Monday, July 30, 2012

The best and worst of London 2012

London’s Olympics sum up a great deal that is brilliant about modern Britain. But, as the first few days’ events are broadcast, some harsh realities are breaking through the extraordinary magic of the opening ceremony.

There can be no doubt that the magnificent pageant in the new stadium was a spectacular achievement. The script, choreography and orchestration of a cast of many thousands included computer-generated imagery with 70,000 “paddles” to create moving images around the stadium came together in a communal effort to make for a memorable display.

To stage the £27 million event, Slum Dog Millionaire director Danny Boyle put together an expert team including writer Frank Cottrell Boyce. He says that Danny Boyle created a democratic space where no one was afraid to speak out. The creative team “worked so closely they were practically a hive mind”.

The result was a vision of Britain free of bombast and full of imagination and humour. It was a compressed story of rural orgins to the satanic mills of the industrial revolution. Poet William Blake’s anthem, Jerusalem, sung by a deaf and hearing Kaos children’s choir, could not fail to move.
The frenetic energy of 19th century capitalism was re-enacted by thousands of
performers dressed in poor workers’ outfits with black suited, top hatted bosses extracting their profits. The cranking up of four gigantic factory chimneys in the stadium was a high point as they belched out smoke. The account of history included trade unionists, workers  and suffragettes demonstrating for their rights.

Then there was the evocation of children’s stories like Peter Pan and Mary Poppins, as reality and fantasy sprang up in rapid sequence. The pageant seggued into the 20th century with hundreds of dazzling white hospital beds, with comforting nurses seeing off frightening fairy tale monsters. It was enhanced by magically winged cyclists, decades of pop music, projected on to a domestic home, climaxed by Internet guru Tim Berners Lee and Grime singer Dizzie Rascal.

Some have criticised the ceremony’s thrust as too Marxist, left wing and multicultural. Tory MP Aidan Burley’s tweeted that the “it was “the most leftie opening ceremony” he had ever seen, and too overtly political and multicultural. (Cameron sacked Burley last year from his parliamentary post for attending a Nazi-themed party).

But after the euphoric dream back to reality. The spectacular sports performances could not hide large banks of empty seats, particularly in the best areas reserved for high price tickets and sponsors. Yesterday thousands of seats were left vacant even though fans had been told sessions were sold out. 

Embarrassed Locog organisers are desperately trying to fill seats with troops, students and teachers, but the cat was let out of the bag by culture secretary Jeremy Hunt who said that many of the sponsors and media members had not bothered to use their freebies. This was adding insult to injury considering that Britain’s leading black newspaper, the east London based The Voice did not get a single media pass and most Londoners could not obtain or afford admission.

And that’s not the only ugly aspect of the games. Tyrants from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, China, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Rwanda and Swaziland are being giving VIP treatment of course. Behind the Queen’s cuddly image is her real alliance with these monsters.  Such as Dow Chemicals who sponsored the stadium’s “wrap”. Dow was responsible for the death of thousands of slump dwellers in Bhopal, India.

Not to mention McDonalds, Visa and Coca Cola who, with the enthusiastic help of the state, have established a brand dictatorship in the Olympic zones. Or the police who can arrest at will, as they did with some 182 cyclists on Friday.

It is too early to say what the lasting legacy of the Games will be. But whilst London 2012 will go down as the most commercially dominated and undemocratic Olympics in British history, it also demonstrates the potential of resources combined with will and imagination. It’s well past the time when humanity needs freeing from the monstrous prison of corporatocracy.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary

Friday, July 27, 2012

Turning point in Aleppo

The last time Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, suffered aerial bombardment and heavy guns firing into civilian areas, was in 1925, as the French government set out to crush a rebellion against colonial rule.

Now Assad government troops stationed on the outskirts of the city, Syria’s commercial capital and its biggest urban centre, have unleashed barrages of mortar on the western neighbourhoods of Saladin, al-Sukkari and al-Fardos. Meanwhile, Russian-built MI-25 helicopter gunships struck al-Sakhour in the east with rockets.

Until now Aleppo has remained largely outside of the revolt against the government of Bashir Al Assad.  “Where are you Aleppo?” was a frequent chant on demonstrations.

Aleppo is Syrian’s economic centre, and was one of the cities where support for the Assad father and son dynasty remained strongest. They gave relative independence to the mercantile and capitalist elite in return for their support.

The deepening economic crisis gripping the whole of Syria has brought the largely Sunni working class of Aleppo into the opposition marking an important step forward in the anti-regime movement.

Expecting it to fall sooner rather than later, jockeying for position has already begun amongst the ruling class, some getting ahead of the game by escaping from Syria. Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, formerly one of Assad’s closest friends and aides, is putting himself about round the Arab capitals and western embassies as a figurehead for a transition. 

There are plenty more of the same, including those in the Assad regime who are conspiring with Russian and Chinese diplomacy. But the masses are wise to this tactic. Mohamed El Baradei was being groomed by the US to take over in Egypt and Ahmed Chalabi in Iraq, but their bulging coffers of bribe money got them nowhere.

But framing a radical alternative to such figures – this is the problem facing the Syrian masses, whatever their racial or religious background, just as it was in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Driven to revolt by the absence of any say in how their own country is governed, and by growing unemployment, poverty and rising food prices, they are capable of courageously overthrowing regimes – in fact in this era they seem to be unstoppable!

A greater challenge remains: how to replace the repressive regime with a genuine popular democracy rather than with sham parliaments and fake presidents, where the strong men of the state ensure that the wealth, the land, and natural resources remain where they have always been – in the hands of the rich.

Toppling Assad, but leaving control in the hands of the existing apparatus or the Syrian National Council will lead to counter-revolution and defeat. In 1925, every sector of Syrian society united against French rule – Syrian, Druze, Allawi, Christian, Sunni and Shiites fought together for independence. Such a united front is emerging today amongst the poorest Syrians, but it is not going to be enough unless it is united in a struggle for state power itself.

The Syrian people can only achieve their right to bread, peace and land by dismantling the existing state and replacing it with the rule of the people organised in their local, regional and national assemblies, controlling the common wealth. This is the lesson of Egypt, of Tunisia and of Libya, which needs to be learned in Spain and Greece, and acutely relevant all of us in these tumultuous times.

