Tag Archive: peace


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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The Battle Of The Beanfield: 27 Years On 

June 1, 2012
Today year marks the 27th anniversary of the infamous police attack on travellers on their way to Stonehenge in an incident now known as the Battle Of The Beanfield.

“What I have seen in the last thirty minutes here in this field has been some of the most brutal police treatment of people that I’ve witnessed in my entire career as a journalist. The number of people who have been hit by policemen, who have been clubbed whilst holding babies in their arms in coaches around this field, is yet to be counted. There must surely be an enquiry after what has happened today.”-Ken Sabido, ITN journalist. 

Twenty four years have passed since the defining moment of the Thatcher government’s assault on the traveller movement – the Battle of the Beanfield. On June 1st 1985 a convoy of vehicles set off from Savernake Forest in Wiltshire towards Stonehenge, with several hundred travellers on their way to setting up the 14th Stonehenge Free Festival. But this year English Heritage, who laughably were legally considered the owners of the Stonehenge Sarsen circle (built several thousand years before by god knows who), had secured an injunction against trespass naming 83 people. This was considered legal justification enough for a brutal assault on the entire convoy. What followed was a police riot and the largest mass arrest in British history.As the Convoy made its way to the Stones the road was blocked with tonnes of gravel and it was diverted down a narrow country lane, which was also blocked. Suddenly a group of police officers came forward and started to break vehicle windows with their truncheons. Trapped, the convoy swung into a field, crashing through a hedge.

For the next four hours there was an ugly stalemate. The Convoy started trying to negotiate, offering to abandon the festival and return to Savernake Forest or leave Wiltshire altogether. The police refused to negotiate and told them they could all surrender or face the consequences.At ten past seven the ‘battle’ began. In the next half hour, the police operation “became a chaotic whirl of violence.” Convoy member Phil Shakesby later gave his account of the day: “The police came in [to the grass field] and they were battering people where they stood, smashing homes up where they were, just going wild. Maybe about two-thirds of the vehicles actually started moving and took off, and they chased us into a field of beans. 

By this time there were police everywhere, charging along the side of us, and wherever you went there was a strong police presence. Well, they came in with all kinds of things: fire extinguishers and one thing and another. When they’d done throwing the fire extinguishers at us, they were stoning us with these lumps of flint.”By the end of the day over four hundred were under arrest and dispersed across police stations around the whole of the south of England. Their homes had been destroyed, impounded and in some cases torched.

THE VAN GUARD?
In today’s surveillance society Britain it is seems inconceivable that festivals like the Stonehenge Free Festival ever happened. At their height these gatherings attracted 30,000 people for the solstice celebration – 30,000 people celebrating and getting on with it without any need for the state or its institutions. The festivals themselves were just the highpoint of a year-round lifestyle of living in vehicles. As one traveller said at the time, “The number of people who were living on buses had been doubling every year for four years. It was anarchy in action, and it was seen to be working by so many people that they wanted to be a part of it too.”Having seen off the miners strike – the first casualties in the plan to re-order Britain according to neo-liberal economics (or as it was known locally – Thatcherism), the state turned its force on a more subtle threat. This time not people fighting for jobs and a secure place in the system but people who rejected that system outright. Although prejudice against travellers was nothing new, the traditional ‘ethnic’ travelling minority represented no significant threat to the status quo that couldn’t be dealt with by local authorities. But to many of the millions left unemployed by the Thatcher revolution, life on the road looked increasingly appealing. This was inconvenient for a state determined that conditions for the unemployed be miserable enough to spur them into any form of low-paid work.

WHEELS ON FIRE
The propaganda directed against the so-called ‘peace convoys’ by all sections of the media created an atmosphere which allowed draconian action. The Beanfield was not an isolated incident. The Nostell Priory busts of the previous year were a vicious foreboding of what was to come. Months before the Beanfield a convoy-peace camp site at Molesworth was evicted by police acting with 1500 troops and bulldozers headed by a flak-jacketed Michael Heseltine, then Defence Secretary. In 1986 Stoney Cross in the New Forest saw another mass eviction. At the time Thatcher said she was “only too delighted to do what we can to make things difficult for such things as hippy convoys”. This attempt to create a separate yet peaceful existence from mainstream society was to be ruthlessly suppressed.Over the next ten years – notably with the Public Order Act 1986 and the Criminal Justice Act 1994 the whole lifestyle was virtually outlawed. As John Major said at the Tory Party conference in 1992 to thunderous applause: “New age travellers – not in this age – not in any age”. The CJA removed the duty of councils to provide stop-over sites for travellers and regular evictions began to punctuate traveller life. But it wasn’t all one way, thousands stayed on the road and the free festival circuit was infused with fresh blood from the rave scene. Even after the massive crackdown that followed the Castlemorton free festival the convoys in many cases moved onto road protest sites.

Ultimately however travellers were forced to adapt – abandoning the garish war paint of the hippy convoys for more anonymous vans, moving and taking sites in smaller groups. Many went abroad or were driven back into the cities. However, despite the worst excesses of the cultural clampdown, travellers remain all over the country. Many are now in smaller groups, inconspicuous and unregistered. It’s become more common for vehicle dwellers to take dis-used industrial sites blurring then lines between travelling and squatting. 

The fact that Stonehenge is now open again on the solstice might – on the face of it – look like a victory. But the event is a top-down affair complete with massive police presence, burger vans and floodlights – a far cry from the anarchistic experiments of the 70s and 80s. A smaller gathering had been permitted just down the road at the Avebury stone circle over recent years with the National Trust taking a far more lenient stance on live-in vehicles than English Heritage. But even there, since 2007, there’s now a ban on overnight stays on the solstice. 

Much of the festival circuit these days is in the hands of profit-motivated commercial promoters apart from the growing shoots of a range of smaller festivals, who continue in the spirit of people-led celebrations of community co-operation. But festivals today are also mostly buried under an avalanche of red tape and security, health and safety requirements – The Big Green gathering saw its security costs treble in one year (2007) as they were told to ‘terrorist harden’ the event.

When popular history recalls the pivotal moments in the mid-80s for Thatcher’s Britain, the Battle Of The Beanfield rarely adequately takes its place alongside the Miners Strike and Wapping. For UK Plc, travellers became – and remain – another ‘enemy within’, to be dealt with by organised state violence, like all others who have found an escape route from a society subordinated to profit, where freedom had been reduced to a series of consumer choices.

* For the definitive account see Andy Worthington’s book ‘The Battle Of The Beanfield’ – www.andyworthington.co.uk

Capitalist Control – How do they do it

From the Kingston Socialist Workers Party – Smarter than your average swappys.
Capitalism, as we have seen, is a class divided society based on exploitation. Under capitalism a tiny highly privileged minority rules over the large majority and lives off their labour. How do they get away with it ?

The answer, as the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci pointed out, is by a combination of force and consent. In reality force and consent are very closely intertwined and mutually reinforce each other, but for the moment I shall discuss them separately.

The element of force is primarily exercised by the state, that network of interlocking institutions – armed forces, police, judiciary, prisons, government bureaucracies etc – which stands over society and claims general authority, including a monopoly of legitimate force.

This state apparatus claims, at every level of its operation, to represent society as a whole – the so-called national or public interest. Hence the perennial assertion by police, judges, generals and so on that they are politically neutral. But the idea of a common national or public interest is a myth. The nation consists of classes, exploiters and exploited with opposed interests, and the society which the state represents is not society as such but specifically capitalist society, based on capitalist property relations and capitalist relations of production. The first duty of the state is to secure the preservation of this capitalist order. and since this order embodies the supremacy of the capitalist class, the state is, in the words of Marx ‘ but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie’.

The class character of the state is reflected in its composition. The upper ranks of the military, the police, the judiciary and the civil service are drawn overwhelmingly from the bourgeoisie and retain economic, family and social ties with that class. But the intrusion into this milieu of the occasional individual from the lower orders changes nothing. On the one hand the actual class position of such an individual is changed by the fact of their promotion and their outlook will tend to change accordingly. On the other hand acceptance of the capitalist mode of operation of the state is the condition of such promotion.

