Saturday, March 23, 2019

Until the Socialist Commonwealth

There was a time when men and women joined together in parties and societies, for the purpose of furthering a cause or principle dear to their hearts. These organisations were supposed to exist for the idea or cause it represented. Now, on the contrary, the tendency is to regard the cause as existing for the sake of organisation. “The end is nothing, the movement everything,” is a rallying-cry of the practical party-man of the present day. The principles, the ideas, for which these movements are supposed to stand for are now quite subordinate to the party-machine.

There is probably no word better abused at the present moment than the word “socialism”. There seems a great difficulty with many persons, calling themselves “socialists” nowadays who fancy themselves before all things as sensible, level-headed politicians which means the continuance of capitalism and of the traditional policy of capitalism in its essential features, notwithstanding modifications of detail. In other words, preserving the stability of the present social system. The Socialist Party’s object is to strike a blow at this continuity of capitalism.

Socialism does not mean co-operatives competing against one another and also with traditional capitalist enterprises. It means the whole community, backed by the forces at the disposal of the community, organised for the work of production and distribution, and employing for this purpose the latest and most approved methods and the latest and most approved technology.

Socialism is a lot more than the capitalist gospel of success – acquisition for acquisition’s sake - and the selfish individualist doctrine of life where every person’s aim is to become a capitalist, large or small which is to buy his work-force in the cheapest market (exploit the workers), and sell the resulting product at the highest price (i.e., overcharge the consumer). Now, it is a matter of fact, it is economically impossible for every man to become a capitalist, so that the attempt to carry out this doctrine, as in the present state of things, must invariably result in the separation of society into two classes – victimisers (employers or investors) and victims (working people.)

Distinct from the Labour Party, the Socialist Party have always stoutly upheld the banner of Internationalism in the matter of immigration.

The wealth of the community, whether land, raw material, or instruments of production, socialism would place in the hands of the people themselves. The Socialist Party alone holds a clear goal- the entire transformation of human society. An economically free community cannot fail to be the foundation of a free social life, a life free from the shackles of wage slavery and the sordid struggle for the bare means of subsistence imposed on mankind. Socialism means the proclaims the “joy of life” as the right of all

The ways of the men and women of the co-operative commonwealth of the future will not be our ways, nor their thoughts our thoughts. We only deceive ourselves if we think so. “Why don’t you practice what you preach?” is a common jibe at socialists. We answer, “Because we cannot; if we could practice what we preached we should not require to preach any longer, so that the fact of our preaching is a sign that the time of our practicing has not yet arrived!” 
The accusation also assumes that socialism is an individualist-ethical theory, primarily designed for the direct reform of the personal character of individuals. This it is not. Socialism is an economic theory of the evolution and transformation of society. 
The Socialist Party doesn’t profess to practice what they preach, because what we preach is social revolution, i.e., the entire transformation of society. It is perfectly obvious that no individual can practice the transformation of society, except by working for the said transformation to the best of his or her ability. This is the only sort of “practicing” a socialist can do nowadays. Only when we have changed the existing conditions and secured for all the reward of their work, then and not till then shall me be able to “practice what we preach.”

Scotland's Worth

Natural resources in Scotland have been valued at one-third of the UK’s total.

 The research, by the Office of National Statistics, examined the value or profit provided by natural resources such as wind, water, oil and gas, and how they are used. 

The partial-asset value of Scottish natural capital was estimated to be £273 billion – 34 per cent of the UK as a whole – in 2015.

Renewable energy is the fastest-growing natural resource consumed in Scotland, while oil and gas production has halved in less than two decades.

 Electricity generated from renewable sources was five times higher in 2017 than at the turn of the millennium and now accounts for more than half of all the country’s energy production. 

Wind is the largest producer of electricity from renewable sources, overtaking hydropower as the main source of renewable energy in 2010. It accounted for 68 per cent of the electricity generated from renewables up to 2017.

Oil and gas production has steadily fallen since 1998, dropping 58 per cent in less than two decades. In 2017, combined oil and gas production in Scotland was 
73.7 million tonnes of oil equivalent, down from 
176.6 million tonnes.

The fish caught in Scottish waters has reached record numbers. The amount of fish captured in 2016 was more than two-thirds higher than in 2003 – a 70 per cent increase from 628.2 thousand tonnes to 1,065.2 thousand tonnes. 
There was an annual expansion in fish capture of nearly 35 per cent in 2014 and an increase of 14 per cent in 2016. 

Scottish commercial property attracted more investment last year from wealthy overseas investors than France, Japan and South Korea.  total investment from “internationally-based ultra-high-net-worth individuals” in Scottish commercial property totalled some $376.3 million (£283.6m) in 2018. The figure for France was about $360m, Japan came in at $110m, while South Korea was just $10m. Scotland was placed eighth globally for cross-border private capital investment in commercial property, such as offices, shops and industrial sites, behind Canada at $770m.

Jenners’ historic department store on Edinburgh’s Princes Street was bought by a Danish investor for £53m.


