Archives for: "September 2005"

Feeds and advertising

I'm a huge fan of web feeds, I'm using RSS at the moment which is a great tool, it syncs to Outlook, unlike something like RSSBandit which includes a web browser, I'd have to pop up a new window to actually view the content - that's kind of annoying. Of course ideally the feed will contain all of the content - then I can just read the whole lot within Outlook. The BBC annoys me the most, they send down a clip of the feed and force me to click on a URL and open a web browser to read it, they're not a commercial site they're not losing any ad revenue so there's no excuse not to send the whole thing down. For commercial sites it's obviously a different story.

Now I have full feeds for all the blogs here, the actual semi-commercial-ish sites I have send down partial content and force the user to go look at the web page. I'm considering beefing it up to the whole article being sent down. However that would cut into the money coming in from the adverts on the webpage. I'm a huge believer it not irritating your users to hell with pop-up ads and things that flash and move around (what Bill Hill would call a priority-zero interrupt in the human perception system), nothing is worse then trying to read a page and having all this crap fly around on the screen. Which is why I only have plain text adverts.

The RSS world at the moment is, let's face it full of geeks, the kind of people that probably never click on an advert, and go to huge lengths blocking all the annoying ones. So I'm debating to open the feeds up and send everything down now, worry about the revenue loss later, when the feeds become more mainstream, and then possibly include adverts within the feeds, but the trouble with that is if the adverts didn't work, if I changed my mind at a later date and wanted to go back to a clip of the article, there would be a lot of annoyed people.

Don't know what to do.... Hmmm!

Astrology - more ammo

Well Wester doesn't seem to want to budge.

Wow, what a heap of anti-fanboy science desperate crap.

Well if that's his counter argument may be I've already won.

Bad Astronomy has a very good article up on astrology, way better then mine.

I'll quote some sections to further reinforce the one I write last night, I covered a lot of the actual science behind it, but only had a paragraph on things they actually predict and say regardless.

Still having doubts? My friend and master skeptic James Randi performs a wonderful demo of how easily people are fooled by astrology. He went into a classroom, posing as an astrologer, and cast horoscopes for all the students. He had them read and rate the accuracy, and they almost overwhelmingly rated the horoscopes as accurate. The kicker? He had them pass around the horoscopes, and the students saw that every horoscope was exactly the same. It was worded vaguely enough that nearly everyone in the room thought they were being well-described. The horoscopes were so vague they matched nearly everyone, and so their predictive power was meaningless. It was all in the students' heads.

Everybody rates the same piece of text accurate for them!

So as I showed above, there cannot be an effect on us by any "astrological force", no matter how we assume it acts. No matter what, the evidence contradicts such a claim. Also, many astrological claims, even apparently accurate ones, may be nothing more than sleight-of-hand. But still, that does not mean all astrology is wrong. Is there anything that really shows astrology is bunk? Yes, there is.

In the spirit of giving the astrologers more rope, so to speak, let's assume that despite all the scientific evidence against such a thing, there really is an effect on us by the planets. If it exists, it must be measurable, and for astrologers to be able to use it to cast horoscopes, their claims must be consistent. After all, if a force cannot be measured, it cannot have an effect on us, and if astrologers say such a force exists, then all their claims must be based on that force, and should be consistent with each other.

Surprise! Astrologers' claims are not consistent. They're not even internally consistent.

I could show you nearly endless examples of how, say, Sun-sign astrology horoscopes (the kind you see in your newspaper) are completely inconsistent with each other. I could even talk about an astronomical term called precession, which shows that Sun-sign astrology is rubbish anyway. I won't bother, because in the end I think all that stuff is distraction; astrologers will always come up with some lame excuse about how their claims are still correct, when that other astrologer's claim is nonsense (of course, the other guy says that too).

So let's cut to it: astrologers claim they get results that are consistent. There have been studies, tests, experiments, all sorts of things to check this claim. The bottom line is, their claims are wrong.

How do I know? Because I read a wonderful paper, a very thoroughly researched, well-documented, and referenced paper, which shows precisely where astrology fails all its tests. This paper is titled Is Astrology Relevant to Consciousness and Psi?", and was written by Geoffrey Dean, a long-time astrology researcher, and Ivan Kelly, a professor of Educational Psychology and Special Education at the University of Saskatchewan.

