Tag Archive: anti-capitalism


Where the World’s Unsold Cars Go To Die

Above is just a few of the thousands upon thousands of unsold cars at Sheerness, United Kingdom. Please do see this on Google Maps….type in Sheerness, United Kingdom. Look to the west coast, below River Thames next to River Medway. Left of A249, Brielle Way. Timestamp: Friday, May 16th, 2014. There are hundreds of places like this in the world today and they keep on piling up…

THE WORLDS UNSOLD CAR STOCKPILE
Houston…We have a problem!…Nobody is buying brand new cars anymore! Well they are, but not on the scale they once were. Millions of brand new unsold cars are just sitting redundant on runways and car parks around the world. There, they stay, slowly deteriorating without being maintained.

Below is an image of a massive car park at Swindon, United Kingdom, with thousands upon thousands of unsold cars just sitting there with not a buyer in sight. The car manufacturers have to buy more and more land just to park their cars as they perpetually roll off the production line.

There is proof that the worlds recession is still biting and wont let go. All around the world there are huge stockpiles of unsold cars and they are being added to every day. They have run out of space to park all of these brand new unsold cars and are having to buy acres and acres of land to store them.

NOTE:
The images on this webpage showing all of these unsold cars are just a very small portion of those around the world. There are literally thousands of these “car parks” rammed full of unsold cars in practically every country on the planet. Just in case you were wondering, these images have not been Photoshopped, they are the real deal! Its hard to believe that there are so many unsold cars in the world but its true. The worse part is that the amount of unsold cars keeps on getting bigger every day.

It would be fair to say that it is becoming a mechanical epidemic of epic proportions. If anybody from outer space is reading this webpage, we here on Earth have too many cars, why not come and buy a few hundred thousand of them for your own planet! (sorry but this is all I can think of) Below is shown just a few of the 57,000 cars (and growing) that await delivery from their home in the Port of Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A. With Google Maps look South of Broening Hwy in Dundalk for the massive expanse of space where all these cars are parked up.

The car industry would never sell these cars at massive reductions in their prices to get rid of them, no they still want every buck. If they were to price these cars for a couple of thousand they would sell them. However, nobody would then buy any expensive cars and then they would end up being unsold. Its quite a pickle we have gotten ourselves into.

Below is shown an image of the Nissan test track in Sunderland United Kingdom. Only it is no longer being used, reason…there are too many unsold cars parked up on it! The amount of cars keeps on piling up on it until its overflowing. Nissan then acquires more land to park up the cars, as they continue to come off the production line.

UPDATE: Currently May 16th, 2014, all of these cars at the Nissan Sunderland test track have disappeared? Now I don’t believe they have all suddenly been sold. I would guess they may have been taken away and recycled to make room for the next vast production run.

Indeed next to that test track and adjacent to the Nissan factory, they are collating again as shown on the Google Maps image below. So where did the last lot go? This is not an employees car park by the way.

None of the images on this webpage are of ordinary car parks at shopping malls, football matches etc. Trust me, they are just mountains and mountains of brand spanking new unsold cars. There is no real reason why you should be driving an old clunker now is there?

The car industry cannot stop making new cars because they would have to close their factories and lay off tens of thousands of employees. This would further add to the recession. Also the domino effect would be catastrophic as steel manufactures would not sell their steel. All the tens of thousands of places where car components are made would also be effected, indeed the world could come to a grinding halt.

Below is shown just a small area of a gigantic car park in Spain where tens of thousands of cars just sit and sunbathe all day.

They are also piling up at the port of Valencia in Spain as seen below. They are either waiting to be exported to…nowhere or have been imported…to go nowhere.

Tens of thousands of cars are still being made every week but hardly any of them are being sold. Nearly every household in developed countries already has a car or even two or three cars parked up on their driveway as it is.

Below is an image of thousands upon thousands of unsold cars parked up on a runway near St Petersburg in Russia. They are all imported from Europe, they are all then parked up and they are all then left to rot. Consequently, the airport is now unusable for its original purpose.

The cycle of buying, using, buying using has been broken, it is now just a case of “using” with no buying. Below is an image of thousands of unsold cars parked up on an disused runway at Upper Heyford, Bicester, Oxfordshire. They are seriously running out of space to store these cars.

It is a sorry state of affairs and there is no answer to it, solutions don’t exist. So the cars just keep on being manufactured and keep on adding to the millions of unsold cars already sitting redundant around the world.

Below are parked tens of thousands of cars at Royal Portbury Docks, Avonmouth, near Bristol in the United Kingdom. If you look on Google Maps and scan around the area at say 200ft you will see nothing but parked up unsold cars. They are absolutley everywhere in that area practically every open space has unsold cars parked up on it.

Below is that same area in Avonmouth, UK, but zoomed out. Every gray space that you see is filled with unsold cars. Anyone want to hazard a guess at how many are there…

As it is, there are more cars than there are people on the planet with an estimated 10 billion roadworthy cars in the world today.

We literally cannot make enough of them. Below are seen just a few of the thousands of Citroen’s parked up at Corby, Northamptonshire in England. They are being added to daily, imported from France but with nowhere else to go once they arrive.

So there they sit, brand spanking new cars, all with a couple of miles on the clock that was consummate with them being driven to their car parks. Below is the latest May 2014 Google Maps image of unsold cars in Corby, Northamptonshire.

Manufacturing more cars than can be sold is against all logic, logistics and economics but it continues day after day, week after week, month after month, year in year out.

Below is shown a recent (April 2014) screen grab from Google Maps of the Italian port of Civitavecchia. All those little specks are a few thousand brand new unsold Peugeots. Just collecting dust and maybe a bit of salty sea spray!

Below, all nice and shiny but with nowhere to go. Red and white and black and silver, purple, pink and blue, all the colors of the rainbow and be they all brand new. Indeed all the colors of the rainbow are down there on those cars, making pretty mosaics, montages of color and still life. Maybe that is all they will now ever be, surreal urban art of the techno production age. Magnificent metal boxes, wasting space and saving grace, all sitting still, because its business at mill.
All around the world these cars just keep on piling up, there is no end in sight. The economy shouts out quite loud that nobody has the money anymore to spend on a new car. The reason being that they are making their “old” cars go on a lot longer. But we cannot stop making them, soon we will run out of space to park them. We are nearly running out of space to drive them that’s for sure!

Below, more cars mount up in the port of Valencia in Spain. They will not be exported as there is nowhere for them to go, so they just sit and rot in their colorful droves.

Gone are the days when the family would have a new car every year, they are now keeping what they have got. It may be fair to say that some families still get a new car every year but its the majority that now do not.

The results are in these images, hundreds of thousands if not millions of cars around the world are driven from their factories, parked up and left.

Could we say that these cars have been left to rot! Maybe, as these cars will certainly rot if they are not bought, driven and cared for. It does not look like they will be sold any day soon, many of them have been standing for over 12 months or even longer and this is detrimental to the car.

Below, as far as the eye can see, right into the background, cars, cars and more cars. But what’s beyond the horizon? Have a guess…Yes that’s right…even more cars! All brand new but with no homes to go to. Do you think they will ever start giving them away, that may be the only radical solution. Who knows, you could soon be getting a free car with every packet of cornflakes.

When a car is left standing idle, all the oil sinks to the bottom of the sump, and then corrosion begins to set in on all the internal engine parts where the oil has drained away.

Cold corrosion is when condensation builds up in the cylinders and rust forms in the bores. The engines would then start to seize and would need to be professionally freed before they could be started. Also the tires start to lose air and the batteries start to go flat, indeed the detrimental list goes on and on.

So the longer they sit there the worse it slowly becomes for them. What is the answer to this? Well they need to be sold and that just isn’t happening.

The epidemic is not improving, it is getting worse. Car manufactureres are constantly coming out with new models with the latest technology in them. Hence prospective buyers of, for example, a new Citroen Xsara Picasso want the latest model, not last years model. Hence all the unsold Citroen Xsara Picasso cars from the previous year will now have even lesser chance of being sold.

The problems then just keep on mounting up. In the end, the unsold cars that are say 2 years old will have no alternative but to be either crushed up, dismantled and/or their parts recycled.

