Tag Archive: green


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

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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

We take a look back at some of the many promises and quotes by David Cameron prior to the 2010 general election and ask ourselves why should anyone believe a word that comes out of the PM’s mouth?6

“With the Conservatives there will be no more of the tiresome, meddlesome, top-down re-structures that have dominated the last decade of the NHS”.same as labourThe coalition government went on to make some of the biggest changes to the NHS since its creation.

“We have absolutely no plans to raise VAT. Our first Budget is all about recognising we need to get spending under control rather than putting up tax”.14George Osborne rose VAT from 17.5% to a record 20%.

“I like the child benefit, I wouldn’t change child benefit, I wouldn’t means-test it, I don’t think that is a good idea”.1The coalition government later abolished Child Benefit for higher earners.

“Yes, we back Sure Start. It’s a disgrace that Gordon Brown has been trying to frighten people about this. He’s the prime minister of this country but he’s been scaring people about something that really matters”.7Hundreds of Sure Start centres have since closed their doors.

“We have no plans to change existing Future Jobs Fund commitments”.2Within weeks of the coalition government taking office it announced the abolition of the Future Jobs Fund.

“We’ve looked at educational maintenance allowances and we haven’t any plan to get rid of them”. 8Nine months later the coalition announced that EMA was to be scrapped.

“Let us look at the issue of dependency where we have trapped people in poverty through the extent of welfare that they have”.13Since then we have witnessed some of the biggest cuts to welfare since the formation of the welfare state, which has led to a five-fold increase in poverty-stricken families turning to food banks.

“People are increasingly frustrated that decisions taken further and further away from them mean their living standards are slashed through enforced austerity”.13The UK has been forced to endure some of harshest austerity measures in decades and those policies haven’t come from “further and further away”. They’ve come from David Cameron and his coalition government.

“We cannot go on as we are with 2.6 million people on incapacity benefit, 500,000 of them are under 35.”5Sick and disabled benefit claimants are still being wrongly found ‘fit for work’ by inhumane benefit tests.

“We will say to people that if you want to work, we will do everything we can to help you. We will give you the training, we will give you the support, we will give you the advice to get you back at work”.12Or hide jobseekers away on the government’s controversial Work Programme so that they can manipulate unemployment statistics perhaps?

“When you’re taking the country through difficult times and difficult decisions you’ve got to take the country with you. That means permanently trying to make the argument that what you’re doing is fair and seen to be fair”.9Tax cuts for Millionaires whilst some of the poorest in society are struggling to make ends-meet due to welfare cuts and poverty wages”.

“What we’re putting forward is the most radical reform of the welfare state for 60 years. I think it will have a transformative effect in making sure that everyone is better off working rather than on benefits”.10Figures show that for the first time in history there are now more working people living in poverty than those in workless households.Voag-Logo-Darker

Monsanto Wins  Nobel Prize of agriculture

In an obscene development, a Monsanto executive is winning this year’s “Nobel Prize of agriculture” – the prestigious World Food Prize – for creating GMOs. Receiving it legitimizes the sort of rampant genetic modification Monsanto pioneered, and helps validate a ruthless business model that impoverishes farmers and monopolizes our food. [1]

If that wasn’t baffling enough, the founder of Syngenta, the same biotech giant joining Bayer in suing Europe to keep selling bee-killing pesticides, will also win the prize, and with it, a share of the $250,000 prize money. This prize legitimizes their frankenfoods and bee killers.

Winning this prize will encourage the wider use of genetically engineered crops and be a huge obstacle to those fighting to investigate the long-term effects of its frankenseeds, which is exactly what Monsanto wants. In 2008, Monsanto made a $5 million pledge to the World Food Prize Foundation, part of its plan to buy the credibility it can’t legitimately earn. By handing its benefactor this award, the Foundation risks undermining the credibility of the most respected prize in agriculture.

Monsanto has been by far the most prominent and controversial corporation promoting the introduction of biotechnology in agriculture. The company has a long and messy history of manufacturing hazardous chemicals. Their products have included chemical warfare agents (Agent Orange), industrial materials (PCBs), food additives (NutraSweet), agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals.

