Friday, May 31, 2013

The ILP Poodle

The Independent Labour Party in 1922 returned several MPs, among them James Maxton, David Kirkwood, John Wheatley and John McGovern, who had provided Clydeside with the nick-name “Red Clydeside”. They were sent to Westminster in a wave of left-wing enthusiasm. Some had been imprisoned either, like Maxton, for sedition (interfering with army recruitment in wartime) or for involvement what became known as “The Battle of George’s Square”. They had taken part in some of the most bitter class struggles experienced by Britain in the early20th century and they had garnered a credible working class following.

However, they were dominated by ideas of the reform of capitalism rather than by the determination to destroy capitalism. We need not accept Engels overly enthusiastic optimism of the founding of the ILP that it was “the very party which the old members of the International desired to see formed” (Workmans Times, 25 March 1893)

The I.L.P. may have used the language of radicals but instead of calling workers to revolutionary indignation, it frequently appealed to the good sense and kindness of the ruling class. Lacking as it did any real position of principle, the ILP could accommodate practically any demand. Socialism was, of course, variously interpreted, but to most it meant state control and planning in varying proportions with import and export boards, investment committees, public corporations and the rest. The I.L.P. M.P.s. rarely missed an opportunity to try and “reason” with the capitalists, showing them the “folly” of their ways. Maxton and McGovern and their friends were wasting their time. The ruling class understood the position better than they did. It should not be the work of the socialist to warn the capitalists about the inadvisability of their actions but to prepare the workers.

David Kirkwood, explained:
“We were going to do big things. The people believed that. We believed that. At our onslaught, the grinding poverty which existed in the midst of plenty was to be wiped out. We were going to scare away the grim spectre of unemployment ... Alas, that we were able to do so little!”

Unlike the Clydeside Reds of the ILP, whose ghosts still haunt the Scottish Left-wing, the Socialist Party are not reformers but revolutionaries. We do not propose to change forms. We care little for forms. We want a fundamental change of society. The Post Office is the “public" property of the people (at least for the moment), and yet the workers in that industry are mere wage slaves. In itself, the question of ownership affects only external forms. The socialist fights for the abolition of the system of wage slavery under which the proletariat is working. We are not duped by those who demand nationalisation. We seek the emancipation of the working class and the abolition of all exploitation.

The overthrow of capitalism, that is our DEMAND. Reforms are non-demands and are legion in their number and variety. A political party with a list of “immediate demands” blurs its goal and it is goals that determine methods. The presence of these palliatives invites compromise and concession, collaboration and corruption. It is for our trade unions to improved conditions and seek amelioration but the political party should strive not for temporary respite but permanent solutions. While many one-issue reform organisations and philanthropic charity organisations possess within their programmes the highest humanitarian hopes socialism alone supplies the basis for any permanent improvement in the condition of humanity. Socialism is not the establishment of environmental regulation, not the abolition of sweat-shop labour, nor the enforcement minimum wage laws. None of these, nor all of them together, is socialism. They might all be done by the government tomorrow, and still we would not have socialism. They are merely reforms of the present system.

The one demand of the Socialist Party is socialism. While not opposing any reforms or improvements which may be secured under capitalism, the Socialist Party steadfastly sets itself against taking time away from its main battle, for revolution, in order to carry on the struggle for reform. It refuses to be maneuvered into abandoning its main demand with campaigns for palliatives.

No matter how you clip and trim a poodle it always stays a poodle and regardless of how much you re-shape and re-fashion capitalism, it remains capitalism.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Greek Tragedy

David Smith in an otherwise critical review of the book The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills praises the authors for this piece of information.'Take Greece, the worst-hit of Europe's crisis economies, which is now in its sixth year of recession. With unemployment at 27%, the suicide rate has soared. Deep cuts in health spending have led to not only to a severe rationing of basic treatments and medicines, but also to an increase in malaria and HIV.' (Sunday Times, 26 May) An increase in suicides, malaria and HIV - isn't capitalism wonderful. RD

Back in the Olden Days

 Scene: Museum
Young child
Old person

Child pointing at display case exhibiting coins and currency notes.

"What's these?"

"Well, that was money?"

"What did it do?"

"Money was to buy and sell things. A means of exchange"

"What does buying and selling mean?"
" It'll take a lot of time to explain it all so for the time being, try to understand just this difference. Nowadays, as and when we feel hungry, what do we do? We just take what we need from where it is stored; and that's all, simply because we all have free access to them, we all collectively own and control them. But in those days when only a few people privately owned and controlled all means of production and distribution, the vast majority of us had little or nothing to own or control but our ability to work, which we were obliged to sell for a wage or a salary which was always less in terms of value than what we produced, and then we had to spend the money thus received to buy what we ourselves had produced — our food, clothes and all that we needed."

"Really! But, what happened when you couldn't find a buyer for your ability to work?"
" We had to do without and starve. It's as simple as that!"

"Starve? A strange word, but what did it mean?"

"It meant to die of hunger, from the lack of food "

"Even if there were enough to feed everybody? And all because you didn't possess these coloured pieces of worthless paper and bits of metal to buy what you had made? That is horrifying to even think about!!"

" Quite so! It was as exactly as you've just stated. However, money wasn't worthless paper but it represented a great worth — private property. It was the ultimate expression of the relationionship between people. A totally inhuman relationship reigning over humanity."

"And they to think it was claimed such a society was civilised. How stupid they were back then!"

Hard labour, labouring in vain

The Labour Representation Committee was born in 1900. At its founding conference the leadership of the ILP had specifically opposed a motion from the SDF that the LRC be an organisation of “class war”. In 1905/6 the LRC was re-formed as the Labour Party. At party gatherings and conferences, the socialists as such played no part whatever; in the deliberations and councils of Labour their voices were scarcely heard. Labour Party conferences were little more than second supplementary trades union congresses. In 1918 it adopted a new constitution that included what was to become Clause 4, a commitment to nationalisation. The concept of “the nation” owning anything is meaningless, little more than a constitutional justification for control by a State bureaucracy.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Heartless System

Another example of Asian outsourcing in order to boost profits was revealed recently. Cambodian police used cattle prods to stun workers protesting over pay at a a factory that makes clothing for US sportswear company Nike - injuring at least 23 women and causing one to miscarry her baby. 'Police dressed in riot gear were deployed to move around 3,000 predominately female workers who had blocked a road outside their factory owned by Sabrina (Cambodia) Garment Manufacturing in Kampong Speu province, west of the capital, Phnom Peuh, in Cambodia today.' (Daily Mail, 27 May) According to the International Monetary Fund, garments account for 75 per cent of Cambodia's total exports of $5.22 billion in 2011. When the international capitalist class are raking in profits like that who cares about an unborn child? RD

Not so confidential

A leading Scots GP claims the NHS is profiting from allowing pregnant women's details to be sold to commercial companies, often without their full knowledge or consent. Glasgow GP Dr Margaret McCartney also warns that the NHS and professional bodies such as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) are guilty of a conflict of interest by collaborating in the advertising of thousands of products to pregnant women and new mothers.

She also criticises Bounty, a promotions company which supplies 2.6 million Bounty bags a year to new mothers, including 812,000 newborn packs distributed through NHS maternity wards. Many of the mothers who sign up to receive Bounty Bags while in hospital are not aware they are agreeing to their email address and telephone number being used by commercial companies, she argues. In some cases they do not even realise the person collecting the information is not an NHS employee, while the inclusion of a child-benefit application form in the packs gives them an "air of officialdom".

Dr McCartney said: "The lack of knowledge about what signing over your details means is troubling in a hospital environment, which should take consent and confidentiality seriously. The hours after birth are hardly an optimal time to obtain formal consent. Do we want parents placed under advertising pressure and for NHS doctors, radiographers and midwives to be the conduit?"

The "Genuine" Independence Fantasy

According to Jim and Margaret Cuthbert, leading economists whose work on the Scottish economy has been regularly cited by the SNP, it is “not feasible that anything approaching independence can emerge from the current referendum”.