Some car manufacturers moved their production over to China, General Motors and Cadillac are examples of this. They are then shipped over in containers and unloaded at ports. However they are now being told to put a big halt in their import into the U.S.A. as they just can’t sell them in the quantities they would desire. Consequently Chinese car parks are now filling up with brand new American cars. Well nobody in China can afford them on their meagre pittance wages, so there they will stay until our economy improves..And lets not hold our breath for that!Enemy Is Profit

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voice of anti-capitalismThe truth is out: money is just an IOU, and the banks are rolling in it

David Graeber, theguardian.com
Back in the 1930s, Henry Ford is supposed to have remarked that it was a good thing that most Americans didn’t know how banking really works, because if they did, “there’d be a revolution before tomorrow morning”.

Last week, something remarkable happened. The Bank of England let the cat out of the bag. In a paper called “Money Creation in the Modern Economy“, co-authored by three economists from the Bank’s Monetary Analysis Directorate, they stated outright that most common assumptions of how banking works are simply wrong, and that the kind of populist, heterodox positions more ordinarily associated with groups such as Occupy Wall Street are correct. In doing so, they have effectively thrown the entire theoretical basis for austerity out of the window.– moneyTo get a sense of how radical the Bank’s new position is, consider the conventional view, which continues to be the basis of all respectable debate on public policy. People put their money in banks. Banks then lend that money out at interest – either to consumers, or to entrepreneurs willing to invest it in some profitable enterprise. True, the fractional reserve system does allow banks to lend out considerably more than they hold in reserve, and true, if savings don’t suffice, private banks can seek to borrow more from the central bank.

The central bank can print as much money as it wishes. But it is also careful not to print too much. In fact, we are often told this is why independent central banks exist in the first place. If governments could print money themselves, they would surely put out too much of it, and the resulting inflation would throw the economy into chaos. Institutions such as the Bank of England or US Federal Reserve were created to carefully regulate the money supply to prevent inflation. This is why they are forbidden to directly fund the government, say, by buying treasury bonds, but instead fund private economic activity that the government merely taxes.

It’s this understanding that allows us to continue to talk about money as if it were a limited resource like bauxite or petroleum, to say “there’s just not enough money” to fund social programmes, to speak of the immorality of government debt or of public spending “crowding out” the private sector. What the Bank of England admitted this week is that none of this is really true. To quote from its own initial summary: “Rather than banks receiving deposits when households save and then lending them out, bank lending creates deposits” … “In normal times, the central bank does not fix the amount of money in circulation, nor is central bank money ‘multiplied up’ into more loans and deposits.”

In other words, everything we know is not just wrong – it’s backwards. When banks make loans, they create money. This is because money is really just an IOU. The role of the central bank is to preside over a legal order that effectively grants banks the exclusive right to create IOUs of a certain kind, ones that the government will recognise as legal tender by its willingness to accept them in payment of taxes. There’s really no limit on how much banks could create, provided they can find someone willing to borrow it. They will never get caught short, for the simple reason that borrowers do not, generally speaking, take the cash and put it under their mattresses; ultimately, any money a bank loans out will just end up back in some bank again. So for the banking system as a whole, every loan just becomes another deposit. What’s more, insofar as banks do need to acquire funds from the central bank, they can borrow as much as they like; all the latter really does is set the rate of interest, the cost of money, not its quantity. Since the beginning of the recession, the US and British central banks have reduced that cost to almost nothing. In fact, with “quantitative easing” they’ve been effectively pumping as much money as they can into the banks, without producing any inflationary effects.

What this means is that the real limit on the amount of money in circulation is not how much the central bank is willing to lend, but how much government, firms, and ordinary citizens, are willing to borrow. Government spending is the main driver in all this (and the paper does admit, if you read it carefully, that the central bank does fund the government after all). So there’s no question of public spending “crowding out” private investment. It’s exactly the opposite.

Why did the Bank of England suddenly admit all this? Well, one reason is because it’s obviously true. The Bank’s job is to actually run the system, and of late, the system has not been running especially well. It’s possible that it decided that maintaining the fantasy-land version of economics that has proved so convenient to the rich is simply a luxury it can no longer afford.

But politically, this is taking an enormous risk. Just consider what might happen if mortgage holders realised the money the bank lent them is not, really, the life savings of some thrifty pensioner, but something the bank just whisked into existence through its possession of a magic wand which we, the public, handed over to it.

Historically, the Bank of England has tended to be a bellwether, staking out seeming radical positions that ultimately become new orthodoxies. If that’s what’s happening here, we might soon be in a position to learn if Henry Ford was right.Enemy Is Profit

voice of anti-capitalismThe VOAG Focuses On The Labour Party, As Another Member Resigns

With the European elections looming, and the Borough Council elections only a year away, the VOAG publishes a letter of resignation from the Labour Party, posted on Facebook by a former member.

The stark reality is that only a Socialist Party of the Bolshevik type can lead the working class, those that work and produce the wealth, to a better future. Only a Socialist society, one that produces goods and services, not for profit, but according to what’s needed and democratically agreed upon, can fulfill our needs, the producers. With true equality of opportunity comes true freedom.

As Karl Marx, the founder of modern socialism said: “Where one can do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic”…”Where in place of the old bourgeois society we shall have an association in which the free development of  each is the condition of the free development of all”. (Karl Marx, communist Manifesto).

Lenin declared, in his book What Is To Be Done, that “economic arguments [for socialism] are the most widely applied, but not the most widely applicable”. The essence of socialism, the project, often forgotten by fellow socialists overcome by the day-to-day struggle, is the complete transformation of society, the transcendence of mankind, and the liberation of humanity. Socialism, as Marx once said represents “the very beginning of human history“.

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I am returning my membership card for the Labour Party as a means of saying that I wish to resign from the party. It is with regret that I am doing this but I see no other option.

I joined the party in October last year as a longstanding member of the Fabian Society. As an expat, I had come to the University of Cambridge the previous month and was horrified at the damage the coalition government had done to the social fabric of Britain. I had thought and hoped that both the aggressive foreign policies – notably the war against Iraq – as well as many Thatcherite notions endorsed by ‘New Labour’ had been part of the past, and that the choice of Ed Miliband as a more ‘left-wing’ candidate had signified a fresh start for Labour. I admit that I had been very much wrong.

I have closely followed Labour’s policies and campaigns since. Most of these have been concerned with shallow, cosmetic and ultimately insignificant campaigns. Britain surely faces more challenging problems than ticket touts at major rugby events (23 February). The most visible response to the dire problems faced by a society which for the first time since 1945 has seen the Red Cross in action delivering food to the needy has been Miliband calling for a ‘freeze’ on energy bills. Surely nobody in the Labour party is so naïve as to seriously believe that such a move were possible without renationalising the energy companies.

The excesses of an entirely market-driven society and of almost completely deregulated capitalism could be felt by all in 2008 and the following years: Profits had been privatised, and losses socialised. Yet I cannot remember reading any statements by Labour during these last few months that would have called for fundamental changes to an economic model creating the rifts running through Britain. Quite to the contrary, recently even the Labour Party, or rather some members thereof, attempted to jump onto a populist bandwagon to please an immigrant-bashing and xenophobe, Daily-Fail-reading petit bourgeois sector of the electorate with a petty, islandish outlook. This, at least, was the impression conveyed in late January, early February, when the Labour leadership failed to stand up to such tendencies galore, and instead attempted to play the ‘tough on immigration’ card.

Just as bad, if not worse, is the fact that Britain currently has, arguably, the worst Secretary of State ‘for’ Education in history. Michael Gove, on this the person reading this letter will probably agree, is easily the worst person in this office in British history. Education, to some extent the most important brief in the cabinet, is in the hands of a tub-thumping madman. Yet while it is clear that a myriad of different forms of schools has done incredible damage to the education system, that tuition fees have turned higher education into nothing but a marketable commodity, there is no such thing as an education policy on the part of Labour that would even bear the potential – let alone the promise – of making the best possible education again available for all. The most fundamental key to equality is left in ruins, while Labour cannot even bring itself to let go of such a completely failed notion as academies and ‘independent’ schools mushrooming around Britain.

Ultimately, the balance we once attempted to strike between markets and citizens has been abandoned, with the former having been given complete preference over the latter. I continue to hope that from within the Fabian Society – as well as from other think tanks, as well as individuals – alternatives emerge, and that there be people within the Labour party who listen. However, so long as Labour as a party only disagrees with the Tories on how to tip the balance towards markets over citizens, rather than on how to reverse it, it is regret that I need to tell you that I cannot support the party as a member any longer.

