Monday, September 30, 2013

Aiding the crime

"Foreign assistance is far from charity," J. Brian Atwood, the USAID director under former President Clinton, told Congress in 1995. "It is an investment in American jobs, American business."

The simple task of stopping people from going hungry or falling sick is never a simple task under capitalism.The public image of foreign aid is of Western beneficence. Because it is tied with geo-politics, trade and banking, foreign aid cannot be classified purely as gift-giving. Providing assistance to Africa's poor is a noble cause, but the five decades long campaign of aid has turned out to be what one critic called “a theater of the absurd.” To-date, the record of western aid to Africa has been significant, amounting to more than $500 billion between 1960 and 1997, which is the equivalent of four Marshall Plans being pumped into Sub-Saharan African. And today, the national budgets of most Sub-Saharan African countries are dependent on foreign aid for up to eighty percent of the annual budgets. Apart from the relief aid and economic development, foreign aid assistance was also provided to support reforms and policy adjustment programs. And between 1981 and 1991 alone, the World Bank provided $20 billion towards Africa's structural adjustment programs. The purpose of the programs was to make public institutions, government agencies, and bureaucracies in Africa more transparent, effective, efficient and accountable. It is somewhat baffling that Africa still suffers from a poverty trap, considering the depth of governments' corruption and the missing billions in export earnings from oil, gas, diamonds and other resources.

 The African continent has struggled with chronic poverty and under-development since the advent of political independence more than fifty years. African development experts and academics have blamed foreign aid for the continued and seemingly intractable development crisis confronting the continent.  It made Africans poorer. The contention among many experts is that the more the developed north co-operated with the south, the poorer Africa became. Foreign aid has generally benefited the ruling elites in Africa, by among other things, enabling and perpetuating corrupt governments' hold on power, and by extension, entrenching the pervasive underdevelopment. Poverty is a justification for aid, but it is seldom the main criterion used for allocating it. Africa's war on poverty is perceived as amounting to begging and submissiveness.

Research shows that over the period that foreign aid was being pumped into Africa, the per capita GDP declined by an averaged of 0.59 percent annually, between 1975 and 2000.  The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development admits that aid to Africa has not been successful and despite many years of policy reform, no Sub-Saharan country has completed its adjustment program or achieved any sustained economic growth. The decades of financial and technical aid transfers to Africa have not fostered economic growth, rather, it has left seventy countries, primarily in Sub-Saharan African, poorer than they were in 1980, and 43 are worst off than they were in 1970. The United Nations Development Program describes the 1980's, the period of highest foreign aid transfer to Africa, as the “lost decade.” Over much of that decade, 100 countries mostly in Africa, suffered major economic decline or net stagnation, and the conclusion is that foreign aid failed to create economic growth in aid recipient countries. In a self-assessment in 1987, the World Bank found 106 out of 189 African development projects audited — almost 60 percent — had serious shortcomings or were complete failures. African agriculture projects failed 75 percent of the time. A recent report on aid from the World Bank's private arm, the International Finance Corporation, found only half of its Africa projects succeed.

The old belief that aid transfer allowed poor countries to escape the poverty trap has been refuted, because research has proved that poverty, contrary to the popular belief, is not caused by capital shortage. In fact, studies show that there is no correlation between aid and economic development, rather, most aid recipient countries have become and remained more dependent of foreign aid.

Imagine how you would feel if armies of Africans came and told you how to run your schools and hospitals (while living in some of the smartest homes and the best of hotels)? Who funded politicians who steal and murder? But this is the West's approach abroad: we know best. This is how Britain spent £1bn supporting education in just three east African countries but failed to check whether the teachers turned up or the children were learning; sadly, they were not.

 Studies show that there is overwhelming evidence that foreign aid has helped to under-write the misguided policies of the corrupt and bloated government bureaucracies across Africa. The Oxford International Group study revealed that the external stock of capital held by Africans in overseas accounts, was between $700billion and $800 billion in 2005, and nearly 40% of Africa's aggregate wealth was stacked in foreign bank accounts in Europe, United States and Japan. A former U.S Ambassador to Ghana, Edward P. Bryan, admitted that foreign donors have allowed what he describes as “a small, clever class that inherited power from the colonial masters to take us to the cleaners.” It will take a lot of resources and time to turn Africa around. In March 1990, a Paris daily, Le Monde wrote, “Every franc given to impoverished Africans, comes back to France or is smuggled into Switzerland by African bureaucrats and politicians.” And critics contend that donor agencies knew or should have known the motivation and activities of corrupt African leaders who spirit away billions into Swiss Banks and other western bank accounts. Even famine relief aid is not spared. As early as the late 1980's, a former head of Medicine Sans Frontiers, Dr. Rory Branman, lamented the failure of aid to Africa, saying, “We have been duped.” The Western governments and humanitarian groups”, he said, have “unwittingly fueled and are continuing to fuel an operation that will be described in hindsight in a few years' time as one of the greatest slaughters of our time.” The World Bank admitted that in most cases Western donors knew that up to 30 per cent of the loans to African countries and governments went directly into the bank accounts of corrupt officials, yet The Bank considered these officials and their governments as partners in development.A major debilitating by-product of foreign aid to Africa is the culture of corruption that has taken root at every level of every government. Today, corruption has become the way of life in every country in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the theft, bribery and embezzlement of aid, and other government resources are so endemic, they are not considered as crimes. African politicians and government officials have engaged in corruption practices, and a 2004-2005 World Bank Report showed that $148 billion were embezzled out of Africa by politicians and bureaucrats; a significant amount of it being aid and loans earmarked for development activities to benefit Africa's poor.

Bono , U2's front man and self appointed spokes-man for Africa, promotes capitalism as the solution to Africa’s poverty yet even The Blair Commission for Africa report which “celebrated” a quadrupling of foreign investment in Africa from 2003 to 2008 made the point that foreign investment represents should not be mistaken for a sign that the lives of most ordinary Africans are getting better.
"...the lives of most Africans remain unaffected by Africa’s growing economic power. Many Africans’ incomes have not improved. Poverty remains widespread, the region’s share of international trade remains tiny, and climate change and the global economic crisis are threatening to undermine progress made."

"Sir, our village has no water!"
Bono - " Get these people some glassware!"

Politics in Football

The official armed forces celebration day in Britain falls outside the football season. Glasgow Rangers football club, with the full approval of the military, decided to stage its own separate event.

Uniformed soldiers, seamen and air force personnel were filmed dancing, clapping and singing along with the crowd in sectarian songs and chants celebrating the death of the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. Such behaviour is supposed to be banned from all Scottish football grounds under a new law passed by the Scottish parliament.  STV and the Daily Record - make no reference to the soldiers' antics.

Rangers and the British military are pandering to the lowest element of jingoistic sectarianism.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Forgotten Heroes

The recruiting campaigns for the British Army promise an adventurous and exciting career, but the reality is somewhat different for many workers. 'Up to 40,000 military personnel will suffer mental health problems because of their service in Iraq and Afghanistan, the head of Help for Heroes, the military charity said yesterday. Bryan Parry added that at least 2,000 serving soldiers are  coping with physical injury or sickness, with many facing the prospect of relying on charity support and the NHS after they are discharged from the Army.' (Times, 27 September) Far from being "A man's life in the Army" as the adverts promised it often ends in death, disfigurement or living on charity. RD

Scotland's Disgrace

Save the Children’s Scottish leader Neil Mathers said: “Poverty is a scar on Scotland’s society.”