The Crimes of Monsanto
As the market leaders in GM crops it is Monsanto who have been largely responsible for contaminating the global food chain with GM crops. The long term health effects of eating GM crops are as yet unknown. [2]

BST,  marketed by Monsanto as Posilac, is a genetically engineered hormone designed to make cows produce more milk. Studies have shown that BST has serious implications for the health and welfare of dairy cattle and may cause breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer in humans. It is banned in Europe but Monsanto is trying to overturn the ban in the courts.

One of the most worrying and pernicious of Monsanto’s crimes has been to obtain patents for ‘terminator’ technology. Terminator technology involves the genetically engineering of plants to produce sterile seeds, thus forcing farmers to buy new seed every year, rather than saving their own seed from year to year. Monsanto has said it will not use this technology, but still holds the patents and may use it in future. [3]

Several scientific studies have suggested that the Bt technology used by Monsanto in their insect resistant crops may kill ‘non-pest’ insects such as the Monarch butterfly, yet Monsanto attempted to rush their Bt insect resistant cotton through the Indian government’s regulatory process anyway. The dicission on allowing commercial growing of Bt cotton has been postponed in the face of massive opposition from Indian farmers and NGOs all over the world.

Monsanto have also been behind a long list of litigations against activists, designed to intimidate anyone who may question Monsanto’s story. In 1997 two TV journalists Steve Wilson and Jane Akre, who were making a documentary on the dangers of  Monsanto’s BST were fired by their employers Fox, when they refused to change the content of the documentary. In 1998 Monsanto took out a wide ranging SLAPP (Stategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) against activists from Genetix Snowball who were campaigning agains Monsanto’s GM food trials in the UK.

Protest
In protest, 81 Councilors of the World Future Council have penned a statement blasting the World Food Prize Foundation for betraying its purpose. In the words of the esteemed authors: “GMO seeds reinforce a model of farming that undermines the sustainability of cash-poor farmers, who make up most of the world’s hungry. The most dramatic impact of such dependency is in India, where 270,000 farmers, many trapped in debt for buying seeds and chemicals, committed suicide between 1995 and 2012.” Despite the criticism, Monsanto and Syngenta executives are set to receive their prize on World Food Day, October 16, a slap in the face to everyone harmed by their products. [4]

[1] http://action.sumofus.org/a/world-food-prize-monsanto-syngenta/5/4/?akid=2390.1701622.QwfZ4y&rd=1&sub=fwd&t=3

[2] http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk/?lid=210

[3] ibid

[4] ibid

For further reading: Focus On GMOs – WANTED: Monsanto for crimes against the planet

hendrik-a-verfaillie-and-monsWANTED: Monsanto for crimes against the planet

Greenpeace, August 24, 2002
Long time corporate scoundrels Monsanto are WANTED for their crimes against the planet. It started innocently enough with the production of Agent Orange for military use in Vietnam. Then came PCBs and Dioxin. Now they are after our food. Their goal: global food supply domination.

The environmental criminal:
Monsanto is wanted for questioning in relation to the genetic pollution of the planet Earth, force feeding global citizens genetically engineered foods and the global take over of the planet’s food sources.

It is armed with the arrogant belief that genetic engineering is safe, both for the environment and human health. Monsanto is the same company that brought us such safe, healthy products as Agent Orange and PCBs.

The accomplice:
The US and Canadian governments not only ignored the inherent risks of genetic engineering, they have aided Monsanto setting up an inadequate regulatory system that relies on risk assessment, industry science and voluntary compliance.

The environmental crime:
As if polluting the planet with noxious PCBs, dioxins and harmful pesticides wasn’t enough, now this leader in the genetic engineering industry is threatening to alter the genes of every food crop on Earth. Monsanto’s Robert Fraley testified: “What you are seeing is not just a consolidation of seed companies, it’s really a consolidation of the entire food chain.”

Through a spending spree of billions of US dollars acquiring seed companies around the world and the contamination of the global food chain with GE crops, Monsanto’s diabolical plan of global food take over may soon be a reality. But since meeting resistance from people in developed nations, Monsanto has turned its focus to developing nations. They claim that they can help meet the world’s growing food needs and feed the hungry. But they ignore the fact that most hungry people live in countries that have food surpluses rather than deficits.