Good point I completely forgot last night. If they base their claims are any force, then all astrologers claims would be consistant, go get two of todays newspapers and read the horoscopes they're completely different!

Anyway I highly recommend that article it's really good.

Astrology not only wrong, its lunacy of the worst kind

It was bound to happen, a simple mix-up between astronomy (the science) and astrology (the rubbish) on the forums.

Here's science coming to demolish absolutely any claims that astrology predicts things accurately, or has any other "magical" links to human beings.

I'll focus on the star-sign stuff as that's what Wester was on about in his post on the forums.

Astrologers claim the other planets effect our daily lives here on the Earth, depending on where they were when we were born, and where they are in the present day.

There is only one force that planets could really use against us, that's gravity. The trouble with this is the effect the planets have on us is tiny, it's really really really tiny.

There are three bodies that really push some serious gravitational weight, that's the Earth itself - you don't see us being pulled off and walking on another planet, the gravitational force the Earth pulls on us is huge it's massive it's 1G, it's thousands and thousands of times what even the Moon pulls on us, the Moon has the huge effect on us too, and obviously so does the Sun. The gravitational effect from other planets is millions and millions of times smaller, it's basically just absolutely washed out, it's like being at a concert with the music up full and somebody on the other side of the building trying to whisper to you.

If gravity was the force behind astrology (a lot of astrologers claim it is!) then the Moon would be the most significant body (other then the Earth) by a million-fold, the force the Moon puts on the Earth is huge, it pulls our entire oceans up and down every day, it's massive. The Moon would be the single most important object for an astrologer.

But it's not. Instead all the planets seem to have an equal effect on us. Hmm well that definitely can't be gravity, Jupiter probably pulls on us a billion times more then little Pluto, so even on their planetary things, things certainly aren't equal.

So we know it can't be gravity.

Some astrologers claim there's an unknown mysterious force at work. To fit in with the way they calculate their horoscopes it would need to give all planets equal effect on us, it would also need to be totally undetectable accept by the astrologers.

Problem, if you give all the planets equal effect on us then you'd have to count the estimated one billion asteroids and other planetoids in the solar-system too, after all they're just like planets too, accept smaller, and some are even bigger then Pluto, then of course they'd have to know about the millions of unknown ones too! Then to get really hardcore they'd have to count all the planets in the entire universe. After all if Pluto pulls as much weight as Jupiter despite being way way further away distance and mass obviously doesn't seem to matter at all.

An un-calculable task, as the astrologers don't know where the trillions and trillions of planets outside our solar system are. Yet if we believe that they understand this force, then surely they could predict where the planets are? After all we managed to predict where about 250 planets (and more to coming by the day!) outside our solar system are by their gravitational effect on their parent stars.

But they can't, one astrologer was even quoted as saying if the newly discovered object in our solar system dubbed Sedna was classified by astronomers as a planet he would include it in his horoscopes! Hmmm well firstly surely he must of known about this "planet" before it was discovered by his horoscopes being slightly wrong, secondly I'm sure this magic "force" that these objects cast on us really don't care if we decide to call it a planet or not. Imagine if we decided to de-classify Pluto as a planet, that would really confuse them all!

So we know gravity can't have this effect on us, and we know their "magic" force that nobody can detect, can't have this effect on us, or else by their own logic, they'd have to count ever object in the universe, known or unknown.

Huge flaw #2, if you need even more gaping holes in their nonsense.

There are 12 constellations of the zodiac according to the astrologers; Leo, Aries, Libra etc etc etc. The zodiac are the constellations the Sun appears to travel through as we orbit it, the astrologers assume there are 12, now there were about 2000 years ago, but due to the Earth's wobble as it goes around the Sun it's now shifted and it passes through 13 constellations, yes 13, also due to the wobble things have moved forward a bit, so if you're not getting good results from your horoscopes, try reading the star-sign ahead of yours - that's actually yours, for those who are actually born when the Sun is in Ophiuchus, well I'm afraid they don't include your "star-sign".

