Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another Fraud

“For as long as man has worshiped a god, there have been forgers, crafty hucksters who seize on a believer’s desire to possess material proof of the divine. In Jerusalem, it is a bountiful trade. The old adage is that if all the splinters of the True Cross were gathered from across Christendom, it would yield a wooden crucifix the size of a Manhattan skyscraper. Even back in the Middle Ages, pilgrims visiting Jerusalem told of hawkers who sold counterfeit bones and relics of saints. But indisputable historical evidence that Jesus Christ, or any of the other Biblical prophets, truly existed is something that eludes religious scholars. There was therefore much excitement in 2001 when a reclusive Tel Aviv collector, Oded Golan, announced that a stone reliquary had come into his possession inscribed with the words “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” The discovery of the ossuary was hailed in some quarters as a spectacular archaeological find — solidly circumstantial proof, at last, of Christ’s existence. For it would have held the remains of the Apostle James, who was killed in A.D. 62 and is described in the Bible as Jesus’ brother. When the James ossuary toured Canada in October 2002, it attracted thousands of the curious and faithful. Some visitors knelt in quiet prayer. But back in Israel, police detectives, along with a growing posse of biblical scholars, were growing skeptical of the ossuary’s authenticity. After a two-year investigation, police in December 2004 charged the antiquities collector and four others of forgery, alleging that the James ossuary was a clever fake and that Golan had masterminded an international ring of thieves that over the past 20 years had duped major museums and collectors out of millions.”

(TIME, 16 October)

This is Capitalism

“The ranks of low-wage working families increased by 350,000 between 2002 and 2006, raising their numbers to nearly 9.6 million, or more than one in four of the nation’s working families with children. The report by the Working Poor Families Project, an advocacy group that analyzed census data, defined low-wage families as those earning less than double the poverty rate. For a family of four, that would have been an annual income of $41,228 or less in 2006. The report’s author, Brandon G. Roberts, attributed the increase to the growth in low-paying jobs, from health-care aides to cashiers, that form an increasing share of the nation’s service-based economy. Many of those families struggle to pay for basics, such as health care, food and housing, a battle that Roberts said has grown more acute in the past two years as the economy has stagnated. “The stark reality is that too many American families have been in economic crisis long before this year,” said Roberts, director of the non-partisan Working Poor Families Project, which advocates for state policies to improve the lives of low-income working families. “Even before this year’s economic crisis, the conditions for working families were getting worse, not better.” The report adds to the growing body of data illustrating that the dynamics of the modern economy have been unkind to many working Americans. Even as the economy grew at a generally robust pace from 2002 to 2006, fewer jobs were created than in previous economic expansions. And some 4.7 million of the jobs that were created paid salaries that would leave a family of four in poverty, according to the report. Overall, the report said, more than one in five jobs in 2006 paid poverty-level wages.”

Washington Post, October 15, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Food, Inc.

In 1921 36 companies were responsible for 85 percent of US grain exports. By the end of the 70s six companies controlled 90+ percent of Canadian, European, Australian and Argentinian grain and currently Cargill and Continental each control 25 percent of the world's grain trade. While 37 nations have been plunged into food crisis Monsanto has had record sales from herbicides and seeds and Cargill's profit increased by 86 percent. On the one hand these corporations use, wherever there is a perceived advantage, the poorer countries for cash crops, manufacturing using cheap labour, cheaper processing and they take advantage of huge subsidies for which they lobby constantly, and on the other show indifference to the employees and labourers in these countries. Wages are kept as low as can be managed and conditions of employment are almost non-existent. Long working hours, enforced, often unpaid, overtime, no sick-pay non-existent or poor compensation for accidents and no pension.

Of the world's people as a whole, 70 percent earn their livelihood by producing food, their own included. From these a growing number are now producing crops for fodder or alternative fuels, reducing the amount of land available for human food production and thereby increasing its cost. Profit is the bottom line.