The consequence of the capitalist nature of the state is that force, or the threat of force, underpins almost every aspect of daily life. Consider some examples: a worker goes to work and makes some products. At the end of the day he or she tries to take all or some of them home. The worker will, of course, be forcibly arrested and forcibly detained in a police cell. Or the workers at a factory decide to go on strike, but only ninety per cent of them come out while ten per cent try to continue working. The law, in the shape of a substantial number of police, will immediately arrive at the factory to ensure the scabs’ ‘right to work’. But if the factory bosses decide to close down and make all the workforce redundant, the police will also arrive, this time to ensure that everyone goes home and no amount of appeals to the ‘right to work’ will move them in the slightest.

In all these cases the police will say they are ‘only doing their job’, but that is the point – their job is the enforcement of capitalist exploitation. The examples I have given may seem slightly strange precisely because they are so obvious, so taken for granted, but that is also the point. Capitalist exploitation would not last five minutes without state law, backed by state force, to sustain it.

Most of the time state force remains as far as possible low key and in the background but it comes to the fore the moment there is a real challenge to the interests of the capitalist class. If the challenge comes from abroad this takes the form of war; if the challenge is internal it is met with repression. If the challenge comes from an elected government it can take the form of organizing a military or fascist coup, as happened, for example, with General Pinochet in Chile in 1973 or as has been attempted recently against the Chavez government in Venezuela.

This last point – the potential use of state power on behalf of the bourgeoisie and against the government of the day – is very important. First it completely undermines the official constitutional view (and the view promulgated by political science and taught in the education system) that the state apparatus is subordinate to the elected government. Secondly it raises a key issue in Marxist theory which was ignored or distorted by most supposedly socialist or Marxist parties in the twentieth century.

The strategy of these organizations, beginning with German Social Democracy before the First World War, was to win ‘power’ by means of parliamentary elections, thus acquiring control of the state apparatus which would then be used to construct socialism. But Marx, on the basis of the experience of the Paris commune, had argued that it was not possible for the working class to take over the existing state machine and use it for its own purposes. The existing state was organically tied to the bourgeoisie and could not be used for socialism; rather it had to be broken up – smashed – and replaced by a new state apparatus created by the working class.

Marx’s genuine theory of the state was rediscovered and vigorously reasserted by Lenin in his great book, The State and Revolution. More than that it was put into practice in the Russian Revolution by means of soviet power, i.e. the power of workers’ councils. Later, however, the international communist movement, under the direction of Stalinism reverted to the idea of a parliamentary road to socialism and taking over the existing state apparatus.

But, the objection is often raised, the modern state, with its armies, tanks, bombs, planes etc is too powerful to be smashed, even by the largest mass movement of the working class. This, however, leaves out of the equation the crucial weakness of the state and of all the power of the ruling class which is the fact that for all its operations it depends on the collaboration of a section of the working class. Every gun needs a soldier to carry it, every tank a driver, every plane a team of mechanics. Almost the entire apparatus of the state is staffed, at its lower levels by workers and what happens in a mass revolution is that the pressure leads to many or most of these workers breaking from their officers and joining the people. This is how the state is broken. What this makes clear however is that the final analysis the rule of the bourgeoisie depends not just on force but also on a kind of acceptence.

The Role of Ideology
As we have seen the dominance of the ruling class rests fundamentally on force, exercised first and foremost through the state. However, if it rested on force alone it would be highly vulnerable to overthrow by the working class who constitute the large majority of society. The power of the capitalist class and its state is greatly strengthened by the fact that most of the time it is able to secure an acceptence of its rule from the majority of the very people it oppresses and exploits.

It is the role of ideology to obtain and maintain this consent. Every society has a dominant ideology – a set of ideas, a worldview, which serves to explain, justify and sustain the existing social order and its institutions. It is part of the strength of the dominant ideology in modern capitalist society that, generally speaking , it does not name itself or even acknowledge its own existence . It does not say to people this is ‘capitalist ideology’ and you must believe it all. Rather it presents itself as a series of individual ‘common sense’ propositions which are supposed to be either self- evident or definitively proved by history, like: ‘ Management and workers should work together for the benefit of all’, or ‘ Nobody is above the law,’ or ‘ Obviously, firms have to make a profit’ or ‘There will never be complete equality, it’s against human nature.’

In reality these are not separate ideas but parts of a systematic ideology which, like the state apparatus, serves the interests of the capitalist class. Its basic principle is to depict capitalist relations of production as eternal and unchangeable, and every challenge to capitalism as hopelessly unrealistic and/or downright wicked. But why do those who are disadvantaged by these ideas, namely working people, frequently accept them, at least in part ?

Marx gave a clear answer to this question:
The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force in society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. ( The German Ideology)

The means of mental production – the schools, universities, publishers, press and media generally – are today enormously expanded (mass education, TV, radio, film etc) compared to Marx’s day, but they remain almost entirely in the hands of the capitalist class and its state. This means that for the large majority of people almost every item of news, almost all their knowledge of history, of economics, of science, and most of the teaching they receive on morality and religion is brought to them within the framework of capitalist ideology. This cannot fail to have a massive effect on their thinking.

In addition to this bourgeois ideology has the advantage of long tradition and of often appearing , at least on the surface, to reflect reality. For example, firms that fail to make a profit do go out of business and their workers do lose their jobs. And, crucially, just as capitalist ideology legitimizes the state, so the physical force of the state backs up the ideology. As I stated in the last column force and consent interact and reinforce each other. Put this way the real question becomes not why do so many working people accept bourgeois ideas but how can the hold of these ideas be broken?

The great weakness of capitalist ideology is that it fails to correspond to workers’ experience – their experience of exploitation, poverty, unemployment, injustice etc. As a consequence the grip of the ruling ideas is never total. Most working people develop what Gramsci called ‘contradictory consciousness’; they reject some parts of the dominant ideology while continuing to accept other parts of it. For example a worker may display a clear understanding of the class struggle in the workplace but hold reactionary attitudes towards women or migrant workers. At the same time there will be a small minority who break with capitalist ideology as a whole and adopt a coherent socialist and Marxist outlook. This minority is extremely important because in certain circumstances it can win the leadership of many or even the majority of workers whose consciousness remains mixed.

What are these circumstances? First, when the objective conflict of interest between the classes turns into an open struggle such as a strike, especially a mass strike. Second, in conditions of serious economic and/or political crisis, such as a major slump or disastrous war, when the gap between the dominant ideology and reality becomes so wide that its hegemony starts to disintegrate. But above all when these two sets of circumstances coincide. Then it becomes possible for the coherent minority not only to lead the majority of the workers in struggle – on the basis of the progressive side of their consciousness – but also to start to transform the consciousness of the majority into all out opposition to the system.

The element of mass struggle is crucial because the level of workers’ consciousness is closely related to their confidence. The less confidence workers have in their ability to challenge and change the system the more they are likely to accept the dominant ideology, especially those aspects of it , such as racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia etc, which divert their anger and bitterness onto scapegoats. The higher their confidence, the more their horizons widen and they become open to new ideas. In mass struggle they get a sense of their collective power and the advantages of solidarity prove themselves in practice.

Then what becomes decisive is the size, influence and organization of the coherent minority and its ability to give a clear political focus to the anger and aspirations of the masses. It is this combination of circumstances, ideas and action that break both the hold of capitalist ideology and the power of the capitalist state.

Message from Colonel Mu’ummar Qaddafi

Recollections of My Life: Col. Mu’ummar Qaddafi, The Leader of the Revolution.
Published by Pravda, April 5, 2011.

For 40 years, or was it longer, I can’t remember, I did all I could to give people houses, hospitals, schools, and when they were hungry, I gave them food. I even made Benghazi in to farmland from the desert, I stood up to attacks from that cowboy Reagan, when he killed my adopted orphaned daughter, he was trying to kill me, instead he killed that poor innocent child. Then I helped my brothers and sisters from Africa with money for the African Union.

I did all I could to help people understand the concept of real democracy, where people’s committees ran our country. But that was never enough, as some told me, even people who had 10 room homes, new suits and furniture, were never satisfied, as selfish as they were they wanted more. They told Americans and other visitors, that they needed “democracy” and “freedom” never realizing it was a cut throat system, where the biggest dog eats the rest, but they were enchanted with those words, never realizing that in America, there was no free medicine, no free hospitals, no free housing, no free education and no free food, except when people had to beg or go to long lines to get soup.

