Saturday, December 30, 2006

From the Archives - Debate with the I.S.


This is a report of a debate between the SPGB and the International Socialists ( now the Socialist Workers Party ) that took place in Edinburgh in 1970 to an audience of 70 . Whereas , the principles of the Socialist Party has remained steadfast , we can see that the opportunism of the SWP has also remained consistent . Whereas , we still await the rise of socialist consciousness within the working class , the SWP are still waiting for that mythical revolutionary situation to arise . They seek it here , they seek it there , they seek it everywhere .
In contrast , the Socialist Party of Great Britain , as a party of socialists , as a party for socialism , will continue with the distinct unrelenting task of education , agitation and organisation for socialism and nothing but socialism .

Speakers for the SPGB were Jim Fleming and Vic Vanni from Glasgow branch . For the IS the speakers were S. Jeffries and B. Lavery . There was no objections raised by the IS to the report .

Comrade Fleming opened for the SPGB by pointing out that the SPGB was an international organisation that was democratically controlled by all its members; that it was opposed to leadership and the idea of an elite or vanguard leading the working class to Socialism . The muddled policies of the IS and other romantic left-wing groups only confused the working class.
S. Jeffries opened for the IS by saying that he agreed with the SPGB’s Marxist theory but that there was a failure to link up theory with practice. He went on to quote Engels on the need to build the revolutionary movement within the trade unions . It was stupid to rely on the vote . He preferred the overthrow of the system by non-parliamentary means , and said that Marxists should always be prepared for the revolutionary situation when this overthrow would be possible .

Comrade Vanni replied that revolutionary phrase-mongering did not make a socialist and invited the floor to look at the dismal history of the IS . Using back numbers of the Labour Weekly ( now Socialist Worker ) he drew attention to their lack of socialist understanding giving instances such as IS having urged workers to vote for the Labour Party in the 1964 and 1966 elections instead of fighting the real enemy - capitalism . It was not a Leninist elite that would bring about the revolution but capitalism itself by the contradictions inherent in it . IS far from being a vanguard , were in reality politically backward .They considered the workers too dull to learn from history but instead that they have to be taken through the struggles and learn from strikes. He went into some detail on the bankruptcy of their political theory , such as the permanent arms economy and their belief in the collapse of capitalism .IS did not understand what Socialism was , as they saw a need for money banks and the like , saying that instead of being sacked by a boss you would be made redundant by a “Workers Council”. In reality , it all boiled down to a sophisticated state capitalism .
B. Lavery (IS) said the SPGB had made a few mistakes , but this was only because they had always stood to one side of the real struggles . The SPGB’s ideas were grossly oversimple and he could not see that how , when Labour MPs inevitably became corrupted by parliament , socialist representatives would not also become corrupted . There were not only two classes in society today but many , one of them being the peasant class . Whole areas of the world , Africa , Asia and South America were predominantly peasant . The peasants outnumbered workers on a world wide basis and the SPGB was wrong in not taking this into account . He realised the IS support of the Labour Party was a mistake but at least it had raised the consciousness of some workers .

The first question from the floor was to the IS asking how soon after Socialism was established , money could be done away with .

The reply from IS was : only when we had eventually gone through the transitional stages and reached Communism .

The next question to the platform was asking for a definition of Socialism .

Comrade Fleming answered and first pointed out what the “revolutionary” demands of the IS were ( again quoting the Socialist Worker ) i.e. bringing the British forces back from overseas bases and five days work or five days pay in the car industry .This had nothing to do with Socialism . In contrast , the SPGB did not concern itself with petty reforms . The SPGB wanted the whole world , everything in it and on it , to be the common property of all mankind regardless of colour or sex; all people would take according to their needs and give according to their ability .
The IS then said that a utopian vision was pointless; what was needed to get the workers on your side was a realistic demand.

The next question was about the class structure of society , especially as regards the small shopkeeper.

Comrade Vanni pointed out that in modern society there were two basic economic classes , the capitalist class and the working class . Most small shopkeepers were of the working class as they had to work for a living . The small fringe of people who could not be definitely placed as workers or capitalists was diminishing all the time due to mergers and was relatively unimportant .
B. Lavery (IS) pointed out again that the SPGB was forgetting the peasant class , who were in a majority in Africa and Asia . Although small shopkeepers may be workers they usually supported capitalism . You cannot afford to ignore the people who come between capitalist and workers .

The next question regarded the role of parliament in the revolution .

Comrade Vanni started by quoting Engels on Parliament and the vote, about universal suffrage being one of the sharpest weapons of the working class had. ( Introduction to Class Struggles in France ) . If universal suffrage allowed nothing else at least you knew how many workers were politically conscious . This would prevent the likelihood of the revolution coming about when socialists were in a minority .

The next question referred to Lenin’s role in the Russian Revolution .

The IS began by saying that the revolution depended on smashing the state machine . It was crucial that workers should set up soviets and workers councils The real power was in the factories and once the workers got control of them they would easily smash the state machine . A lot depended on the conditions prevailing e.g. whether sections of the army would desert to fight on the workers side .
Comrade Fleming said it was a grave mistake to think that the working class was capable of smashing the state machine . It was ludicrous to assume that because the workers had occupied factories they would be capable of resisting tanks and bombs . It was essential to make sure the state machine was in the hands of the working class and not leave it in the control of the capitalist class . He concluded by stressing that parliament had tremendous power.

The next question was about the danger of fascism and what were the to parties doing about it .

Jeffries for the IS said the SPGB were not interested in the real problems facing the working class . Socialists should concern themselves with things such as incomes policy and productivity deals.
Comrade Fleming replied by saying that capitalism had played its historic role in solving the problem of production . Now that an abundance of wealth was capable of being produced the only meaningful struggle was for the overthrow of capitalism, which would result in the major problems being solved .

The summing up then followed with Jeffries (IS) saying that only the middle class and small businessmen were interested in parliament. The power of the big capitalists was concentrated in the factories, boardrooms and monopolies; they did not bother with parliament . Working within the Labour Party had produced some results such as the political strike against the government’s white paper on Trade Unions . The IS had left the Labour Party along with the politically conscious workers . The revolutionary party must always be where the workers were and must try to generalize their struggles . It was essential to fight for reforms while pointing out that capitalism was the real enemy . He concluded by saying that it was essential to fight within the labour movement because that was where the action was .

Comrade Vanni wound up for the SPGB saying that it was essential to take parliament into account as there was no doubt as to the power it had over the state machine . Their [IS] meaningless activities centred round demonstrations outside embassies and other buildings usually only succeeded in frightening the caretaker out of his wits . The history of the IS showed their lack of revolutionary understanding ; they always tackled the effects and never got to the root of the problems . The IS might call the SPGB’s vision of the future society a dream but it was much more preferable to the nightmare of the IS with wages and banks and all the paraphernalia of state capitalism . It was the job of revolutionaries not to reform capitalism but to leave that to the people who run capitalism like the so-called Communist Party , Labour Party and Conservatives. The real task to organise and agitate amongst fellow workers for the overthrow of capitalism by the majority of the world’s population using democratic processes if available . “Peacefully if possible , violently if necessary “ was the SPGB’s viewpoint. Instead of fighting for such reforms as “five days work or five days pay” , one should remember Marx when he said “away with the conservative motto , a fair days work for a fair days wage and inscribe on your banner the revolutionary watchword ABOLITION OF THE WAGES SYSTEM”

Socialist Standard July 1970

Friday, December 29, 2006

Climate Change

Climate Change (this is the text of a leaflet distributed recently.)
The Market System Must Go


"Climate change presents a unique challenge to economics: it is the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen".