Monsanto is huge in soy bean production having a virtual monopoly with their 'Roundup Ready' seeds. Genetically modified seeds grown to be used for cattle feed, fish feed, all manner of industrial uses plus 80 percent of processed foods contain soy bean. Why would you promote an oil-seed that has a relatively low oil yield – 18 percent, compared with coconut (75 percent), groundnut (55 percent) and sesame (50 percent), if it wasn't simply linked to your ownership of the means of their production? The health risks associated with soy bean consumption are becoming clearer, especially an oestrogen problem. One test revealed that soy-based infant formula yields a dose of oestrogen equivalent to 8-12 contraceptive pills daily.

Monsanto (originators of Agent Orange) acquired Unilever's European wheat-breeding business in 1998. They have a large stake in India's largest seed company and have also bought Cargill's international seed operations in Central and Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa thus virtually monopolising production, limiting choice and pushing genetically engineered wheat. Their intellectual property scams, internationally infamous, banning the saving and trading of seed (something done for thousands of years with no problems of ownership attached) have been followed by many court cases usually to the detriment of small farmers in both poor and 'developed' world. The infamous 'terminator' gene which makes plants' seeds infertile has perhaps been the most cynical invention, forcing farmers into buying seed every year, putting them in hock to the big corporations and resulting in penury.

Around the world farmers have been pressured by large companies to grow cash crops. Cotton started to displace food crops in India after trade liberalisation was introduced in 1991. Aggressive advertising campaigns were conducted by Monsanto, for one, to introduce hybrid cotton seed which, being more vulnerable to pest attack, required the use of more pesticide than the varieties traditionally grown. Having borrowed on credit for both seed and pesticide and finding themselves in unresolvable debt following crop failures, according to Vandana Shiva in Stolen Harvest, many hundreds of farmers committed suicide by ingesting the very pesticides that were supposed to have protected their crops. Suicide deaths of Indian farmers continue to be a huge problem.

Ecologically unsound

There are ecological issues surrounding the current world food system. Here there are many links between this and the previous section. In their pursuit of profit worldwide mega-corporations have been responsible for some of the worst degradation of land, water, air and sea. Particularly relevant to food production, however, it is being recognised in more quarters that industrial farming damages the environment (as well as concentrating profits in fewer hands) and that small farms are actually more productive and much less damaging. Only this year a UN commission of 400 agricultural experts concluded that the world needs to shift from current agribusiness methods to a more ecological and small-scale approach. It comes as no surprise to learn that neither the US government nor agribusiness agreed to endorse the recommendations. A US dairy farmer allied to Via Campesina which is a global movement of peasant and farm organisations said words to the effect that at last it's recognised that industrial GM crops and globalisation methods have led to more hungry people but why hadn't they listened to farmers instead of corporations in the first place? Good question, to which we know the answer.

The (mainly GM) soy bean comes in for another attack here. To produce its oil requires solvents – bad for the environment; producing it creates saturated fats – bad for health. To ensure that maximum benefit (i.e. maximum profit, not maximum nutrition) is derived from the humble soy bean a US company is now also producing look-alike pulses, lentils etc from some of this bulk. Mono-crops and intensive farming by their very nature create havoc with the land, with the soil, requiring an input of fertilizer to fulfil the role that mixed farming does automatically. The soil gradually becomes impoverished leading to the necessity for more fertilizer, itself a problem from leaching into and contaminating water. Fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides all alter the nature of the soil, the ecological balance, ultimately denuding the area of the very plants, microbes, insects, worms, birds, small animals etc that determine its replenishment in a natural cycle. Traditional farming is shown to be far superior both for the health of the soil and also for crop yield. Animals manure the land, worms and other creatures turn and aerate it, insects assist pollination, other insects, birds and small animals dispose of many of the pests naturally whilst also replenishing the soil with nutrients and crops of different types in rotation take nutrients from and return nutrients to the soil. In many parts of the world the 'weeds' that grow among crops are crops themselves, not to be sprayed and killed but to be picked and eaten by humans and animals or else to be ploughed back into the ground returning natural organic matter.

