Saturday, June 30, 2012

Rio = Zero

For what was billed as an historic summit, Rio+20 was an anti-climax.

Many are touting a mythical new "green economy" they say will solve all our climate challenges. Under the rhetoric of “green economy”, capitalists are actually attempting to use nature as capital, proposing unconvincingly that the only way to preserve natural elements such as water and forests is through capitalist investment. For capitalists, nature is mainly an object to possess, exploit, transform and especially to profit from. This will open the door to the development of a new speculative market. This will allow some banks, corporations, brokers and intermediaries to make a lot of profit for a number of years until their financial bubble explodes, as can be seen with past speculative markets. While still ill defined, they're generally referring to a model of economic growth based on massive private investment in clean energy, climate-resistant agriculture, and ecosystem services - like the ability of a wetland to filter water. Under this new concept, Wall Street gets to reap profits from a whole new line of business, and governments get to spend less protecting the environment.

Khadija Sharife
, an Africa Report journalist who attended the conference, believes "It is the bankers' dream - the legitimisation of the green economy where valuation deepens the commodification of ecosystems," she said. "This has the extended impact of financialising ecosystems as priced or monetised services."

Patrick Bond
, Director of the Centre for Civil Society and Professor in the School of Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal believes the failure of international environmental diplomacy lies in the way it is structured. "Every negotiating team goes to these conferences to secure the right for its business elites to emit more greenhouse gases."

Nature cannot be submitted to the will of the market. Putting a price on things like water or biodiversity as a way of managing their use turn them into commodities and risk having basic needs and services fall victim to speculators who make money off volatile prices. Does it make sense to put the future of our remaining common resources - forests, genes, the atmosphere, food - into the hands of people who treated our economy like a casino? Powerful transnational corporations and international businesses councils have successfully pressed for the ‘marketisation’ which will amount to a dramatic expansion of the commercialisation and commodification of the natural environment and its life services. In effect, genuine sustainable development has therefore been denuded of meaning and is not supported by concrete measures to move away from the logic of capitalist growth that destroys irreplaceable ecological resources.

 Capitalism, a system based on the drive to accumulate more and more (endless and unlimited growth) – is at the root of these crises. Capitalism cannot be green.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Food for thought

Most soccer clubs in Columbia are millions of dollars in debt and the  national team failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. In the game's heyday, Columbian drug capitalists used teams to launder money, boost their image, and flaunt their wealth in a process called narco-soccer. That money helped the national team climb to fourth place in world rankings. Things changed after the US war on drugs cut the flow of millions of dollars from organized crime to soccer. Capitalism corrupts everything it touches, even an otherwise healthy and skillful sport like soccer.
Coral Gardens which is off the coast of Komodo, Indonesia, used to be one of the world's most spectacular undersea areas, teeming with damselfish, bassets and hawksbill turtles, but not any more. The area has been destroyed by illegal fishermen who use explosives and cyanide to kill their prey. The fact that it's illegal means nothing considering the objective is the same as any legal business -- making a profit.
On April 20, the G20 group of nations pledged $430 US billion to the International Monetary Fund to protect the world economy from the impact of the Eurozone's debt crisis. According to Craig Alexander, chief economist for the TD Bank, "The number one financial crisis is the European fiscal mess. I think that financial markets will be encouraged that the IMF has more firefighting capability. " What is interesting is what Mr. Alexander did not say, that the majority of the world's population will continue to live in poverty, and what will happen when no government committed to capitalism has the ability to bail out their partners in crime. John Ayers

Robert Owen and New Lanark

Paternalism is a common attitude among well-meaning social reformers. Stemming from the root pater, or father, paternalism implies a patriarchal, benevolent but superior sensibility. Paternalistic social reformers feel a social responsibility and believe that they should "uplift" those beneath them, but also see those they help as inferior, or childlike, in some way. Paternalistic industrialists assume that they have a responsibility to those in their employ.  Robert Owen built the mill town of New Lanark, where he created relatively high quality schools and housing for his workers. He was never a democrat because workers' democracy would mean he would lose his personal control.

Robert Owen, left his home in Wales when he was only ten, to make his own way in business. He walked to London, where he entered the retail drapery trade. When he was 14 he went to Manchester. With a partner and £100 capital he began making machines (mules) for spinning cotton. Later he became manager (and later partner in) a factory. By the time he was twenty nine he was manager and part owner of New Lanark Cotton Mills near Glasgow. The mills had been established a few years earlier by David Dale, Owen's future father-in-law.

Robert Owen has been called the "father of English Socialism" and although he did not start English socialism, it caught hold of him and carried him along. It was the followers of Robert Owen who introduced the word “socialism” for the first time in the Owenite Co-operative Magazine of November 1827.  For Owen and his followers, ‘social’ signified ‘co-operation’ and a socialist supported co-operation. Owen found that treating your workers better makes better workers which makes better profits. As early as 1810, he raised the demand for a ten-hour working day, which was instituted on his enterprise at New Lanark. By 1817 he was calling for an eight-hour day under the slogan ‘Eight hours labour, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest.’

"...no experiment was ever so successful as the one I conducted at New Lanark, although it was commenced and continued in opposition to all the oldest and strongest prejudices of mankind. For twenty-nine years we did without the necessity for magistrates or lawyers; without a single legal punishment; without any known poors’ rate; without intemperance or religious animosities. We reduced the hours of labour, well educated all the children from infancy, greatly improved the condition of the adults, diminishing their daily labour, paid interest on capital, and cleared upwards of £300,000 of profit." (quoted in GJ Holyoake’s History of Cooperation). New Lanark gained international fame when Owen's experiments in enhancing his workers' environment resulted in increased productivity and profit. Before long, New Lanark became a tourist attraction where visitors came to gawk at Owen’s social experiment. Between 1805 and 1815, 15,000 visitors came to New Lanark. Owen reckoned that between 1814 and 1824 there were about 2,000 visitors every year. (To-day, New Lanark is a UNESCO World Heritage site and well worth a day-trip to see)

In 1800, Robert Owen took over the management of David Dale's cotton mills at New Lanark and put into practice the ideas that he had developed earlier in his life and his workers at New Lanark were made to adopt new living, working, sanitary, educational and other standards. When he first arrived, the population, he claimed "... possessed almost all the vices and very few of the virtues of a social community. Theft and the receipt of stolen goods were their trade, idleness and drunkenness their habit, falsehood and deception their garb...they united only in a zealous systematic opposition to their employers..." New Lanark had a population of 2,000 people, 500 of whom were young children from the poorhouses and charities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. The children had been well treated by Dale but Owen found the condition of the people unsatisfactory. Owen refused to take any more pauper children and he began to improve the houses and machinery. Crime and vice bred by the demoralising conditions were common; there was little education and less sanitation; housing conditions were intolerable. Owen set out to test his ideas on education and the environment by attempting to set up a model factory and model village. Under him, conditions in the factory were clean and children and women worked relatively short hours: a 12 hour day including 1½ hours for meals. He employed no children under 10 years old. He provided decent houses, sanitation, shops and so on for the workers. He gave rewards for cleanliness and good behaviour and mainly by his own personal influence, encouraged the people in habits of order, cleanliness, and thrift. The Gentleman's Magazine commented that "the children live with their parents in neat comfortable habitation, receiving wages for their labour...The regulations here to preserve health of body and mind, present a striking contrast to those of most large manufactories in this kingdom."

He won the confidence of his work-force by opening a shop in which goods of sound quality could be bought at little more than cost price and at which the sale of alcohol was placed under strict supervision. The profit made by the shop was put straight into the school where the children of the factory workers were given a "free" education.  Owen's educational venture at New Lanark helped to pioneer infant schools and was an early example of what we now recognize as community schooling. Robert Owen aimed at giving children a good basic education, fitting the village youth for the world of work in the mills, but at the same time posing no threat to the existing order of society. He succeeded in creating a system which was able to produce obedient, conforming and apparently happy children equipped with basic literacy and numeracy. He also became more popular duing the American embargo in 1806 when he closed the mills for four months but paid the workmen their full wages. The mills continued to thrive commercially. Owen received no criticism from below and he simply bought out critical partners. Frustrated by the restrictions imposed on him by his partners, who wished to conduct the business along more ordinary lines, he organised a new firm in 1813. Owen decided to find men who would sympathise with his aims and circulated a pamphlet called A New View of Society describing his principles. Owen proposed that five per cent should be paid on capital and the whole surplus devoted to general education and improvement of the labourer's condition. Owen was a paternalistic factory aristocrat. He kept a close watch on employees. He was especially proud of the arrangement for marking each man's conduct daily by a ‘silent monitor,’ a label coloured to indicate either goodness and badness and placed opposite each man's post.