Relying on either the West or Russia or UN resolutions offers no way out for the Syrian people.  They will need to find a way to determine their own democratic future independent of the plans and strategies of the major powers. The challenge for revolutionary forces is to create a secular Pan-Arab leadership that can unite the  Syrian masses with others throughout the region and build for the next stage of the Arab Revolution, whose aim has to be social revolution.

Penny Cole

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

'Our cuts will be with a guillotine'

As official figures revealed that Britain is deep into its second recession in four years, with contraction running at a rate not seen for half a century, the European dimension of the global crisis is set to get a whole lot worse.

The IMF-led assault team is back in Greece insisting on impossibly severe additional austerity measures for an economy that has already contracted by 20% in the five years since the 2007/8 financial meltdown. 

As their plane touched down, Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras said the country was in a Great Depression and that the economy was now expected to decline by a further 7% in the coming year – far worse than the previous 4.5% estimate.

But, as has now become clear, Greece’s agony is just a small part of the global economic contraction of a depth and ferocity that is hard to grasp

As Spain auctioned off its increasingly risky debt to postpone an inevitable bailout, this stark assessment came from the Spiro Sovereign Strategy consultancy:

Pretty much everything that could go wrong in Spain is.
 • The bank-focused bail-out is perceived as insufficient
• a funding squeeze in the regions is putting more pressure on Spain's creditworthiness
• non-stop austerity is increasingly seen as self-defeating and
• the recession is deepening.
 The question is no longer whether Spain can persevere with its adjustment, but rather how much more its economy and citizens can endure.

Cities across Spain are the sites of a mounting revolt against austerity, raising the political stakes and increasing the risk that the country would be unable to service its soaring debt.

Film Actor Javier Bardem, who won an Academy Award for his role as psychopathic assassin in No Country for Old Men, joined the protest appearing next to a placard bearing a revolutionary threat, declaring “Our cuts will be with a guillotine”.

The financial markets are responding - in a self-defeating action - by pushing Spain’s cost of borrowing to 7.5% and through the limits of sustainability. The only way they can get their money back is by squeezing the population beyond its limits of endurance.

Something has to give.

The global contraction follows a relentless capitalist logic. Once the seemingly limitless 60 year expansion of credit and debt ended in 2007, an historically unprecedented bust was sure to follow.

The eurozone downturn is being led by an increasingly severe slump in manufacturing, where output is falling at a quarterly rate of around 1%. Germany is now contracting at the steepest rate for three years, while the rate of decline in the periphery is also among the highest seen since mid-2009.

Companies across the region are cutting staff numbers at the fastest rate for two-and-a-half years as the outlook darkens. Service providers are now the gloomiest since March 2009, while manufacturers are slashing their stocks of raw materials in the expectation of ongoing weak sales in coming months.

The US manufacturing sector is struggling under the pressure from falling exports, which showed the first back-to-back monthly decline for almost three years in July. Growth of production is slowing closer to stagnation as a result, and rising levels of unsold stock will mean companies seek to scale back production in coming months.

China’s growth rate is also slowing, as it must, in response to shrinking markets in the US and Europe for the commodities churned out by the millions of low-paid workers in factories sub-contracted by transnational corporations.

Under these conditions, resistance to austerity in the form of protests, demonstrations, occupations, however angry, daring or violent quickly reaches their limits. They will give way to a movement that can break through the constraints of the failing social relations imposed by capitalism.

Some 150,000 software engineers worked collectively, for the common good developing Linux, the open source software that now powers the internet. They are the same creative, young people who produce the software that runs the global financial systems. They have the knowledge, and potentially the power to make trading platforms and communication networks part of a democratically-accountable global system of production, distribution and exchange. They just need asking!

Gerry Gold
Economics editor

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The whole system is 'morally wrong'

Following the official announcement by a Tory minister that it is “morally wrong” to pay people like plumbers, carpenters and other socially useful citizens cash as a way of reducing household bills, we present a number of other dilemmas to discuss during the Olympics.

First of all, we should say that the minister in question, David Gauke, himself claimed over £10,000 in expenses back from taxpayers to avoid paying stamp duty and fees on a property transaction. We should also note the fact that his wife works at a firm advising tax lawyers who specialise in tax avoidance schemes.

Leaving the issue of total moral hypocrisy aside for a moment, because it’s far too easy to put the boot in, let’s examine some real quandaries society needs to take a stand on. For example, is it “morally wrong” that:

-         the top 10% of Britain’s wealthiest households are more than 500 times richer than those in the bottom 10%, with the gap widening all the time?
-         the least wealthy half of households in Britain have 10% of the total wealth, while the better off half have 90% of the total?
-         despite their best efforts a quarter of households can't achieve a decent standard of living, according to a recent Rowntree report?
-         the bottom fifth of households pay 31% of their disposable income in indirect taxes, compared with 13% for the richest fifth, an increase from 2009/10 when the proportions were 28% and 12% respectively?
-         UK companies paid a record £22.6 billion in dividends to shareholders in the second quarter of this year?
-         Carphone Warehouse Group chief executive Roger Taylor will collect an estimated £34m in cash and shares this year despite the failure of the Best Buy retail chain whose creation he oversaw?
-         at BP Plc, the top executive earned 63x the amount of the average employee in 2011, versus 16.5x in 1979 while in the case of Barclays, top pay is now 75x that of the average worker, versus 14.5x in 1979?
-         in the last ten years alone, average CEO pay for FTSE 350 companies has increased by 108%?
-         a group of 36,000 individuals – only 0.6% of the population – own 50% of rural land (their assets account for 20 million out of Britain’s 60 million acres of land)?
-         1.6 million children in Britain live in housing that is overcrowded, temporary, or run-down?
-         5.9 million homes in England fail to meet the government's Decent Home Standard?
-         more than 70,000 homeless children in England are living in temporary accommodation?
-         3.6 million children in the United Kingdom live in poverty after their housing costs have been paid?
-         the average rent for a two bedroom home in the capital at £1,360 is almost two and a half times the average in the rest of the country?
-          ordinary working families face unaffordable private rents in 55% of local authorities in England?
-         major corporations like Vodafone and Boots escape/avoid paying tax on all their activities in the UK?
-         that banks who helped wreck the economy are propped up with taxpayers’ money still repossess homes and refuse loans to small enterprises?