Innovative, environmentally responsible farming practices are already in the ground, offering food security and sustainable livelihoods without drawing farmers into more dependency, threatening biodiversity or endangering human health. Food security, the ability of a community to feed itself consistently on a diverse and healthy diet, is a complex problem that will not be solved overnight, it depends on people having access to land and money. Monsanto is offering neither.

And why should we believe that this move to sell genetically engineered crops to developing nations to help them with hunger and malnutrition comes from the goodness of their hearts. If their relationship with farmers in developed nations is any indication, farmers in the developing world will be trampled by the coercion and censorship tactics of this agriculture bully.

Monsanto promotes a farming model of snooping and snitching on your neighbours. The company employs a small army of private investigators to check up on farmers and advertises a toll-free informer line. They have tried to censor journalists questioning the safety of Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone and stop the printers of the Ecologist from publishing a special edition attacking Monsanto. Instead Monsanto spends millions on public relations campaigns of misinformation and warm fuzzy feelings.

The victim:
Percy Schmeiser is a farmer from the prairie food belt of Canada. His canola fields were contaminated with Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready canola seed. Monsanto’s position is that it doesn’t matter whether Percy knew it or not, his canola field was contaminated with the Roundup Ready gene and he must pay their technology fee. Percy and his wife Louise stood up to Monsanto in a classic battle of good versus evil, David versus Goliath, but in this round it was Monsanto that won out in the Canadian court battle. Percy is appealing.

Monsanto quotes Gandhi “we must be the change we wish to see in the world” in their propaganda. But it was Percy who received the Mahatma Gandhi Award while he was in India in October 2000. The award is given in recognition of working for the betterment and good of humankind in a non-violent way.

The verdict:
Oh so guilty, their arrest is overdue. Monsanto has already polluted every corner of the planet with PCBs and dioxin, they must be held accountable before all crops and genetic resources on the planet are contaminated and our food supply forever under their control.

The US and Canadian governments must hold Monsanto accountable for their crimes against the environment and the global food supply. World governments need to agree on legally binding rules for corporations that hold them responsible for the actions next week at the Earth Summit.

The Reward:
A safe and secure global food supply, a healthy environment and the chance to properly tackle the inadequate distribution of food to the world’s hungry.

Vietnam protest against Olympic sponsor Dow Chemical

The organisers of London’s 2012 Olympics call them the Green Games – a monument to best sustainable practice within the sports world. The Vietnamese government says the organisers should tell that to the hundreds of thousands of children born with cleft palates, mental disabilities, hernias, lung, larynx and prostate cancer, missing limbs and extra fingers and toes. Vietnam joined the growing chorus of protest against Olympic sponsors accused of “green-washing” their past sins earlier this month. In a letter obtained by GlobalPost, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism castigated the Lausanne-based International Olympic Committee (IOC) for green-lighting Dow Chemical as a major Olympic sponsor.

Dow produced about one-third of the 80 million liters of Agent Orange defoliants sprayed over southern Vietnam, during what the Vietnamese call “The American War.” The Vietnamese Red Cross estimates that up to 3 million Vietnamese have been affected by Agent Orange, including at least 300,000 children born with birth defects. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates are much higher. It says 4.8 million people were exposed, resulting in 400,000 deaths and injuries and about 500,000 children born with defects, many of which are still being born to this day — some four generations later. “Agent Orange … destroyed the environment, claimed the lives of millions of Vietnamese and left terrible effects on millions of others, who are now suffering from incurable diseases. Hundreds of thousands of fourth generation children have been born with severe congenital deformities,” wrote Hoang Tuan Anh, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism to the IOC.

“Dow Chemical has expressed indifference and refused compensation for victims of Agent Orange, as well as their responsibility to clean up contaminated areas. Dow also continues to destroy the environment. In 2010, US EPA listed Dow as the second worst polluter in the world,” the letter said.

Vietnam has unsuccessfully brought legal action against Dow and other Agent Orange producers in US courts. But activists say that the Communist state is caught in a legal bind. The producers of Agent Orange blame the US government for its use, while sovereign immunity shields Washington from prosecution in American courts.

