Sunday, March 31, 2013

One World Dreamers v World Socialism

The fact is we live in a capitalist world. One of the crucial elements of this capitalist system is the flow of capital, commodities, and labour around the world. While it might seem for a second that the removal of borders would better facilitate all this, the opposite is actually true. From the perspective of the ruling classes of the world, particularly those of the strongest nations, breaking down borders would be a disadvantage for a number of reasons.

Multi-national corporations often rely on tariffs and protective trade policies to protect their market share and profits. For all their love of the “free-market,” corporations will run to the protection of their government when they feel threatened by foreign competition and these corporations have the greatest influence in politics.

Capitalists need a world in which they can freely move capital around, yet at the same time have access to cheap labour as well. Immigration is a major source of cheap labor, and borders and immigration laws are a major part of keeping wages low. If there were no borders and immigration laws, these labourers could demand better conditions without fear of deportation. The leading capitalist nations, either for the purpose of exploiting immigrant labor or just cheap labour within those countries, rely on maintaining an imbalance in the world backed up by borders and their immigration laws.

Borders and sovereign governments also play an important role in providing cheap labour because these states embroil themselves in a race to the bottom, in order to attract multi-nationals by offering tax-holidays and free-trade zones, in addition to the cheapest, non-union labor. If all these territories are no longer sovereign nations, this competition would be greatly hindered if not eliminated entirely. Corporations benefit from having various governments out-bidding one another for the cheapest labor and facilities.

Let us also not forget that the ruling classes of many nations are indeed in competition with each other. Is the American ruling class willing to share profits, power, and influence with those of the other industrial nations? Are the rulers of the EU willing to do the same? Capitalist countries will cooperate so long as it is profitable and beneficial, but sooner or later every market gets snatched up and a war erupts to re-draw the lines on the globe.

No borders would spell the doom of many corporations, which would no longer be able to depend on their government and their trade policies to protect their interest. They could no longer rely on their government to use its military or economic leverage to open one market while denying it to others, or to domestic producers in that country. Why would they give up such power?

Once we come to understand that the idea of a unified one world under the current system of capitalism is simply just not feasible, we must then consider the practical possibility that it can be created by socialism.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

a war of words

Language is a battleground that socialists are often called upon to enter. Calling a party, socialist or communist, or claiming to be one, does not mean that the party is really socialist or communist.

For Marx and ourselves socialism is the society succeeding capitalism and contrary to the widespread erroneous idea, socialism is not a transitional society towards an ultimate aim called communism. For Marx socialism is communism, refers to the same social formation, simply being another term, like the terms Republic of Labour, society of free and associated producers or simply Association, Co-operative Society, union of free individuals, are all equivalent terms for the same society.

The “dictatorship of the proletariat” is not synonymous with socialism. the conquest of political power by the proletariat is not the end of the proletarian revolution, it constitutes, in fact, only the “first step" in the revolution” (Manifesto) which continues through a prolonged period till the capitalist mode of production is replaced by the “associated mode of production”, the basis of socialism. This is the “revolutionary transformation period between capitalist and communist society” during which the proletariat exercises its dictatorship. Hence, by definition, proletarian dictatorship cannot be “synonymous” with socialism. socialism, according to Marx, the ‘‘organisation’’ of society is ‘‘essentially economic–the establishment of the conditions of the union of individual’’ (German Ideology). In the socialist society, which is classless by definition,

there is no political power. This is explicitly stated both in Marx’s 1847 polemic with Proudhon and in the 1848 Communist Manifesto. In fact Marx always thought that state and human freedom are irreconcilable. Only during what Marx called the ‘‘revolutionary transfomation period’’ preceding socialism, the new state arising after the destruction of the old state machine, as the class power (no Party power in the name of the class, of course) of the labouring class representing society’s ‘‘immense majority in the interest of the immense majority’’ (Manifesto 1848) is necessary to put down any attempted “slave-owner" rebellion. (See Civil War in France and Marx’s Bakunin Critique, 1874). It should be clear that this last state - as a kind of necessary evil-presided over by the ‘‘immense majority in the interest of the immense majority" is, by nature of things, also the least repressive state appearing so far in social evolution.

With the disappearance of classes, there is also no political power, no state, and so no “workers’ state” either in the new society. Indeed, the German Ideology emphasises that the “organisation” of the new society is “essentially economic”. Marx did not leave any "programme" for socialism but he left us a sufficient quantity of material to have a clear idea of who he thought should happen to capitalism.

According to Lenin’s reading of Critique of the Gotha Programme it is said it describes a two-phase division of communist society. a lower and a higher. The first Lenin calls socialism and the second, he describes as communism. He did not seem to have invented this nomenclature. But he is the one whose use of these terms was accepted and widely used first by the international communist movement and then even by the anti-Marxists all over the world. For Lenin there are now two transitions, one from capitalism to socialism, and an other from socialism to communism.

Lenin may not have originated the distinction that socialism is different from communism, declaring it to be only the first phase of and transition to communism, but he made it famous and popularised it. Marx's socialism is a society of free producers who abolished private ownership of the means of production, commercial relations, wage labour and the State. Lenin's “socialism”does not eliminate wage labour and is based on the State ownership of the means of production, identified as social property. So Lenin's socialism is extremely different from the perspective of Marx's emancipation based on association of producers. Lenin conceives socialism substantially in terms of juridical ownership rather than production relationships therefore ending separate individual ownership and turning the ownership over to the state was for him social ownership. Lenin’s “socialism” envisages the economy as one state syndicate, a single factory, where all citizens are transformed into hired employees of the state with equal wages (soon to abandoned, however). Lenin is talking about the “state itself as capitalist in so far it employs wage labour” and the total national capital constituting a single capital in the hands of a single capitalist" as described in Capital. There is a striking similarity between what Lenin is saying here and what Marx calls “crude or vulgar communismin his 1844 Paris manuscripts. In this latter type of communism, the “condition of the labourer is not abolished, it is extended to all individuals. It is a simple community of labour where prevails equality of wage paid by the universal capitalist.
Marx had already showed the rise of the "associated capitalists" in stock-holder companies where the property of private individuals is replaced by ownership of collective capitalist investors. However, this is not the most important thing about private property. If the means of production in a society remain in the hands of the minority and thereby separated from the majority, there exists private property in the form of "private property of a part of society", class private property. So it does not matter at all even if it is the state which owns the property in the means of production, as long as the majority is deprived of those means. The irrefutable demonstration is the existence of wage labour for the majority. The existence of wage / salaried earners representing the majority of the population is a necessary and sufficient condition for the existence of private property in the means of production. State property is in fact a variety of private property.

For Marx private property in the means of production exists whenever these
means of production, separated from the producers, belong to a minority in society, leaving the great majority nothing but labour power to sell. It does not require any specific historical research to prove that this was the lot of the majority in each and every 'socialist' regime. In other words these were all state capitalist regimes. It is not difficult to see that this socialism, even though governed by a group professing to be the authentic disciples of Marx, has little to do with what Marx envisaged as socialism following the disappearance of capitalism.

This is not merely a semantic disagreement on words and meanings. It has far reaching consequences. The idea that there was a difference was put to good use by the rulers of the state-capitalist countries which called themselves socialist. They legitimizing every repressive act of these regimes in the name of building socialism thereby relegating all the self-emancipatory aspects of Marx’s socialism to a never-never land of ‘communism’, a utopia never to be realised. What Lenin presents as socialism is far removed from what Marx meant by it. Lenin’s “socialism” is really state capitalism.

The Glasow-based academic Hillel Ticktin also writes that “The transition to what - socialism or communism? It is clear that Marx made no distinction between the two....What difference does this terminology make? Well, it has made a great deal of difference, because it allowed the Stalinists to say that socialism is the lower phase of communism and, while in this lower phase all sorts of dreadful things can happen, we are still advancing to a communist society...We should simply go back to Marx's use. The society we are striving to attain may be called communist or socialist, but in the transitional period it is neither. As far as I am concerned, 'socialist society' and 'communist society' refer to the same thing.”

So as regards socialism being the transition to communism, Marx nowhere says this. For Marx this distinction is non-existent. For him socialism is neither the transition to communism, nor the lower phase of communism. Socialism and communism being identical, one could as well speak of the lower and the higher phases of socialism In fact Marx calls capitalism itself the transitional point or transitional phase to communism. For Marx human history only begins with socialism, because only then will the human individual, till now subjugated by “false community” personally and materially, become free both from personal and material unfreedom.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Who Are The Work-Shy?