This abbreviated list neatly exposes the very real state of Britain, where social class defines power, privilege and wealth and not abstract morality which aims to disguise growing inequality. Contrary to what the ConDems say, we are not “all in it together”.

Older people, for example, struggle to find the money to pay for care while a minority live it up at our expense. The solution lies in our hands.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

Monday, July 23, 2012

Punk band trio victims of Kremlin crackdown

The prolonged detention of three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot shows just how unsafe the Kremlin feels in the wake of the continuing protests against the rigged presidential elections which Vladimir Putin 'won'.

At concerts over the weekend, singers Franz Ferdinand and the Red Hot Chili Peppers expressed support for the Pussy Riot band members who have been condemned to remain in a Russian jail for another nine months pending their trial on absurd charges.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Maria Alyokhina have languished in jail since March on charges of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.  Their rendering of “Blessed Virgin, Mother Mary, Drive Putin Out!”, in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour cathedral of, has enraged ultra-reactionary church leaders as well as Putin.

Prosecution lawyer Mikhail Kuznetsov accused the young women of being “the tip of an iceberg of extremists, trying to break down the 1,000 edifice of the Russian Orthodox Church by creating a schism, guiding the flock through trickery and cunning not to God but to Satan”. The decision to keep the trio in jail until next January was taken in a closed hearing at the end of last week.

If convicted on trumped up charges (former KGB officer Putin will know all about those), the three face up to seven years in prison. One of the women's lawyers, Mark Feigin, called the ruling illegal and described it as a show of force by the Kremlin in the face of growing calls for the women's release. "It's not a matter of law. It's not a matter of reason," he said.” It’s a way of saying, 'We can do what we want.'"

The ruling has to be seen as part of a series of sinister machinations aiming to roll back rights and freedoms so strongly asserted by Russians in recent years, particularly during the December 2011 protests. The last three months have seen brutal crackdowns all around the country.

When tens of thousands took to the streets on May 6 against Putin’s election victory, police detained over 600 people and assaulted many more. Fourteen people are charged with organising and participating in mass riots and violence against police officers.

Repression is widespread, and not only against political campaigners. Some 1,500 kilometres from Moscow, in Bashkortostan’s Prison Colony No. 4, 900 inmates are on hunger strike in protest against the beating to death by prison employees of Sergei Lasko on July 17.

A series of measures have targeted constitutional rights to freedom of speech, access to information, the right of assembly and association. On Friday just before the summer recess, the regime rushed through legislation which close observers of the Moscow scene are describing as an “anti-constitutional coup”.  

Putin has just signed a law which means that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who engage in political activity must register with the Justice Ministry as “foreign agents” and print it on all their publications – with the concomitant association of espionage and treachery. Failing to comply can mean six months’ suspension without a court order and up to three years in jail.

At risk are organisations like Amnesty, Transparency International which monitors corruption and the Golos (Voice) group, which collected and published allegations of last December’s election fraud. Golos’ deputy director Grigory Melkonyants says the law aims to make the work of NGOs more difficult, to intimidate and to blacken their image and disgrace them for getting money from abroad.

Of course the Russian Orthodox Church – which also receives money from abroad - is exempted from the law.

At the weekend, veteran human rights campaigner, Ludmila Alexeyeva celebrated her 85th birthday, saying the Russian state was “cruel to dissidents”, in what her supporters saw as a criticism of Putin’s regime. Ever the cynic, Putin sent her congratulations. But few are fooled by his attempts to gloss over the truth.

The May 6 committee is appealing for the widest possible publicity and support for its international day of action this Thursday. They believe that the fate of dozens of innocent protesters and those already in jail is at stake. 

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary

Friday, July 20, 2012

Lords of the Rings take over London

Lords of the Rings

When a café owner has to change its name, shops are banned from having a certain number of linked rings in their window, roads are barred to ordinary motorists and thousands of police and soldiers occupy a quarter of a major city, it can only mean one thing – the Olympics are here.

And when corporations are provided with a tax-free zone for the duration of the Games, you know that the shadowy International Olympic Committee is running the show. Tax exemptions were granted by UK tax authorities as part of a package of concessions demanded by the IOC. They apply to corporation and income tax for non-UK companies and individuals working on the Olympics between 30 March and 8 November this year.

The IOC’s charter states that their mission is “to promote Olympism throughout the world and to lead the Olympic movement” and “to oppose any political or commercial abuse of sport and athletes”. This is hypocrisy writ large from the owners of the Olympic rings logo.

London 2012 are the most commercialised Olympics of all time. From the organisation of the torch relay by three global corporations to the domination of the Olympic park by McDonalds et al, to the rule of Nike and Adidas on the track, it is one big profitable enterprise.

The promise of “regeneration” of East London, where some of the poorest communities in Britain live, was key to London winning the race for the Games in 2007. Local people are searching for the evidence.

Olympic Village housing has been sold to a Middle East-led consortium to be converted into luxury flats. Unemployment remains above the national average, with few jobs going to local people during the construction phase.

Civil liberties have gone out of the window in a self-declared Olympic Exclusion Zone. Protests are banned, encampments forbidden and activists barred from going anywhere near the Games. The area is an armed camp, complete with guided missiles, warships and fighter planes.

As for access to tickets for the events held in their midst, forget it. None were set aside for the local community who have endured years of disruption (national IOC officials, meanwhile, have been making money by selling their allocation on the black market). Ah, but the local community does have a massive new shopping centre which, symbolically, visitors to London 2012 events have to pass through to get to the Olympic park.

None of this of concern to the IOC, which holds the exclusive TV rights for the Olympics, selling them to the highest bidder. Eleven of the 2012 sponsors have paid the IOC $957 million, not only for international brand exposure over the course of the 19 days, but also for exclusivity in providing services and products.

They include the notorious Dow Chemicals, Visa, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Samsung and Panasonic. Then there’s Atos, the firm hired to reduce the number of people claiming disability benefits. Some 3,100 claimants had appeals upheld in May 2011, up from 900 in the same month in 2010, the latest figures show.

On average almost two in five, 38%, challenged decisions are overturned at tribunal, nearly one in 10 of all those made. Atos staff are threatening a strike over low pay during the Olympics.

These kinds of actions are considered unpatriotic by the government and the Labour “opposition”. Yesterday, both David Cameron and Ed Miliband condemned plans by Home Office and Border Agency staff to strike on the eve of the opening ceremony over pay and job losses. Nothing must be allowed to disrupt what is to all intents and purposes a massive, corporate, branding exercise. 