The rest of Owen's life was an attempt to recreate the New Lanark experience on a large scale and he became more radical. Owen began to flood Parliament and the newspapers with tracts promoting a plan for social reorganization on a grand scale. In place of the existing system of private property and profit, he proposed the creation of Villages of Cooperation. Each village would be a self-sufficient unit of between 500 and 1,000 people that combined agricultural and industrial production. Every family would have a private apartment  In his earliest days, Owen appeared to be little more than a benevolent factory owner who made paternalistic improvements in the lives of his employees. Society was to be transformed by means of experimental communities. Education was the key to Owen's scheme and its purpose was to mould the individual into an ideal social character. Owen argued that human nature could be changed: since we are all products of our environment, one need only change the environment to change man. Yet this 18th century materialist determinist view of the mind as a blank sheet on which the environment can imprint anything is wrong as the nurture Versus nature debate is an over-simplification but it, nevertheless, became a cornerstone of the socialist theories and programs of the 19th century. Society punished men for being what society had made them become. Owen wanted to produce self-help and initiative in the working man so where other men advocated the reform of the country's political institutions, Owen became preoccupied with rendering the State itself redundant. Owen thought the multiplication of ""villages of co-operation" would lead to what Engels later called the "withering away of the state".

Plan of a village of co-operation

From 1824 Owen poured his own money into setting up a community, New Harmony, in Indiana, which failed within a few years. New Harmony was the first and most famous of some sixteen Owenite communities that appeared in the US between 1825 and 1829. None, however, lasted more than a few years as communities. One of the most interesting was Nashoba, founded in 1825 by Scottish-born social reformer Frances Wright on the Wolf River in Tennessee. Wright intended to prove that education and a change of environment could have the same transformative effect on slaves as they had on the proletariats of New Lanark. Wright planned to purchase slaves, educate them, and free them. The plan failed because the community could not produce enough income to pay back the debts incurred in buying the slaves.

When Owen returned to Britain in 1829 after the failure of his American experiment he began to associate himself with the various self-help schemes. By 1830, more than 300 cooperative societies were in operation. Owen had set up his own cooperative (Association for the Promotion of Cooperative Knowledge), union (Grand National Consolidated Trades Union) and labour exchange (National Equitable Labour Exchange) organisations. The latter functioned as an extension of the cooperative store, surplus coop produce forming the basis of its activities. Essentially goods brought in were valued by a committee and a note issued indicating the amount of labour required to produce the item. This could then be exchanged for other goods in the bazaar of the same labour time value, the same time to produce. The the economic problem was seen as one of "unequal exchange" - employers paid wages less than the value of the product and so were cheating workers. At one time products tended to exchange according to the time the independent producers had taken to make them. In this way they did get more or less the full equivalent of their labour. But individual artisan’s tools have now developed into the powerful factory machines of today owned by capitalist companies while the producers now sell their ability to work to one or other of these companies in return for a wage or a salary. They no longer own and control the products of their labour. These belong to the company, which sells them for more than they cost to produce, pocketing the difference as their profits. When producers first became separated from the means and instruments of production, as was increasingly the case throughout the 19th century, it was not difficult for them to realise what was happening. They could see that what they produced sold for what it did when they had made them themselves as independent producers, but instead of them getting the full equivalent of their labour they only got a part of it as wages, the rest going to the capitalist who employed them. The source of the capitalists’ profits was their unpaid labour. So the demand for the full “fruits of our labour” went up among the more radical of the newly proletarianised producers. All sorts of schemes were devised by critics of capitalism such as Robert Owen in Britain and Proudhon in France to try to recreate the same result as in the old situation. But it was too late. They all failed as they had become irrelevant due to production no longer being individual but a collective effort. In this new circumstance, if the demand for “the full fruits of labour” was to be met it could only be done collectively. The whole product of society would have to be commonly owned and used for the benefit of all. This of course is socialism and it is the only way that, today, people can get to keep the fruits of their (collective) labour.

Robert Owen attempted to rectify this "unequal exchange" so that workers could obtain the full “fruits of our labour” by establishing a number of producer and consumer co-operatives around the country, linked by labour exchanges. The guiding principle of these labour exchanges was that goods were exchanged according to their value as measured by labour time, with non-circulating labour notes used to facilitate the exchange of goods. In this way, it was believed, there would be equal exchange and no exploitation. However, these co-operatives were short-lived and had difficulty in providing even basic provisions for exchange against labour notes. The problem of valuing goods in terms of labour time meant that errors were made and, inevitably, there were goods undervalued in relation to their market equivalents that were quickly purchased, while there were others that were overvalued and just as rapidly accumulated in the exchanges. Only where the labour exchanges replicated the market valuation were there no such problems. In effect, therefore, market price rapidly exerted its hegemony over labour values.

These bazaars were failures, but the idea of labour-time vouchers, or ‘labour money’, appeared in substantially similar forms in France with Proudhon, in Germany with Rodbertus and in England with Hodgskin and Gray. The idea was also to appear in Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875). This proposition has been seized upon by left-wingers as proof that Marx presumed the use of money in the early phase of communism. But in this work, as elsewhere, Marx is clear that communism (in its early and mature phases) will be based on common ownership and have no use for money:
"Within the co-operative society based on the common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products." Marx was quite adamant that his and Owen’s suggested labour-time vouchers would not function as money: "Owen’s 'labour-money' for instance, is no more “money” than a ticket for the theatre. Owen presupposes directly associated labour, a form of production that is entirely inconsistent with the production of commodities. The certificate of labour is merely evidence of the part taken by the individual in the common labour, and of his right to a certain portion of the common produce destined for consumption" (Capital, Vol. 1). "These producers may… receive paper vouchers entitling them to withdraw from the social supplies of consumer goods a quantity corresponding to their labour-time. These vouchers are not money. They do not circulate’"(Capital, Vol. 2). Marx only suggested labour-time vouchers as a possibility; given the low level of development of the productive forces, he believed that this was one way of regulating individual consumption. The objective was, for Marx and Owen: from each according to ability, to each according to need. And this is now realisable, as soon as a majority wants it. For Owen in the early nineteenth century the problem of the underdevelopment of the forces and relations of production was even more acute; and it is probably for this reason that he did not recognise the existence of the class struggle. This is why Marx and Engels called his ideas (along with those of Fourier and Saint-Simon) ‘Utopian Socialism’.

It was a fairly straightforward deduction that if labour is the source of all value, it is also the source of all power. The rich and apparently powerful "unproductive classes" are just a small minority sitting on the broad shoulders of the toiling masses. If the workers withdraw their labour, the unproductive classes topple over. A national strike, or "sacred month", would herald in a new co-operative order.

With the Grand National Consolidated Trade Union that he helped to found, Owen brought all the widespread but disparate industrial activity under One Big Union with the object of ending the "capitalist system". He wanted to use unionism to change the economic system while his members wanted to use the unions to wring higher wages from their employers. From the union leaders' viewpoint, the Grand National's primary goal was an eight-hour workday. From Owen's perspective, the goal was a total transformation of society based on Owen's Villages of Cooperation. The inclusion of all workers, including women, was ensured. Lodges had their own sick, funeral, superannuation and other benefits and there were no regular subscriptions to central funds. There was a general levy of members to acquire land and set up workshops, however. Membership was said to have reached somewhere between a half million and one million within a few weeks, although there was no accurate record of the membership and it is believed that there were only 16,000 paid-up subscribers so the figures have little real significance.  The aim was syndicalist government, founded on a pyramid system of representation. Owen opposed strikes because he believed that unions thus used were part of the class war, rather than being used as a means of social regulation. Owen himself always opposed the class struggle. When the true class war came to a head in the summer of 1834, Owen bailed out, disassociating himself from the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union which he himself had set up. Owen failed to understand the cruelties of life in the 1800s, where men and women rebelled against their masters. He may have sympathised with men to a certain extent , but he could not identify himself with them. The "Grand National" began to break up owing to its inability to provide adequate support for sections of its membership who were on strike and the skilled craftsmen fell back where they could on the local guilds and societies and we hear comparatively little of industrial unions until the 20th Century.

In 1835 Owen renewed the attempt to found a community. This time the attempt was made through a distinctly working class body. This was variously named the Association of All Classes of All Nations (1835-39), the Universal Community Society of Rational Religionists (1839-42) and the Rational Society (1842-46). At its peak in 1841 there were 70 or so branches spread throughout Great Britain. In key centres, such as Manchester and London, meeting halls were built (the Halls of Science) and regular indoor and outdoor propaganda meetings held under the auspices of ‘Social Missionaries’. By late 1839 the efforts bore fruit with the opening of a community at Queenwood in Hampshire. This became known as Harmony. In the summer of 1845 Harmony was sold off. Yet another failed project.

Robert Owen is generally described as a philanthropist and utopian socialist but he was first and foremost a capitalist. He was never reconciled to the class conflict which the trade union struggle brought. New Lanark was not a socialist experiment. Owen and his partners owned it and he directed it personally with very little democratic input or participation from the workers. Private ownership and the profit motive remained in spite of the more humanistic measures that Owen certainly adopted. Thus the failure of the New Lanark model to spread was not really a failure of a socialist model as it was the failure of Owen’s own paternalistic humanitarianism. At Harmony the aspirations of working men and women were sacrificed to the demands of the profit system. Capitalism still held control, and the working people there remained its victims. It is also relevant to mentioned that the type of worker brought to New Lanark was of a rather homogenous type: Scottish workers of Calvinist backgrounds who were inclined to discipline, uncomplaining labor and personal self-improvement - complacent compliant wage-slaves. Whereas at New Harmony even the poorest families were accustomed to work only a few months each year and then to spend the rest of their time "in doing nothing, in drinking and in talking politics, which tend to nothing"  and they also questioned submitting to Owen’s authority, whether paternalistic or not.