Oxfam’s Our Economy report claimed Scotland’s wealthiest households are 273 times richer than the poorest.

The charity say figures show work is not always a route to a better life in Scotland, as figures show 40 per cent of those living in poverty are in employment.

Judith Robertson, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “The reality for too many Scots is a cocktail of high mortality, economic inactivity, mental and physical ill-health, poor educational attainment, and exclusion from the decisions that affect them.”

John Downie, director of public affairs for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations said that poverty must be a priority. “Scotland is one of the most unequal places in the developed world, with the gap between the richest and poorest growing steadily. It’s shameful that in communities across the country, people are having to choose between heating their homes or putting food on the table. Children are going to bed hungry, and parents are struggling to afford to buy their children shoes for school. Surely we can do much better than this?”

The Scottish Government’s annual report for the Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland estimates that an additional 50,000 children will be living in poverty, north of the border by 2020, bringing the total to a quarter of a million.

The Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland said that there was no chance of the Government hitting legal targets to eradicate child poverty by 2020. John Dickie, head of the charity, said: “Child poverty in Scotland is going to increase massively. “We are facing a child poverty crisis. Now is the time for politicians to turn their words into concrete action that will ensure that every child gets a fair start in life.”

Statistics from the Campaign To End Child Poverty show an average of one in three children in Glasgow live in poverty – the highest percentage in Scotland. In the city’s Springburn, 51 per cent of youngsters live in poverty, while in Calton it is 49 per cent.

Statistics suggest 720,000 people, 14 per cent of Scots, live in deprivation but campaigners believe it is nearer 850,000.

The Trussell Trust this year found the number of Scots using food banks rose by 150 per cent in 2012, from 5726 to 14,318.

Shelter Scotland director GraemeBrown said that more and more people were facing the real prospect of homelessness. He added: “There’s a perfect storm on our doorsteps. Already people are being battered by welfare reforms, stagnant wages, rising utility bills, higher living costs and job insecurity. For many, the safety and security of home is under threat like never before.”

John McKendrick, a senior lecturer at Caledonian University who co-wrote a report on tackling child poverty for Save the Children, said there had been much rhetoric but little effective action. He said: “Lots of nice words have been said but there is no direct addressing of the problem. The hopelessness that is there will intensify. For those in poverty life is getting tougher.”

We are the SPGB

We are the SPGB,
The Socialist Party.
We teach you how you’re robbed and bled;
And show you how to build a workers’ world instead.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Love For Sale

Capitalism with its profit motive distorts every human activity. Snooker players, footballers and cricketers have recently been proven to take bribes to line their pockets in gambling scams. Now it even distorts love and marriage. 'China is moving forwards at an astonishing rate, but it lacks one vital commodity - young women. Men of marriageable age are confronted by a shrinking pool of potential female partners - and the competition to find a bride is fierce.  ..... Peng Tai has a quota of three suitable girls a day. He is what is known as a "love hunter". He works for the Diamond Bachelors' Agency, a Shanghai outfit which has hundreds of wealthy single men looking for wives on its books. The joining fees range from £15,000 to more than £1m ($1.6m) a year depending on the level of service required.' (BBC News, 28 September) The report goes on to show that this facility is beyond the reach of most members of the working class. One young engineer said that he would have to save up for 200 years to afford a one-bedroom apartment - and that is without eating or drinking. RD

Marx and Wage Slavery

One class - One struggle

As a one-time  member of both the Industrial Workers and the Socialist Party of Great Britain this blogger wants to see one class conscious labour union on the industrial field and one class-conscious labour party on the political field, each the counterpart of the other, and both working together in harmonious cooperation to overthrow the capitalist system and emancipate the workers from wage slavery. The objective of the Party is the establishment of a socialist society and works for the total abolition of the present system of wage slavery through a social revolution, and holds this to be the pre-eminent  task of its existence. It seeks by education  to win the majority to the socialist idea and to spur the workers on towards the Social Revolution.

The aim of socialism is that every human being, white, black, red, or yellow, shall have access to the natural resources which nature has supplied and to the machinery which man has created and then to have the full social product of his labour.

We feel sure the working class will rally to our cause and thus administer to capitalism the much-deserved lesson that the workers may be deluded part of the time, but not all the time.

The capitalist class own the government and govern the working class, not for the well-being of the working class but for the well-being and profit of the capitalist class. It is only by using their political power that the capitalists make their exploitation of the workers legal. And it is only by using their political power that the working class can abolish capitalist rule and privilege, and establish a form of society based on  common ownership.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Don't repeat mistakes

Nationalism serves as a powerful wedge, weakening the workers’ movements and preventing them from uniting against capital. My “nationality” first feeds the sentiment that it is non-natives  rather than the capitalist ruling class which is responsible for exploitation. It  retards the process of building class unity and consciousness.

Our task as socialists is to expose and condemn  nationalist organisations as agents of the capitalists who can lead only to further oppression  of the workers. Marxism views classes and class struggle as the fundamental contradiction of modern society. The struggle between the working class and the employers conditions the whole of social life, and creates the contours for the development and transformation of society from one stage to another. The class war, then, is the most profound dividing line in modern times. As Marxists we never put the rights of nations above the rights and duties of our class. We must always and everywhere advance the class line over every other, whether it is colour, sex or nationality.

 Jim Larkin says that one of the last things that he said to James Connolly was not to go into the nationalist movement, not to join the Irish Volunteers, which was the armed force of the nationalist movement. Connolly did go into the Easter Rebellion. Sean O’Casey, the Irish playwright, in a pamphlet he wrote on the Irish Citizen Army, declares baldly that James Connolly died not for Irish socialism but for Irish nationalism. In all events, the Irish Citizen Army was decimated, and crushed in the Easter Rebellion. There were few left to carry on the “socialistic” side of Connolly’s doctrines. The entire movement was swept along in arise of Irish patriotism and Irish nationalism. Sinn Féin was in complete control of the movement. Instead of discussing socialism, they discussed Ireland.  After all the sacrifice of blood, the Irish people  changed masters, and a new Irish bourgeoisie developed and grew. The Scottish worker is now counselled to repeat the mistake of Connolly and subordinate socialism to nationalism. Our place of birth was accidental, but our duty to our class is worldwide.

 There cannot  be any national unity in a real sense as long as 1% of the population lives off the fat of the land because they OWN the machines, while 99% do all the useful WORK of society. And you certainly don’t have national unity when the government speaks and acts as the protector of the 1%. The bosses consider “national, unity” to be achieved when labour quits striking against pay cuts and co-operates with speed-ups.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Neither Westminster nor Holyrood but World Socialism

The Socialist Courier once more risks raising the the ire of our nationalist opponents who accuse us of being British unionist enemies of the Scottish people. A lack of confidence in a common socialist  future has caused sections of workers in Scotland to take shelter under a nationalist banner. Some organisations and individuals calling themselves ‘socialist’ have been infected by the disease of nationalism. We fight these “left nationalists" most energetically, because of the fact that they call themselves enemies of capitalism and because they are just as much enemies of the working class movement. Their propoganda threatens to divert the workers from the most important part of their struggle, the conquest of the power of the State and the establishment of socialism. And so it is interests of the practical struggle, that we regard the “left nationalists" as opponents who do not belong to our socialist movement.

 Thomas Johnston wrote in his The History of the Working Classes in Scotland: “Scotland was not a nation: it was a loose aggregation of small but practically self-supporting communities, and scanty supplies and high prices at Aberdeen may quite well have been coincident with plenty and comparatively low prices in Dundee and Glasgow”.