Yours sincerelyEnemy Is Profit

voice of anti-capitalismThe sigh of the oppressed

Gerry Downing, Socialist Fight Group
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

Gerry Downing looks at the origins of monotheism and assesses the attitude of communists towards believers

Abraham Leon’s book The Jewish question: a Marxist analysis has the following to say about the Jewish religion: “Whereas catholicism expresses the interests of the landed nobility and of the feudal order, while Calvinism (or Puritanism) represents those of the bourgeoisie or capitalism, Judaism mirrors the interests of a pre-capitalist mercantile class.”

Leon quotes Marx approvingly from On the Jewish question: “We must not start with religion in order to explain Jewish history; on the contrary the preservation of the Jewish religion or nationality can be explained only by the ‘real Jew’, that is to say by the Jew in his economic and social role.”

The view that the ‘ancient Hebrews’, which refers in the first place to Abraham’s tribe of nomadic sheep-herders, believed in one abstract, invisible god is incorrect. This is mythology, which projects modern values and ideas onto an ancient society to prove some linear continuity. In fact ideas of a deity and religious beliefs have changed out of all recognition since 1900 BC.

Abraham’s nomadic Hebrews settled in a small part of Canaan about 1900 BC and remained semi-nomadic. Their chief god was El. Yahweh (Jehovah) was the god of the Canaanites. Later historical revisions ignored El and gave Yahweh as the only god of the Israelites. In fact during the time of the two kingdoms Yahweh was the northern god and El the southern god. They had no idea of a single god and such an idea did not exist in the planet at the time. The religion of Abraham was polytheism, not monotheism.

The religion of Moses
The religion of Moses was more advanced and did not advocated constant warfare to destroy the gods of other tribes, as long as they did not interfere with Yahweh’s domain. It was the development of a municipal god to replace and include Abraham’s tribal gods. The Hebrews had left the land of Canaan because of famine and came into closer contact with the more advanced culture of the Nile. There is no historical evidence that they ever settled in Egypt. In fact the historical record for the reign of Ramesses II is well nigh complete and there is no mention of any major exodus of slaves from the kingdom.

They did not assimilate into this culture because their nomadic animal husbandry would not allow it. The Bible tale that Moses was raised as an Egyptian nobleman because he was found floating in a basket in the Nile by Pharaoh’s daughter is probably simply a means of saying that the leaders of the Hebrews adopted some of their religious views from the Egyptians.

Where did the religion of the Egyptians come from? There is a quote from Marx that explains: “The necessity for predicting the rise and fall of the Nile created Egyptian astronomy, and with it the domination of the priests as directors of agriculture.” [1] God made himself known to Moses not from the burning bush or from the posterior of Yahweh, but from the social necessity of the Egyptian peasants to know when the Nile would flood so they could regulate their seasonal activity of sowing and harvesting. And only the priests knew that. The peasants had no idea how they knew this and the priests were not going to tell them because knowledge was indeed power. So the ignorant peasants readily believed that the priests were passing on the knowledge of when this was to happen because only god could know that and the priests must therefore be his representatives. The pharaoh was a god because he was the chief priest who knew everything, although there quickly arose a certain, often ill-defined, separation between religious and secular rule. This was not simply a conscious con trick, but a social necessity.

Whilst the Israelites lived in Egypt, the pharaoh Akhenaton had attempted to impose an early form of monotheism in the form of worship of the sun god, Aton, but the society reverted to their traditional gods on his death, and he himself had insisted on remaining a god. The advance to a multi-people empire and towards monotheism was thwarted for that time and the city built by Akhenaton in honour of the new god fell into ruins after his death. But the time for these ideas had arrived and was bound to circulate in an advanced culture like Egypt.

Moses supposedly created the Arc of the Covenant at Mount Sinai, where the god of Israel dwelt after the exodus. True, he was only visible as a sunburst, but, as he lived in that wooden box, he was remarkable small and not very abstract. Moses developed a primitive form of monotheism, dispensing with the multitude of lesser gods like the golden calf, in his own society and for his people alone. Yahweh was, after all, only the god of Israel. The religion of Moses was inspired by Egyptian culture, but retained the old Hebrew tribal deity. In fact the majority of the ‘Israelites’ who departed in the exodus may have been Egyptians.

Moses elaborated the Ten Commandments as new precepts to form the legal basis of a settled and more peaceful community. It was not a religion of one god overseeing all the peoples of the world onto whom humanity projected their idealised selves. It was a halfway house that had not yet developed the notion of one god for everybody. They just did not consider such a state possible because it was not possible at that stage. It was the later rise of great multi-people empires that posed this question.

Paul Lafargue
Over a hundred years ago, Paul Lafargue, explained the evolution of the belief in one god thus: “The idea of god, planted and germinated in the human brain by the unknown elements of the natural environment and the social environment, is not something invariable: it varies on the contrary according to time and place; it evolves in proportion, as the mode of production develops, transforming the social environment.

“God, for the Greeks, the Romans and other ancient peoples, had his dwelling in a given spot and existed only to be useful to his adorers and hurtful to their enemies; each family had its private gods, the spirit of deified ancestors, and each city had its municipal or state god. The municipal god or goddess dwelt in the temple consecrated to him or her and was incorporated into the image which often was a block of wood or a stone; he or she was interested in the fate of the inhabitants of the city, of these alone. The ancestral gods concerned themselves only with family affairs. The Jehovah of the Bible was a god of this kind; he lodged in a wooden box called the Arc of the Covenant; which was carried along when the tribes changed their location; they put it at the head of the army, that Jehovah might fight for his people; if he chastised them cruelly for their infractions of his law, he also rendered them many services, as the Old testament reports.

The Greeks and Romans, like the Jews and the first christians, had no thought of their god being the only god of creation: the Jews believed in Moloch, Baal and other gods of the nations with which they warred as firmly as in Jehovah “¦ The municipal divinities, which belonged to the warlike cities of antiquity, always at strife with neighbouring peoples, could not answer the religious needs which mercantile production created in the bourgeois democracies of the commercial and industrial cities, obliged on the contrary to maintain pacific relations with the surrounding nations. The necessities of commerce and industry forced the new-born bourgeoisie to de-municipalise the city divinities and create cosmopolitan gods “¦ These new divinities, Isis, Demeter, Dionysos, Mithra, Jesus, etc “¦ still took on a human form, though the need was beginning to be felt for a supreme being which should not be anthropomorphic; but it is not until the capitalist epoch that the idea of an amorphous god has imposed itself, as a consequence of the impersonal form taken on by the property of corporations.”

Lafargue here clearly spells out the reasons for the rise and development of monotheism: commercial necessity to trade peacefully. This had superseded the previous necessity, which was to advance by capturing your neighbour’s territory by war. Notions of god and versions of monotheism continued to be developed from the ancient primitive municipal monotheism of middle antiquity to the sophisticated supreme being of the French Revolution and Hegel’s ‘absolute idea’, as humanity’s productive forces gave rise to new social necessities.

Trade routes
Look at any map of trade routes from antiquity to the modern epoch. Almost all show major routes through or near the ancient land of Palestine. It was the land of the Canaanites, a great trading people. The invading Philistines (who gave their name to Palestine) took on much of the culture of the Canaanites, like the Israelites. They invented an alphabet because they needed to tally and record their trading activities, so the ship’s captain and crew would not rip them off.

The Israelites learned to write from the Philistines (presumably between wars). So it is easy to understand that the record of what happened to the Hebrews from Abraham to Moses is second-hand and written to suit the politics of a later epoch. From 1100 to 539 BC the Phoenicians – the name given to the northern Canaanites by the Greeks – traded and settled the Mediterranean lands, just as the Jews did later and for the same reason: location and opportunity. It is entirely unremarkable that the Jews followed and developed this long tradition.

It is part of the mythology of Judaism, developed by the Zionists, that a nomadic tribe could have been culturally more advanced than the Canaanites because of their monotheism. The archaeological dig at Hazor, northern Israel (1955-58) settled all these arguments against the fundamentalists. Modern dating techniques enabled the archaeologists to outline a precise chronology. In the 13th century BC Joshua led the Israelite hosts which defeated Jabin’s city of Hazor (the biblical account that places the battle later under judge Deborah’s leadership was proved incorrect) and burned it to the ground. “Then, in a very long processes, some of those sites began to be resettled by the still nomadic Israelites, who slowly but surely turned the settlements into proper cities, particularly from the time of the Kings onward.”