Owen had rebelled against the “trinity of evils:” private property, religion, and marriage founded on property and religion. He developed a plan of progressive paternalism in his communes – curfews, house inspections, and fines for drunkenness and illegitimate children. He equated happiness with docility, and as a result was criticized for condescending to the working class. The importance of the Owenites is that for the first time a complete change in the nature of society was contemplated by a section of the working class. Owen contrasted the "brutal selfishness" of individualism with the rational self-interest of co-operation, which recognises the individual's own interest in the welfare of the community. Owen was therefore a revolutionary because he wanted to change attitudes. Owen recognised, unlike most Chartists, that political democracy is not the solution in itself to capitalist misery. When the Grand National collapsed from the combined offensive of government, courts and employers the workers began to think that to gain power they would first need to gain the vote. Owen did not share this "Chartist" dream. He believed that whilst there are rich and poor, the rich will rule - whoever has the vote. He, however did not fully appreciate that the vote sought by Chartists could in fact be a means to an end.

A distinctively socialist political economy did eventually emerge within sections of the Chartist movement. Ernest Jones, for example, dismissed the demand for "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work", which was to ask for: "a golden slavery instead of an iron one. But that golden chain would soon be turned to iron again, for if you still allow the system of wages slavery to exist, labour must be still subject to capital, and if so, capital being its master, will possess the power and never lack the will to reduce the slave from his fat diet down to fast-day fare!"

Owen had a vision of a multitude of independent co-ops linked to form a co-operative world. As people learnt the new morality, the need for government would fade away and prisons and punishments would also become unnecessary. The false, individualistic morals of competitive society are the "sole cause which renders law necessary in society" as Owen explained in 1833. In the new order there would be disagreements between people and between groups, but they would be fewer and could be resolved by arbitrators skilled in the practice of the new morality. Owen wrote that if everyone was "trained to be rational, the art of war would be rendered useless". In 1833 he told people that the co-operative system would not only be free of litigation, it would be free of war, and until that object was achieved one of the main aims of the co-operative movement was to be a peace movement: "One of their chief offices, until the ignorance which causes the evil shall be removed, will be to reconcile man to man, and nation to nation throughout the world, and to enable all to understand that they have but one interest, which is, to insure the permanent happiness of each and all".

The origins of the co-operative movement go back to Robert Owen in the early nineteenth century. The Rochdale Pioneers, founders of the modern cooperative movement, were Owenites and the modern secularist movement can also trace its ancestry back to the Owenite movement of the 1840s. The utopians' shared ideals of cooperative effort and their creation of small-scale communities contributed to anarchist political theory as well as the communal traditions of the kibbutz movement and the American counter-culture of the 1960s and 1970s.

Co-operatives cannot be used as a means for establishing socialism. As long as the capitalist class control political power, which they will be able to continue to do for as long as there is a majority of non-socialists, capitalist economic relations (commodity production, wage labour, production for profit, etc.) will be bound to prevail and these will control the destiny of co-operatives. Co-operatives usually only flourish to the extent that they can be successfully accommodated within capitalism. Instead of the “ethos" of the Co-operative Movement transforming capitalism, it was the other way round: the ethos of capitalism transformed the co-ops. This was because they had to compete with ordinary capitalist businesses on the same terms as them and so were subject to the same competitive pressures, to keep costs down and to to maximise the difference between sales revenue and costs (called “profits” in ordinary businesses, but “surplus” by the co-op). The co-operative movement was outcompeted and is now trying to survive on the margin as a niche for “ethical” consumers and savers, leaving the great bulk of production, distribution and banking in the hands of ordinary profit-seeking businesses.

See here for more on Robert Owen

Appendix:-
SPGB 1989 Conference:

"This Conference reaffirms that is: 'In the minds of many workers the Co-operative movement is regarded as being in some way linked up with socialism. When the co-operators take up this attitude they claim in justification that Robert Owen, the co-operative pioneer, was actively concerned for some part of his life with possible means of escape from the capitalist system ...Robert Owen's solution was that small groups of workers should try to establish self-supporting 'villages of industry', in which there would be no employer, no master. They would constitute, as it were, little oases in thedesert of capitalism, owning the 'land and means of production common'. He anticipated that the movement would grown until finally the workers would have achieved their emancipation ...The Co-operative Movement cannot solve the basic economic problems of the workers as a whole, or even of the co-operative societies' own members. Its success is merely the success of an essentially capitalist undertaking ...Co-operation cannot emancipate the working class. Only Socialism will do that. The workers cannot escape from the effects of capitalism by retiring into Owen's 'villages of industry'. They must obtain for society as a whole the ownership of the means of production and distribution, which are the property of the capitalist class. For this they must organise to control the machinery of government. Once possessed of power they can then reorganise society on a socialist basis of common ownership. Owen's original aims can only be achieved by socialist methods'." - carried

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Food for thought

The Harper cabinet erupted in indignation this week when a UN 'Right --to- Food envoy, Olivier de Schutter criticized Canada for turning a blind eye to poverty, inequality, and hunger in the country. Too bad they didn't erupt in indignation at the facts -- almost one million Canadians rely on food banks; three million Canadians, including 600 000 children live in poverty and the numbers are growing. Obviously they are embarrassed it got a public forum. These are problems that are endemic to the capitalist system, of course, although no one is saying that.
King Juan Carlos of Spain recently had a hip replacement after suffering an injury while elephant hunting in Botswana. According to an editorial in "EL Mundo", hunting elephants sets a bad example when the economic crisis is so dire. Apparently, it transmits an image of indifference and frivolity that a head of state ought not to give. What it shows is that royals are just part of the world capitalist class that suffers little or not at all in a recession, and they couldn't care less. John Ayers

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

THE CONTROL OF IDEAS

The New Yorker Magazine asked a worthwhile question recently. "Last week, Gallup announced the results of their latest survey on Americans and evolution. The numbers were a stark blow to high-school science teachers everywhere: forty-six per cent of adults said they believed that "God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years." Only fifteen per cent agreed with the statement that humans had evolved without the guidance of a divine power. .... Such poll data raises questions: Why are some scientific ideas hard to believe in? What makes the human mind so resistant to certain kinds of facts, even when these facts are buttressed by vast amounts of evidence?" (The New Yorker, 7 June) We would suggest that one of the factors that stops the flow of scientific ideas to the minds of workers is the control that religious and political factions have over the education and communication facilities. The owning class in the USA spend billions of dollars ensuring that their workers don't understand the society they live in. RD

A CARING SOCIETY?

One of the dreams that many hard working members of the working class have is that after a lifetime of toil at least at the end of their working lives they will be able to enjoy some sort of contentment in retirement. This dream often turns out to be nightmare however."Hundreds of vulnerable adults are being put at risk of abuse at residential homes and care institutions, a damning inquiry has found. The Care Quality Commission ordered 150 inspections following a Panorama investigation which found residents at private hospital Winterbourne View were being subjected to beatings. The official report shows that less than half – 48 per cent – of hospitals and care homes comply with 'essential' standards on the care and welfare of people with learning difficulties; and safeguarding them from abuse." (Daily Mail, 24 June) RD

The Scottish Propertarian Party

Another party of confusion has been added to the Scottish political arena - the Scottish Libertarian Party (see website)  which declares that the ownership of property is a requirement for human existence and therefore a right, which advocates the abolition of all taxes on business and a free trade policy with a return to the gold standard amongst its policies. Fairly standard stuff of the Right. But genuine libertarians are vehemently anti-capitalist. How easy it is to fall into the  trap of accepting re-definition of words. Check out the history of the political meaning of "Libertarian" here 

The Scottish Libertarian Party is NOT  libertarian, no matter how often they make the claim. To be clear and to use the correct terminology they are a propertarian party. Right-"libertarians" are not interested in eliminating capitalist private property nor the authority, oppression and exploitation which goes with it. They make an idol of private property and claim to defend "absolute" and "unrestricted" property rights. In particular, taxation and theft are among the greatest evils possible as they involve coercion against "justly held" property. They call for an end to the state, not because they are concerned about the restrictions of liberty experienced by workers and tenants but because they wish capitalists and landlords not to be bothered by legal restrictions on what they can and cannot do on their property.

