Sunday, February 28, 2010

Let's end charity

An article from the Socialist Standard 1981

What do you do when someone comes to your door and say,  It's for the blind" or "I'm collecting for Cancer Research" or "we're asking people to give to Oxfam"?

The easiest thing is to dip into your pocket, put a few coppers in their envelope and get back to whatever you were doing. That way you get rid of your unwanted caller and at the same time put at rest any conscience that may have been pricked. Harder by far is it to refuse those few coppers, and indeed few people do.

But does the money you've given really serve a useful purpose? Well first of all, although you may wonder how much of it actually gets to the unfortunates in whose name it was collected, you're fairly sure that the benefit of your donation will be felt at least in some small way by a needy person somewhere. Secondly you're reassured that the world isn't such a bad place after all, that there are people doing something about its problems.

Not many people get further than this in their thoughts on charities, and very few indeed get as far as asking whether charities ever actually solve basic problems like hunger, homelessness and disease. In fact charities never do; think of any one you like and you'll find that, despite the funds it's collected in the past, its need for funds is greater-than ever. And although charities occasionally pack up, they hardly ever do so because the cause for which they were collecting has ceased to exist. On the contrary, new causes are springing up all the time.

The sad thing is that charities, despite the enormous amount of human energy and goodwill that go into them, can rarely do more than touch the surface of the problems they were set up to deal with. They can never get to the root of these problems. Only political action aimed at revolutionising the whole structure of society and abolishing its profit system can wipe out the problems that give rise to charities. Yet, in law, the

benefits and privileges (like tax exemption) of a recognised charity are conditional upon its abstinence from political activity. In other words to be recognised as a charity you are forbidden to do anything which might conceivably tackle the problems of need and. suffering at their root.

Another irony is that, while for most people charity seems to be a sacred institution, the world we live in could not be more uncharitable. Apart from such large-scale horrors as food being dumped or left to rot in some parts of the world while people starve in others and human beings engaging in or turning a blind eye to the mass slaughter of other human

beings, our day-to-day existence is based on the assumption that we will try to get as much as possible for as little as possible. So we will squeeze our employer for the highest wage or salary we think he can afford and he will squeeze us too, to produce as much for him as possible for as little money as he thinks we will to accept. When we go shopping we would never dream of paying double the marked price for the goods we need. On the contrary we usually try to find places where we can get the goods we need for

as low a price as possible. And most of us spend time comparing prices and complaining about how little we get for our money. All this is the exact opposite of charity. None of it could be further from the ethic of "giving to help others".

What it amounts to is that in a society which is bound to be overwhelmingly uncharitable because of the shortages and rivalries built into its buying and selling system, charity can never be more than a small closed compartment of life.

We want to persuade people of the severe limitations of organised charity and also of the unfortunate effect it has in wrongly suggesting to people that, by giving money, they are doing something about solving the world's problems. What charities never suggest is the plain truth that

the perpetual calamities and suffering they exist to cope with are due

not to any inevitable defects in man's capacity for organising the world but to a social system which puts profits-and armaments to guard these profits-before human welfare.

Charity will end when we get socialism. People won't need it then. It's

something worth thinking about next time you slip those coppers into that envelope.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Language, class and nation

This article is from the Socialist Standard 1981

One of the most remarkable things about human beings is their possession and use of language. Within a few shorts years, every person acquires a knowledge of their native language, including a vocabulary of thousands of words, enabling them to express original ideas and communicate to others on all sorts of topics. Language is also one of the most specifically human attributes, for no other animal possesses a communication system anywhere near as flexible and useful as human language. Animals such as bees and sticklebacks can convey a united range of information to each other but cannot, for example, refer to events in the past or future. The languages of the world, with their rich structures and histories, are a fascinating subject of study. But in the class divided society of capitalism, language is a basis for hostility, prejudice and discrimination.

Our impressions of other people are partly formed by the way they speak. Too often people are regarded as ignorant or unintelligent because they pronounce

Their r in a word like cart, say they was ,or use a double negative (as in I ain't done nothing): they are condemned for speaking a "sub-standard" dialect. But from a linguistic point of view, there are no such things as sub-dialects, only non-standard ones which is very different. In the course of a language's development, one particular form of it, usually that spoken in. a particularly powerful or important area, becomes the standard dialect. This means that it is taught in schools, used in literature, and then spread by radio and television. Becoming powerful and "successful" in such a society usually entails becoming proficient in the standard dialect, so that speakers of other dialects are looked down on as backward and uncultured. But prejudices of this kind are social, not linguistic, judgements. Every dialect of a language, standard or otherwise, is linguistically as good as any other; I ain't done nothing conveys the same meaning as the standard I haven't done anything. Speaking a non-standard dialect does not make a person stupid, untrustworthy, or whatever.