Some sections of the media are fond of portraying the British working class as a feckless, work-shy bunch of state benefit scroungers but recent events expose that as complete nonsense. 'An astonishing 4,000 people braved the bitter cold to queue for work at a new £84million shopping centre. Long lines of desperate job seekers started to build up two hours before the jobs fair opened and the turnout was so big that organisers had to introduce a one-in one-out policy. The Whiteley Shopping Centre in Hampshire is set to open in May and will be home to 56 shops.' (Daily Express, 29 March) Feckless? Work-shy? That is an apt description of the British owning class. RD

a bit of right history

Mussolini concluded his "march" to power in Italy in 1922, and Scottish imitations did not take long to formulate themselves. Many in the upper echelons of Scottish society had great respect for a man who had arrived in power having crushed the left following. It should therefore not be of any great surprise that it was an aristocratic figure, the Earl of Glasgow, who oversaw the establishment of the British Fascists (BF) in Scotland and provided them with a headquarters in Glasgow. Their membership card stated their basic principles, of opposition to communists who are ‘in the pay of the Soviets of Russia’ and determined to ‘murder’ the present ruling class and replace them with a cabal of ‘Jews and Fanatics’. A list of fascist ‘pledges’ is on the reverse side of the card, with members promising to ‘support the King and the British constitution’, ‘end class hatred’, act and think like ‘a Christian’ and ‘to join my fellow Fascists in opposing [communist] force by force if and when it becomes necessary’. the Earl of Glasgow led a split off in favour of co-operating with the OMS, the ‘quasi-fascist’ Scottish Loyalists, who claimed to possess 2000 supporters. The programme of the Scottish Loyalists was much the same as their previous incarnation. Billy Fullerton, leader of the 400-strong ‘Bridgeton Billy Boys’ Protestant razor gang, was a member and is alleged to have received ‘a medal for strike breaking’ from Glasgow city council.
Addressing a Glasgow public meeting in November 1933, the Communist Willie Gallagher, who would go on to become MP for West Fife, stated that ‘in Scotland, the fascists were not anti-Jewish but anti-Irish’. Cormack’s Edinburgh-based ‘Protestant Action’ ‘squadrist tactics… look far more ‘fascist’ than anything the BUF did in Scotland’ according to one commentator. He established his own paramilitary organisation in 1935, ominously named ‘Kormack’s Kaledonian Klan’, operating from headquarters in the Lawnmarket. In 1936 the PA managed to push Labour into third place in local elections, gaining nearly 31 percent of the vote.   The short-lived Scottish Democratic Fascist Party was spearheaded by William Weir Gilmour – who had come on a political journey via the ILP and then the New Party – and Major Hume Sleigh, but by the end of the year both would have joined the BUF and the SDFP disappeared. Based in Glasgow, the party was both Scottish nationalist and fervently anti-Catholic.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Frugality And Fancy Living

While the majority of the Chinese working class live a frugal existence the ruling elite of the Communist Party lead lives of luxury and opulence, but wary of the collapse of the Soviet Union party leaders are trying to curb the worst excesses of the elite. 'In the four months since he was anointed China's paramount leader and tastemaker-in-chief, President Xi Jinping has imposed a form of austerity on the nation's famously free-spending civil servants, military brass and provincial party bosses. Warning that graft and gluttony threaten to bring down the ruling Communists, Mr. Xi has ordered an end to boozy, taxpayer-financed banquets and the bribery that often takes the form of a gift-wrapped Louis Vuitton bag.' (New York Times, 27 March) RD

Picasso And Penury

The billionaire Steven A. Cohen was feeling a little depressed - he had just been fined $616 million - so he decided to cheer himself up a little. 'Less than two weeks after SAC Capital Advisors, the hedge fund owned by the billionaire trader Steven A. Cohen, agreed to pay the government $616 million to settle accusations of insider trading, Mr. Cohen has decided to buy a little something for himself. A renowned art collector, Mr. Cohen has bought Picasso's "Le RĂªve" from the casino owner Stephen A. Wynn for $155 million, according to a person with direct knowledge of the sale who was not authorized to speak publicly.' (New York Times, 26 March) This obscene accumulation of wealth exists in the same society where kids are starving, dying for the lack of clean water and trying to exist on less than $2 a day. RD

Not so red

Ideas of reaction and bigotry can often be just as powerful as those of solidarity and class unity. The celebrated Forty Hours Strike in 1919, when English tanks occupied the centre of Glasgow and which culminated at the ‘Battle of George Square’ also witnessed violent anti-black rioting. On 23 January 1919, tensions among dock workers at the Broomielaw over the ‘employment of Chinese and alien coloured seamen on British ships’ spilled over into a battle with sailors from Sierra Leone, with ‘revolvers and knifes’ used. The role of the two seamen’s unions on the Broomielaw was essentially of deep seated hostility to immigrant labour, which they saw as driving down wages and conditions. Shipping companies did exploit the differentiation in wages between white and African workers, yet it’s unclear if much attempt was made to challenge this by the organised Left or from within the labour movement. The racist riots were ignored by Forward and the Socialist Labour Party’s The Socialist.

David Kirkwood was one of the men feared by an establishment which believed him capable of igniting a Bolshevik revolution in Britain and who once famously warned that "the socialist republic would be established at the point of a bayonet'. In the “Battle of George Square” Kirkwood had a policeman crack him on the head with a baton, knocking him unconscious. As chairman of the shop stewards committee at Beardmore's Kirkwood came to be forever linked with Red Clydeside through a series of war-time strikes against the introduction (dilution) of unskilled workers to do skilled engineers jobs. Nevertheless, Kirkwood took pride in the productivity records achieved by the Beardmore's workforce. He was able to say: "What a team! There never was anything like it in Great Britain. We organised a bonus system in which everyone benefited by high production. Records were made only to be broken. In six weeks we held the record for output in Great Britain, and we never lost our premier position.''

Kirkwood was one of 29 Labour MPs elected in Scotland at the 1922 election. He remained in Parliament until 1951. He then became Baron Kirkwood of Bearsden.

Local children would sing this ditty:
“Vote, vote, vote for Davie Kirkwood,
Vote, vote, vote for all his men,
Then we'll buy a tommy gun,
And we'll make the Tories run,
And you'll never see a Tory again."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Dignity Of Labour

National and local politicians are always coming up with schemes to run capitalism more efficiently. Here is their latest brain wave. 'Most local authorities will offer new those who qualify for emergency assistance a one-off voucher redeemable for goods such as food and nappies. Many of the 150 local authorities in England running welfare schemes will issue the vouchers in the form of payment cards, which may be blocked to prevent the holder using them for alcohol, cigarettes or gambling. ........ Councils that will start using the scheme include Hampshire, Manchester, Bristol and Darlington.' (Daily Telegraph, 27 March) By "more efficiently" of course they mean cheaper. Is there no limit to the indignities that the working class must suffer? RD

They Call It Progress

The expansion of Chinese capitalism has led its owning class to search the world for sources of raw materials and markets. 'Ecuador plans to auction off more than three million hectares of pristine Amazonian rainforest to Chinese oil companies, angering indigenous groups and underlining the global environmental toll of China's insatiable thirst for energy. ...... Critics say national debt may be a large part of the Ecuadorean government's calculations. Ecuador owed China more than £4.6bn ($7bn) as of last summer, more than a tenth of its GDP. China began loaning billions of dollars to Ecuador in 2009 in exchange for oil shipments.' (Guardian, 26 March) The fact that indigenous people have lived undisturbed for thousands of years in the area means nothing to the Ecuador and Chinese capitalist class. Displacement and the destruction of a way of life for thousands means nothing compared to profit. RD

imagine no countries, no borders

Immigration has once again resurfaced as a headline grabbing issue, with the “fear" of a “flood" of Eastern Europeans arriving in Britain.

The movement of peoples for survival has been going on since the dawn of time. Even birds migrate. Human beings have been looking for a place where their basic needs will be met since the time when there were no countries, no borders. With the formation of countries as the result of the development of private property ownership migration has become even a greater struggle to survive.