So confirms government adviser, Sir Nicholas Stern, in his report on the Economics of Climate Change published earlier this week. Only instead of concluding that the market system must go he wants to give it a second chance through "green taxes" and especially "carbon trading" (trading in permits to emit carbon dioxide).

But "green taxes" and "carbon trading" are not the solution. These are just tinkering with the market system whereas if carbon emissions are to be stabilised and the consequences of global warming tackled effectively it is the whole market system of competitive production for profit that must go. It has to be replaced by a world without frontiers where the Earth’s natural and industrial resources have become the common heritage of all humanity, and so can be used to produce directly and solely for use not profit. Buying and selling needs to be replaced by giving and taking in accordance with the principle of,
 "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs".
Socialist Party

That's Rich

Continuing our seemingly never-ending posts on those of the capitalist class who have never had it so good , The Herald reports that 15 chief executives earned a basic salary and benefits package of £1million or more in the latest financial year .
Top of the list for the third year running is private Aberdeen housebuilder Stewart Milne. £200,000-a-week package, half of which comprised pension contributions . Then there is
Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, on £3.9million a year .
I won't depress you with the full list .

The TUC reports , the total remuneration for directors of FTSE top 100 companies has gone up by 105 per cent more than the cost of living and has increased 17 times faster than average pay .
In addition , directors of the UK's top 100 companies have amassed pensions worth nearly £1 billion between them . On average they can retire at 60 on a final salary pension worth nearly £3 million. The largest directors' pension in each company is worth nearly £5 million , over 40 times more than most staff pensions.

What pension crisis ??

Thursday, December 28, 2006

SCOTLAND THE STONED

When the Scottish Parliament was formed, enthusiasts looked forward to a bright future. History has proven how hollow these aspirations were. Scotland since the advent of the Hollyrood Parliament has still all the same social problems, indeed some of them have grown worse. "The use of cocaine and crack cocaine in Scotland has almost trebled in the past five years, according to new figures. Scottish Executive statistics showed that of the drug users seeking help for their problem last year, 1,250 were using cocaine, up from 982 a year earlier and more than double the number (549) in 2001-02. Those using crack cocaine rose sharply from 190 people five years ago to 484 in 2005-06." (Times, 20 December) RD

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Don't go down in the woods today!

I have watched some cooking programs where the Italian cook demonstrates the variety of mushrooms that are available in the woodlands around Britain. He claims it is common practice at certain times of the year to collect them and serve them in his restaurant. Jars of stored mushrooms are shown. The flavours and methods of cooking are discussed.
Some would think this a harmless pursuit, mushroom collection.
Not if a caretaker of the landlord’s estate reports you.
Keen jam-maker and OAP, Ian Blayney, was accused of theft after a wild fruit-picking trip during September.
I felt like a serious criminal, he said, according to the Sunday Mail 24th December 06.page 25.
In a private property society it doesn’t take much to criminalize a citizen. The government say the jails are crowded. The court cases piling up. The police under funded.
Fining, Tagging, imprisonment will always be with us in a private property society.A common ownership society will see the end of jails and courts, you ask, who is most likely to end in jail? The odds are stacked against the working class, don’t you think?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Alternative Queen's Speech

I'm speaking to you today from Sandringham - or is it Balmoral? No matter, it's one of the big houses or palaces I own and every Christmas Day I intrude on what enjoyment you might be having to foist a boring speech on you which is supposed to strike a thoughtful, humane note among the celebrations. I'm sitting in a sort of study and behind me is a window which opens onto the lush estate where my house stands.

I own these places because I’m a very rich woman – I’m worth about £250 million(1). Although I was born into this wealth and have never known what it is like to be poor, I shall be talking to you as if I’m the sort of ordinary, everyday grandmother you're likely to have a chat with in the bus queue or the doctor's waiting room or at the supermarket check-out. Except that I am the mother of the nation (for my recent ancestors it was of the Empire) unless Sharon Osborne manages to take that bit over as well. So for this broadcast I compose my face into this maternal expression -calm, caring, perceptive, wise.

A lot of people seem to believe that it's my speech, all thought up by me. Well I do have a say in it but it's really what the people I work for tell me to say. I’m what is called a constitutional monarch - I do what the government tell me -and if I kick over the traces I’ll end up like my Uncle Edward.

Whatever is in my speech the media people will report it as if its really profound, earth-shattering, historical. They'll dredge through the frigid platitudes in the hope of finding some small nugget of humour, or controversy or intelligence. Then they'll blow it up into a big headline -"Queen Says War's A Killer", that sort of thing. I don't blame them; media people are like everyone else - except those like me -they have to earn a living.

In case my speech comes over as too boring and trivial I try to touch on some real problems which you might be experiencing. Like being homeless or struggling with life in a slum or in a high rise or battling to keep up with the mortgage on a regimented semi somewhere. This is a bit of a cheek, coming from someone who owns these big houses but I can't let on about the real housing problem - like shopping at the supermarket or having to queue for the doctor its part of the wider poverty of all who work for their living.

This being Christmas I have to say something about children, to fit in with all that schmaltz about little faces aglow around the tree and so on. I drop hints that childhood is not all like that - about violent, broken families, drugs, crime, dead-end years in comprehensive schools. It wasn't like that for my children and grandchildren; they had the best of everything, their schools carefully chosen and their whole lives based on the confidence that they would never want for anything. Perhaps that's why I get so upset at all those news items about Britney Spears and so on . . .

I often refer to problems abroad which, I say sadly, are casting such a blight across the joys of this great Christian festival. Like war, famine, epidemics - always easy to talk about because they are going on somewhere all the time, wiping out millions every year. I pretend they're like social quirks which would go away if the Christmas spirit -peace on earth, goodwill to all and so on -were allowed to last all year. Some people might be awkward and ask about these problems being knit into the fabric of a social system which awards these great privileges to me and forces degradation onto you. But they're obviously suffering from a lack of that christmas spirit.

And that brings me to Christmas itself. All those singing cash registers. All that rubbish being sold. All that nonsense spouted from pulpits and in programmes like this one. I try to forget that Christmas is only a short break in the routine, year-in year-out, exploitation, poverty, conflict and insecurity which you endure and the wealth and capital accumulation which keeps me so cosy. That's what destroys people's hopes, distorts their lives, represses them, kills them. And I'm one of its most prominent figureheads.

But I mustn't go on like this. My job is to encourage the most massive diversion of your attention from reality into a circus world of noise and colour. Remember my wedding? My coronation? The jubilee? The weddings of my children? You loved them all, they made you forget where you really stand in the social order, what your lives are really like. And that is what I'm supposed to do, in this Christmas Day broadcast for example.

Well it's been nice getting this off my chest -a change from the usual twaddle. I’m off to watch Badder Santa Oh, there's something else . . . Merry Christmas. Suckers.

(Socialist Standard, December 1988)

(1) Latest estimate £271million .