They argue “genuine” independence is required to challenge “vested interests” – from the world of finance, land-owners and the European Union – which they argue have been “flattered and reassured, and...protected” by the SNP.

We shouldn’t really be surprised by this statement. After all, part of the socialist case against nationalism is that the State, regardless of who forms the government, represents the ruling class.

We would take issue with the economists' forlorn and doomed hope that through “genuine” independence Scotland would have the power to take on those vested interests. The Cuthberts argue that any reform has to “threaten, and probably displace, some or all of the vested interests which currently hold sway”

Just what is “genuine” independence in a world economy of interdependent not independent markets. We witnessed how the recent crisis spread throughout the world without regard to a country’s supposed sovereignty and how Scottish-based banks were fully culpable and complicit in much of the causes of it.

There exists no such thing as "genuine" independence. It is a global capitalist system.

Dictatorship of the Proletariat Versus Dictatorship of the Party

Marx and Engels visualised socialism as the highest stage of human society not for the few, but for the benefit of humanity as a whole. The socialist commonwealth would liberate the individual from all economic, political and social oppression, and would provide the basis, for real liberty and for the full and harmonious development of the personality, giving full scope for the growth of the creative faculties of the mind.

Marx said: “The proletarian movement is the self-conscious independent movement of the immense majority in the interest of the immense majority.” And further: “The first step of the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class and to win the battle of democracy.”

If the dictatorship of the proletariat is the dictatorship of the immense majority of the people, why should this majority desire to destroy democracy? For Marx the dictatorship of the proletariat meant the democratic rule of the proletarian majority.
Marx and Engels clearly stated that they regarded the Paris Commune as dictatorship of the proletariat, and emphasised the spirit of democracy prevailing in the Commune: “The Commune was composed of deputies elected by adult suffrage in the various districts of Paris. They were responsible and could be recalled at any time.... Nothing could be more hostile to the spirit of the Commune than the abolition of adult suffrage in favour of hierarchical investiture.”
Lenin perverted this clear meaning into dictatorship of the party. At the early stages of the Russian Revolution the soviets - workers assemblies or councils – were comparatively democratically elected bodies representing the masses of the workers and peasants. At the early stages of the October revolution this was replaced by the dictatorship of the Communist Party. The power of the soviets became more and more nominal. Central and local authorities hitherto elected by the soviets and soviet congresses were now appointed by the party organisations, and the soviets or soviet congresses had only to register and rubber-stamp the party’s decisions. The workers lost their defence against management as the trade unions also became subordinated to the Party.
The dictatorship of the party soon deteriorated to a dictatorship of the party politbureau and commissars. The right of election and the freedom of expression of opinion were abolished as was dissent within the party. The soviets retained their right to “elect” but they could elect only those candidates put forward by the party leadership. And those “elected” to various bodies and positions could at any time be recalled – by the party. The same methods soon were applied inside the party too; the members were “free” to “elect” their committees, branch secretaries and delegates, but only those put forward by the bureaucracy.

Even this was not the last stage of development. In the course of events in Russia party dictatorship narrowed down into the dictatorship first of the Executive Committee, then of the latter’s political bureau, finally of its general secretary the very caucus was superceded by the general secretary of the party – Stalin. In the one-party state there is only one absolute truth, and that is in the possession of the party – or its leader. Any deviation from it is political and criminal heresy. The elector cannot select between various lists of candidates, he can only vote “yes” or “no,” . All that remains to him is to show his dissatisfaction by declining to endorse the official candidates. But who will count the votes? Under all existing dictatorships voting is merely a farce and the constitution a scrap of paper. What is the use of even choosing a Parliament or a Central Committee if it meets only occasionally just for decoration and is not endowed with any real power, but simply to endorse the actions of the Supreme Leader?

Supporters of the Russian Resolution, found themselves in a trap. Having set out to struggle for liberty and extending democracy against political oppression, for social and economic equality against privilege, for free creative labour against wage slavery, for a free socialist society against the coercive capitalist state, they now find themselves marching under the banner of a totalitarian form of police state, of a state collectivism divorced from liberty, of an economic system fostering the development of new privileged castes - the apparatchiks and nomenklatura, and of a system that censored ideas.

Socialism cannot be soundly built except on a foundation of trust in the capacity of ordinary people to manage their own affairs.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

One Law for the rich, another for the poor

Both the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society of Scotland have criticised the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill. The Faculty of Advocates warned that the reform will create a system where those who can afford it receive the best legal representation, while those on legal aid will suffer.

People relying on legal aid would automatically be represented by an advocate in the Court of Session, but in the sheriff court that would only happen in “exceptional” cases, it claimed. The faculty said in a statement:
“The effect of these combined measures will, in the view of the faculty, fundamentally undermine both access to justice and equality of representation...The proposal would in effect deprive individuals on low and moderate incomes and SMEs [small and medium sized businesses] with serious cases, of the right and ability to instruct an advocate. This aspect of the proposal would favour wealthy and corporate litigants, who can afford to instruct counsel, over ordinary people and would create inequality in the justice system.” (our emphasis)

The State of Capitalism

The State is the coercive public power of society and is bound up with the existence of classes. Before classes came into being there was no State. When classes cease to exist there will be no State. Some societies without States have continued to exist right up to our own times such as among the Indians of the Amazon. We find a social organisation, but nothing corresponding to the State. Order in these communities is maintained spontaneously without any system or apparatus of coercion, notwithstanding the number of common affairs to be adjusted, because their institutions did, not give rise to any antagonism between categories of individuals, for all were free and equal. However socialists do not aspire to return back to this way of life. It is simply mentioned to demonstrate the existence of organised societies without a State.

As soon as there are in a society a possessing class and a dispossessed class there exists in that society constant conflict. The owning class to ensure the continuing submission of the dispossessed requires a power charged with maintaining the “established order” of things. This has been the role of the State. The State is, under its varying forms, a class-instrument which has lasted and will last on that account so long as there have been and so long as there shall be classes. The State, being a consequence, cannot disappearance before the disappearance of the social conditions of which it is the necessary result and caused it to arise. It cannot be abolished before the disappearance of classes, a disappearance that it must itself help to bring to pass. For this purpose, socialists, seek the conquest of political power - the conquest of the State.

In the countries still without democracy and the power of the vote, the struggle is to obtain it. In the countries where universal suffrage is in operation, regardless of its imperfections the system may have, the task of workers is to return more and more socialists to the various elective assemblies. Is it worth while to undertake special campaigns to secure changes and modifications such as devolution or independence which are of secondary importance? It is also possible that future circumstances may impose upon us another mode of action, but that is a matter with which we have nothing to do at present. So long as such circumstances have not come to pass, socialism has nothing to gain by departing from the constitutional electoral process The work of socialists must be to swell the numbers of socialists.

Free and equal, the producers will decide in common everything concerning production, and henceforth, instead of being the puppets of economic forces beyond their control, they will rule these forces in accordance with their good pleasure. Far from being compelled to submit to a social organisation without any regard to their wishes, as is the case at present, they will have, for the first time, the kind of social organisation which will make humanity the masters of their own destiny.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Dog's Life?

The abject poverty suffered by many workers in Asia is made even more indefensible by the immense wealth of the owning class. It is doubtful if you find a worse example of the flouting of extraordinary wealth than the following. 'The richest client at the Scooby Scrub pet salon in affluent south Delhi is a long-haired pekinese. Owned by a wealthy family, the dog has an air-conditioned bedroom, a car and three uniformed servants to carry it and stop its paws touching the ground.' (Sunday Times, 26 May) RD

The Worker's Lot

You are an employee, a diligent worker, and have served the company loyally for a number of years. Your pay was not particularly high, but you managed to survive and raise a family. You are a decent and law-abiding citizen.