The Scottish commentator, George Kerevan, observed:“The notion that illiterate peasants, who lived and died their short brutal lives within a few hundred yards of their village, had a conception of nationalism beyond a gut xenophobia for everyone beyond the village is stretching the imagination”

Scottish nationalism starts from the assumption that Scotland was a nation from medieval times, if not earlier.  Some even trace the origin of Scotland to the time of the Picts, or the arrival of Scots from Ireland, or MacAlpine kings in the 9th century. Others among the nationalists assert that Scotland achieved nationhood from the war of independence against the ‘English’, William Wallace’s victory at Stirling Bridge (1297), the battle of Bannockburn (1314),  the Declaration of Arbroath (1320) and also by the ‘independence’ of the Kirk, the education system and the law.  Even the dynastic fights between the Stewarts and the Hanoverians of Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745, are presented as expressions of Scotland’s national resistance against English colonialism.

The assertion that William Wallace led a people’s revolt in a ‘war of national liberation’ against the ‘English’ does not stand up to scrutiny. The kings and the nobility of  Scotland – were feudal lords, who did not even understand, let alone entertain, modern-day ideas of nationhood, nor could they. They were possessed of a culture drawn from the Norman French, who married across the whole of the north-western part of Europe and were, in this sense, cosmopolitan to their fingertips. To them the very concept of wars of national liberation would have been entirely alien. Their domains of exploitation, their rivalries and their commonalities invariably coincided. They were lords in Scotland who also held large tracts in England. For example, Robert Bruce, the Earl of Carrick and a vassal of Edward I, held 90,000 acres of land in Yorkshire, while his rival, John Balliol, held large tracts of land in Normandy and England, as well as Scotland. Members of the nobility from the kingdom of Scotland, for example John Comyn, fought on the side of Edward I in the latter’s conquest of Wales, while the armies of Edward I and II, deployed in the wars in Scotland, which were firmly rooted in feudal, not national rights, were recruited from their feudal realms in France, Wales and Ireland.

Undoubtedly Edward I laid claim to the kingdom of Scotland and sought to include it into his own kingdom. With 13 rival claims to the throne of Scotland, the barons turned to Edward to settle the dispute. He marched his army to the border, proclaimed himself lord paramount of Scotland, and decided that John Balliol had a better claim than Robert Bruce.  John Balliol was accordingly crowned king and duly paid homage to Edward in 1292. Conflicts within the feudal elite in Scotland, and harsh demands made by Edward on his vassals, drove John Balliol into revolt, but he and his forces were defeated. Balliol was captured and humiliatingly ceremonially stripped of his feudal trappings in 1296, with his tabard, hood and knightly girdle physically removed. Following several shifts of alliances, the feudal elite in Scotland turned the tables on Edward I and then Edward II – at Stirling Bridge (1297).  Moray and Wallace came to be Guardians in Scotland, in the name of the “illustrious king” in exile, John Balliol, not the people.
The so-called war of independence soon turned into a mutually ruinous war between the Bruce and Balliol families. These internecine struggles between competing feudal dynasties were based on the  belief systems of  the then-prevailing notions of fief and vassalage, not on the present-day concepts of nationhood.  The  lords in Scotland were engaged in a desperate struggle to defend and safeguard their traditional monopoly to exploit their peasant serfs against the centralising power of Edward I.

Declaration of Arbroath

The real content behind the Arbroath Declaration, was to allow the feudal elements to continue this exploitation of the peasantry. It was not as nationalist historians claim the clearest “....statement of Scottish nationalism and patriotism in the fourteenth century” nor the finest “... statement of a claim to national independence... produced in this period anywhere in western Europe.”  Far from it.  As the historian Neil Davidson rightly wrote, “The sonorous wording of the Declaration is in fact a clear statement of, among other things, the fact that the feudal ruling class still considered themselves to be a nation in a racial rather than the modern sense”

The preamble to the Declaration is characteristically medieval: it traces the wanderings of the “Scots nation” from “Greater Scythia” to Scotland, celebrates its triumphs over Britons and Picts, and survival from attacks by “Norwegians, Danes and English” .  As Davidson remarks, those who assert that these statements serve to “prove the existence of a primordial Scottish nation must logically also accept the existence of primordial ‘British’ and ‘Pictish’ nations”. Apart from anything else, the names of Roger Mowbray and Ingram Unafraville, among the signatories, are evocative of a descent from Anglo-Norman settlers invited to settle in Scotland during the reign of David, who themselves descended “...from earlier Viking invaders of what is now France from what is now Norway – a place somewhat removed from Scythia” .

A key passage in the Declaration runs thus: “Yet if he [Robert the Bruce] shall give up what he has begun, seeking to make us or our kingdom subject to the king of England or to the English, we would strive at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and we would make some other man who was able to defend us our king; for, as long as hundred of us remain alive, we will never on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English. For we fight not [for] glory, nor riches, nor honours, but for freedom alone, which no good man gives up without his life”.

The above passage has been represented by some as the prototype for modern nationalism.  Some have even gone so far as to assert that this represents “the first national or governmental articulation, in all of Europe, of the principle of the contractual theory of monarchy which lies at the heart of modern constitutionalism.”

In truth, this passage suggests the function of the noble estate “as the defender of the kingdom against the claims of the individual monarch in a way that was entirely typical of absolutist Europe” says Davidson.  Its message was two-fold.  First, it was directed at Edward II, informing him that it was pointless for him to attempt to depose Robert with a more subservient king, since the remainder of the Scottish aristocracy would not cease its resistance.  Second, it was addressed to Robert, making it clear that they would not brook his jeopardising their interests – which lay in their god-given right to unhindered exploitation of the mass of the peasantry – through making concessions to Edward.

To attribute to the Declaration of Arbroath modern connotations of nationhood is as false as to impart similar meanings to the Magna Carta.  Both these documents should be seen for what they really were – an expression of the interests barons of the respective kingdoms and their determination to hang on to their privileges, against the monarch. To read into the Declaration the notions of a modern nation, not merely obscures its motives but “establishes a false identity” and “confers legitimacy on a key element in nationalist ideology, namely the primordial continuity of ‘the nation’ throughout history”, according to Davidson.

1707 Union

 The loyalty of the feudal lords to the Scottish Crown took second place to their own local, particular interests. It is hardly surprising that one of the important concessions conceded by the English parliament during the 1707 treaty negotiations was the inclusion of Article 20 which explicitly retained the heritable jurisdictions which were the bedrock of the power of the Scottish lords over their tenants. In the absence of peasant revolts, which were not known in Scotland until the mid-17th century, the peasantry was by and large quiescent, the danger from below which might have compelled the Scottish aristocracy to strengthen the monarchy, instead of exploiting its weakness, never surfaced.  In the absence of the need for an absolutist monarchy to suppress the direct producers, absolutism remained weak, with the result that “the individual lords retained a local weight unparalleled elsewhere in western Europe”.  Between 1455 and 1662, the Stuarts attempted on no fewer than seven occasions to outlaw the jurisdictions that were the basis of the nobility’s power, but they failed – a failure which speaks eloquently of the balance of power between the Crown and the nobility.

