Archives for: "March 2006"

How the workers are robbed

Who produces the wealth and who gains most from its production? In a pamphlet written in the early 20th century, John Wheatley described an imaginary court case, with a coalmaster, a landowner and several others being charged with “having conspired together and robbed an old miner, Dick McGonnagle.”

The pamphlet, How the Miners Are Robbed, had considerable impact before the First World War. Its basic class analysis remains valid for workers today as they are still being robbed. In the following extracts from the pamphlet, the magistrate interrogates the witnesses. The first person to enter the witness box is the Coalmaster.

The Coalmaster

Magistrate: What is your name?

Prisoner: Frederick Michael Thomas Andrew Sucker, sir.

Magistrate: You have a great many names.

Prisoner: I protest, sir.

Magistrate: I did not ask your occupation. I desire to know how you came to be possessed of so many names?

Prisoner: I can’t answer your question, sir.

Magistrate: Ah! That sounds suspicious. Now will you kindly tell us how much wealth you possess?

Prisoner (Proudly): One million pounds, sir.

Magistrate: You must be an extremely able man. How did you come to have a million pounds?

Prisoner: I made it, sir.

Magistrate: Ah! do you plead guilty to manufacturing coin?

Prisoner (indignantly): No, sir.

Magistrate: Then will you please tell us what you mean by saying you made it?

Prisoner: I earned it in business, sir.

Magistrate: How long have you been in business?

Prisoner: Twenty years, sir.

Magistrate: You must be a very capable worker to have earned such a huge sum in such a short time?

Prisoner (indignantly): I don’t work, sir.

Magistrate: Ah! this is very interesting. You don’t work and yet you have told us that in twenty years you have earned one million pounds?

Prisoner: I own a colliery, sir.

Magistrate: What is a colliery?

Prisoner: A shaft sunk perhaps a hundred fathoms in the earth; also various buildings and machinery for the production of coal.

Magistrate: Did you sink the shaft?

Prisoner: No, sir. I got men to do it.

Magistrate: Did you manufacture the machinery and erect the buildings?

Prisoner: No, sir. I am not a workman. I got others to work.

Magistrate: This is an extraordinary case. You say other men erected the buildings, and manufactured the machinery, and sunk the shaft and yet you own the colliery? Have the workmen no share in it?

Prisoner: No, sir. I am the sole owner.

Magistrate: I confess I can’t understand. Do you mean to tell me that those men put a colliery in full working order, and then handed it over to you without retaining even a share of it for themselves?

Prisoner: Certainly, sir.

Magistrate: They must have been very rich and generous, or very foolish! Were they rich men?

Prisoner: Oh no, sir.

Magistrate: Had they many collieries?

Prisoner: Oh, none at all, sir. They were merely workmen.

Magistrate: What you mean by merely workmen?

Prisoner: Merely people who work for others.

Magistrate: Surely they must be generous people. Don’t they require collieries themselves?

Prisoner: They do, sir.

Magistrate: And they own no collieries?

Prisoner: No, sir; but I allow them to work in mine.

Magistrate: That is very kind of you, but of course not nearly so kind as their act in giving the colliery to you. Do you find you don’t require the whole colliery yourself, that you can allow others also to use it?

Prisoner: Oh, you don’t understand sir. I don’t work in my colliery. I allow the workmen to do so.

Magistrate: Oh, I see. After those men handed over the colliery to you, you found you had no use for it, and so returned it to them to save them erecting another?

Prisoner: Oh no, no, sir. The colliery is still mine, but they work in it.

Magistrate: Really, this is very confusing. You own a pit which you did not sink, and plant which you did not manufacture nor erect. You do not work in this colliery because you do not want to work. Those who do not want to work own no colliery, and yet they gave one to you. Did you beg of them to come and work in your colliery, as you had no use for it?

Prisoner: Oh, not at all, sir. They begged me to allow them to work.

Magistrate: But why beg leave to use your colliery? Why not make one for themselves, as they had done for you? But perhaps you make them some allowance for working in your colliery and keeping it in order?

Prisoner: Oh yes, sir. I pay them according to the amount of coal they produce.

Magistrate: Well, that seems fair. Then I suppose those men will soon become very rich? They will have the value of the coal they produce, and the allowance you make to them for keeping your colliery in order?

Prisoner: Oh no, sir. The coal they produce is mine.

Magistrate: What! They turn over the product of their labour to you? Don’t they require the value of this coal themselves?