The following shows the real dates the Sun is actually in the constellations of the zodiac:

Capricornus - January 19th to February 15th.
Aquarius - February 16th to March 11th.
Pisces - March 12th to April 18th.
Aries - April 19th to May 13th.
Taurus - May 14th to June 19th.
Gemini - June 20th to July 20th.
Cancer - July 21th to August 9th.
Leo - August 10th to September 15th.
Virgo - September 16th to October 30th.
Libra - October 31st to November 22nd
Scorpius - November 23rd to November 29th.
Ophiuchus - November 30th to December 17th.
Sagittarius - December 18th to January 18th.

Compare that to your local horoscope, they're off by several weeks and are missing a constellation! So even if all the stuff about some mysterious force is actually real (which it's not!) then all of their dates are way off anyway!

How do they seem to get a high hit rate? Two things, 1) humans will remember hits and forget misses overtime, 2) they say extremely broad things, like "you will solve a problem today". They never say anything specific like you solved that problem of the washing machine rattling. Most days we probably all solve several problems!

Conclusion: it's all nonsense.

The astrophotography fund

We had a few cool space discussions lately on the forums.


I've been interested in space and stuff since forever, I'll have to ask my mum if she can remember what got me started on it, but I remember spending whole evenings drawing the planets and things when I was about 4.

I got a telescope when I was about 10, it was that cheap 60mm Tasco refractor - the type every science book and astronomer tells you do not buy. I knew that I went ahead and asked for it anyway, we had a good set of binoculars too 10x50mm, so I felt I had a nice range of instruments before being required to spend mega money. The obvious goal with the telescope were planets.

I got the telescope for Christmas, it was cloudy for a good few weeks which was really annoying as Saturn was racing toward the horizon with each passing day, by January it had cleared up, Saturn would be so low that I'd need to start hunting for it in early twilight. Within 20 minutes I had found it. It totally blew me away, I remember thinking it looked just like the double-star symbol in sky maps (a circle with a line through it).

Over the next couple of years I saw the bands across Jupiter, the phases of Venus lots of stuff on the Moon, and I even spotted the Andromeda galaxy through it. I tried hopelessly for M13 and several other objects. However that piece of crap telescope had kept my interest going, until I was older and had access to more cash.

I also independently discovered M45 with the binoculars! A bit late, but not bad going for an 11 year old. 8-)

By the age of 14 I brought a tripod for the camera we had here and I had started experimenting. The first image I took was of Venus (or may be the Moon?) was in early 1996, I believe I then got my TAL 2M (which is what I have now) later then year or early next (it was definitely after Hyakutake). Then of course Hale-Bopp came around in 1997.

By 1999ish things had fizzled out, getting up at like 7 in the morning for work had drained my abilities for staying up all night. I still get the telescope out for things now, but it's pretty rare. It'll be going out the next clear night for Mars however.

My astronomy site is still up and running, and I do still get a quite a few questions from people. I still go out now and then, the Persieds this year were great.

Just the other day I was thinking, why not restart the astrophotography side up again - I'm up all night anyway now, cameras are much better and digital has taken over, I'd need a lot of cash for a new camera, then I'd probably need some filters to help deal with the light pollution, I had enough problems with orange pictures 8 years ago, let alone nowadays. But why not.

Anyway - the forums, interesting how they went. Djdamondo and Nick ended up donating $10 each to the fund, even when there wasn't a fund, wow thanks guys. So here I am announcing the official start of the get me a new camera fund, here's where you can donate! The camera I'm after is either the Canon 300D, 350D or 20D. The 20D is the best out of the lot, but it's also the most expensive, eeep.

I've been looking at setting up a gallery for some of my old photos, but have still not got around to doing it, some are up on the forums, some are on the blog. Hopefully that's something I'll get sorted at some point in the not to distant future.

HD-DVD and Blu-ray fanboys

Was just reading over at AnandTech, one of my favourite sites, they were posting about the recent news in regard to Microsoft, Intel and HD-DVD.

Read some of the comments there.

Is it just me or does offering the same content in two levels of definition seem worthless? Given the choice of two, of course you are going with HD.

Are you brain dead? It means people can buy the Hybrid HD-DVD discs today, while not having a HD-DVD player. When the time comes they actually buy an HD-DVD player all the DVDs they've brought over the years will be in high definition!

What's the alternative, buy normal DVD now, buy HD-DVD player later and have to re-buy all the films to get HD? Right.

[Hybrid discs] can be done with Blu-Ray as well, so I'm not sure why I keep hearing this argument.