All other political parties live only in the present. The Socialist Party is the only one which has a definite aim in the future, the only one whose present policy is dictated by a general, consistent purpose. Socialists view socialism as the higher stage social evolution of human society. All the accumulated advances in machinery and technology, all that science and art had given to the humanity over generations is to be for use, not for the few, but for the benefit of mankind as a whole. Based on the common ownership of the means of production and distribution, the socialist system is to be built, ending all social oppression by dissolving the hostile classes into a community of free and equal producers striving not for sectional interests, but for the common good. This is the socialist commonwealth, liberating the individual from all economic, political and social exploitation, providing for real liberty and for the full and harmonious development of the personality.

Under capitalism, with its wage slavery, the worker is nominally free; but as the land, the factories and all the product of the worker’s labour belong to the employing class. The workers are at liberty to change their individual masters, if they can, that is all. Wage slaves have ceased to be at the mercy of individual employers, but they cannot emancipate themselves from slavery to the employing class. “Free” and “independent” workers sell their labour power, which is the only commodity they possess, to the capitalists who own or control all the means of producing wealth, including the tools and resources.

There is a continuous class war between wage slaves and the capitalist class, with its parasites. So long as wages are paid by one class to another class, so long will men and women remain slaves to the employing class.

Under the modern methods of production the workers are controlled by their machines, instead of being in control of them. Under the capitalist system of production for exchange the producers themselves have no control over their own products.

Goods are produced, not directly for social purposes, but to be put on the market for sale , in order to create a profit for the capitalists. If capitalists are unable for any reason to produce goods profitably, the wage-earners cease to be employed, though there may be a vast quantity of useful goods glutting the warehouses on the one hand, and millions of people who are anxious to have them on the other.

Rent, profit and interest are all provided by the workers. They are, all three, the component parts of the labour value embodied in saleable commodities by the labour power of the workers, over and above the actual wages paid to the toiler, and the cost of raw materials, incidental materials, etc., needed by the capitalist for the conduct of his business.

Production for profit and exchange by wage labour assumes the existence, from historic causes, of large numbers of people who are divorced from the land and possess no property of their own. The only way to solve the growing antagonism between the two great classes of modern society is, by substituting co­operation for competition, in all branches of production and distribution. This involves a social revolution. The abolition of the present system of production means substituting production for use for production for sale.

Workers have advanced their labour power to the capitalist before they are paid their wages for its use. Capitalists, as a class, run no risks whatever; the unfortunate in the competitive struggle for gain are simply wiped out by their competitors, who benefit by their downfall. Shareholders in capitalist companies rarely or never render any service to the company, or the community, as shareholders. In the vast majority of cases they have never visited the enterprises from which they draw their dividends.

As formulated by its chief advocates, socialism aims at the entire emancipation of the workers from the mastery of the capitalists and the immediate establishment of a co-operative commonwealth. That is, in fact, the emancipation of the whole wage-slave class.

It is not our purpose to meet all the objections, misconceptions and
misstatements with which the capitalist class strives to combat socialism. It is fruitless less to attempt to enlighten malice and ignorance. The Socialist Party’s task is to show that the socialist commonwealth is not impossible, not a mere fanciful dream. The capitalist social system has run its course. The substitution of a new social order for the existing one is no longer simply desirable, it has become a necessity. So many false notions about the socialism have been inherited or invented but so long as our vision is turned in the same direction we can prevail.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Child Poverty to Rise

The Scottish government is at risk of missing its own child poverty targets by more than 100,000 children.

Austerity measures will put child poverty across the country on course to hit a 20-year peak of about 29% of children living in relative poverty by 2023, its report forecasts. The figure is considerably higher than the Scottish government’s target of 18%. The most recent figures on relative child poverty show 23% of children across Scotland were living on less than 60% of median household incomes in 2016-17.

Adam Corlett, senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation, acknowledged that the rise in child poverty “is almost entirely driven by UK-wide decisions”, including the four-year freeze on working-age benefits and the two-child limit on working-age benefit support.

Truth Will Out

The working class are “slave” class. We are the people who produce the wealth capitalism. The urgent task still awaits us — the harnessing of capitalism’s productive forces in the interests of all to banish deprivation from the earth forever. For the Socialist Party, this is not a question of techniques and technology of production, but of social organisation. Appealing to the kind sentiments of the people that run a heartless system won’t get us very far. People don’t get very far if they depend on the moral scruples of the powerful. Humane principles are low priorities in the profit-driven society. By and large, the capitalists from Wall Street and the boardrooms of the corporations already know what they are doing. Many activists have begun recognising the limits of lobbying or traditional protest marches. Those activities are always necessary, and their importance should not be underestimated, yet they’re still insufficient. Workers need to build electoral muscle, wresting political power away from the ruling class. Only by mobilising to take power can we realistically hope to overcome and dismantle the capitalist power structures.