Prisoner: Oh yes, sir. But it is my coal, having been produced in my colliery.

Magistrate: My dear sir, you amuse me. Those men sank the pit, put the colliery in working order, and dug the coal. Where is your claim?

Prisoner: I gave them permission to do these things, sir.

Magistrate: You permitted them to sink the pit, and then you took the pit; you permitted them to erect the plant, and then you took the plant; you permitted them to dig the coal, and then you took the coal. Is that it?

Prisoner: Yes, sir; but I paid them for doing these things.

Magistrate: How did you get money to pay them seeing you do no work?

Prisoner: I inherited ten thousand pounds from my father, and I used some of this until the men produced the coal.

Magistrate: How did your father earn that money?

Prisoner: In the same way, sir, as I have converted that ten thousand pounds into a million.

Magistrate: How have you done that?

Prisoner: By selling the coal.

Magistrate: Did the men employ you to sell the coal?

Prisoner: Oh no, sir; the coal was mine.

Magistrate: Really, your claim seemed so impertinent that I had not taken it seriously. Did you pay over to the miners the amount you received for the coal, less your salary?

Prisoner: No, sir. I merely paid them the least amount I could get men to work for.

Magistrate: I must say this is puzzling. Why do these men require to work for you?

Prisoner: Because, sir, they can’t work without machinery which costs money. We rich men having the money, and therefore the machinery, and those men requiring to work or starve, they must accept our terms.

Magistrate: Surely the State could provide all the capital required in opening up mines; why should the people require to make terms with you?

Prisoner: Oh, quite easily sir, but the State is ruled by Parliament, which is composed of men like me. They are not such fools as to injure themselves.

Magistrate: I did not think there were such stupid people in the world as you describe those working men to be. How much coal does a miner produce in a day?

Prisoner: About three tons, sir.

Magistrate: At what price do you sell this coal?

Prisoner: At ten shillings per ton, sir.

Magistrate: Now, if you will kindly tell us how much per day the miner gets for the three tons of coal which you sell at thirty shillings, we shall be able to judge how you treat him.

Prisoner: He receives about five shillings, sir.

Magistrate: Are you serious?

Prisoner: Oh yes, sir.

Magistrate: What becomes of the remainder?

Prisoner: A small portion goes to maintaining [the cost of men] and covering depreciation of machinery. The Duke gets a good slice as rents and royalties. The remainder is my profit.

Magistrate: What are rents and royalties?

Prisoner: A sum charged by the Duke for allowing people to use the land.

Magistrate: What! But never mind, I will examine him presently. Is this how you have come to possess a million pounds and this old man is in poverty? You have been selling his coal and holding on to most of his money.

Your father robbed his father in like manner. With the proceeds of that robbery, and the fact that it left him penniless, you have been enabled to rob this man. Were it allowed to continue, your son would be richer than you were, and his son would be as poor as he was.

Therefore the power of your family to make slaves of his family would increase with each generation. Fortunately, this case may end your outrageous scheme.

Stand down until I have examined the others.

When the prisoner had again taken his place between the two constables in the dock, a middle-aged man of stout build and a ruddy, well-fed, well-watered appearance, entered the witness box to be examined. In answer to the Magistrate’s first question, he said his name was:

The Duke of Hamilton

Magistrate: Come, come, I asked your name, not your occupation!

Prisoner: That is my title, sir.

Magistrate: Your title may be a number when this case is finished. I must warn you not to trifle with this Court. What is your name?

Prisoner: I don’t use any name, your honour.

Magistrate: Do you work?

Prisoner: Oh no, sir.

Magistrate: What! Are you too a loafer?

Prisoner: No, sir. I don’t require to work.

Magistrate: No successful robber does. Why don’t you require to work?

Prisoner: I’m a wealthy man, sir.

Magistrate: How did you come to be wealthy seeing you don’t work, and that wealth is the product of labour?

Prisoner: I inherited my wealth, sir.

Magistrate: Did your father work for it?

Prisoner: No, sir; he too was a wealthy man.

Magistrate: Did your grandfather, or your great-grandfather, or any of the family ever do any work?

Prisoner: No, sir.

Magistrate: How did they get wealth?

Prisoner: Oh, just as I get mine, sir.

Magistrate: How is that?

Prisoner: By allowing people to use my land.

Magistrate: How did you get land? Did you create it?

Prisoner: Oh no, sir. I believe God created it.

Magistrate: Did he create it for your ancestors?

Prisoner: I can’t say, sir.

Magistrate: Surely you must know if He created it specially for your ancestors, or whether the land was here before your ancestors got possession of it?

Prisoner: It was always there, sir. My family got possession of it only at the time of Robert the Bruce.

Magistrate: What right had they to take possession of the land?

Prisoner: It was given to them by Robert the Bruce.

Magistrate: But Bruce did not create the land, nor was it his to give away. He had no right to do so, and you have no moral or legal claim to it. Don’t you work on this land?

Prisoner: Oh no, sir. I’ve already explained I don’t require to work. I allow thousands of others to do so.

Magistrate: Why don’t they work on their own land?

Prisoner: They have none, sir.

Magistrate: What! Do you claim all the land in the district?

Prisoner: Yes, sir.

Magistrate: And must those men use your land or starve?

Prisoner: Certainly, sir.

Magistrate: I hope you don’t act as the other prisoner does with his machinery. Is your permission granted on condition that they hand over to you a share of what they produce?

Prisoner: Oh yes, sir.

Magistrate: Do they do so?

Prisoner: Certainly, sir. They must do so or starve.

Magistrate (soliloquising): I now see the need for an Eternal Hell. What share of miner’s coal do you claim?

Prisoner: I usually obtain in Royalty on each man’s work a sum equal to half what he gets for working.

Magistrate: That means when a miner produces three tons of coal he gives you one?

Prisoner: Yes, sir.

Magistrate: If there be twenty thousand miners working on your land, each man must give you every third hutch he fills?

Prisoner: Yes, sir.

Magistrate: So that again assuming you have twenty thousand miners working on your land, it takes ten thousand of them to earn as much as you draw?

Prisoner: Yes, sir.

Magistrate: And these ten thousand men must risk their lives in the bowels of the earth while you may be enjoying yourself anywhere?

Prisoner: Yes, sir.

Magistrate: What sort of men are they?

Prisoner: Hard-headed, intelligent men, sir. (Loud laughter in Court, which was instantly suppressed.)

Magistrate: Why don’t they take over the land themselves?nationalise it? Then you could no longer rob them of one third of what they produced?

Prisoner: Oh, that would never do, sir. That would be Socialism. They prefer to continue paying royalty to me.

Magistrate: But even to take advantage of their simplicity is a terrible crime. Are you not ashamed to do so?

Prisoner: Certainly not, sir. It is within the law.

Magistrate: Who made the laws?

Prisoner: The class to which I belong, and they made no mistakes, sir.

Magistrate: If they have not, you make one if you think that this Court will judge your class by the laws they made. Why a community should permit itself to be infested by characters like you passes my comprehension. Please take your place in the dock until I have heard the evidence against you.

The first witness called was the complainer, Dick McGonnagle.

Old Dick’s Evidence

Magistrate: What age are you, Dick?

Dick McGonnagle: Fifty-two, your honour.

Magistrate: Dear me! you look eighty at least!

Dick McGonnagle: I’ve had to work very hard, your honour.

Magistrate: How long have you worked in the mines?

Dick McGonnagle: 40 years, your honour.

Magistrate: Have you worked regularly?

Dick McGonnagle: On an average five days a week, your honour.

Magistrate: How much coal do you produce each day?

Dick McGonnagle: About three tons, your honour.

Magistrate: Dear me! You should be a very wealthy man. In 40 years you must have produced something like 30,000 tons?

Dick McGonnagle: I am not good at figures, your honour.

Magistrate: I am told that this coal is sold at ten shillings per ton?

Dick McGonnagle: I don’t know, your honour.

(Council explained that it would be proved the prisoners divided it amongst them, and even robbed the old man afterwards, of that part of the small share he had received.)

Magistrate: Then I suppose you are not aware that the market price of the coal you have produced would be £15,000?

Dick McGonnagle: I was not aware of that, your honour.

Magistrate: What wages have you received?

Dick McGonnagle: On an average, 25 shillings a week.

Magistrate: Great heavens! That means you have been swindled out of nearly £12,500!

What became of that £12,500 of which you have been robbed?

Dick McGonnagle: I don’t know, your honour.

(Counsel explained that it would be proved the prisoners divided it amongst them, and even robbed the old man afterwards of part of the small share he had received.)

Magistrate: Are you still employed in the mines?

Dick McGonnagle: Yes, your honour.

Magistrate: Don’t you find it difficult even to walk to the pit?

Dick McGonnagle: Yes, your honour. I must now leave half an hour earlier than formerly, as I have to rest for breath at every 100 yards.

Magistrate: How do you get to the coalface after descending the pit?

Dick McGonnagle: A young man wheels me in a hutch, your honour.

Magistrate: And dumps you down there to dig your coal?

Dick McGonnagle: Yes, your honour.

Magistrate: And when you have dug it the prisoners steal it from you?

Dick McGonnagle: Yes, your honour.

Magistrate: Have your fellow-workmen ever stolen from you?

Dick McGonnagle: Only once, your honour. A man ‘pinched’ a hutch of mine, and he was hunted from the pit. This man called the Duke has ‘pinched’ every third hutch I have filled for 40 years, and I think he should be hunted.

(After hearing evidence from a ‘Socialist’ against the prisoners and from a Clergyman in their defence the Magistrate rose to deliver judgement.)

He said he had no difficulty in finding the prisoners guilty. They had admitted their guilt. He felt, however, that no punishment which that Court could condemn them to would be sufficient for such terrible crimes.

Hollowness of the west's support for human rights and democracy

The Belarus saga exposes the hollowness of the west's support for human rights and democracy

Neil Clark
Monday March 27, 2006
The Guardian

When is an election not considered free and fair by the west? Answer: when it delivers victory to a government that rejects neoliberal orthodoxy and refuses to orientate its foreign policy towards Washington or Brussels. There is no other conclusion one can come to after both the US and the EU announced swingeing sanctions on Belarus after the re-election of President Lukashenko.


The media attack on Venezuela begins

It's started. The attack on Venezuela, of course this has been going on for sometime - but now it's bringing it to the people. To demonise the Venezuelan adminstration in the eyes of the public - in preparation for a long running campaign to restore the domination of capital.

Hands off Venezuela:

On Monday March 27, the British Channel 4 screened a documentary on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that can only be described as scandalous. The description of Chavez as a “demagogue who could spearhead a regional shift to the left” may have been a quote coming from Washington, but it is clear Channel 4 wanted to make a clear statement agreeing with all the lies coming from the White House: we don't like Mr. Chavez. Why?

First, of course, because he is authoritarian. As usual, this allegation was not backed up by any evidence. It is one of these things the corporate media, when talking about Chavez, tend to mention as an aside, never putting too much emphasis on it because they must also know that the President, his government and his policies have been ratified in eleven different elections and referenda in less than eight years' time. Nevertheless the slander was there, and needless to say, there was not a word about Chavez’s extremely big democratic mandate and about the concerted attacks on the Bolivarian revolution by any means necessary (the coup, the lock-out, the CIA involvement, etc.).

The attack on the Venezuelan people will not go down well here. Trade Unions across Europe have already pledged their support, every worker on the planet supports the current Venezuelan administration. As a Marxist I offer my complete support to the defence of Venezuela - but as a Marxist that is not uncritical support the current administration does have its flaws like the whole united front nonsense with Lula and friends - however Venezuela is an example to the world of what can be achieved and we will not let it go without a long and bitter fight.

UMD flops -- like Blu-ray

Over the last few weeks have come many announcements from retailers and film studios that they will be dropping the UMD film format. The format was developed by Sony for use with their PSP video game system, it allowed users to buy films to watch on the PSP.

However from the offset it was obviously going to fail.

1) Who would actually buy a film twice? No thanks.
2) Portable DVD players which have better battery life can play your existing DVD films and are cheaper than the PSP.

One high ranking Universal executive writes "It's awful. Sales are near zilch. It's another Sony bomb -- like Blu-ray".

We have standards for a reason. DVD is the film standard, and HD-DVD is the HD film standard. If you want to watch on a very portable device you re-encode the content for that device - HD-DVD allows that in the specifications.

Solar eclipse

Two images so far from the eclipse, more shall be processed and uploaded later.

Solar Eclipse UK 29th of March 2006 @ 0948 UTCSolar Eclipse UK 29th of March 2006 @ 1017 UTC

Note the sunspots 865 and 866 on the right side of the image (east side of the Sun - they've just rotated around from the side of the sun a couple of days ago).

There's a cool animated map of the locations and times of the eclipse across the surface of the Earth, you can find this here.

What does the Earth look like from space when it's blocked out by the Moon...? Well some cosmonauts onboard the space station Mir took this image:

The August 1999 solar eclipse, from the Mir space station

This photo was taken during the August 1999 solar eclipse, and shows the Moon's shadow racing across the Earth at nearly 2000 kilometers per hour.