The union of England and Scotland in 1707 was the rising Scottish bourgeoisie which began to forge a British identity. This Scottish bourgeoisie found great impetus following 1746 and the victory of the British state over feudalism after the Jacobite uprising. From here the British nation was born. The question of whether Scotland was/is an oppressed nation, a victim of English colonialism albeit, the concept of 'internal colonialism', can be rebutted by presenting various statistics such as to  illustrate the strength of Scottish industry, which  in terms of coal, linen and tobacco, in the 18th century, outstripped the rest of Britain. Success in industry continued into the 19th and 20th centuries. Scottish participation in politics and other professions is well-documented.  The eviction of Scottish crofters in the 18th century was the product of the rise of capitalism, not English 'foreign' aggression. The Scottish bourgeoisie played a leading role in Britain's colonial plunder of the world, most graphically recorded in the account of the rape of India.

The few with their million of pounds demand that the millions with their few pounds be ready to shed their life blood, fighting for what they have conceived and still conceive to be "their" country, when few of them can show title-deeds to so much as a square foot of it. They do not yet perceive that the country they fight for is the master's country and that they fight only because they are hypnotized by the press and political orators into the insubstantial belief that it is their duty and glory thus to fight. The land on which we must live is the property of a class who are the descendants of men who stole the land from our forefathers, and we who are workers, are, whether in town or country, compelled to pay for permission to live on it.  The houses, the shops and factories, which were built by the labour of our forefathers at wages that simply kept them barely alive are owned by a class which never contributed an ounce of sweat to their construction, but whose members continue to draw rent and profit from them while the system lasts. The wealthy took over common land by ruse or violence, declaring themselves its owners; they have established by law that it will always be theirs, and that the right to property has become the foundation of the capitalist constitution. The right to property has extended itself by logical deduction from the land to other instruments: the accumulated products of labor, designated by the generic name of capital.

 Founded on conquest, which has divided the Scottish population into victors and vanquished, neither the instruments nor the fruits of labour belong to the workers, but to the idle rich. Servitude does not consist solely in being  a lord’s serf. He or she is not free who, deprived of the instruments of labour, remains at the mercy of the privileged who are their owners. The nationalists talk of  a “community of interests”,  of solidarity between the capitalist and the worker. How artistically embroidered are the lies and many are fooled.

Let us immediately say that equality doesn’t consist in the partitioning of land or equalising wages. The splitting up of land or lessening income differentials will really change nothing concerning the right of property. It is the re-distribution of poverty and with wealth growing from the ownership of the instruments of labor, rather than through labour itself, the spirit of exploitation left standing would soon through the reconstruction of large fortunes, how to restore social inequality. The free association of the producers alone, in place of private property, will serve the welfare of the people. The Socialist Party struggles for freedom from all tyrants, both foreign and native.  It is the task of all workers regardless of their place of birth to unite and present one front to the common enemy in the common struggle — the fight against the exploitation of those who work by those who own — the fight against capitalist slavery

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Join the revolution

We live in a world dominated by capitalism, a system which allows a small minority of capitalists to oppress and exploit the great majority of humankind.  It is capitalism that brings about great inequalities in living standards with more poor people now in the world than ever before. Capitalism steals the resources of less developed countries and causes the destruction  of our natural environment.  Either we get rid of this outmoded and  decrepit system or it will devastate humanity.

The only viable way forward is revolutionary struggle to achieve socialism, a classless and stateless society on a world scale where people do not oppress and exploit each other and where we live in harmony with our natural environment.  To create a socialist world it is necessary to overthrow the rule of capitalism and this can be done only through revolution.  The working class and other oppressed people must depose the capitalist ruling class and establish socialism, a system of real, popular democracy that sets about the reconstruction of society.  New technology is making it possible to build a new world, a world in which the robots do the “work” and people set about the task of culturally and socially enriching their lives.

 This can happen only if you join with us in the struggle against capitalism. The hour is late. Join us now!

The importance of the Socialist Party present strength counts for little. More important than our membership and our vote is the integrity and the soul of our party as an effective instrument for the coming social reconstruction. It is vital that our party remains as a socialist party in the true meaning of the term. Faithful to its object, its structure, and its principles. Not a party of mere patchwork reform but as a militant party, firmly rooted in the working class movement, and operating on a programme of education and organisation  in the political struggle.

Everything is possible now. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Workers United

The class struggle is not over, the battle of the working class is not finished, the fight to achieve socialism, is not redundant nor ‘old-fashioned.’ But it is not taking place. Only a handful of revolutionary socialists appreciated the tremendous opportunities now opening up and are talking in terms of a total social revolution. They are challenging the view that the class struggle can continue to  remain confined to improvements within the system. The various Trotskyist groups fail to see the tremendous potentialities of the situation because they are mainly preoccuped to establish their leadership over the workers movement. They all say that what is missing is the correct party-line (which they all interpret as their own party’s). None of them have confidence in the ability of the workers to solve their problems without their kind of leadership, steering  the workers’ movement down a blind alley of reformism and nationalism. Concentrating upon building up one’s own party  fiefdom and paying attention to only the narrow interests of one’s own organisation is detrimental to the growth and development of the revolutionary movement. At the same time, however, to advocate unity with all and sundry, at all cost,  is reckless and suicidal. We must not jeopardise our identity as socialists by joining broad blocs that include non-socialists and even anti-socialists that inevitably accept the continued existence of capitalism.

Despite the cliche misrepresentations,  the Socialist Party promotes the principled unity within the trade unions. The principle of trade unionism has been to organise all the workers, in every trade or service. This principle over-rode all distinctions of religion or politics. Whatever a man or woman might think on matters of religion, whatever views he or she might hold in politics, he or she is just as entitled as the next man to join his or her union—and, once joined, to enjoy the same rights and receive the same benefits as everybody else.  Socialists are utterly against any division because their chief desire is to strengthen the working class. Working class unity is not utopian. It exists and always has existed to some degree, nevertheless we can say that the working class is presently disunited. There are no united struggles of the entire working class, and the employers have been able to split the working class into as many sections, trades and crafts as possible. As a result, there are struggles being fought of a trade, craft or section of the working class in isolation from the entire working class, but against the entire united capitalist class protected by their state machine and news media. The capitalist class deploy everything available to them against a particular section of the workers leaving the other members of the working class  to helplessly watch from the side-lines the struggles of their fellow workers, being fought in isolation from one another and ending in defeat. The unity of the entire working class is an absolute necessity.  It is most urgent  to organise the un-organised workers. Without organising the non-unionised workers, to talk about uniting the working class is merely a pipe-dream.

However, the labour movement must begin to address social and political questions as the representative of all the workers. It must challenge and defeat the tradition of top-down initiatives and complacent reliance on politicians. The workers themselves must take the initiative in uniting their forces. Unity must be built from the bottom. The Socialist Party defends the trade unions’ struggle for the democratization and  right to free expression, association and complete independence with regard to the State to the best of its ability.  The Socialist Party’s  objective is not substituting and commandeering of the unions, but the aim of winning over the working class in these unions, convincing them of the correctness of the socialist revolution  and the necessity of fully involving themselves.

The basic struggle of the workers is two fold: 1) the political struggle against the capitalist system, and 2) the struggle at the place of work for better decent wages and working conditions.
Trade unions cannot and never could lead the struggle of the working class for the conquest of political power. This task can only be accomplished by a political party. When it comes to building this party, there can be no question of it emerging from the defensive struggles waged by the unions against the capitalists, no matter how important these struggles may be. The influence of socialist ideas in the unions is still minimal.