Then one fine day you are informed your services are no longer needed. In plain words: you are redundant. There is a recession, they say. “Nobody is to blame. Business is bad,” they say.
The employer has no more work for you. He scaling back production or closing down the plant altogether. While you remain without a livelihood, the CEO goes to his country estate or abroad to his villa in the Sun to have a good time. He is still well-off, recession or no recession. These hard times has not made a single chairman of the board or director of the large corporations homeless to beg in the streets. Your ex-boss does not care what will happens to you. You no longer are employed by the company and therefore no longer exist for it. The company has no obligations towards those it has made unemployed. The businessmen are still prosperous while it you who are suffering the greatest hardships. Yet, you and the like of you made the company a success. It was your blood, your sweat, your muscle and your brain that made the profits that the share-holders enjoyed. You had much at stake in this enterprise — much of your life. It was yours, more than the investors. It was part of your very being. When you were working for the company you were its “hands.” It used you to make profits and dividends.

You are given to understand that economic events are beyond human control. They call it a recession and make you believe it is sheer accident. But it isn’t. It is rooted in the very essence of capitalism. They tell you a recession is like a natural disaster similar to an earthquake. But there is nothing natural about it. It is not natural that men should go hungry while the means to produce are available. It is not natural that there should be poverty in the midst of plenty. It is not natural that milk should be dumped into rivers because the price is too low while babies are starving. It is not natural that the most ingenious means of production and transportation should be rusting away while those who produce them and can operate them are sitting idle, wasting away. All this is most unnatural. It is, in fact, insane.

Only when you understand the illness can you find the proper cure. The Socialist Party remedy is that all resources, all land and buildings, all manufacturing establishments, mines, railroads and other means of transportation and communication, should be, not private property, but the common property of all. We propose that production be made to serve the needs of all, rather than to serve the needs of the few. What we have in mind is very simple and clear-cut. Do away with production for profit. We seek a planned economy on the basis of common ownership without any class division where each person works according to his or her ability and each person receives from the common stock of goods according to his or her needs.

Capitalism creates a situation where large numbers of the people are dissatisfied and embittered by intolerable hardships. People change under such conditions. Capitalism itself prepares the conditions for its downfall. The Socialist Party is a political party whose aim is help assist in the capture of political power by the workers, but not as an end in itself but as the means to establish a co-operative commonwealth.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Good health, but at what price?

A woman awaiting a transplant for a rare condition, atypical haemolytic uraemic syndrome (aHUS), an inherited condition that has destroyed her kidneys had her operation cancelled at the 11th hour because the Government refused to pay for the drug she needs to prevent the organ being rejected. Up to 70 patients are in the same position. They have been forced to put their lives on hold, and risk their condition deteriorating, while ministers and officials argue over whether the NHS can afford the drug, Eculizumab, which costs more than £300,000 per patient per year. The health minister, Earl Howe, rejected a recommendation from an expert committee that the drug be "routinely provided nationally".

Instead, Earl Howe referred the drug for further investigation by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), which took over responsibility for treatments for rare diseases. Nice has yet to explain how it is going to assess drugs for rare diseases. Nice's verdict on Eculizumab, brand name Soliris, is not expected before summer 2014. The drugs can be life-saving but are hugely expensive because they affect very small numbers of patients. They cannot therefore be assessed according to the usual cost-effectiveness threshold of £30,000 per patient per year (adjusted for quality of life) .

Experts fear the move could signal a tough new approach to the funding of expensive treatments for marginal groups. But that would undermine the role of a national health system to pool the risks for the whole population in order to fund individuals with exceptional health needs.

MP Madeleine Moon, chair of the All-Party Kidney Group, said: "It was heartbreaking to see the agony that people denied access to Eculizumab went through... The Government has made a heartless decision to allow existing trial and new patients access to the drug but not those who have been refused access on cost grounds by their hospital."

Professor Tim Goodship, chair of aHUS Action, said: "A transplant transforms people's lives. This opportunity has been dangled in front of them and then withdrawn. I feel it is just cruel."

Reformism - On the right track?

The immediate goal of reformists is legislative palliatives . The immediate goal of the Socialist Party is the social revolution. We rebel against capitalist society not in the name of abstract principles of justice or equality but for the effective emancipation of humanity where workers will take possession of the means of life without paying tribute and without serving anyone. We believe that the organisation of society should be from the bottom up and that workers must organise it themselves. The workers have no need of chiefs and are quite capable of delegating one of their own with a particular task.

Reformism is the politics of here and now, of concessions and compromise, of collaboration and accommodation. As the politics of here and now, reformism shapes those who pursue it, it shapes their organisations, and shapes their relations with the working class. People place their hope in their representatives in Parliament. They believe that hoped-for successes require only their representatives to make use of the appropriate means. Those good people who earnestly wish to remove the inconveniences and injustices of our present social state, also wish even a little more earnestly to preserve the cause of these inconveniences

Our criticism of reformism is quite simple. No worker gives up the struggle for immediate reforms, and for as many reforms to be gained as possible. But reformists substitute reforms for revolution. Reforms, whatever their number, never lead to a transformation of the system. For if a reform threatens the basis of the system, the ruling class would put forward such resistance to it, that a revolution is unavoidable.

Often the promised fruits of reforms will not be realised and that, even if realised, they frequently improve the lot of one category of workers at the expense of the others. What will be gained by some will be lost by others. A redistribution of poverty.

There are also reforms and there are reforms. Those which the ruling class bring about in order to improve and make more efficient the running of the capitalist system. The capitalists, if they are clear-sighted, consent to better the lot of the workers in order to keep them under control and in subjection. And those the proletariat extort through struggle, by the power of organisation and the effectiveness of action. Workers, although demanding amelioration of their prison-like conditions, ought above all to strive to force the doors of the capitalist prison. In any case, one has no right, for the sake of one or two palliatives to make the proletariat forget its captivity.

To reformists “constructive” parliamentary work is of supreme importance as it constitutes in their eyes the gradual introduction of socialism. A reform here and a reform there, and the prospect of “socialism” has become nearer than it was. They do not perceive that the reforms have not challenged the basic interests of capitalists, and even as palliatives their value, in comparison with the needs, are frequently often insignificant .

We are no longer in an era of positive achievements of social reforms but a period of economic crisis. Reformists fail to recognise that the yielding attitude of the ruling classes is itself an elastic thing which develops a power of resistance proportionate to the pressure brought upon it; the more you squeeze out of the bourgeoisie, the more restive it becomes, and when the pressure reaches a certain limit it throws you back with a terrific force. What has been gained, suddenly is lost.

To-day, we possess, sufficient means of production to satisfy all reasonable needs, i.e., to provide well-being to all. There will no longer be any need , as is the case today, for men and women to be condemned to long days of drudgery, to stupefying fatigue. Work is life and also the bond that unites people in society. Solidarity cannot be decreed by a law, only by public opinion. There will be a simple relation of reciprocity.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Unions and Political Parties

The Socialist Party claims that the wealth of society is created by the workers. The working class alone does the world’s work, has created its wealth, constructed its mills and factories, made its roads, laid its rails, spanned the rivers with bridges and tunnelled through mountains. The workers alone by the labour of their brawn or the effort of their brains are essential to society.

The Socialist Party claims that the workers, through their work-place committees, industrial unions, and federated communes or whatever other means of decision-making and administration society chooses to use, will organise and control all the processes of wealth production. The Socialist Party carry the struggle to achieve this on the political field in order to challenge the power which the present ruling class wields through its domination of the State which it wins at the ballot box. By its victory at the ballot box, and its consequent political domination, the capitalists are able to subjugate labour. We cannot leave political control in the hands of the ruling class. We have seen what power the conquest of the State gives to the capitalist in its struggleagainst the working class. It is through its political strength that the capitalists can deprive us of civil liberties the loss of which can make the peaceful advocation for the revolution impossible. The maintenance of civil liberty is part of the political struggle. The ruling class can resort to the use of the armed forces and other violent methods of suppression. The control of these forces flow directly from the capitalist’s control of the State which it secures at the ballot box. Socialism will not come through force. Therefore, in order to achieve a peaceful revolution workers must capture the powers of the State at the ballot box and prevent the capitalist class from using the nation’s military against the emerging socialist movement.