US helicopters and planes sprayed about 20% of southern Vietnam with the defoliants over a 10-year period. The goal was to strip the North Vietnamese of jungle cover and limit access to food supplies. A less reported aim was to drive rural Vietnamese who may have been sympathetic to Hanoi into US-controlled cities in what was then South Vietnam. “It’s ironic that Dow is allowed to sponsor sporting events including Paralympics athletes when it is responsible for creating generations of severely disabled children and refuses to do anything to help them,” wrote a Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin spokesman in an email.

Dow, the IOC and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games ignored repeated requests for comment. Dow Chemical inked a 10-year deal with the IOC in 2010. Dow envisioned a global sales bump of about $1 billion by promoting, ironically enough, a raft of environmentally-friendly products.

But it was the $11.25 million contract doled out to Dow for the 336 giant panels that will make up the decorative wrap that first sparked controversy. The Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, a watchdog body charged with overseeing the Games’ environmental credentials, was rocked when commissioner Meredith Alexander resigned last month in protest over Dow’s awarding of the stadium contract.

Campaigners believe that Dow also has ongoing liabilities relating to the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India, that led to an estimated 20,000 deaths and serious injury to tens of thousands more. “But the Olympics is big business. There is an expensive machine behind the Games that is funded by corporate sponsors. Sadly when these sponsors are selected, money talks much more loudly than values,” said Alexander to The Guardian. Big business indeed. Dow’s Olympic stable mates also include BP and Rio Tinto, two resource extraction behemoths that rights groups say have woeful environmental and human-rights track records.

“Dow refuses to accept responsibility. They state they were told to make the chemicals by the US government and will not and have not paid one cent in compensation,” writes Len Aldis, secretary of Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society, in an email to GlobalPost. “Despite their record, money talks. The IOC should cancel Dow’s sponsorship of the Games.”
This article was first published on http://postnoon.com
For more on this story go to: Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society 

English Defence League (EDL) Not Welcome In Kingston

The Voice Of Anti-capitalism in Guildford (The VOAG), joined around 30 people for a counter demonstration and leafleting session against the English Defence League (EDL) in Kingston Town Centre on Saturday 20th August.

The fascist and racist EDL were due to hold a “meet and greet” in Kingston, South London, for 1.30 in the afternoon, their first formal event in the borough.

The VOAG, together with activists from local unions, Kingston Green Party, Kingston Anti-Cuts Group, Workers Power and anti fascist groups decided to “meet and greet” the EDL and make it clear: The EDL are not welcome in Kingston.

We set up an anti-racist stool on the main shopping street, spoke to shoppers and  distributed leaflets making the case against the EDL and promoting the Anti EDL National Demonstration, due to be held in Tower Hamlets on September 3rd.

The Tower Hamlets demonstration coincides with a planned march by the EDL in Tower Hamlets, and our message to Kingston  was “We will not accept attempts to create fear and instability in our communities; not in Kingston, and not in Tower Hamlets.

Whilst we made our presence felt on the street, with the support from the local community, the rain poured down. Mathew of  Kingston GMB told reporters: “We made the effort to make sure that those who could be susceptible to the EDL’s propaganda knows why the EDL are wrong.”

At around 1.30pm, News reached us that the EDL were starting to gather in a near-by pub. The EDL boasted 35 attendees on their Facebook page. Several “known faces” were seen carrying boxes of flyers into the pub. As the afternoon progressed and the rain continued, reports indicated that they had only attracted eight – not quite the promised mass demonstration.

Perhaps they got stuck to the pub table, perhaps their customary fifteen pints weighed them down, or may-be it was the rain. Whatever the reason, the EDL (all eight of them) didn’t attempt to pedal their rubbish on the high street, and skulked off after a few hours. They were well aware of our presence on the high street and that our numbers far exceeded their own.

Martin George from the Surrey Comet reported that there was a “heavy police presence in the town centre and outside Kingston Mosque, in response to last November, when a small group of EDL members marched from Hampton Wick to Kingston and went on to attack Kingston mosque”.

The EDL failed in their crass attempt to capitalise on the public unease following the riots that took place throughout England recently. The miss-information circulated in the media regarding the riots and the fear it has engendered plays into the right wing fascist agenda of the EDL, however the people of Kingston were not fooled.

