Saturday, October 1, 2022

Inflation: twentieth century scandal (1981)

From the October 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard
The cost of living is not rising—it is the value of money which is going down.
To understand this statement it is necessary to be clear about the origins and function of money. The first trading was undoubtedly in the form of barter, that is, an exchange of one kind of desired produce for another. The restrictive nature of this form of trading hardly needs explanation. The finding of someone who has a surplus of what you want and at the same time is in need of what you have to spare would be difficult enough even today. Moreover, the system of barter makes it almost impossible to exchange a large surplus of one commodity for a variety of different items for which the trader has a need.

The invention of the idea of “money” solved both these problems. Bushels of corn, for example, could now be exchanged for coins of a precious metal which could subsequently, and at convenient times, be exchanged for a variety of items such as clothing, tools and jewellery. The important thing to remember is that the metal used for the coins had an intrinsic value every bit as much as the corn, the clothing, the tools or the jewellery.

Gold and silver coins were early adopted as convenient units of value for exchange with other items of value. Gold in particular was suitable because it was durable, unaffected by time or ordinary chemical agents and so precious that large values were easily portable. Silver, of rather lower value per unit of weight, was adopted for the exchange of items of smaller value or in conjunction with gold to arrive at a more exact evaluation. The word “pound” originally meant a pound weight of silver.

Debasing the Coinage
The first requirement of “money” is that the recipient can be assured that the coins he is receiving in exchange for his goods are of a known weight and purity. This soon became the responsibility of the sovereign ruler of the country of origin of the coins—the king or emperor. Our word “sovereign” for gold coins is a reminder that they bore a relief of the monarch’s E head—his “seal of approval”. Coins were produced at the Royal Mint to a controlled weight and purity. A small amount of base (inferior) metal was normally used in the making of coins to produce a more durable alloy but from time to time monarchs abused their control over the money supply by increasing the proportion of base metal to their own advantage or to meet their debts. The most flagrant example of this came to light quite recently when Roman coins minted in the third century AD were discovered in a field in Lincolnshire [1]. Analysis of some of the coins revealed that their silver content varied from 18 per cent to rather less than one per cent. As recently as the reign of James I gold coins were debased from 11/12 pure gold to 8/12 in order to meet debts incurred by the exchequer [2].

For most of the 19th century the gold content of the "sovereign” was fixed by law at just over a quarter of an ounce and it should be noted that from 1815 to the beginning of the First World War prices remained more or less stable [3]. However, by that time there had been a further development: the general substitution of paper money for coins.

Paper Money
The idea of paper money really had its origin in the receipts or “notes of hand” given by goldsmiths as early as the 17th century to those who wished to deposit their gold with them for safe-keeping. These receipts came to be accepted as a means of payment and, when banks were formed, they too issued “notes” against the deposit of gold in their vaults. Such notes also had the advantage of being light compared with gold coins (gold is almost twice as heavy as lead) and for large sums this was a consideration.

The important thing to notice in this context is that these bank notes were readily “convertible” into gold coins on presentation at the bank. This was still the case when the issue of notes became a government monopoly along with coins— in this country by the Bank of England. The first such notes were for £5—the “fivers” which the modern reader may come across in the literature of the period. These bore the words: “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of five pounds”—that is, five gold sovereigns—and the signature of the Governor of the Bank of England. Later, £1 notes were also issued and for a time these also were fully convertible into gold. Then at the outbreak of the First World War convertibility was suspended, resumed in 1925, and abandoned during the depression of 1931 [4].

Released from the obligation to redeem notes for gold coins, the Bank of England could issue bank notes to meet the demands of the exchequer—well beyond the amounts collected in taxes. Printing money became an easy source of finance, not only in wartime but when in peacetime the call for increased public expenditure could not be resisted. This action on the part of successive governments was “currency inflation” and inevitably resulted in increases in prices.

Currency Inflation
By the operation of the market—if, for example, the number of pound notes in circulation is by this means doubled, the price of commodities will also be doubled. The pound notes will be worth only half their previous value so that twice as many will now be required to purchase the same good or services. This increase in prices docs not occur immediately; there is a time lag while the effect of currency inflation works its way through the system.

Other economic factors, such as trade depressions, poor harvests, import controls, monopolies and changes in the technology of production, can cause price fluctuations but these are minor compared with the effect of currency inflation in recent years. This was shown very clearly in a graph produced by the Treasury at the end of 1980 and published in the Daily Telegraph [5]. We reproduce it here. The solid line shows the annual increase in the money supply, that is, currency inflation. The broken line shows the annual percentage increase in prices.

It will be seen that major increases in the money supply in 1968, 1973 and 1978 were followed by increases in prices of the same order in 1971, 1975 and 1980. Below the graph we indicate the governments in office and responsible for currency inflation which was seldom below 5 per cent and topped a staggering 25 per cent in 1973. It should be noted also that the term “inflation” is these days used to describe increase in prices. This is quite incorrect and confuses the issue. In the writer’s dictionary the monetary definition of “inflation” is:
increase in the amount of money, especially paper money, in circulation leading to an increase in prices [6]. 
This mis-use of terms, whether intentional or not, opens the door to the suggestion that there are other causes for the major increase in prices in recent years—the most insidious being that of an increase in wages.

This reason for price increases was favourite with the last Labour government in spite of all evidence to the contrary. It is still being repeated in some quarters, most notably by leaders of the Confederation of British Industries. A recent report in The Times states that:
In informal talks with ministers, CBI leaders have underlined their strong belief that a tight rein on pay increases in the coming round (of pay negotiations) is vital if inflation is to be reduced to the single-figure target the Government has set . . . [7].
Inflation and Wages
It cannot be over-emphasised that increased wages do not cause a general increase in prices. There is no such thing as the “wages-prices spiral”. Nor is it a “chicken and egg situation” in which no-one knows which comes first. The sequence is quite clearly: currency inflation by the government-general increase in prices—demands for increased wages, as prices rise, and final wage settlements.

In an article headed “Prices and Taxes Rising Faster than Earnings” a contributor to The Times reports that:
Prices and tax stoppages are now rising faster than pay. Although the typical worker has seen his average earnings rise by about 14 per cent over the last year, he would have needed an increase of 15.7 per cent in order to maintain the real purchasing power of his pay packet [8].
This is based on the Government’s tax and price index published on May 22 1981. It hardly looks from this as if wages are pushing prices up. Again, the Treasury seems in no doubt about the sequence of events. In a recent study entitled The Role of Money in Determining Prices, the conclusion is:
Generally we could accept the strict monetarist proposition that a 1 per cent change in money would lead to a 1 per cent change in prices in the long run, with the main effect coming after a lag of between six quarters and three year [9].
If the reader still has any doubts as to the truth of the statement at the head of this article he has only to enquire about the present day value of a sovereign, or a quarter of an ounce of gold. He will find it is about £55. If our wages were today paid in sovereigns we would have no need to worry about the cost of living.