At the ballot box the employer can only counts as one against his many workers’ votes. The capitalists are few in number, while the workers number in our millions. The electoral strength of the working class could, if properly used, ensure the triumph of labour in contrast to industrial action where the power of the boss’s bank balance against the meagre savings of his employees will nearly always prevail. The capitalists are men of financial means and resources, and can buy the best brains and command the highest order of ability the market affords. They own the factories, the mills and mines and locomotives and ships and stores and the jobs that are attached to them, and this not only gives them tremendous advantage in the struggle, but makes them for the time the absolute masters of the situation. The workers, on the other hand, are poor as a rule, and ignorant as a class, but they are in an overwhelming majority. In a word, they have the power, but are not conscious of it. This then is the supreme demand; to make them conscious of the power of their class, or class-conscious workingmen. Workers instead choose to fight the employers with strikes but at the ballot box they elect the lackeys of the capitalists to rule them and it is they who make the laws that govern and restrict the ways the workers can fight back. The courts and their legal injunctions have left workers defenceless and at the mercy of its exploiter. When will workers learn from their masters who, not content with their tremendous economic power, unceasingly strive to secure political power in order to entrench their class in its position of supremacy. Shouldn’t we be waking up to the fact that it has not been using its political arm in the struggle and that the ballot which it can wield is strong enough not only to disarm the enemy, but to drive that enemy entirely from the field of battle in the class war.

The trades-union is not and cannot become a political machine, nor can it be used for political purposes. Those such as ourselves who insist upon working class political action not only have no intention to convert the trades-union into a political party, but they would oppose any such attempt on the part of others. The trades-union is an economic organisation with distinct economic functions and as such is a part, a necessary part, but a part only of the labour movement; it has its own sphere of activity, its own programme and is its own master within its economic limitations. It is not by trying to commit socialism to trade-unionism, nor trade unionism to socialism, will the socialist end be accomplished. It is not by seeking to commit trade-union bodies to the principles of socialism. Resolution or commitments of this sort accomplish little good. Nor is it by meddling with the details or the machinery of the trade-unions. A socialist party does not interfere in the internal affairs of the trade unions, nor do socialists seek to have them become distinctively political bodies in themselves. It is best to leave the trade-unions to get on with their distinctive work, as the workers’ defence against the encroachments of capitalism and offer them unqualified support and sympathy to their struggles. It may be true that the trades-union movement has in some respects proved a disappointment, but it may not be repudiated as a failure. The trades-union movement of the present day has enemies within and without, and on all sides, some attacking it openly and others insidiously, but all bent either upon destroying it or reducing it to unresisting impotency.

The trades-union expresses the economic power but it is a socialist party that expresses the political power of the labour movement. It is vital to keep in mind the difference between the two so that neither shall hinder the other. The workers uses both economic and political power in the interest of their class in the struggle against capitalism. The difference between them is that while the trades-union is confined to the trade or occupation, a genuine socialist party embraces the entire working class, and while the union is limited to bettering conditions under the wage system, socialists are organised to conquer the political power , abolish the wage system and make the workers themselves the masters of the Earth. The unions and the socialist party should not only not be in conflict, but act in harmony in every struggle whether it be on the one field or the other, in the strike or at the ballot box. The main thing is that in every struggle the workers shall be united. A trade unionist should no more think of voting a capitalist party than they would turning the union over to the employer and have it run in the interest of management.

Until the workers become a clearly defined socialist movement, standing for and moving toward the unqualified co-operative commonwealth, while at the same time understanding and proclaiming their immediate interests, they will only play into the hands of their exploiters and be led by their betrayers. The Socialist Party takes issue with the left-wing attitude towards elections as being useless and at best unimportant weapons in the class struggle. The Socialist Party uses elections to place before the workers the demand for socialism. It takes advantage of a greater readiness to read political literature, to attend political meetings and take part in political discussions to familiarise workers with the socialist case. Election gives the Socialist Party the opportunity to reach more people when their receptiveness to political ideas are at a higher level and it serves to measure the political shifts and tendencies caused by changes on the economic and political scene.

The Socialist Party is convinced that the present political State, with most of its institutions, must be captured first to then be swepted away. The political State is not and cannot be a true democracy. The Socialist Party is not a parliamentary party. To think that Parliament can be used as the means of permanently improving the conditions of the working class by passing a series of legislative reform acts is to believe in parliamentarism. The Socialist Party believes in entering Parliament only as a means of doing away with what stands in the way of workers controlling the means of production. It urges the workers to use their ballots to capture political power—not to play at politicians and seek political office but to use the power of their votes to uproot the political State to permit the the constructive task of creating the decision making and administration processes of socialist society. Election affords the workers the opportunity to overthrow the political institutions obstructing and hindering their emancipation. The vote is a weapon to be used in the conquest of the State and it is a safer weapon than the rifle.

Parliamentary action is but a part of socialist activity. More important than success in elections is the progress of socialist consciousness in the masses, and success or failure at the polls are only of interest in so far as they permit us to judge the scale and degree of socialist consciousness. Success of a genuine socialist party on the political field and success on the economic field will be multiplied. And vice versa.

A Grave Injustice

The Church of Scotland is to investigate the issue of so-called “funeral poverty” caused by the sharp rise in the cost of burial plots and other associated charges.

Rev Sarah Ross, minister of Forth St Paul’s Parish Church in South Lanarkshire said that her local authority demanded £1,883 up front to carry out a burial, a 183 per cent rise in South Lanarkshire over the cost of burial in 2009, and compares to a cost of a cremation in a council-run crematorium of just £565. Ms Ross accused the council of acting in a “mercenary” way. She said. “In my area, I believe that the council is targeting vulnerable people at the most vulnerable time to make money the easiest possible way.”
Depute Clerk of Lanark Presbytery, Rev Bryan Kerr backed Ms Ross. “We are concerned that local authorities are charging what seems to us to be exorbitant fees for burials,” he said. He said some families may put off burying their loved ones because they cannot raise up-front costs of burial.

Friday, May 24, 2013

How to Stop War

The SNP has announced its future programme to commemorate the First World War.

Alex Salmond said :
"By reflecting on these devastating events, and the consequences they had for communities the length and breadth of Scotland, we will help people of all ages in this country understand more about the futility of war and strengthen our resolve to never let a tragedy like the Great War happen again."

The most common mistake made in the attempt to explain war comes from the belief that this exists somehow independent of capitalism and that it is an aberration or even accidental. War is not the cause of the troubles of society. The opposite is true. War is a symptom and result of the irreconcilable troubles and conflicts of the present form of society, that is to say, of capitalism. The supposed moral, religious, racial and ideological disguises that war garbs itself with should not be allowed to hide the the true cause of modern war.

The only way to fight against war is to fight against the causes of war. Since the causes of war are part of the inner nature of capitalism, it follows that the only way to fight against war is to fight against capitalism. It therefore follows that the only possible struggle against war is the struggle for the socialist revolution. There is no “separate” or “special” struggle against war.

To suppose that socialists can work out a common campaign against war with non-socialists is a fatal illusion. Any organisation based upon such a policy is not merely powerless to prevent war; in practice it acts to promote war, both because it serves in its own way to uphold the system that breeds war, and because it diverts the attention of its members from the real fight against war - the struggle for socialism.

Pacifists spreads illusions about the nature of war and of the fight against war (advocating disarmament, conscientious objection, international treaties as solutions), and thus prevents a true understanding of the nature and causes of war. Many anti-war protesters will have a turn-around once war commences and become patriots in the name of national unity and that we must now support “our” troops.