No, no matter what I did, it was never enough for some, but for others, they knew I was the son of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the only true Arab and Muslim leader we’ve had since Salah-al-Deen, when he claimed the Suez Canal for his people, as I claimed Libya, for my people, it was his footsteps I tried to follow, to keep my people free from colonial domination – from thieves who would steal from us.

Now, I am under attack by the biggest force in military history, my little African son, Obama wants to kill me, to take away the freedom of our country, to take away our free housing, our free medicine, our free education, our free food, and replace it with American style thievery, called “capitalism,” but all of us in the Third World know what that means, it means corporations run the countries, run the world, and the people suffer. So, there is no alternative for me, I must make my stand, and if Allah wishes, I shall die by following His path, the path that has made our country rich with farmland, with food and health, and even allowed us to help our African and Arab brothers and sisters to work here with us, in the Libyan Jamahiriya.

I do not wish to die, but if it comes to that, to save this land, my people, all the thousands who are all my children, then so be it.

Let  this testament be my voice to the world, that I stood up to crusader attacks of NATO, stood up to cruelty, stood up to betrayal, stood up to the West and its colonialist ambitions, and that I stood with my African brothers, my true Arab and Muslim brothers, as a beacon of light. When others were building castles, I lived in a modest house, and in a tent. I never forgot my youth in Sirte, I did not spend our national treasury foolishly, and like Salah-al-Deen, our great Muslim leader, who rescued Jerusalem for Islam, I took little for myself…

In the West, some have called me “mad”, “crazy”, but they know the truth yet continue to lie, they know that our land is independent and free, not in the colonial grip, that my vision, my path, is, and has been clear and for my people and that I will fight to my last breath to keep us free, may Allah almighty help us to remain faithful and free.

Col. Mu’ummar Qaddafi, 2011/05/04
Translated by Professor Sam Hamod, Ph.D.
Copyright Col. Mu’ummar Qaddafi, – Mathaba.Net 

SEVEN MORE REASONS WHY WE ALL SHOULD BE MARCHING FOR THE ALTERNATIVE ON MARCH 26TH

Disabled Housing Benefit Slashed
Government figures show about 450,000 disabled people will see their incomes cut under one of the changes planned to housing benefit. From April 2013, housing benefit for working age people in social rented homes will be linked to the size of property councils ‘believe they need’.

An assessment from the Department for Work and Pensions shows the change will leave 450,000 disabled people an average of £13 a week worse off. Many disabled people will have to leave their current home. The government will not even guarantee an alternative.

The government’s Communities Department has announced a review of councils’ statutory duties. Under the reviews proposals, councils would be allowed to decide not to provide any services to disabled people, including residential care and respite for families and carers. This is a very real threat to the lives, security and future of disabled people.

Disability Alliance policy director Neil Coyle said: “We’ve been contacted by people who’ve said that if they lose the kind of support that helps them get to work for example, if they’re no longer entitled to that support, they’ll lose the ability to be independent”.

The Great Pensions Robbery
The Hutton Report into pensions was published on 11th March. Hutton wants to raise the retirement age to 66 by 2020. Hutton claims that retiring early, say at 55, is no longer acceptable when people are living longer.

Hutton wants to do away with “generous final salary” pension schemes. Instead they will be set at the average salary across a person’s career. Thirdly, Hutton says workers should up their contribution to the pension scheme from 6.4% to 9.4%: i.e. a 3% pay cut or, with inflation running at over 5%, an 8% real pay cut. Scandalously, many unions have already agreed to this increase.

There isn’t anything generous about public sector pensions. The average pension is about £4,200 a year. The Coalition has already linked pension increases to the lower, CPI rate of inflation, so they will depreciate – by as much as £10,000 over the average retirement. http://www.workerspower.com/index.php?id=47,2797,0,0,1,0

As Unemployment Rises – Job Centre Cuts
Around 7, 000 staff in Jobcentre Plus (JCP) call centres have begun voting this week in a strike ballot over intolerable working conditions. The ballot widens a dispute which led to two days of strike action in January by more than 2, 000 workers in the seven newest contact centres, who have been forcibly moved from processing benefit claims to handling enquiries by phone.

The union says managers have “an obsession” with hitting call centre targets at the expense of providing a good quality public service. The oppressive conditions are resulting in high levels of stress and sickness, and staff are leaving at an alarming rate. Since April 2010, more than 2,700 staff have left – over 20% of the total call centre workforce of 12,800.

The ballot also follows an announcement by senior managers that they want to close more of the department’s benefit processing offices and call centres. JCP is planning to reduce staff from its current 73,000 to 65,600 by 31 March 2012. This is down from a peak of 84,000 at the end of 2009.

HSE Health And Safety Visits May Be Cut By A Third
A leaked letter from the Health and Safety Executive outlines plans to withdraw inspections from entire sectors of industry, including some where “significant risk” remains. Unannounced workplace safety inspector visits may be cut by up to a third. The possibility of an unexpected visit from either an HSE or a local authority safety inspector helps keep employers on their toes; even now, workplaces can go decades without ever seeing an inspector.

 NHS Job Cuts
50,000 NHS staff posts are set for the axe, destroying government claims that the NHS is in safe hands. The news was reported by the Anti-Cuts website False Economy, from information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

David Cameron famously claimed before the election that he would “cut the deficit, not the NHS”. However 10 months into the coalition government, the reality couldn’t be more different, with NHS cuts across the country as local health trusts struggle to save £20bn from their budgets.

The total confirmed NHS staff cuts across the country currently stands at just over 53,150 posts – and that’s before a host of trusts are expected to announce staff cuts over the next four months. The national total is already twice the previous estimate of 27,000 job cuts, published by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) last November.

Here in Guildford, the Royal Surrey has already seen four hundred job losses, together with a reduction of beds per ward. Many NHS trusts are seeing job losses of around 20% of the workforce. http://falseeconomy.org.uk/blog/more-than-50k-nhs-job-losses

Unemployment
It was reported in the guardian last week that the IMF held a conference about the financial crisis. The policy to emerge from the conference was “internal devaluation”

The idea is that countries with high labour costs relative to its trading partners will get its costs in line by lowering wages. The way they lower their wages is to force workers to take pay cuts under the pressure of high rates of unemployment.

An alternative, argued some would be to promote higher inflation in surplus countries. A higher rate of inflation would have the effect of eroding debt in real terms. A higher inflation rate will also increase the costs of the surplus countries relative to the costs of the deficit countries. It would allow the deficit countries to regain competitiveness.

The IMF and the central banks however have reaffirmed their programme of austerity and mass unemployment. Under our Capitalist system no government or bank is going to compromise its own competitiveness –however short term – for the common good.

Here in Britain, the unemployment rate is now 8%, with youth unemployment running at 20.6%. There are 2.54million presently unemployed according to the ONS, (Office of National Statistics) and another 1.19 million in part-time work because they can not find a full-time job. https://suacs.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/voice-of-anticapitalism-in-guildford-unemployment/  Unemployment is at a 17year high and is set to rise much further once the cuts proposed by the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review are implemented.

Apart from the threat of unemployment and the cuts to pensions and wages, a further attack on wages comes from the government’s plans referred to as the big society. Legions of volunteers, the government hopes will take over the running of public services where skilled workers were previously employed. The unemployed are also to be dragooned into working for their unemployment benefits, to take over the jobs once performed by fellow workers.

Families Could Lose Over £2,700 A Year Despite The ‘No Losers’ Welfare Pledge
Low and middle income families will suffer annual benefit cuts of over £2,700 a year by 2013, despite the government’s pledge that there are to be ‘no losers’ in the setting up of the new universal credit system, the TUC warned last week.

The government has said that no worker will be financially worse off when universal credits replace the current system of tax credits and benefits in April 2013. But in order to fulfil the ‘no losers’ pledge the government will have to reduce benefits before the changes take place in 2013, and so is making swingeing cuts to tax credits and benefits that will leave families thousands of pounds worse off in the run up to the April 2013 changeover.