Why then Inflation?
The expenditure by governments in the industrially more advanced countries has reached colossal proportions. In the financial year 1979-1980 in this country, total “public spending” was little short of £80,000 million and rising [10]. Such expenditure was on defence, housing, education, health, social security and similar areas of government responsiblity.

When this country was on the gold standard the money had to be collected in the form of taxes of one kind or another—or borrowed. Borrowing normally only postponed the day of reckoning when the money plus interest would have to be found by increased taxation. Taxes are of two kinds; those related to income (direct taxation) and those unrelated to wealth (indirect taxation). Income tax is an example of the former and tax on beer an example of the latter.

Currency inflation opened up another source of finance. In the House of Commons recently Keith Joseph made the .matter quite clear:
The Government had to obtain the money it spends from taxing, borrowing or printing. There is no other source [11].
From a capitalist point of view the problem with increases in income tax is that they reduce profits. Even those taxes apparently paid by wage-workers are actually indirectly paid by their employers. In the last analysis, pay negotiations are based on “take-home pay”.

This is not to say that governments are unaware of the dangers inherent in currency inflation. Their hope has been that by this means the economy could be stimulated by the additional demand created by the increased money supply. The failure of this policy has led to what has become known as the “monetarist” school of thought by which the attempt is made to reduce the increase in the money supply by economies in public spending. But such economies can have no effect on the current trade recession— another dilemma which cannot be resolved within the economic framework of capitalism.
John Moore

[1] Daily Telegraph 24/6/1980
[2] Harmsworth Encyclopaedia
[3] Socialist Standard Feb. 1979
[4] Socialist Standard Mar. 1980
[5] Daily Telegraph 29/12/1980
[6] Universal Dictionary of the English Language 1932
[7] Times 12/6/1981
[8] Times 23/5/1981
[9] Times 29/6/1981
[10] Times 18/6/1981
[11] Times 27/1/1981

Artificial Scarcity (1981)

From the October 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

Food, like everything else under capitalism, is not produced for use. It is not produced to be eaten but to be sold, with a view to profit, on a market, a local market, a regional market and, increasingly, the world market.

When there is production for the market it is only market demand, not real need, that is satisfied and it is this that, in the context of food production, condemns millions of people in the world to go hungry or be badly fed and others to actually die of starvation. These people are malnourished, or die, not because it is technically impossible to produce enough food to feed the whole world’s population, but because the present world economic and social system capitalism-produces only to satisfy profitable market demand and not human needs. It is as simple as that. These people don’t starve to death; they are starved to death, by capitalism.

All scientists who have studied world food production potential are agreed that the world could, from a technical point of view, produce enough food to feed the present world population of 4,000 million, and more. We could quote pages and pages from scientists to this effect, but will confine ourselves to two who contributed to the September 1976 issue of the Scientific American on ‘Food and Agriculture’:
Considering only such natural factors (biology, soil and climate] one can say that with the present base of arable land, with a largely vegetarian diet based on yields that could be achieved with present knowledge and with a substantial amount of energy and human effort the world could support a human population of 50 billion or more (Robert S. Loomis, “billion” in the US sense, so 12 times the present world population).

The southern half of the Sudan is potentially one of the richest farming regions in the world, with the soil, sunlight and water resources to produce enormous quantities of food-as much, perhaps, as the entire world now produces! . . . If its glacial waters and rainfall were harnessed and its farmers better supported by modern off-farm services, the 40 million hectares of the Indus-Ganges-Brahmaputra plain of Pakistan, Bangladesh and India could be made to yield upward of 20 metric tons of cereal per hectare per year, or about 80 per cent of the world’s present cereal output (W. David Hooper).
So this point is not open to argument. The world can produce enough to feed all its present inhabitants and many more. The fact that at the moment it does not do so is to be placed at the door of the present world economic and social system.

But world capitalism, as a system of production for sale on a market with a view to profit, not only ignores needs that can’t be paid for, but it also distorts the pattern of world food production, as has been well-explained in Susan George’s How the Other Half Dies (Penguin).

The farmers in the so-called Third World have been increasingly drawn into producing for the world market (“cash crops”) at the expense of producing for themselves or for local markets (“food crops”). Everybody has heard of the banana republics of Central America, but scattered throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America are coffee republics, sugar republics, soya republics, cocoa republics states producing essentially a single crop for sale on the world market and who are thereby at the mercy of the purchaser of this crop, generally a multinational company.

Reactionaries denounce “multinational” companies for being multinational rather than national, but in fact they are inevitable under capitalism and a sign that it is already an international system and so ripe for the change-over to world socialism. A multi-national company has the same objective as any “national” company: to make profits and accumulate capital. If they support and encourage the distortion of world food production towards satisfying the market for processed foods in the industrialised parts of the world at the expense of producing food to satisfy the needs of the people of its agricultural parts, this is because the former is more profitable than the latter. In this they are behaving perfectly logically, given that we are living in a capitalist world. As George puts it:
The rub is that agribusiness and private banks cannot be expected to invest in anything that is not profitable—this is simply not the nature of the beast. This is where the question of the individual sincerity of industry leaders is answered: they themselves—even if they are corporations with the best will in the world—are not free agents. They must, under the logic of their system, market produce in countries that can best pay for it; they must get the best possible return on investment, which means either cheap labour and more amortisable machinery; they must control all the facts of food production and distribution for maximum profitability from field to supermarket shelf.
The countries of the Third World are caught in a vicious circle. In order to modernise themselves they must have funds to invest. How do they get these funds? By selling on the world market the crops that they are apparently best qualified to produce. This means forcing their peasants and farmers to stop producing to satisfy their own needs or local markets and turn to producing the cash crop in question. This in turn means that money has to be spent on importing fertilisers and food crops, paid for by the profits from the exports of the cash crops!

