis accompanied by rising unemployment and reduced social spending will trigger a global eruption of the class struggle and the threat of social revolution.
It has recently come to light that Germany’s military trains its own hackers – and that Governments around the world are preparing for the future of war.
The uniformed hackers from Rheinbach are Germany's answer to a growing threat which has begun to worry governments, intelligence agencies and military officials. Now that computers have made their way into practically every aspect of life, their susceptibility to attacks has risen dramatically. In the United States, experts have been warning for years against an "electronic Pearl Harbor," a "digital Sept. 11" or a "Cybergeddon."
Estonia was the first NATO member state to fall victim to this form of digital attack. In the spring of 2007, banks, government agencies and political parties in Estonia came under massive electronic attack. The Baltic republic was essentially offline for a while, making it the scene of the first "cyber war." Officials there suspect the attack came from neighboring Russia, because Estonia was embroiled in serious diplomat disputes with Moscow at the time.
The use of the term "war" in the Estonian case seem a wee bit strange as in the controversial sense there were no dead or wounded. Nevertheless, the attack shows that assaults on the virtual world can also have disastrous consequences. The Internet has developed into a virtual battlefield, which can mirror conflicts in the real world.
Many countries are now preparing for similar threats. The USA alone plan to invest billions of dollars in a national cyber-defence program. Western intelligence agencies and military officials are becoming increasingly convinced that their enemies are in the East, just as they were in the Cold War - With Russia and China taking on the part of the bad guys again. A report to the U.S. Congress last year concluded that China is "aggressively" expanding its cyber-warfare capabilities and may soon possess an "asymmetric advantage." According to the report, "these advantages would reduce the conventional superiority of the United States in a conflict situation."
Saturday, 14 February 2009
This is part of an interesting article by former The New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, currently a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City and a Lecturer in the Council of the Humanities and the Anschutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University. Hedges spent two decades as a foreign correspondent working in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans so knows a thing of two, the full transcript will be published on our sister bog ‘How to do Truth’ next week.
By Chris Hedges
The daily bleeding of thousands of jobs will soon turn our economic crisis into a political crisis. The street protests, strikes and riots that have rattled France, Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Iceland will descend on us. It is only a matter of time. And not much time. When things start to go sour, when Barack Obama is exposed as a mortal waving a sword at a tidal wave, the United States could plunge into a long period of precarious social instability.
At no period in American history has our democracy been in such peril or has the possibility of totalitarianism been as real. Our way of life is over. Our profligate consumption is finished. Our children will never have the standard of living we had. And poverty and despair will sweep across the landscape like a plague. This is the bleak future. There is nothing President Obama can do to stop it. It has been decades in the making. It cannot be undone with a trillion or two trillion dollars in bailout money. Our empire is dying. Our economy has collapsed
The recession could pave the way for moral values to replace selfishness within capitalism, the leader of Catholics in England and Wales said.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor claimed the financial crisis exposed the problems of a consumerist society where people had become possessed by money.
"It's the end of a certain kind of selfish capitalism," he told The Times.
"One feels very sorry for those losing their jobs but in times of recession people have to rely on friends and neighbours and families and things that really matter to them. That may be a good thing.
The Cardinal expressed his admiration for Gordon Brown for his strong feelings on the widening gap between rich and poor but said he had suggested to the Prime Minister that "pouring money into things is not the only answer".
Gordon Brown is not the only political celebrity to fashionably use the D-word, for Dominique Strauss-Kahn managing director of the IMF last week evidently used the D-word, whilst on a two-day trip to Kuala Lumpur.
THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) is no stranger to financial and economic crises. Thus, when it recently admitted that this is indeed a grave time for the global economy, those hanging on to the final threads of optimism must have felt shivers down their spine.
He said, steep declines in consumer confidence, global trade, consumption and a number of other economic indicators, paint a bleak picture for the world. And there may be more bad news ahead.
Abrasively conveyed by IMF managing director when he used the D-word, saying the advanced economies are already in a ‘’depression’’ and that the financial crisis may deepen unless the banking system is fixed, he continued; “The worst cannot be ruled out. There’s a lot of downside risks,” he was quoted as saying.