There prevails a dangerous doctrine which has been systematically propagated during recent years by liberals that a basic distinction must be drawn between the comparatively “good” capitalist nations, the “peace-loving” nations – Great Britain, France, and the United States who only intervene for humanitarian purposes , on the one hand; and, on the other, the altogether “wicked” capitalist aggressive nations such as North Korea and Iran. “Sanctions” are often the precursor of actual hostilities and are presented as a means to avoiding military engagements. But sanctions are war measures. They include withdrawal of financial credit, embargoes on trade, various forms of boycott. To enforce them genuinely would require a blockade of the country against whom the sanctions were invoked. The probable, the almost certain outcome of such a blockade, as history has so often proved, is war – since the blockaded nation cannot accept such a measure peacefully without surrendering political sovereignty. Thus it follows that sanctions must be either ineffectual – a kind of large-scale bluff – or they must lead to war.

The true enemy is at home: our class enemy, the capitalists, and their political representative, the state. This is the enemy to be defeated, in every country. And this is the aim of socialists in every country, the overthrow of the class enemy, the joining together with the working class of the entire world for the defeat of capitalism and the victory of the working class. The business of the working class within any country is never under any circumstances to defend “the government” – that is, the political executive of the class enemy.

By overthrowing the capitalist economic system and supplanting capitalism with a socialism , it will remove the causes of war. In socialism there will no longer exist the basic contradictions that lead to war. The inherent competition between nations will end. Artificial barriers based on national boundaries will be removed. The means of production, under the owner-ship and control of society as a whole, will proceed in accordance with a rational plan adjusted to the needs of the members of society. Socialism permits the scientific and controlled development of production. Thus, war will disappear because the causes of war will be done away with.

Growing Consciousness

Capitalism has become an obsolete oppressive system that ought to be got rid off but the old social order won’t simply disappear of its own accord. Its removal is dependent upon its replacement by socialism. Capitalism itself created the possibility and the necessity of socialism as well as creating the class capable of introducing socialism, the working class. There was no doubt in the minds of pioneers of socialism as to the future. They recognised the slave condition of the workers in capitalism and had faith in the worker’s power and capacity to abolish the slavery and build a new society of free people in a classless society. A relatively small minority recognise this as most people continued trying to satisfy their needs within the system rather than by overthrowing it.
"The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority," Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto.

"Self-conscious" implies that the class itself must understand the full significance of its actions and “independent” implies that the class itself must decide the objectives and methods of its struggle.The working class cannot entrust this task to anyone else. No "saviours from on high" will free it, as our workers’ anthem, The International, proclaims. The class will never achieve its power if it relegates the revolutionary struggle to others or substitutes the party for our class. Mass socialist consciousness and mass participation are essential. Socialism, unlike all previous forms of social organisation, requires the constant, conscious and permanent participation of the great majority.

The Socialist Party is frequently reminded of the decline of socialist ideas which presumably means that at some particular point of time in the past, socialist prospects were better because there were then more socialists about, or, if there were not more of them, then they were of a higher calibre and more committed. This view of the past is taken for granted so we would therefore expect the evidence for it. But ample evidence points the other way. The bulk of the working classes gave more or less active support to a variety of resolutely anti-socialist parties and causes. Divisions on ethnic and religious grounds existed. Jingoism and nationalist politics prevailed. Labour leaders had acquired a large stake in moderate reform within capitalism and possessed a deep fear of militancy. The General Strike of 1926 was a remarkable event but it was unplanned and unwanted by the leaders of the TUC which led to their unconditional surrender and although there was much bitterness among the rank and file, there was no grass-roots rebellion. The concept of “workers’ control” receded and class collaboration took its place.

A worker who knows that capitalism is the true enemy, yet cannot find time for the struggle to replace it because he or she is “too busy” in the trade union movement or with involvement in campaigns for reforms has not yet grasped the fundamentals. Socialism is not about the relief of poverty by social reform or a belief in nationalisation and co-ops to improve administrative efficiency, all of which have been proved possible within a capitalist framework, but about the abolition of capitalism as an economic and social system. It is not about the improvement in the condition of the working class, but about the abolition of that class. It is not about the creation of a “people’s capitalism”.

Nor is there the slightest relation between Marx’s vision of the future socialist society and the system that once reigned in the old Soviet Union. For all its cosmetic veneer of Marxist terminology, Soviet reality was everything both Marx and Engels abhorred and criticised all their lives. And it is indeed difficult to believe they would not have fought against it if they had been alive. We can debate the intricacies of whether Russia was state-capitalist or simply just a slave-state but there is no question of it being a workers’s state or a step closer towards socialism. Surely, there isn’t anybody who would contend that the workers had any power in the so-called Soviet Union. In Russia the state owns the means of production, but who owns the state? Certainly not the workers!There was no “dictatorship of the proletariat”, rather there was the dictatorship of the Party. The “union” of “soviets” was a fiction within days and months of the Bolshevik October Revolution. It is a fraud to assert that there was a qualitative difference in the Russia of Lenin and that of Stalin. The Leninist “insurrectionary” road to socialism demands centralised decision making and communication, which is not a favourable environment for the growth of democracy. The revolution as we saw was strangled and developed into a dictatorship.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Bleak Future

There is a popular image of old age painted by press, TV and advertising companies of elderly people surrounded by adoring grandchildren in rocking chair contentment, but according to a recent study by Prudential it is far from the truth. One in five people retiring in Britain in 2013 will fall below the income poverty line , and nearly a quarter of women will enter retirement entirely dependent on the basic state pension. 'One in seven (14%) people planning to retire in 2013 will depend on the state pension, currently a maximum of £110.15 a week, as they have no other pension arranged. Among women the figure rises to 23% compared to 8% of men. Even those with a small private pension may still be below the poverty line, which the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates to be £8,254 a year for a single pensioner in the UK. Prudential found that 18% of people retiring this year would have an income below that level.' (Guardian, 22 May) RD

Ye are many-- they are few

We were sold a dream of a fictitious caring, sharing Welfare State. We were told that if we studied and worked hard we would be promised a well-paid job which would be enough to pay for a comfortable home to raise a family. Workers have been finding out that this was all a lie. The question now is what happens next.

We have had all the failed palliatives meant to patch up the flaws and faults of the system. We have had New Deals, Old Deals and Raw Deals in abundance. But although things could get worse, we shouldn’t completely despair. Social change is happening. The stories of the poor and the nearly poor, and the hardships they endure, are now being told. The anti-austerity and Occupy protests have introduced (or more accurately re-introduced) resistance, challenging the centres of power and calling for the re-building of society. Trade unions are once again discovering their back-bone and asserting their industrial muscle. Everything is in motion and we ourselves are that movement.
Class struggle means refusing to succumb to fear and refusing to surrender. It means saying no more compromise or no more concessions. Enough is enough. Hope and history are companions: one looks forward and one looks back. If we look forward, we’ll see where we have to go. We look backward to grasp clearly what we are moving forward from, and to understand the paths others have made so we can map our own road forward.

Hopelessness often comes from amnesia of our past, forgetting that everything is in flux, everything changes. There’s the people’s counter-history that we don’t learn in school and don’t see on the TV: the history of the battles we’ve won, of the rights we’ve gained, of the differences between then and now. We forget that we fought for the vote, the eight-hour day, for workplace health and safety and for free access to education and health-care. If we forget how we won them, then we can lose them again. Even in our defeats and set-backs the seeds for future more successful struggles were sown.

Things change and people have the power to make that happen when they come together and act as one and not alone.

"Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew,
Which in sleep had fallen on you--
Ye are many-- they are few."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Two Different Americas

Larry Ellison, the Oracle Corp. chief executive has bought nearly two dozen properties in the Malibu beach area. 'Ellison has spent an estimated $200 million to $250 million through at least nine purchases, in one case of multiple homes, on coveted Carbon Beach.' (Los Angeles Times, 5 May) 'The US may be the richest country in the world but 44m of its citizens rely on food stamps. One in every two children receive federal food assistance. And when stamps give you food buying power of just $3 a day, practically the only groceries you can buy are processed junk.' (Guardian, 8 May) This contrast of wealth and poverty is only possible in a production for profit society and surely needs to be abolished now. RD

Who are the revolutionaries?