One obvious negative effect of growing mono-crops for export or as non-food products such as biofuels is that it impacts on the amount of land available for growing food for local consumption, pushing small farmers off the land altogether or to patches of less productive land. Aggressive growth in agricultural exports has been linked to increasing poverty and hunger in the exporting country. Examples include the Philippines where the acreage for growing cut flowers was massively increased with a corresponding decline in acreage for food staples resulting in the destruction of approximately 350,000 livelihoods and increasing rice imports by a factor of ten; Brazil, when soy bean exports increased dramatically (1970s) as animal feed for Japan and Europe, hunger increased from one third to two thirds of the population. By the 90s Brazil became the third largest exporter of soy bean having increased acreage by 37 percent over 15 years displacing millions of small farmers and decreasing rice production by 18 percent further exacerbating hunger and poverty. On this topic Vandana Shiva gets right to the point, "The food security of the US and other wealthy food-importing countries depends largely on the destruction of other people's security" (in Alternative Globalization, ed. By John Cavanagh and Jerry Mander),

Other ecologically unsound farming practices such as raising animals intensively leads to massive problems for the animals, for the humans raising them and eating them and for the environment in which they are kept. For instance, as fish farms have become more extensive in acreage and more intensive in production bacterial infections have spread to fish in the wild. Whereas it used to be recommended to eat fish regularly as part of a healthy diet there are now warnings to limit drastically intake of farmed fish. Shrimp farming is known as a 'rape and run' industry because of its unsustainability and the inevitability that after a handful of years the site will be ecologically devastated and susceptible to massive outbreaks of disease, leaving hectares of former good fishing coastline unfit and unable to supply locals with a catch of any kind – coastal wastelands.

Shrimp farms and fish farms require more wet fish, processed into meal, pro rata than they ultimately produce, consuming more resources than they produce. The fish caught by trawling and purse-seining for the production of meal deprives people of both food and livelihood, depletes fish stocks drastically, kills all kinds of aquatic life – and this to provide shrimp for people living a long way from the devastation and knowing little about it. Mangroves, crucial in many coastal areas for protection against storms, preventing erosion and recognised as important habitat for much marine life have been devastated around the world in order that some of us may eat shrimp. Sri Lanka lost nearly half their mangrove area in 10 years; Vietnam lost more than 100,000 hectares in 4 years; most of Ecuador's shrimp comes from former mangrove swamps; a third of Thailand's lost mangroves was as a result of shrimp farming over 30 years up to 1993. Ecological and environmental man-made disasters. Intensive shrimp farming also leads to permanent salinisation of groundwater and has created water famine in formerly water abundant areas in India, causing death of cattle and gradual contamination of former productive rice paddies. Because of intensive shrimp production in Bangladesh rice production fell from 40,000 to only 36 (not 36 thousand) metric tonnes between 1976-86 with similar losses reported in Thailand. Shrimp and prawn have been 'farmed' traditionally in India for hundreds of years without this serious adverse effect on the ecology. The traditional methods have proved effective and have produced good income for farmers combining paddy growing in the monsoon season with shrimp 'farming' in other seasons when the fields are filled temporarily with saline water. Whether aquaculture or agriculture, natural methods prove to be more economical in terms of input, more productive in terms of output showing biodiversity and labour intensification to be both more efficient and sustainable.

The deregulated global market

There is a raft of trading practices stacked against the poorer 'developing' countries, which incorporate the majority of the world's population, in favour of corporations in the 'developed' countries. The international monetary organisations, World Bank, World Trade Organisation, International Monetary Fund all function to ensure maximum returns flow into the coffers of and trans-national corporations including agribusinesses. All loans have to be paid back with interest. Aid is tied to agreements, purchases and long-term commitment to remittances back to the donor country. Subsidies to agriculture flow freely in the 'developed' world, especially to agribusiness; in the poor world subsidies are called a barrier to free trade and have to be removed. Markets must be open – to subsidised products from the rich. Traditional local production systems have been consistently undermined to favour global corporations causing increased landlessness in the process. Many of these landless, former farmers now work for poverty wages in factories sub-contracted to big-name sportswear labels, unable to grow any food of their own now, just part of the growing number of consumers struggling to buy enough food to put on the table.