The capitalst class have always sought migrant workers to fuel expansionary periods of economic growth, while saving upon the bill for reproducing and maintaining these workers. Migrant workers are a useful as part of the reserve army of labour because they can quickly be expelled when surplus to requirements. The state uses migrant workers to fill gaps in the labour market but does not pay any of the costs of them or their families settling. In some cases bosses will try to employ migrant workers even when indigenous workers are available because they assume that migrants’ status will make them easier to control. One section of the ruling class has been keen to defend the benefits of immigration while another section does not benefit from migrant workers and therefore does not want to bear the costs. This split is often evident in reports by the UK government. Tensions between different capitalists, with different labour market needs, creates difficulties for states as they attempt to manage migration. The “liberal" capitalist poses immigration in terms of benefiting a supposed ‘British interest’ and contribute to the GDP but there is no such thing as a ‘British interest’. Society is divided into different classes whose interests are at odds to one another. Capitalism’s profits come from exploiting the labour of working-class people. Nationality, immigrant or indigenous, is unimportant to the ledger book.

Capitalist states must constantly intervene to recast the relationship between the state and labour in the interests of capital accumulation. Capitalists need the constant movement of workers but also a degree of stability and embedded skills to compete with other capitalists.

Businesses are in competition with one another for market share and profits. If a business can cut its costs by paying lower wages and giving itself a competitive edge, then it will do just that. This forces competing businesses to follow suit. The result is the driving down of wages for all workers, which is not the fault of immigrant workers but down to the imperatives of the capitalist system itself. The fact is that big business will pay as little as it can get away with in the pursuit of profit.
Similarly, the claim that immigration is the cause of the problems with the welfare state is a fallacy. Immigration is used an excuse for cuts and under-investment in public services and tries placing the blame on anyone but the system. To place the blame on ‘immigrants’ for the sorry state of welfare provision does not address the causes of these problems. The problem is the capitalist system itself.

Between them, the capitalists carve the populations of the world, each person in principle being the subject of a single state, possessing the privilege of citizenship and the right to freedom of movement within its territory, in particular in order to sell his or her labour power within the corresponding labour market. The legitimate function of citizenship, for which its possessor should feel gratitude and pride, depends in part upon the de-privileging of non-citizens.
Solidarity between workers is not automatic. The existence of separate racial and ethnic differences can lead to either unity or fragmentation such as slogans of “British Jobs For British Workers”,
We know socialism is possible. We know that only the working class, together as one, can bring socialism about. We need to build a society where we commonly own the factories, the lands, the mines—a society where we are guaranteed housing, education, health-care and jobs. A society where there will be no borders for the working class. Socialism is the only answer for the working class and we must organize as a class to achieve it.
“Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...”
John Lennon

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

National Liberation or libation

The division of the global population into entities called “nations” is overwhelmingly taken for granted. For the vast majority of people it is taken for granted that they are members of a nation-state; they take pride in its alleged accomplishments; they suffer when their nation is embarrassed or humiliated (and for Scottish football’s Tartan Army that is indeed a common occurance!) It rarely if ever occurs to them that the nation-state system is a recent creation in human history, that most human societies have had no concept of the nation whatsoever, and that the rise of the nation-state system corresponds to the international development of capitalism, a particular political form that regulates, controls and disciplines people in a way that facilitates their exploitation by capital. capitalism has stamped our sense of belonging, our need for community with others, with national state forms. In truth, the countryside, the culture and the language with which we are brought up is part of us. Love of these things is inevitable and universal, but it is not the same thing as nationalism. Capitalism constructed nations organised around symbols like flags and anthems, built largely upon artifical myths and histories.

Nationalism in the past centuries has been responsible for unprecedented barbarity and it has been crucial in preventing the victory of socialism. Nationalism upholds loyalty to a particular nation and support for it when there is a conflict with another nation, regardless of circumstance. Nationalism opposes international working class solidarity, where loyalty to ones class above that of national origin. Nationalist movements, under the banner of national liberation have failed. Countries which overthrew their colonial overlord have new symbols and can use their own languages in schools and on TV but life for the ordinary peasant or worker is little different and often harder while the local elites enriched themselves and established strict control over the population. National liberation struggles can be seen as attempts of sections of the native ruling classes to appropriate a larger share of the value generated in 'their own' countries.

The experience of the working class throughout the world is that national liberation is no solution. In the 19th century some liberation struggles led to the creation of new nation states which played a needed role in the development of world capitalism. This is no longer true of today where new rulers may perhaps achieve a measure of political independence from the great powers but they can never free their country from the grip of the world economy. For the working class in these countries "liberation" simply means exchanging one set of bosses for another - the new ones as violently opposed to working class struggle as the old ones. The nation state is the political organisation of capitalism. Socialists oppose every attempt to rally the working class to the cause of nationalism regardless if it is in the name of "national liberation”

Amazingly, much of the Left has supported these national liberation movements, resorting to distorting the truth through so-called solidarity committees, often long after it was clear that they were liberating only their own elite class and having usually wiped out their left opposition. The Leftist groups spend much of their time defending movements which have been as exploitative and oppressive, albeit in different forms, as the regimes that they overthrew. The fact that the majority of peoples obtained little or nothing from an apparent “victory” has to be driven home. The Left cannot forget that for the many the standard of living has gone down after the removal of the colonial overlord. Indeed in many countries it is even worse in that post-colonial wars have led to mass slaughter. However in some new countries higher consumption levels and welfare programmes may temporarily be established by these regimes. Those who can see no further than economistic steps to “socialism” usually quote this. But what is ‘gained’ at home is lost abroad. Castro supported the 1968 Russian Invasion of Czechoslovakia, as Ho Chi Minh earlier endorsed the tanks rolling into Budapest in 1956. Hugo Chavez gave his approval to Mugabe, Gaddaffi, Assad and the Ayatollahs. Even today we witness members of the Left supporting various Islamists such as Hezbullah. They ought to be denouncing them as reactionaries. The fact that they are opposing the foreign policy of the USA is neither here nor there.

 The Leftist myth that a successful national liberation will later unleash 'the real class struggle' is false. It is a rationalisation for the defence of new ruling classes in the process of formation. As historical evidence shows, those new elites usually become appendages of another existing capitalist/imperialist bloc. Class interests of the new emerging capitalist class never bring a break with the capitalist system. They simply seek for their rights of sovereignty to be recognized by the powerful ones. So, it is downright class collaboration to reduce opposition of the working class to imperialism to opposition to policies of this or that imperialist state or to the level of supporting the rights of sovereignty of “its own” bourgeoisie. Dominant capitalist countries (or if you prefer imperialist nations) dictate the economic terms on weaker capitalist countries. This situation is a general law of capitalist order. Under capitalism, he who pays the piper calls the tune! No matter how much the bourgeoisie of various capitalist states complain about unequal relations or interference with their “internal affairs,” this is their capitalist system as a whole. Why should the working class be concerned with their complaints? Sharing the grievance of the weaker bourgeoisie or preaching a fully independent and national order within capitalism to the working class suits only the national ruling class. In fact, the burning problem of the proletariat in all capitalist countries, no matter big or small, is not economic independence(!) of its “own” bourgeoisie, but emancipation from the capitalist order of exploitation. In short, the goal of the working class struggle against imperialism is to put an end to the bourgeois order, to seize political power, i.e. the proletarian revolution.

“The workers have no country,” declared Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto. In this spirit, the International Workingmen’s Association ( the First International) was later launched to reflect the form of organization that fit this outlook: an international political movement of the working class. Yet almost 150 years later labour movements are still almost entirely national in organisation, with little thought for their fellow workers elsewhere. They are dominated by nationalist ideology and tend to support import controls (or other forms of protectionism) to protect “our jobs” and “our” way of life. Rosa Luxemburg claimed with the full internationalising of capitalism and so powerful had the world economy become national struggles were out-moded and that the idea of an economically independent nation-state had become ridiculous. She declared national struggles can serve only as a means of deception, of duping the masses and it was reactionary to support the creation of new nation-states. The task was to mobilise the international working class against world capitalism.