Prejudice against non-standard speakers is taken even further when it is said that they have no proper language at all. In particular, some psychologists have argued that black children in the United States have no grammar and speak merely by stringing a few words together. This type of misconception arises from a failure to realise that the children in question simply have a different grammar from standard English. For instance,

when a black kid says they mine, is not simply putting two words together

(in the way that young children may do).  Instead, this is his equivalent of standard they're mine, both being reduced forms of they are mine (in standard speech, are is "contracted", in non-standard it is deleted). The claim that black children have practically no language has been put forward as explaining why they do so badly in American schools, justifying a

"Compensatory education" designed to make the child fit into the school system. Obviously, this avoids the less comforting conclusion that the children do badly because of the appalling conditions they live in!

A slightly more sophisticated version of this verbal deprivation theory is associated with the name of Basil Bernstein. Bernstein draws a distinction between elaborated and restricted codes, the elaborated code being less tied to the specific "here and now" context than the restricted code. It is claimed that "middleclass" children have access to both codes,

while manual working-class children have access to the restricted code only. Allegedly (and Bernstein is none too particular about citing actual data) a "middleclass" child will tend to describe the

scene in a picture by saying Three boys are playing football and one boy kicks the ball, while a working-class child tends to describe the same picture by saying They're playing football and he kicks it. From anecdotes like this, he leaps to the conclusion that, as the elaborated code is expected to be used in school, working class children's lack of access to the elaborated code is the reason for their comparatively poor scholastic performance. Quite apart from the incorrect view of class, this is unacceptable. All children are able, outside the artificial experimental situations referred to by Bernstein, to use a range of styles, from formal to informal. All speakers of a language,

whatever their social status, speak a language which is as flexible and creative as that of any other speaker.

It should also be stated that there is no such thing as a primitive language. No language which exists today, or for which past records are available, consists of just a few words and no true rules of grammar. Nor are there a people, however primitive their way of life, which does not possess a language which is perfectly adequate for all the uses to which its speakers put it. Even where a language lacks a particular concept because its speakers do not need it, they are not cognitively unable to handle it. For

instance, some Australian aboriginal languages have no words for numbers higher than two (just words for a few and-many), but when their speakers learn English they have no difficulty in mastering the English numerical system and counting as high as you like. There are no such things as backward races speaking primitive languages.

But different people do speak different languages. In a rational society, there would be no reason for this to cause problems, but in capitalism it is the cause of much misery. Nearly every country in the world has more than one language spoken within it (even excluding recent immigrants). Great Britain, for example, has English, Welsh and Gaelic, while Spain has Spanish, Catalan and Basque. Where one language is spoken by an overwhelming Majority of the population, that is likely to be the country's official language. Members of a linguistic minority may be discriminated against in various ways: no books or newspapers may be published in their language, it may not be the medium of teaching in

schools, and so on. Speakers of a minority language will often need to learn

the official language in order to "get on". Resentment against such treatment may lead to the demand for political autonomy, as a means of converting a linguistic minority into a linguistic majority, for instance the aim of an independent Basque state. Let it be said that discrimination on the grounds of language is as odious as discrimination on grounds of race. Nevertheless, the call for independence as a means of ending linguistic oppression is not one that workers should support.

To start with, people do not live in blocks consisting of speakers of only one language (there is no part of Wales where no English is spoken), so that independence would create new linguistic minorities. The demand that speakers of each language should have their own nation also overlooks the consideration that the distinction between a language and a dialect is by no means clear-cut. The standard definition is that, unlike different languages, dialects of the same language are mutually intelligible, but this raises a number of problems. Intelligibility is a matter of degree, may go in one

direction only, and is not transitive (which means. that dialects A and B may

be mutually intelligible, and also B and C, but not A and C). Between Paris and Rome there is a chain of dialects, each intelligible with its neighbour, even though the end-points, standard French and Italian, are not mutually intelligible; on purely linguistic grounds, it is not possible to draw a sharp distinction between dialects of Italian and of French, or between those of Dutch and German. In practice, language and dialect are defined in cultural and political terms, and any attempt to define a nation or state in terms of language is circular. As one American linguist aptly put it, "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy".

But above all, independence does not solve the economic problems of the speakers of a minority language. A separate Basque state would not free Basque workers from unemployment, insecurity and exploitation. These are caused by the economic set-up of society, not by the wrong placement of political frontiers. Capitalism is a world-wide society, and no part of it can escape from world trends and crises. Separatism, whether motivated on linguistic or other grounds, offers precisely nothing to the working class.