And, if the price of the cash crop on the world market falls? Then they do not have enough money to import enough food and the world hears about a “famine” somewhere caused by some “natural” disaster. The disaster, however, is really a social and economic disaster caused by capitalism. We have already seen how two areas which suffer most from famine—Bangladesh and the Sudan (a Sahel country)—could, under appropriate social and technical conditions, easily produce enough food to feed their populations. These famines, we repeat, are not natural but artificial in the sense that they could be avoided if we had a social system geared to satisfying needs rather than profitable sales.

Susan George is right: this is a crazy way to run the world. Her proposed solution, however, is very disappointing. She recommends Third World States to try to cut themselves off from the world market and concentrate on food production for internal consumption (as she imagines China and Vietnam tried to do for a while). But this can’t work precisely because, both from an economic and from a technological point of view, there already exists a world system. No one area of the world can isolate itself.

The only solution is a change of social system at world level, to one where the resources of the Earth, man-made and natural, would become the common heritage and be used purely and simply to satisfy human needs. In other words, the abolition of frontiers and Nation-States, the abolition of markets and production for profits, the abolition of banks and of companies, multi-national and national. Only on this basis can the technical potential to produce enough to adequately feed, clothe and shelter every single man, woman and child in the world realised.
Adam Buick

What law of breakdown? (2022)

Book Review from the October 2022 issue of the Socialist Standard

The End of Capitalism, The thought of Henryk Grossman By Ted Reese, Zero Books, 2022. Paperback, £13.99

‘Breakdown theory’ was a speciality in German-speaking Marxist circles. The revisionist Eduard Bernstein threw down the gauntlet in 1899 when he stated that capitalism would never break down of its own accord.

One of the first to take up the challenge and try to show that it would was Rosa Luxemburg. Another was Henryk Grossman. He agreed with Luxemburg that, if it couldn’t be demonstrated that capitalism would collapse, then the case for socialism would become just a moral one, but disagreed with her proposed solution. His argument, as set out in 1929 in his The Law of Accumulation and Breakdown of the Capitalist System, was that capitalism would collapse economically because eventually a point would be reached when not enough profits would be generated to keep capital accumulation going.

Grossman was born in 1881 in Kracow, now in Poland but then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He joined the local Social Democratic Party and was active in agitation amongst Yiddish-speaking workers. After the war he found himself in Poland where he joined the Communist Party but, facing persecution, had to leave in 1925. He emigrated to Germany where he took up a post with the Institute of Social Research (Frankfurt School) for whom his book on the collapse of capitalism was written. He was always a sympathiser of the Communist Party and the USSR, though as Reese shows by no means an uncritical one, and in 1949 moved from the US to East Germany where he died in 1950.

To demonstrate his theory about capitalism eventually reaching a point where there would not be enough profits to continue capital accumulation, he accepted the assumptions made by the Austrian Social Democrat, Otto Bauer, to refute Luxemburg. The most important were that the accumulation of what Marx called ‘constant capital’ (machines, factories, materials, etc) would increase at 10 percent a year but that the amount (mass) of surplus value would increase at only 5 percent. The rate of exploitation (the ratio of surplus value to capital invested in hiring wage-workers) was assumed to be constant.

On the basis of these assumptions he was able to demonstrate mathematically that after 35 years capitalism would collapse because it would not be able to maintain a 10 percent annual increase in constant capital. By then the rate of profit would have fallen below 10 percent, which meant the mass of profits generated was below the level required to increase capital invested in machinery, etc by 10 percent. He called this ‘over-accumulation’.

This conclusion was in fact built into the assumption that the amount of profits would increase at a slower rate than the amount of constant capital (the figures don’t matter as long as the increase in profits is slower). This meant that the rate of profit would gradually fall from year to year. This would not be a problem as long as the amount of profits was greater than the amount of constant capital required. But, as soon as the rate of profit fell below the rate of increase of the constant capital, the increase in the amount of profits would not be enough.

The question that arises is how realistic were the assumptions on which Grossman’s based his ‘law of breakdown’.

It is obvious that the rate at which capital can accumulate must depend on the mass of profits made since that is where the additional capital comes from. The argument seems to be that competition forces capitalist enterprises to introduce more efficient machinery so as to stay in the battle of competition and that this sets the pace of capital accumulation, a pace that could come to be greater than the amount of profits available for this. This could happen in theory but not for long. If it did happen this would provoke an economic crisis but not the collapse of capitalism.

In practice, productivity increases at a rate of around 2 percent a year. There is no reason to suppose that the amount of profits could not – and has not – increased at a similar rate, especially as the rate of exploitation does not remain constant but goes up over time. In any event, capitalism has not collapsed through there not being enough profits to continue accumulation.

Reese seems to think that ‘the absolute limit to the accumulation of capital’ has already been reached. The evidence he presents for this is mainly about world debt levels which have, in his view, become unsustainable and will soon lead to global hyperinflation. Grossman would have expected ‘absolute over-accumulation’ to result in steadily growing unemployment, but that is not happening today.

Despite this, Reese’s work is a basic introduction to the life and views of Grossman.
Adam Buick

Earth Notes (2022)

From the October 2022 issue of the Socialist Standard 

Dear diary

Things are getting worse between me and capitalism.

It says it loves me and wants to take care of me. But how many times have I heard that?

It’s time I faced up to the truth.

Capitalism doesn’t care about me, it only cares about making money.

I thought it was such a charmer, with its dazzle and glamour and can-do flair, but I was being fooled.

It’s a psychopath.

Whatever goes wrong is never its fault.

Whenever I protest, it tells me I’m imagining things, I don’t understand, I worry too much.

When I say there are other ways of living, it tells me I’m being delusional.

Whenever it hurts me it swears that it’s sorry, that it can change, that it will be better in future. But it never is.

I look terrible. I feel drained. I’m getting sicker all the time, but capitalism just feeds and feeds and won’t stop.

I’m terrified that one day it’ll kill me and then go and find some other planet to shack up with.

I really want a social system that’s the opposite of capitalism, one where there’s no buying and selling but only free sharing, one that treats me with real love and respect, one that tells me I’m beautiful and means it, one that knows how to take proper care of me instead of prostituting me to its billionaire friends, one that makes me feel safe and is fun to be around.

Dear diary, I know I can have that society, and I know I deserve it. I just need to find the courage to leave capitalism, before it’s too late.

For the Record (2022)

From the October 2022 issue of the Socialist Standard 

Here is what the new Prime Minister has promised her government will deliver:
‘I have a bold plan that will grow our economy and deliver higher wages, more security for families and world class public services’ (i paper, 3 September).
We record this so that it can be compared with what happens. Which, from past experience and a knowledge of how capitalism works, will be yet another failure to make capitalism work in the interest of the majority by delivering higher wages and world class public services. Wages and public services always take second place to profits as that’s the nature of the system. To those don’t believe us, we say wait and see.