Their logic goes something like this: Free-market capitalism on its own would naturally lead to a world of personal freedom and economic prosperity, but this is thwarted by the power of the state, an organism that grows robustly at times of war. Hence, war must be opposed not only because of its own obvious evils, but as a way to drive back the power of the state which is standing in the way of a better life. For "libertarians" capitalism is an inherently peaceful system. They ridicule the idea that there is a connection between the nature of capitalism and the wars that constantly break out under it. In the "libertarian’s" mind, capitalism is—or should be—a world made up of enterprising capitalists, minding their own business(es) and interacting peacefully, without any need for the state to intervene in these affairs or for wars to be waged overseas. Here we are basically dealing with the viewpoint of the individual capitalist, particularly the small-scale one, who experiences the state as an unpleasant institution that appropriates his hard-earned wealth through taxation, sometimes to pay for wars that bring him no direct benefit. Remove this alien force and life would immediately be much rosier. The “liberty” that "libertarians" wax so philosophical about is the freedom of this economic actor to chase after his profit in peace. "libertarians" feels that capitalism can somehow behave more rationally than it does. This "libertarian" view of the benevolent nature of a market economy is a selective one. Their focus is on exchange, as a mutually beneficial act. This is a real “win-win” situation, where I give you my widget and get your gadget in return. The reality is quite the opposite. What is left out, however, are some of the strikingly war-like aspects of a capitalist economy, starting first and foremost with the cut-throat competition that goes on in the pursuit of profit. Nor do they dwell on the class divisions inherent to such a system and the conflict that that results. Never minding the fact that profits are squeezed out of workers, thus depriving them of their own personal liberty!

The state machinery and the wars it wages may seem a complete waste of tax-payer money to the individual capitalist (and to the libertarian who translates his blinkered viewpoint into a grand philosophy), but things look a bit different if we consider the capitalist class as a whole. Like any ruling class throughout history, the minority capitalist class needs the state, as an apparatus of coercion, to maintain its grip on power. And in addition to this age-old function of the state, a capitalist state is also necessary as a means of coordinating the diverse interests of individual capitalists in order to represent their collective interests as capitalists. The example of banking alone shows how deregulation may benefit a tiny stratum of capitalists at the expense of their bourgeois brethren who have to purchase exorbitant or shoddy products. Given this twin-necessity for the state—as policeman and mediating judge—the more far-sighted or financially more comfortable capitalists view the taxes directed to the state apparatus as money well spent. "Libertarians", in short, loathe the state without understanding why it must exist and play certain roles under their cherished capitalist system.

And the same shallowness characterizes their view of war, which is fervently opposed without an understanding of its root causes. Tensions between nations are always present over shifts in political allegiances between countries that may benefit some better than others. Global politics is a macrocosm of the local economy, with each company vying to get as much of the business as it can, such as trade, material resources and opportunities for future economic growth. Capitalism, as already noted, generates its own war-like behaviour at home, where capitalists will go to any lengths to vanquish the enemy (i.e. competitors). We may find this behaviour deplorable from the standpoint of human decency, but it does have its own necessity. And there is a similar capitalist logic at play when nation-states jostle and throttle each other for access to markets and resources, despite such behaviour being the height of idiocy from the perspective of humanity as a whole.

Opposition to the state might sound pretty good, but the "libertarian" anti-state position is based on a blind faith in the free market. They argue that the benevolent forces of the market economy are curbed by the centralised power of the state, which results in a curtailment of individual liberty. ""Libertarianism" states that it shall be legal for anyone to do anything he wants, provided only that he not initiate (or threaten) violence against the person or legitimately owned property of another. That is, in the free society, one has the right to manufacture, buy or sell any good or service at any mutually agreeable terms. Thus, there would be no victimless crime prohibitions, price controls, government regulation of the economy. If these so-called libertarians are serious about liberty, and truly want to live under a state-less system where peace then they must end capitalism, whose invisible hand keeps slapping us around and pushing us to slay one another .

The Scottish Libertarian Party thinks that a return to a gold or silver-based currency would eliminate crises such as in the 1930s and today. This is an illusion. There was a gold-based currency up until WWI, yet crises occurred regularly, including a Great Depression in the 1880s and a hundred years ago the same sort of banking crises as today. Capitalism goes through its boom/slump cycle whatever the currency. No monetary reform can change that.

Money originated as a commodity, i.e. something produced by labour that had its own value, which evolved to be the commodity that could be exchanged for any other commodity in amounts equal to the value of the other commodity. Various things have served as the money-commodity, but in the end gold (and silver) was almost universally adopted. Being rare (i.e. requiring more labour to find and extract from nature, so concentrating much value in a small amount), and it was divisible and so easily coined as well as long lasting. As capitalism developed it was found that gold itself did not have to circulate, but that paper notes could substitute for it as long as those accepting or holding it could be sure that they could always change them for gold. Up until WWI in most countries the currency was gold coins and paper notes convertible into gold. The Great Depression of the 1930s led to the major capitalist countries abandoning this convertibility. Since then the currency nearly everywhere has been inconvertible paper notes. With an inconvertible paper currency, the amount of money is no longer fixed automatically by the level of economic transactions, nor is there any limit to the amount of paper currency that can be issued. It is this that they object to because, if the central bank issues more paper money than the amount of gold that would otherwise be needed, then the result will be a depreciation of the currency; the paper money will come to represent a smaller amount of gold with the result that prices generally will rise.

The gold standard was put into effect in the U.S. after the American Civil War. The gold standard in the U.S. was implemented due to demands from Wall Street financiers. they had financed the Union Army based on paper money. They wanted to be able to redeem the debt in dollars worth more than what they provided by tying the dollar to gold, and this would cause deflation, thus raising the value of their dollar-denominated debt. But the effect of this was to restrict growth in the money supply which was to drive down farm commodity prices, impoverishing farmers and driving a huge number of people off the land. That was because, as productivity in agriculture and industry in the U.S. grew in the late 19th century and early 20th century, growth in the money supply didn't follow suit. This led to a constant deflationary tendency. as farmers could get less and less per unit of output, they were unable to pay their debts.

In that era credit in general was extremely scarce, for example, until after World War II, it was hard to get house mortgages in the U.S. Typically you could only get a mortgage for a short period. Consumer credit only really developed in the '20s. This is relevant to the issue of the money supply because expansion of credit expands the money supply. Individualist Anarchists in the US in the 19th century spent a lot of time attacking the gold standard as it allowed the banks to charge extremely high interest as it restricted the money supply. Of course, in practice, banks used lots of techniques to increase the supply to make more profits, of course, but it was a key means of restricting working class access to capital -- which was essential to proletarianise a mostly artisan/peasant (i.e., pre-capitalist) society.

Nor was the deflationary effect necessarily a good thing for workers in the late 19th century. Falling commodity prices meant that employers also were under pressure to cut wages, which they did. It was wage-cutting that provoked the Great Rebellion, the railway strike, of 1877. Recessions/depressions tend to reduce worker bargaining power, and the late 19th century was subject to continual recessionary tendencies, with a big depression in the 1870s and again in the 1890s. In reality there is no particular reason to tie money to gold. The right-libertarian types such as the Scottish Libertarian Party like gold because the idea is to have control of the money supply independent of the state.

The Scottish Libertarian Party seeks to abolish what little services the state still provides for its poor, hungry, and dispossessed. In their  "libertarian" Scotland there would be no National Insurance, no Social Security, no National Health Service, nothing corresponding to the Poor Laws; there would be no public safety-nets at all. It would be a rigorously competitive society: work, beg or die. But these services were paid for in sweat and blood by activists who aimed to alleviate the stress and misery of poverty for the working class. Although against reformism we in the SPGB cannot deny the reality that certain reforms such as an eight-hour work-day or welfare assistance help those who cannot endure the nature of our survival-of-the-fittest capitalist state. Social and welfare services which have been forced upon the elite and conceded to the working class cannot be written off as unimportant. Militant labour fought for concessions. Poor people now have social programs. The Scottish Libertarian Party vision is nothing more than the resurrected dreams of robber barons of the past. They may be against state authority, but it is inconsistent to oppose tyranny in the public sphere of government and leave it unaddressed in the private sphere of work. It is to simply to trade one slave-master for another.

Right-"libertarians" ignore the vast number of authoritarian social relationships that exist in capitalist society. The right-"libertarian," then, far from being a defender of freedom, is in fact a defender of certain forms of authority. To defend the "freedom" of property owners is to defend authority and privilege.  Emma Goldman's rightly attacked that "rugged individualism" expoused by the likes of the Scottish Libertarian Party "which is only a masked attempt to repress and defeat the individual and his individuality. So-called Individualism is the social and economic laissez-faire: the exploitation of the masses by classes by means of trickery, spiritual debasement and systematic indoctrination of the servile spirit . . . That corrupt and perverse 'individualism' is the strait-jacket of individuality . . . This 'rugged individualism' has inevitably resulted in the greatest modern slavery, the crassest class distinctions . . . 'Rugged individualism' has meant all the 'individualism' for the masters, while the people are regimented into a slave caste to serve a handful of self-seeking 'supermen' . . .and in whose name political tyranny and social oppression are defended and held up as virtues while every aspiration and attempt of man to gain freedom and social opportunity to live is denounced as . . . evil in the name of that same individualism."

Right-"libertarianism" is unconcerned about any form of equality except "equality of rights". This blinds them to the realities of life; in particular, the impact of economic and social power on individuals within society and the social relationships of domination they create. Individuals may be "equal" before the law and in rights, but they may not be free due to the influence of social inequality, the relationships it creates and how it affects the law and the ability of the oppressed to use it. Without social equality, individual freedom is so restricted that it becomes a mockery (essentially limiting freedom of the majority to choosing which master will govern them rather than being free).