Too often, those on the Left view not as one of the exploitation of labour by capital but as a problem of “unequal distribution of wealth” and therefore centre around “equalising” the distribution of wealth, usually by taxing the rich.  For the even more reformist the problem at the place of work is not the heartless exploitation of labour by capital but the problem of a “misunderstanding” between workers and management that can be solved by improving industrial relations. Both subordinate the political mission of the working class  of overthrowing the capitalist system to one of reforming the capitalist system. So long as the workers are divided, economically and politically, they will remain in subjection, exploited of what they produce, and treated with contempt by the parasites who live out of their labour.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Revolutionary politics

The working class has a great responsibility and a great mission: to carry out a revolution which, once victorious, will be like lifting a giant bone-crushing burden off the backs of the people of the whole world. The international working class can emancipate itself only by emancipating all humanity; it can achieve socialism only by eliminating the rule of capital,breaking the chains of exploitation and ending the class-divided society everywhere. The struggle against the capitalist class is a struggle against all who live by the labour of others, and against all exploitation. It can only end in the seizing of power by the working class, and the transferal of all land, instruments, factories, machines and mines to the whole of society for the organization of social production under which all that is produced by the workers and all improvements of production must benefit the working people themselves. The socialist revolution is to create a society where the wealth is produced not for money-sale but for the direct satisfaction of the needs of the whole community which involves a complete change in every detail of social life. It is the reason why the Socialist Party say that the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself. At every stage it will require understanding, judgment, discernment, sympathy, and the goodwill of the working class. The socialist revolution is the most profound of all revolutions in history. It initiates changes more rapid and far-reaching than any in the whole experience of mankind.  It cannot be done by legislative decrees.

Belief this can be accomplished by evolution, the gradual and painless tactics of small reforms, is an illusion. The so-called Labour governments are only a part of the capitalist strategy in concealing these facts from the workers. To the socialist, whose objective is the Social Revolution – the abolition of capitalism and wage slavery – and the emancipation of the working class, the end is everything but so are the means. Parliament is not the only means. In democratic countries we use parliamentarism, because it is there to use. But in doing so the imperative object is to win the people to socialism – to make socialists, in short – and to organise the working class for the social revolution. That being so, the winning seats in any election is of secondary importance. What is important is to win votes – not merely as votes, but as evidence of the growing strength of the movement. Parliamentarism is simply a means to the end, and that the means must always be subservient to the end. Socialists do not campaign only the abolition of the monarchy and of the House of Lords, but the abolition of the House of Commons likewise.

The Socialist Party has not wish in any way to decry or to condemn parliamentary action, but simply to place it in its proper perspective. If acquiring MPs is to be an end in itself, and not a means to an end; if it is simply to mean a conservation of existing conditions, and a co-operation with other classes to make those conditions tolerable, it is scarcely likely to inspire in the working class. The Socialist Party enters into politics hostile to all other parties and to the existing regime. It regards the present class society as only a passing phase in social development, and works to hasten its destruction. Its objective is not the maintenance or the palliation of existing conditions but their termination by the abolition of class domination and the emancipation of the working class.

The Socialist Party is often criticised because  a list of “immediate” demands fail to appear on our election manifestoes. The overthrow of capitalism, that is a DEMAND, it is THE demand and it is our IMMEDIATE demand. Anything less than demanding the goal, will lead to a reform demand being confused with the goal itself. A political party that sets up “immediate” demands blurs its goal.

It is to workers of all countries, that we address ourselves. The objective conditions, in the shape of scientific knowledge and the means of creating material wealth, are already at hand in sufficient measure to do away with shortages and deprivation. It is now capitalism that stands as the great barrier to social progress. Socialism releases the productive forces to provide plenty for all. The utopians have speculated about and planned ideal worlds and they sensed mankind’s capacity for a higher social life. Socialism is now a reality and a possibility. In a socialist society  technology will be used on the broadest scale possible to produce the necessities of life in the great industries, transport systems and communication services. It would be the sheerest nonsense and quite impossible not to take advantage of every labour-saving device. But socialists  will also be artistic. Where the creative impulses of the people are not checked by poverty and slavery, where the arts and sciences are not hamstrung by the profit-making motive, where we are not poisoned by anti-social codes of morals and ethics, and where every assistance of the free community is given to the maximum cultivation of the intellectual and artistic powers of everyone —we need not fear that socialism will turn us into robots.

The majority of the workers at present “believe in” Parliament and see the necessity for the disciplined, planned and purposeful struggle which will be necessary if they are ever to be freed. In other words, we count heads instead of breaking them.  The Socialist Party holds that in the workers’ march to emancipation Parliament must be treated as an enemy castle to be taken and dismantled. The hundreds of millions of workers s, striking off their age-old chains of wage-slavery, will construct a society of liberty and prosperity. Socialism will inaugurate a new era for the human race, the building of a new world.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Plutocrats and Paupers

They possess more wealth than ordinary people can ever dream about. They enjoy luxury and privilege and wield enormous power.  They are no better than the common person. They are no wiser, no smarter, nor do they work harder yet they rule over us. We create their wealth and without us they are nothing. Yet we are scared to challenge and topple our oppressor because we fear them and so we remain obedient and compliant to their demands.

To  control us  them they turn against you and me against one another.
They pit us against each other along national and  racial lines. Workers  must be made to feel threatened by competing workers. They take advantage of the obvious differences between the sexes, our sexuality  and  our differences in age, young against old.  They declare the “outsider" to be illegal, job-stealing, free-loading welfare-abusing and crime-perpetrating parasites. Immigrants are made into the “enemy" in the eyes of the native population because of fear of deportation and the discrimination, the “foreign" worker is made afraid to fight their employers for better pay and work conditions and becomes not only cheaper but more malleable. The plutocrats, profiteers, and pirates  and their servile spokespersons gag the truth and strangle free speech while they commit their war crimes. Politicians, whatever their pretentions, cannot act otherwise than in the service of their capitalist bosses. The government’s ultimate aim is to obtain effective control over the lives, livelihoods and liberties of every citizen and thus to forestall any effective opposition.

Capitalism, by its very nature, is a system of legalized robbery of the working class. The whole process of capitalist business is a swindle. In capitalist society what constitutes crime and what does not is a purely arbitrary distinction. The capitalists do not recognize any line of demarcation for themselves. They do whatever they can “get away with.” The record of every large fortune and big corporation in this country is smeared not only with brutal robbery of the workers but also statutory crime of every description.  It is a society where each grabs what he can at the expense of the rest. It is not surprising that in a system of society where the aim is to get rich by any means, crime of every kind should flourish. Faced by low wages and other impossible economic conditions on the one hand and by the corrupt example of capitalism generally on the other, many naturally take to lives of open crime and try to seize at the point of a gun what the capitalist “fat cats” steal through exploiting the workers, by cornering the stock exchange, or by corrupting the government. The main difference between their operations is primarily one of dimension. Al Capone is an altogether legitimate child of American capitalism, and it is no accident that he was an object of widespread admiration.

Our aims in life are different to theirs. If we create solidarity with each other, and decide to co-operate rather than compete against each other, we can start to talk about revolution. The problem is that working  people are not administering the world - They are and we got to change that.