Fortunately, few people listen to the political elite any more. A protests was staged recently at a BP-backed Royal Shakespeare Company production against the oil corporation, which is  also an Olympic sponsor. And on July 28, the Counter-Olympics Network is planning to defy a ban and march through Bow. The march is taking place under the slogans “Whose Games? Whose City? No Limos! No Logos! No Launchers! Demonstrate Against the Corporate Olympics.”

Paul Feldman
Communications editor


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Interest rates at minus as 'perfect storm' looms

When you borrow money you pay interest to the lender. The rate you pay is the cost of borrowing and lenders derive their profits from it. At least, that’s the way it is supposed to work.

Not any longer. On July 5, the European Central Bank cut its deposit rate to zero. That means it stopped paying interest on money deposited with it.

As a consequence, six countries with economies for the moment at the edge of the economic storm now offer negative returns for government bonds maturing in two years or less: Germany, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Austria.

Investors in effect have to pay them to look after their money. It’s a kind of parking fee. Rather than receiving interest on the loan the investors are so desperate to find a home for their money as the crisis escalates, they are willing to pay for it to be stored. 

And as a further consequence, more than half of Europe’s money market funds investing in government bonds – so-called “securities” - have closed. Not only is there no money to be made, but, because the interest rates are negative, it means that the value of investments will fall.

Switzerland’s two-year bond yield is the lowest of the six, at minus 0.55%, while Austria’s comparable government bond yield edged down to a negative 0.01% on Tuesday.

This morning, Japan joined the stampede. The Bank of Japan scrapped the 0.1% lower limit on the rate it would pay for government bond purchases, opening its door to the possibility of buying debt with negative returns.

And in the US, policy makers “are looking for ways to address the weakness in the economy should more action be needed to promote a sustained recovery in the labour market,” said chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke yesterday, using typically guarded language to disguise the seriousness of the situation.

Over the past 60 years the world’s economy was transformed. Production expanded, the population ballooned, the flow of commodities pouring out of factories turned into a flood.

Big and small companies operating from within national boundaries and subject to the home countries regulations expanded beyond their borders, becoming the transnational and global corporations so powerful that their requirements – for more growth from which more profits could be siphoned - determined national policies.

Regulation on the movement of capital was removed to allow the expansion of credit needed to fund continuously expanding investment. The ballooning of the credit (and debt) industry spawned a generation of brilliant, creative, inventive young people discovering ever new ways to make money out of money.

The amount of interest-bearing credit extant in the world soared, to become ten then, 20, 60 times larger than the real, substantial things of value in the world, like food, clothing, cars, roads, factories, computers,

And the velocity of its movement around the world accelerated as the power of those computers and the carrying capacity of the networks that linked them spread worldwide.
All that came to an end when the ability of people to repay their debts reached its limit, triggering the 2007/8 financial meltdown.

With the bursting of the bubble, global expansion has turned into its opposite - global contraction. In reality, interest rates have been effectively negative for years since central banks reduced their policy rates to below inflation in the wake of the crash to try and encourage more borrowing.  

The technical term for this is “financial repression” and millions of people around the world have felt its effects in unemployment, lost home, pensions, soaring food prices, and increasingly brutal austerity programmes.

Negative interest rates are a sign of increasing desperation in global economic and financial circles. Leading economist Nouriel Roubine is convinced that 2013 will produce a “perfect storm” as a number of factors come together to derail the global economy. You can’t say we haven’t been warned. 

Gerry Gold
Economics editor

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Weapons of mass deception: that Bush-Blair transcript

A transcript of a crucial conversation between Tony Blair and George Bush just before the invasion of Iraq seems certain to be suppressed by the Coalition government, despite a ruling that it should be published.

But a leaked copy has made its way to our virtual office. Here’s is a transcript of the telephone conversation between the White House and Downing Street that took place on March 12, 2003, just a week before the invasion began:

GB: Hiya Tony. How’s it going with that pesky Parliament of yours? I thought you were a kinda president like me and didn’t have to do with all that democracy stuff. I hear some guys in your cabinet are even talking about something called international law when it comes to invading some other country like Iran, err Iraq.

TB: George, we’re nearly good to go. You know, we made our decision last year that Saddam had to go, come what may, no matter what the weapons inspectors reported, and I’m going to stand shoulder to shoulder with you on this one. Don’t worry about Parliament. The Tories love a good war and they’ll be voting with me. As for my cabinet, I’ve got it sorted.

GB: That French guy, what’s his name, Durac, BigMac, Chirac? I can’t remember.

TB: Jacques Chirac, Mr President.

GB: He’s sort of saying we need another resolution at the UN before we can go in and find them nukes and chemical weapons our boys say are out there somewhere in Iran. Then he says he’ll block it. So what the shit is he on about?

TB: George, don’t worry! We’ve had all the UN offices bugged for some time and he’s talking bullshit, err no offence George. Anyway, my legal team says we can do more or less what we want, you know, given the breaches of UN resolution Saddam is already guilty of. One guy was a bit iffy on the legality issue, but he’s since come round to my way of thinking and his advice is just what we wanted. Some in the cabinet questioned whether the weapons of mass destruction actually existed. So I got this guy in from intelligence to put the frighteners on them. So it’s sorted.

GB: That’s great Tone, Y’know, Don [Rumsfeld, defence secretary] was saying we didn’t need the Brits if push came to shove because all the firepower was ours. But I told him: “Don, I know that you think there are known knowns and there are known unknowns and that we don’t know what we don’t know. But these guys are our only allies. Let’s invite them to the show.”

TB: Great! Just one more thing, George.

GB: What’s that Tone?

TB: Can we leave Al Qaeda out of this one. I know you guys think that Saddam had a hand in 9.11 but not everyone is convinced. Why don’t we keep it to just WMDs?

GB: I can’t do that Tone. My people want justice for those who planned the attack on 9.11. They gotta be out there somewhere. We didn’t find them in Afghanistan so it seems like Iraq is the next place to look. W’dya think?

TB: If you say so, George.

GB: I gotta a great name for it: Operation Iraqi Freedom. Great, isn’t it?

TB: Wonderful, George.

GB: So when y’all ready?