It’s scary considering the IMF has witnessed 122 banking emergencies!
Thursday, 12 February 2009
A FORMER Scunthorpe industrial development chief has warned people facing redundancy to be careful with any payouts they receive.
Ian Crowther, who saw major job losses in the area more than 20 years ago, remembers the frustration he felt then with the way some people spent their redundancy money.
He was industrial development officer with the former Scunthorpe Borough Council and also spent some time as chamber of commerce chief executive in the town.
Mr Crowther (65), who is now retired but still living in North Lincolnshire, said: "I will never forget the frustration and anger I felt in the mid 1980s when as industrial development officer I came across countless redundant steel workers who just wasted their redundancy money.
"New cars, foreign holidays, new carpets and countless other things they had always wanted. After the initial splashing out they were left with nothing but short memories and bleak futures."
Mr Crowther also said in the 1980s people may well move into a new job as fresh companies moved into the area.
But he said: "Gone are the countless overseas companies wanting to move to the area as there were 20 odd years ago.
"There are no government grants to attract them any more and countless areas being hit even harder than North Lincolnshire."
He advised people with redundancy money to hold on to it, adding: "Things will get better, but in the immediate future much worse is still to come."
Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary, who was Mr Brown's chief economic adviser for a decade, has said: 'The economy is going to define our politics in Britain in the next year, the next five years, the next ten and even the next 15 years.
'These are seismic events that are going to change the political landscape.'
Speaking at a Labour conference in Yorkshire, he continued: 'This is a financial crisis more extreme and more serious than that of the 1930s and we all remember how the politics of that era were shaped by the economy.
'We now are seeing the realities of globalisation, though at a speed, pace and ferocity which none of us have seen before. The reality is that this is becoming the most serious global recession for, I'm sure, over 100 years as it will turn out.'
Most labour politicians that I’ve ever encountered, and in my time a few, do not possess a sufficient competent understanding of how the British economy really works.
This charge cannot, however, be levelled at the Ed Balls, a former Financial Times journalist who worked at the Treasury for ten years.
So Hard times ahead then: Ed Balls believes this economic crisis could equal the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Ed Balls's warning that the world has entered its worst recession for over a century needs to be taken very seriously indeed - and all the more so because he is the closest confidant of the Prime Minister and therefore privy to all the latest inside information.
It is fewer than three months since Chancellor Alistair Darling used his autumn financial statement to forecast a slight recession with a soft landing. Official Treasury figures, approved by Darling, predicted it would last for the first six months of this year followed by economic recovery.
Less than a month ago, even, senior ministers claimed to be detecting signs of economic recovery. Baroness Vadera, the trade minister, talked of 'green shoots', while housing minister Margaret Beckett foresaw an improvement in the property market.
But Ed Balls had a very different view this week. 'The reality is that this is becoming the most serious global recession for 100 years,' he said.
This means we are potentially facing conditions worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s, with all that entails in terms of mass unemployment, poverty, starvation and - equally potentially - the rise to power of the Far Right.
Everyone must pray (as if that ever did any good) this is not the case. But as things stand, Balls's analysis looks far more acute than that of any other Government minister, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose training as a provincial solicitor is hardly the best background for playing the role of national finance chief in a crisis.
Ed Balls has spotted - parallels between the events of the past six months and the start of the Great Depression of the 1930s are so close they must border on the uncanny.
The start of this latest global economic meltdown can be dated with absolute precision to the moment in September when Wall Street crashed and the investment bank Lehmann Brothers went bust.
That financial crisis had immediate knock-on effects around the rest of the world, and Britain was among the first countries to suffer. The Great Depression of 1929 arrived in precisely the same way.
Industrial production has gone into freefall; there has been a very swift contraction of the money supply, and a terrifying surge in personal and corporate bankruptcy.
The huge question now is whether America, Britain and the rest of the world really will follow the same terrible course as in the 1930s. If they do - as Ed Balls believes - then the decade ahead will be grim beyond belief, with terrible consequences for each and every one of us.
Worryingly, exactly the same trends are at work. Unemployment and economic depression have returned to Europe with a virulence not seen since the 1930s.