Bourgeois thinkers assume that the triumph of capitalism coincides with the highest attainable summit of human existence. These scholars of history stubbornly refuse to learn from the past when the slow, steady evolution of social conditions exploded at critical junctures into tremendous upheavals which overturned the old order. History is full of such sudden transitions and forward leaps. Capitalism which faces the same prospect as Indian tribalism, colonial feudalism and chattel slavery. It has become obsolete and opposed to progress. The major evils from which mankind suffers are directly attributable to the outworn institution of capitalist private property. The emancipation of mankind from poverty, tyranny and wars is inseparable from the liberation of the means of production from the grip of capitalist ownership and control. The capitalists are destined to be dislodged like the feudal barons and the Southern slavocracy. Uprooting all the abominations of class society, and cultivating everything worthy in knowledge and culture taken over from capitalism, will be enjoyed in its finest forms through the socialist revolution of the working people. Mankind cannot resume its upward climb until civilisation is rescued from capitalist barbarism. The duty of the Socialist Party is to foresee the rebirth of mass radicalism and to prepare its advent by developing and disseminating the ideas of socialism. Our immediate goal is the social revolution. The goal of the Labour Party is legislative reforms. But we know that the promised reforms will not be realised and that, even realised, they will only ameliorate the lot of one section of workers at the expense of the others.

 So, we only see one solution: the revolution. We separate ourselves from reformists, for we believe we must fight against everything that slows it down and all that could reconcile us to the current order of things. We are above all socialists, i.e., we want to destroy the cause of all iniquities, all exploitation, all poverty and crime: private property. We revolt against current society not in the name of an abstract principles but for the effective amelioration of humanity’s lot. The revolution we conceive of can only be made by and for the people, without any false representatives. The salvation of the revolution lies in the organisation of the working class. The basis of future organisations of labour is the federation of associations. There will be trial and error. We will not immediately fall upon a perfect system. There will be no divine inspiration, but experience and agreements will tell the individual and the labour associations what society has need of at a given moment. Thus understood, the revolution obviously can’t be the work of a party or a coalition of parties: it demands the assistance of the entire labour movement. The workers have no need of chiefs: they are quite capable of charging one of their own with a particular task.

When the unions demand improvements, salary increases, reductions in working hours, abolition of work rules; when they go on strike to defend their dignity or to affirm their solidarity with colleagues or fellow workers, we have to say to them that none of this resolves the question. We must promote a wider and effective need, for the revolution, for the abolition of private property and government. We must do everything possible to broaden and generalise the movement and give it a revolutionary content. But above all we must support the workers, offer them our solidarity. To turn away from the workers’ movement would mean appearing to be friends of the rich. Even if the economic effects of strikes are partial, transitory, and often non-existent or disastrous, that doesn’t change the fact that every strike is an act of dignity, an act of revolt, and serves to get workers used to thinking of the boss as an enemy and to fight for what he or she wants without waiting for grace from on high. A striker is already no longer a slave who
blesses the boss but already a subversive rebel, already engaged on the path of socialism and revolution. It is up to us to help him and her advance along that road. We must prove to the world that socialism isn’t an abstract ideal, a dream or a distant vision, but a vital and living principle, destined to renew the world and establishing it on the imperishable foundations of well-being and human fraternity.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Lest we forget

The Passing of Comrade Henderson (1957)

Obituary from the Nov-Dec 1957 issue of The Western Socialist
Comrade Walter Henderson was born at Fifeshire, Scotland, one of a family of twelve brothers, and came across to Canada in 1911. He had been raised in a strict religious environment. In about 1913-14 some comrades first contacted him at Brandon, Manitoba, where he was conducting a Sunday school class in St. Paul’s church. In 1914 with the outbreak of World War I work was disrupted and suspended in that part of Canada. Henderson, with thousands of others, lost his job. He drifted into Winnipeg and hung around the Labor Temple where he met some members of the Socialist Party of Canada. He listened to them attentively, and by the time the war was over he had dropped his religion completely and was an enthusiastic member of the Winnipeg Local of the Socialist Party of Canada.
For a time he worked on the Winnipeg Street Railway. During the Winnipeg strike he was a most valiant and militant fighter. Later on he went to work in the Fort Rouge Railroad shops, where workers in the boiler department made him a delegate to the Trades & Labour Council. 
In 1923 Henderson came to Los Angeles. He got a job at the trade he had learned back in Scotland — plastering. With no jobs available in the depression, 1929, he and his wife Bridget, started a small bakery. After about four years of this he found himself back in the plasterer’s game.
From 1923 on he was a member of the Plasterers’ Local No. 2. For thirty years he was their delegate to the Los Angeles Central Labor Council and for about two years he was a business agent.
The present writer knew Com. Henderson for forty years, having worked with him most of the time. We both were charter members of Local Los Angeles WSP back in 1931. It was always a pleasure to be in his company. At all our social gatherings he was the life of the party. He was active in Party work until the very last. I ’phoned him about three hours before he passed away. He was, as always, full of enthusiasm, telling me he had just written four letters to San Francisco comrades making arrangements for them to hear tape recordings heard at recent WSP conference at Boston.
On Sunday, November 10th, two days before he passed away, our local group met at a comrade’s house. He was full of fun, but said he was not feeling up to par. He told us at this time he was much concerned about increasing the sale of our papers on the newsstands. He was also elated that he had collected $18.00 to send to the national office. I do not remember him ever missing a business meeting unless he was out of town.
Our comrade had hundreds of friends in the labor movement, many of whom disagreed with his Socialist principles but respected his sincerity. He was always outspoken and never hesitant in exposing those whom he thought were guilty of deception and hocus pocus in the labor movement.
At his funeral several hundred crowded the two rooms of the funeral parlor, with as many more unable to get inside. A summarized account of his life in the Socialist movement was given by W. A. Pritchard, a friend of his with whom he had worked in the Socialist Party of Canada years before.
He is survived by his widow, who shared with him the same social concepts of life, and two married daughters He is also survived by a brother Dave, with whom many of the comrades are well acquainted. To the entire family we extend our deepest sympathy at their great loss.
His passing is an irretrievable loss to all that knew him as a Socialist. All we can do now is to say farewell to a loyal friend and ardent comrade. We will carry on.