TB: In a week, once I get it through Parliament we should just get on with it.

GB: What about a week today, March 19?

TB: That’s fine. History will show that when it mattered, we did the right thing.

GB: Too right, Tone. Too right. That’s it for now. Love to Cherie.

TB: Speak soon. Tell your boys I’m with them all the way.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Developers make war on London's green spaces

John Ruskin believed that “the measure of any great civilisation is in its towns and cities and the measure of a city’s greatness is to be found in the quality of its public spaces, its parks and squares”.

What the Victorian critic would have made about a state which feels so under siege from invisible “enemies” that sites anti-aircraft missiles in places essential for Londoners’ recreation like Blackheath, Shooters Hill and Oxleas Meadow is anyone’s guess.

But the “Dystopian Games” are not the only threat to the capital’s green areas. A hideous blight is creeping in through the back door under the name of “development”.  Corporate, commercial interests are riding roughshod over the clearly expressed desire of residents to preserve the integrity of their green spaces.

The recent decision by a High Court judge to grant permission for a £68 million development in Crystal Palace Park is a case in point. It confirms the worst fears of those who have campaigned hard and long against encroachment on the famous south London park.

Local residents’ long-standing objections to the “regeneration” scheme were overruled when the court backed community secretary Eric Pickles’ decision to grant outline planning permission for the London Development Agency-Bromley Council scheme.    

The fact that the area is designated Grade II* Registered, Metropolitan Open Land offered no protection in practice. The so-called masterplan includes the sale of public parkland for 180 private luxury apartments. No wonder that John Payne, chair of the Crystal Palace Community Association (CPCA), described the decision as “a threat to the future of all parks and open spaces in the UK”.  

The CPCA believes that references to “opportunities for investment” are an “ominous allusion to commercial development or inappropriate usage of a park that has always provided green open space for recreation, relaxation and other public enjoyment”.

In claiming local stakeholder support for its masterplan, Bromley totally ignored the 7,000-plus signature petition against housing in Crystal Palace park raised by the CPCA in just a few weeks

Payne sees the threat to the park as a “collusion between Bromley Council and the London Development Agency” and adds: “Both Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson [past and present mayors] reneged on their promises and made complete U-turns.”

Long established local groups like the CPCA, who have a deep knowledge of their communities, were totally ignored in favour of outside consultants. “We are the community and we are being worked against instead of with. What the public said made no difference at all to the masterplan, which was bitterly disappointing.

“Corporate financial interests have become the overriding drive, as we’ve seen in the banking scandal and the Olympics. It is a complete betrayal of our personal freedoms.

“As chair of the association I must be a-political, but in any case none of the parties at local and national level are to be trusted, as we’ve seen with the threat to close our library. I find it impossible to vote for any party.

“We are at the crossroads of capitalism – the crisis of capitalism and of democracy are interconnected. Capitalism’s dependence on growth is causing huge environmental issues. We live in very worrying times,” Payne believes.

The CPCA has applied for permission to appeal against the High Court decision. If the appeal process fails, they will have to consider their options and possibly take the case to the European Court.  

The citizens of south east London are in the frontline of the battle against the corporatocracy, in this instance spearheaded by Pickles, Johnson and Bromley Council. The formation of new democratic bodies such as people’s assemblies is vital if the ruthless drive to destroy public spaces is to be halted.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary

Friday, July 13, 2012

G4S - securing their world, not ours

Despite its inability to fulfil its London 2012 contract, the rise and rise of G4S is the story of the privatisation of the state and an increasing emphasis on “threats” and “security concerns” aimed at keeping people in thrall to authority.

G4S is no ordinary corporation. It operates in more than 125 countries and has 675,000 employees. Group turnover last year was £7.5 billion, mostly derived from state contracts around the world, with 30% of revenues coming from “developing markets”. Pre-tax profits were up 2.1% to £531m.

The self-styled “world's leading international security solutions group” has cashed in on the drive by the state to divest itself of more and more functions like prisons, crowd control and significant parts of the police service. As the company’s website declares: “In more ways than you might realise, G4S is securing your world.”

Of course, it’s not “our world” so much as their world – the rich, the bankers, the state, and the corporations that G4S helps to secure. And nowhere is “security” more on the state’s lips than in Israel, which continues to occupy Palestinian lands in defiance of countless UN resolutions.

As a sub-contractor of the Israeli occupation, G4S, according to the Palestinian grass roots movement Stop the Wall, is involved in human rights abuses and violations of international law. Through its subsidiary G4S Israel (Hashmira) it provides:

• equipment for Israeli-run checkpoints and terminals in the West Bank and Gaza, including luggage scanning machines and full body scanners
• security systems to the Israeli armoured corps base of Nachshonim
• (and operates) the entire security system of the Ktziot Prison, the central control room of the Megido Prison and security services to Damon prison where Palestinian political prisoners are held.
 • peripheral defence systems on the walls surrounding the Ofer prison, located in the West Bank, near the settlement of Givat Ze'ev.
 • security services to businesses in illegal settlements, including security equipment and personnel to shops and supermarkets in West Bank settlements. 

Palestinian prisoners are, of course, mostly tried in military courts while others are held in detention under laws dating from the British mandate. Many prisoners have taken to hunger strikes to force their plight into the public arena. G4S also transfers Palestinians to and from interrogation centres.  

Campaigners add: “Yet Israel continues to build new settlements and expands older settlements, stealing Palestinian land and resources. While G4S profits from ‘securing’ these illegal settlements, the IOF [Israeli Occupation Forces] restricts Palestinian movement and violently repress any dissent in the name of ‘security’.”

In Britain, over 700 complaints have been filed against G4S over the treatment of immigrant detainees, of which 130 were upheld. There have been 48 assault complaints. There has been particular criticism of the treatment of detainees held at Brook House immigration removal centre near Heathrow .

In 2010 it lost a Home Office forcible deportation contract after the death of an Angolan deportee, Jimmy Mubenga, while being restrained on a flight back to Angola. A report by the Commons home affairs committee condemned G4S over its treatment and said the number of complaints likely did not reflect the true number of cases of abuse.

In South Yorkshire, where G4S won a £30 million contract to take over asylum seekers housing, a sub-contractor has started evicting people and moving them into unsuitable accommodation miles away.