National Demo: Racist EDL not welcome in East London. 3rd September. Assemble 11am Weavers Fields, London. E2 6HW

Time for an Anti-Fascist Defence League!
https://suacs.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/time-for-an-anti-fascist-defence-league/

“The share of the national output going to wage earners fell from 65 percent in 1975 to 53 percent in 2007.” (New Political Economy Network)

The British Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government’s austerity measures will throw almost 1 million more people into poverty over the next three years, including hundreds of thousands of children.

These are the findings of a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank, produced in collaboration with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

In October, the coalition government announced public spending cuts of £83 billion, including significant cuts in welfare benefits and a wage freeze across the public sector. The measures are not only a deepening of efforts to force working people to carry the cost of the Labour government’s multibillion-pound bailout of the banks. They mark a significant escalation in the attempts of successive governments to force down wages and fully dismantle essential social and welfare provision.

The IFS forecasts that there will be an exponential increase in the numbers of children and adults living in absolute and relative poverty, and a stagnation in the incomes of the broad mass of the population.

The numbers in absolute poverty—defined as households with income of less than 60 percent of the median in 2010/2011, adjusted for inflation—will rise by 900,000 by the end of 2014. Of these, some 200,000 will be children, the first rise in absolute child poverty in 15 years.

The numbers forecast to be pushed into relative poverty are just as damning. The benchmark for relative poverty is determined by median income. But, the IFS states, this target will itself fall, due to the decline in real earnings. As a consequence, relative poverty is forecast to rise by approximately 800,000.

The government’s cuts in housing and welfare benefits, combined with the previous Labour government’s decision to raise National Insurance contributions from next year, hit across the board. Poverty amongst working-age adults without children is expected to rise by 300,000 and 200,000 for absolute and relative poverty respectively.

Families with two children on “middle-incomes” have already suffered a 3.4 percent decline over the past two years, the IFS reported. They earned £988 a year less in 2010 than in 2008. They are expected to lose a further £300 in real terms over the next two years under the government’s spending cuts.

The IFS predictions come under conditions in which almost 2 million children in Britain are already living in conditions of “severe poverty” and fully 4 million are living in poverty.

The government’s measures have been condemned by anti-poverty charities—the very organisations tasked with filling the gap of declining social provision under the coalition’s grotesquely named “Big Society” plan.

They complained that the IFS projections will place the government in breach of the Child Poverty Act, passed into law earlier this year, which commits current and future governments to cut relative child poverty to 10 percent and absolute child poverty to 5 percent over the next decade.

But the government has already stated that it intends to redefine poverty so that “isn’t just about getting above an arbitrary line, but is about improving people’s life chances.”

It was Conservative Howard Flight who gave vent to the class sentiment motivating the assault on welfare. Speaking last month, just after he was selected as one of more than 20 new Tory peers, Flight complained that child benefit was being removed from higher earners. “We’re going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it’s jolly expensive. But for those on benefits, there is every incentive. Well, that’s not very sensible”, he said.

His remarks came barely a week after Lord Young, one of Prime Minister David Cameron’s senior advisers, was forced to resign after stating, “For the vast majority of people in the country today, they have never had it so good ever since this so-called recession—started.”

A Treasury spokesperson dismissed the IFS report, claiming that “uncertainty” in the model it had employed meant that the “small differences they identify may not be meaningful”.

Elements of the coalition’s cuts package were also criticised by the Labour Party. The real measure of its stance, however, is made clear by the fact that it is Labour MP Frank Field who is drawing up the government report on “redefining” child poverty.

The coalition’s austerity measures come after a 30-year period in which successive governments have conducted a systematic assault on the social position of working people.

According to a report by the New Political Economy Network, the share of the national output going to wage earners fell from 65 percent in 1975 to 53 percent in 2007. It was Labour that fuelled the increase in the “working poor”. Through its various welfare “credits,” it ensured that business had access to a large army of workers on minimum pay, funded at taxpayers’ expense.

During the same time frame, as wage rises fell behind productivity, personal debt as a proportion of disposable income rose from 45 percent in 1980 to 160 percent in 2007.