Fred Evans

From here

A life worth living for all

The inability of seemingly powerful and well-entrenched liberal and left parties to prevent the triumph of right-wing reaction has been a bitter pill to swallow. The conditions have aggravated the sense of working-class political impotence. Forced to abandon their traditional beliefs and failing to find satisfactory alternatives, the workers have become easy prey to demagogy and trickery. As standards of human existence deteriorate these factors will not contribute to clearer thinking by the workers.

Capitalism is insane. It cannot work efficiently— it can't work at all! The Socialist Party does not direct its appeal for the establishment of socialism to the capitalists. We know it would be worse than useless. No ruling class ever gave up its power of domination without being forced to do so. Make no mistake about it, when the master class are confronted with a serious attack upon the private property institution no abstract “civil rights” will prevent them using all the might at their command to maintain their power. The appeal of the Socialist Party is directed to the working class because this class has everything to gain by the acceptance of socialist principles. At this stage the question arises as to the means to be employed against the might of the ruling class. We assert that the workers must look to themselves to get out of capitalist conditions. While it is true that the master class use their power to consolidate their domination of the working class, it is also true that this power has been handed to them by the latter. In other words, at every election the workers have voted the capitalists into power. It is as though the lamb delivered itself over to the lion. The workers must understand that they can use this political weapon in the interest of themselves. They must study socialism wherein they will learn the cause of their subjection, how they are subjected, and the means by which they can combine their forces as a class and use their might to ensure the right to live a comfortable and healthy life.

It is true that the workers control in politics, in the sense that they have a majority of the total votes; but once they have voted that power, either to Coalitionists, Liberals or Labour Leaders, their control is gone, and the party they vote into office wields the full power of the State. The workers can only use the power that their number gives them when they consciously organise for a specific object and send their own representatives to the national and local assemblies for the accomplishment of that object. The whole question of slavery or freedom centres around this point: will the workers continue to allow themselves to be led, or will they direct the affairs of life in their common interest, through representatives selected and appointed by themselves? They can only do the latter when they are in agreement as to the object of their political activities. The only object, correctly understood, on which all workers could agree is the socialist object. The establishment of a system of society based on the common ownership and democratic control of all the means of wealth production. The task for every socialist is, therefore, to help in the work of making more socialists.

Before a socialist revolution can take place a majority of the working class must understand and accept the essentials of socialism and organise to establish it. This understanding not only renders “leaders” unnecessary, it forbids their existence. The working class will keep control in its own hands and administrators will have to carry out the workers’ instructions. To talk of a “socialist revolution” as being “led by socialists” is at once to proclaim one’s entire ignorance of even the elements of socialism.  Capitalism itself rests upon ignorance, and its political parties, with their symbols and slogans, their banners and big drums, are all up to their necks in it. The mass of the people are taken in by the ballyhoo. They support the system of private property for the flimsiest of reasons and never seriously consider the proposition that there is a better way of running the world. As long as such ideas keep their grip, the world will remain in confusion. Apart from anything else, democracy will always be unsafe. Both Labour and Conservative parties support this chaos of ignorance. Beside that momentous fact, what does it really matter which has the bigger posters, or the more press advertisements, or bangs the bigger drum?