Vandana Shiva commented aptly on the root causes of hunger and poverty in 2007 thus, "A combination of loss of land and loss of control of local resources like water, seeds and bio-diversity. All of these are basic to farming communities but are now in the hands of global corporations." IMF loans to poor countries are channelled into export subsidies for US agribusinesses thus further assisting multinationals to dominate smaller, local businesses whether domestic or foreign.

The main goal of the WTO and its allies has been to remove all and any obstructions which may hamper corporations. National laws, standards and environmental protection rules have been subsumed by the WTO's rulings resulting in laxer rules across the board, reduced labour, environmental, food and health regulations. In effect deregulation has led to decreased local control, a worsening general environment, an increase in poverty and hunger whilst concentrating power, wealth and influence among the global corporations.


Biofuels were originally heralded as the wonder fuel, something to challenge fossil fuels and a way to save the world from its dependence on oil, a greener product, sustainable and easily grown around the world. David Moberg, in an August 2008 article "Let them eat free markets" in ,These Times, writes, "once seen as a way of using up European and US surpluses biofuels are now threatening to become a global, corporate-controlled, industrial farming and export business that could put US SUVs in competition with food for poor people in other countries whilst degrading tropical forests." So, here again is monoculture on a grand scale, degradation of the environment, cash crops taking the place of food crops and small farmers forced off the land to increase production and profit. A further downside to biofuels and a good reason to take another look at the topic for those who still believe it to be a 'green' fuel is that it actually takes something like 18 percent more energy to process the fuel than will be available in the finished product. Not best use of agricultural land, resources or manpower.

Buying Power

Simple buying power – or rather lack of it – is a fifth factor.. If you're not growing your own food it has to be bought. One way or another customers have to pay. When half or more of your income is already spent on food, as it is for the majority world, then rising prices of basics like rice and wheat are an immediate threat. The priority becomes what can I eat? Not what can I cut out in order that might eat, just what is there I can afford to eat? In 2007 the price of rice on the world market rose 16 percent. Between January and April of 2008 it rose a further 141 percent. Rice is the staple diet of Haitians, Haiti, being one of the poorest nations on the planet, is also one of the countries that was devastated from the loss of domestic farm incomes when highly subsidised US rice was dumped on them following WTO instructions. There is a photograph showing a Haitian woman sitting on the ground mixing and spreading out row upon row of biscuits to dry in the sun. Biscuits made of clay, salt and vegetable fat. Let them eat cake!

Similar stories from around the world reveal how previously solvent farmers have been reduced to penury. Mexicans cannot compete with US maize and cotton. Jamaican dairy farmers can't compete with EU subsidised milk powder. Mali, Benin, Burkino Faso etc. have lost double from the fall in cotton prices than they receive in US foreign aid. All of these and similar unfair practices drastically reduce the buying power of millions of people. According to the environmental pressure group, the International Forum on Globalisation, "The ultimate sustainable agricultural solution is transition to non-corporate, small-scale organic farming as practised for millennia."

Cause and Effect

What we have seen here are the effects of a system that is structured for the benefit of a few corporations at the expense of the many. Inevitably the food crisis will continue to grow for an ever-increasing number of the world's population unless and until the causes of the crisis are eliminated. Politicians of diverse leanings, human rights advocacy groups and pundits of various persuasions offer a medley of fixes. Level the playing field. Fair trade, not free trade. Restore national sovereignty to international trade. Limit the power of global corporations. Strengthen human rights laws to prevent eviction of people from their land. Allow landless peasants access to and ownership of privately owned, unused land. Make the international institutions more accountable to citizens not to capital. Increase regulation of outsourcing. Force companies despoiling the environment to clean up the mess and pay compensation. Implement tougher environmental standards at all levels.