Between April 2011 and April 2013, the government is introducing a series of welfare cuts which include reducing the amount of childcare costs that can be met by tax credits, freezing elements of working tax credit and child benefit, ending government payments to the child trust fund, and ending child benefit for higher rate taxpayers.

In addition, switching the measure for rating benefits from RPI (Retail Price Index) to CPI (Consumer Price Index) will reduce the value of key benefits over time, saving the Treasury £5.8 billion by April 2015, says the TUC. Housing benefit cuts will also lead to significant reductions in family incomes, including those of many working households. A TUC analysis shows that changes to the tax credit and benefits system alone could leave working families £2,700 a year worse off by April 2013.

Join the TUC demonstration against cuts in London, March 26th. There are coaches leaving from Guildford, subsidised by Unison. Only £2.00RTN. Click on the link at the top of the page for details.

OUR PENSIONS ARE IN DANGER
Demonstrate March 26th.

The Independent Public Service Pensions Commission, headed by John Hutton, released its report two days ago. Even before the report was released, the Government announced they were increasing employee contributions by 50%. The government also announced ahead of the report that pensions will be accrued using the consumer price index (CPI) rather than the current retail price index (RPI). This will slash about 15 per cent from the average pension values.

A crucial proposal of The Hutton report is to change public sector pensions from a final salary based pension to a “career average pension”. This follows last autumn’s proposals in the Comprehensive Spending Review to increase pension contributions by 3%. Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey, described it as a “£2. 8 billion annual ’raid’ on public sector pensions” and said: “Ministers were using the public sector pension funds as a piggy bank.”

The report supported the government’s plans to raise the retirement age to 65, which will further reduce pension calculations as people begin to retire before the pension age. It also reaffirms George Osborne’s plans for a Pension tax that seeks to impose an annual £1billion levy on members of the Local Government Pension Scheme.

Already many lower-paid public service workers cannot afford to be part of the pension scheme. One in four workers who are eligible to join the scheme opt out, and participation levels are on a downward trend. Huttons recommendations will exasperate the situation. Many workers, after a life time of public service will retire at 65 and live out their retirement in penury. A GMB Union survey of its members, who are in the LGPS (Local Government Pension Scheme) found that 39% – 53% would opt out if the Osborne Pension Tax was imposed.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS Union (Public and Commercial Services) said: “For civil servants, increased costs would go straight to the Treasury to pay off the deficit. Even the Bank of England governor Mervyn King admits it would mean the wrong people were paying for the recession and agrees with us that public spending did not cause the financial crisis”.

National Union of Teachers General Secretary, Christine Blower said: “increasing pension contributions by more than half will cost newly qualified teachers up to £61 a month and experienced classroom teachers up to £102 a month – an additional cost which will see many leaving the Teachers’ Pensions Scheme”. She added: “The real pension problem is in the private sector where two-thirds of employees are not in any employer-backed scheme. We need decent pensions for all.”

Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary, remarked yesterday: “There is a lot of nonsense talked about public sector pensions – they are not gold plated. The average is very low -in local government, the average is just over £4,000, falling to £2,800 for women”.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary said: “This is the great pension’s robbery and is completely unacceptable to fire-fighters across the UK”. “Expecting fire-fighters to work until they are 60 is wrong. Fire fighting is a physically arduous job. Peak fitness is essential where seconds can cost lives. The public will not want an ageing frontline fire and rescue service.”

“These proposals are unacceptable. The Fire Brigades Union has a warning for the chancellor. Reject Hutton’s pension proposals or you’ll be playing with fire. Fire-fighters simply won’t accept them.”

Bob Cow reacted to the report saying: “Pensions are nothing other than deferred wages – staff pay into these schemes to avoid freezing to death in their old age”. “The Hutton Review will be the spark that lights the blue touch paper of co-ordinated strike action”.

Most Union leaders are offering nothing more than vague threats of unspecified “co-ordinated action”, whilst wasting their time begging the government to sit round the table and discuss the pension issue.

The UCU (University and College Union), however are already planning strikes across the country. These are due to take place between the 17th and 24th of March. Sally Hunt, the general secretary said: “pensions compensate for the lower salaries lecturers receive for researching and teaching in universities, compared to what they would get if they chose to use their highly-specialised knowledge and skills elsewhere”.

There is a lot of misinformation about public sector pension schemes. The facts are:

  • The local government and NHS pension schemes were renegotiated in 2006 to make them sustainable and affordable.
  • Both schemes are cash rich – more is going in than coming out.
  • Currently the NHS Pension Scheme returns a surplus of £2.3bn to Treasury enabling it to fund Government spending in other areas, such as boosting state pension provision for all. The LGPS has an annual cash flow surplus of £4bn.
  • The legacy of making swingeing cuts to the pension provision for 20% of the population, or pricing them out of pension saving altogether, will be increased pensioner poverty and more pressure on state benefits and public services.
  • The average pension in public service pension schemes is very low, for example in local government, the average is just over £4,000, falling to £2,800 for women.
  • If these people didn’t save for their retirement, they would have to rely on means-tested benefits paid for by the taxpayer.
  • Pensioners are already being hit with the move from RPI to CPI to calculate annual inflation increases – this will reduce their value by 15%.
  • When the NHS scheme was renegotiated, protection was built in for current members to retain their retirement age of 60. New members have a retirement age of 65. If that agreement is broken, industrial action could follow.
  • Government cuts to local government employers grants mean that the shortfall in pension contributions has to be made up by employees. They may have to pay between 50% and 100% more for a reduced pension. This is effectively a tax on low paid workers.
  • Studies have shown that if the contributions rise too much, workers will desert the local government scheme and it could collapse.
  • The local government scheme invests more than £100billion in the UK economy. If the scheme collapsed, it would have a devastating impact on the economy.

The Poverty Premium –
It’s not cheap being poor

It is a shocking fact that families on a low income are still paying more for their basic goods and services than better-off families says a Save the Children report published this week. Save the Children has calculated that this annual ‘poverty premium’ can amount to more than £1,280 for a typical low-income family. Moreover, the poverty premium has risen by over £280 since Save the Children’s original research was conducted in 2007.

The poverty premium
The poverty premium is a notional extra cost that people on lower incomes can pay for goods and services, compared with the cost that is paid for the same goods and services by higher-income families.

Their report sets out the scale of the poverty premium and focuses particularly on the extra cost of gas and electricity bills, which account for 20% of the premium. Of all the elements of the poverty premium, the cost of gas and electricity to keep a home warm is an expense that no family can avoid. There is a clear link between living in cold, damp conditions for long periods and significant health risks. Families who cannot afford to pay the cost of heating their home adequately are putting their children’s health at risk says the report.

All children have the right to the best health possible, yet the evidence in Save the Children’s report shows how families on a low income struggle to pay for their gas and electricity and frequently compromise the warmth of their homes to reduce their bills. Of those who are fuel poor, 16.1% are families with children aged under 16, up from 11.8% in 2003. Many of these families will not be eligible for the government’s proposed Warm Home Discount.

The highest charges for gas and electricity are paid by those families who have a prepayment meter or who pay by standard credit. Prepayment meters are often installed for families on a low income who want to budget weekly or have been in debt. If families on a low income who pay the highest tariffs for gas and electricity- because they use payment meters- were charged the same amount as families who pay by direct debit, they would save, on average, over £250 a year. Save the Children is calling for all industries to ensure that the poorest do not pay more.

Low-income families shouldn’t be penalised for being poor. To ensure a fairer system for all vulnerable families, the report calls for all energy companies to provide a fixed rebate under the Warm Home Discount for families on a low income with children, using receipt of Child Tax Credit and income below £16,190 as a proxy for fuel poverty. (£16,190 is the first income threshold for entitlement to Child Tax Credit only.)

Save the Children is calling for The Department for Work and Pensions and the energy suppliers to run a pilot program to assess the feasibility of data-sharing, to allow direct payment of rebates to low-income families; to raise awareness of their rebates by promoting it to all customers; and to provide adequate notification of price increases to prepayment meter customers.The cost of living for low income families
Rising costs for low-income families comes at a time when the government is committed to cutting the welfare budget and public services. Families on low incomes are disproportionately reliant on welfare and public services, and consequently cuts in both areas of government spending will have serious impacts on the poorest. This new financial austerity comes on top of existing difficulties that low-income families have to overcome to make ends meet. It is mainly those on low incomes who tend to be unable to access favourable payment terms, whether for household or personal items they need to buy, fuel they need to purchase or loans they need to secure.