Maximising profit and maintaining social control are the two priority tasks of the ruling class. Centuries of struggle and sacrifice were required to wrest the vote from the clutches of the landed gentry and the big business bosses and to place it in the hands of workers. It has now become fashionable amongst so-called socialists to denounce democracy, parliamentarism and democratic forms of government as obsolete. All manner of schemes for the“reform” of the democratic machine has been devised to not simply supplement but instead to supersede Parliament. Yet it has been the abuse and not the use of its power that has been responsible for the faults of parliamentarianism. The political ignorance of working men and women forged their own chains and they have been the unconscious authors of their own misery.

Workers fall victim of the false promises of the capitalist parties and their campaign publicists and lobbyists who snare the votes of deluded and unthinking workers. Professional politicians of whatever party are very much alike and they all serve the interests of their masters. Their stock in trade is the credulity of the masses. Capitalist parties stand for the capitalist system, and such differences as there are amongst them involve no principle but are just the outcome of the differing interests and policies of the various large and small capitalists.The politicians play one section of society off against the other and playing upon prejudice is the rule that governs their campaigns for votes among the workers. The competition for the votes of the wage-workers is the distinguishing feature of every election campaign. The supposed party of the “common people”, the Labour Party, long ago adopted policies that served employers and not the employee. There are no longer any distinctly different political parties. These have all merged in the same party and it is the Capitalist Party, by whatever name it may be known.

 At each and every election members of the working class are voting in their enemies. The mainstream political parties reek with corruption in their servility to the capitalist class, torn with strife in their mad scramble for the spoils of office. Political schemers and opportunists will turn parties to their personal ends to satisfy their egotistical lust to be hero-worshipped. Political posers will stand upon the shoulders of workers imagining their towering position is the result of their innate ability as they call to the rest of us to see what great men they are. A mistaken belief in the need for leaders emasculates the workers own confidence in themselves.

Election platforms and programmes are filled with empty platitudes and meaningless phrases, but they are discreetly silent about the millions of unemployed, about the starvation wages of factory slaves, about the women and children who are crushed, debased and slowly tormented to death by capitalism, about the bitter poverty of people and their hopeless future, and about every other vital question which is worthy of an instant's consideration by any intelligent human being. The capitalist parties are without principles and without ideals. Wage-slavery, the legalised robbery of workers, is never mentioned, much less acted upon.

Socialism is not reform, it is a revolution. When the word “revolution” is spoken people think of violence and of bloodshed. Therefore to use the term without explanation is to risk getting seriously misunderstood. The Socialist Party would regard it a calamity to the socialist cause, as well as to humanity, to have a violent upheaval in society. The campaign of the Socialist Party is essentially educational; an appeal to intelligence and reason. It may well happen that in the future we could see violence and civil war, but if such should be the case it would not be the result of the socialists, but rather the result of the refusal of the ruling class to accept socialism. For socialism offers a possible peaceful solution by a willing majority. .

Whoever holds firmly to the necessity of the organisation of the working class into an independent political party, distinct from and opposed to all pro-capitalist parties to capture the powers of government” in order to carry out the principles of socialism is a revolutionary.

“Those who repudiate political revolution as the principle means of social transformation, or wish to confine this to such measures as have been granted by the ruling class are social reformers, no matter how much their social ideas may antagonise existing social forms. ” - Karl Kautsky, The Social Revolution:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Empty Rhetoric

Tremendous press coverage always follows parliamentary debates and legislation. Politicians always emphasise its importance and of course their own importance. 'The Child Poverty Act of 2010 holds the government accountable for reducing child poverty. On Wednesday, new figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies show that not only are they failing to do so, the numbers of children living in poverty will actually rise, from 2.4 million to 3.4 million by 2020 – the date that was set for the elimination of child poverty in the UK.' (Guardian, 8 May) So after all that pompous talk and so-called erudition what is the result? More kids are living in poverty than before the brilliant legislation. RD

Understanding class

There are two classes in society - the one possessing wealth and owning the means of its production, the other making the wealth by using those tools and technology but only with the permission and only for the benefit of the possessors. These two classes are necessarily in opposition to one another. We have before us today, in capitalist society, masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited but to put it more bluntly, robbers and the robbed. Two economic forces whose interests ceaselessly clash, are pitted against each other. These two classes can never be reconciled and it is this that we call the class struggle. Workers, be they “white” or “blue” collar, skilled or unskilled, because they are workers, cannot survive except by selling their labouring power. Yet were it not for the working class, the whole social fabric would collapse in an instant. It is they who do the useful work. It is they who produce the wealth.

Monday, May 20, 2013

UCS - A Brave Defence

“We don't only build ships on the Clyde, we build men. They have taken on the wrong people and we will fight." - Jimmy Reid

Occupations and sit-ins in Britain have been primarily used as a defensive method in union struggles as a means to oppose redundancies in a more determined manner. Occupying work-places are seen as a tactical improvement on conventional striking. After all, It’s warmer sitting-in, rather than standing outside picketing .

The Upper Clyde Shipyards Shipyards (UCS) work-in of 1971–72 posed, implicitly if not explicitly, the question of workers’ control of industry. Sit-in strikes challenges property rights and no matter how temporary, it does represent a seizure of ‘company property’ which is held ransom until the workers’ demands are hopefully met. No employer likes the idea of having their property seized, or having their plant used as bargaining power. But if the occupation is peaceful and unlikely to spread, why risk confrontation by management instigated evictions? In Glasgow, Chief Constable David McNee warned he would need 5000 additional policemen to keep control of the city if the yards closed

“The problem facing the leaders of the UCS workers was to devise a new technique of struggle which would achieve their objective, to prevent redundancies and closures, in what was bound to be a tough struggle. A strike could play into the hands of the employers when they were set on closure anyway. A sit-in would have been difficult to maintain for long enough. It would have also given the employers a good excuse to attack the workers by arguing that the sit-in made it impossible to fulfil any contract and aggravated the bankrupt situation. This could have helped the Tories to alienate public opinion from support of the UCS workers.” - UCS – The Fight for the Right to Work by A. Murray, Communist Party.

Strike action is inappropriate so instead overtime bans, go-slows were the order of the day. Trade Union officials, far from leading any fight against redundancies, often actively involved themselves in negotiations of phased sackings. The demands ‘last in, first out’, ‘voluntary retirement’, ‘natural wastage’ reflected the defensive nature of trade unions.

The UCS workers wanted to complete the partly-built ships and launch them (and even start on new ships already designed and commissioned). The employers and the state wanted to close down the yards.

The support for the UCS work-in was high within the working class, particularly in Scotland, expressed in two regional general strikes. The work-in also generated wide support beyond the organised labour movement. John Foster and Charles Woolfson in British Trade Unions and Industrial Politics, Vol 2 wrote:
“The ploy of ‘working-in’, which forced the government to accept the continuance of the yards as a going concern, immediately ranged behind the workers the 700 creditor firms which stood to lose all they were owed as well as the custom they depended on for the future. It forced local authorities, even the Conservative controlled Glasgow Council to confront the dilemma of supporting ‘their communities’ or the government. It took leadership of the dispute out of the hands of the official movement and temporarily neutralised a Scottish press which tended towards the Conservative Party (Herald and Scottish Daily Express) or right-wing Labour (Record) This response, of seeking to work upon and include the specific interests of local business and the professions in the regional economy, was based precisely on what [Jimmy] Reid reported to the C[ommunist]P[arty] national executive; an analysis of the specific contradictions of monopoly capitalism."

Despite all this, the movement came nowhere near bringing about a social overturn. But the work-in did force major concessions out of the government. In July 1971, the 8,000 took possession of the shipyards and held them for 15 months. As the authors point out:
“By October 1972 when the sit-in ended they had forced the Conservative government to abandon almost all its original objectives. Most of the 8000 jobs remained. Four yards were in operation. Worse still for the government, it had been pushed into a much wider reversal of regional policy. Its original intention in ending credits to the publicly-owned Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) had been to demonstrate its determination to stop support for all ailing industries. Now it had to reverse its entire regional policy and pay for a massive refloatment on the Clyde."