There can be no place for the present narrow patriotism, the bigoted nationalist chauvinism that serves so well the capitalist 

Friday, September 20, 2013

From Spark to Flame

We live in a democracy and from time to time you are allowed to cast your vote and by universal suffrage the “sovereign will of the people” is expressed. The truth of the matter is that this is a rich man’s State and a rich man’s government. The State is there to act on behalf of the employers and to protect their interests against the people. The government is the executive committee of the capitalists. Compare your own influence with the influence of the big banker. A common  worker doesn’t count at all when it comes to what they call the seats of power. The State is an instrument of power in the hands of the big industrialists, bankers and landlords, who are the ruling class. The State is there to effect the exploitation and oppression of the workers. The Constitution, the government, its agencies and ministries, its laws and courts, its police and  jails, all backed up the military, are there to enforce the exploitation and oppression of us. They are all the strong arm of entrenched wealth. There is war. It is class war. It is waged by the representatives of one class, the oppressors, against the mass of another class, the oppressed. In this war, the State is always and invariably on the side of the oppressors. The State may change its appearance and  may use the parliamentary system, with a limited freedom of speech to opponents — as long as this opposition is not too threatening. It tightens the screws and tries to silence the opposition when the situation becomes disturbing for big capital — as they have done during war. It may do away with parliamentary procedure altogether and institute an open reign of repression when danger to capitalism becomes particularly acute due to the rising tide of the revolutionary labour movement, as was done in fascist countries. The forms change, the phraseology differs, according to time and place but the essence remains. The essence of the capitalist State is service in the employ of capitalism for the preservation of capitalism. It is necessary to understand the real nature of the State as an instrument of exploitation and oppression.  The reformists preach to the workers a reliance on this very State and its laws. The capitalist State is a glaring fact. It is flesh and blood of the capitalist system. To make socialism possible the workers must capture the State machine and abolish it. Capitalist society is a battle ground and the workers are an army who must against its enemies.

Who are our enemies? Our enemies are the capitalist class and all those in league with them. The Conservative Party and the Labour Party unite in trying to fool and confuse the working class and  is determined by the class they serve politically. The Labour Party, by posing as a friend of the working class,  can get the cooperation of the leaders of the trade unions for its capitalist policies of attacking the working class, in a way that the Conservative Party cannot. Thus it success fully binds the workers’ economic organisations, the trade unions, into the capitalist system. The Labour Party is not the lesser evil but the greater danger!Tory and Labour differ on only over their share of the plunder.  Some of its more moderate representatives may try to achieve the ends of capital by cajoling and wheedling. But they always keep the big stick ready. The State — that is the big stick of the owners of wealth, the big stick of the big corporations. Anyone who tries to persuade you that the State is your friend and defender, that the State is impartial and only regulatory honest broker” is your enemy. When you protect “industry” (meaning the capitalists) you give it freedom to exploit its human resources(meaning the workers).  When you fight for higher wages to be gotten from the owners of a plant you always confront the agencies of the State not only as policemen but also lawyers with court injunctions, as well as  “mediators”, “arbitrators” and other kinds of official “peacemakers” who have the interests of the employers at heart. To them, the State is always “fair”. Whoever says  that there is unity of interests between employers and employees is committing treason against the working class. Too often union leaders who represent the workers do not defend their interests because they do not believe there is a fundamental clash between capitalism and the working class. They are submissive. They are servile. Socialists support trade unions because every kind of struggle requires its own organisation. The struggle for higher wages, shorter work hours, better conditions is the fundamental struggle of the working class and  this struggle has to be conducted with unity and strength. Unions must educate their members to understand their class interests. They must teach them the lessons of unity and concerted action. The more the workers fight, the more their strength grows. The stronger they become, the more successful is their fight. The Socialist Party give its full and unqualified cooperation to the unions when they fight on sound lines. The only struggle for us is the struggle of the workers against all exploiters.

We  are exploited by the same band of robbers, the ruling class. We are persecuted and oppressed by the State acting on behalf of the same class. We can liberate ourselves only when we join forces against our oppressors. Unity is our strength. Black and white, foreign-born and native worker — our interests are the same and they are directly opposed to the interests of our rulers.  Each new day brings new struggles for our class. These struggles are not separated from each other. They are intertwined into a united whole. One struggle helps another. One victory makes others more easy. All of them strengthen the working class. All of them weaken the capitalist system. The struggle must have as its goal: the overthrow of the capitalist system , and with it, the State. It grows out of the everyday struggles of the workers.  The belief of the population in the wisdom and all-powerfulness of the “ Great Men" and the need for leaders must be shaken off. Socialists must bolster the confidence of the workers in themselves and in their own strength.

We appeal to all those who have at heart the true interest of the social revolution throughout the world, to join with us.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Poor Get Poorer

One in three council tenants affected by a recent cut to housing benefit has fallen behind on rent since the policy took effect, figures suggest. 'The TUC's False Economy campaign made Freedom of Information requests to all of Britain's councils; 114 responded. Data revealed 50,000 tenants had fallen into arrears since 1 April 2013 when the spare room subsidy, dubbed the bedroom tax by critics, was scrapped. ........ None of the 50,000 tenants were in arrears prior to the benefit changes.' (BBC News, 18 September) So tens of thousands poor families are worse off than previously. Well done, capitalism! RD

Right v Wrong

New conceptions of right and wrong must permeate the workers. We must look on conduct and actions that advance the social and economic position of the working class as right, ethically, legally, socially and by every other measurement. That conduct and those actions which aid, helps to maintain and gives comfort to the capitalist class, we must consider as wrong by every standard. The wage system implies the existence of two economic classes. Under it the workers suffer, it means no end of strife, therefore from the standpoint of the workers it is wrong and it is right to get together as a class and abolish the wage system, and in its place build socialism.

 When the warehouses are bulging with foodstuffs you and the like of you have produced while  the hungry are kept from them, how can you live if you do not resist? How can you defend your fundamental interests if you do not defy  restrictions? To resist the attacks of the enemy class is just as natural for the working class as it is for a red-blooded human being not to take punishment lying down. Those who live by our sweat and blood tell us it is not “right” to resist this robbery. Those who hold the big stick over you tell you to be meek as a lamb. Those who make the oppressive laws preach the sanctity of the law. This is boss law, boss justice, boss ideas of right and wrong. If the workers were to submit they would not be able to live; they would be reduced to something worse than chattel slavery.

Socialists say the workers cannot have respect for capitalist  law and morality directed against them by the bosses. The class interests of the working class — these are the supreme law for the workers. When you fight capitalism you are doing what is right

We are not socialists because we use socialistic phrases. We are socialists because we have a vision of the better tomorrow and want it to replace today’s nightmare of poverty, misery, and injustice. Socialism will ensure the workers’ free development, and through that development, their own liberation—the liberation of society, for the workers are society, in fact and numbers. The capitalists are a class, a useless, dangerous, parasitic minority that can be dispensed with.

The greatest enemy of capitalism is capitalism itself! Profit — the motive power which
had made capitalism so great a force in the development of the productive forces of mankind —
now threatens the safety of the old order. Did you ever notice how much work the boss wants you to do for that living? Every time there is the slightest excuse, he increases the hours of labour. One excuse seems to be as good as another. If there is a big demand for products, he wants you to work overtime to get the stuff out; while if there is a slack market, the employer suggests that you put in an extra hour or so to cheapen the cost of production. He claims that he can’t afford to pay you the wages you have been getting unless you make more profit for him. If a new process is installed, he wants you to work overtime in order to pay for putting it in; and if the process saves labor, he points out to you that you have to work longer now, because it wouldn’t do to waste the time of this machinery, as it only saves labour while it is in operation.