It is this desire to belong to a community and identify with others with some sense of common purpose that a world-wide socialist movement of the future will have to help develop. A truly internationalist feeling of community that connect with both local and global experiences, solidarity that go beyond the nation-state. A potent, united global workers’ movement makes nationalism and separatism unnecessary. We must never lose sight of one of the vital features of socialism: its commitment to a world community without nations and without capitalism. The international working class is one class.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lots Of Potential

Another politician we are expected to revere, as he is a potential Prime Minister after all, is colourful Mayor of London Boris Johnson. He was exposed recently on TV by the interviewer Eddie Mair. '"You're a nasty piece of work, aren't you?" asked Mr Mair. Mr Johnson looked surprised and distinctly uncomfortable as the presenter asked him about his being fired by The Times newspaper for making up a quotation; being sacked from the Tory frontbench for telling "a bare-faced lie" to the party leader Michael Howard about his affair with the journalist Petronella Wyatt and the claim that he agreed to provide a reporter's address to his friend Darius Guppy, a convicted fraudster, so the journalist could be beaten up.' (Independent, 25 March) None of this was directly denied by Johnson. Lying, making up quotes and assisting in an assault threat? Sounds like good Prime Minister material to us. RD

His Lordship's Expertise

The media love to stress how complicated modern society is and how we need the expertise of the statesmen and politicians to guide us through its complexities. Lord Heseltine is a case in point, one of the Government's senior advisers, has been consulting with George Osborne on regenerating British cities. The majority of Lord Heseltine's recommendations in his regional growth report were accepted by the Chancellor in last week's budget. Listen to this "expert". 'Complacent British may not have 'national will' to secure economic recovery, Lord Heseltine suggests. British people may be so rich that they do not have the "national will" needed to lift the country out of the economic downturn, Lord Heseltine has suggested.' (Daily Telegraph, 25 March) All of you "rich" British surviving on dole money, pensions and minimum wages are considered by the wealthy peer too rich to care. Some expert! RD

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Facts are chiels that winna ding


630,000 individuals are in households experiencing absolute poverty
970,000 are living in households that are in “relative poverty”
160,000 children live in absolute poverty
260,000 children live in relative poverty
658,000 households livie in fuel poverty (defined as people using more than 10% of the family income to pay their energy bills)
2,000 more deaths of people aged 65 in Winter 2008/09 compared to the summer months (The Poverty Site)
143,000 Scottish people are claiming Job Seekers Allowance, 215,000 are officially unemployed; while 1.573m Scots are classified as ‘economically inactive’ (ONS, June 2012).


 Poor health, poor education, bad housing, reduced social opportunities, higher rate of alcoholism, addiction and mental illness. Men living in the most deprived areas have 18.8 years lower life expectancy and women 17.1 years than for those in the least deprived areas. In Tayside 2011 saw a significant increase in malnutrition, with 182 reported cases.

'But facts are fellows that will not be overturned, And cannot be disputed.'

- Robert Burns, A Dream

Thursday, March 21, 2013

the Independence Referendum

Nationalism and the referendum increasingly dominates Scottish politics and its newspapers. We now have the date of the referendum which will be the 18th September 2014when Scot voters will be asked the Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

By re-drawing the map the nationalists promise economic prosperity. The unionists prophesise economic catastrophe. Socialists say experience shows that either way, the working class will lose out.

Independence is nothing but a dead-end. It doesn’t bring us closer to socialism, only farther away from it. Separation is no stepping stone to socialism, despite what phony “Marxist” theoreticians may say. It maintains and reinforces the divisions within the working class – a real boon for the capitalist class which do their best to keep us divided. The people on the Left who are pushing this option fall right into class collaboration. Under capitalism there is necessarily a division between rich and poor, a ruling class and the ruled, the class of capital and the class of wage-workers, and any attempt at uniting them must involve the acceptance of exploitation and oppression. It is glossed over with much talk of the shared culture. The experience of the poor living in a slum council estate is very different from that of the rich living in their country estates. Anyone on the Scottish Left who, therefore, combines the working class with the ruling class, calling on capitalist and worker to unite and fight for independence is not a Marxist or a socialist. Nationalism places the working class under the control of its ruling class and this means that socialism is abandoned. This process has been observed many times resulting in the the conclusion that national feeling is somehow stronger than socialism. The repeated triumph of national consciousness does not however prove that class consciousness is incapable of transcending national consciousness.

Some Scots claim that the Scottish nation has been a victim of English rule but the working class throughout Britain has been the subject of capitalist oppression. Nationalism divides our forces before our common enemy. The fight against the bosses has been a united struggle with workers joining together across all the regions of the UK. Nationalism is about organising and mobilising people on the basis of their national identity. Socialism is about organising and mobilising people on the basis of their class identity. It is class war between employers and employees not Scottish versus English.

Those who say that the main enemy is the English ruling class mislead workers in Scotland into thinking we have less to fear from the Scottish capitalist class. But the truth of the matter is that Scotland’s capitalists have been an integral part of the British bourgeoisie ever since the Union, a union to advance the interests of the aristocratic land-owners and the developing merchant and capitalist class. The Scottish ruling class sold out the rights of the people in Scotland for a hare in the spoils of the Empire. Scottish capitalists, be they big or small, are not any less a part of the British bourgeoisie than English capitalists. Now they simply want a re-division of the pie by re-writing the constitution. Those who would subordinate the class struggle to the struggle for independence, those who counter-pose national unity to class unity, help keep capitalism alive. Independence divides the working class against the international bourgeoisie and it chains workers to the interests of “their” bourgeoisie. No-one seriously considers that the SSP or Sheridan’s Solidarity constitute in any sense an independent political force. They are, in effect, merely propagandists for the Scottish bourgeoisie and its chosen party, the SNP.

An independent parliament has no answers for the working class and would continue to be used by the millionaires and multi-nationals to control and rule.There are no common interests between workers and their exploiters, whatever flag is waved. Nationalism and class struggle are irreconcilably opposed. A nation is simply capitalism with all its exploitation and alienation, parcelled out in a single geographical unit. It doesn't matter whether the nation is 'small, 'colonial', 'semi-colonial' or 'non-imperialist'. In Scotland some businesses has found new roots, hoping to be effective in getting workers to sacrifice themselves for the false goal of “building the national economy” through independence from Whitehall. Multinational interests can just as much thrive on smaller centralised interdependent states, rather than through the old concept of the powerful nation. Separatism only reproduce the same problems on a smaller but no less savage scale.

All nationalisms are reactionary because they inevitably clash with class consciousness and poison it with chauvinism. Working class co-operation, especially in this global age of capital movement across all borders, is necessary for a real defence of our co-workers, neighbours and communities. Socialists have long maintained that people have the right to live, work and travel wherever they choose. As internationalists, socialists oppose national borders, which serve to divide and segregate people. It is important to remember that this view has always been central to the international labour movement from its very beginnings long ago. It is time for labour to remember this vital part of its history.

In the Scottish independence referendum there will be two different forms of nationalism on offer. The British nationalism of a “No” vote. The Scottish nationalism of a “Yes” vote. We will be advocating a third choice - a spoiled ballot with the words “world socialism” written on it. The Socialist Party is committed to destroying the capitalist system, the root cause of all oppression. It aims to unmask the irrationality of nationalism and work to show up the void that is national self-determination. Only by ending capitalism and building a democratic socialist future can we end the nightmare of war, environmental chaos, national and ethnic division, poverty and inequality that capitalism thrives on. The Socialist Party aspires to liberate all humanity, across the boundaries of national identity.


Television advertisements delight in showing us the latest domestic electric and gas heaters with all the hi-tech gadgets. Behind this modern and comforting image there lurks a cruel reality however. 'Millions of Britons are facing fuel poverty due to soaring energy bills, experts warned today. More than nine million people will spend more than 10 per cent of their household income on fuel in three years, they said. ........... Annmarie Blomfield, of energy assessment company One Green Place, said fuel poverty kills thousands of people every year.She said almost 8,000 people die from living in cold homes with more than 1.6 million children in households which struggle to keep warm.' (Daily Express, 19 March) Dying in a cold home never features in those slick adverts. RD

Who's scoring?