No it can't. If you actually bothered to read the specifications you'd see that Blu-ray discs are thicker. They won't even fit in most DVD players, they're so thick to try and save a bit of money they reduced the protective coating, that on all other 12cm discs have been 0.6mm to only 0.1mm.

What? Since when does HD-DVD have more capacity than Blu-Ray?

See buying into Sony's hype, despite all the stuff about Blu-ray being 50GB or a billionGB or whatever they're saying now. The fact is it'll launch at 25GB because that's the base capacity. HD-DVD being far more mature in the process launches with 30GB discs.

I've never read about this before. How long will it take to copy an entire HD DVD to my hard drive? And - more importantly - why is it required?

It's not required to play it. The format is required to be freely copyable to a hard drive (unlike Blu-ray, which has more copy-protection then probably every single device over the whole course of the last century put together). I don't know about you, but all my DVDs are images stored on my server, I only crack the actual DVDs out when I need to watch something on the Xbox for example. Having them all on my server means I can easily watch films where ever I am in the house, on any of my PCs (even the ones without disc drives). Having the format guarantee to allow this is great!

Update! Just seen this great post on there, I'll copy the whole things, thanks OddTSi

Frankly I can't believe that any of you are supporting Blu-Ray. Have you not heard that the Blu-Ray standard will force your STANDALONE DVD player to be connected to the internet (so that it can check the Sony server) whenever you want to play a Blu-Ray DVD. Keep in mind, this would not just be for your BD-ROM drive on your computer, but for your standalone player that you have under your TV as well. This doesn't seem ridiculous to you?

That's not even focusing on the fact that it's just another attempt by Sony to create a proprietary media format (ala Betamax, Hi-8, Digital-8, Mini-Disc, Memory Stick, Mini-MV, SACD, and I'm sure I've missed a couple) and the fact that the main reason Sony recovered from the consumer backlash to their requirement of a cartridge for the Blu-Ray discs was the promise that the discs would be released with a newly invented coating which would allow it to be protected without the cartridge but that AFAIK these magical discs have only been seen in prototype form so we're just supposed to take Sony's word for it that if they win the war they won't say "whoops, the coating didn't work as well as we thought it would, you'll have to use the cartridge afterall."

This is exactly the reason that the DVD Forum was created to prevent exactly this sort of scenario and it worked perfectly with the original DVDs. But then greedy companies saw the huge market potential in all things DVD so Sony joined with Philips to create the +RW alliance just so they could keep all the profits to themselves which significantly slowed mass market acceptance of recordable DVDs. Now they're doing the same with Blu-Ray. Why did Sony ever even join the DVD Forum if they didn't intend on sticking by it? And why the hell are there people still stupid enough to fall for Sony's tricks each time they try to release a new media format? I refused to support +RW and I refuse to support Blu-Ray simply because they are formats that are specifically created to COUNTER attempts to create a universally accepted format and to leave 1 or 2 companies in pure dominance of a multi-billion dollar market while screwing over the consumer with a crappy product.

iPod Nano, impossible small - impossibly fragile

Now I've heard a lot of people talking about how fragile the new iPod Nano is since it came out, the original iPod could scratch quite easily but it had a very solid feel to it too.

The iPod Nano has been out for a while, and we've got lots of experiences floating around on the internet, it seems it's in whole new league, you can scratch it with your finger nail, just keeping it in your pocket with nothing else for a few hours will make it look like it's been attacked by sandpaper.

It's not even solid like the other iPods, with the screen actually cracking wide open in some cases after just hours.

Here's a great website that people have been sending their thoughts and photos to! Hopefully they can reverse the current trend of Apple saying it's the "user's fault" and either help people get their money back, or get a Nano that doesn't fall to bits.

Cylons are people too

Back on Caprica before the attack, and sometimes I forget there was a world before the attack, I knew someone, a woman, unlike any other woman I'd ever known. She was unique, beautiful, clever, intensely sensual when she wasn't in my bed, she was in my thoughts. She was a Cylon, and she changed my life in a very real, very fundamental way. In that I have quite literary never stopped thinking about her, because I love her, to this very day I love her, and she looks exactly like you.

My name is Gaius Balter and I'm here to help you.

BRILLIANT. I can't wait until January!

Time to close the forums?

Forums have a good spot, then they tend to go down hill unless the moderators run it like a police-state - which tends to make it go down hill only slower.