Only socialism can guarantee the conditions of a life worth living for all. Because its establishment depends upon an understanding of the necessary social changes by a majority of the population, these changes cannot be left to parties acting apart from or above the workers. The workers cannot vote for Socialism as they do for reformist policies and then go home or go to work and carry on as usual. To put the matter in this way is to show its absurdity. Socialist ideas are not acquired merely by the experience of hardships and tragedy under capitalism. They must be propagated and learned. The party of the workers, therefore, cannot be anything less than a socialist party; its task, the conversion of the working class to the principles of socialism. Nor can it at present be much more. It must eschew all the cheap tricks of electioneering and propaganda; whether these consist of open support for capitalism on the plea of "urgent" problems, or a futile appeal for "a socialist Britain now." Such activities will not bring socialism any nearer; the workers who support them are only postponing or evading their real responsibility. That they do so is not due to any evil machinations or secret plots by these power-seeking parties. On the contrary, the existence of these organisations and the popularity of their illusory remedies is conditioned by the inadequacy of working-class political understanding. So long as the workers do not comprehend the necessity and meaning of a revolutionary social change, they will have no choice but to leave their fate in the hands of "parties" and "leaders." With the development of socialist consciousness (class-consciousness) will come the realisation that they, the workers themselves, must take
control of society. Knowing what has to be done will give them the will and assurance needed. The Socialist Party therefore reject all comparison with other political parties. We do not ask for power; we help to educate the working-class itself into taking it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Who owns Scotland?

A study by the Scottish Land Commission found that about 1,125 owners, including Highland lairds and major public bodies such as Forest Enterprise and the National Trust for Scotland, own 70% of Scotland’s rural land, covering more than 4.1m hectares (10m acres) of countryside.

That includes 87 owners whose holdings total 1.7m ha, with some estates owned by the same family for more than 400 years. Scotland’s two most powerful private landowners – the Danish clothing billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne; and the Duke of Buccleuch – each own more than 80,000 ha (200,000 acres), spread across multiple properties.

The Forestry Commission owns 638,600 ha and the National Trust for Scotland, a conservation charity, which owns 76,000 ha.

Scotland’s land ownership registry was badly out of date and only covered 33% of the country’s land area.

The Church of England has quietly become Scotland’s largest private forestry owner. In December 2014, its investment fund bought 13 forestry plots, and two in Wales, for £49m, doubling its forestry holdings to 13,215 ha. A commercial plantation’s uniform blocks of spruce and conifers are disliked by conservationists but loved by investors because they attract grants and offer reliable profits.

Late last year, a Danish clothing billionaire, Anders Povlsen, and his wife Anne, became Scotland’s largest private landowners after buying a small 1,100 acre estate near Aviemore. They already had six estates in Sutherland, in the far north of Scotland, and Glenfeshie, one of the most famous estates in the Cairngorms. They now own 89,000 ha (220,000 acres) across the Highlands, where they champion re-wilding, heavily restricting deer and sheep grazing. Povlsen, reputedly worth £4.5bn, also spends heavily on community facilities.
The Duke of Buccleuch, who was Scotland’s largest landowner until overtaken by the Povlsens last year, has been downsizing in the south-west of Scotland. He put 3,626 ha (8,959 acres) of farmland near Langholm on sale last year, reportedly valued at more than £19m.

Socialism through the ballot box?

Many detractors of the socialist case criticise Marx and Engels and their early followers as being advocates of violent revolution and are wont to cite statements they made in support of this claim. And it is not uncommon for these same critics to claim that socialist/communists (the words means the same) of today still hold out for violent insurrection as a means to an end. Whilst it may be true that the first communist revolutionaries did advocate violent overthrow of the then existing order, it has to be remembered that it was at a time when they were barred from the ballot box, when they saw violence as the only tool of change, before the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884 and which enfranchised many workers.*

With the 1867 Act Marx and his associates began to see a chink in the armour of the master class. The franchise was being widened and they knew it would widen more and, as the capitalist class ruled via their executive in parliament, it was possible for revolution to be brought about peacefully and democratically and via the ballot box. 

Thus, Resolution IX of the London Conference of the International in September 1871, headed Political Action of the Working Class stated:

“Considering, that against this collective power of the propertied classes the working class cannot act, as a class, except by constituting itself into a political party, distinct from, and opposed to, all old parties formed by the propertied classes;

“That this constitution of the working class into a political party is indispensable in order to ensure the triumph of the social revolution and its ultimate end — the abolition of classes…”

In 1880, in the Introduction to the Programme of the French Workers’ Party, Marx wrote:


That the emancipation of the productive class is that of all human beings without distinction of sex or race;

That the producers can be free only when they are in possession of the means of production;

That there are only two forms under which the means of production can belong to them

The individual form which has never existed in a general state and which is increasingly eliminated by industrial progress;

The collective form the material and intellectual elements of which are constituted by the very development of capitalist society;


That this collective appropriation can arise only from the revolutionary action of the productive class – or proletariat - organized in a distinct political party;

That such an organization must be pursued by all the means the proletariat has at its disposal including universal suffrage which will thus be transformed from the instrument of deception that it has been until now into an instrument of emancipation.

In insisting that the working class had to constitute itself into a political party “, distinct from, and opposed to, all old parties formed by the propertied classes”, Marx not only infuriated the anarchists, alienated himself from those who hankered after the spilled blood of the master class, he was stating quite clearly that capitalism could only be defeated in the political arena and on the battlefield of ideas.