Money counts as the Championship League last eight shows. It is a reflection of the Deloitte's Football Money League. Real Madrid (1st), Barcelona (2nd) and Bayern (4th). There's Juventus, 10th on the money list and Italy's biggest spenders, Galatasaray enough financial clout to "rent" Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba as short-term "ringers" – and Paris Saint-Germain, have spent more than anyone in football over the past 18 months. The exceptions are Borussia Dortmund founded on low ticket prices and a working man's club ethos and, especially, the fact that, apart from Marco Reus, nobody in the starting eleven cost more than £5 million. This status was somewhat forced upon them by the wild overspending that sent the club into administration a decade ago. Malaga also previously faced unpaid wages and lawsuits.
Football has reached the point where it must choose between becoming an elitist sport, dominated by a handful of rich clubs and leagues, or a universal one, according to former FIFA presidential advisor Jerome Champagne. Champagne said the concentration of wealth meant that competitions such as the Champions League had become predictable. "I remember when I was a teenager and we had the draw for European competition. When we drew a Polish club, when we drew Dundee United or Glasgow Rangers, or CSKA Sofia, we were scared. Now, you have a small group of clubs more or less guaranteed to reach the final stages."
"We tend to misrepresent the game by thinking the game is about the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo," Champagne told Reuters. "In reality, it is about players whose salaries are not paid and clubs who are on the verge of bankruptcy.The majority of football is today facing this crisis while the wealthy are becoming wealthier," added Champagne
Once managed by the Celtic legend Jock Stein, once boasting having had Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson as a player, twice winners of the Scottish Cup, semi-finalists in the European Cup Winners Cup, Dunfermline have just six days to come up with £134,000 or face being wound up after Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs took the 128-year-old club to court over an unpaid tax bill. Dunfermline are also understood to owe around £8 million to directors past and present and have repeatedly failed to pay their players on time this season. It was confirmed earlier this month that Jefferies' squad and other staff received just 20 per cent of their wages.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Food for thought

A report by McMaster University (Hamilton) and the United Way tells us that barely half the adults in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton have full time jobs with benefits and expect to be working for the same employer in one year's time. The rest work either full or part-time with no benefits or job security or in temporary, casual or contract positions. Insecure or precarious' work has increased fifty per cent in the last twenty years. There has been a forty per cent increase in temporary work since 1997 and a forty-five per cent increase in self- employment. This is causing major life decisions like moving in with a partner, having children etc. increasingly difficult. This, of course, is due to the squeeze on workers to make the workforce more 'flexible' to suit the profit makers that is the neo-liberal agenda. We need to educate these people that they do not have to drop living standards to the lowest common denominator and make them class conscious socialists. John Ayers

No Forgiveness for Blair’s Useful Idiots

Making up a reason to invade a country was the easy part for Tony Blair. Sticking to a pretend story for ten years — that is truly the sign of a sociopathic statesman.

Ten years ago, between January and April 2003, it is estimated that an unprecedented 36 million people around the world took to the streets in protest against the Iraq War. 50, 000 of them marched in Glasgow. Scottish Labour Party leader Johann Lamont was not one of them. Instead she was part of those political cheer-leaders who supported Tony Blair and voted for the invasion of Iraq. In her own words she “voted on the grounds of listening to the evidence in front of me and on my conscience.”

She was one of many “useful idiots,” who willfully played along with preposterous WMD claims and allowed themselves to get carried away with the imperialistic fervor surrounding a new call to war, abdicating their responsibilities to humanity. How can we believe her pleas of ignorance when millions of us screamed the facts until our voices were hoarse? Why should we place our trust in someone who failed to accurately analyse “the evidence” placed before her? She abdicated her responsibility to ask basic questions to verify the truth of WMD claims. Those politicians who voted for the Iraq War should be held accountable for their decision. In our own day-to-day lives, if we were a party to such horrifically wrong and deliberately destructive decisions, we would face punishing consequences, especially if we still tried to justify ourselves. We would face public scorn and humiliation. We would probably get demoted or fired. We might even face criminal prosecution. Why is the same standard not applied to Johann Lamont?

Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displacement (MoMD), say there is 1.1 million other Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Iraq today. UNHCR estimates show that the greatest number of IDP’s to be in the Baghdad governorate, and puts the number at 200,000 Iraqis.

Nevertheless some stil argue it was a price worth paying to remove a dictator.
An Amnesty International report refers to as "a grim cycle of human rights abuses" in Iraq today. The report exposes a long chronology of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees committed by Iraqi security forces, as well as by foreign troops, in the wake of the US-led 2003 invasion. "Death sentences and executions are being used on a horrendous scale," Amnesty International's Hadj Sahraoui said in the groups recent report. "It is particularly abhorrent that many prisoners have been sentenced to death after unfair trials and on the basis of confessions they say they were forced to make under torture."

“We have no future, and neither does Iraq have a future. My children have no future. We are only living day by day.” said Marwa Ali,  mother of two.

 Johann Lamont could have joined the millions of people in the UK and across the world denouncing Blair for waging a needless, illegal and immoral war of aggression without even the fig leaf of United Nations support. Lamont instead voted with her conscience - the blood of innocent millions are on Lamont’s conscience. Shame on her.

One or None

It is 200 years since the birth of David Livingstone, perhaps the most famous of missionaries. One biography describes David Livingstone as "Africa's Greatest Missionary".

An interesting claim considering that estimates of the number of people he converted in the course of his 30-year career vary between one and none. Livingstone himself later wrote off his sole convert as a backslider within months of his baptism.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Preaching revolution

The only reasonable position to adopt towards any religion is one of unbelief. For secular humanists, criticism of religion is a process towards the eventual "triumph of reason". But they ignore the material circumstances which give rise to superstition. The socialist analysis of religion derives from our basic materialism that traces how religions have evolved, from their possible beginnings in ancestor worship in primitive societies to established social institutions. Under capitalism people feel, rightly, that they are governed by forces they can't control but attribute this, wrongly, to forces operating from outside the world of experience. Churches of all types are then at hand for the sustaining of fear and superstition. For the socialist alternative to our lives being controlled by impersonal forces we must bring about a society in which humans consciously control the forces of production.
Humans made God in their image and attributed to him the powers which they collectively possessed, and then bowed down and worshiped this figment of their imagination. The first premise of historical materialism is that all man's thinking is social thinking; that there is no idea that man discusses, no interest that he fights for, and no ideal that he aspires to, that is not derived from social origins. If humans were to realise this and take their own destiny in hand there would be no need for God or religion. Where the working class accepts allegiance to religion, to royalty or the nation-state, or accepts a false ideology or economic subservience to the capitalist class, it denies itself the realisation of its own interests. The poverty of the modern proletariat still results from the fact that its labour operates in commodity form, is bought for wages and exploited by capitalists with a view to profit. To buy a man's labour power and set him to work is to reduce his existence to a commercial transaction and alienate his individuality.
Despite the attempts by churchmen to modify the image of the Church and alter its social role, it will retain one enduring characteristic, that of an anti-working class institution. The Church supports the present method of producing and distributing wealth--capitalism. The ideas that it disseminates, its concepts about society, and the universe it trades in, are either irrelevant or hostile to the ideas that the working class requires to achieve its economic emancipation. Socialists seek the universal brotherhood of men, but for the Church to sloganise ideals and in practice support a system that precludes their realisation, is worse than hollow gesture, it erects a barrier to their practical achievement. Churches arrogated to themselves the role of arbiter in things appertaining not only to matters of what it called ‘morality’ but to all forms of human behaviour and even juridical practice. If the Church genuinely aspires to social harmony on a world scale what it should do is relate to specific social situations within actual experience and explain the reasons why men now behave in a manner contrary to their mutual interests. It should argue a valid social theory and advocate a practical course for political action that offer the sure prospect of the unity of all men based on relations of genuine social equality. Only Socialists do this.
Many anti-religious writers see themselves as defenders of the Enlightenment tradition of reason against its traditional foe, religion. But they see nothing wrong in capitalism. Socialists recognise that the main source of irrationality in the modern world is to be found in the capitalist system of society. For socialists, therefore, the struggle against religion cannot be separated from the struggle for socialism. We fight religious superstition whenever it is an obstacle to socialism that keeps the gaze of the masses fixed upon the sky where they cannot investigate the real material world and see how they are robbed and oppressed.

The Preacher and the Slave
Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked how 'bout something to eat
They will answer with voices so sweet:

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die.

The starvation army they play,
They sing and they clap and they pray
Till they get all your coin on the drum
Then they'll tell you when you're on the bum:
Holy Rollers and jumpers come out,
They holler, they jump and they shout.
Give your money to Jesus they say,
He will cure all diseases today.
If you fight hard for children and wife -
Try to get something good in this life -
You're a sinner and bad man, they tell,
When you die you will sure go to hell.