G4S is laughing all the way to the bank, however. Confidential Home Office documents seen by the Daily Telegraph show that fees paid to G4S for managing civilian security staff for the London Games have soared from £7.3 million to £60 million. The same company failed to recruit sufficient staff, leaving the government to call in the army.

It’s not just cost savings that have driven the capitalist state to “outsource” security to firms like G4S. The aim is also to shed responsibility for services like health, housing, pensions and education as far as possible, creating new markets for all sorts of companies. So where does that leave the present state’s legitimacy, its “right” to rule over us. The Olympic security farrago confirms that it is virtually non-existent.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sea bed mining new global gold rush

The last great redivision of the world. That’s how marine geologists are describing the stampede to mine the world’s sea beds for gold, silver, copper and cobalt, lead and zinc with unknown and unpredictable consequences.

It’s another environmental disaster in the making as countries and corporations alike join a modern gold rush, using new methods to exploit precious metals contained in rocky ore deposits called seafloor massive sulphides (SMS).

Located 1-2km under water, SMS deposits appear like giant rock formations about 200m long and wide, and tens of metres thick. The deposits contain high concentrations of the copper and gold, as well as zinc, lead, silver and sulphur.

Deposits are found in underwater volcanic areas around the world and are created by hydrothermal plumes known as “black smokers”. Purities of 10% and higher have been discovered, turning the obscure deposits into potential rich pickings.  

Last year, the Canadian-headquartered company Nautilus, won a 20-year lease to mine a rich deposit in the Bismarck Sea, in the south-western Pacific. The mounds are a mile down. The company says the site holds about 10 tons of gold and 125,000 tons of copper.

Signed by the government of Papua New Guinea, the licence is a desperate move to earn some revenue. A recent report “Out of our Depth”, produced by MiningWatch Canada, poured scorn on the claims that mining would do no damage. Drawn up with the support of the Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights in PNG, the report says that the licence was granted on a “superficial understanding of social and economic impacts”.

The PNG’s environmental approvals process, it added, “has failed to protect the health
of the marine environment, the livelihoods and well-being of coastal communities, and fisheries of national and regional economic importance.”

Seabed mining will also produce massive mine dumps or slimes. When exposed to aerobic surface conditions, mineral breakdown releases elements from their mineralogical bindings which may not be easily absorbed by unaccustomed ecosystems.

But what the hell: there’s gold in them thar sea beds and the shareholders don’t care.

So there are no impact studies on the potential poisoning of human and marine communities by the metals released into ocean. So what?

Precious metals are in short supply on land because the corporations have mined just about what there is. So the sea beds are the next big thing, using technologies developed by that other ruthless industry in the shape of the oil corporations.

Government-supported groups in China, Japan and South Korea are hunting for sulphides in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. And private companies like Odyssey have made hundreds of deep assessments and claims in the volcanic zones around Pacific island nations. Russia joined the high-seas rush in 2011, and France and South Korea in May.   

As environmentalists have pointed out, unlike conventional mines or fracking, deep-undersea drilling and mining is near impossible for independent sources to look into. Journalists, documentary makers or even regulatory agencies will not be able to monitor what is going on. The companies and governments involved will not be a rush to give us the whole picture, that’s for sure.

Georgy Cherkashov, a Russian marine geologist and president of the International Marine Minerals Society, said of the new minerals hunt: “It’s first come, first get”. The manoeuvring for the most promising sites, he added, represents “the last redivision of the world.” Great.

The depletion of natural resources that is driving the reckless exploration of sea beds is the reflection of an unsustainable, profit-driven production and consumption system. Not only has this led to a catastrophic economic disaster in the shape of a global capitalist recession, but has also weakened the ecosystem, leading to climate change.

The world needs to be redivided alright – removing the power and control of the 1% in favour of the majority as the first steps towards a sustainable production system driven by need that regard itself as part of nature and not its enemy.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Spain's economy heads for the buffers

Watching the minute-by-minute account of this morning’s speech by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy felt like looking over the shoulder of the driver of the locomotive with his hand hard down on the accelerator as the train heads for the buffers.

Rajoy was listing the new, more brutal round of measures to be dealt out to the Spanish people. These are needed to pay for an additional €30 billion handout for banks in yet another certain-to-fail measure to prevent the debt contagion from spreading.

Rajoy says the measures will slash a further €65bn from Spain's budget over the next two-and-a-half-years. Only four months ago the government announced €27bn of cuts for 2012 in what was labelled at the time as the "most austere" budget in Spain's history.

As he spoke, thousands of well wishers greeted hundreds of Asturian miners marching from the north into Madrid at the end of a three-week long, 300km protest against the consequences of the previous rounds of public spending cuts. Miners have been exchanging rocket fire with police as they try to stop the cuts in subsidies that will be certain to close pits throughout the region.

Unemployment in Spain is already at 24% - 50% amongst young people - and the International Labour Organisation is warning that the number of unemployed in the eurozone could rise from 17.5  million to 22 million in four years.

Now EU finance ministers insist that Spain slashes a further 2.7% off spending this year in order to rescue the banking system from complete collapse. So unemployment benefits will be cut by around 30%, VAT will rise by 3% to 21%. Local government spending will be cut by €3.5bn, and the number of local councillors reduced. Public sector workers will lose their end of year bonus. Central government budgets will be cut by €600m.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the members of the less than 1% who make up the global capitalist class watch anxiously as the US economy stumbles towards the abyss known as the “fiscal cliff”. 

This critical economic and political moment for the US is the result of an extraordinary accumulation and convergence of spending cuts and tax increases due at the start of next year which the Congressional Budget Office warns could tip the US into a “double-dip” recession.

The scheduled tax increases result from the expiration of tax cuts for the wealthy enacted during the Bush era from as early as 2001, and extended by Republicans in 2010. They were denying the revenue to the Obama administration needed to help reduce the government’s mounting deficit. Republicans are once again demanding further massive cuts to government spending programmes before they’ll consider agreeing to raise the $16.4tn borrowing threshold which will be reached this year.

Automatic spending cuts set up resolve the last political stalemate come into force on January 1 affecting both defence and domestic government programmes and agencies. These were triggered by the failure of a special bipartisan “super committee” of lawmakers set up to identify at least $1.2tn in deficit reduction over the next decade, or face an equal amount of forced reductions.