Apparently, when she was younger she had other ideas. According to Private Eye (15 July):
‘Delegates who attended the 1993 Conference of the Liberal Democrat Youth & Students recall then-firebrand Truss arguing for, er, the abolition of money.’

50 Years Ago: The ABC of inflation (2022)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 2022 issue of the Socialist Standard 

All sorts of explanations have been offered for the abnormal rise of prices since 1939 as compared with the up-and-down movements of prices in the nineteenth century. Most of the so-called explanations take the form of blaming some group or other for being “greedy”; bankers, or manufacturers, or retailers or trade unionists. It is an explanation that a glance at certain facts will show to be nonsense. Did the copper companies reduce their prices by 40 per cent in 1971 because they had suddenly become less greedy? Between 1948 and 1968 prices rose by 100 per cent in Britain, but only by half that amount in America and Switzerland: are the British twice as greedy? In the nineteenth century did the whole population go through alternating phases of being more greedy and less greedy? Between the end of 1920 and the middle of 1933 prices fell by over 50 per cent. The fall was continuous for thirteen years. What had happened to greed?

The fact is that sellers always try to get as big a price as they can, “as much as the market will bear”, and if they can get more or are forced to take less it is because external circumstances over which they have little or no control determine that it shall be so.

Two popular beliefs are that prices go up because wages go up, or vice versa. It does not occur to those who hold one or the other view that wages are prices –the price the worker gets for the sale of his labour-power, his mental and physical energies, to the employer. So, properly stated, their two propositions become the single useless assertion that prices go up because prices go up.

If they re-stated it in the form that one group of prices (wages) go up because the other group of prices go up –or vice versa –they overlook the truth that both groups of prices go up because of common external factors which affect both of them, more or less to the same extent.

(Socialist Standard, October 1972)

Editorial: Neither monarchy nor republic but socialism (2022)

Editorial from the October 2022 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many UK people will have struggled last month to escape the stadium-volume hullabaloo as the superannuated CEO of The Firm finally hung up her tiara and departed from her pampered life of ‘devoted service’, triggering a long-prepared barrage of nauseating hagiographies, crocodile tears and posturing TV gravitas. At least workers got an extra bank holiday out of it, which helped put the fun back into ‘state funeral’. Meanwhile certain activists, as reported in the Guardian, were keeping a very low profile, for fear of being trolled, cancelled or petrol bombed for the political viewpoint that, for the time being anyway, dared not speak its name: republicanism, the quest for the abolition of the monarchy. And this despite membership applications for Republic getting a sudden big boost, amid breathless speculation that, while Madge’s invincible popularity had stomped good and hard on those pesky anti-royalist weeds, the ascension of the royal Plant Whisperer might have the opposite effect on grass-roots republicanism, and see it shoot up to new and historic Beanstalk heights.

Socialists have a strong aversion to doffing their caps to anyone, especially to someone who thinks they’re superior because their ancestors wore beads in their hair and stole all the common land. We have every sympathy for people who see the monarchy as an absurd and anachronistic feudal cult which fetishises the class system and should have stayed lopped off at the time of the first King Charles. Historians will scratch their heads and wonder how supposedly rational people thought a bejewelled dynastic blow-up doll had any place in an advanced and civilised society. The only problem is, this isn’t an advanced and civilised society, and abolishing the monarchy wouldn’t make it one either. It would merely result in the same capitalist system of brutal class exploitation with some other figurehead at the top, leaving the super-rich class of narcissistic yacht-fanciers entirely free to go about their business of laying waste to the planet.

The monarchy is about as relevant to the lives of working people as Cowes Week or the final rubbish season of Game of Thrones. It may be a relic from the feudal period, but so are umbrellas and Morris Dancing. We say, instead of spending your waking hours trying to get to where you already are, minus a bit of silly made-up ritual, better to devote time to the vastly more important task of promoting the idea that graces the cover and forms the theme of this special issue: what we mean by socialism. Because socialism is all about where humans can go in the future, once we’ve broken the armlock that the money and market system puts us all in. Would there be kings and queens in this socialist future? Absolutely, in historical re-enactments or period film sets, at fancy dress parties, in chess and on the decks of playing cards, and in fairy stories of long ago and far away.

Life and Times: Too many people? (2022)

The Life and Times column from the September 2022 issue of the Socialist Standard

There’s a Facebook group I’m a member of called ‘Moneyless Society’. Recently someone posted the following message: ‘We could sustainably feed, clothe and house the world five times over. Overpopulation arguments ignore the elephant in the room, which is unequal distribution and consumption of resources. The Earth can support billions but not billionaires’.

This statement, as per usual on social media sites, gave rise to many different and contrasting comments. Samuel Wascuteh, for example, disagreed: ‘The Earth cannot support billions of people living a first world lifestyle, including billionaires. I’d like to see the numbers on the sustainability claim’. Carly Morgan wrote: if every human went back to a hunter gatherer lifestyle, the Earth would still be stripped of its resources faster than they could be replenished’. Eric Fernandez’s reply to this was: ‘Based on what? What in the world are you talking about? Do you realize the entire human population of Earth can live in Texas?’ Derrick Seeto weighed in: ‘Most of our resources are renewable and recyclable. We need to stop using fossil fuel, that’s the only major problem. The second problem is waste, and making sure it’s recycled and gases recaptured. The third is at some point, livestock will have to be limited because of how much it limits food productivity. But none of this has to do with sheer numbers. Our food is solar powered. The limits are probably at least 100 times more people than we have now’. Dave Luxemburg seemed to agree but came at it from a different angle: ‘Population size has nothing to do with it, it’s unequal resource distribution that’s the problem’.

Population bomb?
These opinions probably reflect the kind of divergent views on this topic we find both in the media and among so-called experts. As far back as 1968 a book called The Population Bomb by Paul and Anne Ehrlich latched on to talk of ‘population explosion’ by predicting that the two decades to come would bring mass starvation due to overpopulation. That didn’t happen and doesn’t show signs of happening now, but it hasn’t put an end to widespread fear of things falling apart owing to there being too many people for available resources. That is illustrated in some of the social media posts above and also argued by such well-supported and ‘respectable’ organisations as ‘Population Matters’ (David Attenborough is one of its patrons).