Socialism, too, will be a world society, but one without states or frontiers. The concept of linguistic minority will then have no meaning. A language with comparatively small numbers. of speakers will not be discriminated against, and there will be no problem about arranging education in that language, if its speakers so wish. Publishing material in that language will not be restricted by considerations of profit, but by the needs of its speakers. It is possible that an invented auxiliary language, such as Esperanto or Ido, will be used to facilitate communication between speakers of different languages. We look forward to a world in which learning another language will not be the drudge it so often is today, but an

enjoyable adventure. All children could be brought up bilingual, and then travel to other parts of the globe to learn a language in its native environment. Becoming multilingual in this way would be the best way of becoming a true citizen of the world socialist community. Socialist society will mean the liberation of all mankind, without distinction of race, sex or language. We ain't seen nothing yet.  P.B.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Does capitalism work?

An article from the Socialist Standard July 1972

"Professor Champions Capitalism" ran the gleeful headline in the Financial and Business supplement of The Scotsman (24 May). The story which followed told us that Professor H. B. Acton, who holds the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh University, has written a paper for the Foundation of Business Responsibilities titled "The Ethics of Capitalism" in which he glorifies the capitalist system and its beneficiaries, the capitalist class.

The Professor's paper contains a statement on the historical contribution of the early capitalists:

The bourgeoisie, more scrupulous and pacific than the aristocracy and less deferential than the peasantry, so , improved the arts of production that the system of warrior lords and dependent serfs was replaced by one in which large " populations of free citizens enjoy a scope of living which goes beyond what the aristocracy formerly disposed of.

Then follows a list of benefits which the capitalist mode of production brought in its wake:

Free speech, free movement of trade, free thought, exploration of the earth and oceans, 'an ideal of peaceful domesticity, etc.

There can be no question that the Professor's summary is more or less correct. Capitalism was a definite step forward for humanity. Capitalism did abolish the productive methods of feudalism, took away the power of the aristocracy, decimated the peasantry and replaced it by a class of wage-slaves to operate the technology which makes possible modern living, standards – and more.

So, preceding any of capitalism's benefits, was the forcible removal of millions of these "free citizens" and their children from their means of living to be herded into the industrial hells and slums of the towns and cities. There is no indication that the Professor mentioned this in his paper but possibly the, study of Moral Philosophy doesn't include a reading' of, say, Gibbins' industrial History of England or Engels' Condition of the Working Class in England, and whatever the benefits of capitalism they were most definitely not what motivated the bourgeoisie when they set about carrying through their revolution.

Certainly the Professor could claim that all this was yesterday. Nowadays the children have been banished from the mills, mines and factories while in the same issue of The Scotsman Mr. Julian Amery, the Housing Minister, did state that the slum problem could at long last be solved within the next ten years. A likely story, for whatever excesses of the system capitalism does manage to curb it can never eliminate the glaring contradictions and divisions it has given birth to in society. Capitalist is ranged against capitalist over the share-out of the spoils; the workers are periodically at one another's throats over the available jobs and cheap housing. More important, the workers are at constant war with the capitalists over wages and conditions of work. Indeed The Scotsman carried other reports on such conflicts as the war in Vietnam, a 1,000 lb. bomb explosion in Belfast, a possible strike of BEA pilots, a strike by 200 workers at Rosyth Dockyard, and a squabble between Roxburgh County Council  and Scottish Omnibuses over subsidies for 26 uneconomic bus services'

Even more pointed was the story concerning the discovery that Ford Motor company in Detroit have conducted faulty anti-pollution tests on its entire engine line for all l973 passenger models. Should the Environmental Protection Agency insist on the letter of the law then Ford would be forced  to carry out new lengthy tests, or be barred from selling their 1973 cars as  scheduled. Officials of the EPA have hinted, however, that the law might be bent to avoid such a disaster, for the article says;'

The situation brings into sharp, focus the potential conflict between government safety and pollution regulations and the practical alternatives when big industry says it cannot meet these standards; the usual approach has been to change the rules.

So in order that capitalism's day to day functioning isn't interfered with too much the atmospheric poisoning (and Ford's profits) may continue. Truly an excellent example of the "ethics of capitalism"'

Presumably all this strife and turmoil has eluded the professor's notice. He is far too busy currying the capitalists' favour by telling them to be proud of their role and to have confidence in fulfilling their prime function:

to see that the things people need for life and civilisation are produced, modified, multiplied, protected, . stored, moved and delivered.