The UCS struggle continued for 16 months until October 1972. In the end the Tory government was forced into a U-turn and had to come up with £35 million in public money, plus millions more in credit, to maintain 8,000 jobs at UCS, in conjunction with a US company.

“Not a yard will close - Not a man down the road". Sadly, Socialist Courier has to note that years later the jobs and the yards saved no longer exist. But nevertheless 8,000 workers were kept in employment for longer than they would have been.

Trotskyist critics attacked the Communist Party leadership of the work-in for selling out and betrayal because they limited the struggle. They did not press for the extension of work-ins and workers’ control. These criticisms were unjustified. Reid and Fairlie cannot be criticised for settling for what was possible, given the relationship of forces and the general level of consciousness and organisation of the labour movement at the time, instead of indulging in ‘revolutionary’ gestures doomed to failure.

The UCS work-in demonstrated that closures and redundancy need not be passively accepted and that alternatives existed. The UCS work-in raised the expectations of thousands and captured the imagination of many more. A solidarity march from George Square to Glasgow Green saw 80,000 strong protest. 200,000 took part in what was effectively a partial general strike.

In the months and years that followed the commencement of the work-in, the idea of resistance spread. Workers at Plesseys of Alexandria, at the Scottish Daily Express with the publication of the Scottish Daily News and later Henry Robbs of Leith tried the same tactics. Capitalism in the end always prevailed.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Barriers To Socialism

There are many barriers to the ideas of socialism but at least one of them seems to be weakening. 'One in four people no longer believes in any religion, official analysis of national census returns found yesterday. It revealed Christianity is in decline and Christians are increasingly likely to be older or retired people. Many young people, young men in particular, appear to be rejecting religious belief altogether. Nearly one in three under-25s – 32 per cent – say they do not have a religion.' (Daily Mail, 17 May) Now we have to get rid of some of the other barriers - patriotism, racialism, sexism before we can get rid of the worst ism. Capitalism! RD

The Real Union Question

Have no illusions about the role of governments, the police or the law - the defence of capitalism and exploitation is the main function of the capitalist state.

Both Marx and Engels advised the workers to unite in trade unions and fight for improved wages and shorter hours. In these struggles, victories would be won. The workers could wring concessions out of the capitalists. “Now and then”, the Communist Manifesto explained “the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever-expanding union of the workers.”

The hand-to-mouth existence of the workers has never made it easy to strike for higher wages and better working conditions. The employers can recuperate lost profits, the workers’ lost wages cannot. As long as the capitalist system exists, the bosses will always try to take back what they have been forced to concede. They will continually try to step up the exploitation of the working class in order to boost their profits.

Young and without a future

A report for the Scotland Institute – The Changing Face Of Youth Unemployment In Scotland 1992 To 2012 – found that over the past two decades, youth employment has gone from being characterised as consisting of stable, relatively well-paid work with career prospects to short-term, part-time, poorly paid work with limited long-term prospects.

Report author Dr Roger Cook, the research director at the institute, said: “Twenty years of sustained removal of employment protection and the casualisation of work has created a situation where young people are becoming trapped in low-paid work with limited longer-term opportunities... This is the conscious outcome of an approach to the labour market over 20 years that has stressed flexibility and ignored the impact of this on people’s working lives or standard of living. Those who are relatively well educated are finding jobs but those jobs are less likely to offer a career, progression, security or a decent wage than was the case even in the depths of recession under the 1992-1997 government. Stagnation of wages and loss of security has wider implications than just inflicting hardship on individuals.”

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cricket And Capitalism

Capitalism distorts everything it touches including sport. 'Legendary Indian batsman Rahul Dravid has spoken of his anguish after three players from the team he captains in the Indian Premier league were arrested over allegations of spot-fixing. The Rajasthan Royals captain said he was "shocked" at S. Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila's arrests. On Thursday, a court sent the players into police custody for five days.' (BBC News, 17 May)Dravid may well be in anquish but he can't be that surprised, for last year Indian cricket officials suspended five players after a sting by undercover TV reporters purported to show cricketers agreeing to bowl no-balls and spot-fix matches. And in 2011, three top Pakistani players - Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir - were banned after they were found guilty of involvement in a betting scam. RD

Two Different Worlds

Socialism is a society wherein every human being capable of it works according to their ability and in return takes according to their needs. Capitalism is a society wherein a small minority own the means of production and distribution and where the majority must work for a wage or a salary and produce a surplus value enjoyed by the small minority. So how is capitalism faring today? 'The unemployment rate in Britain has risen for the third successive quarter, with 15,000 more people jobless and looking for work in the three months to March. The total rose to 2.75 million, pushing the official unemployment rate up to 7.8 per cent of the workforce.' (Times, 16 May) Nearly 3 million people are stopped from producing wealth today in Britain. Think of a world socialist society and how much more productive it could be than a production for profit society like capitalism. RD

La Belle Sansculotte


She is coming, O my masters, she is coming in her might,
With the red flag o’er her legions and her sword sharp, clean and bright;
She is breaking through your dungeons, she is tearing off your chain,
She is coming to take vengeance without mercy once again!

She is coming, O my masters, with a new might in her arms,
Her vision clear, unclouded by a dying Satan’s charms;
She is coming in hate’s beauty, with love’s fierceness in her eye,
Like a maddened mother hast’ning where your tortured child-slaves die!

She is coming, O my masters, with her strong, steel-muscled hands,
She is reaching for your factories, your gardens and your lands;
She is calling to her standard all the sons of grief and toil,
She is promising your soldiers all your stolen wealth for spoil.

She is coming, O my masters! ’Neath her red, triumphal arch,
Lo! the guards that now surround you in her rebel ranks shall march!
She is coming as forever and forever she has come,
Arm in arm with Hope and Freedom, to the long roll of Right’s drum!

She is coming, O my masters! Soon her troops shall rest their feet
In the limpid waters flowing through your bowers, cool and sweet;
Soon her hungered hosts shall gather in your gold-roofed banquet hall,
And to ecstatic music hold high revel o’er your fall!

She is coming, O my masters, she is coming in her might,
With the red flag o’er her legions and her sword sharp, clean and bright!
She is coming in hate’s beauty, with love’s fierceness in her eye,
Like a maddened mother hast’ning where your tortured child-slaves die!

By Covington Hall
Oldtime Industrial Unionist

Friday, May 17, 2013

Our Benevolent Masters

The owning class and all their "experts" are always trying to improve the health of the working class, so the following report should come as no surprise to anyone. 'Research by the the Institute of Economic Affairs found that both mental and physical health can suffer, and that the Government should help people work longer and raise the state pension ages. The study - Work Longer, Live Healthier: The Relationship Between Economic Activity, Health And Government Policy - shows there is a small boost in health immediately after retirement but that, over the longer term, there is a significant deterioration. It suggests retirement increases the likelihood of suffering from clinical depression by 40 per cent and the chance of having at least one diagnosed physical condition by about 60 per cent.' (Daily Telegraph, 16 May) Despite this touching concern for the health of the working class the owning class seem to live long and healthy lives without the added benefits of anything remotely resembling hard work. RD

Life Is Cheap In Capitalism

The recent loss of over 1,000 worker's lives in a Bangladesh factory is not peculiar to that country. 'Cambodian clothing industry workers have been killed in the partial collapse of the shoe factory where they worked, adding to the loss of life in the Asian industry of making garments for the west. ...........Authorities told the Associated Press that two bodies had been pulled from the wreckage and at least seven people were injured, while a union official speaking to the Reuters news agency put the death toll at six or more. There were estimates of up to 50 people trapped in the wreckage.' (Guardian, 16 May) Reports say it is unclear how many people remain trapped. Capitalism in its drive for greater and greater profits roves the world and Asia is an attractive source of cheap unprotected labour. The garment industry is Cambodia's biggest export earner. In 2012 more than $4bn worth of products were shipped to the United States and Europe. RD

Man from the Pru

Chief executive Tidjane Thiam remuneration for last year totalled £7.8 million.