For many families on low incomes, the amount they either earn (from low-paid work) or receive in benefits is not enough to cover their basic living costs. A couple working full-time with two children needs £29,731 a year, or £402.83 per week (excluding money for rent and childcare), to afford a basic but acceptable standard of living. The same family on benefits will only receive £235.29 per week, which is 62% of the amount they need. Church Action on Poverty’s recent research report has provided further evidence of the difficulties families are having in meeting basic living costs. The report concludes that families on a low income need to borrow to survive.

Many low-income households choose to manage their budget in cash to ensure they have control over their total spending, which is a rational, safe approach that limits risk and minimises exposure to unexpected costs and outgoings. Many households (690,000 in 2007/8) do not have access to a bank account or other banking facilities that would allow them to pay a range of bills by direct debit, which is often the cheapest payment option for products and services. Some low-income families have a poor credit history, which means they have no access to affordable, low or no interest credit. The credit that they can access is therefore charged at the highest interest rates in the market.

The cost of credit
Households with a low or variable income often have a poor or non-existent credit history and are therefore unable to access reasonably priced credit from mainstream lenders (banks and building societies). Often the only option available is from commercial lenders (rent-to-buy, catalogues, doorstep lenders) who charge high interest rates on goods with a mark-up on retail prices. The annual percentage rate (APR) charged by commercial lenders can vary from 50–1,000%, compared with less than 30% APR charged by a mainstream lender. A basic household cooker can cost a family without access to low-interest credit a total of £669, more than two and a half times the cost of the same cooker bought outright.

The cost of borrowing
Low-income families with a poor credit history who need to borrow cash do not have the option of using a 0% bank overdraft facility or securing a low-interest bank or credit card loan. The only options available are high cost, such as doorstep lenders. A £500 cash loan from a doorstep lender could cost the borrower £750.

The cost of quick money: pawnbrokers, payday lenders and cheque cashing
A household may need to be able to access cash at short notice, but for those without a bank account this could mean using pawnbrokers, payday lenders or buy-back stores. A loan from a pawnbroker of £100 over six months will cost between 5% and 12% per month (equivalent to an APR of 70% to 100%), making the total cost of the loan between £170 and £200. Households without a bank account who need to cash a £200 cheque from a third party quickly will be charged a fixed fee and interest. For example, a £200 cheque would cost £12 to cash at Cash Converters.

The cost of insurance
Those on lower incomes often pay more for insurance. Insurance premiums are calculated in accordance with the risk of an event, and those on low incomes tend to live in areas where there is a higher risk of car crime and property theft. Families on a low income who live in more deprived areas can pay on average 48% more for car insurance and 93% more for home contents insurance.

The cost of gas and electricity
The extra cost of gas and electricity for low-income families accounts for 20% of the poverty premium. This significant additional cost arises because many low-income families pay for their gas and electricity using prepayment meters, which attract one of the highest tariffs. The lowest tariffs are offered by energy suppliers to customers who can either pay by direct debit, online, or who are eligible for the supplier’s social tariff. Low-income families who do not have a bank account cannot make direct debit payments. In addition, the eligibility criteria for the social tariffs of five of the ‘big six’ energy suppliers do not include families with children. In the last six years gas and electricity bills have more than doubled, and it is predicted that these increases will continue. Any across the board percentage increases in the cost of gas or electricity tariffs will have the greatest impact on those paying the highest tariffs – in other words, those using prepayment meters, including many low-income families. It is therefore likely that the poorest will be hardest hit by increases in energy costs.

Families on a low income with children can be affected by a number of difficulties when it comes to paying their energy bills. In addition to having to use payment methods that incur an expensive tariff and not being eligible for the current option for cheaper fuel under the social tariff, they often:
• Accumulate debt because they cannot afford their energy bills
• Are less aware of their energy use and how it is charged
• Lack access to information that would allow them to identify and secure cheaper energy deals.

Fuel poverty
The consequence of high fuel costs for those on a low income is fuel poverty – defined as being where households have to spend more than 10% of their income on fuel. Ofgem estimates that there are 5 million people in fuel poverty in the UK, representing about 18% of all households. In the UK, 7% of lone-parent households and 9.9% of couples with children live in fuel poverty. No parent wants to put their children’s health at risk, but figures for the UK showed that 5% of children were living in accommodation with inadequate heating. Cold living conditions increase children’s susceptibility to illness, compromise healthy weight gain and are detrimental to children’s respiratory health. A recent study has shown that respiratory problems were more than twice as prevalent in children who lived for three years or longer in homes that lack affordable warmth (15%), compared with children who had never lived in homes that were hard to heat during the previous five years (7%). In addition, it has shown that the mental health of adolescents can also suffer if homes are poorly heated. Families who can only afford to heat one room risk reducing their children’s education attainment if there is no warm, peaceful space to do homework. When inadequate heating is improved, research has recorded a marked reduction in the number of days pupils have off school. The government recognised the link between fuel poverty, inadequately heated homes and poor health and introduced the Fuel Poverty Strategy 2001.

The Strategy aims to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016 and “to ensure that by 2010 no older householder, no family with children, and no householder who is disabled or has a long-term illness need risk ill health due to a cold home” (p.10). It is unlikely that the government will hit its targets, largely because of the unprecedented increases in gas and electricity bills between 2003 and 2009. In response to these developments, the government has announced an independent review of the fuel poverty target and definitions. The introduction of a social tariff was one scheme to tackle fuel poverty. It has been partially successful in reducing the cost of gas and electricity for vulnerable groups but its impact has been focused on pensioner households, leaving other vulnerable groups, including low-income families with children, still paying relatively high fuel costs. As stated above, only one of the major six energy suppliers includes families on a low income with children in their eligibility criteria. So, in effect, a family on a low income that is eligible for a social tariff from one energy supplier could be denied the social tariff of another. Save the Children has conducted a qualitative research study that asked a group of families who are affected by the poverty premium about their experiences of paying for their gas and electricity. The research shows that families interviewed were not aware of the existence of social tariffs; had only a limited knowledge of their own tariff and energy costs, and had no appreciation of the information available to help them secure cheaper energy bills. Without the information, or access to the best deal, they are left paying more than they need to and are yet more vulnerable to fuel poverty.
Warm Home Discount

The government’s consultation paper, Warm Home Discount proposes that in England, Scotland and Wales, the social tariff is replaced by a fixed rebate on electricity bills that will be sent directly to a core group of pensioners on pension credit (with the scope of eligibility increasing between 2011 and 2015) using a data-matching system between the energy companies and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The value of the rebate will increase from £130 to £140 by 2015. The consultation paper also proposes that the same fixed rebate should be given to a broad group of consumers who are vulnerable to fuel poverty. Energy companies will be given discretion to decide which of their customers should be included within the broader group.

Under the previous voluntary system, energy companies were given discretion to decide which of their customers would benefit from the social tariff. As already discussed, the outcome was that only one of the largest six energy companies ensured low-income families with children were eligible for their social tariff. The current proposals for Warm Home Discount risk repeating the same inequity. Energy companies could still decide not to include low-income families with children within their broader discretionary group. The result would be that families who struggle to pay their fuel bills will again miss out on financial support. Save the Children’s report calls for the government to ensure that low-income families with children are included within the group that receives the fixed rebate. This would lower the cost of fuel for these families and thereby reduce their poverty premium. Families with lower fuel bills would be able to heat their homes adequately without fear of going into debt. We propose that families with an annual income below £16,190 and in receipt of Child Tax Credit should be eligible for the rebate so that the mistake of leaving children out, made under the social tariff system, is not repeated. A pilot data-sharing project could be undertaken for families in receipt of Child Tax Credit, in the same way that a pilot project was run to establish the feasibility of data-sharing for pensioners on Pension Credit between the DWP and the energy companies.