Further excavations discovered a foundation deposit, which consisted of a jug containing a figurine of a war deity. This was immediately prior to the rebuilding of the city by Solomon soon after 1000 BC. This is a classic example of a more advanced people being conquered by a primitive but more warlike people, who then assimilated the religious culture and customs of the defeated people over a period. They adopted some of their gods like Baal and Hastoret.

The kingdom of the House of David arose around 1000 BC. Yossi Swartz wrote: “The priests of the kingdom tried, according to the records in the Old testament, but without much success, to enforce the belief in one god, Yahweh. How could these priests enforce the god who resided in Jerusalem, on the people of a village who believed that they must serve their local god who does not have to travel far to punish them?”

Following the return of the Israelites to the land of Canaan the next great learning experience was the defeat of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar and the exile of the ruling class to Babylon. There they learned the most advanced trading practices from the most advanced civilisation of the age, the Babylonians. Here the most important Talmud was written which laid down the religious, social and political norms to enable a trading and money-based ruling elite to function without continual inner conflicts.

Yossi Swartz explains: “The defeat of Israel by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC led to the assimilation of the Israelite peasants into other nations, and hence the legend of the 10 lost tribes. Two hundred years later the Babylonians destroyed the kingdom of Judah and the Jewish aristocracy was exiled to Babylon. During the Persian empire established by Cyrus, this aristocracy was sent back to Palestine as political agents of the empire.”

Modern Jewish culture
This was the real beginning of modern Jewish culture. During the Babylonians exile the prophet, called Isaiah the Second because of similarities with the first Isaiah, elaborated the modern Jewish god. His monotheism was universal and not held in by national boundaries. The old God of Israel was a sunburst in a wooden box, which the Philistines were able to capture. The new God of Israel had become too widely travelled and too ambitious to be confined in a small land, let alone in a wooden box. He had to be made suitable for a far-flung trading people, most of whom now lived in the diaspora. However, despite this development, elements of the exclusive ideas that went back to Abraham’s Yahweh survive to this day and have re-emerged over the centuries whenever the Jews found themselves embattled.

The ready acceptance of the new monotheism proved that its time had come. Cyrus, the victorious Persian king, defeated and subjugated all the mercantile trading rivals of the Jews (the Philistines and Phoenicians/Canaanites) and they now seized control of the trade routes as his agents and then spread throughout the territory of successive imperial powers as traders and merchants. Martin Gilbert’s Jewish history atlas gives us a picture of what the next period was like. His maps show growth of the diaspora (500 BC to 100 AD).

The Jews, he says, “moved about freely as traders” and “established flourishing communities” under the protection of the Greek and Carthaginian empires all along the coasts of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, Gilbert writes. The Sinai frontier, near the ancient land of Goshen, the home of Jacob, Joseph and Moses, was repopulated by the pharaoh with 30,000 Jews in 270 BC, the origins of the large Alexandrian Jewish community.

The Jewish risings against Roman rule paint a very different picture than the standard Zionist one. The Jews revolted against Rome in Judea twice, in 66-73 AD under the leadership of the Zealots, and Bar Kochba in 132-35 AD. However, they rose up also in Cyrenaica (the land around modern Benghazi in Libya), in Syne on the Middle Nile, in the entire delta of the Nile, in Cyprus and in Mesopotamia (all between 115 and 117 AD), according to Gilbert’s map.

Contrary to Zionist myths, the brutal suppression of the Bar Kochba revolt by the Roman general, Hadrian, was not the origin of the diaspora. That was the trading lifestyle of the ancient Jews and the far earlier conquests explained above.

The bulk of world Jewry was already far from home. The war between the Romans and the Jews was a clash of cultures, which reflected conflicting economic interests. Basically Rome was subduing the Mediterranean lands to extract tributes to feed the ever growing parasitic nobility and restless plebeian masses at home and they wished to appropriate the money that flowed from the activities of Jewish traders and cash-crop farmers.

Universal monotheism
Bruno Bauer’s theses are by far the most logical on the history and origins of early christianity. According to Bauer, christianity was first postulated by the Alexandrian Jew, Philo Judea, and developed by the Roman Stoic philosopher, Seneca.

Its fundamental tenets were: “the inborn sinfulness of man; the logos, the word, which is with god and is god and which becomes the mediator between god and man; atonement not by sacrifice but by bringing one’s own heart to god; and finally the essential feature that the new religious philosophy reverses the previous world order, seeks its disciples amongst the poor, the miserable, the slaves and the rejected and despises the rich, the powerful and the privileged – whence the precept to despise all worldly pleasure and to mortify the fresh “¦ And, as we see, we need only the keystone and we have the whole of christianity in its basic features: the incarnation of the word becomes man in a definite person and his sacrifice on the cross for the redemption of sinful mankind.”

In 313 AD the Roman emperor, Constantine, chose this religion above two others. It had been modified since its development 300 years before from a primitive redistributive consumer communism of the poor Jews of the Roman empire to one that could suit the needs of Rome. Constantine found he could easily adapt christianity to the pressing need to have a unifying ideology to bind together and oppress a far-flung multi-people empire.

This new christian religion excluded all other gods and forbade its followers from believing in them. As part of the dialectic of history christianity also hailed the fall of the world of antiquity as a victory of the spirit over the flesh and the just reward for corruption. It became the ideology for spreading the new empires that emerged out of the dark ages at the end of the first millennium.

A will o’ the wisp
You will note that in the search for the origins of a universal monotheism we are constantly frustrated by the realisation that every form of monotheism we examine is not really monotheism at all. Right up to Constantine’s adoption of christianity all religions acknowledged and believed in other people’s gods, as well as adoring and obeying their own (as interpreted by a privileged priesthood).

Even christianity is not really a universal monotheism. There is the doctrine of the trinity – three gods in one, and one god in three – although believers were bound to acknowledge under pain of the inquisition that each of these ‘persons’ was individually god. And then there was the anthropomorphic belief in Jesus Christ as god, made man, made god again; and all the saints, who are sort of minor gods (leaving aside how we may rationalise or adore the Virgin Mary) the faithful may worship if they choose. In fact there is a logical argument that the only real monotheistic religion is islam and that must surely explain its remarkably progressive nature from the 7th to the 15th century.

Contemporaneously with the religious wars in Europe in the 17th century, deism – a new form of monotheism that was more genuinely and rationally universal – developed. This rejected all religious practices associated with formal religion (which they blamed for Europe’s devastation) and ascribed to the supreme being the role of creator and initiator of motion. This was the divine watchmaker theory. Miracles – the fundamental method used by all religions to get the believer to suspend their critical, logical judgement – were rejected. The English philosopher, Anthony Collins (1676-1729), was the chief theorist of this school. Abraham Lincoln was a deist.

The Irish philosopher, John Toland, was the first to coin the term ‘pantheism’ in 1705 to describe the new logical religion. There was a long line of antecedents who had developed this idea. Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant and Hegel were ideological pantheists, as were several of the romantic poets.

However, having achieved its highest development, monotheism also signalled its logical downfall. Learned opinion speculated that Collins and Toland were covert atheists, as well they might. Because to a materialist philosopher like Collins and a follower of the famous Jewish philosopher, Spinoza (mind and matter are one substance, Spinoza believed), it must have been an obvious step to ask, if the creator created everything and gave it motion, who created the creator? Once miracles were denied, deism logically led to atheism by a small step. The poet, Shelly, made this small step and got expelled from Oxford by the high Tory gentlemen who led that establishment and banished from his father’s house forever for this ‘crime’.

When the perfect and logical monotheism was achieved, atheism was just too tempting as the next step. Back to fideism and the Bible then with its talking donkey and snake. Napoleon had to restore catholicism in France to end the revolution.

Religion within the limits of reason alone is one of the most famous books of the idealist philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). The ‘absolute idea’ of Georg Hegel (1770-1831) pushed god to his furthest limits. It was a great feat for Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-72) to interpret Hegel materialistically. Feuerbach’s problem arose from the fact that, like Hegel, he was unable to identify practice, where humanity changed the world and the changed world changed humanity, as the subject-object of history. It only required Marx to read Feuerbach’s work to successfully turn Hegel on his head (or set him on his feet) to identify the social necessity of the productive forces to develop, driving the class struggle as the motor force of history, and not the intentions of god or man.

After that there was no more seeking the truth about god by honest bourgeois philosophers. The truth was out and its acceptance or rejection now became part of the class struggle itself. Atheism, particularly in the working class, is seen today as a threat to the system because a fundamental element of social control has been overturned.