The Portal Forums are on the decline, there's a lot more people, most of them alright but there's a bunch of people who just insist on getting into flame wars, those that every other post seems to be criticism of someone's post which just adds to the problem, temporary bannings tend to do nothing, I'd ban outright, but sometimes they contribute to the boards in a sensible fashion.

May be it's just time to shut the boards down, they themselves have no revenue stream at all, and are heaviest on the server. Hmmm.

Communism = democracy

I was having a little chat with Roodis today, for some reason the prospect of voting in our managers came about, and he snapped back saying something along the lines of "but you're a communist you don't like the idea of voting".

Jeez where to start with something like that?

I suppose I could sum up what the immediate aim of the communist revolution with the democractisation of the economy, that would be a good way to phrase it.

I'll fill in with some background history first. Modern bourgeois (capitalist) society emerged from the backwardness of feudalism with the gathering wealth and power of the then middle classes, mostly traders and the like (for a more detailed account of the historic circumstances of the bourgeoisie see the Manefesto of the Communist Party), during the colonial expansion they built up huge amounts of wealth, eventually causing massive conflict with the then ruling class, typically the monarchies. The classic example being the French Revolution, although England was the first country to have the bourgeoisie establish themselves as the ruling class, the monarchy survived, but lost it's powers.

The rising power of the bourgeoisie, fueled by the African slave trade and then the industrial revolution smashed all other classes into what we refer to as the proletariat, the class which has no ownership of the means of production and who's only ability to live is to work for the bourgeoisie.

This was a stark difference to feudal times, when people would often own their own tools, the rising of the bourgeoisie caused this productive property to become useless next to their industrial bases. People were gradually forced off the land, and into the factories, toiling for 16 hour days.

By about 1900 in all Western countries, traces of the old feudal classes were gone and we were left with a situation of two completely polarised classes existing in society.

The class who owns all productive property, like factories, shops, etc everything the human race needs to exist were in the hands of the bourgeoisie, the capitalists. The other class, the workers, the proletariat, owned none of this property and had to work for the capitalists in order to survive.

All well and good you say? Well yes, I suppose so, the bourgeoisie were an extremely revolutionary class at the time. But in the early 1800s many socialists had been discovering the exploitation that is inherent to the system, this was easy to spot thanks to the industrial revolution.

Capitalists brought in these new machines to produce more goods faster and faster, yet the workers saw no benefit from this, they were still in factories for 16 hours a day receiving a wage just enough to keep them coming back the next day.

Karl Marx was the first person to draw up a scientific theory on this, the Labour Theory of Value, which described the process of how the workers were being exploited, and where profits come from (something that even baffled Adam Smith). Profits are the unpaid wages that the capitalist never bothered to pay the workers. The workers produce more and more goods, but the capitalist pockets the surplus regardless.

Karl Marx outlined a number of key points on how bourgeois society would evolve, capital would concentrate into fewer and fewer hands, bigger companies would consume smaller ones, and push their former owners into the proletariat. Describes the world just like today doesn't it? On the news today I saw small businesses up in arms over the increasing power of Tesco. Marx predicted all of this 160 years ago. That's not all he predicted, how about globalisation? Yup he predicated that too. Capitalism doesn't care about nations, it just cares about getting the cheapest labour, if it means going to a child sweatshop in Thailand to manufacture, that's where it goes. Outsourcing, another thing he predicated!

Lower wages = higher profits.

This is the titanic never-ending struggle between workers and capitalists, the fundamental breaking point that no other society in the world has had before. Two polarised classes with utterly different objectives.

So what's the communist revolution about? What's it do and how?

The communist revolution would be the resolution of the profit-wage battle. The capitalists have a huge soft-spot - they're absolutely not needed for human society to produce, evolve or function. They themselves typically do nothing labour-intensive, they hire workers to manage their businesses on the nitty-gritty level.

The communist revolution is the overthrow of this parasitic class, it's the seizure of all of their productive property and putting it under control of the workers. I spoke just recently about the TUC and the Venezuelan revolution, that's workers power in action, that's factories being managed democratically, by electing their own managers, the workers controlling every aspect of production.

Marx called this the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, the rule of society by all working people (instead of the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie).