There is also a flurry of expiring tax cuts for businesses, the expiration of emergency jobless benefits, and reductions in the reimbursement rate for doctors participating in Medicare, the government health plan for senior citizens.

As events across the world show, the darkening clouds of the global capitalist contraction require that entire populations are targeted for the most savage measures. This is austerity as oppression on a grand scale.

Resistance is growing, while the political elites are more and more driven by events outside of their control. The challenge then is to generalise the struggles into a challenge for power itself in order to halt the catastrophic collapse that threatens the majority in every country.

Gerry Gold
Economics editor

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

When the House of Lords was sent packing

While the present Parliament wrestles with a half-baked attempt to turn the House of Lords into something resembling a democratic body, they could always reflect on the legislation introduced into the House of Commons in March 1649.

Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army had successfully concluded not one but two civil wars provoked by Charles 1, who had shut down the Commons and claimed divine powers to rule and raise money as he saw fit.

Among his allies were many members of the House of Lords, including leading clergy and nobility. The Lords had until then been more powerful than the Commons. By the end of the civil war, the balance of power had definitively shifted away from the landed aristocracy.

A new, emerging social class, driven more by wealth creation than the protection of inherited wealth, was in the ascendancy in political and economic terms. So a few  months after the king’s execution and the abolition of the monarchy, a revolutionary Act was passed that declared:

“The Commons of England assembled in Parliament, finding by too long experience that the House of Lords is useless and dangerous to the people of England to be continued, have thought fit to ordain and enact … that from henceforth the House of Lords in Parliament shall be and is hereby wholly abolished and taken away; and that the Lords shall not from henceforth meet or sit in the said House called the Lords' House, or in any other house or place whatsoever, as a House of Lords; nor shall sit, vote, advise, adjudge, or determine of any matter or thing whatsoever, as a House of Lords in Parliament.”

And that was that for the next 11 years. In 1660, following the death of Cromwell, a relatively toothless monarchy was restored along with the House of Lords. Conflict between the two Houses of Parliament has continued ever since, with the occasional constitutional crisis as in 1906 when the Lords defeated the Liberals’ radical budget. In 1911, the Commons deprived  the Lords of any say over financial matters in revenge. 

The present Bill to create a predominantly elected Lords, introduced yesterday by the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg as part of the Coalition agreement with the Tories, has predictably drawn the ire of right-wing MPs who want to preserve the essentially conservative nature of the second chamber.

But the Bill is something of a smokescreen despite its apparent democratic credentials because it does not even to begin to answer the fundamental crisis that is overwhelming the political system. This is highlighted in the latest, devastating Democratic Audit report into developments over the last decade.

The report warns that Britain's constitutional arrangements are "increasingly unstable", public faith in democratic institutions is "decaying" and that there has been an "unprecedented" growth in corporate power, which the study's authors warn "threatens to undermine some of the most basic principles of democratic decision-making".

In an interview, Stuart Wilks-Heeg, the report's lead author, warned: “How low would turnout have to be before we question whether it's really representative democracy at all?"  As to elections and their meaning, the report declares:

“Rather more difficult to measure, but just as fundamental, is our concern that broader changes in UK politics have served to reduce the scope of elections to give people control over governments and their policies. Democratic elections are rooted in the principle that 'everyone counts for one and none for more than one’ . Not only does the evidence presented … highlight doubts about whether the UK’s electoral system realises this in practice, but our broader analysis suggests that power in the political process increasingly resides with elites rather than with electors.”

These elites – the corporations, investment bankers, hedge funds, land owners etc – have not just the political class in their pockets but the institutions of the state too, as the financial crisis demonstrates repeatedly. Breaking their power by extending democracy into the workplace, school, university and throughout society is the precondition for real democratic change.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

Monday, July 09, 2012

Local museums 'easy targets' for cuts

The predicament facing public museums and galleries as a result of government cuts is rousing angry feelings, aimed at local MPs and the ConDem coalition alike.

Local museums especially have become “easy targets” says Mark Taylor, Museums Association director. A report for the MA, based on responses from 114 museums across the UK, found that 22% had reduced public access and 49% increased prices for school visits.

Many outreach programmes are grinding to a halt. At least 10 smaller museums have already shut down around the country. This year alone has seen the closure of the Malton Museum in Ryedale, the Museum of Nottingham Life and the Church Farmhouse museum in Hendon. Others like the Tolsen Museum in West Yorkshire will be closed for several days a week.

The political class is not much bothered by the destruction of cultural life at local level. For example, Withington LibDem MP John Leech says that Manchester’s famous art gallery should sell off some of its 12,500 “hidden gems” to offset the impact of cuts

In fact it would be illegal for the council to do this, but the strength of feeling over the issue is emblematic of the predicament faced by museums and galleries around the country. Enraged local people responded in kind on the Manchester Evening News website 

“The Dodger, Yorks Manc” poked fun at Leech as “a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. How much does he want for his Granny?”

Ray Media opined: “I wholeheartedly agree [with selling artworks].... I’m sure the city philanthropists who funded the collection would have wanted these works to be sold off so the council could squander the proceeds...”

Rob lee responded to “gangledorn of Bolton’s suggestion that “they will probably only be brought [sic] by the police....”, writing:

 “Yes, Greater Manchester Police are movers and shakers in the art market of course. They spent £100k on an art work for their new £64 mil headquarters in Newton Heath. £65k on a mural to hang in the staff entrance. It’s tough when your budgets are cut, but you have to get your priorities right. A few could be hung in the £1.2mil plus dog kennels that are being created for the 8 Border Force sniffer dogs at Manchester Airport. A bit of added luxury in their new pad.”

Probably the only positive thing that happened under New Labour’s rule was the abolition of museum charges in government-sponsored museums in January 2001. In pure numbers the success was astounding: visitor numbers shot up from seven to almost 18 million in ten years. Heritage Lottery Fund (aka public money) spending saw a golden era of arts venue building in culturally-deprived parts of the country such as Newcastle and Middlesbrough.

While admission charges for standing collections were abolished, arts institutions made up their loss of revenue in other ways. Special exhibitions are never free. Standard ticket prices for the Tate Modern’s Damien Hirst and the British Museum’s forthcoming Shakespeare shows are £14, for example.

The top venues claw back money by staging high profile blockbusters, but this is difficult if not impossible for more modest regional venues. That’s why the cuts aimed at smaller museums and galleries are proving so devastating.