Religion today
Modern religions have become the expressions of the material interests of a particular ruling class or a section of that class in a particular historical setting. No Marxist would deny that that the heretical sects of the Middles Ages represented the first failed attempts of early mercantile traders to free themselves from the feudal ignorance and oppression of the church. Lutheranism and Calvinism represented the ideology of a rising bourgeoisie.

Without that understanding conflicts like the 30 years war in Germany (1618-48), when a third of the population (seven million out of 20) perished, are totally meaningless. At the time they explained it as people gone insanely bloodthirsty for their version of the love of christ, but, of course, they fought over their material interests in the final analysis – and we must stress ‘final analysis’, because we are sure that very few of them thought of it in that way at that time.

No religion can be a mixture of conflicting viewpoints reflecting the mixture of classes. All religions are a false illusion, a fundamentally idealised and incorrect view of the world, which can only strengthen oppression by preventing the oppressed from seeing that the causes of their oppression (material and psychological) are in this world. They are based on ignorance of two types: the ignorance of the primitive and uneducated of the reasons for all natural phenomena; and the ignorance of the causes of social and economic phenomena like booms, slumps, wars and revolutions. The intellectual representatives of the bourgeoisie must reject Marxism, the only explanation for and way out of these crises if they are to serve their masters, because to accept it would be to accept the inevitable demise of capitalism.

These ideas are lodged in the social relations of production that the oppressed of every age must enter in order to live. Religion is subservience in a mystical cloak, which can only serve the interests of the ruling class, in the short and long term, no matter what episodic religious conflicts might break out. The ‘mixture’ notion of Judaism is an implicit defence of the rabbi and the Zionist rulers of Israel.

Of course, religious views are more complex than simply representing a straight rationale of one’s life activity. They develop in a much more complex way. In classical Marxist understanding there is the religion of the oppressor and the religion of the oppressed. This is how Marx tackles the question:

“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.

“The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusions about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusion. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of woe, the halo of which is religion.

“The task of history, therefore, once the world beyond the truth has disappeared, is to establish the truth of this world. The immediate task of philosophy, which is at the service of history, once the saintly form of human self-alienation has been unmasked, is to unmask self-alienation in its unholy forms. Thus the criticism of heaven turns into the criticism of earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of right and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.”

Marx is here dealing with religion as a whole, not just the religion of the oppressed. But he does not see any side of religion as progressive – no, it is all reactionary and must be overcome in order to achieve liberation. It is the illusion that we must get rid of in order to rid ourselves of the “condition which needs illusions”. Any religious ideology represents a reactionary element of a people’s culture, because it must represent the domination of some ruling caste over the mass of the people. It is a vehicle for internal social control by the rabbi, priest, vicar or ayatollah, all of whom make a very good living disseminating magical nonsense on behalf of the ruling elite.

In Jewish history these elites were kings and rabbis (when a theocracy ruled) and today it is the state of Israel in the main, where elements or theocracy are stronger that anywhere else, apart from in the states of its bitterest enemies like Iran and Syria. In other cultures and states it is the established church or its equivalent which provides this prop.

Religion of the oppressed
Having said all that, it is necessary to stress that Marxists do differentiate between the religion of the oppressor and the religion of the oppressed (as we do with all manifestation of oppressive bourgeois ideology, including racism, sexism, homophobia, etc in the ranks of the working class and oppressed). These prejudices may not sit as firmly in the mind of a worker, particularly when he of she is moving into conflict with their employers or is beginning to see the need to tackle the system as a whole. A space is opened for progressive and revolutionary propaganda.

This is how the early Bolsheviks tackled the religion of the oppressed in the muslim countries of Soviet central Asia. They approached the oppressed women in particular with extreme sensitivity. The revolutionary women of the Zhenotdel in the early 1920s donned the paranja (a garment that totally covered the face without even openings for eyes and mouth) to get the ear of oppressed women.

Dale Ross (DL Reissner), the first editor of the Spartacist League’s Women and Revolution, explained that method and history well in her article ‘Early Bolshevik work among women of the Soviet east’ (No12, summer 1976). She goes into great detail to explain the difference between the Bolshevik method of approaching this work and both the Menshevik and Stalinist method. Her article points to the fact that failure to distinguish between the religion of the oppressor and the religion of the oppressed has disastrous consequence for socialists. There is no need to ask which method the PDPA and the ‘Red Army’ operated in Afghanistan. Or which method the Spartacists’ International Communist League supported so uncritically after 1979.

“The Bolsheviks viewed the extreme oppression of women as an indicator of the primitive level of the whole society, but their approach was based on materialism, not moralism. They understood that the fact that women were veiled and caged, bought and sold, was but the surface of the problem. Kalym (the bride price) was not some sinister plot against womankind, but the institution which was central to the organisation of production, integrally connected to land and water rights. Payment of kalym, often by the whole clan over a long period of time, committed those involved to an elaborate system of debt, duties and loyalties which ultimately led to participation in the private armies of the local beys (landowners and wholesale merchants). All commitments were thus backed up with the threat of feuds and blood vengeance.

“…Lenin warned against prematurely confronting respected native institutions, even when these clearly violated communist principles and Soviet law. Instead he proposed to use the Soviet state power to systematically undermine them while simultaneously demonstrating the superiority of Soviet institutions – a policy which had worked well against the powerful Russian Orthodox Church.

“”¦ Then on March 8 1927, in celebration of International Woman’s Day, mass meetings were held at which thousands of frenzied participants, chanting ‘Down with the paranja!’ tore off their veils, which were drenched in paraffin and burned. Poems were recited and plays with names such as ‘Away with the veil’ and ‘Never again kalym‘ were performed. Zhenotdel agitators led marches of unveiled women through the streets, instigating the forced desegregation of public quarters and sanctified religious sites.”

The consequences of these brutal Stalinist methods were the same as they were in Afghanistan 60 years later: “Women suing for divorce became the targets of murderous vigilante squads, and lynchings of party cadres annihilated the ranks of the Zhenotdel. The party was forced to mobilise the militia, then the Komsomol, and finally the general party membership and the Red Army to protect the women, but it refused to alter its suicidal policies. The debacle of International Woman’s Day was repeated in 1928 and 1929 with the same disastrous consequences, exacting an extremely high toll on party cadre.”

Only the method of the early Bolsheviks will work to defeat the rise of fundamentalism today. That requires a comprehensive understanding of religion, its origins and methods of control. This article is dedicated to beginning anew that task.Voag-Logo-catapult2

Housing-For-AllSale Of Small Council Homes Condemning Thousands To The Bedroom Tax – The VOAG Investigates

Thousands of one and two-bedroom council homes have been sold off since 2010, preventing tenants affected by the “bedroom tax” from downsizing to avoid the penalty, research by The Independent shows.

The controversial policy is meant to free up social housing space by encouraging hundreds of thousands of tenants to move to smaller properties, by cutting their benefits if they have a spare bedroom.

But figures obtained by The Independent show that a severe shortage of smaller council homes across the country is being exacerbated by the right-to-buy scheme – leaving many victims of the bedroom tax with no choice but to accept reduced benefits.

In the areas hardest hit by the housing crisis, more than two-thirds of council homes sold off under right-to-buy since the Coalition came to power had one or two bedrooms, figures obtained under Freedom of Information show.

Central London is suffering from the biggest sell-off of small homes. In Camden, 81 per cent of properties sold since 2010 had two bedrooms or fewer, and 49 per cent had one bedroom. Figures for Hammersmith and Fulham show that 77 per cent of sales were of small properties.

In Southwark, 74 per cent of those sold were small, with 32 per cent one-bedroom properties, and in Lambeth, 74 per cent of its right-to-buy sales were of the smallest homes.

Brighton and Hove council has sold 111 properties since 2010, of which 74 per cent had one or two bedrooms. Although Bournemouth council sold just 20 homes, all of them were small.

The analysis of 125 council areas found that of 14,616 properties sold across England, 45 per cent had one or two bedrooms. About 61 per cent of England’s total social housing stock is made up of one- or two-bedroom properties, suggesting that some councils appear to be selling off a disproportionate number of smaller homes.

Alison Garnham, the chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said the figures exposed the bedroom tax as “a hasty shambles” which had forced some of the most vulnerable children into unfit housing. “It’s often pushing them into the worst quality housing in the private sector – places that aren’t fit for habitation because of problems like damp and mould.”