Do bombs, napalm, defoliant and pollutants come into the category of "things people need for life and civilisation"? Certainly the capitalists see to it that these are "produced, modified, multiplied, protected". And do they see to it that the necessary food is "stored, moved and delivered" for the starving and ill-fed millions throughout the world? No, Professor, the "prime function" of the capitalist is to increase his capital and everything else including human need must take a back seat.

Undoubtedly the coming of capitalism was a progression in social development since it provided the technical impetus for solving the problem of production. Now it stands as a barrier between man and his product and has split humanity from top to bottom. We now need to abolish the private (including state) ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution and introduce instead a new society based on their common ownership and democratic control. The Professor's defence of capitalism is, in the light of all this, as justified as advocating horse-drawn transport in the jet age because it's an improvement over walking'


The cuts - the real meaning of cutting back

Clare Simpson, project manager, Parenting Across Scotland , said: "The results of our survey show that the recession is having an adverse effect on families.Some people are losing their jobs, others have less money to spend because hours are being cut or overtime is no longer available while, for many, there is fear and worry about what the future might hold."

A survey carried out by PAS found that 55% of families reduced their spending on food and heating as a result of the recession. Parents were also less likely to spend money on their children, the survey found.One third of parents also claimed the recession had put a strain on their relationships.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


It's getting closer to election time; politicians claim their concern and understanding for the unemployed. Socialist  remind workers that concern over profits take priority over concern for the unemployed, when the profit motive looks achievable, it becomes business as usual, for example,


Recently TV channels have reminded us that the miners strike was 25 years ago, they point out that at the time of the strike, the industry employed 180, 000 miners, after the strike, the number eventually decreased to just over 6,000 being employed in the industry, new cheaper sources of energy were available and that was all that mattered to the capitalist class.

Over recent times, energy supplies have become more uncertain for the capitalist class and the possible profit in coal production has lead to more investment in coal production.

The owners of a UK coal mine have bought state-of-the-art machinery worth £37m - the biggest such UK order in over 20 years.

The cutting and ancillary equipment will be used at Hatfield Colliery near Doncaster in South Yorkshire.

It closed in 2004 but will be fully operational next year.

The six deep mines operating in the UK produce 10m tonnes of coal annually but there is uncertainty over the industry's future.


Hatfield is having a re-investment programme to develop coal reserves and hopes to produce two million tonnes of coal per year by 2009.

The equipment is being bought from Joy Mining Machinery at its factories in Worcester, Wigan and Pinxton on the Derbyshire-Nottinghamshire border.

Powerfuel's chief executive Richard Budge said: "This is the biggest single order for mining equipment for many years and underlines our confidence in coal and the role it will play in meeting Britain's energy needs for decades to come.

"This is a further major milestone in the re-birth of Hatfield. The equipment is proven technology, manufactured in the UK by a company with the highest reputation on the world stage for quality and performance." ( BBC Sunday 26th August 2006 )



The company which owns Scotland's only commercial gold mine has floated on a London stock market.  

Scotgold Resources said it hoped to raise up to £2m on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM).

Initial fundraising will help the Australian company pay for further exploration and development of a mine at Glen Cononish, near Tyndrum.

But it will only be a fraction of the cost of putting it into production, which could be more than £12m.

Scotgold Resources hopes that a high gold price of about $1,100 (£715) an ounce will help make the economics work for such a risky venture.

It has previously claimed there could be up to £70m of gold in the mine.

The mine was previously abandoned in 1997, when the price of gold fell to under $400 (£260) an ounce.

Chris Sangster said there was probably 4.5 tonnes of gold in the mine

Chris Sangster, chief executive of Scotgold, said: "We are in a very fortunate position that in 1997 when the project was due to have gone ahead before, most of the technical work had already been completed, so we have picked up on that technical work, updated with a bit of new technology, and we are almost ready to roll.

"Our current resource estimate has about 4.5 to five tonnes of gold and about 20 tonnes of silver. That's 150,000 to 160,000 ounces of gold, which at the moment is worth probably $170m, with a bit of silver on top. That's what we know about at the moment."

Mr Sangster said the firm also had a wider exploration programme in the southern Highlands area and there were "good indications" there was more gold available.

Tim Williams, director of mining and metals at analysts Ernst & Young, said: "The Australians are very good at mining this kind of gold - narrow veins and so on.

"In Australia and in Canada, you have this army of investors who will put their own personal money into these little companies and they understand the way the industry works.

"There are about 150 of these junior mining companies on the AIM market in London but it is nothing compared to the thousands in Toronto and in Sydney."