The population has of course grown considerably since the Ehrlichs wrote their book. Then, over 50 years ago, it was close to 4 billion compared with 7.7 billion now. But growth has been slower than they predicted, and of course the development of technology has brought an increase of resources and production to help provide, at least in part, for the increase in the number of people. And most well-evidenced predictions now are that, in the years to come, population growth will be slower still owing to factors such as the spread of methods of birth control and increased education for and empowerment of women, the latter being the strongest determinant of falling birth rates. The United Nations’ forecast is that by 2100 humans will reach peak population of 10.9 billion, while a study from The Lancet last year suggested that global population will peak at 9.7 billion in the 2060s and be well below 9 billion by 2100.

Unequal access
But is the supply of goods and services nevertheless being outstripped by the growth of population, as Thomas Malthus, in his famous 1798 Essay on the Principle of Population, wrote would always happen? Will there always not be enough to go around? Is evidence of this that even today (according to a Food and Agriculture Organisation estimate) 9 percent of the global population is suffering extreme hunger with an estimated 11 people every minute dying from malnutrition? And is overpopulation the cause of this? Or is the ‘elephant in the room’ mentioned by one of the Facebook writers (i.e. ‘unequal distribution and consumption of resources’) the important factor here? In other words, is enough actually already available to feed, clothe and house the world perhaps many times over, but without there being equal access to it?

Many believable sources say that this is the case and that this needs to change. But can it change in a system where production and distribution take place with the aim of selling goods and services for profit on the market? All experience suggests that it cannot and that decent survival will always be limited to those who have the means to buy what is essential for them to live comfortably. The supermarkets may be groaning with goods, but we can only get them if we have money. It’s can’t pay, can’t have. This brings us back to Dave Luxemburg’s point that ‘population size has nothing to do with it, it’s unequal resource distribution that’s the problem’, a point emphasised in even stronger terms by another, so far unmentioned, contributor to that Facebook discussion. Thomas Fouquet St Clair states flatly, and perhaps somewhat despairingly: ‘The problem has never been overpopulation but in fact mismanagement of the Earth and its resources. I have said that forever, but now it seems that people are still brainwashed to see otherwise’.

Mismanagement and brainwashing
And this comment on ‘brainwashing’ seems to hit the nail on the head. People’s attention is easily diverted from the real problem – the way society is organised. The ‘overpopulation’ problem is really a misuse-of-resources problem. Capitalism, as a system of rationing via the market, is justified in people’s minds by a belief in scarcity and the idea that ‘there isn’t enough to go around’. Yet, whatever the future rate of population growth, what is abundantly clear is that, if resources were utilised rationally on the basis of production for use rather than profit in a properly democratic system of moneyless, wageless co-operation, everyone’s reasonable needs could be satisfied the world over.

So ‘overpopulation’ is just another distraction from the need to focus on the real problem – getting rid of the senseless, irrational system that builds in rationing of goods and everything else according to the money an individual happens to have in their pocket or their bank account. Socialist society will use the resources of the Earth to ensure that every man, woman and child is amply fed, clothed and sheltered. The current system of society – capitalism – cannot do this, quite simply because it does not exist for that purpose.
Howard Moss

Pathfinders: Growing up with Jordan Peterson (2022)

The Pathfinders Column from the September 2022 issue of the Socialist Standard

A darling of the ‘alt-light’ (that’s ‘alt-right’ without the swastikas) is clinical psychologist and self-help guru Jordan Peterson, whose YouTube videos and podcasts have been blowing up in recent years. To call him a divisive figure is an understatement. He is deplored and denigrated by some as a misogynist, even fascist ideologue bent on spreading hate. He is adored and promulgated by others as an articulate warrior against identity politics, post-modernism and ‘cultural Marxism’, popular if vague dog whistles that Peterson and his fans have no problem conflating into one toxic conspiracy bundle.

Not surprisingly, his grasp of Marxism is non-existent – Stalin and Mao killed millions, end of. He likes big ideas designed to shock, but without fussing over details. So he argues that order is male and chaos is female, and that chaos is currently winning. This has produced a ‘crisis of masculinity’ in which men are being turned into feminised weaklings who need to stop being man-children and grow the hell up. At the same time, women who want to get ahead in the world and stop playing second fiddle to men in terms of jobs and pay, should learn to overcome their built-in tendency to please and appease. The world is a hierarchy based on competence, not on discrimination, and the sooner you quit whingeing about how unfair it all is, the sooner you’ll start changing your life for the better.

His runaway success has come as a surprise to many who must have thought society had moved beyond caveman capitalism but who, it is argued, have ‘underestimated the fury being inspired by modern preoccupations like white privilege and cultural appropriation, and by the marginalization, shouting down or outright cancellation of other viewpoints in polite society’s institutions’ (

To all this, he offers a simple antidote, indeed alibi. Instead of having to fit in with your socially aware friends and pretend you care deeply about the hard lives of underprivileged foreigners you’re never going to meet, how much easier it is to say ‘Screw them if they can’t keep up’. Instead of going to the effort of listening to other perspectives and honestly evaluating criticisms of your own behaviour, what a relief to say ‘Go kiss a leper, loser’. Peterson absolves you of all guilt and concern for others. You never have to feel inadequate. You never have to empathise. You never have to doubt. Don’t ask, just take. That’s what real empowerment looks like, buddy. And what’s more, it’s the natural order of things, as explained by Science.

The problem his opponents frequently have is that they share, or at least don’t question, the assumptions that underpin his own worldview, so their attempts at criticism start off wide of the mark and stay there. Instead they pick away at him guerrilla-fashion, attempting to bury him in moral indignation or truculent fact-checking. It offends them to think he’s right, but they can’t see how to argue with him.

A socialist would see through Jordan Peterson in 10 seconds.

It’s the circularity of the argument. Suppose you find yourself in a savage kill-or-be-killed environment, and you’re unhappy about behaving in a savage kill-or-be-killed way. Your life coach tells you that your sub-optimal behaviour is the problem, and advises you to stop being such a pussy and get out there with guns blazing. He doesn’t ask or care why society is savage and kill-or-be-killed. He’s a psychologist, not some woke social justice warrior or cultural Marxist. If you suggest that the psychologist and his advice might be the very factors helping to perpetuate the savage kill-or-be-killed society which drove you to seek his advice in the first place, he will accuse you of refusing to take personal responsibility and tell you to grow the hell up.