As the report noted, “People did not borrow to increase their consumption. They borrowed to compensate for wages that were increasingly falling behind productivity increases. As household debt rocketed between 2001 and 2007, levels of consumption as a proportion of GDP actually fell”.

Even prior to the 2008 financial collapse, Labour’s policies had led to a vast increase in social inequality. A survey by the National Equality Panel based on figures from 2007/2008 found that the richest 10 percent of the population were over 100 times wealthier than the poorest 10 percent, and that income inequality had reached its highest point since the end of the Second World War.

Now, unemployment has crossed the 2.5 million mark, rising by 35,000 in the three months to October. Much of this was accounted for by the fall in pubic sector employment by 33,000, as the spending cuts began to make their mark.

The situation is even worse amongst the young. The number of 18- to 24-year-olds claiming unemployment benefit has quadrupled since 2008, from 5,840 to more than 25,800. In July, UKJobs.net reported that the average annual salary had dropped by more than £2,600 in the past six months, with across-the-board wages falling from £28,207 to £25,543.

As a consequence of huge levels of indebtedness, rising unemployment and the undermining of welfare provision, millions are now threatened with penury.

According to the Independent, the number of emergency welfare loans paid out to people in dire distress has almost trebled in the last five years. More than 3.6 million “crisis loans” were made in the last financial year—up from 1.3 million in 2005/2006. The government has now said that, from April, Job Centre staff will begin issuing vouchers for people to exchange for emergency food supplies.

The Bank of England has also forecast a tightening financial squeeze on many families due to soaring commodity and utility prices, and the planned Value Added Tax hike to 20 percent from January 1. It warned that more than one in two people with unsecured debts are struggling to cope. This is especially the case where some credit companies are charging up to 2,600 percent interest a year.

On Monday, the Confederation of British Industry warned that interest rates would have to rise almost sixfold due to inflation over the next 24 months—from 0.5 percent to 2.75 percent by 2012. This would mean millions of homeowners facing a hike of almost £200 on the average monthly mortgage payment.

Meanwhile, the directors of the FTSE 100 companies have seen their total earnings rise by an average of 55 percent over the past year. The Incomes Data Services revealed last month that chief executives at the 100 most highly capitalised firms on the London Stock Exchange had received an average of £4.9 million in total in the year to June.

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        As The United States declines trade war looms

In the wake of the fractious International Monetary Fund (IMF) meeting held October 9-10 in Washington, the descent into global currency and trade war has accelerated, with the United States playing the role of instigator-in-chief.

The US is deliberately encouraging a sell-off of dollars on international currency markets in order to raise the relative exchange rates of its major trade rivals, increasing the effective price of their exports to the US while cheapening US exports to their markets.

While largely responsible for the growing financial disorder, Washington is accusing China, in particular, of jeopardizing global economic recovery by refusing to more quickly raise the exchange rate of its currency, the renminbi (also known as the yuan). By working to drive down the value of the dollar, the US government and the Federal Reserve Board are placing ever greater pressure on the Chinese to revalue, ignoring warnings from Beijing that a rapid rise in its currency will harm its export industries, leading to mass layoffs and social unrest.

The protectionist cheap-dollar policy has an important domestic political function as well. It aims to divert growing public anger over the refusal of the government to provide jobs or serious relief to the unemployed away from the Obama administration and Congress and toward China and “foreigners” more generally. Among its most enthusiastic supporters is the trade union bureaucracy.

The US Commerce Department report Thursday that the US trade deficit widened nearly 9 percent in August, primarily due to a record $28 billion deficit with China, will be used to justify further trade war pressure against China.

The US policy and the growth of international tensions were on full display at the IMF meeting in Washington. US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner declared China’s currency to be undervalued and demanded that the IMF take a harder line against surplus countries, such as China, that fail to revalue their currencies and accept a reduction in their exports.

China’s central bank governor, Zhou Xiaochuan, charged that expectations that the US Federal Reserve would pump yet more dollars into the markets through quantitative easing were compounding imbalances and swamping emerging economies with destabilizing capital inflows.