Mr Williams said an AIM listing allowed companies to raise money when they did not have the same trading history as they would need for a main board listing.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Friendly Fire?

For some reason, an apology is expected to make people who have nothing to gain from this war, forgive!

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan went on national television Tuesday to apologize for a deadly airstrike, an extraordinary attempt to regain Afghans' trust while a mass offensive continues against the Taliban in the south.

Two U.S. Marine battalions, accompanied by Afghan troops, pushing from the north and south of the insurgent stronghold of Marjah finally linked up after more than a week, creating a direct route across the town that allows convoys to supply ammunition and reinforcements.

In a video translated into the Afghan languages of Dari and Pashto and broadcast on Afghan television, a stern Gen. Stanley McChrystal apologized for the strike in central Uruzgan province that Afghan officials say killed at least 21 people. The video was also posted on a NATO Web site.

Increasing pessimism

Trading in your car and renewing other household items, can't stop the boom slump cycle of capitalism.


NEW YORK - Americans' outlook on the economy went into relapse in February. Rising job worries sent a key barometer of confidence to its lowest point in 10 months, raising concerns about the U.S. economic recovery.

The Conference Board said Tuesday its Consumer Confidence Index fell almost 11 points to 46 in February, down from a revised 56.5 in January. Analysts were expecting only a slight decrease to 55. It was the lowest level since the index recorded a 40.8 reading in April 2009.

The increasing pessimism, which erased three months of improvement, is a big blow to hopes that consumer spending will power an economic recovery. Economists watch the confidence numbers closely because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


President Barack Obama speaks about creating new energy jobs, February 16 in

Washington. - Job creation in the U.S. is stuck in an uphill treadmill.
So many jobs have been lost that the U.S. must run hard just to keep from losing more ground. Despite the election -year emphasis on job creation by both parties, the short term outlook is bleak.
While many economists believe the recession is technically over, nearly 15 million Americans remain unemployed. Six million of them have been out of work for more than half a year.
Hear in Britain the economists have yet to make up their minds about the recession being over, however, I'm sure increased unemployment will be around even when they decide that it is over.

Insiders and Others

With all this talk of buying bank share in today's papers,
what happens to most of the shares over the years?
This article from the Socialist Standard gives you an
insight of past share dealings


Another article from the Socialist Standard archives exploring the world of capitalist financial institutions.

Did you get your British Gas shares ? What's that, you didn't bother? Well, neither did most other workers who had the chance, and no one knows how many of those who did buy the shares will hold on to them. It was estimated that on the day after the sale, around one tenth of the shares had already changed hands as small-time buyers sold out to the big institutions like insurance com­panies and pension funds. This is what hap­pened with British Telecom shares. When they were first sold in 1984 the number of individual shareholders was 2.3 million. By May 1986 the number was down to 1.6 mill­ion, a drop of over 30%, and this figure is cer­tain to fall still further as time passes.

Nevertheless, interest in the stock market is a lot higher than ever it was before. Until recently most people only ever saw the stock market quotations in the newspapers if they accidentally turned over two pages at once, but the saturation coverage by the media of the government's privatisation programme has changed all that. Also, the fear of unemployment has ensured that many employees of quoted companies follow the share price of those companies as a guide to their job prospects.

However, the workings of the stock mar­ket remain a mystery to the vast majority of people and this helps preserve the silly notion that financiers, stockbrokers and the like who do understand it are brainier than the rest of us. Actually, it's not nearly as difficult as it seems . One of the main reasons why someone not involved in finance finds it baffling is the frequent use of several different words to describe one item. For example, government "stock" , which pays a fixed rate of interest, is also called "gilts" (gilt-edged) or "consols" (consolidated) while "securities" is simply the all-embracing name for stocks and shares of all kinds.

Different types of shares have different rights and rewards. The "ordinary" shares are the ones which actually own the com­pany. Holders of these have full voting rights and receive a variable dividend depending on the company's profits, if any, and what the directors decide to pay out. These shares are also referred to (more confusion) as "equities". </EM"Preference" shares usually have no vote but entitle holders to a fixed dividend ahead of the ordinary shareholders assuming there is something to pay out. "Deben­tures" are loans made to companies by investors who receive fixed-interest whether the company makes a profit or not.