He was censured by the Financial Services Authority in March after Prudential was fined £30m for two regulatory breaches relating to its aborted £23 billion acquisition of Asia-based AIA three years ago.

Shareholder Ian Michel told Prudential's annual shareholder meeting in London: "It seems to me that the executive pay is very high. I have no doubt everybody works very hard but the word 'greedy' is not entirely removed from my mind."

Another described Mr Thiam's pay as "obscene".

Steve O'Donnell, a representative of staff union Unite at Prudential UK, which has a large site at Craigforth, Stirling, questioned the bonus payout to Mr Thiam in light of the FSA fine.

The fight for houses

"Ever since the Highland Clearances in the 18th Century, ordinary Scottish folk have been pushed around according to the whims of property owners and their servants the politicians."

This pamphlet by the now defunct group Solidarity, although dated now, makes interesting reading.

State ownership or common ownership

The term “State capitalism” (sometimes misleadingly designated as State Socialism) is an economic form in which the state performs the role of the capitalist employer, for instance the Post Office(at least for the moment). Under State ownership or State control of industry, the exploitation of wage workers continues. Surplus-values are appropriated by the capitalist class just the same. The government now functions as the exploiting agent of the capitalists who receive their incomes in the form of interest on government bonds or on loans to the government. Although the exploitation may be less direct, the profits go to the capitalists as formerly. The workers are not any better off. That is what Engels meant when he said, “State ownership does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces.” Millions of employees are now in the State sector and the capitalist class are just as rich while the working class are just as insecure and just as poor, as before. But state property is not socialism for the workers are still not the masters of their labour conditions and remain separated from the production process.

“State ownership of the productive forces is not the solution... [in Marx and Engels’ view, for] neither the conversion into joint-stock companies nor into state property deprives the productive forces of their character as capital... The workers remain wage-earners, proletarians. The capitalist relationship is not abolished; it is rather pushed to an extreme.” (Anti-Dühring)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Madness Of Capotalism

We are constantly being told that we are living in a time of economic recession and must learn to tighten our belts. That advice is not paid much attention to by the owning class.'An enormous Gerhard Richter painting of Milan's Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square) that was commissioned to cheer up the offices of the electronics conglomerate Siemens sold for $37m (£24m) on Tuesday, setting a new auction record for a living artist. .........It was bought by a Napa Valley vineyard owner, Donald Bryant, who punched his fist in the air after successfully buying the Richter at Sotheby's big contemporary art sale in New York.' (Guardian, 15 May) In case you think the owning class are mad to pay such prices for a painting it should be pointed out that the Milan painting was sold by the Hyatt hotel group achieving a price 10 times higher than they paid for it in 1998. It is not the art buyers that are mad - it is the capitalist system. RD

Transcending the trade union struggle

The working class are as our Chartist forefathers were not afraid to call it, a class of wages slaves. Yet today we are less preoccupied with the abolition of the wages system than ever. Reformists attempt to mollify inhuman social relations whilst preserving them intact. The old cry for a fair day’s pay echoes repeatedly time and time again. The essence of working-class enslavement is not impoverishment. Whether a worker’s wages be high or low his existence is imposed. It is necessary to abolish the basic condition of modern exploitation, wage slavery.

The old conceptions in the labour movement have become faulty and inadequate and working class organisations offer indecision and confusion, and are reduced to impotence.

Karl Marx counseled the working class many years ago that “they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘abolition of the wages system.’ ”

When we fight for a demand like a wage increase, we are merely fighting against the effects of capitalism. Not merely that. We are demanding it from the capitalists. In other words, we envisage the continuation of the capitalist system. What trade union struggles really do is to fight to improve the conditions of the working class within the framework of the capitalist system. They do not challenge capitalism itself. That is why they degenerate to pure and simple reformism and, in the end, bolster up capitalism.

Every wage increase that is won by the workers is eventually offset by the employers by more intensive work. So, usually, the workers are back to from where they started.

What all workers should understand is that their misery is due to exploitation carried on by the capitalist class. Trade unionism merely restricts their struggle to attempts at lessening this exploitation. It does not fight to end exploitation i.e. to end the capitalist system and replace it by socialism. This is the limitation of trade union struggles. However, we should not oppose trade union struggles. It is essential to organise workers and help them to realise the value of their labour power in the fight for their day to day demands. And it is also in the course of these fights, that the workers can learn about the system of capitalist exploitation and the need to abolish it. They will not only discover how to fight for wage increases but also how to abolish the wage system itself.
The objective of the Socialist Party is nothing less than the socialist reconstruction of society, the abolition of the wages system. We press the workers to transform the economic struggle into a political struggle for the seizure of power by the working class. Otherwise we will sink into the morass of never-ending reformism.

The poor once again pay the rich

The Duke of Roxburghe could net £1.5 million a year from a wind farm on the Lammermuir Hills. The Earl of Moray is estimated to receive £2 million a year from a wind farm near Stirling. The Earl of Glasgow could be earning upwards of £300,000 a year from turbines on his Kelburn estate. These hang-overs from our feudal past earn large sums by renting their land to wind-turbine energy firms whose wind farms are in turn subsidised by extra levies on ordinary electricity consumers.

Alison Elliot, chair of the Land Reform Review Group (LRRG), said the issue would be investigated amid concerns that aristocrats are benefiting from the renewables revolution while the poor grapple with fuel­poverty. Dr Elliot told Sir Robert Clerk of Penicuik, a consultant for Smith Gore and a landowner at the centre of a storm over plans for wind turbines on his estate: “Land is implicated in providing food, space for housing and in overcoming fuel poverty.“We are an energy rich country so why do we have fuel poverty?”

The Church of Scotland said such figures represented a “significant transfer of income from domestic electricity consumers, including those living in fuel poverty, to landowners...The Church is concerned this redistribution of income is tending to promote inequality. The ownership of land in Scotland remains deeply inequitable and the new landed income from wind power entrenches that inequality.” It added: “A paradox of life in rural Scotland is that the rapid growth of renewable energy is matched by a growth in fuel poverty… This is unacceptable and if landowners are gaining financial rewards from renewables while a growing number of households are living in fuel poverty, then the strong case for re-examining land reform to ensure the financial benefits of renewables are shared more equitably is strengthened further.”

A taxing question

Amazon paid less in UK corporation tax last year than it received in government grants, its official company accounts show.
Its corporation tax bill was just £2.44m – less than the £2.5m it received from the Scottish Government in inducements to build a new distribution warehouse in Dunfermline.

Its corporation tax bill was just £2.44m – less than the £2.5m it received from the Scottish Government in inducements to build a new distribution warehouse in Dunfermline.

Alex Salmond has previously spoken of what he described as an “historic” deal that saw Amazon set up a distribution centre in Dunfermline, alongside its customer call centre in Edinburgh.
Peter Walsh, Scottish spokesman for union Unite, warned the latest Amazon tax payments were a “drop in the ocean” compared to its vast UK sales figures. “We desperately need to look at tax reform and how to achieve tax justice,” he said. “The taxes they pay, combined with the fact they are a low-wage, low-skills employer, poses the question as to what benefit they bring to Scotland and to the UK. We have put significant public funds into luring this employer here and this is what we get back.”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sunday Morning Hypocrisy

On a Sunday morning throughout England the man of God in the pulpit will attack those who place reliance on material gains. 'Thirst not after the material things of life. Blessed are the poor.' he will declaim. That's all very well for lecturing his gullible flock but in real life the church is less unworldly. 'The Church of England will announce some of its best financial results in recent years today, with a 9.7 per cent return on investments for 2012. ........... The Church commissioners manage £5.5 billion in assets for the Church of England. (Times, 15 May) RD