But fear not, there is money out there for art and culture. When it comes to making a macho, business statement, like Anish Kapoor’s ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower for the London Olympics. London taxpayers have coughed up £3 million of the £22.7 million cost. And if you want to go up in the tower, that’ll be another £15 a head.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary

Friday, July 06, 2012

Democracy is more than a governance issue

The fanfare launch of a Manifesto for Global Democracy backed by significant thinkers ought to be a cause for celebration. Unfortunately, its content is so weak that at best it’s a missed opportunity and at worst a step backwards. 

Among the signatories are democracy expert and professor Daniele Archibugi, Noam Chomsky, the writer and journalist George Monbiot, globalisation expert Saskia Sassen and scientist and activist Vandana Shiva. They and others wrote and signed the manifesto.  

Much of the document states the obvious, though it’s none the worse for doing so. You can only nod in agreement when the manifesto says: “In spite of their many peculiarities, differences and limitations, the protests that are growing all over the world show an increasing discontent with the decision-making system, the existing forms of political representation and their lack of capacity for defending common goods. They express a demand for more and better democracy.”

It portrays the “emergence of regressive and destructive processes resulting from the economic and financial crisis, increased social inequalities, climate change and nuclear proliferation” and concludes: “Global crises require global solutions.”  

However, the assertion that the failure of national and international leaders to deal with global events shows merely that “existing forms of global governance are insufficient” is superficial and wrong. That’s because the 872-word document avoids, omits, ignores, rejects or sidesteps the nature of our current social system, aka capitalism.

You will find that term mentioned frequently in the Financial Times, even in parliament by leading politicians. But not in this manifesto. So we’re left clutching the air with talk of “governance” which, while certainly an issue, cannot be tackled separately from the main cause of a series of global crises.

As a result the call for “global solutions” is reduced and restricted to an appeal for a series of reforms to international agencies. These are intended to be carried out by the same discredited political elites who have played a crucial role in facilitating an uncontrolled, corporate-driven globalisation process that has led to a tipping point.

So the manifesto insists that “the existing national-state organisations (my emphasis) have to be part of a wider and much better coordinated structure” alongside democratic regional institutions and moves towards a future World Parliament. Yet increasing numbers of people view these existing structures as part of the problem and not the solution.

World leaders have not, as the manifesto claims, been “running behind global events” because of governance issues. They cannot tackle fundamental issues because the state systems they administer are tied inextricably to conserving and advancing the status quo of transnational capital. Of course, capitalism itself more and more resembles a nuclear power station in melt down mode.

Capitalist democracy, which was a step forward for the masses previously denied an electoral voice, is in crisis precisely because it has disenfranchised the majority. Increasingly, political institutions and parties are in practice part of a single giant corporation – UK PLC, for example. This is not democracy. It’s a corporatocracy.

As a result, the manifesto’s call for “a socio-political process open to all human beings, with the goal of a creating a participative global democracy” must inevitably fall on deaf ears. So will the demand for a “new paradigm of development which has to be sustainable on a global basis and which benefits the poorest of humanity”.

Achieving these worthwhile and essential goals will require much more than an appeal to existing political classes to join with ordinary people to succeed. Yes, we need a more advanced democracy, as the manifesto says.

But that cannot be separated from the extension of democracy in deeper ways through, for example, the transfer of ownership of corporations and banks into the hands of working people, consumers and local communities. Production for profit has to be replaced with co-operation and meeting need.

That will involve a transition from failed political-state structures that uphold the status quo through building initiatives like people’s assemblies. Our rulers have had their chance and blown it. It’s time to move history on, politically, socially and economically.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

Thursday, July 05, 2012

All that matters is matter itself

An historic day for science and our understanding of nature yesterday couldn’t fail to contrast with a bad day for democracy when after hours of meandering questions, MPs came no closer to understanding the truth about interest-rate rigging by a global bank. 

While it’s true that it took hundreds of scientists almost half a century to establish in practice a theory about the existence of a sub-atomic particle that gives matter mass, holding the universe together, they sought an altogether objective, deeper knowledge.

Members of the treasury select committee who questioned ex-Barclays chief Bob Diamond were, on the other hand, merely concerned with who did what, when, as if that was all that mattered. The inner processes at work, the logic of capitalist banking, understandably, never entered their minds.

Apparently conceived on a rainy weekend in 1964 by Edinburgh academic and atheist Professor Peter Higgs, the almost certain discovery of the boson was announced in the presence of  the 83-year-old at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) in Geneva.

Higgs has always despised the description “God particle”, which implies that it owes its existence to a supernatural deity. In fact, the virtual verification of the Higgs theory is much more like the "there is no God" particle.

In the wake of Darwin’s theory of evolution, the church was forced to retreat on the idea that a mysterious deity created the earth and all its contents in under a week. Dr Lee Rayfield scientist and the Bishop of Swindon had to take another step back yesterday.

He had to agree that the Higgs boson provided “crucial support that the prevailing scientific theory for the nature of the universe”. But then he claimed that it left “unanswered questions that science alone can never address". The unanswered questions are being answered one by one, however. 

And not by faith but by rigorous scientific investigation which leaves no room for divine intervention. As Richard Lewontin, the noted evolutionary biologist, put it:

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

If this result holds up, then the Cern team will have answered an absolutely central question as to why matter in and of itself has mass. That all matter, which includes humans, is in constant motion and transformation is verified by the discovery. The Higgs boson exists in relationship to other forms of matter, imparting a necessary force and substance.

With just one in two million chance of it being wrong, the breakthrough also demonstrates that what at first sight seems an unknowable, Kantian "thing in itself" becomes the knowable "thing for us" as a result of human interaction, experimentation and analysis.

New doors are opening. Some of the scientists are already saying that this particle has some unpredicted behaviours that may give insights into very poorly understood aspects of cosmology such as dark matter and dark energy

Professor Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, Britain’s academy of sciences noted: "The project at Cern is a testament to what can be achieved in science when countries come together and pool resources and brains. Today moves us a step closer to a fuller understanding of the very stuff of which the universe is made."

A parallel, rigorous scientific approach to our understanding the essence of another form of matter – capitalist society – is not only possible but necessary. While it is breaking down in front us, conscious human intervention is needed to transform society into a thing for us. Historical evolution needs a push in the right direction.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor