Economy

British Petroleum (BP) has admitted it may not stop the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico until August — at the earliest. But despite the catastrophe, the US government’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) has given BP new leases for deepwater drilling. The MMS has rubber-stamped 198 new deepwater drilling leases in the gulf since the BP spill began on April 20. It awarded BP 13 of these.
Multinational oil companies in Nigeria spill more oil every year than has been spilled by BP in the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike the gulf disaster, most people are unaware of this ecological crime. There have been major spills in Nigeria since BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, but they have received hardly any attention from the international media. A May 12 explosion at a Shell installation turned 39 hectares of the Niger Delta into an oil slick, BBC News said on June 15. Two weeks earlier, an Exxon Mobil oil pipeline ruptured. It spewed a million litres a day for a week.
Large mining companies enjoyed a huge profit margin of 46.1% in 2008/9, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on May 28. The mining sector as a whole has a profit margin of 37.1%, making it the most profitable sector in the economy, with professional and scientific services second (24.6%) and private health care third (21.5%).
The next time someone tells you that Marx or Marxism is outdated because capitalism is not as exploitative as it was in the 19th century, just crack open your copy of Capital, turn to the chapter on the working day, and compare its vivid depiction of the brutalisation of the British working class to the state of the working class in China today.
It was the good news of the month on the Australian economic front. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) announced on June 10 that the official unemployment rate had dropped to 5.2%. But economic commentators have warned that this is close to the lowest level of unemployment the economy can bear without risking inflation. This was not good news for the 600,900 people who the ABS estimates are still officially unemployed (on a seasonally adjusted basis).
Two million Spanish workers participated in a public sector strike on June 8. A general strike in the Basque country has been called for June 29. Spanish unions have called a nationwide general strike for September 29 and the European Trade Union Confederation is currently attempting to organise a Europe-wide general strike to coincide with it.
Put Rudd on a boat so that he can see what it feels like to be a refugee trying to run from imperial slaughter, on a leaky boat in shark-infested waters How can these arseholes be so heartless? — lock people up in bureaucratic darkness They say they're Christian, but where’s the compassion? They put Aboriginal people back on rations It’s the Lib-Lab; hypocrisy reigns supreme, they've got their redneck corporate Australian dream they want to make you think you're playing on the same team as them as they are skimming off your share of the cream
It’s been dubbed the “suicide express” by Chinese media, LabourStart.org said in an appeal to support workers in a Chinese factory at which there has been a spate of suicides by its workforce. “Twelve workers, all between 18 and 24 years old, have committed suicide, at the production facilities of Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwan-owned enterprise based in Shenzhen, southern China. “Foxconn is a key supplier to various leading brands including Apple. International brands constantly drive down prices and demand shorter delivery time when placing orders.
The US's worst-ever environmental disaster took yet another bad turn after British Petroleum's (BP) latest efforts to stop the torrent of oil from the Deepwater Horizon well failed. Public discontent is growing, with increasing calls for a government takeover of the operation and seizure of BP’s assets. The Deepwater Horizon oilrig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and releasing between 19.7 million and 43 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Community group Save Our Rail held a lively picket outside a 700-strong meeting of the anti-rail lobby Fix Our City (FOC) at Newcastle Town Hall on June 3. FOC is a business and developer lobby group whose explicit aim is to have the Hunter Development Corporation (HDC) “urban renewal report” implemented. The HDC report’s main proposal is to cut the Newcastle at Wickham station. Save Our Rail drew 150 people to the counter-rally. It had the support of the Rail Tram and Bus Union, which brought several large union banners.
Dutch prosecutors fired the opening salvo on May 31 in a notorious case involving a Swiss-based oil trader which dumped hazardous waste in Ivory Coast, the British Morning Star said on June 1. The dumping was allegedly to save itself the paltry sum of €400,000 (about A$576,000). The article said prosecutor Luuk Boogert accused oil trader Trafigura AG and local authorities of putting “self-interest above people’s health and environment” at the criminal trial in Amsterdam. The ship had docked at Amsterdam en-route to Ivory Coast.
One sentence in the final declaration of the Search Foundation’s Left Renewal Conference (From Global Crisis to Green Future) captured the key issue: “Capitalism has been unable to address inequality, war and ecological degradation, and must be replaced by a democratic system that puts human need before greed, and socialises wealth instead of debt.”
Resistance is building in Europe against government attempts to force ordinary people to bailout the failed financial system of “casino” capitalism. After four general strikes in Greece this year, and two more planned, strike action is beginning in Spain against planned attacks on public services and welfare.
In early March, after a three-month media bombardment about the country’s economic crisis, the Greek government — backed by conservative opposition parties, the European Union (EU)and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — announced harsh austerity measures for ordinary people. These included unprecedented salary, pension, job and public services cuts and large-scale privatisation. The government offensive entails an enormous income transfer from workers and pensioners to big business and the State Revenue Office.
The following is a talk delivered by Scott Weinstein to a public forum in Winnipeg, Manitoba on May 7. Weinstein is a Montreal-based nurse who volunteered for five weeks of medical duty in Haiti shortly after the January 12 earthquake. The full speech can be read at Rabble.ca. * * *
To guarantee access to essential foods amid price inflation and supply shortages in some items, the Venezuelan government recently nationalised a major flour producer, granted low-interest credits to small and medium-sized producers, opened new subsidised food markets, sanctioned price speculators and hoarders, and is in the process of reforming its land reform law.

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