If you have bought into the capitalist mindset, people like Peterson make a kind of terrifying sense, however uncomfortable that makes you feel. And if it makes sense today, it must have made sense yesterday, and for all previous days. Thus the circularity appears timeless. This is probably why he permits himself to justify human hierarchies by pointing, not to some historical event or near genetic cousin, but of all things, to lobsters. Lobsters, he says, are tyrannical hierarchs, and because we share some lobster genes inherited from our remote past, we are surely programmed to act the same way.

But you could apply this argument to anything. On this logic, all men should be rapists because, well, just look at ducks. For infanticide, see lions. For cannibalism, check out chimpanzees, hamsters and even hippos. But lobsters? No ‘proof’ can elude someone who is willing to go back so far along the evolutionary chain they’re no longer in the same genus, family, order, class or phylum. The term ‘logical fallacy’ barely does justice to this kind of thinking.

Jordan Peterson’s worldview is essentially a snapshot of the world right now, made to look immortal and unchanging. He doesn’t care that it’s ahistorical and if anything untypical of human behaviour in deep time, as many anthropologists would be at pains to point out. Indeed he dismisses anthropologists as being infected by the disease of postmodernist cultural Marxism, as indeed are the faculties of sociology, English literature, and ethnic, race and women’s studies, all of which, like the equally infected and spurious science of global warming, should be defunded immediately in his view.

Like any snake-oil salesman, he doesn’t consider the downstream consequences of the Randian product he is pushing. With the profit-driven frenzy of capitalism already burning the Earth and causing the sixth mass extinction of species, he is quite happy to advise emulating the same behaviour, in order to cash in on gullible people who think their failure is somehow because they weren’t ruthless enough.

On the plus side, Jordan Peterson does admit that his popularity is mainly on YouTube and that the YouTube audience is 80 percent young males. Once these young men have had a dose of trying to behave like the callous psychopaths he advises them to be, and finding that it makes them lonely rather than rich, they will perhaps start listening to wiser counsel. But we can’t wait that long. We need them to realise, right now, that capitalism is a gigantic and destructive social problem to which the only possible solution is gigantic and constructive social cooperation. That’s what growing up really means.
Paddy Shannon

Reformism prolongs capitalism (2022)

From the September 2022 issue of the Socialist Standard

With the threat of spiralling prices, wage decreases and fuel poverty looming the promises of the Left that capitalism could be reformed to fulfil the needs of working people look baseless, empty and downright duplicitous. Add to that the seeming relentless atavistic need of the USA to provoke World War Three and we can see that the world hardly differs from that of 100 years ago when the ‘Labour Movement’ promised us that we didn’t need a socialist revolution because they would preside over some miraculous political and economic transformation of capitalism.

The splintering of the world into little tribal nation states and their continual bickering over borders has inhibited the desperate need for a united response to global warming. Having survived a global pandemic we now find that we owe the parasite class billions for their ‘generosity’ in lending us the wealth that we created which, with rising interest rates, will take us all a lifetime to repay. Where, in all this chaos, is the evidence that reformism is anything but an empty promise?

Laughably the ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been pontificating on what should be done – you remember him, don’t you? The champion of ‘New Labour’s Third Way’ who boasted that he’d personally done away with capitalism’s cycle of boom and bust; asking him for economic advice is like asking his partner in crime Tony Blair for advice on international diplomacy. The inevitable accumulation of more and more wealth into the hands of fewer and fewer individuals has produced a world of increasing political instability and economic polarity and poverty.

The initial failures of leftist regimes either in terms of the ‘centralised’ economic planning of state capitalism or by the Keynesian manipulation of taxes and the money supply led to the rise of ‘monetarism’ and neo-conservatism which was, in reality, just a repackaged version of the ancient ‘lazier-fair’ ideology of letting the markets rip to destroy anything that was inhibiting the accumulation of capital in the hands of the parasite class. That too has failed because by selling off the utilities to companies whose only motivation was creating profits for share owners the quality, safety and value of this sector have declined drastically. Britain now boasts the highest prices for the poorest public services, the highest price for fuel and a continuing investment crisis in the NHS together with lower standards, poorer working conditions, ever rising bankruptcies and higher levels of depression and bad general health. No doubt the cry will go up to re-nationalise the utilities and infrastructure only to have us begin the whole depressing and impotent cycle all over again.

And who were the geniuses who decided to put trade sanctions on Russia without a plan B when they inevitably retaliated in kind? Only the governments of the EU, the USA, Japan and Australasia supported sanctions while the rest of the world (85 percent of the global population) did not. It was pointless and only hurt the already faltering economies of Western Europe after two years of the pandemic.

The Trots will be loving this – their prediction of capitalism’s collapse probably seems imminent. But what we know for sure is that whatever replaces the current system it will not be socialism, unless that is what people want and organise for. History teaches us that, without this, the crises of capitalism unleash the monsters of authoritarianism and destruction that characterise extreme leftist or right-wing capitalist governments. Without majority socialist consciousness we are condemned to make the same mistakes of the 20th century again and again until either a nuclear holocaust engulfs us or global warming destroys our species.

Who is to blame for this dire situation? Unequivocally we can say that the abandoning of the socialist revolution by the left, firstly in their support for prosecuting the First World War (by the Second International in Germany), and then by their subsequent endorsement of the horrific Bolshevik regime in Russia was of enormous influence in the working class rejection of socialism.

Then, the blind faith that, despite all the evidence, capitalism can be reformed to serve the interests of the majority has brought us to this precipice. For many people it is politics itself that has failed. The continual diet of ideological promises from the left and right that come to nothing cannot help but create cynicism and apathy. Looking to career politicians to change things for the better is rather like the making of wishes whilst blowing out the candles of your birthday cake as a child. If you really want change you will have to make it. Don’t continue to passively consume the ‘news’, go out and make ‘the news’.

So is this a counsel of total despair? Socialists have been saying this for over a century as capitalism’s crises continually erupt and then subside. Will this one turn out to be the same with the massive collateral damage only affecting the majority whilst the rich just go sailing on? Perhaps, but is it wise to continually risk, with the stakes getting ever higher, leaving our fate in the hands of ideologically-driven careerists?

. . . But what about the wage-price spiral? (2022)

From the September 2022 issue of the Socialist Standard

In nearly every media interview in recent months, RMT Secretary-General Mick Lynch has had to field a question about the dreaded ‘wage-price spiral’. The argument, usually presented as a self-evident fact, is that raising the wages of workers to keep pace with rising prices will only drive prices higher, prolonging the agony for consumers.