Paul Nord'Dude - Emperor of Tamriel

The Septim's have come and gone, out of the ashes of an Empire came a Nord, who went by the name of Paul Nord'Dude. On the 17th of Frost Fall in the year of 3E 433. He proclaimed himself Emperor of all Tamriel.

Paul Nord'Dude - Emperor of Tamriel

Finally after centuries of fighting for the freedom of the men of Tamriel in the first era, the Nords take their rightful place as masters, the weak and ungrateful Imperials would still be slaves to the elves if it wasn't for the power of the Nords, the mongrel Bretons will never forget their true blood lines it is to be stamped upon the heads of all - Elvish scum no Fargoths allowed.

The first year of the forth era shall be marked with a strong empire, an empire free from the damn wood elves and their buddies. Imperials shall now take their place as cannon fodder for the Nordic hordes, the beast races will be set free with lots of magic moonsugar and we will hunt down and locate S'virr so we can promote him to commander of the Nordic-Tamriel fleets.

The second year of the forth era shall be marked with a strong empire that shall expand to cover the entire world - we shall have our revenge on the Akaviri - nothing shall stop the Nordic advance, not when we have S'virr in charge of our ships.

It is with a strong heart and a frosty chill that we welcome the beginning of the forth era, the next time the sun rises it shall rise on a new era and a new emperor.

Victory to the French workers!

As you've probably seen in the news lately France has been gripped by protests for the last few weeks. The government wants to introduce new employment legislation making it possible for the capitalists to dismiss workers under the age of 26 for no reason at all - known as the first employment contract (CPE).

French protests

It makes a nice change to have the students and the unions united completely - those over 26 should make no mistake, they're next - the French workers' having the experience they have will know that perfectly well - and will stand united.

French protests

The movement has been growing stronger and stronger, and the ruling class has been dividing. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the capitalists have gotten away with too much, for the comrades in France this is the last stand. It's time to boost the moral of the working class, correct the mistakes of 1968 and win us a victory.


For the moment, however, events are definitely moving in that direction. The eyes of the workers of the entire world should now be fixed on the events in France. We are standing before the prospect of a pre-revolutionary situation as an immediate possibility. If the government backs down and abandons the CPE, it may still be able to avoid the approaching cataclysm. If it tries to resist — as the initial reaction of De Villepin to the events of the day would seem to indicate — it may well find that events will take such a turn that even the withdrawal of the CPE will not suffice.

French protests

Nearly 3 million workers and students have protested in over 150 cities in France over the last couple of days, building and building up. Here's a map showing locations and numbers.

French protests

In the UK yesterday we had a strike of around 1.5 million people - largely public sector workers campaigning against plans to increase the pension age to 65. We need to learn something from our French comrades - one day strikes don't work, we need to be on the streets every day - nothing should move apart from us, bring the country to a standstill, and then we might get somewhere.

Venezuela OKs wage increases

This is fantastic stuff, we're really making progress here. The government as of February the 1st increased wages for everyone in the public sector by on average 47%.

The public sector now makes up about 10% of the economy (more work needs to be done there).

Those in the private sector, despite more moaning from the capitalists have seen their wages rise another 15%, Chavez's government has been raising the minimum wage since around 2002, usually by 20%-30% per year.

In that time the numbers below the poverty line has fallen from 67% to 37%.

Chavez's government is making huge advancements and is doing it extremely fast. But not nearly fast enough - they should expand nationalisation and move the bulk of the economy under public control as soon as possible. They've demonstrated to the world how well the workers can manage the economy via democratically elected bosses - they will need to expand this to defend against any US invasion or another US-backed coup.

What's a Mac doing with Windows on it?

...A whole lot more than it's ever done before.

It's been done, Windows XP can now be installed onto a Macintosh.

Those of you who remember that awful Apple advert slamming PC users as "dull" will remember the line "What's an Intel chip doing in a Mac? A whole lot more than it's ever done in a PC".... At least we've got a good catchy counter now.

What's a Mac doing with Windows on it? A whole lot more than it's ever done before.

Google doing evil?

Check this blog entry out.

Apparantly me having that MSN Search box on this blog is supposedly violating their Blogspot TOS. The MSN Search bar I put in there is "obstructing Googles services from operating efficiently and effectively"

He's been asked to take down the search box, but for the moment it is still up. Imagine if Microsoft pulled this sort of stunt, there would be hell to pay.

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