Friday, December 22, 2006

Single Mums - Capitalist Style

The Daily Telegraph today tells us of a paternity settlement .

A businessman whose girlfriend gave birth to their son after a relationship five years ago has been ordered by the High Court to spend £2 million on buying a house for the boy and his mother in Bayswater, central London.
The father, said to have been worth £100 million in 2002, had argued that £800,000 would have been enough to buy a property in a cheaper part of the capital. But District Judge Million, whose ruling this month has just been released, stressed that "the area within London W2 should avoid properties where social problems may make the location less attractive

The judge refused to approve the mother's claim for £48,000 , the cost of her BMW 4x4 but thought that £30,000 "would have given a wide enough choice of good-quality cars suitable for the mother and child and, if necessary, any au-pair or nanny".

Certain single mums just don't end up in the council housing schemes or living on benefit , do they ?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Old and Forgotten - and Starving

The Scotsman reports more than 750,000 pensioners risk being left to starve in British hospitals because they are not properly fed . Age Concern said elderly patients were often abandoned with nothing to eat or given the wrong kind of food. It claimed some patients were too weak to feed themselves and in other cases food was out of their reach .

Gordon Lishman, Age Concern director-general, said: "The reality for many older patients is that they are at risk of malnutrition while they are in hospital...The prevalence of malnutrition in older patients is a disgrace. Being denied basic care should not be something which is overlooked on any ward. It puts health at risk and means longer stays in hospital."

Pauline Ford at the Royal College of Nursing said: "It's unacceptable if elderly patients are not getting the help they need to eat and drink."

The Scotsman previously reported death rates from malnutrition in Scotland continue to rise, with 105 death certificates last year naming the condition as the primary or a contributing cause. But the report also noted: "Death certificates may under-state the contribution of malnutrition to mortality in Scotland and therefore provide only an approximate guide to the extent of the problem."

Earlier this year, The Scotsman revealed that councils in Scotland were spending as little as 92p per meal for elderly people living in care homes .

And a fellow socialist blogger ( well , me , actually ) drew attention to how capitalist society treat our old folk who are past their sell-by date.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

"Its a wonderful world" - for some


The Independent On Sunday today carries a report about the wealthy in the UK .


According to Tulip Financial Research, Britain has some 135,000 "high-net-worth" individuals, with liquid assets averaging £6.4millions . They are described as HNWs. People with tens of millions are UHNWs: ultra-high-net-worths.


Forbes magazine declared London to be the official billionaire's playground of the Western world, with 23 dollar billionaires .


The chef's table at Claridges, run by Gordon Ramsay, is the holy grail of the expense-account blowout - and it's booked up well into next year.
"It seats up to six, and the minimum spend is £550," says a spokesman. "Most bills are nudging £1,000 because they go for pretty decent wines. It's flying, though, as the place for City boys to celebrate or entertain clients. Things have never been better."


Stratstones of Mayfair, an Aston Martin dealership, report a six-month waiting list. "For some customers, it's a whim," says one salesman. "Others say, 'I haven't got that model in my collection.' It's a wonderful world."


At Guards Polo Club in Windsor Great Park, Britain's poshest place to play, the membership lists are full; any new players are faced with a hefty bill for horseflesh. "To play at the low goal level, you need at least five or six ponies," says a spokesman. "But you can double or treble that for high goal. A polo pony will go for around £25,000 but at the top level people just keep hold of the best ones; they're priceless."


HNW tastes hark back to a bygone era. They have been partly responsible for a renaissance of the servant class. "The British would say, 'Here's Annie, who does the cleaning', but try to pretend she wasn't a servant," notes one domestic agent."These people have bought servants back with a vengeance. Filipino, Eastern European, whatever. They believe in servants, they want lots of them, and they want to jolly well dress them in uniforms and call them servants."


The capital's oldest families are still some of the wealthiest. Richard Beresford, compiler of The Sunday Times Rich List says that these people, "will be on the Rich List until an atomic bomb hits London or a Bolshevik revolution strips them of their assets".

The Duke of Westminster is Britain's third richest man and London's most powerful landlord, with a £6.6billion fortune. Roman Abramovich's swanky Belgravia address pales in comparison to the Duke's 100 acres of Mayfair and 200-acre Belgravia estates. Coming in second is the Earl of Cadogan, below, whose £1.9billion fortune includes 90 acres of Chelsea. And of course there are the royal parasitical princes , William and Harry, who have £30 million fortunes and now Charles plans to build for William a classically inspired six-bedroom two-storey house - less of a starter home, and more a starter palace.


Michael Spencer's wife hired Robbie Williams at a reported cost of £1million to sing at her husband's 50th birthday party. Spencer, CEO of InterCapital, is said to have been paid £5million in bonuses last year.

Madonna's decided to buy a £35,000 chinchilla fur coat from a Fendi store in Knightsbridge recently. She also splashed out on a brand new £3.6million venue for her fellow British Kabbalah followers .

Philip Green has amassed £3.6billion through a retail empire, including Bhs and the Arcadia Group.He spent millions on a three-day Bar Mitzvah for his son, with live concerts by Andrea Bocelli and Destiny's Child, and erected a giant synagogue in the garden, designed by his wife, Tina.


It's Us and Them - the Capitalist Class and the Working Class .






Saturday, December 16, 2006

Pawnshops and Banks are they helping you?

East Kilbride’s Prince’s Mall has a pawnshop; very plush, clean and lined with trays of jewellery, brightly lit, not like the pawnshops I remember as a boy, where mum would scold you if you tried to look around the barriers to see who was in the next cubicle.
The rates are not cheap in Prince’s Mall and shops are opening and closing all the time. So what was business like. A notice at the entrance informed me that if I could demonstrate I was a victim of the Farepak scam, I could be assisted by an exclusive 80-day offer, which could amount to £1000.
The conditions were that I deposit any valuables, jewellery preferably, they would lend me money on this and provided I paid back the money before the 80 days were up, the loan would be interest free and the goods would be returned.
I leave you to work out the pitfalls of this scheme and make the point that workers were saving, I believe, to avoid getting into debt. Is this not what they are asked to do? Save for your old age! Could this be because your credit rating will be low on a crappy pension? Nevertheless, offers from credit unions and pawnshops is what is on offer. Debt is on offer as a solution to people trying to avoid debt.

Rich people like Maxwell plundered pension schemes. Other forms of pension theft are reported on this site. Directors of firms like Farepak, allegedly filter money from clients and move it into other parts of their business.
Where does all the loot go? Why can’t it be recovered and paid to the thousands of people (workers) who need this money?
People, who have saved their whole working life in pension schemes that have collapsed are bitterly disappointed. The government approved these schemes, which were registered, not like the Farepak scheme which was unregistered.
The campaign group, ‘Unfairpak’, protest to HBOS. (Banks like Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) are on target to make multi-billion pound profits), evidently, ‘ they could and should replace the £40 million scrimped and scraped throughout the year for a bit of cheer at Xmas’.

Working people are continually under attack at various levels. Wages, Housing, Unemployment, Rents etc. solutions are unobtainable, always will be, while we live in a capitalist society. Appeals to rich organisations for handouts will have very limited success.