"We march on starvation, we march against death,
we're ragged, we've nothing but body and breath;
From north and from south, from east and from west
the army of hunger is marching."
- Hunger Marcher's song, 1932
As unemployment grows in the US more workers are contesting claims made against them of allegedly wrongdoing or quitting in a bid to not pay benefits.
It's hard enough to lose a job, but for a growing proportion of U.S. workers, the troubles really set in when they apply for unemployment benefits.
More than a quarter of people applying for such claims have their rights to the benefit challenged as employers increasingly act to block payouts to former workers.
The proportion of claims disputed by former employers and state agencies has reached record levels in recent years, according to the Labor Department numbers tallied by the Urban Institute.
Under state and federal laws, employees who are fired for misbehaviour or quit voluntarily are ineligible for unemployment compensation. When jobless claims are blocked, employers save money because their unemployment insurance rates are based on the amount of the benefits their workers collect.
As unemployment swells in the recession, many workers seem surprised to find their benefits challenged, their former bosses providing testimony against them.
At the same time as the Four men at the centre of the British banking crisis "unreservedly" apologised while appearing before MPs. on the Treasury Select Committee - The titans of Wall Street, were hauled before Congress yesterday.
Lined up in a row at a nationally-televised hearing, the chieftains of eight banks that received $165 billion in federal bailout funds were pounded with questions from US lawmakers demanding to know whether the firms were misusing taxpayer dollars.
"I feel more like corporal of the universe, not captain of the universe at the moment," said a sheepish Kenneth Lewis, chief executive of Bank of America.
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said the U.K. is in a “deep recession” and pledged to cut interest rates and increase the supply of money in the economy.
“Further easing in monetary policy may well be required,” said King at a press conference in London after presenting the central bank’s revised quarterly forecasts. “That is likely to include actions aimed at increasing the supply of money in order to stimulate nominal spending.”
The Bank of England’s forecasts show the economy will contract at an annual 4 percent rate by the end of the first quarter and inflation will slow to 0.5 percent at the end of next year.
Bank of England policy makers cut the benchmark interest rate to the lowest ever on Feb. 5 and may start buying corporate debt in the next few days as they seek other ways to aid the British economy. Cabinet minister Ed Balls said this week that the government faces an economic crisis worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.
“Given its remit to keep inflation on track to meet the 2 percent target in the medium term, the projections published by the committee today imply that further easing in monetary policy may well be required,” said King.
It is being reported protests on the scale of last week's mass picketing of Lindsey oil refinery will shift this morning to two power station sites, where hundreds of skilled British contract workers have failed to find work.
This is now developing at a very interesting pace and scale, what will the response be from the Government I wonder?
Workers who took part in the action in North Lincolnshire, which led to half the jobs on a specialised plant contract being reserved for British applicants, will join the protests at Staythorpe in Nottinghamshire and the Isle of Grain in Kent.
Up to 1,000 demonstrators are expected at the sites, which are in the hands of a chain of foreign subcontractors, similar to the set-up at Lindsey that initially led to a self-contained "package" workforce of Italian and Portuguese men arriving by barge to do the work.
Also today Unemployment is expected to surge past two million for the first time since Labour came to power in 1997 amid evidence that the UK jobless total is increasing twice as fast as the average across Europe. A wave of job losses in recent weeks, including 2,300 at the Royal Bank of Scotland on Tuesday, has led experts to believe the two million figure will be breached, with analysts now predicting that unemployment will reach three million within the next year.
China has been hit by taxi driver’s strikes, protests by laid–off workers and sporadic rioting in recent weeks, as its export-driven growth slows and companies shed staff amid the global economic storm.
In the past few years 130 million poor Chinese rural workers have moved to the industrial cities of China to find work in what was becoming the world’s fastest developing nation. In the past few months 26 million have been thrown out of work and the Chinese leadership is said to be concerned about social stability in the economic downturn.
Even before the economy decelerated, the number of protests and riots in China was considered to be high. A decade ago, the official number of so-called “mass incidents” was 10,000 a year. Last year, Beijing admitted to 60,000.