Prepayment meters
A prepayment meter is a system that requires cash to be paid before energy can be consumed. Some meters take cards or tokens on to which cash can be credited. The tariffs charged for prepayment meters are more expensive than direct debit or online tariffs. Yet despite the relatively high cost, the majority of families on prepayment meters have an annual income less than £17,500. In Britain, 13% of households pay for their gas and/or electricity using prepayment meters, with almost two-thirds of these households using prepayment meters to pay for both gas and electricity. More than half of households on prepayment meters receive a means-tested benefit or benefits for disability. Ofgem’s own investigation found that prepayment meter customers were paying a premium that was greater than the extra costs involved in supplying the energy via the meter.

To ensure that the tariff for prepayment meters was cost-reflective, Ofgem introduced new licensing conditions for energy suppliers. Since September 2009 the new conditions have required energy suppliers to ensure that the price paid by prepayment meter customers reflects the cost of this form of supply, when compared with direct debit and standard credit tariffs. Ofgem have concluded that the new conditions have led to the average premium for prepayment meters compared with direct debit falling to £69 from £111 since October 2007. Nevertheless, Save the Children’s investigation into the cost of the poverty premium based on a real-life example revealed a differential of £253.

The prepayment meter can be an effective debt management system for the energy company because it allows the amount owing (or a portion of it) to be taken from future cash deposits into the meter, before calculating the remaining credit available. In 2007, more than 350,000 pre-payment meters were installed; 63% of these were put in place to recover debt. Some families who have tried to change from a prepayment meter to an alternative cheaper payment method have found their plan effectively blocked because the energy companies charge them a deposit of £250. This additional cost would prohibit many low income families from switching. The high tariffs associated with prepayment meters result in high fuel bills for low-income families and these in turn can lead to debt. Despite trying to budget for fuel costs, many families find themselves in debt, particularly during the winter.

A number of families featured in Save the Children’s report say they put double the amount into the prepayment meter in the winter compared with the summer. Families who try to avoid debt describe a range of approaches to minimise their energy use, many of which amount to self disconnection or self-rationing. These can have a significant negative impact on the health and wellbeing of families.

Some families have to bear the cost of using the ‘emergency‘ facility. In a worst-case scenario, a household may find that it is on a prepayment meter but is not eligible for the social tariff offered by local energy suppliers. The household may then find itself also paying off arrears from a (previously unknown) price increase, as well as paying back debt accrued from previous bills. In addition, it may be paying the charge to use the ‘emergency’ facility. The scale of these costs for families on a low income is significant.

In 2009 there were 502,631 customers repaying electricity debt through prepayment meters and 365,036 customers repaying gas debt through prepayment. Once an energy company has installed a prepayment meter to recoup debt from a family, it can be very difficult for the family to change to another payment method as a way of reducing their energy bills. Paula, mother of one, explained that she had got into arrears of approximately £800 when she was paying quarterly bills and the energy company had installed a prepayment meter to collect the arrears at a rate of £3.50 per week. Lana, her partner and three children had had a prepayment meter installed and reported that, “of every £10 which went on, £3 went towards paying arrears”. Matt explained that he had topped their gas up by £10 the previous day; after their arrears were taken off they were left with £3. This allowed “the four children to have a bath, and us to have the heating on for one and a half hours at tea time to warm the house up”.

Awareness and consumer choice
The current energy market works best for customers who are aware of their energy use and charges and who can navigate the information energy companies provide to minimise their costs. Informed consumers are able to switch between suppliers to get the cheapest deal, and price comparison websites can make this process more straightforward. However, research reveals that lack of awareness stops many families from accessing the best prices.

This lack of awareness is compounded by a lack of access to information, which is primarily through the Internet. Many low-income families do not have Internet access. Although 70% of households in the UK had access to the Internet by the end of March 2009, 50% of households with an income below £11,500 did not have Internet access, compared with 5% of households with an income of over £30,000. A lack of awareness and lack of access to information restricts consumer choice. Price comparison websites show that customers who are able to pay by direct debit from a bank account can secure the lowest cost for their energy. This price difference for families who cannot pay by direct debit amounts to an extra £250 a year.

The UK economy shrank by 0.5% in the last quarter of 2010, proving that government claims of Britain’s recovery are lies.

Today’s updated GDP figures prove that the government’s austerity program is not working. Even the Labour Party, who let us not forget had its own cuts program, has issued a statement today arguing that cuts are being made too deeply, and too rapidly.

Economists were reported in the Guardian as saying that GDP for the last quarter was much worse than expected, which meant that Britain could now suffer a double-dip recession. With inflation hitting 3.7% last month, there are also growing fears the UK is heading for an unpleasant dose of “stagflation”. A term coined in the ‘70s for the twin economic problems of stagnation and inflation.

The news has sent the pound falling by nearly one and a half cents against the dollar to $1.575, and pushed the FTSE 100 index down. Not that we at the Voice Of Anti-Capitalism have any shares.

The ONS (Office of National Statistics) reported that the services sector – the dominant part of the UK economy – shrank by 0.5% in the last quarter, and construction declined by 3.3%. UK retail sales dropped 0.8% last month- and over the year have been flat. The retail sector suffered its worst December in 12 years.

Even the head of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), Richard Lambert accused Vince Cable of hindering business and job creation through politically motivated austerity initiatives.

George Soros, hedge fund owner and criminal financial speculator, hailed as an expert by his Tory lackeys, speaking at the World Economic Forum yesterday said the government’s spending cuts were unsustainable. He warned David Cameron that the government would push the British economy back into recession unless it modified its austerity package. Nouriel Roubini, another Tory economist I’ve never heard of, was quoted as having similar warnings.

What this goes to show is that there are significant concerns in the government and among its business partners as to whether Tory austerity measures will provide the greater profits promised by the government. No matter what the Tory’s say in the press, the ruling classes have no solutions to the crises.
There are no solutions to the crises under capitalism. The system has been prolonged by massively increasing debt and fraudulently underestimating the risk associated with that debt.

Debt ridden institutions have been buying and selling other institution’s debt in a merry-go-round, and now the bubble has burst. The best our politicians can come with is to take the money out of our pockets and put it in to the banks. The result is no consumer spending and a resulting recession.

But we don’t have to play this game. We can take over the banks and cancel the debt. This generation can break the cycle.

Hundreds of students chased Aaron Porter through Manchester Yesterday

National Union of Students President Aaron Porter was unable to speak at the rally of today’s NUS/UCU demonstration in Manchester, after hundreds of angry students chased him off the streets.

As protesters gathered at the starting point on Oxford Road, about thirty activists from Hull Students Against Fees and Cuts and Leeds University Against Cuts accosted Porter and demanded that he justify his record. Instead of engaging with us, Porter turned and hurried off – only to find himself followed by growing numbers of demonstrators from across the North. Within a couple of minutes he was literally being chased through the streets of Manchester by about half those who had gathered at that point – certainly more than five hundred people – with chants including “Students, workers, hear us shout, Aaron Porter sold us out” and “Porter – out”. Eventually he took refuge in Manchester Metropolitan Students’ Union, protected by a heavy cordon of riot police.

Aaron Porter is ushered into Manchester University, pursued by 500 students

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Porter did not turn up to speak at the closing rally. Instead, the NUS was represented by his deputy, Vice-President Further Education Shane Chowan – who was unable to finish his speech after he was drowned out by hostile chanting and pelted with eggs.

The rally was deathly dull, with trade union bureaucrat after trade union bureaucrat telling us what we already knew (with the partial exception of Matt Wrack from the FBU, who gave a fairly militant performance). The atmosphere among the protesters – overwhelmingly students – was very different. Most of the speakers were heckled repeatedly, and chants about student-worker unity, the need for strike action and the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt were very popular. After the end of the rally, about a thousand students marched independently into town, led by the student left (NCAFC, SWP, Workers’ Liberty, Revolution, anarchists). We were met by a huge and violent police presence, and at the time of writing many of us are still kettled on Deansgate in central Manchester – though having comrades sing the Internationale with us from across the road helped keep up our spirits.