Solution meaning solved requires a change in the way society is organised. Common Ownership of the means of production is the way forward for us all.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Corruption inquiry into £6bn Saudi arms deal dropped

This was in the Scotsman today and Wee Matt's comments below was posted up.
Yes well, the Scotsman,as scummilly establishment, as all the other newspapers, doesn't have this on the front page either.Its water everywhere,Diana Parasite Doolittle's inquest,who gives a toss,and a nice wee Xmas story,funny how the poor are rediscovered at Xmas.The UK is one of the biggest arms dealers in the world after the US.They are as perfidious and shabby as any arms dealers.If you are going to have capitalism you will have arms being produced for sale with a view of making a profit.'twas ever thus.It is not a cop-out to say we won't work for fighter aircraft producers,any more than it is a cop-out to refuse to take part in the army or other services', slaughter of fellow/sister workers under any circumstances.

Workers of all countries.and none, have nothing in common with employers of any country, including their own.

Their interest lies in making common cause with workers all over the world and removing capitalism and its infrastructures of government,nation- states,buying and selling markets.root branch and all and establishing a free access socialist/communist society,(not the state capitalism of the Bolshevics Leninists Trotsyists SSP'ers/Solidarity/SWP Respect,Old Labourists,War Mongerers also in their day) ,democratically controled ,locally,regionally and globally by all the world's citizens.Real socialism in other words,"From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs."

http://www.worldsocialism.org

Liar , Liar ...Pants on Fire

When a senior civil servant , a member of the Senior Management Structure of the Foreign Office and First Secretary in the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York from December 1997 until June 2002 disputes all that the Prime Minister claimed for justifications for the Iraq War people should listen . In fact , people should know , yet this evidence until now was kept secret . The Independent carries his statement which has now been published by the Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs .

Carne Ross, one of Britain's key negotiators at the UN , alleges it was a commonly held view among British officials dealing with Iraq :

That any potential military threat from Saddam Hussein's had been "effectively contained". Iraq's ability to launch a WMD or any form of attack was very limited. There were approx 12 or so at the time unaccounted-for Scud missiles; Iraq's airforce was depleted to the point of total ineffectiveness; its army was but a pale shadow of its earlier might; there was no evidence of any connection between Iraq and any terrorist organisation that might have planned an attack using Iraqi WMD. No intelligence that Iraq had any intention to launch an attack against its neighbours or the UK or US .With the exception of Israel , none of Iraq's neighbours expressed any concern that they might be attacked .

That the UK warned the USA of "regime-change" and bringing down the Iraqi dictator which would lead to the chaos of Iraq collapsing which the world has since witnessed.

That "inertia" in the Foreign Office and the "inattention of key ministers" combined to stop the UK carrying out any co-ordinated and sustained attempt to address sanction- busting by Iraq, an approach which could have provided an alternative to war , and that the existing sanction system was having a damaging humanitarian effect.

That the clearest evidence of the illegality of the war is the fact that Britain had sought an authorising resolution from the United Nations Security Council and failed to get it.

That Hans Blix at no time stated unequivocally that Iraq was not cooperating with the inspectors. The Security Council reached no such judgement either.

That even when Blix and UNMOVIC were still inside Iraq carrying out the inspections , the UK and USA were conducting pre-invasion softening-up air attacks against Iraqi installations .

Blair , Bush - War Criminals . But it is Capitalism that must be condemned .

No War Between Peoples - No Peace Between Classes
The Only War Worth Fighting is the Class War


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Being Taken to the Cleaners

Goldman Sachs is to pay its staff more than £8bn in salaries, benefits and Christmas bonuses this year. The handout follows another bumper year of profits for the US investment bank. Staff worldwide could expect to receive an average of £320,000 this year . Not bad at all for some .

But for the others - It's not too good .

Some 120 cleaners - who clean the Goldman Sachs London offices - campaign for Justice for Cleaners , to give every cleaner in the City of London a decent wage , sick pay, a pension, 20 days' holiday and bank holidays, as well as collective bargaining through the union.

The 120 cleaners employed by Mitie , a contractor, say their numbers have been cut but their workload has not. They are asking for a rise to a London living wage of £7.05 an hour from the presnt wage-rate of about £5.35 .

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

WAITING FOR SANITY(Or, "There isn't ant Sanity Clause.")

The following was written in 1935 by the noted humorist for The New Yorker S.J. Perelman (who, you may remember, also wrote scripts for the Marx Brothers, like "Horse Feathers" and "Monkey Business") -- and I thought sending you this forgotten
gem of Perelman's an appropriate way to mark the annual celebrations by the goyim of the birth of the foot-fetishist from Nazareth. And a merry Bah! Humbug! to you all, with best wishes for the new year.

WAITING FOR SANITY

A CHRISTMAS PLAYLET (With a Bow to Mr. Clifford Odets)

SCENE: The sweatshop of S. Claus, a manufacturer of children's toys,
on North Pole Street. Time: The night before Christmas. At rise, seven gnomes, Rankin, Panken, Rivkin, Riskin, Ruskin,Briskin, and Praskin, are discovered working furiously to fill orders piling up at stage right. The whir of lathes, the hum of motors,and the hiss of drying lacquer are so deafening that at times the dialogue cannot beheard, which is very vexing if you vex easily.

Note: the parts of Rankin, Panken, Rivkin, Riskin, Ruskin, Briskin, and Praskin are interchangeable, and may be secured directly from your dealer or the factory.

RISKIN (filing a Meccano girder, bitterly): A parasite, a leech, a blood-sucker--altogether a five-star nogoodnick!
Starvation wages we get so he can ride around in red team with reindeers!

RUSKIN (jeering): Hey, Karl Marx, whyn'tcha hire a hall?

RISKIN (sneering): Scab! Stool pIgeon! Company spy!

(They tangle and rain blows on each other. While waiting for these to dry, each
returns to his respective task.)

BRISKIN (sadly, to Panken): All day long I'm painting "Snow Queen" on these Flexible Flyers and my little Irving lays in a cold tenement with the gout.

PANKEN: You said before it was the mumps.

BRISKIN (with a fatalistic shrug): The mumps--the gout--go argue with City Hall.

PANKEN (kindly, passing him a bowl): Here, take a piece fruit.

BRISKIN (chewing): It ain't bad, for wax fruit.

PANKEN (with pride): I painted it myself.

BRISKIN (rejecting the fruit): Ptoo! Slave psychology!

RIVKIN (suddenly, half to himself, half to the Party)
:I got a belly full of stars, baby. You make me feel like I swallowed a Roman candle.

PRASKIN (curiously): What's with the kid?

RISKIN: What's wrong with all of us? The system! Two years he and Claus's daughter's been making googoo eyes behind the old man's back.

PRASKIN: So what?

RISKIN (scornfully): So what? Economic determinism!
What do you think the kid's name is--J. Pierpont Rivkin? He ain't even got for a bottle Dr. Brown's Celery Tonic. I tell you, it's like gall in my mouth two young people shouldn't have a room where they could make great music.

RANKIN (warningly): Shhh! Here she comes now!

(Stella Claus enters,carrying a portable phonograph. She and Rivkin embrace, place a record on the turntable, and begin a very slow waltz,unmindful that the phonograph is playing "Cohen on the Telephone.")

STELLA (dreamily): Love me, sugar?