The collapse of exports from China has triggered a wave of social instability that is beginning to un-nerve the leaders of the People’s Republic of China so much so that a senior Chinese government official has warned in an article in a Communist Party magazine; “disputes arising from the crisis, such as those over unpaid wages or bankruptcies, must be properly dealt with to 'lessen the economic and social risks'.
'Take as the aim discovering (problems) early, grasping them firmly and dealing with them well, deal with contradictions among the people and mass incidents in accordance with the law, using official terminology for protests and riots. 'Limit as much as possible the potential for mass incidents, try as hard as possible to solve problems at the grassroots and nip them in the bud and try as hard as possible to solve problems when and where they happen in the first instant".
Policies to ease rural burdens and lift spending on welfare and pensions appear to have eased some discontent.
Yet smaller riots have often burst out among farmers and migrant workers.
Thousands of people mobbed government offices and beat police in Wudu, northwestern Gansu province, in November in a riot that local officials said stemmed from local anxieties over a government resettlement plan.
In the southern province of Guangdong, it is reported that three unemployed workers bombed a hotel to extort money from the management!
The Socialist Way has recently had two hits from Comrades and fellow workers in China, so if by any chance you are able to visit us again we would like to send you our best wishes and leave you with the following thoughts - “We have much in common including the chains that shackles us together”.
Friday, 6 February 2009
Day’s into the new administration of Barak Obama and a picture is beginning to emerge of business as usual; if the following extract of a statement released by the White House is anything to go by.
"Obama and Biden will refocus American resources on the greatest threat to our security, the resurgence of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They will increase our troop levels in Afghanistan, press our allies in NATO to do the same, and dedicate more resources to revitalize Afghanistan's economic development."
So there you have it; a very clear statement of their intentions, that we're going to concentrate on the war. And in fact by the end of this year there'll be an additional 60,000 American troops in Afghanistan. And there's no indication the strikes, the air strikes that are killing civilians are going to stop.
Obama – No real Change
In a lead article in the January addition of the Socialist Standard, John Bissett writes in the opening paragraphs – “Judging by ubiquitous media-generated euphoria that greeted the Barak Obama victory in the US presidential election, you could be forgiven for thinking that the class struggle has ended in the USA. Across the globe, the world media intimated that this was a the dawn of a new age and hundreds of millions of workers breathed a sigh of relief, convinced President Obama will now undo all the wrongdoings carried out by President Bush and generally improve the quality of their lives and the safety of the Plant.”
It’s a new down. It’s a new day declared the Socialist Unity blog site, as if an African/American messiah the expected deliverer had just arrived. Its lead post continued: “Don’t underestimate the significance of President Obama assuming office. The electors of America put in George W Bush’s place someone promising greater social justice, more compassion, more intelligence and less war.”
Did I hear you say give me strength? Well what can I say, the author of that post Andy Newman a nice chap, who I have crossed swords with on a number of memorable occasions seems to be like many others on the so-called left, under the illusion that somehow Comrade Obama, is going to work miracles, as if the inauguration of the 44th President was a wonderful occurrence, a marvellous event, manifesting a divine act of deliverance, and just to bring home my point the same commentator made the following conjectures. “The contrast between Tony Blair taking office in 1997 is striking. The first move of the incoming New Labour administration was to deregulate the Bank of England, moving government economic policy even further towards neo-liberalism than had been the case under the outgoing Conservative government of John Major. Careful warnings that the New Labour government would stick to the previous Tory governments spending limits were designed to stress continuity and dampen expectations. But Obama’s first act has been to freeze military trials at Guantanamo bay, and the election pledge to close the prison camp at the base is certain to be kept.”
Now not wishing to be seen as deliberately attacking Andy Newman, who is after all a member of the Respect National Council and leading member of Swindon Stop the War, but I feel that some constructed criticism should always be offered when an opponent’s position is way off the mark and questions asked. Some are beginning to wonder if Obama will make Afghanistan his war. And if so will Swindon Stop the war continue to hold a naming the dead ceremony, along with the release of balloons, in addition to reading the names, rank and regiment of each British soldier or airman, along with the date and place of their death. My opinion is the same as it was last year to this event, it’s bad enough that Blear and Brown have and still send young people to slaughter for capitalist causes that are not theirs, it must be a priority always to campaign against the workers being used for cannon fodder and against the slaughter of other workers but not with acts of ritual, characteristic of religious ceremonies. It will of course be interesting to see what initiatives are advanced in opposition to the war in the coming year when Obama sets in motion a military “surge” of Afghanistan.