Rosa Luxemburg (The Russian Revolution - Democracy and Dictatorship):

This dictatorship consists in the manner of applying democracy, not in its elimination, but in energetic, resolute attacks upon the well-entrenched rights and economic relationships of bourgeois society, without which a socialist transformation cannot be accomplished. This dictatorship must be the work of the class and not of a little leading minority in the name of the class — that is, it must proceed step by step out of the active participation of the masses; it must be under their direct influence, subjected to the control of complete public activity; it must arise out of the growing political training of the mass of the people.

V. I. Lenin (The State and Revolution - The Economic Basis of the Withering Away of the State):

The dictatorship of the proletariat [...] with an immense expansion of democracy, which for the first time becomes democracy for the poor, democracy for the people, and not democracy for the money-bags.

What Lenin outlined from the experience of the 1871 Paris Commune, the first workers' government in history. There are four main conditions:

1) All public officials to be elected and with the right to recall (that is that they can be changed immediately when they longer represent the interests of those who elected them).

2) No public official to receive a wage higher than that of a skilled worker. Marx said that "social being determines consciousness", in other words the way you live determine the way you think. One of the main causes for reformism amongst labour movement leaders is precisely the inflated salaries they receive as members of the government, or even trade union top officials. They therefore think that capitalism is "not so bad" after all.

3) No standing army, but general arming of the people.

4) Over a period of time everyone would participate in the tasks of running the economy and the state.

So what happened with the Russian Revolution then? (From

Even a superficial analysis of these conditions will immediately lead us to the conclusion that none of them applied in the old Soviet Union. But why? In the first years of the Revolution, Lenin and the other leaders of the revolution struggled to establish what was probably the most democratic regime which has ever existed. The soviets (workers' and peasants' councils) were running the state and the economy and everyone was allowed to participate in them. All political parties were allowed to participate in soviet elections and debates and put forward their ideas. It is a little known fact that the first Soviet government was in fact a coalition between the Bolshevik party and the Left Social Revolutionaries.

Within the Communist Party there was the widest of democracies. During the discussion of the Brest-Litovsk peace agreement with Germany there were at least three different fractions within the Communist Party with different opinions. One of them, the Left Communists, headed by Bukharin, even published for a while a daily paper, "The Communist", opposing Lenin's position on the issue, (imagine members of the Labour Party publishing a newspaper attacking Blair, they'd be kicked out instantly)! So, how could such a democratic regime become a dictatorship?

Lenin, in State and Revolution also deals with the questions of the economic preconditions for the establishment of socialism. The democratic planning of the economy can only be established if you have the economic and material basis to produce plenty for all. As soon as there is scarcity of the basic goods, inevitably, there must be someone to control in an authoritarian way, the distribution of these scarce goods. In short, in Russia in 1917 the material conditions for socialism did not exist.

So why did the Bolsheviks organize the revolution in Russia then? Their perspective was never building socialism in Russia in isolation. They saw the Russian revolution as the beginning of the European revolution. They thought that the taking of power by the workers in Russia would lead to a wave of revolutionary struggle all over Europe. Workers' power in Europe would provide the material means for a fast development of backward Russia. And in fact, the Russian revolution opened the way for a massive revolutionary wave in Europe. There was the 1918-19 German revolution with the Munich Soviet Republic, the Slovakian Soviet Republic, the Hungarian Soviet Republic, the Spanish revolutionary general strike, factory occupations in Italy and in general mass movements of the working class all over the continent. But unfortunately, all these revolutions were stamped out by military intervention.

The were various reasons for these defeats, but to summarize it, the labour movement was still very much under the influence of the social democratic reformist leaders, and the Communists had not had time to organize properly and made a number of fatal mistakes in this period. So, in this way, the Russian revolution became isolated in a backward, mainly peasant country, ruined by the First World War. If that was not enough, immediately they were sucked into a vicious civil war, in which the counter-revolution with the support of 21 foreign armies (including Great Britain, France, the United States and Poland amoung others) of intervention tried to overthrow the young soviet republic, at one point the entire country apart from Moscow and Saint Petersburg were under control of the imperialists.