The problem common to these and other 'solutions' is that none of them are comprehensive, none are for all time and none are for all people. There is already a UN charter for human rights which, in theory, covers all possible scenarios, which is ostensibly for the protection of the well-being of all but which, in practice, cannot work because it is not controlled by the democratic will of the people but by a few strong countries pursuing the economic policies of their elites.

The principles underlying socialism, whilst not offering an immediate panacea, do address all the issues of the rights of all individuals, "by the conversion into the common property of society the means of production and distribution and their democratic control by the whole people." Unlike the UN and numerous international agreements, multi-lateral accords and protocols which are repeatedly undermined by one or more powerful states consistently overruling decisions and agreements the ethic of socialism is rooted in the people. As more and more of the common wealth is taken from the people more and more people experience the food crisis first hand. Cause and effect. Removing money, the incentive and purpose of accumulation (the raison d'être of capitalism) and transforming world society into one of free access and common ownership – the world belonging to all and to none – will be to eliminate the causes of hunger and to effect an end to further speculation about a world food crisis.


Socialist Party of Great Britain

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Globalization versus National Capitalism

In 1648 the first modern diplomatic congress established a new political order in Europe, based for the first time on the principle of “national sovereignty.” This principle drew a sharp dividing line between foreign and domestic affairs. Each “national sovereign” was given free rein within the internationally recognized borders of his state. No outsider had any right to interfere. Recognized borders were inviolable. The “sovereign” was originally simply a prince; later the term was applied to any effective government.

National sovereignty facilitated the undisturbed development of separate national capitalisms - British, French, German, American, and so on. Interstate boundaries were stabilized. Governments were able to take protectionist measures to defend home manufacturers against foreign competition.

Even today the principle of national sovereignty is far from dead. It is enshrined in the United Nations Charter: Chapter VII authorizes the Security Council to impose sanctions or use armed force only in the event of a “threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression.”

National sovereignty undermined

But in practice national sovereignty has been deeply undermined - first of all, by the emergence of a global economy dominated by huge transnational corporations. International financial institutions such as the World Trade Organization and IMF have largely taken over economic policy making. Indebtedness leaves many states with merely the formal husk of independence.

Some groups of states have “pooled” part of their sovereignty in supranational regional institutions. The prime example is the European Union.

The old interstate system has also been destabilised by the breakup of Yugoslavia and the USSR into 26 new states, four of which lack international recognition. The decision of the West to recognize the independence of Kosovo from Serbia has set a precedent that makes it easier to carve up other states. Of course, the “independence” of Kosovo - occupied by NATO forces, governed by officials from the European Union, its constitution drafted at the US State Department - is purely notional. Russia has now retaliated by recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Although this will encourage secessionist movements inside Russia, blocking Georgia’s accession to NATO is evidently a higher priority (see September’s Material World).

Legitimising aggression

National sovereignty is not only undermined in practice, but also contested in theory.

Thus, in recent years the United States and its closest allies have sought to legitimise their military attacks on other states. True, such attacks are nothing new. What is new is open advocacy of the principle of aggression. The main rationales used are the prevention of nuclear proliferation, counter-terrorism and humanitarian intervention (see August’s Material World).

It is instructive to compare the Gulf War of 1991 with the current war against Iraq. The Gulf War, at least ostensibly, was launched in defence of the principle of national sovereignty, violated by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The elder Bush resisted pressure to “finish the job” - occupy Iraq and throw out the Ba’athist regime - out of concern that it would lead to the breakup of Iraq and, in particular, a new Kurdish state that would destabilise the whole region. Such considerations have not deterred his son.

Globalisation of capital, fragmentation of states

Paradoxically, the fragmentation of states is a natural corollary of the globalisation of capital. From the point of view of the transnational corporations, states no longer have important policy-making functions. It is enough if they enforce property rights and maintain basic infrastructure in areas important for business. Small states can do these jobs as well as large ones. In fact, they have definite advantages. They are more easily controlled, less likely to develop the will or capacity to challenge the prerogatives of global capital.