Behind the talk of limited objectives are plans to dispense with the pretence of "nation-building" and the establishment of democracy and, in Obama's own words, engage in "more effective military action."
As Obama's secretary of defence, Robert Gates, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on January 27 in a statement dripping with cynicism, "This is going to be a long slog, and frankly, my view is that we need to be very careful about the nature of the goals we set for ourselves in Afghanistan. If we set ourselves the objective of creating some sort of Central Asian Valhalla over there, we will lose, because nobody in the world has that kind of time, patience and money."
In other words, the much expanded US military force will concentrate its efforts on drowning the insurgency in blood, whatever the cost in Afghan and Pakistani lives and US troop casualties. This was already indicated when the US launched a new missile strike inside Pakistan within days of Obama's inauguration that killed 19 Pakistani civilians.
Thursday, 5 February 2009
Blair beats Brown to Obama meeting and reveals true depth of his faith
From Times Online February 5, 2009
"Tony Blair became the first world leader to shake hands with President Obama as he delivered the keynote address at a Washington prayer breakfast today and called for religious faith to be restored "to its rightful place as a guide to our world".
In a clear break from his days in Downing Street – when his spin doctor Alastair Campbell famously told reporters 'We don't do God' – the former British Prime Minister spoke passionately of his own religious faith.
But Mr Obama's endorsement of him as "my very good friend" is unlikely to have gone down particularly well with the current occupant of No 10, Mr Blair's long-time rival Gordon Brown.
Mr Blair, who balances his job as a Middle East peace envoy with a lucrative speaking schedule, delivered an impassioned address to an audience of political and religious leaders, telling them of his "first spiritual awakening" when his father almost died when he was still a child."
It's being reported in America:
President Barack Obama is set to formally authorize the dispatch of 10,000 to 12,000 additional US combat troops to Afghanistan, the beginning stage of a military "surge" that will likely add 30,000 more soldiers and Marines over the next 12 to 18 months, doubling the US occupation force to 60,000. Obama's announcement of the initial compliment of three combat brigades, to begin deploying in April, could come this week.
The first stage of the escalation is bound up with a strategic overhaul of US policy in the region that will initiate a vast expansion of military violence and increase the focus on exterminating resistance to the occupation of Afghanistan, both in Afghanistan and the neighboring regions of Pakistan.
We can expect a higher death rate amongst older people and an increase in cold related illnesses, following this recent extended period of cold weather in Britain.
The death rate associated with the winter months is a phenomenon in Britain; as we have the worst records in Europe. A World Health Organisation (WHO) report published by its European Regional Office last year stated, “The magnitude of the excess in the United Kingdom, at over 40,000 deaths every winter is the highest in the European Union… A large component of excess winter deaths is preventable. Recent analysis suggests that the seasonal variations are related to indoor rather than outdoor temperatures… that excess winter deaths are related to poor housing conditions—insufficient thermal insulation, ineffective heating systems and fuel poverty.”
The figures published by the National Statistics Office, for the excess winter deaths for December 2007 to March 2008, represented a 7 percent increase over the previous winter figures. These excess deaths were predominantly of older people.
So whilst Gordon Brown was standing at the dispatch box yesterday; gassing on about how this government was forking out extra money to help the old and venerable with heating costs, somewhere someone was feeling winters nip as many of the poorest pensioners are struggling to afford paying for essentials like food and heating, whilst it is still estimated that up to £5 billion in benefits is still going unclaimed.
The autumn edition of Poverty magazine published by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in an article, “Who is Fuel Poor?” commented on heating costs:
“Fuel poverty is set to become the experience of a majority of households in income poverty… benefit increases do not reflect the real increase in the costs of living of people living on benefits—they spend a larger proportion of their budgets on just the items that are increasing in price fastest—fuel, food and water.”