Finally the Red Army won the civil war but at a very high cost. Not only the economy was completely destroyed and the masses were starving, but also the cream of the cream of revolutionary communist cadres had been killed over these difficult years. One of the preconditions for workers' democracy is precisely a general shortening of the working week, in order to allow all working people time enough to raise their level of education and to participate in politics and the running of society. In Russia we actually had a longer working week and very bad conditions in general. Participation in the soviets slowly dropped and a layer of officials started to emerge which slowly started to push the normal workers out of politics and discourage participation.

One of the first to warn against the danger of bureaucratization was actually Lenin in his last writings, which were suppressed by Stalin for many years. But even under these extremely difficult conditions it was not easy for the Stalinist bureaucracy to firmly establish a grip on power. There was a very big opposition in the ranks and the leadership of the Communist Party. In fact, the bureaucracy had to physically eliminate most of the party in order to succeed. If you take the Central Committee of the party in 1917, the revolutionary leaders who carried out the October revolution, by 1940 there was only one survivor apart from Stalin. Most of the others had been shot dead by Stalin, died in prisons and labour camps, some were missing and a few had died of old age. Thousands of honest and loyal Communists were killed or died in the concentration camps. The person who waged the most comprehensive opposition against the rise of bureaucracy was Trotsky, who with Lenin had led the October Revolution and later organized the Red Army.

Once the Stalinist monstrosity had taken control of the Soviet Union, it's fate was sealed, it had two options before it 1) the workers overthrow the bureaucracy and bring the economy under their control, or 2) the bureaucracy seeing the workers moving against them plunder the state of all it's property and become capitalists. The workers failed to react in time, the planned economy was destroyed almost overnight, the anarchism of the market was now in place sending hundreds of millions of workers in the Soviet Union into total poverty, the economy shrank nearly 70%.

The communist revolution results in democracy. It takes the means of mental production out of the hands of the capitalists and put's it into the people asa whole, what's the point in voting if you can only choose between a few capitalists? What's the point if you can't recall them if they're not doing what you want? How can you get a balanced viewpoint when all the the media obviously is owned by capitalists? In the US the mass-media is controlled by just 5 companies.

If you read the first constitution of the RSFSR, it guarantees to workers all the tools they need to produce media themselves, print-presses the lot, imagine how flexible this can be with tools we have today like the internet? The productive base of bourgeois society now is mind-blowing compared to back then, especially compared with the Russia of 1917, a country comparable to Pakistan, what we could achieve would be really phenomenal. I mean just think about it, going from the backward country that it was in 1917, to world super power in just two and a half decades. It took Britain about twenty five decades! Why? Despite the imperialists and Stalinists wiping out any hope of socialism, they had gotten rid of the parasitic capitalists, no longer was the economy based on the anarchy of the market, it was based - loosely on the needs of society as a whole.

TUC expresses its unconditional solidarity for the Venezuelan Revolution

The TUC (Trade Union Congress) voted unanimously in the revolution's support making it the first trade union confederation in Europe to give support to the Venezuelan Revolution and the National Union of Workers (UNT), the new Venezuelan trade union confederation, formed after the CTV bureaucracy betrayed the Venezuelan working people in 2002, during the attempted overthrow of the socialist government.

Trade Union Congress

Things have really been going quite nicely for the last 5 or so years. Nationalisation and co-management has brought many companies under workers' control, with more coming under control every month, and things are really booming with growth in double figures.

Alcides Rivero, who works here as a maintenance electrician, says co-management means that for the first time in this company's 37 years of existence, the workforce has control.

"It's us, the workers", he says, "who decide on questions of production and technology, and it's us who elect who will be our managers."

Marivit Lopez, from the personnel department, explains that the workers are also drawing up a "participatory budget" for 2006.

"The different departmental workers' councils are discussing and amending the existing proposal so that we get a budget that really fits the company's needs," she says.

Of course there is much work to be done, the revolution needs to spread to other countries before it is isolated and suffocated by the imperialists, they failed in 2002, but they'll be back. The state needs to become more open, they've had 7 elections in 5 years, but Lenin's basic principles of socialism need to be implemented into it right to the core, such as instant recall of politians and officials and frequent rotations, they exist in embryonic stage now but more work needs to be done. The soviets (workers' councils) need to further build to meet the needs of the entire population.

But now even if the government falls to the imperialists, even if Chavez betrays the workers', they've now tasted communism, they've tasted the means to control their own destiny rather then some capitalist lying on a beach on a tropical island and they will never let that go without a fight.

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