RIVKIN: I can't sleep, I can't eat, that's how I love you. You're a double malted with two scoops of whipped cream; you're the moon rising over Mosholu Parkway; you're a two weeks' vacation at Camp Nitgedaiget! I'd pull down the Chrysler Building to
make a bobbie pin for your hair!

STELLA: I've got a stomach full of anguish. Oh, Rivvy,what'll we do?

PANKEN (sympathetically): Here, try a piece fruit.

RIVKIN (fiercely): Wax fruit--that's been my whole life! Imitations! Substitutes! Well, I'm through! Stella, tonight I'm telling your old man. He can't play mumblety-peg with two human beings!

(The tinkle of sleigh bells is heard offstage, followed by a voice shouting Whoa,Dasher! Whoa, Dancer!" A moment later S. Claus enters in a gust of mock snow. He is a pompous bourgeois of sixty-five who affects a white beard and a false air of benevolence. But tonight the ruddy color is missing from his cheeks, his step falters, and he moves heavily. The gnomes hastily replace the marzipan they
have been filching.)

STELLA (anxiously): Papa! What did the specialist say to you?

CLAUS (brokenly): The biggest professor in the country... the best cardiac man that money could buy... I tell you I was like a wild man.

STELLA: Pull yourself together, Sam!

CLAUS: It's no use. Adhesions, diabetes, sleeping sickness,decalcomania--oh, my God! I got to cut out climbing in chimneys, he says--me, Sanford Claus, the biggest toy concern in the world!

STELLA (soothingly): After all, it's only one man's opinion.

CLAUS: No, no, he cooked my goose. I'm like a broken uke after a Yosian picnic. Rivkin!

RIVKIN: Yes, Sam.

CLAUS: My boy, I've had my eye on you for a long time.
You and Stella thought you were too foxy for an old man, didn't you?
Well, let bygones be bygones. Stella, do you love this gnome?

STELLA (simply): He's the whole stage show at the Music Hall, Papa; he's Toscanini conducting Beethoven's Fifth; he's--

CLAUS (curtly): Enough already. Take him. From now on he's a partner in the firm. (As all exclaim, Claus holds up his hand for silence.)

And tonight he can take my route and make the deliveries. It's the least I could do for my own flesh and blood. (As the happy couple kiss, Claus wipes away a suspicious moisture and turns to the other gnomes.) Boys, do you know what day tomorrow is?

GNOMES (crowding around expectantly) Christmas!

CLAUS: Correct. When you look in your envelopes tonight, you'll find a little present from me--a forty per cent pay cut.And the first one who opens his trap--gets this. (As he holds up a tear-gas bomb and beams at them, the gnomes utter cries of joy, join hands, and dance around him shouting exultantly. All except Riskin and
Briskin, that is, who exchange a quick glance and go underground.)

CURTAIN
Did you like this here is another from the 1986 Socialist Standard, pen of Tone at My Space Socialist Standard Blog

Prison Blues


In a recent Scotsman article it is estimated that the Scottish prison population will reach American-type proportions . Prof Coyle, head of prison studies at Kings College in London, said Britain was "ten to 15 years behind the US", which he said was already using prisons as a quasi-welfare state. America has a prisoner rate of 738 per 100,000 head of population, nearly six times more than Scotland's rate of 139 per 100,000.

Presently standing at around 7,200 people prison service estimates that the number could hit 10,000 within the next decade but Professor Andrew Coyle, a former governor of Peterhead and Shotts prisons, yesterday said that if courts keep sending mentally ill people, along with offenders whose crimes arise from drug and alcohol addictions, to prison, Scotland could end up with a prison population as high as 35,000.


He notes that seven out of ten prisoners in Scotland have mental health problems, with seven per cent displaying "psychotic elements" and eighty per cent suffering drug addiction problems .
Prof Coyle said that, instead of being used as a "punishment of last resort" for serious criminals, prisons were increasingly being forced to cope with mentally ill people and other problematic cases, such as drug addicts, who should be diverted into the health service rather than the criminal justice system.

Prof Coyle said a lack of adequate facilities for people with mental health problems was fuelling the growth in the prison population.

"I'm talking about the 'too difficult' groups, the mentally disturbed, the drug addicts. People with these health issues are not being given the help they need through the health system. They then appear in the 'system' for committing crimes. That system simply isn't equipped for dealing with people with health and addiction problems."
And what has Scotland got to look forward to if it follows the American incarceration trend .

The USA has the most prisoners in the world .

A U.S. Justice Department report released on November 30 showed that a record 7 million people -- or one in every 32 American adults -- were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year. Of the total, 2.2 million were in prison or jail.

China ranks second with 1.5 million prisoners

Followed by Russia with 870,000.

The United States has 5 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population

Ryan King, a policy analyst at The Sentencing Project, a group advocating sentencing reform, said the United States has a more punitive criminal justice system than other countries. King said various social programs, including those dealing with education, poverty, urban development, health care and child care, have failed.

"There are a number of social programs we have failed to deliver. There are systemic failures going on . A lot of these people then end up in the criminal justice system."
The easy fix of "lock em up and throw away the keys" isn't working . And the remedy of patching up and reforming the system don't change things either .

There requires to be a more profound and revolutionary approach to the causes of crime and all the many other social ills . Socialists cannot see prisons simply as the dumping grounds for the discarded and the despised .

Eugene Debs once said :-
" Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free. "

Saturday, December 09, 2006

OFF THE BALL AND ON THE BALL

Off the ball
Monday 4th December the football show hosted by Tam Cowan had for one of his guests George Galloway; the week previous he had Tommy Sheridan as a guest, George confessed he was a very good friend of Tommy.

The hilarity of the situations, both George and Tommy provided for Tam Cowan ensured a great night for the audience. Galloway was asked what was the one thing over and above everything else he would like done in the very unlikely scenario of him getting power.

This would be free meals in school for every child: a proposition well applauded by the audience. This indicated to me George knew this was a vote catcher.

Are socialists against children having a free meal?

George seeks power to administer capitalism and reforms like a free meal are among the many he supports. Reformism, within the Market System is what George is propagating as a solution to working class problems; he is off the ball because, Reformism doesn’t work. There have been many reforms to the capitalist system over the last hundred years and the poverty problems are still around in one way or another.

Socialists do not wish to administer capitalism but seeks the understanding of the working class in support of socialism where everything will be freely available as a right. Socialists elected to Parliament or to local councils would treat individual reforms on their merits, principally as to whether they would benefit the working class at large, or indeed the movement for socialism in particular. Socialism is a solution to all the poverty problems the working class suffer, that is what makes it a revolutionary solution.
If you want to be on the ball read ‘The Market System Must Go’ It’s in your interest, how do I know? Well I know you are a worker.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Workers of the World Unite

The BBC reports that textile workers in Bangladesh get paid as little as five pence an hour and the mainly female workers regularly spend 80 hours per week in "potential death trap" factories, according to anti-poverty group War On Want to make cheap clothes for UK companies Tesco, Asda and Primark.
Starting wages at the factories were as little as £8 a month, barely one third of the living wage in Bangladesh. War On Want added that wages rose to £16 per month for better-paid sewing machine operators, but that some workers spent up to 96 hours per week in the factories without even a day a week off.