With the representatives of the world’s first- and second-largest economies at loggerheads, the IMF failed to arrive at any agreement on the currency crisis. Washington’s allies such as Germany and Japan indicated support for a revaluation of the renminbi, but they balked at lining up behind a US-led diplomatic offensive against Beijing.

This, in effect, postponed the US-China confrontation until the upcoming G20 summit of leading economies, to be held November 11-12 in Seoul, South Korea.

The ensuing week saw an escalation of Washington’s cheap-dollar policy, as the Federal Reserve Board gave further indications that it plans to resume the electronic equivalent of printing hundreds of billions dollars, so-called “quantitative easing,” perhaps as soon as its next policy-setting meeting November 2-3. While it is doing so in the name of stimulating job creation, the main effect of a renewal of Fed purchases of US Treasury securities will be to increase the supply of virtually free credit to the major US banks and corporations and fuel a further rise in stocks and corporate profits.

Since August, when the Fed took the first steps toward the large-scale resumption of debt purchases, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen by more than 10 percent despite continuing declines in US payrolls.

In a much-anticipated speech Friday at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke broadly hinted that he favored an early resumption of quantitative easing. Speaking of the Fed’s policy-making Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), he said, “Given the Committee’s objectives, there would appear—all things being equal—to be a case for further action.”

Bernanke took the highly unusual step of declaring that the present inflation rate is too low and making clear that the Fed’s policy going forward will be to raise the rate of inflation to around 2 percent by means of monetary stimulus. “Thus, in effect,” he said, “inflation is running at rates that are too low relative to the levels that the Committee judges to be most consistent with the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate [to maintain price stability and contain unemployment] in the longer run.” [Bernanke’s emphasis].

The call for an inflationary monetary policy is not driven, as Bernanke would have the public believe, by a desire to significantly bring down the jobless rate. The Fed would not declare that inflation is too low unless it was confident that continued high unemployment will enable big business to proceed with its wage-cutting drive and prevent a rebound in wages.

In giving his speech, Bernanke was well aware that simply talking of quantitative easing and a policy of reflation would spark a further sell-off of US dollars. In the event, the renewed decline in the dollar, which began after the IMF meeting, accelerated on Friday.

On a trade-weighted basis, the dollar dropped 0.7 percent to a new low for the year after Bernanke spoke, and the Australian dollar reached parity for the first time since it was freely floated in 1983. The US greenback also fell to parity with the Canadian dollar.

In addition, the dollar fell to a new low against the Swiss franc. Virtually all Asian currencies rose versus the dollar, gold hit a new record high, and other commodities such as silver, copper and corn continued their upward spiral.

The dollar is now at 15-year lows against the yen and nine-month lows against the euro. The Wall Street Journal on Saturday published a scathing editorial bluntly summing up the currency- and trade-war implications of Bernanke’s speech. It began: “Amid the dollar rout of the 1970s, Treasury Secretary John Connally famously told a group of fretting Europeans that the greenback `is our currency, but your problem.’ If you read between the lines, that’s also more or less what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said yesterday as he made the case for further Fed monetary easing.”

The editorial continued: “In a nearly 4,000-word speech, the Fed chief never once mentioned the value of the dollar. He never mentioned exchange rates, despite the turmoil in world currency markets as the dollar has fallen in anticipation of further Fed easing… The chairman’s message is that the Fed is focused entirely on the domestic US economy and will print as many dollars as it takes to reflate it. The rest of the world is on its own and can adjust its policies as various countries see fit. If other currencies soar in relation to the dollar, that’s someone else’s problem.”

Earlier in the week, Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf published a column similarly pointing to the unilateralist and nationalist essence of US policy. “In short,” Wolf wrote, “US policymakers will do whatever is required to avoid deflation. Indeed, the Fed will keep going until the US is satisfactorily reflated. What that effort does to the rest of the world is not its concern…

“Instead of cooperation on adjustment of exchange rates and the external account, the US is seeking to impose its will, via the printing press… In the worst of the crisis, leaders hung together. Now, the Fed is about to hang them all separately.”