After the chasing off of Aaron Porter, one other bit of good news. Pat Murphy, a comrade who sits on the National Union of Teachers executive, told us today that the committee had, on his initiative, voted to delete a proposal to invite Porter to speak at NUT conference in April. Hated and hunted by his own members, Porter is starting to be shunned by many trade unionists too.
Report by National Campaign Against Fees And Cuts. http://anticuts.com

Today, it was reported in the Telegraph and Daily Mail that Aaron Porter is claiming he was subjected to a “barrage” of racist and homophobic abuse. National Campaign Against Fees And Cuts (NCAFC) supporters were at the front of the crowd who chased Porter. They strenuously deny there were any racist or homophobic chants, let alone a barrage. Members of NCAFC maintain Porter has invented the whole thing in order to salvage some sympathy. The NCAFC have released a statement saying:

“Demonstrators expressed their bitterness and anger at the NUS leadership’s repeated betrayal of their interests and struggles. The ludicrous claims of racism simply show how desperate Aaron Porter and his friends are becoming. They should be ashamed of themselves for abusing the struggle against racism in this way. An NCAFC supporter added: “we are disgusted at attempts by papers like the Telegraph and the Mail – with its foul history, including support for Oswald Mosely’s anti-semitic Blackshirt movement, and its staple diet of anti-migrant agitation – to pose as champions of anti-racism”.

The embedded video below shows the incident. There are no homophobic or racist chants.

A Leeds University student was quoted in the Mail saying: “Porter is not representing us because he is not trying to stop this Government. He should be arguing to stop the cuts. We went to confront him to tell him what we thought and he ran away with a police escort.’

Meanwhile in London
An estimated 5,000 students and trade union supporters marched through central London to Westminster. The march assembled at ULU and marched to Millbank. Then many of the marchers carried on through the streets to the Egyptian embassy to join protesters there. Small demonstrations continued around the West End into the evening, causing many Vodafone stores to close early.

Experts demand inquest into David Kelly death.

Back in August a group of ‘prominent experts’ demanded a full inquest into the death of government weapons inspector Dr David Kelly. They described the official cause of death, haemorrhage, as “extremely unlikely” in the light of evidence since made public.

The call came in a letter to The Times signed by eight senior figures, including a former coroner, Michael Powers, a former deputy coroner, Margaret Bloom, and Julian Bion, a professor of intensive care medicine.

The scientist was found dead in woods near his Oxfordshire home in 2003 after he was exposed as the source of a BBC story disclosing anger within the intelligence service over use of Iraq arms data. Evidence has since shown that it was the government that leaked Dr Kelly’s name as the source in an attempt to smear him.

Mr Andrew Gilligan, on the BBC Today programme, 29 May 2003, reported Dr Kelly’s allegations that the Government ‘probably’ knew their claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed within 45 minutes was incorrect, but decided to put it in its dossier anyway- and secondly, that 10 Downing Street ordered the dossier to be ‘sexed up”.

On 1st June 2003 the Mail on Sunday published an article written by Mr Gilligan describing his discussion with Dr Kelly, an ‘unknown source’ at this time. The article stated that his source said: “The Government’s dossier on Iraq’s WMD was transformed the week before publication”. “I asked him how this transformation happened. The answer was a single word ‘Campbell”.  Alastair Campbell has publically called these allegations lies.

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee announced on 3rd June 2003 that it would hold an inquiry into the decision to go to war in Iraq. The allegations reported by Mr Gilligan were one of the reasons why the FAC decided to hold its inquiry.

There are however doubts as to weather Dr Kelly was indeed the source of Mr Gilligan’s story. To-date Mr Gilligan has never confirmed or denied his source was Dr Kelly. On 30th June, Dr Kelly wrote a lengthy letter to Dr Wells, his line manager at the MoD. He stated that he had met Mr Gilligan on 22nd May, but that he was convinced he was not Mr Gilligan’s primary source of information.

Dr David Kelly

A decision was taken at a meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday 8th July, to issue a statement that an un-named civil servant had come forward to say that he had met Mr Gilligan on 22nd May, a week before his broadcast.

On the evening of 8th July the BBC issued a press statement referring to the MoD’s statement. The BBC said that the description of the individual contained in the MoD statement did not match Mr Gilligan’s source.

The press officers in the MoD were given a brief not to volunteer Dr Kelly’s name, but if the correct name were put to them by a journalist, it should be confirmed. At around 5.30pm, the Financial Times put Dr Kelly’s name to the Director of News at the MoD, and she confirmed it.

Hutton claims in his final report that Dr Kelly did not tell Gilligan “that the reason why the 45 minutes claim was not included in the original draft of the dossier was because it only came from one source, and the intelligence agencies thought it untrue”. Hutton claims this was Gilligan’s invention and that it was unfounded.

The final report by Hutton, published 28th January 2004, points to evidence submitted by Donald Anderson MP and Mr Andrew Mackinlay MP, of the Foreign Affairs Committee. “Anderson said that after the Committee -who were about to publish a report on their Iraq inquiry- learned of the MoD statement of 8th July, that a civil servant had come forward to say that he had met Mr Gilligan, there was a meeting of the FAC to decide whether it should reopen its inquiry in to the Iraq War and call Dr Kelly to give evidence.

The meeting decided that “fundamental to our report had been the question whether the politicians had overborne the intelligence community in respect of the information. Our views on this question might well be fundamentally overturned as a result of meeting the person who may have been Gilligan’s source, and therefore it would look odd if we did not seek to clarify the position.”  Mackinley states that he considered it the duty of the government to have immediately informed the FAC that a civil servant had stepped forward claiming to be Gilligan’s source.

The government learned of it on 30th June, but didn’t inform the FAC, who only heard of it once the MOD had issued its press statement on July 8th. Mackinley expressed the view of the FAC that the government “deliberately stalled, hoping the FAC report would be published before they had learnt that Gilligan’s source had come forward. It was designed to avoid him coming before the FAC’s Iraq inquiry.

The BBC issued a statement on the evening of 8th July that the source was not Dr Kelly, but “one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up that dossier” as stated by Mr Gilligan in his broadcast on 29th May – “nor was it a source within the intelligence service as stated by John Humphrys on the Today Programme,” said the statement.

David Kelly (if he was the real source) claimed that Tony Blair’s press spokesman, Alastair Campbell “sexed up” his dossier on Iraq’s weapons capability, transforming it a week before it was published, to conclude Iraq had weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed within 45 minutes. Dr Kelly, the British UN weapons inspector, not only refuted these claims, but said he thought Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction what so ever.  

Dr Kelly stated prior to the war- in memos submitted as evidence to the inquiry in to his death- that the ‘45 minutes’ intelligence was based on one single unverified source. This source was an undergraduate’s thesis published on the internet. Dr Kelly said sarcastically, he knew of a source that claims it could be done in four minutes. The reality David Kelly said is that “reliable information was not obtainable and could not even be gained from detainees despite financial incentives”. Kelly further stated that “the sanctions in Iraq were working well. It was very hard to import things, and the Iraqi arms industry had been impeded”. He asserted in his memos that “there was no evidence of a WMD programme and a large weapons programme would be impossible to hide”.

The dossier was used by the British government as a pretext to invade Iraq. Studies by the British Medical Association, Havard University and University of Austin, Texas conducted between 2006 and 2007 agreed an estimated 1.2million to 1.8million people had died as a result of the illegal war – and still the casualties continue.

The inquest into Dr Kelly’s death was suspended before it could begin by the then Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer. The Lord Chancellor then used the Coroners Act to designate the Hutton Inquiry in to Dr Kelly’s death as ‘fulfilling the function of an inquest’ -so the inquest was never resumed. On the 5th August 2003, before the Hutton inquiry began, Hutton banned all broadcasting of its proceedings.

Just prior to the start of the inquiry, in a statement on the hutton-inquiry.org.uk web site, 23rd July 2003, Hutton said; “My terms of reference is this: To urgently conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of  Dr Kelly. I make it clear that it will be for me to decide, as I think right within my terms of reference, the matters which will be the subject of my investigation”.

In June 2010 The Mail on Sunday reported that Dr Kelly’s death certificate was officially registered before the Hutton inquiry ended and it was not properly completed. It was not signed by a doctor or coroner and does not state a place of death, as all death certificates should.