"Bargain retailers such as Primark, Asda and Tesco are only able to sell at rock bottom prices in the UK because women workers in Bangladesh are being exploited," said War on Want chief executive Louise Richards. "The companies are not even living up to their own commitments towards their overseas suppliers."

But the working class don't take exploitation lying down . Previously the BBC has reported here and here thousands of garment workers resisting factory owners .

Pension Theft

A previous blog mentioned how the Clydesdale bank got a boost to their profits by cutting their employees pension entitlements . The Herald today reports that other companies have now gotten the same idea .

Standard Life recently commenced a 90-day consultation period with staff . The company's pensions working group has recommended to the board, led by chairman Sir Brian Stewart and chief executive Sandy Crombie, that it also adopt a career-average salary rather than its more beneficial pension scheme of "final-salary".
Stewart is reported in 2003 to be on a salary of £906,753 , and what it is now , who knows .
It is also nice to learn that Crombie earned £1.36m last year, including a bonus of £686,000 and that his pension jack-pot is worth £8.3m.
It's clear to say that neither in their old age will be scrimping and saving to pay their council tax and heating bills .

Meanwhile , another institution to have moved staff from final salary to career average pensions is the Cooperative Group, - yes , that local caring sharing Co-op . Interim financial statements for the year to July 29 show that Co-operative Bank alone booked an exceptional gain to profits of £109.2m stemming from the introduction of the new Co-operative group pension (average career earnings) plan. Not going to be much of a "divi" for their workers after a life-time of toil .

Good News for a change ?


Good News for a change ?

If you were to Google search for "migrant workers" or "East Europeans", on the Scotsman or BBC websites you will find a lot of disgusting racist emphasis on incoming workers to the U.K.

Scare stories abound about "our jobs" being under threat from fellow workers .The newspapers and media are full of loaded information telling us about this problem.
In the workplace derogatory comments about the incomers being "white Pakis",are not uncommon,indicators of prejudice,and antipathy which seems to know no bounds.

There is no question that the capitalist class will use every trick in their sordid book of tricks to drive down labour costs,but trade unionists, never mind socialists, should be alive to this and alert to the solution,in the short term,the class struggle, which is to make common cause with their fellow workers, taking on the employers and confounding their tricks.

Instead of spinelessly castigating their fellow workers from foreign lands,saddling them with responsibility for the native workers slavishness and capitulation to low wages, they should be making common cause,extending the hand of friendship and expressing solidarity with them to drive wages up.

This article link here from Duncan Campbell,whom I know is a pro-worker journalist, in a recent Guardian,sums up better what I have been trying to say.
"Poles are bringing many skills to this country. One of the most valuable could well be their much-needed involvement in the union movement and the part they play in providing just the kind of solidarity that many employers had hoped was now unfashionable."

I will only,add to this that the long term solution is Marx's one,of socialism/communism when he said to "Inscribe upon your banner the abolition of the wages system"

Unfortunately some workers will have to get up off their knees enough, to stop grovelling to the boss class, enough to be class conscious trade unionists, before they even begin to be socialists.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A nice little nest-egg for some

Are the press stories never ending about capitalists feather-bedding themselves ?

Yet again , The Herald reports and further to our earlier post , the Stagecoach owners , Brian Souter and Ann Gloag are preparing for a £104m pay day after the company disclosed plans to hand at least £400m of surplus cash back to investors. Souter, the chief executive who owns 15% of the company, will get £60m and Gloag, who has 11%, £44m. The windfall is their second in two years. In 2004 they divided £65m through the issue of a special class of shares which saw £250m returned to investors.

And for Stagecoach workers ??

Stagecoach shut its final salary pension scheme to all new staff members because of a funding shortfall in the scheme that stood at £103m at October 31 . Existing staff remaining in the scheme will be paying higher company pension contributions out of their wages .

And while we are talking about pension funds .

The Herald , also carries the story that by cutting staff pension benefits enabled Clydesdale Bank to boost profits by £145m this year . On April 1 the group moved staff from final salary pensions to inferior "career average" terms.
Chief executive Lynne Peacock, meanwhile, took home nearly £500,000 more in pay , picking up £1.1m in 2006 . This compares with her £600,000 in 2005 . This year's accounts disclose that "key management personnel" at Clydesdale group received £11m in pay and share-based benefits in 2006 compared with £8m last time .
No doubt their reward for restucturing the business at a cost of 1,700 jobs and the closure of a hundred branches .

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Legal Eagles ( Vultures )

Continuing our series of "some have it cushy" , the Herald reports that partners at Scottish law firm McGrigors pocketed an average £40,000 pay rise last year, taking the typical annual package to almost £300,000.
Benefits for the firm's 650 other staff, including 350 non-partner lawyers, were more modest, with 14% of overall profit set aside for staff bonuses. That was equivalent to an average bonus of about £3000.
The firm acted in the Highland schools PFI programme. The £130m joint venture between Morrison Construction and Noble/3i was one of the largest education sector projects to close in the year.It also won a tender to provide legal advice to the North Solihull regeneration project, one of the largest in the UK, worth £1.8bn over the next 15 years. And the firm acted for Scotland-based oil company, Cairn Energy in negotiating its $1bn revolving finance facility with a syndicate of international commercial banks led by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Capitalism proves rich pickings for the lawyers .

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers". - HenryVI Part 2 (Act IV, Scene II) .
On reflection , that may be a little too harsh a condemnation of the legal profession from Shakespeare .

Stoned in Iran

It's reported that currently, in Iran there are nine women sentenced to death by stoning on charges of adultery, compared to two men for the same offence . Most women sentenced to stoning are those found guilty of being accomplices in the murders of their husbands. In a few cases married women have been found guilty of prostitution . Women , if not married and found guilty of illicit sex, are sentenced to lashes the first three times. A fourth occasion can lead to the death penalty as happened to Atefeh Sahaleh, a 16-year-old girl from Neka in Northern Iran who was hanged in August 2004.

Iran made a verbal pledge to the European Union to stop stoning more than a decade ago and there was a moratorium by the Chief Justice, in December 2002, on execution by stoning. But there are reports by eye witnesses of the secret stoning of Zahra Gholami in Tehran's Evin prison in 1999. News of the stoning of a man, Abbas, and a woman, Mahboubeh, in the north-eastern city of Mashad, in May, have also emerged recently.
According to news reports the Mashad stoning was carried out in a cemetery. The two were first ritually washed as for corpses being prepared for burial and then wrapped in shrouds from head to toe. The woman was buried in the ground up to her chest and the man up to his waist. A secretly congregated crowd pelted them with stones until they were dead.

"Stoning is regarded as a highly sensitive issue by the regime and the religious and political establishment. There is so much reaction from the international community and human rights organisations to stoning news. This has made it taboo for journalists and news on the campaign is not given coverage by the press as they have been repeatedly warned to avoid it," a journalist told IPS.

Iranian laws discriminating against women can be found at The Women's Forum Against Fundamentalism in Iran (WFAFI) .

If , or more likely , when , the US launch its military attack against Iran , the usual suspects of the Anti-Imperialist Left in this country will be applauding the defence of the Iranian regime with the sacrifice of workers blood . The Socialist Party , on the otherhand , will be opposing any attack on Iran but denouncing both sides , saying a plague on both your houses , and hoping that the Iranian working class will reject the demand to lay down their lives for the Mullahs , just as we in the Socialist Party reject the myth that our enemy enemies are our friends .