The Financial Times on Friday gave some indication of growing anger within Europe over US monetary policy, quoting a “senior European policymaker” as calling the Fed’s policy “irresponsible.” The article cited Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin as saying one reason for the exchange rate turmoil “is the stimulating monetary policy of some developed countries, above all the United States, which are trying to solve their structural problems in this way.”

Following Bernanke’s speech on Friday, the Obama administration announced two further moves in its confrontation with China. The Treasury Department delayed the release of its semiannual assessment of the currency policies of major US trade counterparts, saying it would withhold the statement until after next month’s G20 summit in Seoul.

The administration is under pressure from leading Democratic lawmakers, backed by the unions, to declare China a currency manipulator in the currency assessment, an action that could lead to retaliatory duties and tariffs against Chinese imports. The administration, however, has resisted such an overtly hostile move that would, moreover, preempt G20 discussions on the currency issue. It prefers to build a coalition of European and Asian states against China.

At the same time, however, largely to placate protectionist hawks in the Democratic Party, the US trade representative announced that he was launching an investigation into a claim filed by the United Steelworkers union charging China with unfair and illegal subsidies to its green energy industry.
Global impact of US monetary policy

Washington’s cheap-dollar policy increases the pressure on the major surplus countries—China, Germany and Japan—as well as the emerging economies of Asia and Latin America to respond by devaluing their own currencies to offset the trade advantage of rivals with falling currencies, first and foremost the United States.

This is the classic scenario of competitive devaluations and “beggar-thy-neighbor” policies that characterized the Great Depression of the 1930s and produced a fracturing of the world market into hostile trade and currency blocs, ultimately leading to World War II.

All of the major powers and rising economic nations solemnly foreswore precisely this course of action at international meetings following the outbreak of the financial crisis in September 2008. It has taken less than two years for this much-touted global coordination to collapse into mutual threats and outright economic warfare.

Germany and Japan, while more than happy to force China to raise its exchange rate and prepared to fire some shots across China’s bow toward that end, are reluctant to fully enlist in Washington’s anti-Chinese crusade since they know that they too are targeted by the Fed’s cheap dollar policy.

Last month, Japan, whose currency has risen by more than 10 percent against the dollar over the past year, retaliated with a massive and unilateral one-day sell-off of yen, and this month the Japanese central bank announced a further lowering of its key interest rate and its own program of quantitative easing, through central bank purchases of $60 billion in Japanese government bonds.

Emerging economies such as South Korea, Thailand, India, Taiwan and Brazil are reeling from the upward pressure on their exchange rates fueled by waves of speculative dollars seeking a higher return through the purchase of government and corporate bonds of these faster-growing countries.

The Institute of International Finance, which lobbies for major banks, estimates that $825 billion will flow into developing countries this year, 42 percent more than in 2009. Investments in debt of emerging economies alone are expected to triple, to $272 billion.

Last month, the Brazilian finance minister warned of the outbreak of a global currency war and earlier this month his government announced the doubling of a tax on foreign purchases of Brazilian bonds in an attempt to stem the inrush of capital and the relative rise of the nation’s currency, the real.

This past week, Thailand took similar steps, announcing a 15 percent withholding tax on the interest payments and capital gains earned by foreign investors in Thai bonds, in an attempt to arrest the appreciation of the baht, which has already risen by 10 percent against the dollar this year.

The eruption of currency and trade war is being driven by the general slowdown in economic growth to anemic levels that make impossible any genuine recovery from the deepest slump since the 1930s. Faced either with slumping domestic demand or stagnant foreign markets, or (as in the case of the US) a combination of the two, the major economies are all intent on increasing their sales abroad. As the prospects dim for a revival of economic growth to pre-recession levels, the system of multilateral currency and trade relations dating back to the agreements made at the end of World War II is collapsing. So too are the chances of genuine multilateral coordination.

Ultimately, global coordination of economic policy between the major powers in the post-war period was anchored by the economic supremacy of the United States, embodied in the privileged position of the US dollar as the world trade and reserve currency. This has irretrievably broken down, with the palpable decline in the world economic position of the United States.

The result is a struggle of each against all, combined with a general onslaught in every country against the working class, which is to be made to pay—in the form of wage-cutting and austerity measures—for the breakdown of the global capitalist economic order.

By Barry Grey
18 October 2010
WSWS