Whilst the capitalist class derive some power from their ownership and control of the means for producing and distributing wealth, their real power lies in their control over the machinery of state. This power is derived by the mandate the voters give them at election time, voters who can seen no fault in the existing system and will readily support whichever bunch of brigands can hoodwink them the best, via promises and pledges at election time, convincing the workers that they can best run the capitalist system. 

Our detractors faced now with the argument that it is possible for the workers to create a mass party capable of challenging the master class in the arena in which they have hitherto been so successful, and taking over the machinery of state, counter that faced with an impending defeat at the polls, they (the masters) would suspend the democratic process and establish a dictatorship. The democratic process, which the workers are ready to use to oust the master class, can now be declared obsolete by bunch of gangsters in high office!

The problem here is that our detractors fail to realise that a mass party, about to take power, would assume that a worldwide socialist consciousness already existed and, moreover, that there had been a change in the general mindset of parliament, with socialist delegates already having been elected. It would assume that the big clashes had already been won by the workers on the battlefield of ideas. The character of government across the world would already have changed as a result of these victories, so there would be no chance of a suspension of democratic procedures, the establishment of a dictatorship or a coup on behalf of those wishing to maintain the profit system.

The majority of governments around the world today rule by the consent of the governed as previously mentioned. And they rule, in truth, because the majority of workers have that false consciousness that prevents them seeing what is in their real interests, not least because of the propaganda churned out daily by the state, the media (press, TV, radio etc), by the education system and via religious institutions. A growing socialist consciousness assumes that in all of these areas the workers have at last begun to reject the lies, the false promises, the state’s version of history, the belief in supernatural beings, the concept of leadership. A growing class consciousness suggests here is a majority that will no longer be bribed with reforms, although it can be imagined that many news ones will have been introduced to win the workers back over to the capitalist cause.

If by some act of desperation and stupidity there was an attempt to suspend democratic procedures and install a dictatorship by force of arms, one would imagine that this class conscious majority would not tolerate it one second. The workers would have no option but to resort to violent methods to defend their interests. But having said this, even this act of desperation on behalf of the master class would be counterproductive, revealing to the last doubters of the socialist case, the true nature of the beast that has exploited their class for so long, revealing that they hold the wishes of the workers in utter contempt and are more than prepared to suspend workers’ hard fought rights and maintain power at gun point.

Socialists, though doubtful such a scenario would be enacted by the capitalist class, would be the first to defend the hard won gains of the workers against any violent backlash by the defenders of capitalism, though quickly restoring the democratic apparatus as soon as the threat had vanished. Make no mistake, socialists, whilst defenders of the parliamentary road to socialism and hateful of violence for political ends, are not died in the wool pacifists. If the master class wanted to fight it out bloodily, we are more than ready to accommodate them.

All said, genuine socialists insist the revolution will be bloodless and brought about by a class conscious majority, aware of exactly what socialism means, and via the ballot box.

* The 1884 Act and the 1885 Redistribution Act tripled the electorate, giving the vote to most agricultural labourers. By this time, voting was becoming a right rather than the property of the privileged. However, women were not granted voting rights until the Act of 1918, which enfranchised all men over 21 and women over thirty. This last bit of discrimination was eliminated 10 years later (in 1928) by the Equal Franchise Act

John Bisset

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The case for Socialism

The world we live in is one that is fraught with contradiction. Millions of our fellow humans are chronically malnourished and many more millions will, on any one day, go without food. Millions are homeless, many living in slums or on the streets, yet there is no shortage of vacant buildings and certainly no shortage of building materials or skilled builders and craftsmen presently out of work. Again, we find that the market not only dictates who does and does not eat, but who does and does not sleep comfortably. Well over a billion have no access to clean water, while its growing scarcity is calculated to spark many wars across the globe this coming century. Meanwhile, the technology exists to set up treatment plants capable of cleaning the dirtiest water. While millions of children die each year of curable diseases and while we still await breakthroughs in medical science that can cure the presently incurable, we find there are literally thousands of scientists around the world employed in weapons research projects – paid by their respective governments to devise new methods of murder such as by robot drones. The list is as endless as it is insane. At every turn we find evidence of how capitalism destroys us physically and mentally, retarding real human development. At every turn we come smack up against the iron law of our age – “can’t pay, can’t have”. At every turn we find capitalism running wild like a rabid dog, infecting all it comes into contact with.

Credit where credit is due. Capitalism has enabled us to carry out some pretty fantastic technological and scientific feats. Advances in warfare sparked a race for rocket technology that has enabled us explore the furthest limits of the solar system. The search for oil and other resources has allowed us to plumb the deepest oceans and map out the ocean beds. We can split the atom, map the human genome, and perform the most amazing organ transplants. Nothing, it seems, is beyond us. Our productive powers are unprecedented. Our capabilities are awe-inspiring. Sadly, however, and in spite of the technology at our disposal, the never-ending battle for profits means that we have entered the 21st century dragging with us every social ill that plagued the previous century. War, hunger, poverty, disease, and homelessness are still making the headlines, and each of these problems is, to a lesser or greater degree, rooted in the way we continue to organise ourselves for production. The terrible irony is that we are already capable of solving the major problems that face us. Indeed, we have been capable of solving them for quite some time – though obviously never within the context of capitalism. 