Labour’s shadow housing minister, Emma Reynolds, said: “The truth about David Cameron’s bedroom tax is that there are simply not enough smaller homes for people to move to. With the Government failing to keep its promise on replacing every home sold through right-to-buy with a new home built, the shortage is getting worse.” Labour plans to scrap the policy if it wins a majority in next year’s general election.

Government efforts to reform the welfare system have resulted in tenants being moved out of expensive areas. But even those cities receiving families who are priced out are losing smaller properties through right-to-buy. In Hull, for example, 44 per cent of houses sold since 2010 had one or two bedrooms.

The housing charity Shelter urged the Government to review the bedroom tax in the light of the findings. “This research points to a serious contradiction at the heart of government policy,” said Roger Harding, Shelter’s director of communications, policy and campaigns. “Unless sufficient one- and two-bed homes are made available the bedroom tax is an unfair penalty on people who have no choice but to stay where they are.”Voag-Logo-catapult2

voice of anti-capitalismModern Day Slavery In Qatar: Workers Paid Less Than 60p An Hour – The VOAG Investigates

The VOAG has been aware of the issue of foreign workers in Qatar for some time. RT, Press TV, and Aljazeera, as well as Amnesty International have made documentaries on the issue, and the VOAG has received a variety of articles on the subject. foreign workers mainly from India, Pakistan and other developing countries are encouraged to go to Qatar to work in the construction industry. Once there they are stripped of their passports and forced to work for very little money, and in some cases, for free.

UCATT, the British construction union recently went to Qatar on a “fact-finding mission” to investigate for them selves, and spoke to the VOAG of their results. UCATT now plan to put further pressure on the Hukoomi – Qatar Government Portal and British based companies working in the country. The plight of workers will become increasingly high-profile, as construction is now beginning for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.ucattUCATT met workers who were being paid less than £0.60 pence an hour and who were being paid a little over £50 a week, while being expected to work excessive hours, 6 days a week in temperatures up to 55 degrees in the summer. The levels of poverty pay are especially stark given that Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

The 2 million construction workers in Qatar work under the kafala system which means they are bonded labour. The workers have their passports confiscated and cannot leave the country without their employer’s permission. For many workers this means that they cannot return home for at least two years. The workers also have to pay up to a thousand pounds each before they are allowed to work in Qatar, which are often financed through loans at very high interest rates. Often workers do not receive the wages owed to them. During the mission UCATT met workers who had not been paid for five months.

UCATT also visited the accommodation provided for many of the workers and saw how workers live in abject squalor. UCATT met a group of nine workers who were expected to live in one tiny room measuring 10 square metres. Welfare facilities were entirely inadequate with just five poorly maintained toilets provided for 200 workers. The facilities for workers to prepare food were also atrocious. Workers report there is often no running water and they are forced to wash in sea water.

Steve Murphy, General Secretary of UCATT, said: “The treatment of migrant construction workers in Qatar is appalling. If animals were being treated in this way in Britain there would be a national outcry. The fact that this is happening overseas means that many companies are prepared to look the other way in the pursuit of profits.CONSTRUCTION WORKERHundreds of migrant construction workers die in Qatar every year. In the last two years 500 Indian workers have died. Last year 195 Nepalese deaths were recorded 123 of these were recorded as being due to cardiac arrest. UCATT learnt that deceased workers do not receive a post mortem and if the death was recorded as natural causes then no compensation was paid. Mr Murphy added: “The way that migrant workers are treated in Qatar demonstrates that those in power consider their lives to be cheap and expendable.”

The fact finding mission to Qatar was jointly organised with Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) the international federation of construction unions.

Reporting on the preparations for the 2022 World Cup, an RT (Russia Today news channel) investigation discovered foreign construction workers “toiling in terrible conditions and having received no salaries for months”, and their “passports confiscated by employers”.

One of the men interviewed worked for 12 years as an accommodation specialist, but, as Peter Giesel, the film maker, indicated to RT, “ironically, his accommodation itself doesn’t even have a fan.” The man hasn’t been getting his salary and bonuses for a number of years, and his main difficulty is to fight a case against his boss and his firm: the employer took his passport from him, and the 35-year-old worker hasn’t made the money necessary to return home, “the devilish circle”, as the RT report put it. Another group of guys – there were four of them – weren’t paid for seven months in a row and were trying to file a case when Giesel met them.

As the filmmaker explained, one of the main issues surrounding migrant workers is that they are employed under the so-called kafala system, which is “a law basically stating that every migrant worker that comes into Qatar has to find his own personal sponsor meaning his boss, the firm or corporation he’s working for.”

“And that sponsor has to take care of him legally and medically, but obviously, most of the sponsors take their passports away from the migrant workers. That puts maybe tens of thousands of them in a miserable situation. They can’t make any money to go home, so they’re trapped down there.”

Moreover, migrant employees can’t rely on outside forces such as their countries’ embassies, according to Giesel. “I had a chance to sneak into the Nepalese embassy and do my recordings down there. It seems to be some kind of chaos: the bureaucracy not only in the embassies, but also in the Qatari system is too overwhelming for those 1.4 million migrant workers to be treated fairly,” reported Giesel.

InjusticeThe VOAG has been concerned for a long time at the actions of PCS union members who work at Employment Centers. Many of the members of the Surrey United Anti-Capitalists – a local, independent,  left unity project, which the VOAG supports – have been unfairly treated, bullied and victimized by the staff. They have had their only source of income taken away from them on the whim of apparent union members who later go on strike and demand “working class unity and support”

The VOAG was pleased to read the article below, dealing with this very question on the Socialist Unity blog, and re-publishes it here.

 The role of PCS members in the bullying of benefit claimants

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are engaged in the widespread bullying and intimidation of benefit claimants in Job Centres up and down the country. The evidence can no longer be denied and the union’s leadership must now take steps to educate its members that solidarity is more than just a word on a leaflet during a PCS pay dispute, or else face the accusation of collaborating with the government’s vicious assault on the most economically vulnerable in society under the rubric of austerity.

The upsurge in the number of claimants having their benefits sanctioned for increasingly minor infractions correlates to the upsurge in the demand for the services of the nation’s food banks. This shocking revelation was contained in a report by MPs in January, the result of an investigation by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, which called for an independent review into the rules for sanctioning claimants to ensure that the rules are being applied “fairly and appropriately”.

Among its findings the report stated: “Evidence suggests that JCP staff have referred many claimants for a sanction inappropriately or in circumstances in which common sense would dictate that discretion should have been applied”.

The report continued: “Some witnesses were concerned that financial hardship caused by sanctioning was a significant factor in a recent rise in referrals to food aid. The report recommends that DWP take urgent steps to monitor the extent of financial hardship caused by sanctions”.

The majority of Jobcentre staff are members of the 270,000 strong PCS, the sixth largest trade union in the country, which represents thousands of Britain’s civil servants and public sector workers. The PCS has been a strong critic of the coalition’s austerity policies, making the case for an investment led recovery from recession and calling for mass opposition to spending cuts that have ravaged the public sector and been accompanied by a concerted campaign of demonization of the unemployed and economically vulnerable that is unparalleled in its viciousness. This only makes the role some of its members are playing in intensifying the hardship faced by the unemployed and people on out of work benefits even more deplorable.

It is unconscionable that any trade union would allow its members to engage in the wilful and systematic sanctioning of benefit claimants without offering any meaningful resistance. It flies in the face of the very principle of social solidarity that is the cornerstone of a movement founded on the understanding that the interests of working people – employed and unemployed – are intrinsically the same.

The human despair not to mention humiliation being inflicted on people in the nation’s Jobcentres is evidence that the Tory campaign of dividing working people section by section has borne fruit. It has reached the point where the oppressive atmosphere found in your average Jobcentre is on a par with the oppressive atmosphere associated with a district or sheriff court. Job seekers are not criminals and those sanctioning them so readily are not parole officers, yet you could be easily mistaken in thinking they are after spending just a few minutes in a Jobcentre anywhere in the country.

Enough is enough.
This culture of bullying, harassment, and intimidation against the unemployed must be confronted by the leadership of the leadership of the PCS as a matter of urgency. By no means are all PCS members working in Jobcentres guilty of this shameful practice – indeed many are low paid workers reliant on various benefits to survive themselves – but enough are involved in the practice to leave no doubt that we are talking about an institutional problem rather than the actions of a few rotten apples.