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

They are even richer than I thought.

The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of all household wealth, according to a new study by a United Nations research institute.

But what is new about this report, the authors say, is its coverage.
It deals with all countries in the world - either actual data or estimates based on statistical analysis - and it deals with wealth, where most previous research has looked at income. What they mean by wealth in this study is what people own, less what they owe - their debts. The assets include land, buildings, animals and financial assets.

Building Profits

The Herald reports a company boss has paid himself an £18m dividend while he takes a year out from business. An employee at Front Line said Mr Ward had "semi-retired" and was taking a year out. He was expected to return next April to serve another six months before "finishing up".
John Ward , now one of Scotland's richest men with the pay-out, which came as he prepared to hand over the reins at Front Line Construction , owns 99% of the shares in Front Line, which was formed in June 1979. He will have received the vast bulk of the special dividend of £17,988,950 which the accounts show was paid to shareholders on April 6, the first day of the current tax year. A further £396,535 was paid later in the month, mostly in non-cash assets.

The Herald also mentions in the same article as an aside that Stewart Milne became the highest-paid director in Scotland last year when he drew a £5m salary from his Aberdeen-based building firm.

Nice to know that when Shelter reports 40,000 people were found to be homeless by local authorities in Scotland alone and that 1.6 million children in Britain are either homeless , trapped in temporary accommodation, or living in overcrowded or unfit housing some people are making a nice little earner and profit out of the construction industry.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Not too taxing for the rich

The Sunday Times commissioned Grant Thornton, the accountancy firm, to calculate the scale of legal tax avoidance by the country’s wealthiest people.

UK billionaires paid income tax totalling just £14.7million on their £126 BILLION combined fortunes, and only a handful paid any capital gains tax. - and the bulk was paid by just one man , £9m of the £14.7m from James Dyson, the inventor , worth £1,050m

Out of the 54 billionaires in The Sunday Times Rich List , 32 of the individual billionaires or family groupings are calculated not to have paid any personal taxes on their fortunes .

Of the 22 billionaires who paid tax, this was mostly on share dividends paid by their companies. The wealthy usually choose to pay themselves in dividends rather than with a conventional salary — as the tax on dividends is at an effective rate of 25% rather than the 40% higher rate of income tax.

42 of the 54 billionaires make use of havens such as the Channel Islands, Switzerland and the Caribbean . Sir Richard Branson has a complicated series of offshore trusts and companies that own his business empire. Branson, whose wealth is calculated at £3,065m, pays relatively little tax as his wealth is tied up in these companies. Yes , that British patriot for all things British - except British taxes .

The Irish authorities release similar figures, which show that 184 people earning more than £1m last year paid no personal taxes.

The Socialist Party's condemnation of capitalism is not based on the workers being robbed by paying too much tax ( or see here for more detail ) . It is because we are exploited and get robbed at the point of production , to pay those capitalists their share dividends .

But the above is a useful reminder when we hear all that cant from the privileged about the scroungers and the fiddlers that the real culprits on a grand scale are themselves .

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fare comment!

Bus tycoons net a £75m Christmas bonus
The Stagecoach tycoon and his sister, Ann Gloag, have paid themselves an estimated £37.5m each as part of a massive handout to shareholders in the cash-rich firm.
They would require £125m in order to overhaul Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who is at number eight in the Scottish richest league. Any donations?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Keir Hardie Myth

I note from the BBC that a memorial to one of the the founders of the Labour Party, Keir Hardie, has been unveiled in his former constituency . And the unveiler of the bronze bust was no other than that pro-Iraqi War- propagandist Ann Clywd MP .
One shouldn't be so surprised because the real facts of Keir Hardie's supposed principled stand against the slaughter of World War One is not all that what one has been led to believe as this article in the Socialist Standard from 1961 reveals .

The Keir Hardie myth

The myth about Keir Hardie's attitude to war is very persistent. At an anti-Polaris rally in Glasgow last December, the Co-operative Movement representative had only to refer to him, ". . . if we could get Keir Hardie here. . ." to have his words drowned by applause. Whatever the sentiments of the audience may have been, it was certainly in error about Hardie's attitude to war.

In 1914, with the Great War drawing near, the Second International called for "Peace demonstrations" throughout Europe. On August 2nd, in Trafalgar Square, Hardie spoke at the "Peace demonstration". Sentimentality and emotionalism were offered in place of the sound education and organisation needed by the workers. Two days later the War began, and the Second International collapsed, its unsound base giving way beneath the strain. In the Labour Leader Hardie proclaimed, "The I.L.P. will at least stand firm. Keep the Red Flag flying!" Brave words indeed, but wholly false. For the I.L.P. turned out to be standing firm on one issue and that was on the question of party unity. To preserve this unity, to retain the greatest number of members within the fold, the most opportunist and unprincipled formulas were applied to justify the conduct of individual party members. The flag hoisted by Hardie and his fellow "Labour Leaders" was a clear and unmistakeable Union Jack. In articles directed at his electorate in Merthyr, Keir Hardie made his position clear.

"A nation at war must be united especially when its existence is at stake. In such filibustering expeditions as our own Boer War or the recent Italian war over Tripoli, where no national danger of any kind was involved there were many occasions for diversity of opinion and this was given voice to by the Socialist Party of Italy and the Stop the War Party in this country. Now the situation is different. With the boom of the enemy's guns within earshot, the lads who have gone forth by sea and land to fight their country's battles must not be disheartened by any discordant note at home." (Pioneer, Methyr 15th Aug., 1914).

The man who recoiled from the talk of waging the Class War was quite prepared to have workers serve "their Motherland" in Imperialist War; he wrote that

"We must see the war through, but we must also make ourselves so familiar with the facts as to be able to intervene at the earliest possible moment in the interests of peace" (Pioneer 15th Aug., 1914.)

Let no one be deceived by the mention of the "earliest possible moment" because for Hardie this was a very long way off and he was in fact prepared to support a long, drawn-out conflict in Europe. As he put it on 28th November, 1914,

"May I once again revert for the moment to the I.L.P. pamphlets? None of them clamour for
immediately stopping the war. That would be foolish in the extreme, until at least the Germans have been driven back across their own frontier, a consummation which, I fear, carries us forward through a long and dismal vista"
(Pioneer, Merthyr).

Time after time Hardie fed workers the lie that they were part of a "nation " and as such were bound up in the quarrels of their masters. Not "International Working Class Solidarity". but "Class Collaboration" was his rallying cry, for Hardie was a patriot and proud of it.

"I am not a pro-German" he wrote, "and still less am I a pro-Russian. I am a pro-Briton, loving my country and caring for her people. Any war of aggression against the rights and
liberties of my country I would resist to the last drop of blood in my veins. But I have not seen, outside the columns of the yellow Jingo Press, any proofs that our interests as a nation were in any way imperilled or threatened by a war in which Austria and Germany and Russia and France were involved"
(Pioneer,Merthyr. 22nd Aug 1914).