The Hutton report concluded “the principal cause of death was bleeding from incised wounds to his left wrist which Dr Kelly had inflicted on himself with the knife found beside his body”. But the letter sent to the Times in August, insists that the conclusion is ‘unsafe’. The signatories claim a severed ulnar artery, the wound found on Dr Kelly’s wrist, was unlikely to be life-threatening.
Dr Hunt, the post-mortem pathologist, claimed Kelly was suffering from ischaemic heart disease. “And had a toxic dose of Dextropropoxyphene, a dangerous drug in overdosage with direct effects on the heart”. According to Dr Hunt, Kelly also had a toxic dose of coproxamol present. Dr Hunt added, these ‘may or may not’ have played a part in his death.

On 1st July 2010, the Mail on Sunday reported that a female colleague of Dr Kelly’s had recently claimed, in a letter to the Attorney General, that the UN weapons inspector could not have committed suicide, as he was too weak to cut his own wrist. She said a hand and arm injury meant that the 59-year-old even ‘had difficulty cutting his own steak’. Miss Pedersen also said Dr Kelly had been suffering from a severe throat infection and had difficulty swallowing pills. She casts serious doubts in the letter that he could have swallowed 29 painkillers before slitting his left wrist. Therefore, she said, “he would have had to have been a contortionist to have killed himself by slashing his left wrist, as Lord Hutton concluded in 2004”. The letter continued: “The absence of a full coroner’s inquest into Dr Kelly’s death and perpetual secrecy meant it was crying out for further scrutiny”.

Miss Pedersen said in the letter that she had provided the Hutton enquiry with a witness statement that voiced these concerns, but her statement was not presented to the enquiry. Miss Pederson states in her letter that she also offered to testify at the enquiry, but that her testimony was refused. When she asked why it was refused, she was given no answer.

On 25th January 2010 it was reported in the Mail on Sunday that Hutton had secretly barred the release of medical records, post-mortem results, witness statements and unpublished evidence. The records will be kept under wraps for up to 70 years.

The normal rules on post-mortems allow close relatives and “properly interested persons” to apply to see a copy of the report and to “inspect” other documents. Hutton’s measure has overridden these rules, so the files will not be opened until all people are likely to be dead.

Hutton refused to speak to the Mail on Sunday about the ban, whilst a Ministry of Justice spokesman told them he was “unable to explain the legal basis for the order”. Such an order is totally unprecedented.

The ban and the existence of hidden, unpublished material – including witness statements not disclosed to the enquiry, all medical reports, the post-mortem findings of Dr Hunt and photographs of Dr Kelly’s body – only came to light a year after the conclusion of the enquiry in 2004.

The restrictions only came to light in a letter from the legal team of Oxfordshire County Council to a group of doctors who were challenging the Hutton verdict. The doctors claimed the artery is too small and difficult to access in cases of suicide and severing it could not have caused death.

Lord Hutton QC

Hutton is no stranger to controversy. He was the former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, presiding over an occupying force condemned internationally for human rights abuses.

Brian Hutton QC was the representative of the British MOD during the 1973 “Bloody Sunday” inquest. Members of the Parachute Battalion had opened fire on unarmed civilians attending a civil rights march in Derry. Fourteen people were killed and another fourteen shot and wounded.

The Londonderry City coroner, Major Hubert O’Neill, accused the British army of “sheer unadulterated murder”, adding there had been “no justification for the soldiers to open fire”. Addressing Major O’Neill at the inquest, Hutton said: “It is not for you or the jury to express such wide-ranging views, particularly when a most eminent judge has spent 20 days hearing evidence and come to a very different conclusion.” Hutton’s conclusion of the Bloody Sunday inquest has since been totally discredited and the British government has been forced to apologise for the actions of the British army.

In 1997 Brian Hutton featured in the case of David Shayler. Shayler, a former MI5 agent claimed in the Mail on Sunday that agents in the 1970s illegally tapped the telephone of Peter Mandelson, later to serve as Northern Ireland Secretary, and kept a file on Jack Straw who later became Foreign Secretary. David Shayler went on to expose an MI5 plot to assassinate Libyan leader Colonel Gadaffi.  

Lord Hutton, together with Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough and Lord Scott of Foscote unanimously agreed that it was “not in the public interest” to report on the illegal activities of MI5. Their ruling cleared the way for Shayler’s prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.

On the 11th of December 2003, as the Hutton Inquiry was nearing its climax. Hutton announced that he would retire as a Law Lord on the 11 January 2004, two weeks before his report was due to be sent to the printers.

The Hutton Report has failed to allay suspicions of foul play in Dr Kelly’s death and has been dismissed by many experts as a whitewash for clearing the Government of any culpability. Last year, a group of doctors, including former coroner, Dr Powers, compiled a 12 page medical dossier as part of their legal challenge to the Hutton verdict.

The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve has also indicated that he believes “the case could merit a further inquiry”. On the morning of July 17th 2003, Dr Kelly mysteriously told a friend by email that there were “many dark actors playing games”. In 2007 it was discovered, through a Freedom of Information request, that the blunt pruning knife he is said to have used to cut his wrist had no fingerprints on it.

Michael Howard, former Tory leader has joined the call for a full inquest. He told the Mail on Sunday on 15th August, “Recent evidence by the first police officer on the scene, together with new statements by doctors raise serious questions which should be considered”.

So; Who killed David Kelly? Well I’m buggered if I know. Anyone with a stake in perpetuating the public illusion that Iraq was in possession of WMDs would have a motive. It’s a very long list, one that concievably even includes the Iraqis themselves. It’s even posible- though on balance highly unlikely, that Dr David Kelly killed himself. I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with a Tory before, but “serious questions need to be answered”.

Since 2009 the Chilcot Inquiry, the most recent inquiry into the Iraq war has been drifting on. Dr Kelly’s name has scarcely been mentioned. Chilcot was quoted admitting he “did not want to touch the Kelly issue”.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war as an academic exercise, delving into some distant historical event in an attempt to understand what happened. But to many Iraqis, the inquiry is something else entirely. It is an inconsequential charade, a classic case of fiddling while Baghdad burns.

Last year Hans Blix, former chief UN weapons inspector, appeared before the inquiry. He told Chilcot there was no justification for war, because his inspectors had found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction; and he had made it clear to the UN that he needed a few more months to finish his task.

However when Blix appeared before the UN Security Council in 2003, 11 days before the invasion, he failed to make a clear, unequivical stand against the war. It allowed Tony Blair to push on with plans to drag Britain into the war.

Like a lot of politicians with guilty consciences, Blix has thrown his weight behind justice and morality only after the fact. The problem is, the Iraq war is not some bygone event. When Blair misled parliament into passing a motion to disarm Iraq of its non-existent WMDs he started a chain of events that destroyed a country, and left millions dead, maimed, orphaned or widowed. Its horrific consequences are still being visited upon Iraqis – such as the mothers who are delivering deformed babies because of the chemical weapons used by the invading forces.

Meanwhile, the litany of repressive policies gets longer. It is illegal to be a member of a trade union, just as it was under Saddam. Paul Bremer, the US envoy who ruled Iraq after the invasion, revived Saddam’s infamous “decree 150” in 2004, effectively banning all public sector unions. Activists are now treated as if they were terrorists, with a government decree under the 2005 anti-terrorism act, allowing their assets to be siezed.

The regime has also brought terror-related charges against oil industry trade union leaders. The president of the Federation of Oil Unions, Hasan Juma’a, and several other union leaders have been charged with contacting the media, sabotaging the economy and high treason. Juma’a believes that the regime is trying to “liquidate” the unions while transferring Iraq’s oil wealth to the multinationals.

Last year, troops opened fire on the demonstrators protesting against elcticity restrictions and prices. The prime minister described them as “hooligans” and deployed troops in Baghdad to stop the protests – dubbed by Iraqis as the “electricity uprising”.

Last week Tony Blair was recalled to the Chilcot Inquiry, but whilst Chilcot rumbles on, there is palpable anger across Iraq against the regime’s policies and corruption. Baghdad has the biggest US embassy in the world, from which, many Iraqis believe, the US dictates important regime policies and deepens Iraqi political divisions in order to maintain its control of the country. US aims have changed since the invasion – America wants to steer Iraq’s political and economic direction, and use the country as a base against Iran – but most of the Iraqi people continue to bravely resist.