Many of those being sanctioned are being trapped due to mental health issues or language issues making them more vulnerable to violating the plethora of rules regarding the obligations they must fulfil when it comes to searching for work. Many are being sanctioned for turning up five minutes late to a scheduled appointment, regardless of the reason why. In some cases suicide has been the result.

You would hope that the leadership of the PCS would at least acknowledge the despair their members are inflicting on the most economically vulnerable people in society. You’d be wrong. In an article which appeared on the PCS website back in February, addressing the volume of criticism being levelled at the DWP over sanctioning, the union denied culpability in the process. On the contrary they assert in the article:

PCS believes our members do the best job they can in very difficult circumstances. Rather than face criticism, this work should be recognised and valued by management and they should start by ensuring a proper pay increase for DWP staff in 2014.

Any trade union member who allows him or herself to be used as an instrument to attack the poor and the unemployed is deserving of contempt. And any trade union leadership that fails to act to prevent it happening is reactionary.Voag-Logo-34

voice of anti-capitalismIs our meat fit to eat?

Just when last year’s horsemeat scandal was finally beginning to fade, Britain’s carnivores have now been hit with more bad news about meat. According to the union representing meat inspectors, diseased and dirty meat could end up on Britain’s dinner plates as a result of new legislation. Unison says that proposed law changes will reduce the ability of its members to inspect suspect meat and make sure diseased cuts don’t make the human food chain.

A spokesman for the union said that the new rules could mean meat that “repulses us” making it onto our dinner plates. “Most people do not know that there are a small group of meat inspectors and vets that keep them safe from harmful and repulsive additions to our sausages, Sunday roasts and beef pies,” she added.

It’s just the latest in a string of bad headlines about what, for many of us, is the best part of any meal. So, what are the health implications of producing, processing and eating meat, and is it time we thought about going veggie?

Diseased meat
What many of us don’t know is that millions of carcasses are thrown away every year before their meat can make it onto our plates. They may be carrying parasites such as tapeworm or come from animals infected with pneumonia, septicaemia, peritonitis and tumours.

Meat inspectors fear that, if the new rules come into force, more of that meat will end up in our stores and restaurants. But the health implications aren’t clear. Some of this meat might repulse us, but it won’t necessarily make us sick.

Chicken contaminated with faeces is another story, however. It’s the leading cause of campylobacter, the most common form of human food poisoning in the UK. There are 460,000 reported cases each year, 22,000 hospitalisations and 110 deaths. In the last two years nearly three million chickens contaminated with faeces were removed from the food chain.

The risk is still small, though. Thorough cooking kills campylobacter, and the bacteria is only found in a tiny percentage of chickens slaughtered each year.

Factory farming
But the health risks associated with meat don’t begin at the slaughterhouse. There is a convincing body of evidence to suggest that intensive farming methods which produce a large proportion of our meat are potentially harmful to human health.

Many human diseases have originated in farm animals. Scientists think tuberculosis and the common cold probably came to us from cattle, and influenza from ducks. But many experts think that diseases that may prove harmful to humans have more chance to evolve, and to evolve quickly, in intensively reared animals.

“In recent decades,” writes Dr Michael Greger, author of Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, “previously unknown diseases have surfaced at a pace unheard of in the recorded annals of medicine: more than 30 newly identified human pathogens in 30 years, most of them newly discovered zoonotic viruses.” (Zoonotic viruses are those that can be passed from animals to humans.)

“Factory farms represent the most significant change in the lives of animals in 10,000 years. This is not how animals were supposed to live.”

And it’s not just that new diseases develop more quickly. It’s also that we lose the ability to control old ones. Some scientists fear that antibiotic use in intensively reared farm animals – which is now tightly controlled in Europe but still widespread elsewhere – is leading to the rapid rise of antibiotic-resistant microbes.

Processing
The final link in the chain from farm to plate is processing. Some meat is not processed at all, of course – a juicy steak is a juicy steak – but a considerable amount is turned into sausages, bacon, burgers, pie filling and ready meals. One risk of processing is that we can’t always be sure where the meat in our burger originated, a problem highlighted by the horsemeat scandal.

But even when the meat is bona fide, the general medical consensus is that we should cut down on the processed stuff. According to a study of half a million people across Europe published last year, the biggest consumers of processed meats are 44% more likely to die prematurely from any cause than those who eat little of it.

But cut down to what? Bridget Benelam, senior nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) says: “For red and processed meat, the government guideline is to consume no more than an average of 70g per day. Some people in the UK do consume more than this and so need to reduce consumption, but, on average we are actually consuming about this amount so it’s not necessary for everyone who eats meat to cut down.”

Quit meat?
But others take a more hardline view, and say the health and environmental implications of meat production make it difficult to defend. So, should we be encouraged to quit meat altogether? Is a sausage the new cigarette? It seems that, even if we’re not going vegetarian, more of us are becoming concerned about our meat intake. In 2013, meat-free sales increased by 6.6% over the previous year, while Quorn products leapt by 20%.

Nevertheless, many experts don’t advise that we give up meat, just that we eat less and better cuts. “Meat can be rich in nutrients and national surveys suggest that meat and meat products provide 34% of our zinc intake, 28% vitamin A, 22% vitamin D and 17% iron so it does make a significant contribution to the diet,” says Benelam.

That can also mean eating free-range or at least RSPCA-approved meat. It can be a little more expensive, but eating better meat less often can make it more affordable. When even Richard Turner, executive chef of the famed steakhouse Hawksmoor, urges consumers to eat less but well-farmed meat, and treat meat as a luxury rather than a daily staple, maybe we should all sit up and take notice.Revolution-Enemy Is Profit

How science is telling us all to revolt

Is our relentless quest for economic growth killing the planet? Climate scientists have seen the data – and they are coming to some incendiary conclusions.

Naomi Klein speaks to The VOAG (Well kind of)Irrigation

In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).

Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

Plenty of scientists have been moved by their research findings to take action in the streets. Physicists, astronomers, medical doctors and biologists have been at the forefront of movements against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, war, chemical contamination and creationism. And in November 2012, Nature published a commentary by the financier and environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham urging scientists to join this tradition and “be arrested if necessary”, because climate change “is not only the crisis of your lives – it is also the crisis of our species’ existence”.

Some scientists need no convincing. The godfather of modern climate science, James Hansen, is a formidable activist, having been arrested some half-dozen times for resisting mountain-top removal coal mining and tar sands pipelines (he even left his job at Nasa this year in part to have more time for campaigning). Two years ago, when I was arrested outside the White House at a mass action against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, one of the 166 people in cuffs that day was a glaciologist named Jason Box, a world-renowned expert on Greenland’s melting ice sheet.

“I couldn’t maintain my self-respect if I didn’t go,” Box said at the time, adding that “just voting doesn’t seem to be enough in this case. I need to be a citizen also.”

This is laudable, but what Werner is doing with his modelling is different. He isn’t saying that his research drove him to take action to stop a particular policy; he is saying that his research shows that our entire economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability. And indeed that challenging this economic paradigm – through mass-movement counter-pressure – is humanity’s best shot at avoiding catastrophe.

That’s heavy stuff. But he’s not alone. Werner is part of a small but increasingly influential group of scientists whose research into the destabilisation of natural systems – particularly the climate system – is leading them to similarly transformative, even revolutionary, conclusions. And for any closet revolutionary who has ever dreamed of overthrowing the present economic order in favour of one a little less likely to cause Italian pensioners to hang themselves in their homes, this work should be of particular interest. Because it makes the ditching of that cruel system in favour of something new (and perhaps, with lots of work, better) no longer a matter of mere ideological preference but rather one of species-wide existential necessity.

Leading the pack of these new scientific revolutionaries is one of Britain’s top climate experts, Kevin Anderson, the deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which has quickly established itself as one of the UK’s premier climate research institutions. Addressing everyone from the Department for International Development to Manchester City Council, Anderson has spent more than a decade patiently translating the implications of the latest climate science to politicians, economists and campaigners. In clear and understandable language, he lays out a rigorous road map for emissions reduction, one that provides a decent shot at keeping global temperature rise below 2° Celsius, a target that most governments have determined would stave off catastrophe.

But in recent years Anderson’s papers and slide shows have become more alarming. Under titles such as “Climate Change: Going Beyond Dangerous . . . Brutal Numbers and Tenuous Hope”, he points out that the chances of staying within anything like safe temperature levels are diminishing fast.