Global versus national capitalism

All the same, there is nothing inevitable about globalisation. It has lost impetus recently, and may even have passed its zenith. One sign is the disarray within the WTO. Another is Russia’s change of direction: in contrast to the Yeltsin administration, which was politically submissive and kept the country wide open to global capital, the Putin regime reasserted national sovereignty, expelled foreign firms from strategic sectors of the economy, and ensured the dominant position of national (state and private) capital.

Global versus national capitalism has emerged as an important divide in world politics. This divide exists, first of all, within the capitalist class of individual countries. Thus, even in the US, the citadel of globalisation, some capitalists - currently excluded from power - are oriented toward the home market and favour national capitalism. And even in Russia some capitalists support globalization.

Nevertheless, the pattern of political forces differs from country to country, and as a result the global/national divide is reflected in international relations. Here the “globalisers,” led by the US, confront in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Russia, China and the Central Asian states) an embryonic alliance of national capitals bent on restoring the principle of national sovereignty to its former place in the interstate system.

A different perspective

This context clarifies the difference between our perspective as socialists and the attitude of anti-globalisation activists. Being against capitalist globalisation is not the same as being against capitalism in general. We have ample past experience of a world of competing national capitalisms - quite enough to demonstrate that there is no good reason for preferring such a world to a world under the sway of global capital. The main problem with the movement against globalisation is that it can be mobilized so easily in the interests of national capital, whatever the intentions of its supporters.

To be fair, some anti-globalisation activists are aware of this danger. Acknowledging that humanity faces urgent problems that can only be tackled effectively at the global level, they emphasize that they are not against globalisation as such: they are only against the sort of globalisation that serves the interests of the transnational corporations. This then leads them to explore ideas of globalisation of an “alternative” kind. These ideas at least point in the right direction. Socialism is also an alternative form of globalisation - a globalisation of human community that abolishes capital.

Trotskyist Laundry List

One of the most laughable aspects of Trotskyist politics is the continual trotting out of laundry lists of demands. Stalinist/Maoist demands and tactics tend to be cynically practical - e.g.. the alliance of the USSR and Nazi Germany between 1939-41. Trotskyists, on the other hand, make demands that are so unreal they make Charles Fourier’s expectation of sea-water turning to lemonade under communism seem likely. At least Fourier’s most bizarre proposals were based on a brilliant world outlook“. Certainly more brilliant than the remnants (ruminants?) of Trotsky’s organization.

Socialist Action (SA) is the current orthodox Trotskyist group in the US. In September, they released their proposals for dealing with the current capitalist economic crisis. Titled A Workers’ Action Program to Meet the Economic Crisis, SA draws out a long manifesto (not forgetting to include many exclamation points) of how working class should address said crisis.

We’ll address some of the more absurd proposals this would-be vanguard has for the working class.

We call on the leaders of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win federations, and of independent unions, to call an Emergency Congress of Labor at which representatives of the working class can draw up a set of demands and vote on a strategy to win them.

SA is calling for a new congress which will vie for power against the current congress in Washington. In other words, SA is calling for an immediate period of dual power and thus a likely civil war. Does SA actually believe the working class ready for such adventures? If not, why propose it?

Note they also don’t declare how this “Congress” will be structured, how delegates/representatives would be elected, etc. As this list is full of flights of fancy, why not throw in “democratically elected”? Unless you don’t want it…

Nationalize the entire banking system under the control of capitalism’s victims, not its agents! …Make the banks, corporations and the ruling class pay the full price of the crisis!

OK, we’ll come back to this demand later.

As one of its first tasks in mobilizing support for the demands adopted at it, the Congress [fnb note: Congress of Labor] should organize committees in every workplace in which workers’ jobs, pensions and health benefits are threatened by the crisis, and in every neighborhood threatened by foreclosures and evictions.