Workingmen of all countries, unite,
Side by side we for freedom will fight;
When the world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we'll sing this refrain:


You will eat, bye and bye,
When you've learned how to cook and to fry.
Chop some wood, 'twill do you good,
And you'll eat in the sweet bye and bye

Joe Hill

Monday, March 18, 2013

Food for thought

According to Canada's finance minister, Jim Flaherty, leaders from the G20 nations have made progress in balancing fiscal discipline and economic growth in their Moscow meeting. He said, "Refrain from competitive devaluation and resist all forms of protectionism and keep our markets open." That should make capitalism work. However, some fear that some are deliberately trying to weaken their currencies to appear more competitive starting a currency war that could derail the global recovery. Japan, the world's third largest economy, has been accused of trying to lower the yen to stimulate its economy. Doesn't it make more sense to abolish the system that requires currencies at all? John Ayers


If any area in the world seemed to sum up modernity and progress it would probably be Silicon Valley in California with its high technology industries, but behind that modernity lurks an old problem - poverty and homelessness. 'A shanty town of tents and shacks stretches over 28 acres near the airport at San Jose, the area's second city, and one Silicone Valley chief executive said he had seen advertisements in San Francisco for people to rent floor space on the condition that they brought their own sleeping bags.' (Times, 16 March) RD

Nationalism - where does it end?

Socialist Courier has already drawn attention to the unintended consequences for the nationalists in that where does separation stop in this post and here too.

The Guardian now reports, that politicians in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles have begun talks among themselves about their own "home rule". The councils are investigating plans to model themselves on the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands or the Falklands, which are crown dependencies and largely independent from the UK government, or to mimic the self-rule deal struck by the Faroe Islands with Denmark in 1948. Other less radical options include pressing for control over all their local fisheries, merging local health and social services, and taking control of the sea bed from the Crown Estates in London to help the islands profit from the boom in windfarms, on land and offshore, and marine energy projects about to start off northern and western Scotland. The three island groups are poised for a huge growth in investment by global energy companies: major tidal and wave energy parks are planned around their shorelines, while Shetland and Orkney are already seeing hundreds of millions of pounds spent on extra oil and gas terminals to service new fields being opened up in the Atlantic and North Sea.

Shetland council officials have drafted a detailed strategy on how to investigate Shetland's constitutional options. Shetland Council recently held a seminar to discuss the continuing loss of powers to Holyrood, the council tax freeze and various remedies including a bid for self-governing crown dependency status as currently enjoyed by the Isle of Man.Orkney council officials have compiled a 300-page briefing paper on the constitutional and political options which is being discussed by councillors.

Their alliance conjures up parallels with a campaign by rebellious Shetland islanders in the 1970s, when the Shetland Movement was formed to demand much greater autonomy for the islands as oil companies set up bases for the first wave of North Sea oil rigs.

Malcolm Bell, the convenor of Shetland Islands council, said the independence referendum offered an opportunity for the islands to carve out a new political settlement. "There's no point in Westminster devolving powers to Edinburgh if they are going to stop in Edinburgh. When you're 300 miles from Edinburgh, or 700 from London, at those kind of distances, Edinburgh feels as remote as London."

Central-belt Scots have relatively little contact with Orcadians and Shetlanders

Steven Heddle, Orkney's council leader, said: "We need to do this on a proactive basis because, if we don't do something ourselves, we're going to find the nationalists and the unionists pursue their aspirations, which don't necessarily tally with what we want."

The SNP’s Angus Brendan MacNeil, the MP for the Hebrides, said last year the islands might remain part of the UK “if there was a big enough drive for self-determination among their residents”,

Tavish Scott, the MSP for Shetland and former Scottish Liberal Democrat leader said there had been a "remorseless pattern of centralisation" under Salmond's Scottish National party government. "For me, this is about home rule; our islands being able to assert their natural and local identity, their distinctiveness, and get the powers and responsibilities they need to make the best of the modern world. If we don't set out our position, we will be subsumed into Greater Grampian or Greater Highlands. As night follows day, both Labour and the Scottish National party are centralising parties. They won't talk about public sector reform, but we know discussions are going on behind the scenes that Scotland is too big infrastructurally."

If more autonomy for Orkney and Shetland is a good thing, isn’t it a good thing for every community?

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Capitalism is a social system that cruelly contrasts wealth and poverty but probably no city in the world illustrates that conflict more than Mumbai in India. The world's tallest block of flats entitled World One, a 117-storey complex offering flats at £10 million has recently been completed there. 'On the streets below, about 4 million of Bombay's inhabitants defecate in the open because they have no lavatory. ....... Mumbai has the seventh largest number of billionaires of any city but by 2025 the World Bank predicts they will share it with 22.5 million slum-dwellers.' (Times, 16 March) RD


Many supporters of the National Health Service in the UK argue that the NHS is envied throughout the world. If so it doesn't say much for how those countries treat their workers when they are sick.'More than 20,000 hospital deaths could have been prevented if warnings about high mortality rates had been acted on quickly, a government adviser has said. Professor Sir Brian Jarman has accused ministers and officials of ignoring data on high death rates for a decade. Sir Brian is working on the government review of 14 hospital trusts with higher-than-average death rates in the wake of the Stafford Hospital inquiry.' (BBC News, 16 March) RD

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Food for thought

In Guatemala City, cemetery space is so scarce that mummified bodies are exhumed over unpaid cemetery rents. Should a relative come to claim them, they are placed in a mass grave. Even dead, you can be evicted! What a system!
Recent flooding in Bangladesh and the eastern coast of the US has hammered home to many what we face in the years to come, unless we act on climate change now (don't hold your breath). Experts expect about 250 million people will be forced to move by 2015. Think of the problems that will cause. Why not prevent it now?
Ontario's new premier, Kathleen Wynne (Liberal) said she hopes for cooperation from her rivals Tim Hudak (Conservative) and Andrea Horvath (NDP) in her attempts to solve problems in running the province. She said, "I believe that there is a lot of common ground with the Tories and the NDP..." Sure, the common ground they are all committed to is running the day to day affairs of the capitalist system in the interests of the owning class so no matter who is elected it still spells disaster for the working class, unless it's the Socialist Party. John Ayers

The Blair Legacy

As the 10th anniversary of the Iraq Invasion approaches what was the cost?
In dollars and cents it is estimated that the war cost the United States $1.7 trillion (£1.1tn). Its involvement in Iraq according to other sources has so far cost the US $810 billion (625 billion euros) and could eventually reach $3 trillion.
But in the cost of lives the war killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have led to the deaths of four times that number, said the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

Another estimate quoted is at least 116,000 Iraqi civilians and more than 4,800 coalition troops died in Iraq between the outbreak of war in 2003 and the US withdrawal in 2011 (31,000 US military personnel were injured).

About five million Iraqis were displaced.
In 2006, estimates by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, published in The Lancet, said 655,000 people had died in the first 40 months of the war.
In 2008, a study by the Iraqi government and World Health Organisation (WHO), published in The New England Journal of Medicine, said between 104,000 and 223,000 Iraqis had died violent deaths between March 2003 and June 2006.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Walking Dead

The Orange Order endeavours to dismiss any suggestion of class struggle as the following ditty demonstrates:

"Let not the poor man hate the rich
Nor rich on poor look down
But each join each true Orange Order
For God and the Crown."

Food for thought After thought

Speaking of television, another SPCer read Sid Caesar's autobiography. Originally, Admiral Television sponsored his, "Your Show of Shows" and, because it was a smash, the demand for Admiral TV sets skyrocketed. So Admiral dropped its sponsorship as they needed the money to pay for the production of more TV sets. That's what I like about capitalism; it's so sane! John Ayers

Food for thought

Defenders of capitalism argue that competition results in improvements in products and certainly one can point to many examples. However there is another side to capitalism's tarnished medal. An SPCer recently found his television set had broken down and it was cheaper to buy a new one than get it fixed. Here again, it can be said that improvements have been made. Today, for a price, one can buy TV sets that do just about anything except cook meals. The problem is that the TV had only lasted ten years, which is average these days. TV, like cars and many other products, are not made to last, so one will be compelled to buy a new one; in other words, planned obsolescence. In fact, competition drives the manufacturers to cheapen any product as far as possible in order to compete and we wind up with advanced technology made out of garbage. If you want quality, go for socialism! John Ayers

Nationalism? No change

One of our companion blogs, Patience and Perseverance, writes:

“ It seems as if Salmond & Co are losing their enthusiasm for Independence? They intend to continue to use the £ sterling, hang on to the coat tails of the Windsors as head of state, and now: dual citizenship, what next? Given the foregoing, it would seem that the pursuit of Scottish Independence is going to be a pointless exercise” [we can add also the continued membership of the EU and Nato]

Indeed, the blog highlights how its alleged radicalism has become more and more watered down by the day as the SNP become more and more desperate for a “yes” vote.
The nationalisms that divide the world at present are the byproducts of fairly recent historical developments. Usually, they grew up as a particular section of the capitalist class sought to establish its dominance over the economic activities of the territory it inhabited. To do so successfully, it had to subordinate the state power to its own ‘national’ interests. The Scottish wealthy swung behind support for the 1707 union after a colonial adventure of their own failed and they prospered during the hey-days of the Empire. Today, many sectors of industry have experienced a decline so the notion of an independent Scottish parliament has arisen among sections of the Scottish bourgeoisie. North Sea oil has given this some credibility and is offered up as the panacea to the problems of the people of Scotland without any need for class war against capitalist interests. Scottish workers are led to identify with Scottish landowners and capitalists on the basis of a ‘shared nationality’ and through them with Scottish capitalism.