The thinker, Noam Chomsky argues that right-wing "libertarianism" has "no objection to tyranny as long as it is private tyranny...if you have unbridled capitalism, you will have all kinds of authority: you will have extreme authority."
Again as Chomsky puts it: "Anarcho-capitalism, in my opinion, is a doctrinal system which, if ever implemented, would lead to forms of tyranny and oppression that have few counterparts in human history. There isn't the slightest possibility that its (in my view, horrendous) ideas would be implemented, because they would quickly destroy any society that made this colossal error. The idea of 'free contract' between the potentate and his starving subject is a sick joke, perhaps worth some moments in an academic seminar exploring the consequences of (in my view, absurd) ideas, but nowhere else." Chomsky explains "Consider, for example, the [right-'libertarian'] 'entitlement theory of justice' . . . according to this theory, a person has a right to whatever he has acquired by means that are just. If, by luck or labour or ingenuity, a person acquires such and such, then he is entitled to keep it and dispose of it as he wills, and a just society will not infringe on this right. One can easily determine where such a principle might lead. It is entirely possible that by legitimate means -- say, luck supplemented by contractual arrangements 'freely undertaken' under pressure of need -- one person might gain control of the necessities of life. Others are then free to sell themselves to this person as slaves, if he is willing to accept them. Otherwise, they are free to perish. Without extra question-begging conditions, the society is just.The argument has all the merits of a proof that 2 + 2 = 5 "

Some right-"libertarians" actually claim common ground with true libertarians. Common ground? The socialist opposition to wage labour was shared by the pro-slavery advocates in the Confederacy. The latter opposed wage labour as being worse than its chattel form because, it was argued, the owner had an incentive to look after his property during both good and bad times while the wage worker was left to starve during the latter. This argument does not place them in the socialist camp any more than socialist opposition to wage labour made them supporters of slavery. As such, Right-"libertarian" opposition to the state should not be confused with the anarcho-communist, socialist real- libertarian opposition to it. The former opposes it because it restricts capitalist power, profits and property whilewe oppose it because the state is a bulwark of all three.


To sum up, as Anatole France said, which reflects the Scottish Libertarian Party's philosophy "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."

Monday, June 25, 2012

WINNERS AND LOSERS

We are constantly made aware that we are living in an economic depression and that during these hard times we will all have to make sacrifices. This of course does not apply to the owning class. "Angela Ahrendts, the chief executive of Burberry, the fashion house, took home £15.6m last year through a mixture of pay, bonus, cashing-in shares and a clothes allowance. The package makes the American one of the UK's best paid chief executives. Her salary was £990,000 and her bonus was £1.98m, both of which were unchanged. However, she enjoyed a large jump in her pension contributions and a £387,000 "cash allowance" which includes a clothing allowance on top of her staff discount, and money relating to her "relocation" package dating to when she moved to Britain in 2006. It is understood this includes children's school fees and some travel. Her total pay packet was £3.68m, up 4pc." (Daily Telegraph, 8 June) This obscene amount of cash is only possible through the exploitation of the working class. RD

The Death of Co-ops

Co-operative Funeralcare, which organises more than 100,000 funerals a year from 900 funeral homes has begun an inquiry after staff were secretly filmed storing dead bodies like "stacking television sets" in a warehouse on an industrial estate off a busy motorway. While relatives believed their loved ones were at funeral homes,the bodies were being stored in a warehouse or "hub". The warehouse contained a garage with a fleet of limousines and hearses, storage for dozens of coffins, and a large refrigerated area – the mortuary – with rack upon rack of bodies, some of them uncovered. When families asked to see their loved ones, the body would be taken back to the funeral home, a journey of up to 30 miles. The documentary claims staff are under pressure to sell expensive funeral packages to mourners, to increase profits, which last year were £52 million. The former funeral ombudsman, Professor Geoffrey Woodroffe, described the practices alleged in the film as shocking. "I had no idea that they're treating people as if they're stacking television sets, really. I'd hate to think that a member of my family would have been treated in that way," he told the programme.

When people are exploited and oppressed they co-operate with each other to escape from poverty, to overcome exploitation and oppression. As do people wishing to improve working conditions and the quality of their lives.  Workers are not going to let themselves starve: if the means of production are there they'll go ahead and use them. They often get together and form co-operatives. So, although there are some benefits to co-ops, we still find them exploiting workers (like Funeralcare in their fight with the GMB, which they tried to derecognise), and they can go bust. They aren't a panacea, and they are not a step towards socialism - workers already co-operate at work even in capitalist firms, and we run capitalism from top to bottom. Workers co-operatives are seen by many as radical and anti-capitalist. The Socialist Party do not see co-ops, communes, mutual aid projects and the like as leading to socialism in themselves.

 Far from challenging capitalism, many workers’ co-operatives are actually an important sector of modern economies on the basis of promoting a more ‘ethical capitalism.’ Workers’ co-operatives may provide a catalyst for change and glimpse of what is possible but their gradual and reformist nature must be resisted as futile. Workers’ co-operatives depend on wider market forces to survive and grow and cannot exist outside of capitalist social relations due to the pressures of market forces and competition. Like private enterprises, co-operatives are also subject to the same pressures such as layoffs, price rises and reduction in wages in the process reducing any resemblance of ‘workers’ democracy.’ The more they are integrated into the capitalist economy and its profit- seeking, the more their members will have to discipline and pressurise themselves in the way the old bosses did - what used to be known as "self-managed exploitation". The aim of emancipating the labouring masses is so that the land and all forms of production and distribution is converted into collective property. As long as this is not accomplished, the cooperatives will be overwhelmed by the all-powerful competition of monopoly capital and vast landed property. Even in the unlikely event that a small group of cooperatives should somehow surmount the competition, their success would only beget a new class of prosperous co-operators in the midst of a poverty-stricken mass of proletarians.

Co-operatives lay rest to the lie workers cannot organise production without bosses. But we cannot self-manage capitalism in our own interests as it is weighted against workers. The only way we can really live without exploitation and bosses is by abolishing capitalism. The fact is that there is no way out for workers within the capitalist system. Not cooperatives, not reforms, not trade unions. At most these can only make their situation a little less unbearable. Co-operatives usually only flourish to the extent that they can be successfully accommodated within capitalism. Co-ops by their very nature as worker owned and operated enterprises are always going to be marginal to the capitalist economy because of the enormous concentration of capital in the hands of the capitalist class - which concentration has become more accentuated, not less , in recent years. Co-ops like many other small businesses are struggling to exist and to compete against the might of established capitalist corporations. They are going to need every bit of money they can lays their hands on just to keep afloat. A cooperative is after all a capitalist business unit and as such has the potential as much to divide as to unite workers. It is engaged in capitalist competition after all - and all that that entails

We dont want to embark on setting up coops simply because its nicer way of doing business in capitalism. No, the point has to be to ultimately break as far as is possible with the logic of capital. Otherwise co-ops will simply be coopted by capitalism (if you might excuse the pun). We've seen this happening with
Mondragon. It has moved steadily away from its original egalitarian ideals and it has been able to do this because it lacks any firm anchorage in a genuine socialist outlook. Co-ops in the absence of such an outlook will simply drift into becoming like conventional capitalist businesses, competing with each other and if necessary shedding labour and cutting wages in the process. With co-ops we still have capital, the requirement to turn over capital and restore it to it's initial form, which, no matter how the democratic structures attempt to put use values first, means that the essence of commodity exchange and labour exploitation continues to occur, merely without the person of the individual capitalist.

Being an employee of a co-op is much like being an employee of a joint-stock company, still a hierarchical relationship built on market forces. The co-operatives themselves are in competition for labour and finance. Why do you think the Tories here have discovered mutualisation of public services? It's a means to break unions, enforce market discipline and extend market relations. Mutuals/co-operatives are a worthwhile means to resist market relations, but they in no way supercede them.

The co-op system would not do away with capital, the need to turn it over in the circuit of money-commodity-money, which will mean:
a) Crises would still occur.
b) That income of a co-op will be proportional to its capital, not to the needs of its membership.

The co-operative group: are the fifth largest food retailer, the third largest retail pharmacy chain, the number one provider of funeral services and the largest independent travel business. The Co-operative Group also has strong market positions in banking and insurance. The Group employs 120,000 people, has 5.5 million members and around 4,800 retail outlets. Co-operatives across the UK have reported a combined turnover of £27.4 billion, with profit before tax reaching £539 million. According to Co-operatives UK there are over 4,735 jointly owned, democratically controlled co-operative businesses in the UK, owned by 10.8 million people and sustaining more than 237,000 jobs.

 Are we any closer to socialism for all of this?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

THE REALITIES OF WAR

We are all aware of the Hollywood depiction of wartime bravery and noble sacrifice in battle, but one aspect of war is never dealt with by the cinema. "Suicides are surging among America's troops, averaging nearly one a day this year — the fastest pace in the nation's decade of war. The 154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far outdistance the U.S. forces killed in action in Afghanistan — about 50 per cent more — according to Pentagon statistics obtained by The Associated Press." (Associated Press, 8 June) More suicides than those killed by the enemy! No wonder those portraying war as something admirable keep quiet about the suicide rate. RD

who owns Scotland

Scotland 19,068,631acres 100%
Urban 585,627 acres 3%
Rural 18,483,004 acres 97%
Of the rural land, 2, 275,768 acres are in the ownership of public bodies and 16,207,236 are in the ownership of private bodies.
Of this privately-owned rural land:
One quarter is owned by 66 landowners in estates of 30,700 acres and larger
One third is owned by 120 landowners in estates of 21,000 acres and larger
One half is owned by 343 landowners in estates of 7,500 acres and larger
Two thirds is owned by 1252 landowners in estates of 1 ,200 acres and larger
Two thirds of Scotland is owned by one four thousandth (0.025%) of the people!

hat-tip Wojtek
 http://libcom.org/blog/some-quick-thoughts-scottish-independence-20062012

The Cliff-edge of Nationalism

Love of country, in the form of "patriotism," is a late creation. Under serfdom people were bound to the soil but they had no "country". Nor has capital any "country" even though capitalism is the precondition for building a "nation," and advocates "nationalism," and protects  "national market." The development of the capitalist and rise of nationalism has been symbiotic. However, as soon as it can, capital continues to expand and pursue the global market, using its own "nationalism" as a springboard. Simply put, nationalism is anything but natural; it is an ideology of capitalism, which serves to produce the conditions for capitalist accumulation and gives it a legitimacy. In other words, it is not some kind of natural human phenomena. It is a social, political and ideational construction. Once the nation state has been physically constructed as "political sovereign", nationalism provides the glue by which it rationalises and maintains itself, a political ideology,which takes on the role of a supposedly natural basis for social order. It is an ideology, which requires an identity with, and loyalty to, the nation, which, in turn, gives rise to the "national interest" and political duty. The highly statist and often authoritarian goals of these independence movements are seldom taken into consideration.

Many on the Left advance nationalism and the nation-state as a bulwark against imperialism. This is a dangerous fallacy. The role of nationalism has always been a source of conflict on the Left. For those on the Scottish Left the Socialist Party's consistent anti-nationalist position seems to support imperialism. But, imperialism functions quite independently of socialist attitudes toward nationalism and, furthermore, socialists are not required for the launching of struggles for national autonomy as the various independence movements have shown. Also contrary to some Leftist expectations, nationalism could not be utilised to further socialist aims, nor was it a successful strategy to weaken and hasten the demise of capitalism. On the contrary, nationalism frustrated socialism by using it for nationalist ends. It is not the function of socialism to support nationalism, even though the latter battles imperialism. To fight imperialism without simultaneously discouraging nationalism means to fight some imperialists and to support others. To support Palestinian nationalism is to oppose Jewish nationalism, and to support the latter is to fight the former.  It is not possible to support nationalism without also supporting national rivalries. With whom to side? With the Jews? With the Palestinians? With both? Where shall the Jews go to make room for the Palestinian people? What should the Palestinian refugees do to cease being a “threat” to the Jews? Such questions can be raised with reference to every part of the world, and will generally be answered by Jews siding with Jews, Arabs with Arabs, or  French with French, Poles with Poles and so forth. To be a good Indian nationalist is to disparage Pakistan; to be a true Pakistani is to despise India. And so it goes on.  The “liberation” of Cyprus from British rule only opened a new struggle for Cyprus between Greeks and Turks. There is no progressive nationalism. This is not about denying the right of a suppressed people to establish its independence; neither is it about dismissing the need to combat imperialist aggression and exploitation. Resisting one oppressor is not the same as supporting movements that seek to oppress its own people. To oppose an oppressor is not equivalent to calling for support for everything formerly colonized nation-states do. One cannot oppose a wrong when one country commits it, then support another country who commits the same wrong. The enemy of my enemy is not my friend is particularly applicable to oppressed people who may be manipulated by totalitarians and religious zealots. To oppose one evil with a lesser one must eventually lead to the support of the worst evil that emerges.

 Although socialists sympathies are with the oppressed, they relate not to emerging nationalism but to the particular plight of twice-oppressed people who face both a native and foreign ruling class. Their national aspirations are in part a sort of  “socialist” aspirations, as it includes an illusory hope of impoverished populations that they can improve their conditions through national independence. Yet national self-determination has not emancipated the labouring class in the advanced nations. It will not do so now in Asia and Africa. National revolutions promise little for the lower class. In a "free" Scotland social relations will not change and the conditions of the exploited class will not improve to any significant extent.

Cultural freedom and variety should not be confused with nationalism. That people should be free to fully develop their own culture is not merely a right but a desirable. Technological resources make it possible for people to choose their own lifestyles. The world will be a drab place indeed if the magnificent mosaic of different customs and traditions disappeared to be replaced by a homogenized world (which modern capitalism appears intent upon spreading with its MacDonaldisation). Similarly, a world completely divided and peoples at odds with one another, parochialising their seeming “cultural differences” to assert their ethinic or racial superiority would also be a backward step.

No matter how utopian the quest for world solidarity may appear in to-days world of conflicts, no other road seems open to escape fratricidal struggles and to attain a rational world society. Socialism will rise again as an global movement and on the basis of past experience, those interested in the rebirth of socialism must stress its internationalism most of all. While it is impossible for a socialists to become a nationalist, we are, nevertheless, anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist. However, the fight against colonialism does not imply adherence to the principle of national self-determination, but expresses our desire for a non-exploitative socialist society without borders. While socialists cannot identify themselves with national struggles, we can as socialists oppose both nationalism and imperialism. It is not the function of Scottish socialists to fight for independence from England but to make Scotland part of a socialist society. We seek to “de-nation” Scotland, "de-nation" England, and integrated them into a socialist one world. When capitalism is overthrown  the world will be on the way to the disappearance of all nation states. Nationalism, in its essence, is a poison. Nationalism has always been a disease that divided human from human. It produces artificial arbitary borders between human beings on trivial linguistic and cultural differences, and it conceals hierarchical and class- based conflicts. There is no “benevolent nationalism.” There is no place in a free society for nation-states. So let us create a truly libertarian form of collectivism. When free associations of producers and confederations of communities replace the nation-state, humanity will have rid itself of nationalism.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Food for thought

In a ruling in April, judges at a special court for Sierra Leone at The Hague found former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, guilty of eleven counts of war crimes by assisting rebels in Sierra Leone. The war ended in 2002 with 50 000 dead. The rebels atrocities included public executions, amputations, displaying decapitated heads at checkpoints, the killing and public disembowelment of a civilian whose intestines were stretched across a road to make a checkpoint, public rapes of women and girls, and people burned alive in their homes. Taylor said, "What I did...was done with honour. I was convinced that unless there was peace in Sierra Leone, Liberia would not be able to move forward. One must wonder to what depths humans can sink in this dog eat dog world. John Ayers

Rio Minus 20

It is against the background of repeated failures in almost every aspect of the environment that the Rio+20 conference took place. The messages of gloom and doom have never been clearer. The planet has never been under such massive pressure. Humanity faces its biggest threat with climate change. It is urgent to reduce global warming by cutting emissions of greenhouse gases, but since 1990 emissions have increased by almost 40 per cent. A report by the UN and over a thousand leading scientists showed that as much as two thirds of the world's ecosystems services - on which we are directly dependent for our survival - are threatened or in serious decline. In just 15 years global demand for natural resources has doubled. By 2030, the world will need at least 50 per cent more food, 45 per cent more energy, and 30 per cent more water. It may not be the end of the world but may well be the end of society as we know it. The soil is being degraded, the water supply depleted, the air polluted, the minerals and ores exhausted. We're not behaving sustainably. We're using our resources faster than the earth can provide them.


The lack of political will shown by the world’s governments to address environmental degradation is obvious to all. What governments do seem to agree on is the need for each country to interpret the concept of a green economy according to national priorities that leaves it up to each country to define what is meant by a green economy. Discussions have so far been focused on the pricing of eco-system services, the new financial markets to be developed and opened up. But the the destruction of ecosystems and the capitalist exchange economy are inseparable parts of the same problem. The capitalist system depends upon growth and accumulation to sustain itself.

 An ecological sound socialism is the necessary transformation to an environmentally sustainable economy. In order to avoid catastrophic and irreversible environmental destruction, world socialism will establish global sustainability strategies, based on science. The principles for sustainable development will be  translated into practice. The world has never needed socialism as much as today. When crises occcur, we come together very effectively and very quickly. During a war, during natural disasters, the best is often brought out in people. We survive and flourish because we look after each other. The bigger the crisis, the better we behave (although it is not always universal, of course.) It is surprisingly easy and fast how we could achieve real change. We could cut climate emissions 50 percent in the first five years and eliminate them on a net basis within 20 yrs, according to some studies. We can dramatically transform our production methods with existing proven technology. The only thing we really need to change is how we think. We need to recognise that spending more time helping each other, more time learning, more time involved in community are the behaviors that actually bring a better quality of life.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A CRAZY SOCIETY

Every day workers are confronted with the awful problems of capitalism. We can read about millions trying to survive on a pittance of an income, we can hear of the plight of millions of children facing an early death from a lack of clean water. The list of social disasters just goes on and on. At the same time we are informed of such obscenities as the following. "Not content with a vast collection of toys that spans luxury homes, private jets, lavish cars and cup-winning sailboats, the software mogul Larry Ellison is splashing out on his own paradise island, it has been revealed. The American founder of Oracle is buying Hawaii's sixth-largest island, Lanai, for a price estimated at around half a billion dollars – putting Britain's Richard Branson to shame, since his Caribbean idyll, Necker Island, is worth barely one-fifth of that." (Independent, 22 June) RD

THE RUSSIAN OWNING CLASS

Politicians the world over love to project the notion that they are just ordinary people doing a difficult job. Recent information from Russia shows that this is a complete sham. "With a collection of watches worth almost £500,000, many would assume they belonged to a Russian oligarch. But Russian president Vladimir Putin has a collection of timepieces worth almost six times his official annual salary of £72,000. One of the watches - made from platinum with a crocodile skin strap - sells for more than £300,000 alone." (Daily Mail, 9 June) Such staggering wealth is beyond the imagination of most members of the Russian working class.. RD

streets ahead

North Charlotte Street, where the average house price is £1,791,179, came top of a list of Scotland’s highest valued street.

 There are now 31 streets in Scotland with average prices of more than £1m, and almost half of them, 14, are in Edinburgh.

 Milltimber, a suburb near Aberdeen, topped the website’s list of highest valued towns and neighbourhoods in Scotland, with house prices averaging at £432,421. Following closely were Humbie and North Berwick, both in East Lothian, which came second and third with average property prices of £388,076 and £313,556. Bearsden in the East Dunbartonshire area took 20th place.

 http://news.stv.tv/scotland/107374-edinburghs-million-pound-streets-top-scotlands-property-rich-list/

Thursday, June 21, 2012

TRIDENT BEFORE THE NHS

Two news items illustrate the priorities of capitalism. The UK Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond announced a £1 billion deal for reactors to power new Trident submarines. "Bruce Crawford, the Scottish government's Strategy Minister said: "It's estimated that the costs of the new Trident weapon system could be anything up to £25 billion and over the lifetime, £100 billion." (Times, 18 June) On the same day the government showed it thought little of the NHS compared to expenditure on nuclear weapons. "A panel of experts says the NHS is failing to provide even the most basic treatment for mental illness to millions of people, with children particularly poorly served, and gives a warning that services are being cut back even farther because of budgetary constraints in the health service." (Times, 18 June) RD

A NICE LITTLE EARNER

Controversy over the presence of 26 unelected bishops in the upper House will be exacerbated by revelations about how much some of them are being paid for the privilege. "Bishops are claiming up to £27,000 a year in fixed-rate allowances to attend sessions of the House of Lords on top of their travel costs. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Independent has found that some bishops are claiming up to the maximum fixed allowance for attending sessions in the second chamber while having full-time jobs in their dioceses." (Independent, 21 June) These claims can be quite significant for instance the Bishop of Chester attended the House on 97 days, claiming £27,600 in attendance allowances and £7,309 in travel expenses. The Bishop of Liverpool attended on 60 days, claiming £15,600 for attendance and £4,220 in expenses. These men of the cloth are used to preaching that "The Lord will provide", but in their case it would seem the House of Lords does a fair bit of providing. RD

On abundance and post-scarcity


How much is enough? Enough means enough for a good life. Enough means enough to meet our needs. However, capitalism channels our hopes and dreams into the acquisition of consumer goods. There are vast commonalities around the world. They reveal broad agreement on what we call the basic goods, food clothing and shelter,  and what constitutes living well good health, respect, security, loving, trusting relationships — these are recognized everywhere as part of a good human life, and their absence is recognized everywhere as a misfortune. Capitalism and conspicuous consumtion puts us under continual pressure to want more and more. The “scarcity” discerned by economists is due this pressure. Considered in relation to our vital needs, our world is one not of scarcity but rather of extreme abundance.

 In abstract terms it is impossible for us to carry on growing without end. Endless growth is an ecological impossibility. Sooner or later we'll exhaust the world's supply of oil, gas, coal, uranium, or its ability to absorb their waste products. Climate change scientists warn of the impending destruction of the planet unless we take drastic measures to restrict growth.  In a world in which we could have enough, collectively, to carry on striving for more is mindless. Capitalism is an inherently insecure form of economic organization, one in which "everything solid melts into air," as Karl Marx put it.

Technology has been seen as the means of lifting people out of poverty and relieving them from drudgery. We would produce more and work less.  The world would be dominated not by the problem of having to earn their living but the problems occupying our leisure. Everyone thought that robots would be doing all the work for us. That this has not come to pass is surely mankind’s biggest tragedy. Today it is still work and not leisure that defines our lives.

There was once a time when the United States was a population of  farmers. Due to technological advances, significantly more agricultural output and products could be produced by fewer people. As of 2008, only 2-3 percent of the population were directly employed in agriculture. That is 2% to 3% of the population now grows the food that feeds the other 97-98%. Scarcity, as most people understand it, has diminished greatly in most societies over the last 200 years. According to David Graeber "One reason we don’t have robot factories is because roughly 95 percent of robotics research funding has been channeled through the Pentagon, which is more interested in developing unmanned drones than in automating paper mills." and that new technologies have been focused upon work discipline and social control rather than being liberatory.

Technology has the ability to eliminate the need for most of us to spend most of our time enslaved by repetitive and unsatisfying toil. Upcoming advances in robotics can eliminate the need for actual human workers. We could live in a world where all our concerns are taken care of by robots and computers and we are free to pursue the things that truly matter to us. We are moving in a direction where machines and computers do all the work allowing humans to focus on their pastimes of choice. But this economy of the future is determined by the conflicting interests of the workers and the master class, the owners of capital. Rather than give goods away for free and have people work for nothing artificial scarcity is introduced. Goods go to waste and people go without.

Let’s prepare for the time in which jobs and employment become obsolete and demand the right to be lazy.

A Cold Reception to the Dalai Lama


The reknown spiritual leader of Tibetan buddhism arrived in Scotland to little official welcome. The Dalai Lama is on a two-day tour that will see him visit three cities delivering public talks in Edinburgh, Dundee and Inverness to promote his message of non-violence, compassion and universal responsibility. Dundee’s have failed to substitute an alternative speaker after Lord Provost Bob Duncan cancelled a speech during the appearance of the Tibetan spiritual leader at the Caird Hall due to personal bereavement. The council are accused of distancing themelves following a visit from the Chinese consul. Alex Salmond, the Scottish nationalist leader, has been  criticised for not arranging to meet the Dalai Lama during his visit, and faced claims he is failing to confront human rights issues of Tibet's claims for independence to protect his relationship with China. Changchub Mermesel, chairwoman of the Tibetan Community in Scotland, said she believed Scottish Government efforts to nurture relationships with China, including the deal to bring pandas to Edinburgh Zoo, were part of the reason behind Mr Salmond’s decision not to meet the Dalai Lama.

Shabnum Mustapha, Programme Director for Amnesty International in Scotland, said: “It is appalling and very worrying if Dundee City Council has ‘withdrawn’ its support for the Dalai Lama’s visit to its city due to pressure from the Chinese Government."

The statement goes on to explain that “Amnesty has again and again highlighted China’s questionable human rights record, including its continued restriction on freedom of expression – and it seems that this censorship has now reached our shores. To think that our own publicly-elected officials would bow to pressure of this kind is unthinkable, and we would urge Dundee City Council to reconsider their decision. It is also very disappointing that it appears no-one from the Scottish Government, including the First Minister, is able to welcome the Dalai Lama as he embarks on his visit to Scotland. His visit to our country should serve as yet another opportunity for our government to put the spotlight on human rights abuses in China. Instead it seems that economics trump human rights when it comes to Scotland's growing relationship with the world's second largest economy. The Scottish Government should be welcoming this opportunity to support the Dalai Lama, an important spiritual figure who symbolises the movement for non-violent self-determination for an oppressed people.Throughout China, freedom of expression continues to be restricted by the authorities and re-education through labour camps continue to operate. And the Chinese government has displayed increasingly repressive behaviour in ethnic minority areas such as Tibet.” (our emphasis)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's beyond belief !

Thousands of American school students in Louisiana attend private religious schools that teach from a fundamentalist christian curriculum that suggests the Loch Ness Monster is real and disproves evolution.

 "Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence.
Have you heard of the `Loch Ness Monster' in Scotland? `Nessie,' for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur." explains an Accelerated Christian Education science textbook

It goes on to declare that "True science will never contradict the Bible because God created both the universe and Scripture...If a scientific theory contradicts the Bible, then the theory is wrong and must be discarded."

Politically, the religious school curriculums denounce trade unions as "... plagued by socialists and anarchists who use laborers to destroy the free-enterprise system that hardworking Americans have created." and that the Great Depression was exaggerated by propagandists, including John Steinbeck, to advance a socialist agenda. 
 Whereas "...the Ku Klux Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross... In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians."and that "South Africa's apartheid policy encouraged whites, Blacks, Coloureds, and Asians to develop their own independent ways of life. Separate living area and schools made it possible for each group to maintain and pass on their culture and heritage to their children."

OK for some

American International Group Inc. (AIG) Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche said Europe’s debt crisis shows governments worldwide must accept that people will have to work more years. “Retirement ages will have to move to 70, 80 years old,”  Benmosche, said during a interview at his luxury holiday villa in Dubrovnik, Croatia. “That would make pensions, medical services more affordable. They will keep people working longer and will take that burden off of the youth.” 

AIG, rescued from the brink of collapse with a bailout package worth up to $182.5 billion,  said this week that Benmosche will receive $3 million in cash and $4 million in stock under his annual compensation package.

Meantime, frail elderly people were routinely left without food after their care home ran out of supplies because of an apparent attempt to “cut down the shopping bill”, the health watchdog the Care Quality Commission said. The senior citizens home was so short-staffed that at times there were not even enough on hand to help frail people to the lavatory. Inspectors also reported seeing dirty toilets, broken furniture and found residents were not even dressed in clean clothes. There was no budget set aside to provide stimulating activities for the residents. Staff told inspectors they had resorted to buying snacks for residents out of their own pockets because of shortages. While morale among the staff was “very, very low” and complained of little support from managers, families of the residents said that the workers themselves “deserve a medal”

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Food for thought

On May 5, an article in the Toronto Star focused on people at New Delhi's Ghazipur landfill who 'live' on a trash pile, "On Trash Mountain, families earn $1 to $2 a day slogging through waist-deep muck. But 'residents' also marry, have children, pray, and celebrate life's other milestones." Let's speed the day when we can put capitalism on the trash pile where it belongs.
The police were up to old tricks before the recent NATO summit in Washington. Three men were arrested ahead of the protest and charged
with possessing weapons, a charge denied by the three. Their lawyer said, "This is obviously an attempt to chill dissent ahead of the NATO
demonstrations." So much for democratic rights if the denials are true.
An article in the Daily Beast, an American news reporting site (www.dailybeast.com <
http://www.dailybeast.com/>) bleated, "Why can't
Obama bring Wall Street to justice?" The reporters were enraged that the corporate kleptomaniacs who brought down the global economy are getting away with it. They answer their own question by adding that Wall Street contributed heavily to Obama's presidential campaign. Another good reason to abolish money -- real democracy. John Ayers

Why are you fat?

Nearly 14 percent of women in the world are considered obese, up from 7.9 percent in 1980. Among men, 10 percent are obese, up from 5 percent in 1980.

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public policy at New York University, one of the leading nutritional experts who has written many books on the food industry, explains obesity rates started to rise in the 1980s, she says largely because of demands Wall Street placed on food makers.

Wall Street "forced food companies to try and sell food in an extremely competitive environment," she says. Food manufacturers "had to look for ways to get people to buy more food. And they were really good at it. I blame Wall Street for insisting that corporations have to grow their profits every 90 days."

 Large government subsidizes given to the corn, wheat, soybean and sugar industries allowed farmers to reap high returns on their crops. Farmers could grow these commodities cheaply and were encouraged by the food industry "to plant as much as they could. Food production increased, and so did calories in the food supply," Nestle writes. Inexpensive food encouraged more eating, and more eating led to bigger waistlines. "Today, in contrast to the early 1980s, it is socially acceptable to eat in more places, more frequently and in larger amounts, and for children to regularly consume fast foods, snacks and sodas" Since 1980 the index cost of fruits and vegetables has gone up by 40 percent. Whereas the index price of sodas and snack foods have gone down by 20 to 30 percent.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Socialist speech - from Upton Sinclair's Jungle

Part Two

Part One

Hat tip to Stefan at his website

Greenwashing Capitalism

Presidents, politicians, UN officials, local government leaders, and thousands of environmental activistts from across the world are meeting in Rio to arguer over what ‘green economics’ really means. Should economic forces be harnessed in service to the environment or the environment subjugated to economic interests? If 700 international environmental treaties hasn't saved the planet, will 701... 702 do it? Will harnessing people power have more success?

Our ability to generate more output with fewer people has lifted our lives out of drudgery and delivered us a potential cornucopia of material wealth. Yet a billion or more people  face a worsening of their conditions, and the very existence of hundreds of millions of them is threatened. The vast majority of these victims bear little or no responsibility. Pushing 1 billion persons down to extreme poverty, and enriching a very few is one of the major “accomplishments” of capitalism. If we allow businesses to measure our natural resources only by their profits we will have a system headed for ruin. Unless we stop envisioning humanity's raison d’ĂȘtre as the pursuit of accumulating capital, the environmental crisis cannot be broken.

No "green" capitalism! We champion a green socialism that focuses on production for need only and common ownership of the worlds wealth. “Green” capitalism will bring about natural resource grabbing, displacing humanity and nature from the essential elements needed for their survival. The drive for profit, instead of reestablishing harmony within the system, will provoke even greater imbalances, concentrations of wealth, and speculative processes. "Green" capitalism is illusory, simple wishful thinking. The destructive "grow or die" imperative of our market-driven system cannot be wished or regulated away. Capitalism is based on the premise of eternal growth. It is not a steady state, but a rapacious system that is never satiated. Under a capitalist system, not growing is not the same as standing still; it is moving backwards. This is the fundamental contradiction in a finite world. Countless studies have documented that limits to growth in such areas as energy, minerals, water and arable land (among others) are fast being reached. The energy corporations are desperately trying to crash through these limits with technological fixes such as fracking, tar sands exploitation and deep-water drilling, which are equally or more environmentally costly than traditional methods. Yet the trends continue. Capitalism has utterly failed us. It has destroyed our communities, our democracy and the planet we live on. As long as people believe that capitalism is sustainable,  they'll focus on reforming it -- smoothing around the edges, re-writing regulations and so on. Some of us though seek a revolution that overthrows the whole system, clearing the way for something entirely new. Maximizing accumulation is the force that drives capitalism. Appropriating nature and labour is the cheapest way for maximization of accumulation. Capitalism is always about the theft of the people's sustenance and the looting of the source of their sustenance – Nature. Capitalists hate any sort of cost. Corporations don’t care much for building environmental costs into their production and spend millions of dollars in political lobbying to thwart such policies. This system where the master class try their best to maximize profit by minimizing cost, by appropriating labour, robbing nature, grabbing everything within their reach, creating pollution and destruction of the ecology and causing the ruination of nature are acts of crime - crime against the planet, against posterity, against humanity. It is eco-murder! These are crimes that not only harm present generations but hurt future generations. Vulture environmentalism is vulture capitalism’s hungry and greedy twin. Capitalism is a system that must continually expand, a system that, by its very nature, will eventually come up against the reality of finite natural resources. By its very nature the capitalism system stands against ecology and environment as its only concern is profit, nothing else. Standing up for environment will inescapably lead to questioning this ever greedy hungry economic system. Nobody as yet ever talks about the CAUSE of all these "issues" and underlying reasons but they eventually will arrive at such questions.

 A world without workers is impossible. A world without capitalists is imperative. An end to the reign of capitalism is necessary to save the Earth and all its people so that we can begin a human society offering hope for all and not just some. There can be no fundamental alteration of the status quo without the abolition of private and state property. This may seem a scary proposition and the fear of change is encouraged by those who currently benefit from the existing social order. We have not only to conquer the fear, but also to embrace a radically different perspective and way of being in the world.

Productivity — the amount of output delivered per hour of work in the economy — is often viewed as the engine of progress. The quest for increased productivity haunts the waking hours of C.E.O.’s and finance ministers. But the gains in productivity are used to increase the profits of shareholders, and not to reduce working time. Just before the recession the elite held slightly less than $80 trillion. After the bailout, their combined investment wealth was estimated at a little over $83 trillion. To give some idea, this is four years of the gross output of all the human beings on earth.

The ideas of the ruling class have hoodwinked us! Carefully crafted propaganda convince us that a society based upon individual greed, exploitation and inequality is normal, natural and desirable.What kind of system is capitalism? This kind: If there are wars, that benefits the arms trade. If disease spreads that is good for the pharmaceutical industry. If hurricanes and earthuakes reaps destruction upon communities, that is good for the construction industry. Such are the realities of the cold blooded economics by which the people of the world have been organized for hundreds of years. Many of us starve for lack of food while others go on diets because they eat too much. Many of us sleep in doorways and on the streets, yet pampered pets have their own beds in warm homes. The idea of keeping people healthy, safe, secure and alive is reduced to doing so only if they are able to create profits for those selling health, safety, security and life itself to the highest bidder in the market. If we can’t afford to buy those things and charity does not exist for us, we can all just drop dead. None of this happens because of individuals who are thoughtless or cold hearted or murderous. But in a system which dictates that profit must be created in a market sale. As Marx explains "Catch a man a fish, and you can sell it to him. Teach a man to fish, and you ruin a wonderful business opportunity."

Summer School

Summer School 2017

Summer School 2017  21st – 23rd July Fircroft College, Birmingham   These days, con...