With his colleague Alice Bows, a climate mitigation expert at the Tyndall Centre, Anderson points out that we have lost so much time to political stalling and weak climate policies – all while global consumption (and emissions) ballooned – that we are now facing cuts so drastic that they challenge the fundamental logic of prioritising GDP growth above all else.

Anderson and Bows inform us that the often-cited long-term mitigation target – an 80 per cent emissions cut below 1990 levels by 2050 – has been selected purely for reasons of political expediency and has “no scientific basis”. That’s because climate impacts come not just from what we emit today and tomorrow, but from the cumulative emissions that build up in the atmosphere over time. And they warn that by focusing on targets three and a half decades into the future – rather than on what we can do to cut carbon sharply and immediately – there is a serious risk that we will allow our emissions to continue to soar for years to come, thereby blowing through far too much of our 2° “carbon budget” and putting ourselves in an impossible position later in the century.

Which is why Anderson and Bows argue that, if the governments of developed countries are serious about hitting the agreed upon international target of keeping warming below 2° Celsius, and if reductions are to respect any kind of equity principle (basically that the countries that have been spewing carbon for the better part of two centuries need to cut before the countries where more than a billion people still don’t have electricity), then the reductions need to be a lot deeper, and they need to come a lot sooner.

To have even a 50/50 chance of hitting the 2° target (which, they and many others warn, already involves facing an array of hugely damaging climate impacts), the industrialised countries need to start cutting their greenhouse-gas emissions by something like 10 per cent a year – and they need to start right now. But Anderson and Bows go further, pointing out that this target cannot be met with the array of modest carbon pricing or green-tech solutions usually advocated by big green groups. These measures will certainly help, to be sure, but they are simply not enough: a 10 per cent drop in emissions, year after year, is virtually unprecedented since we started powering our economies with coal. In fact, cuts above 1 per cent per year “have historically been associated only with economic recession or upheaval”, as the economist Nicholas Stern put it in his 2006 report for the British government.

Even after the Soviet Union collapsed, reductions of this duration and depth did not happen (the former Soviet countries experienced average annual reductions of roughly 5 per cent over a period of ten years). They did not happen after Wall Street crashed in 2008 (wealthy countries experienced about a 7 per cent drop between 2008 and 2009, but their CO2 emissions rebounded with gusto in 2010 and emissions in China and India had continued to rise). Only in the immediate aftermath of the great market crash of 1929 did the United States, for instance, see emissions drop for several consecutive years by more than 10 per cent annually, according to historical data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre. But that was the worst economic crisis of modern times.

If we are to avoid that kind of carnage while meeting our science-based emissions targets, carbon reduction must be managed carefully through what Anderson and Bows describe as “radical and immediate de-growth strategies in the US, EU and other wealthy nations”. Which is fine, except that we happen to have an economic system that fetishises GDP growth above all else, regardless of the human or ecological consequences, and in which the neoliberal political class has utterly abdicated its responsibility to manage anything (since the market is the invisible genius to which everything must be entrusted).

So what Anderson and Bows are really saying is that there is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which may be the best argument we have ever had for changing those rules.

In a 2012 essay that appeared in the influential scientific journal Nature Climate Change, Anderson and Bows laid down something of a gauntlet, accusing many of their fellow scientists of failing to come clean about the kind of changes that climate change demands of humanity. On this it is worth quoting the pair at length:

 . . . in developing emission scenarios scientists repeatedly and severely underplay the implications of their analyses. When it comes to avoiding a 2°C rise, “impossible” is translated into “difficult but doable”, whereas “urgent and radical” emerge as “challenging” – all to appease the god of economics (or, more precisely, finance). For example, to avoid exceeding the maximum rate of emission reduction dictated by economists, “impossibly” early peaks in emissions are assumed, together with naive notions about “big” engineering and the deployment rates of low-carbon infrastructure. More disturbingly, as emissions budgets dwindle, so geoengineering is increasingly proposed to ensure that the diktat of economists remains unquestioned.

In other words, in order to appear reasonable within neoliberal economic circles, scientists have been dramatically soft-peddling the implications of their research. By August 2013, Anderson was willing to be even more blunt, writing that the boat had sailed on gradual change. “Perhaps at the time of the 1992 Earth Summit, or even at the turn of the millennium, 2°C levels of mitigation could have been achieved through significant evolutionary changes within the political and economic hegemony. But climate change is a cumulative issue! Now, in 2013, we in high emitting industrial nations face a very different prospect. Our ongoing and collective carbon profligacy has squandered any opportunity for the ‘evolutionary change’ afforded by our earlier (and larger) 2°C carbon budget. Today, after two decades of bluff and lies, the remaining 2°C budget demands revolutionary change to the political and economic hegemony” (his emphasis).

We probably shouldn’t be surprised that some climate scientists are a little spooked by the radical implications of even their own research. Most of them were just quietly doing their work measuring ice cores, running global climate models and studying ocean acidification, only to discover, as the Australian climate expert and author Clive Hamilton puts it, that they “were unwittingly destabilising the political and social order”.

But there are many people who are well aware of the revolutionary nature of climate science. It’s why some of the governments that decided to chuck their climate commitments in favour of digging up more carbon have had to find ever more thuggish ways to silence and intimidate their nations’ scientists. In Britain, this strategy is becoming more overt, with Ian Boyd, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, writing recently that scientists should avoid “suggesting that policies are either right or wrong” and should express their views “by working with embedded advisers (such as myself), and by being the voice of reason, rather than dissent, in the public arena”.

If you want to know where this leads, check out what’s happening in Canada, where I live. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper has done such an effective job of gagging scientists and shutting down critical research projects that, in July 2012, a couple thousand scientists and supporters held a mock-funeral on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, mourning “the death of evidence”. Their placards said, “No Science, No Evidence, No Truth”.

But the truth is getting out anyway. The fact that the business-as-usual pursuit of profits and growth is destabilising life on earth is no longer something we need to read about in scientific journals. The early signs are unfolding before our eyes. And increasing numbers of us are responding accordingly: blockading fracking activity in Balcombe; interfering with Arctic drilling preparations in Russian waters (at tremendous personal cost); taking tar sands operators to court for violating indigenous sovereignty; and countless other acts of resistance large and small. In Brad Werner’s computer model, this is the “friction” needed to slow down the forces of destabilisation; the great climate campaigner Bill McKibben calls it the “antibodies” rising up to fight the planet’s “spiking fever”.The VOAG is everywhere

National march to release the jailed minersMarch 12, 2014 is the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the National Miners Strike. Local strikes had began at several Yorkshire collieries over pit closures, when Arthur Scargill, the NUM Miners union leader formerly called a national strike, that was to last from March 12, 1984 to March 3, 1985.

Over the coming weeks the inter-web is going to be full of miners strike commentaries, obituaries and articles, so The VOAG thought it would get its post in early. By the time March 12 arrives we will all be sick of miners strike articles and reminiscences.

It seems superfluous to write anything about the miners strike. It is such a well known, momentous event in working class history, that even the generation which has grown up since the strike is well acquainted with it. However, the news of an upcoming Conference on the Miners Strike, “Still The Enemy Within”, to be held on March 8, has prompted The VOAG to mark the anniversary with a short post.Still The Enemy WithinThe Tory government claimed its intention was to close 20 pits with the loss of 20,000 jobs. When the strike began, Scargill said that the government had a long-term strategy to destroy the industry by closing over 70 pits. Not only did the Government deny this but Ian McGregor, the head of the Coal Board which managed the industry, wrote to every member of the NUM claiming Scargill was deceiving them, and that there were no plans to close any more pits than had already been announced. Cabinet Papers released this year indicate that McGregor did indeed wish to close over 90 pits.Miners SupportSupport for the miners brought together disparate radical groups across Britain, involving more people in a greater intensity of activity, over a lengthier period than any other campaign in the history of the labour movement. There were many violent incidents during the strike, the worst being clashes between striking miners and police at Orgreave. Police charged crowds on horseback with their batons and several people were seriously injured. Watch this documentary which tells some of the story of “The Battle Of Orgreave”

The miners and their families suffered great hardship during the strike, many relying on food parcels, soup kitchens and other donations. On 3 March 1985 NUM delegates voted to abandon the strike at a specially convened conference. Two days later the miners returned to work. After the strike the pit closure programme of the conservative Government continued rapidly. In 1984 there were 170 coal mines open in the UK, by 2004 only about 11 mines were still open. The strike was a terrible defeat for the miners and following the strike the coal industry and British trade union movement were never the same again.The Voag is everywhere