Some on the Left argue that the Scottish people are more advanced in political consciousness than their English equivalents, therefore there would be a ‘leftist’ majority in a Scottish parliament and moves towards socialism would be easier. Even accepting such a questionable premise, it is simply delusional and ignores the realities of power under modern capitalism. The ruling class has at its disposal massive economic wealth, which is concentrated on an all-Britain and on an international, scale. A Scottish parliament as envisaged by its ‘left-wing’ proponents would have no means of breaking either sort of power.  ‘Socialism in one country’ was impossible in Russia; it will not be any more possible in Scotland.  A Scottish parliament would represent no more than a bit of tartan frill to one part of the state machine of British and world capitalism. Certainly it would not be able to impede the real workings of the major capitalist institutions.The struggle to wrest the means of production from the ruling class is of necessity a global struggle.

Nationalism does not strengthen the real force for socialism, a united, class-conscious working class, but fragments and weakens it. The social revolution is a global event. Glasgow and Edinburgh branches of the Socialist Party give no support to encouraging separatist trends in Scotland. There is only one real alternative to the present capitalist state – a united and determined revolutionary workers’ movement organising for socialism.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Politicians love to paint a picture of a Britain of steadily improving standards of living and a gradually more equitable society, but recent statistics show that this is a complete fraud. 'Millions of families will be no better off in 2015 than they were in 2000 due to a devastating attack on household finances, according to Britain's leading think tank. The average worker will have suffered the worst squeeze on incomes in memory by the time of the next General Election, warns the Institute for Fiscal Studies.' (Daily Mail, 14 March) RD

A new Pope

Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping was named president Thursday after a vote at its parliamentary meeting in Beijing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Food for thought

Last year the government announced that those Canadians born after March, 1958, will have a longer wait for Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). Instead of collecting at 65, it will be at 67 years of age (even guaranteed pensions are not guaranteed in capitalism!) The government said the changes are necessary because the number of seniors will almost double by 2030 to 9.4 million. So, if you are in a low-income bracket and coming up
for retirement in ten years, you may have to work a little longer. Another example of a reform disappearing. John Ayers


The  resignation statement of 71 SWPers with many others expected to follow. One now ex-SWP prominent member wrote .

"One is simply astounded by how inadequate, corrupt, stupid, narrow-mindedly bureaucratic and delusional the leadership of the SWP has proven to be."  Members of the Socialist Party could have told them that years ago. He goes on to say "It is not just that having covered up serious sexual allegations, and so disastrously failed at least two female comrades, they can admit no fault. It is not just the absurd, scholastic, apolitical explanations they give for doing so, or the tragic retreat into bunkered dogma that has accompanied this. It is not just that they lie with impunity. It is not just that they ducked a real debate, with their absurd rules limiting faction speakers at aggregates, and their gerrymandering of conference. It is not just that even now many of them are desperate to get the accused back into the leadership as soon as can conveniently be arranged. It is not just that their response to the most recent allegations by a female ex-member was to effectively dismiss her as a liar, without investigating further. It is that, having done a Jonestown, they think they’ve just triumphed."

Rather than learn the real lessons of undemocratic centralism it seems another party is in the offing - the International Socialist Network. There is already an International Socialist Group  and in Scotland there is the International Socialism Group  not to be confused with this International Socialism Group created in the mid-90s from a previous split from the SWP. And of course there still exists Counterfire, yet another breakaway from the SWP when its leadership fell out with one another.

Should the Socialist Party take pleasure, a feeling of schadenfreude from our political enemies difficulties? Perhaps not, since they masquerade to be proponents of socialism and purport to be socialists therefore it offers a disservice to socialists in a socialist party where genuine internal democracy is valued and does not have a leaders to betray its principles. Also some sincere but misinformed, misguided members of the SWP are just as likely to reject the whole idea of socialism prevailing as a new system of society.  It  makes the problem of persuading workers of the need for socialism a little bit harder.


EU legislation to protect the marine environment which bans the dumping of waste at sea.

Minutes from an internal Ministry of Defence committee - released as part of a Freedom of Information request - note a discussion on the interpretation of the OSPAR convention on waste dumping. Members concluded that they could avoid breaching the legislation by saying that Depleted Uranium cannon shells were "placed" not "dumped" in the sea. 6,700 shells have been fired from the range, containing nearly 30 tonnes of DU whih is toxic and radioactive and has been linked to increases in cancers and birth defects in Iraq, where it has been used as a weapon. It has also been linked to health concerns among members of UK armed forces exposed to the shells.

Its not what you say but how you say it !!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Food for thought

On January 30th. Employees at several "Best Buy" stores in Ontario, showed up for work at the usual time, to find the doors shut and notices on them informing them that they were unemployed. Rapid developments in the means of communication have meant that companies that sell electronics are losing out to the 'net', where goods can be purchased cheaper. As to why the workers were not informed of the impending lay-offs sooner, we can only surmise that the owners feared that they would not work so conscientiously if they knew of their fate. No doubt, the laid-off felt they had been treated unfairly, as indeed they had. But where is it written that life under capitalism is supposed to be fair? John Ayers

Monday, March 11, 2013


The first world war was supposed to be the war to end all wars. 1939 showed the nonsense of that notion, but some claimed the second world war was a war to end fascism and to protect democracy. That now looks like an equally stupid idea. 'As Austria prepares to mark the anniversary of its annexation by Nazi Germany, an opinion poll has shown that more than half of the population think it highly likely that the Nazis would be elected if they were readmitted as a party. A further 42 per cent agreed with the view that life "wasn't all bad under the Nazis", and 39 per cent said they thought a recurrence of anti-Semitic persecution was likely in Austria.' (Independent, 10 March) Wars are not fought for splendid humane principles they are fought for markets, sources of raw materials and political and geographical reasons. Foolishly workers today are still conned by the nonsense of nationalism and capitalism. RD

Only the Red Flag

A country’s flag is a commercial asset, said the proponent of the British Empire, Cecil Rhodes. It represents the economic and political interests of the capitalist class. The ruling class praise love of country in order to beguile the proletariat, so that it should sacrifice itself in defence of the wealth hich the ruling-class has stolen from them. Capitalists are always nationalist, since they must exploit the proletariat of its own nation, but at a certain times of the economic development it must assume a certain international character, in order that the surplus of goods which it has captured from the wage-earners may be sold.

The rising capitalist class of the eighteenth century was only able to overthrow the aristocracy and seize power by proclaiming the brotherhood of nations and by calling on them to make common cause against tyrants; to be a patriot meant for bourgeois revolutionists not to love France, Germany or Italy, but to love the revolution. When the revolution was over they became once again nationalist in order to organise nationally its class oppression and exploitation.

In the age of globalization,  the nation state has retreated as the locus of world power. Free trade agreements, supra-national financial institutions, and multinational corporations ensure that capital can float between nations with ease . Labour, on the other hand, remains under the restrictions of border-obsessed states.

The proletariat of a nation, in order to throw off the yoke of the governing class, must be organised nationally and rise nationally, yet it will be unable to attain its final emancipation until they too join together with the proletariats of other capitalist nations. The revolutionary proletariat will neither need to keep its ancient nationalities nor to constitute new ones, because by becoming free it will abolish classes: the world will be its fatherland/motherland.

Abdullah Ocalan, an imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has explained  why he no longer supports the creation of an independent Kurdistan:
"When you said nation there absolutely had to be a state! If Kurds were a nation they certainly needed a state! However as social conditions intensified, as I understood that nations themselves were the most meaningless reality, shaped under the influence of capitalism, and as I understood that the nation-state model was an iron cage for societies, I realized that freedom and community were more important concepts. Realizing that to fight for nation states was to fight for capitalism, a big transformation in my political philosophy took place. I realized I had been a victim of capitalist modernity."