Years ago, the World Health Organisation revealed that the technology existed to feed a world population twelve times its (then) size. Years ago, the UN reported that Africa could easily feed a population six times its current size if western farming technology was introduced. Science and technology are in fact so advanced as to enable us to solve all these problems. However, the requirements of profit everywhere act as a stumbling block not only to the full use of the productive forces, but also to the full and unhindered use of science and technology in the service of humanity. 

Socialists long ago realised that the problems we face are in fact social problems, not natural ones or the vengeance of gods – social problems because they have their roots in the way our world is organised for production, that is production for profit, not need. If you think seriously about it, you’ll be hard pressed to find any aspect of our lives that is not subordinated to the requirements of profit. This is the case the world over. We are all of us at the mercy of the anarchic laws of capitalism.

What is to be done?

If this is the case, then what can we do about it? Socialists believe the only way forward lies in abolishing the money/wages/profit system that we know as capitalism and establishing a world socialist society or, in other words, a world of free access to the benefits of civilisation. Only then can we gain real control over our world and reassert control over our own destiny. Only then can we produce without polluting our world and only then can we enjoy a world in which there is no waste or want or war.

Socialists advocate a world without borders or frontiers, social classes or leaders, states or governments or armies. A world devoid of money or wages, exchange, buying or selling. A world where production is freed from the artificial constraints of profit. A world in which people give freely of their abilities and take according to their own self-defined needs from the stockpile of communal wealth. A global system in which each person has a free and democratic say in how their world is run.

Human nature a barrier?

Of course, many will agree that such a world would be a beautiful place to live in, but that “human nature” will always be a barrier to its establishment, because humans are “by nature” greedy, selfish and aggressive. It quickly becomes apparent that what they are describing is not human nature as such, but various traits of human behaviour exhibited under particular circumstances. Socialists maintain that human behaviour is shaped by the kind of system people are brought up to live in – that it is not our consciousness that determines our social existence but our social existence which determines our consciousness. Nobody is born a racist or a patriot, a bigot or with a belief in gods. Nobody is born a murderer, a robber or a rapist, and our alleged greed for money is no more a function of the natural human thought process than were slavery or witch burning.

In general, the ideas the common people hold have been acquired second-hand, passed down from the ruling class above us. This is because the class which owns and controls the productive process also controls the intellectual life process in general. Any anti-social behaviour is likewise influenced by our social circumstances at any given time, i.e., when we are poor, depressed, lonely, angry and frustrated.

In most cases, those who produce the world’s wealth (some 95 percent of the world’s population) have had that second-rate education that makes free-thought difficult – an upbringing that conditions us to accept without question the ideas of our betters and superiors. Indeed, the education system is geared to perpetuate the rule of an elite, insofar as it never encourages children to question and take issue with the status quo. Children may well cite that 8 times 8 equals 64, but how many will ask about the cause of wars or query the destruction of food?

Socialists hold that because we can adapt our behaviour, the desire to cooperate should not be viewed as irrational. We hold that humans are, “by nature”, cooperative and that we work best when faced with the worst and that our humanity shines through when the odds are stacked against us. There are millions of cases of people donating their blood and organs to complete strangers, sacrificing their lives for others, of people giving countless hours of their free time to charitable work – all of this without financial incentive. There is even the case of a man throwing himself on top of a grenade to protect children in a school yard. He died to protect children, none of which were his own, and in the instant knowledge that his action was suicidal.

Today, world capitalism threatens the human race with extinction. The reason this obnoxious system survives is because we have been conditioned to accept it, not born to perpetuate it. Rest assured, no gene inclines us to defend the profit system.

Been tried?

Many believe that socialism has already been tried and has failed. They then point to the former Soviet Union, to China, Cuba and a dozen other states that claimed to have established “socialism”. What they fail to grasp is that socialism has existed nowhere, and that what existed – being passed off as socialism – was in fact state capitalism, not socialism or communism (which mean the same thing). A cursory glance at the affairs of these countries reveals they never abolished the wages system. The rulers exploited their workers and outlawed dissent. They produced when only viable to do so, maintained commodity production, traded according to the dictates of international capital and, like every other capitalist state, were prepared to go to war to defend their economic interests. Moreover, in all of these countries, it was believed that socialism could be established by force, that socialism could exist in one country. The Leninists who carried out the Bolshevik Revolution maintained that the revolution could only be carried out by a minority vanguard party, that the masses were too ignorant to understand the case for change.

Socialism, like capitalism, can only exist on a global scale, and that it will only come about when a majority of the world’s people want it and are prepared to organise for it peacefully and democratically, in their own interests and without leaders. No vanguard can establish socialism – “the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself”.