Lynch has countered the argument effectively by pointing out that rising prices have occurred despite stagnant real wages and long predates his and other unions’ industrial actions. He thus exposes the absurdity of blaming workers for prices increases. The culprits he identifies are obscenely profitable companies that use tax havens to resist income redistribution. Here his argument gets a bit fuzzy, as he does not explain exactly how high profits drive up prices. But Lynch does make an important point by emphasizing that a pay rise for workers could be taken out of those profits, rather than employers attempting to increase prices. In this way he points to the central point which this article will attempt to explain: wages and profit are in an antagonistic relation, where the gains on one side come at the expense of the other. Thus, a rise in wages – or (contra the ‘Lynchian’ view) in profit – does not necessarily result in higher commodity prices.

The commentators bleating about a wage-price spiral, in contrast, take it for granted that the burden on companies of paying higher wages to workers would have to be offset by higher prices. The argument seems not only plausible but common-sensical, and the counter-arguments made by Lynch and others, despite raising important points and being rhetorically effective, fall short of exposing its shaky foundation.

At the basis of the spiral argument is the assumption that commodity prices are the sum of wages, profit, and the means of production, so that if any one of those parts increase in price, the overall commodity price must increase. Again, this seems plausible enough. But more than two centuries ago David Ricardo refuted this sort of value theory by demonstrating how wages and profit are not the component parts of commodity price but the distributed parts of the already existing commodity value. This view is based on the idea that the value of a commodity is fundamentally determined by the amount of labour-time needed to produce it. Here we have a labour theory of value – as pioneered by Smith, purified by Ricardo, and perfected by Marx.

The only way to grasp the counter-intuitive idea that wages are the distributed (rather than component) parts of value is to scrutinize the surprisingly deceptive wage and profit forms, which are usually taken for granted.

The deceptive wage and profit forms
Wages at first glance seem to be payment for labour performed. After all, wages are paid by the hour, week, or month, etc. But if wages are payment for labour, how can we account for the differences in the wages paid for identical types of labour between different places? Car workers in Vietnam, for instance, receive a far lower wage than their counterparts in Germany who are performing similar if not identical tasks. If the hourly wage is determined by the nature of labour itself, why do wages vary to such a degree?

Actually, everyone reading this knows why wages in a developing country like Vietnam are lower than in a developed country like Germany. Those differences correspond to the difference in the cost of living, which reflects the prices for food, clothing, housing, transportation, etc. And similar differences exist within a given country between urban and rural areas – or even between different cities. These obvious facts suggest that what fundamentally determines the level of a wage for a given job is not the labour itself but the value of the commodities a worker must consume to continue living and working. A wage must be sufficient to ‘reproduce’ that capacity to work.

Marx uses the term ‘labour power’ to refer to this capacity that is bought and sold as a sort of commodity on the labour market. Like other commodities, the value of labour power comes down to the labour time needed to produce it, but this is determined indirectly through the socially necessary labour time needed to produce the commodities and services a worker consumes to continue working (and raise a family). The wage is payment for this labour-power commodity. Thus, any rise in the prices of the commodities and services consumed by workers will need to be reflected in a higher wage if they are to avoid a deterioration in the quality of their lives and their capacity to labour.

There are of course significant differences between the wages paid to workers who perform different types of labour. An airline pilot or surgeon, for example, receives much more than a shop assistant or waiter. But these differences can also be explained from the perspective of labour power, since averaged into its daily value are the educational and training costs that were necessary to acquire certain work-related skills and expertise. In other words, although such wage differences appear to be determined by the labour itself, they are in fact a reflection of differences in the value of labour power.

Understanding that ‘labour power’ and ‘labour’ are two separate concepts is the key to understanding the source of profit. A capitalist can make a profit when the labour time that workers expend in the production process to create new commodities exceeds the labour time that was necessary to produce the commodities (etc.) they consume. For example, if the commodities consumed by a worker required four hours of labour time to produce, but the worker labours for eight hours in the production process, the capitalist who hired that worker is receiving four hours of labour time for free. The fact that profit comes down to ‘unpaid labour’ seems counter-intuitive because the wage, calculated on an hourly basis, conceals that exploitation, making it seem as if it is equivalent to eight hours of labour.

If profit stems from the labour time expended in the production process exceeding the labour embodied in the commodities consumed by workers, this means that any increase in the wage to purchase labour power will reduce the amount of unpaid labour pocketed by the capitalist (assuming that labour productivity and other conditions remains unchanged). For example, if wages were increased to the point where they allowed the consumption of commodities that had required five hours of labour time to produce instead of four, the capitalist would only receive three hours of unpaid labour.

It might seem that the capitalist in this case could simply raise the price of the new commodities produced so as to continue siphoning off four hours – and that is indeed the assumption of the spiral argument. But those commodities would continue to require the same amount of labour time to produce and thus have the same intrinsic value as before. Any capitalist who decided to raise the prices of a commodity considerably higher than its value would risk being undersold by rivals, particularly those who had increased the intensity of labour or kept wages in check. Capitalists would not be howling about the price-wage spiral in the first place if wage rises could be so easily offset by higher prices.

Commodities sold at their ‘production price’
The labour theory of value provides the most fundamental refutation of the wage-price spiral, but that theory is at a high level of abstraction and does not directly explain the actual prices of commodities. That is, even though the labour time needed to produce a commodity basically determines its value, commodities are not exchanged at prices that are precisely in line with their value. Due to the averaging of the rate of profit across all sectors of the economy, commodities tend to sell at their cost of production (c + v) + average profit (p), what Marx called their ‘production price’.

So it is necessary to consider what, if any, effect an increase in wages would have on actual prices.

This point can best be understood by considering a numerical example, such as the following where the rate of profit is 33.33 percent (c = constant capital ie, machinery, tools, raw materials etc. v = variable capital ie, wages. p = profit).

Sector A: 9,000c + 3,000v + 4,000p = 16,000
Sector B: 3,000c + 3,000v + 2,000p = 8,000

The intensity of labour is different in each sector, reflecting differences in production conditions. The two sectors represent different conditions of production, each with a different intensity of labour. Sector A is less labour-intensive, since three times more capital is invested in constant capital (c) to purchase the means of production than is invested in variable capital (v) to purchase labour power. In contrast, for the more labour-intensive Sector B, the capital invested is equally divided between constant and variable capital.