Your boss looks at this differently. He is not just interested in keeping you alive, he wants something for himself—which he has no intention of working for. He wants you to work for it. Every hour that you put in, over and above what provides for your living, is clear profit for the boss. One class works long hours under conditions generally and necessarily established by and suitable to the masters of industry, receives low wages, so that there may be high dividends and profits for the masters. For it must be borne in mind longer hours mean greater wealth produced, low wages mean greater profits for the capitalists. Shorter hours mean less production by each worker or group of workers, therefore the expense to the masters is greater to produce a certain amount of wealth. High wages, shorter hours, better shop conditions that will protect life and limb are objected to by the capitalist for a thousand and one “reasons” but really because it all means greater cost—thus less dividends—resulting in less palaces, less automobiles, less silk dresses for their wives and daughters. To the working class, shorter hours means less exertion of energy, longer lives, more workers employed, less competition for jobs, higher wages, more bread, better houses, happier lives.

Capitalists love to indulge in humanitarian phrases. History has proved, however, that they never grant anything to the working class unless forced to do so by the fight of the workers. When the media talk of a “labour dispute” it suggests a disagreement among people on an equal basis. It suggests a  bickering of parties to an agreement who happen to disagree on a certain point. It suggests an amicable settlement of mutual grievances. What a false and misleading notion! There are no labour disputes. There is the wish of the capitalist to press some more sweat and blood out of the workers, and there is the wish of the workers to fight their enemy, who feeds on them. Needless to say, the State is not “neutral”. At best the State only pretends to be a friend of the workers. When a union leader tries to persuade the workers that the State is equally fair to employer and employee, he is blinding the workers and undermining their resistance.  They have been preventing the workers from realizing their own strength. They have been putting every obstacle in the way of their fighting to secure better living. They have practically discarded the strike — that instrument of power by which the workers can force concessions from their exploiters. They call the strike an “expensive” method of struggle. They are so much concerned about the well being of the employers that they are afraid of some damage to their profits as a result of a successful strike. They have discouraged many a strike which broke out spontaneously because the workers could stand their conditions no longer. Wherever these leaders call a strike because they are forced to do so by the militant spirit of its members , that strike is often a sham, a subterfuge, a maneuver to avoid a real struggle. Instead of broadening the strike, calling out fo solidarity action and spreading the struggle over a wide area, instead of enthusing  the strikers with confidence,  the leaders smother the movement by underhand machinations with the bosses. The leaders are happy when they secure something like an arbitration to settle the dispute. Your employers try to prevent you from organising: organise! They will try to fire your organisers:  defend them!

The Socialist Party calls upon all the workers to join it in its struggle to reach this goal, and
thus bring into the world a new society in which peace, fraternity, and human fellowship will be the dominant ideals.  It is wrong to make a monopoly of any form of work to the exclusion of others who have as good a right to work as ourselves; if we do, we drive those people into the arms of capitalism, which uses them to crush us. As soon the State is no more needed we will be able to manage our own  affairs and Mankind will be free, forever.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Rich Get Richer

It seems the rich can heave a collective sigh of relief despite the recent economic downturn. Five years after the financial crisis, America's super-rich have recovered all their losses to see their wealth reach an all-time high. 'According to Forbes magazine the 400 wealthiest Americans are worth a record $2.02 trillion (£1.4tn), up from $1.7tn in 2012, a collective fortune slightly bigger than Russia's economy. ..... Bill Gates has been named as the richest American for the 20th year in a row, with a personal fortune of $72bn.' (Guardian, 16 September) The rich get richer, so what's new about that? RD

A Strange Set of Values

We are reliably informed by such such charities as World Hunger that many millions of people are trying to survive on the equivalent of £2 a day and yet we have examples every day of the madness of the insane conspicuous consumption of wealth inside capitalism. A former rock star Rod Steward's old motor car has sold for a ridiculous sum. 'The 68-year-old rocker bought the yellow, 186mph car for £8,000 in 1972 on the back of hit single Maggie May and No 1 album Every Picture Tells A Story. The supercar sparked a bidding frenzy at the Bonhams Goodwood Revival sale in Chichester, West Sussex, before raising £919,900.' (Daily Express, 16 September) Almost a million quid for an old banger while  millions starve for about a  quid a day. We live in strange times. RD

Self-managed exploitation

In E.P. Thompson’s phrase, workers have “warrened capitalism from end to end” since the industrial revolution with co-operatives and self-help societies. It is not our intention to undermine any initiatives by those who, like ourselves, must often out of necessity search for a way to survive in the least painful way possible. We have no objection to the fact that some workers try to live the way they want and try to make the best of the circumstances in which they find themselves. In certain and appropriate situations, in many (but not all ) cases, workers might  be temporarily better off by forming some kind of co-operative where that is feasible. Many compromises have to be accepted and there is no need in condemning them if that was their choice in these circumstances.

 But what we want to point out is that these escapes are not really escapes at all, but ways of existing within capitalism. They can only be little more than adaptations to the current system and should not seek to present themselves as a form of socialism, or, worse still, as a means to transform society. The idea that it is possible to escape from our wage-slave condition and transform ourselves into people who are free from capitalist relations once we have set up our co-operative business and are working for ourselves is false. The fact that some are trying to do what they think is necessary and what they think is advisable, does not stop us arguing that the class struggle can be conducted in  no other way than one that puts an end to capitalism.

Some defenders of co-operatives continue to assume that getting rid of capitalism and capitalist social relationships is primarily a matter of gradually changing peoples 'values' and that this can be achieved by the growth of practical examples such as are embodied in the likes of radical workers and consumer co-operatives. This idealist approach both overestimates the strengths of the co-operative movement and underestimates the power of the capitalist economy (in which co-operatives operate.) It ignores workers resistance ie class war against capitalism in creating the  material conditions that might achieve a mass change in social consciousness and peoples values. When capital makes demands of bosses via market forces, they have to impose them on workers, and workers can resist. Workers’ needs are in direct contradiction to the needs of capital accumulation. However, if we become our own boss, the needs of capital appear as the natural imperative of market forces. Class struggle – and with it the potential for revolutionary change – is short-circuited. Ends are made of means, some means get us closer to what we want, others make it more remote and finally destroy its possibility.

It may seem rather obvious: we cannot live without capitalism as long as we have not put an end to it. Co-op members are not capitalists in the sense that they are profit-seekers, but nevertheless they are still tightly bound within the relations of private property.  There is nothing fundamentally radical or progressive about co-operatives. They are not inherently antagonistic toward capital, and do not intend to be so, but in fact all are strategies for the immediate or long term alleviation of some of the problems that arise throughout our lives.  Socialists should stress the need for workers struggles to extend and deepen rather than become inward looking to backward solutions like co-operatives. which in most cases stand little chance of survival in the crisis conditions of capitalism.