We can do it

But who are the “working class”? Agreeing with Marx, we believe that there are two classes in society – the working class and the capitalist class, each one determined by its relationship to the means of living. The capitalist class own and control the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, living as parasites off profits, rent and interest. The working class, other than possessions we have purchased with our own sweat, own little more than our ability to sell our physical and mental abilities to the highest bidder. There is no “middle class” as the working class includes land workers, doctors, lawyers and teachers – anyone, indeed, who must sell their mental and physical energies to survive.

This class, the working class, runs the world and it is important to grasp this fact. It is we who fish the oceans and tend the forests and till the land and plantations. It is we who build the cities and railroads, the bridges and roads, the docks and airports. It is we who staff the hospitals and schools, who empty the bins and go down the sewers. It is we, the working class, who produce everything society needs from a pin to an oil-rig, who provide all of its services. If we can do all of this off our own bats, then surely, we can continue to do so without a profit-greedy minority watching over us and, more, in our own interests.

The ruling class, of capitalists and their executive, the governments of the world, have no monopoly on our skills and abilities. These belong to us. Moreover, it is we who are responsible for the inventions that have benefited humanity and the improvements in productive techniques. Most inventions and improvements are the result of those who do the actual work thinking up easier and faster ways of completing a task, the result of ideas being passed down from generation to generation, each one improving the techniques of the previous. If those who work have given the world so much, in the past say 2000 years, then how much more are we capable of providing in a world devoid of the artificial constraints of profit?

Capitalism must go

It is easy to cite the advantages of capitalism over previous economic systems. Many people believe that capitalism, though not perfect, is the only system possible. One thing is certain, though – if we follow the capitalist trajectory, we’re in for some pretty troublesome times. Capitalism has undoubtedly raised the productive potential of humanity. It is now quite possible to provide a comfortable standard of living for every human on the planet. But, to reiterate, capitalism now stands as a barrier to the full and improved use of the world’s productive and distributive forces. In a world of potential abundance, the unceasing quest for profit imposes on our global society widespread artificial scarcity. Hundreds of millions of humans are consigned to a life of abject poverty, whilst the majority live lives filled with uncertainty.

Our ability to imagine has brought us so very far, from the days when our ancestors chipped away at flint to produce the first tools, to the landing of someone on the moon, the setting up of the world wide web, and the mapping out of the human genome. Is it really such a huge leap of the imagination to now envisage a social system that can take over from the present capitalist order of things? Is it just too daring to imagine humans consigning poverty, disease, hunger and war to some pre-historic age?

Do we really need leaders deciding our lives for us? Do we really need governments administering our lives when what is really needed is the administration of the things we need to live in peace and security? Must every decision made by our elites be first of all weighed on the scales of profit, tilted always in their favour? A growing number think not and have mobilised to confront what they perceive to be the major problems of contemporary capitalism.

In recent years there has been a world-wide backlash against neoliberal globalisation, corporate power and the iniquities of modern-day capitalism. Everywhere where the world’s ruling elite have assembled to decide their next step they have been met with protests and demonstrations that have attracted hundreds of thousands. Demonstrations at Seattle, Gothenburg, Prague, Genoa and Gleneagles, for instance, have fuelled the ongoing debate on the nature of modern-day capitalism. Thousands of articles have been written on the subject and hundreds of books have been published that explore the alternatives offered by the anti-globalisation movement.

What is now clear is that the anti-globalisation movement, however well-meaning, does not seek to replace capitalism with any real alternative social system. At best it attracts a myriad of groups, all pursuing their own agenda. Some call for greater corporate responsibility. Some demand the reform of international institutions. Others call for the expansion of democracy and fairer trading conditions. All, however, fail to address the root cause of the problems of capitalism.

One thing is certain: capitalism cannot be reformed in the interests of the world’s suffering billions, because reform does not address the basic contradiction between profit and need. The world’s leaders cannot be depended upon because they can only ever act as the executive of corporate capitalism. The expansion of democracy, while welcome, serves little function if all candidates at election time can only offer variations on the same basic set of policies that keep capitalism in the ascendancy.

Capitalism must be abolished if we as a species are to thrive, if the planet is to survive. No amount of reform, however great, will work. Change must be global and irreversible. It must involve all of us. We need to erase borders and frontiers; to abolish states and governments and false concepts of nationalism. We need to abolish our money systems, and with it buying, selling and exchange. And in place of this we need to establish a different global social system – a society in which there is common ownership and true democratic control of the Earth’s natural and industrial resources. A society where the everyday things we need to live in comfort are produced and distributed freely and for no other reason than that they are needed – Socialism.

It is now no utopian fantasy to suggest we can live in a world without waste or want or war, in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation. That much is assured. We certainly have the science, the technology and the know-how. All that is missing is the will – the global desire for change that can make that next great historical advance possible; a belief in ourselves as masters of our own destiny; a belief that it is possible to free production from the artificial constraints of profit and to fashion a world in our own interests. And how soon this happens depends upon us all – each and every one of us.

John Bisset

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