The ‘law of value’ is still operating – albeit now in an indirect way – since the average rate of profit is premised on the amount of surplus value that exists, and total value equals total production price, just as total surplus value equals total profit. (The connection between value and production price, clarified by Marx, is something that eluded Smith and Ricardo – the former often slipped back into a composition theory of value, while the latter tried to directly apply his labour theory of value to explain prices.)

Effect of wage rise on production prices
Based on the concept of production price, it is now possible to consider more closely what effect a wage increase to counter inflation would have on prices. An increase in wages by 20 percent, for example, would reduce the rate of profit. Variable capital would increase in each sector from 3,000 to 3,600 (totalling 7,200) while total profits would shrink proportionally from 6,000 to 4,800.

On this basis, the average rate of profit would fall from 33.33 percent to 25 percent, as the result of dividing the total surplus value by the sum of the total variable and constant capital:

4,800p ÷ (12,000c + 7,200v) × 100 = 25%.

At the new average rate of profit of 25%, the actual profit for Sector A would fall to 3,150, and for B, 1,650. This would be the basis for new production prices:

Sector A: 9,000c + 3,600v + 3,150p = 15,750
Sector B: 3,000c + 3,600v + 1,650p = 8,250

As a result of the wage increase, the production price for Sector A thus decreases from 16,000 to 15,750, while the production price for Sector B increases from 8,000 to 8,250. (However, the combined production price of both sectors remains equal to value, at 24,000.)

Recall that Sector B was the more labour-intensive sector, where production price was lower than value, while the opposite was the case in Sector A. This example thus shows that in production sectors with a relatively high proportion of variable capital, such as Sector B, a wage increase may increase prices, but it would tend to decrease prices in the less labour-intensive sectors.

The fact that prices would go up in some sectors and down in others should already call into question the nightmare scenario of a wage-price spiral. But to give the spiral argument the greatest benefit of the doubt, we could assume that the majority of the goods consumed by workers are produced in Sector B, where the production price rises after the wage increase.

The higher prices of goods in Sector B would counteract the wage increase (to counter inflation) somewhat. But the unlikelihood of this leading to spiralling inflation should be clear if we consider the difference in scale between the 20 percent wage increase and the increase of production price in Sector B. In our example, wages (variable capital) rose from 6,000 to 7,200 (by 20 percent), whereas the production price only rose by about 3 percent, from 8,000 to 8,250. Moreover, considering that at least some goods for workers would be produced in Sector A, where the production price fell, the possibility of an inflationary death spiral seems even less likely.

However, a rise in wages would further increase demand for commodities consumed by workers, so it is probable that the market price of such goods would rise above production price. Such a price rise, however, would simply be the result of temporary disequilibrium between supply and demand, only lasting as long as supply and demand were out of balance.

In short, the price-wage spiral (presented as a self-evident fact) is just a self-serving argument wielded by the capitalist class to defend their ill-gotten profits.
Michael Schauerte

Material World: A forlorn and forgotten nation (2022)

The Material World Column from the September 2022 issue of the Socialist Standard

Once described as the ‘Pearl of the Caribbean’ and known as being the world’s first black ex-slave republic, Haiti is now the poorest country in the western hemisphere. According to the World Bank , in 2020 Haiti had a GDP per capita of US$2,925, the lowest in the Latin American and Caribbean region, less than a fifth of the average of US$15,092.

Nearly half of the 11.4m population is food insecure including 1.3 million who are facing the UN’s level 4 classification. Level 5 is the worst level of hunger classification – famine. Resources for humanitarian aid are running out in Haiti and the World Food Program is already facing a shortage of at least US$39 million in funding for Haiti operations.

The country is also enduring political instability following the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse compounded by a devastating earthquake that followed in August.

News media in 2021 showed US Border Patrol guards on horseback whipping Haitians desperate to enter the United States via Mexico and many migrants and asylum seekers have been flown back to Haiti despite having nothing to return to. At the time, it led to the resignation of a senior career diplomat, Daniel Foote, who was the US special envoy for Haiti, in protest over the deportations which he described as ‘inhumane’.

It is a policy that has persisted. The USA in the first seven months of this year forcefully repatriated more than 20,000 Haitians compared to 19,629 for all of 2021, according to statistics from the United Nations’ International Office for Migration.

The numbers of people desperate to flee by attempting the dangerous sea journey to the United States have increased significantly and many have drowned. The US Coast Guard’s website notes that migrants intercepted at sea can be returned to their country of origin ‘without the costly processes required if they had successfully entered the United States.’

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, herself of Haitian origin, said recently, ’I’ve known this president for a very long time. This is very personal to him. He cares about the people…’ (

One as young as she may not be blamed for not knowing that back in 1994 when Biden was a senator, he said, ‘If Haiti just quietly sunk into the Caribbean or rose up 300 feet, it wouldn’t matter a whole lot in terms of our interest.’

Gang warfare between rival factions, mainly the G9, G-Pèp and the 400 Mawozo in Cité Soleil, an impoverished and densely crowded shanty-town of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, has left many people dead. Outside the urban areas Kokorat San Ras control the highways, extorting and ransoming trucks and buses with impunity, forcing aid agencies to rely on expensive air transport for their supplies.

At least 155 kidnappings took place in the month of June, compared to 118 in May, according to a report released by the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights. Families have no alternative but to remain trapped inside their homes, unable to go and fetch food or water.

According to the UN, between 8 and 17 July 2022, over 471 people were killed, injured or unaccounted for. Around 3,000 people have also fled their homes, including hundreds of unaccompanied children, while at least 140 houses have been destroyed or burnt down.

Mumuza Muhindo, head of the local Doctors Without Borders, said, ‘It’s a real battlefield. It’s impossible to estimate how many people have been killed’ (

Restricted access to basic health, nutrition and water and sanitation services as a result of escalating violence, coupled with soaring food prices, inflation and food insecurity in Cité Soleil, leave one in five children suffering from acute malnutrition, and one in 20 children living in Cité Soleil at risk of dying.

‘We cannot sit idly by and watch children suffer from malnutrition and its complications,’ said Bruno Maes, UNICEF Haiti Representative (

But that is exactly what is happening.

Haiti’s ruling class are indifferent and do not have a sense of belonging to Haiti, says Leslie Voltaire, a prominent Haitian. ‘They don’t care, because it’s not their country, they have houses in Santo Domingo, Miami, every weekend they go to Miami to buy their things and come back’ (Link).

Some small good news is that the UN Security Council belatedly voted to ban the sale of small arms and ammunition to what it calls ‘non-state actors’ in Haiti.