Until October 1986 members of the Lon­don Stock Exchange had to be British-born. And although they would angrily denounce "who does what" disputes in factories, ship­yards, etc. they had their own restrictive practice. This meant that only those who were brokers could buy and sell securities for the public and they made their money by charging clients a fixed commission. "Job­bers", on the other hand, bought and sold on their own account but could only deal with the public through the brokers and made a living from the difference between the prices at which they bought and sold. So brokers couldn't act as jobbers and vice-versa. Since October membership of the Exchange is open to other nationals and the difference between brokers and jobbers is abolished along with fixed commissions. Now the price on deals is negotiable

All of these changes, known as "de-regu­lation", are the result of the "Big Bang" we have all heard so much about. The idea is to make the London Stock Exchange more competitive with its main rivals in New York (Wall Street) and Tokyo. After all, if custom­ers can have their business carried out more cheaply in New York or Tokyo then that is where they will make their deals and the new computerised communications technology makes that easy to do. This new technology also means that dealers in London will now transact business in their offices and the Stock Exchange floor will be almost deserted from now on

Any stock market must protect its reputa­tion for honest dealing If investors think that they may be ripped-off then they will take their business elsewhere and this is why the New York and London Stock Exchanges are trying to curb "insider dealing". The most notorious insider is the Wall Street speculator,
Ivan Boesky, who for years had apparently anticipated the rise in price of var­ious securities which he bought on a huge scale. Hailed as a genius, Boesky had simply been using confidential information passed to him, for a cut, by people who were profes­sionally engaged in takeover bids which would push up the price of the shares involved.

It is hard to imagine that Wall Street didn't know what Boesky was up to. No one can consistently tell in advance what the market will do. The anarchy of capitalist production sees to that. When every company in every industry is making its plans independently of all the others, and when all of them are sub­ject to forces beyond their control such as decisions taken by foreign governments or even their own, then how can future market trends be forecast with any certainty? The truth is that large-scale insider dealing has been the norm for a long time and will con­tinue in the future whatever steps are taken to eliminate it. So much for the claim fre­quently made on behalf of the capitalists that their high returns are justified because they are the "risk takers''. Not if they can help it, they're not!

What about the other claim that the capitalists are the "wealth creators" because of their activities in the stock market? The real wealth of society consists of human beings using their physical and mental energies plus the resources of nature to produce the goods and services society needs. This wealth is legally owned by the owners of the enter­prises whose workers have produced it. All the workers receive in return for their efforts is a part of the total value produced in the form of their wages and salaries. The remain­der, surplus value in the form of dividends and interest, belongs to the owners of the various stocks and shares. These securities are merely legal title to this surplus and it is this title which is being traded when sec­urities are bought and sold. So capitalists create not a scrap of wealth and stock exchanges are only the places where surplus value is divided between them.

Even so, the enormous power of the capitalists makes them seem invincible and many workers, even against their wishes, cannot see how capitalism can ever be top­pled. But the power of the capitalists does not lie in the amount of pounds, dollars and francs they own. It lies in the fact that the vast majority of workers still see production for profit as the only possible method of produc­ing and distributing society's wealth. If that idea should weaken due to the growth of socialist consciousness in the world's work­ing class then the power of the capitalists would not look so invincible at all.

We can see today how easily stock mar­kets can tremble when investors get the jit­ters over, say, the mere rumour of a small increase in interest rates or some other trivial matter. Imagine what those jitters will be like when the socialist movement begins to grow. Who will be willing to invest then? Capitalism depends for its continued exis­tence on working-class support for it. When that support crumbles then so too will the power of the capitalists.

V. V.
Socialist Standard February 1987

Sunday, February 14, 2010


"Last year, investment bankers and their spouses kept their wallets shut during bonus season, first, out of panic, and later, fearing mobs with torches would descend upon their gated estates.
Now, after a year of self-imposed austerity and in what is shaping up as a spectacular bonus season, the Wall Street crowd is shaking off what one luxury retailer called its "frugal fatigue." Unlike earlier spending sprees, however, the consumption will be a lot less conspicuous. On Wednesday, Morgan Stanley said it was setting aside $14.4 billion for salary and bonuses, or $235,000 per employee. A day later Goldman Sachs said it would pay an average of $498,000, with top producers at each of the two banks earning in the millions. More than in past years, this year's bonus numbers are stirring deep resentment in a nation staggering under 10 percent unemployment." (New York Times, 22 January) RD