We demand an immediate halt to all foreclosures, cancellation of all interest on mortgages to banks and mortgage lenders, and renegotiating of all mortgage terms, including the principal and debt built up due to usurious interest rates, such negotiations to be led by workers’ and homeowners’ neighborhood committees.

So SA wants to nationalize the banks under worker control. Then they also want to cancel the repayment of principal and interest to these “worker controlled” nationalized banks. What would happen under this scenario? Surely a very quick collapse of banking.

And also don’t forget to throw in negotiations between the worker-bankers and the neighborhood committees to add further conflict between different segments of the class.

Another ironic twist to this proposal is it would seriously effect foreign investments in the US, which include huge amounts from China. Now Socialist Action, being the orthodox Trotskyists they are, believe China is socialist. We disagree, but that’s not the point. The nonsense SA is proposing would undermine the economy of one of those “workers states” they believe in. Adds a new twist on the constant Trotskyist bickering over the causes of degeneration in the supposed workers states.

We call for the nationalized banks to be merged into one public institution under the supervision of workers’ committees, which could then decide how that public bank’s funds can be used to rebuild society, based on the needs expressed in the plan of the Congress of labor and supplemented by demands of local workplace and neighborhood committees.

Ah, yes, an economy with commands flowing from the top to the workers. It works so well now, why change?

The agribusiness and energy monopolies must be nationalized as a first step to dealing with inflation.

How will this deal with inflation? Since what the SA is proposing is capitalism, the law of supply and demand will still apply. SA has just choked off capital to the banks by eliminating debts owed. Due to tightening ability for banks to lend, supply diminishes and costs increase.

To combat inflation, we call for a sliding scale of wages that fully matches the Consumer Price Index (including food and energy, left out of the official CPI). Such a scale should be applied also to retirees. It must be monitored by workers’ and consumers’ committees, which could inspect and if need be take over companies claiming they can’t survive under the new wage schedule.

In addition to the 6-hour day and 30-hour week, reflecting the gains in our productivity, we demand reduction of the retirement age to 55. We demand unemployment insurance at union wages and benefits.

Again, Socialist Action shows it’s complete ignorance of how capitalism operates. Reducing the hours of labor tightens the number of workers available to work. Demand will drive up cost of labor. Since credit would be tightened (see above) the double pinch of lessened supply and soaring labor costs could probably lead to a collapse of the market greater than G. W. Bush has accomplished.

Of course, Socialist Action has no expectation of actually implementing their program. It is simply a feel-good laundry list of demands cynically written to attract concerned workers to their organization.

SA adds nothing to the knowledge needed by workers to create socialism. Such ideas as abolishing the wage system and the market.

Good Cap, Bad Cap

Investment bankers have gone in the past few months from being the "masters of the universe" to the object of universal scorn. Across the political spectrum in the United States, particularly at the fraying ends of its two main political parties, criticism of Wall Street can be heard. Even McCain and Obama– whose presidential campaigns have been generously funded by Wall Street– have had to make half-hearted statements about how "greed is, um, bad."

Download the entire article as a PDF from our site: [pdf leaflet]

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Production for Profit

The motive for production under capitalism is making a profit. In order for goods to be manufactured or services to be provided, they must result in a reasonable amount of profit, otherwise they won’t be produced. Even ‘loss leaders’ serve the goal of profit, by enticing customers into a shop.

In contrast, socialism will be based on production for use. The whole issue of profit will be meaningless in a socialist society, with no money or buying and selling. Items will be made because they are useful, because they satisfy people’s needs for food, housing, transport, clothes, leisure interests, or whatever.

Read the rest of the article here.

Why Economic Crisis?

The WSP has produced two leaflets (in pdf format) meant to aid working people to understand the causes of the current economic crisis:

“Booms and slumps - what causes them?” - Discusses in plain terms the causes of economic cycles and why “Ultimately, it is the economy that controls politicians and not the other way around.”

“Bubble Troubles” - Deals specifically with the housing market collapse.

Please feel free to forward, e-mail, repost and/or print them widely.