But although he was a patriot, Hardie would not appear on the official Government recruiting platforms. In the first place he could not stomach the crude jingoism and Imperialism that emerged from these platforms and secondly he wished to remain free to present the I.L.P. version of the events that had led to Britain's involvement in the war. He believed that if the people were toldfrankly about the "Secret Diplomacy" that had piloted Britain into the war, and
were shown how the war, though "unjust," had put the country in peril, the needed volunteers would emerge and there would be no need for jingoistic exhortations or conscription. This in Hardie's view was the "right method" and belief in this method led Hardie to boast that he had been instrumental (together with his colleagues) in securing more recruits for the Armed Forces
than his Liberal opponents.
Writing in the Pioneer of November 28th, 1914, Keir Hardie made his claim thus:

"I have never said or written anything to dissuade our young men from enlisting; I know too well all there is at stake. But, frankly, were I once more young and anxious to enlist, I would resent more than anything the spectacle of young, strong, flippant upstarts, whether M.P.s or candidates, who had the audacity to ask me to do for my country what they had not the heart to do themselves. Of all causes, this surely is the one in which actions speak louder than words. If I can get the recruiting figures for Merthyr week by week. which I find a very difficult job, I hope by another week to be able to PROVE that whereas our Rink Meeting gave a stimulus to recruiting, those meetings at the Drill Hall at which the Liberal member or the Liberal candidate spoke, had the exactly opposite effect."

Hardie was so determined to prove his point that he tried on a number of occasions to obtain the relevant recruiting figures. The figures were refused him, but this did not daunt Hardie. In the meantime, his staunch supporter J.B. (John Barr). writing in the Pioneer enthusiastically endorsed Hardie's claim; he wrote. "I am still of the opinion that the Rink meeting gave a fillip to recruiting, and my opinion is based on the belief that the I.L.P. method is the right one. . ."

Two weeks later Hardie was able to proclaim that he had obtained the recruiting figures for his constituency and was able to make good his boast. He set out his claim in this manner:

"(1) That for the five weeks before the Rink Meeting. recruiting had been steadily going down week by week;
(2) that our I.L.P. meeting was held on Sunday, October 25th, and that for the next three
weeks the number of recruits secured in Merthyr kept steadily rising. . . If Mr.Jones challenges this statement I shall produce the figures, though not inclined to do so for very obvious patriotic reasons. Unlike my colleague I am more concerned with aiding the army than with trying to take a mean advantage of a political opponent"
(Pioneer, 19th Dec., 1914).

Ample evidence exists to prove that in supporting the war Hardie in no way acted as a renegade. His actions were in fact in concord with the actions of his colleagues in the party leadership and these actions were never repudiated, but were endorsed and underwritten by the party as a whole.

MELVIN HARRIS

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Last Conflict


Now for some shameless plugging of a comrade's book .

The Last Conflict by Pieter Lawrence, Booksurge, 2006

One of the more pleasing aspects of the last couple of decades of socialist activity has been the proliferation of books written by socialists, previously quite a rare phenomenon. Almost all of these books have been non-fiction, either putting the case for socialism directly or else discussing the socialist movement itself. This book, by long-standing Socialist Party member Pieter Lawrence, is somewhat different. It is a work of fiction – and an interesting one too, in that while it is a gripping political novel set in Britain it doesn’t mention any political parties, and introduces the idea of socialism without ever explicitly identifying it as such.

Without giving too much away to future readers, it is about how a British government beset by economic difficulties and strikes handles a political crisis of a different sort – emerging news of a large comet that is heading towards Earth. Over time, it appears that if the Earth will not be directly hit by the comet, it will pass by closely enough to cause a missile bombardment from space. Fragments of rock would be detached by the comet hurtling through the Earth’s atmosphere in the type of future scenario envisaged by some current astronomers, and often argued to be the real cause of the disappearance of the dinosaurs from Earth tens of millions of years ago.

The novel focuses on the attempts by the government to cover-up news of the impending disaster and then, when mass public panic and disorder arises, to initiate a massive programme of civil defence involving the creation of deep shelters for the population, including the conversion of the London underground system.

Much of the action revolves around some of the main characters in the government and their thinking about how to handle the emerging crisis. As well as maintaining social control, not the least of their problems is a financial one. At a time when the government is already under severe financial pressure, the paid construction of a huge network of deep shelters across the country would be ruinous and logistically impossible. The government’s solution is to turn to voluntary labour, of the sort that had emerged during the economic crisis and strike wave when people had been encouraged by the government to volunteer to keep the hospitals and other essential services going. It soon emerges, however, that this sort of piecemeal voluntary labour is not enough, as materials need to be purchased and production facilities harnessed quickly and on a mammoth scale if the civil defences are to be constructed in time. So voluntary labour is generalised and supplemented by a credit note system and the requisitioning of factories, building materials, land and so on.

Such is the scale of the task however, that the majority of the population becomes involved and the credit note system – initially designed as a temporary measure – becomes meaningless as the government would never be able to pay back the massive credits owed to the working population and owners of capital when life returned to capitalist ‘normality’. The only solution is for the government – after much internal discussion and dissension – to decree a temporary cashless economy while the civil defences are built. There is a suspension of all paid economic activity and bank accounts, etc are frozen, with the population being able to directly access the goods and services produced by voluntary labour, assisted by a Second World War-type rationing system for some products. All of this occurs alongside massive campaigns and mobilisations from the general population desperate that nothing (whether shortage of resources or government reticence) should halt the vital work of civil defence, a programme which literally appears to be the only chance of human survival.

In this way, the novel cleverly introduces the idea of a society based on voluntary labour without wages, money and prices as the only way in which society as a whole can pull together sufficiently to direct the largest construction programme in the history of the planet, drawing on the type of ‘wartime spirit’ previously evident during the Blitz. To what extent this programme is successful, and for what happens when the comet finally passes by, you will need to read the book.

As a novel, the narrative is well-written and fast-paced. Indeed, even if you are not a socialist it is an exceptionally good read and this is one of its strengths. It has been written with a view to introducing the idea of a socialist society to people without the usual terminology (or, in fact, much political jargon as a whole) so that the idea slowly creeps up on the reader as they progress through the book. The characterisations are strong and believable, and help to anchor the story as one about humanity and people’s very fight for survival. In this respect it is compelling and, at times, gripping too.

The artistic licence of the fiction writer is called on only minimally, mainly perhaps with the somewhat UK-centred plotline to what is, by definition, a world phenomenon and crisis. Also, the work gives small and almost subliminal hints that it was written some time ago as in some respects the general political ‘feel’ is of Britain in the 1970s, before the internet and satellite TV, and in an era when Prime Ministers still made broadcasts to the nation pipe in hand. Indeed, whether some of the communication blackouts imposed by the government at various times in the story are achievable in today’s e-society is a moot point, though again this doesn’t seem to be a huge issue for the purposes of the plot and its underlying message.

The storyline of The Last Conflict is so cleverly woven, with the plot developing in clear stages, and the characterisation is so strong, that this is a work that would lend itself to other genres quite easily. At present, the physical binding of the book by the current publishers could be better and nothing would be more fitting for the book’s wider popularisation than if a TV dramatisation of the novel was what made it known to a mass audience. To this end, it is to be hoped that the book will find itself in the hands of someone with the opportunity and vision to put this into effect, because it could without doubt, and without a hint of exaggeration, make for one of the best political dramas ever shown on British televion.
DAP
From December's Socialist Standard

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