Saturday, June 05, 2004

A Socialist Centenary


A Socialist Centenary

Britain might not seem a hotbed of ultra-leftism, but it is. In no other country is there an ultra-left organization with hundreds of members, and many more supporters. Its members are for the most part disturbingly normal people. Even more surprisingly, this party is a hundred years old this month.

A couple of days ago the centenary issue of the monthly Socialist Standard dropped through my letterbox. It's an informative and often entertaining read, and I don't just say that because it includes an article by me. The party has, as John Sullivan perceptively noted in 1988, outlived the socialist pretensions of most of its rivals. Having cast a cold eye on everything from the founding of the Labour Party, through the Bolshevik Revolution, to the Welfare State, the End of History and the New Economy, it faces the future with quiet confidence, and looks back on its first century with a forgiveable tincture of Ivor Cutler's 'Scottish education': 'Ah telt ye! Ah telt ye!'

A highlight of the centenary issue is 'Smash Cash', a legendary Oz article from 1968, which tried to put the party's case for socialism across to a largely stoned readership. Its author, David Ramsay Steele, went on to become one of the most entertaining and erudite free-market libertarian polemicists of our time, and to write the definitive work on the economic calculation argument against the possibility of socialism, From Marx to Mises.

Discovering that the SPGB was ultra-left - or to put it more technically, part of the non-market socialist political sector - was for me an intellectual turning point. Reading Steele's article on the economic calculation argument was another. They happened at about the same time, in the late eighties, and around about the time I began seriously writing SF, and have influenced all that I've written.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Canadian Conservative party would ban embryonic stem cell research for 3 years

[via Sentient Developments} With less than four weeks to go before the federal election, the Conservative Party of Canada has announced that if elected it would invoke a 3-year ban on embryonic stem cell research:
"We...call on the federal government to encourage its granting agencies to focus on the more promising adult (post-natal) stem cell research," it says. "This field should be governed by principles that respect human individuality, integrity, dignity and life."
Of course, this would actually be an affront to human dignity and life as the plight of real persons would be set aside in favour of cell clump fetishizing.

A number of the recently announced stances are an amalgamation of the policies of the former Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance parties; both have a tradition or conservative policies and heavily religious agendas.

The current policy in Canada in regards to stem cell research is that it is allowed under certain conditions, while therapeutic cloning is strictly forbidden. While still very conservative in its approach, the Conservatives would make the Canadian situation potentially stricter than it is the United States (where they're currently debating whether or not to add additional embryo lines) which would an unbelievably disappointing turn of events.

And in typical Canadian fashion, this type of news and election promise goes utterly unnoticed....

Monday, May 31, 2004

The ''10/90 gap''

A group of Toronto researchers brought attention to the 10/90 gap - meaning that less than 10 per cent of health research spending is used to fight conditions that lead to 90 per cent of the world's death and illness - by looking at six leading medical journals over a year. They found that diarrhea, malaria, malnutrition and measles, which kill millions in the developing world annually, received scant coverage, while diseases that affect rich and poor, like HIV/AIDS and heart diseases are widely studied. The editor of the Canadian Medical Journal, which published the study, said there aren't enough studies on the diseases to print, and that more scientific outreach to developing countries is needed. (Source: Montreal Mirror)