Saturday, February 13, 2010


At the last night of the Proms exploited members of the working class like nothing better than to bawl out the words of Land of Hope and Glory. Poor, deluded workers image that there is something superior about being born on a piece of dirt thrown up on the Atlantic Ocean. They never realise that it is an accident where you happen to be born, and indeed that it was probably an accident that they were born at all. This misguided nationalism is fostered by governments and the media. Britain is superior to Johnny Foreigner with his deceitful regimes. No underhanded politics in dear old Britain says the patriot critical of foreign powers, but what is the reality? "MI5 faced an unprecedented and damaging crisis last night after one of the country's most senior judges found that the Security Service failed to respect human rights, deliberately misled parliament, and had a "culture of suspicion" that undermined government assurances about its conduct. The condemnation by Lord Neuberger, the master of rolls, was drafted shortly before the foreign secretary, David Miliband, lost his long legal battle to suppress a seven paragraph court document showing that MI5 officers were involved in the ill-treatment of a British resident, Binyam Mohamed." (Guardian, 11 February)
Yet another example of how the quest for markets soon overcomes any ethical scruples. Not so much a case of Britain Rules The Waves as Britain Waives The Rules. RD

Friday, February 12, 2010


Socialists are often pilloried because we look at the world from a class perspective. We are accused of being outdated, old fashioned and living in the 19th Century. All that Marxists stuff about class division has been outdated by the new dynamic capitalism of the 21st Century we are told by our critics. A recent government sponsored health review seems to give the lie to that notion.

 " Healthy living is cut short by 17 years for poorest in Britain. The poor not only die sooner, they also spend more of their lives with a disability, an "avoidable difference which is unacceptable and unfair", a government-ordered review into Britain's widening health inequalities said yesterday. ... Not only is life expectancy linked to social standing, but so is the time spent in good health: the average difference in "disability-free life expectancy" is now 17 years between those at the top and those at the bottom of the economic ladder, the report says." (Guardian, 11 February)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Capitalist nations are continually in conflict with their rivals and inside capitalism economic rivalry leads to military action. During these actions the press praise " Our Boys" in uniform and regale us with tales of heroism. Nothing is to good for "Our Boys" they claim, but the reality is far different. "Britain's military veterans are too often descending into alcoholism, criminality or suicide because of a lack of support from the Government according to the Mental Healtlh Foundation. Veterans under 24 are two to three times more likely to kill themselves than civilians of the same age. An estimated one in five veterans and Service personnel is said to have a drinking problem. The charity said:"More needs to be done to help veterans stay well."
(Times, 28 January) Having risked life and limb in pursuing the interests of their masters in these hellish conflicts the heroes of yesterday are thrown on the social scrapheap. RD

Monday, February 08, 2010

Food for Thought

The economy seems to be improving but that may be an illusion. Stocks and shares are up mainly because interest rates are so low that capital has flowed there. The real numbers show a different perspective - Ontario lost 17,000 jobs in December and the managed unemployment rate is at 9.3%. Meanwhile, in the US, food stamps are needed by one adult in eight and one child in four to keep food on the table. Real wages there, adjusted for inflation, are lower than they were a decade ago.
How capitalism works on the East coast - no jobs, put your life in hock to buy a boat and catch lobsters, sell them to the US market and make ends meet, wait for the recession that drops the lobster prices to $3/lb when the break even point is $5, what to do? "That ( boat is ) my retirement package. If I sell it to pay my bills, then I'm finished" says a fisherman
( Toronto Star, 26/Dec/2009 )
It's a great competition - a few win, most lose. John Ayers

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Summer School 2010


The Socialist Party's Summer School is being held at Fircroft College, Selly Oak, Birmingham, over the long weekend 23rd - 25th July.

The theme is 'Future Visions' - This year's weekend of talks and discussion looks to the future. But what kind of future? For centuries, people have imagined utopias where advances in technology and attitudes create freedom for all. Or, they have described dystopias, where society turns into a nightmare. Back in the real world, how will capitalism survive and adapt to ongoing economic and environmental concerns? And what kind of socialist society can we aim for as an antidote to this?

The residential cost (including accommodation and all meals) is £130.
The concessionary rate (for students, unemployed people, pensioners etc.) is £80.
The non-residential cost (including meals) is £50.
If you're interested in attending, e-mail Mike Foster at

Food for Thought

On crime, it's illuminating to read James Morton's article in the Star ( 3/Jan/2010 ). Although the government and the media fuel the fear of crime, Canada is reasonably safe. Violent crime has been dropping for years and was lower in 2007 than in the last decades and property crime is 40% below 1991 levels. Poverty, he says is what drives crime, destabilizing families and areas leading to drug, alcohol, sexual and family abuse. Our abominable prisons tend to be filled with drug addicts, mental patients, poor people, and, as I can attest as a prison volunteer tutor, learning disabled people. As we are aware, poverty is a natural outcome of capitalislm. That wasn't stated , of course. John Ayers