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
With the recession biting and unemployment rising, Britain has begun to experience social unrest. At issue; the practice of legally employing foreign European workers in certain sectors while some Britons remain unemployed.
The economic strains that first appeared in the U.S. sub prime market last year can now be measured in terms of growing social unrest here in Europe as people confront an uncertain future under the backdrop of growing unemployment. Demonstrators have hit the streets of Iceland, Russia and France during the last week. That unrest has now reached the shores of Britain with a week old slick being washed up on the east cost near the former fishing Town of Grimsby.
The protests prompted by a decision to bring in hundreds of Italian and Portuguese contractors to work on a new £200m plant at the Lindsey oil refinery, in North Lincolnshire. However trade unionists claim that Britons were not given any opportunity to apply for the vacant posts; and so this dispute has received considerable publicity with scenes reminisce of 1970s style mass meetings. As the strike action by refinery workers over the use of foreign labour continued on Monday, the Communist Party of Britain (Morning Star) and the Socialist Party (Militant) sought to defend the demand for "British jobs for British workers", and it has to be said; as apposed to the employment of Italian and Portuguese workers by IREM, an Italian sub-contractor that made the successful bid to construct a desulphurisation unit at the Total oil company's refinery in Lincolnshire.
With unions claiming that IREM are discriminating against "local" labour, contractors at other facilities nationally joined the protest.
The protests at Lindsey oil refinery are unofficial - however the use of a cheap labour workforce is a time-honoured method by employers to undermine wages and conditions, and is a legitimate matter for opposition. But there is no concrete evidence that this is the issue involved in the current dispute, the view is that European management are using the free movement of labour within the EU to undercut wages and undermine trade unions. The Italian and Portuguese workers brought into the refinery are not paid much less than their British counterparts. That being said, they are being housed in a nearby Grimsby docks on huge ex-prison ships allowing the company to pay a lower real rate as well as rake in some cash on accommodation provision. An article in the Mail on Sunday reported that Bernard McAuley, regional officer of the Unite trade union at the centre of the protests, was involved in three meetings in the last month with IREM directors where agreement over the terms and conditions of the 140-strong Italian workforce, including wages and tea breaks, was struck. The unions claim they are unable to verify the specific terms on which the Italian and Portuguese workers are employed. Even leaving to one side the Mail's account of McAuley's meetings with IREM, if this is believable it speaks volumes about the union. The Mail reported that Unite/Amicus leader Derek Simpson had warned Brown three weeks ago "that there would be industrial unrest if the influx of foreign workers did not stop."
A Unite Amicus press statement reads, "The government has invested billions of pounds into the economy to support jobs during this recession. This strategy depends on employers playing their part."
In the UK alone in the last three months, more than 300,000 jobs have been lost. Some 1,200 jobs have been shed at Nissan, Sunderland. Honda has shut its Swindon plant for four months, affecting 4,200 workers, and Corus has laid off 2,500 steelworkers.
No one should be fooled by the statements of various union officials and their apologists in the Communist Party of Britain, the Socialist Party and others—that the oil refinery dispute represents a fight back against the economic crisis.
In every instance, the unions have worked with management and the government to ensure orderly lay-offs, pay cuts and other measures at workers' expense. At Corus in Scunthorpe for example—not far from the Lindsay oil refinery—the unions agreed to workers being stood down on half pay. And union leaders at Jaguar Land Rover, which employs 15,000 people in the UK, are in talks with management over a "menu" of pay cuts.
Making clear that non-British labour is the union's target, another release from Unite/Amicus states explicitly, "It makes no economic sense to bring in [non-local] workers... But if Unite/Amicus cannot make the contractors see sense, then it is up to Government to do so."
The stance of the unions and the pseudo-left groups to the oil refinery protests must serve as a warning. Faced with a major economic crisis that threatens the survival of the capitalist profit system itself, their response is to adopt the noxious policy of economic nationalism and anti-migrant propaganda, while embracing the government and the employers as the allies of "British workers".
The strikes notably do not challenge the rights of bosses to exploit workers universally, but rather demand that they exploit their own local or national workforce instead!
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