The Left state-capitalists and the Right libertarian propertarians  both propose in their own ways to re-nationalize capital, (which is a complete impossibility). It is for socialists to argue for the globalizing labor; that is, eliminating borders.

Our goal is a society without classes. In a classless society where man's exploitation of man is abolished, there will not be some kind of oppression of the smaller ethnic groups, but each people group’s free development is prerequisite for all people’s free development. Our political object is universalist: It is for all human beings.

“In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” - Communist Manifesto

Sunday, March 10, 2013

hot rocks

Geo-thermal energy could be a triple win for the world: clean, reliable, locally-produced power. Iceland's energy needs are  presently met by 40% geotherm but you need not be a volcanic island like Iceland to access the geotherm potential.

Recently, scientists have stated that 40% of Glasgow’s heating needs could come from geothermal power located in local abandoned coal mine shafts. There are many such mines throughout the country, and some of them are located deep enough below ground level that they have accumulated water. This water is warm enough it can be pumped up to heat buildings and homes.

Glenalmond Street in Shettleston, uses a combination of solar and geothermal energy to heat 16 houses. Water in a coal mine 100 metres (328 ft) below ground level is heated by geothermal energy and maintained at a temperature of about 12 °C (54 °F) throughout the year. The warmed water is raised and passed through a heat pump, boosting the temperature to 55 °C (131 °F), and is then distributed to the houses providing heating to radiators.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Food for thought

In "The conscience of a Corporation" (Bill Keller, New York Times,) tells us about a corporation led by a Christian, David Green, who founded "Hobby Lobby" stores in the US. It remains closed on Sundays, and promotes faith in all markets. It sticks decals over Botticelli's naked Venus in its art books and in-house health insurance does not cover contraceptives. Obama's Affordable Care Act requires companies with more than fifty employees to offer health insurance, including birth control. In a legal case on the matter, in which Hobby Lobby argues exemption on religious grounds, opposition counsel states that it is not a matter of 'does the corporation pray? Or does the corporation go to heaven?' Such is life in a religious state! Maybe it would just be better to get health care for all those who need it. John Ayers

Friday, March 08, 2013


Whenever one hears of children going hungry it is assumed this is a reference to some backward country in Asia or Africa, but recent events show that it applies to even advanced countries like the USA. 'Child poverty in the US has reached record levels, with almost 17 million children now affected. A growing number are also going hungry on a daily basis. Food is never far from the thoughts of 10-year-old Kaylie Haywood and her older brother Tyler, 12. At a food bank in Stockton, Iowa, they are arguing with their mother over the 15 items they are allowed to take with them. .......... The family are among the 47 million Americans now thought to depend on food banks. One in five children receives food aid.' (BBC News, 6 March) It speaks volumes about the nature of capitalism when even the most advanced country in the world has hungry kids. RD

Where now Venezuela?

The eulogies for Chavez keep coming, "one of the greatest revolutionaries in the history of mankind" .

There was certainly a campaign by his many enemies to discredit and distort Chavez, and indeed the misrepresentations of what he stood for come also from his friends.

In his own words Chavez explained that:
  "I don’t believe in the dogmatic postulates of Marxist revolution. I don’t accept that we are living in a period of proletarian revolutions. All that must be revised. Reality is telling us that every day. Are we aiming in Venezuela today for the abolition of private property or a classless society? I don’t think so. But if I’m told that because of that reality you can’t do anything to help the poor, the people who have made this country rich through their labour – and never forget that some of it was slave labour – then I say: ‘We part company.’ I will never accept that there can be no redistribution of wealth in society. Our upper classes don’t even like paying taxes. That’s one reason they hate me. We said: ‘You must pay your taxes.’ I believe it’s better to die in battle, rather than hold aloft a very revolutionary and very pure banner, and do nothing … That position often strikes me as very convenient, a good excuse … Try and make your revolution, go into combat, advance a little, even if it’s only a millimetre, in the right direction, instead of dreaming about utopias."

Chavez cannot be called a socialist in the proper sense of the term. He was a populist (and he was indeed popular) nationalist leader who tried to improve the lot of the poor but circumstances meant that he could not go beyond state capitalism and social reforms. Chavism represented a new form of resistance to global capitalism promoting participation from below but faced with a hostile capitalist world.  What happens if a radical leader comes to power before the rest of the world is ready for socialism? Engels answer in his history of the German Peasant Wars was that he would be "irrevocably lost" and that has certainly been the case in every instance since. However, it would be churlish of ourselves to not concede that Chavez has done better than most in this impossible situation. If you can't abolish capitalism what's the least you can do?

His reign saw an improvement for some of Venezuela's poor, even if the right claim it was all squandered petro-dollars. One such critic wrote  :
"Chavez invested Venezuela's oil wealth into social programs including state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health clinics and education programs. But those gains were meager compared with the spectacular construction projects that oil riches spurred in glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world's tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi." (That's right. Chavez would have been better investing oil revenue in skyscrapers and museums rather than schools and hospitals for the poor!)

While under the Chavez government, the Venezuelan workers movement has flourished with a level of democracy in workplaces rarely seen elsewhere and there now exists a working class with the desire not only to defend but expand this concept.

Nor should it be forgotten how Chavez had learned from his own failed coup attempt the power of elections and legitimacy of the ballot box was stronger than the gun. He put himself and his policies to the vote on no less than a dozen occasions. And in the attempted coup against him the power of the people was once again demonstrated when it was thwarted.

There's still abject poverty in the slums of Caracas, with one of the highest homicide rates of any city in the world, a corrupt prison system and probably plenty more very bad stuff yet there are few social democrats who were more successful than Chavez in ameliorating the conditions of the poor. It will be interesting to see if anything survives him personally, and if a democratic movement without a charismatic head can continue onwards. One thing we know is, though, he wasn't building socialism, just state-run capitalism.

Fact of the Day

Although there are 50,000 edible plant species, we are only eating between 15 and 50 of them explained Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture

We are indeed all Jock Tamson's bairns

With every generation you (nearly) double your number of ancestors because every individual has two parents – going back just 10 generations (200-300 years) you are likely to have around a thousand ancestors.

"When genetics researchers talk about common ancestry between people they usually mean that they are tracing the inheritance of particular sections of DNA or genes.And we know that different sections of our DNA have different patterns of genetic ancestry. This means that researchers can get very different estimates of how recently we share ancestors, depending on what they are looking at...
...look at mtDNA to follow ancestry passed along the female line. For mtDNA, everyone alive today shares a common ancestor who lived between 160,000 and 200,000 years ago.everyone alive today shares a common ancestor who lived between 160,000 and 200,000 years ago....
...look at Y chromosome DNA to follow ancestry through the male line, the most recent estimate is of a common ancestor who lived between 240,000 and 580,000 years ago...
...If, however, you look for the most recent person that everyone alive today is descended from, the best current estimate is that the individual lived only 3,500 years ago"

"Genetic ancestry testing presents a simplified view of the world where everyone belongs to a group with a label, such as ‘Viking’ or ‘Zulu’. But people’s genetics don’t reflect discrete groups. Even strong cultural boundaries, such as between the Germanic and Romance language groups in Europe, do not have very noticeable genetic differences. The more remote and less-populated parts of the UK, such as the Scottish Highlands, do have some genetic differences from the bulk of the population, but they are not big. There is no such thing as a ‘Scottish gene’. Instead groups show a story of gradual genetic change and mixing...
...Researchers use the genetic differences between Y chromosomes or mtDNA among a set of individuals to infer possible trees of relatedness. We can estimate the times of common ancestors on those trees, although these estimates lack precision. But it is not reasonable to make a leap from these DNA trees to mapping your ancestors onto geographical locations or past migrations. For example, a man in Scotland might have a type of Y chromosome that has been found more often in North Africa than elsewhere. However, this is based on populations in North Africa now, not in the past, and people have moved over the centuries. And, the same Y type may be found in other parts of the world – he could equally have inherited it from one of these. And even if some of his ancestors did come from North Africa, it does not show when they came to Scotland or how many of his millions of ancestors came from that region."

Prof Steve Jones, from University College London and author of some of the seminal books on genetics and evolution, said: "On a long trudge through history - two parents, four great-grandparents, and so on - very soon everyone runs out of ancestors and has to share them. "As a result, almost every Briton is a descendant of Viking hordes, Roman legions, African migrants, Indian Brahmins, or anyone else they fancy."