Saturday, February 06, 2010


"President Obama is planning to increase spending on America's nuclear weapons stockpile just days after pledging to try to rid the world of them. In his budget to be announced on Monday, Mr Obama has allocated £4.3 billion to maintain the U.S. arsenal - £370 million more than George Bush spent on his final years on nuclear security. The announcement comes despite the American President declaring nuclear weapons were the 'greatest danger' to U.S. people during during in his State of the Union address on Wednesday. And it flies in the face of Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to him in October for 'his extraordinary efforts to strenghthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peaples'"
( Daily Mail, 29 January ) RD

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Food for Thought

The only safe injection site for drug users in Canada is sucessfully operating in Vancouver. Other North American cities have noted its sucess and want to have their own. The federal government has tried for years to shut it down. It's much better to throw these people in jail, boost the crime statistics, bring out 'tough on crime' legislation, and look popular. Recently the Supreme Court ruled that it could not be shut down, not because it's sucessful, but because the Fed's don't have any jurisdiction over provincial health. Capitalism is not common sense!
John Ayers



Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer has compared giving people government assistance to "feeding stray animals." Bauer, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor ( of South Carolina), made his remarks during a town hall meeting in Fountain Inn that included state lawmakers and about 115 residents. "My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food suply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behaviour. They don't know any better," Bauer said."
( Greenville News, 23 January) RD


"The divide between rich and poor is greater after 13 years of Labour rule than at any time since the Second World War, according to the Government's own report into inequality. It concludes that Britain remains a nation riven by class " from cradle to grave", despite programmes costing billions of pounds in the past decade designed to narrow the gap." ( Times, 27 January ) RD

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Socialist Standard February 2010 Vol.106 Issue,No.1266




  • Haiti - an un-natural disaster
    The reality with earthquakes is they kill so many only if we let them.
    They are inevitable, but the death toll is not...Read more >

  • Christmas bombers
    The son of a Nigerian banker wasn’t the only one on a bombing
    mission at Christmas...Read more >

  • Who bailed out the bankers?
    They tell us that we “the taxpayers” did? But it’s not as simple as that...Read more >

  • Beyond capitalism
    Attempts to reform capitalism, whether through parliament or dictatorship,
    have failed. This leaves conscious majority revolution as the only way
    forward...Read more >

  • The market versus cooperation
    Difficulties with cooperation arise when the restrictions of the market
    start to operate...Read more >

  • Car boot capers
    Shopping, it’s said, is the new religion, the new opiate of the people...Read more >

  • Regulars

  • Editorial

  • Contact Details

  • Meetings

  • Cooking the Books 1
  • Dreams and nightmares

  • Cooking the Books 2
  • The yellow brick road


  • The Irate Itinerant

  • Free Lunch

  • Pathfinders
  • Machine in the ghost

  • Material World
  • America and the S-Word

  • Pieces Together

  • Tiny Tips

  • Reviews
  • Cronies or Capitalists?; First
    as Tragedy...; Red Planets

  • 50 Years Ago
  • You’ve never had it so good”

  • Greasy Pole
  • Hoon or buffoon?

  • Voice from the Back
  • Monday, February 01, 2010

    Reading Notes

    In "Fast Food Nation", Eric Schlosser comments on the line speed of slaughter houses in the meat packing business: "I could always tell the line speed," a former Montfort nurse told me, "by the number of people with lacerations coming into my office." "A faster pace means higher profits. Market pressures now exert a perverse influence on the management of beef plants: the same factors that make these slaughter houses relatively inefficient (lack of mechanization, the reliance on human labour) encourage companies to make them even more
    dangerous (by speeding up the pace)" "The line speeds and labour costs at IBP's non-union plants now set the standard for the rest of the industry. Every other company must try to produce beef as quickly and cheaply as IBP does: slowing the pace to protect workers can lead to a competitive disadvantage." " From a purely economic point of view, injured workers are a drag on profits. They are less productive. Getting rid of them makes a good deal of financial sense, especially when new workers are readily available and inexpensive to train." Just some of the basic tenets of the capitalist mode of production. John Ayers


    "The richest 10% of the UK population are now more than 100 times as wealthy as the poorest 10%, according to the Anatomy of Economic Inequality. The study shows that by 2008 Britain had reached the highest level of income inequality since soon after the second world war. Household wealth (including cars and other
    possessions) of the top 10% amounts to £853,000 or more, while the poorest 10% amass £8,800 or less."  (Observer, 31 January) RD


    "Bob Diamond, president of Barclays, sold £5m of shares in the bank, days after the 21,000 investment bankers at Barclays Capital - overseen by Diamond - were awarded hefty pay rises. Diamond still has 8.3 shares, worth £20m, so don't worry about him being short of a few bob." (Observer, 31 January) RD