Over centuries idealists  dreamed of the possibility of living on communist islands amidst the ocean of society. Whatever may be their value in ameliorating the present conditions of the working class —  cooperatives or communes will not accomplish the social revolution. Many people may speak of alternative economics on the premise that the basis of capitalism is money.  However, exchange is the basis upon which the market stands and its foundation is not the creation of a relation between persons, but between persons and things: what do you possess?; what do you have to offer? What do you want instead of what do you need? To set up any business and expect it to profitable requires it to be competitive. This applies whether you set up your business by yourself as self-employed or  if you create a cooperative. If a business is not competitive, it dies. Co-operatives sometimes emerge when capitalism falters. The experience of the factory occupations in the Argentinan economic melt-down (and elsewhere) shows us that these factories were able to become profitable for the market again by becoming competitive at the price of self-exploitation and operating within the very same business practices that prevailed before the factories were occupied.  A firm possesses a logic of its own - expand or die.  This is the reality of running a business, and it exists independently of how that business is run (as a one-man owner, a  joint stock PLC or a co-operative). An enterprise under the control of the workers actually means the workers are under the control of the enterprise. The need to take decisions quickly, to search for new  clients, to decide about strategic investments, and, in short, to fully  engage with other enterprises in the sphere of circulation, has  immediate consequences on both the decision-making process and  the organisation of work. Self-management meant self-exploitation. With the  disappearance of supervisors, the personification of capitalist  authority also disappears. Yet, it is the authority of market  competition the one that now directly, without any intermediaries,  imposes on workers the respect of delivery times, product quality,  and competitive prices. Thus the market itself may be seen as the  fundamental regulator of workers’ discipline, and this in the forms  of both collective sanctions, like with rules books and peer reviewed  quality standards, and individual rewards.

Co-ops are companies whose ownership is shared equally among its members. Nonetheless, co-ops are usually hierarchical organisations. Democratic perhaps, but hierarchical nonetheless. Managers may be selected through some democratic or consultative process involving members but, once selected, they delegate and command their ‘underlings’ in a manner not at all dissimilar to a standard corporation. Members of worker co-operatives necessarily live schizophrenic lives. On one hand, they function as owners of small businesses and contend with all the insidious forces of capitalism – the anti-ethic of profits before people. At the same time they are members of an aspiring egalitarian corporate entity.

As good as employers' intentions may be at the start of their respective enterprises, they're eventually forced to seek greater profits while at the same time suppressing wages as much as possible, which is more often than not the only way they can survive in a field full of competitors compelled to do the same. In many cases, employers as individuals are found to be good people and may want to provide decent wages and benefits for their employees, etc. Nevertheless, the logic of the system forces the hand of employers to exploit labour as much as they can; and at the same time, labour is coerced into the position of working for a wage and fighting for gains that employers quickly counter in an endless battle punctuated by regular economic crises.

And it's not simply that these types of businesses are inherently less efficient, competitive, profitable, etc., but that the logic of the system is overtly hostile to their fundamentally pro-worker design. Nevertheless, they can certainly be successful, especially in more supportive economic environments (e.g., the MONDRAGON ).

Co-operatives, barter networks, time banks or credit unions, so long as they are confined to a few groups they can function adequately. But to suggest that capitalism will provide capital for the absorption of the unemployed in this way, when capitalism needs an army of unemployed, or that co-operative economy must remain on a primitive basis and separate from the economics of society as a whole is just nonsense. Such schemes may make things a bit easy for some poor devils thrown on the scrap heap of capitalism, but the problem of deviling with unemployment is inseparable from the socialist task of abolishing capitalism altogether and founding the economy of socialism. Endeavours to strive to establish its separation, self-sufficiency and independence from the private property system continues a tradition of Utopian socialism and petty-bourgeois escapism that spans working class history. It calls to mind the experiments of Owen and his followers and the cooperative ventures of the trade unions.  Like them, they aim to solve the economic and social problems – abject poverty, degradation and starvation resulting from unemployment – born of the profit system.

Marx underlined the limits that workers’ cooperatives within the capitalist system since these “naturally reproduce, and must reproduce everywhere in their actual organisation all the shortcomings of the prevailing system” Luxemburg insisted in Reform or Revolution htmcooperatives were “totally incapable of transforming the capitalist mode of production” Bakunin wrote:
“The various forms of cooperation are incontestably one of the most equitable and rational ways of organizing the future system of production. But before it can realize its aim of emancipating the laboring masses so that they will receive the full product of their labor, the land and all forms of capital must he converted into collective property. As long as this is not accomplished, the cooperatives will be overwhelmed by the all-powerful competition of monopoly capital and vast landed property; ... and even in the unlikely event that a small group of cooperatives should somehow surmount the competition, their success would only beget a new class of prosperous cooperators in the midst of a poverty-stricken mass of proletarians...”

Creating or supporting co-operatives is not enough in itself to overcome capitalism as they adjust in order to survive within capitalism. Those involved in the co-operative movement must define their limits, so as to contain, if not prevent, disappointments dashed expectations and false hopes. Many start-up worker cooperatives are founded on “venture capital” of its members’ sweat. Worker co-operatives are not free from the pressures of competition with “conventional” capital, in fact, contra Proudhon and his followers, worker co-operatives are even more vulnerable to the vicissitudes of competition, often due to their lack of access to resources with which to build competitive advantages to capitalist enterprises. Co-operatives sponsored by the state, as was the case in the former Yugoslavia and  Algeria, while offering the possibility of startup capital and relative protection from the market, engender dependency on the state, and subject the co-operative’s autonomy to the whims of state managers.

The Socialist Party has a plan of action that is in harmony with the philosophy of socialism. As socialists we want people to control all aspects of their lives, of which the production of goods is but a small part. As long as the profit motive rules, workers will be exploited and have little say or control in what they produce. Co-operatives will still be wage slavery. Co-operatives (and nationalisation) cannot be seen as any kind of stepping stone or useful reform on the way to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and the state in today's modern globalised world, whether promoted as being achieved through reformist agitation or 'direct action'. They don't work.

1. Self-management of misery or the miseries of self-management - Terra Cremada
2. Labour process and decision-making in factories under 
workers’ self-management: empirical evidence from 
3. And various contributors to various threads on Libcom

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Now and Then

We live in a world rife with misery and oppression in various forms. Hunger, poverty, unemployment, racial and sexual discrimination, and many forms of repression, from the restriction of the most basic democratic rights like freedom of speech and association to hideous barbarism like torture and genocide, are still the lot of the majority of the people of the world. The domination of the Great Powers, their rivalries, war or the threat of war characterise relations between countries, peoples, and nations. The gulf between the rich and the poor, between the powerful and the dispossessed, is steadily widening despite the progress of science and technology.

The dreams of the past have become real possibilities for a future that can already be foreseen, because the material conditions necessary for achieving them are growing steadily.  We can now aspire to a better life where the living conditions of all would be in keeping with society’s ability to use the wealth of nature, a society in which the weak would no longer be oppressed by the strong, a society in which one class would no longer be exploited by another. This is the meaning of the struggle for a society of abundance, a socialist society. Socialism will release all the productive energies for the common welfare of all the people. In place of profit as the driving force to production must stand the needs and enjoyments of the producers and consumers.

Capitalists have only one purpose – to accumulate more and more capital. They are therefore always looking for ways to increase the productivity of labour through new technology which leads to an ever greater division of labour. To pursue profits, the masters of Capital have no other choice today but to extend their exploitation of working people throughout the world. This spread of capitalist production has resulted in the growth of the size, cohesion, and revolt of the working class. With the abolition of capitalist exploitation, the working class  is the only class that has everything to gain and nothing to lose but its chains. Capitalism, confronted by its own contradictions, will be overthrown, just as all previous systems of class exploitation, including slavery and feudalism, have been. The working class cannot free itself without freeing all of humanity at the same time, because the ultimate goal of its struggle is not to replace the power of one class with that of another but rather to abolish all classes. This is the only way to put an end to all the social divisions and inequalities that have been part and parcel of class societies thus far. So the class-conscious worker becomes the advocate of all the oppressed. We cannot emancipate ourselves on the basis of the wage system. We  require the abolition of the existing order of property and production.

The emergence of socialism will permit a steady reduction in the human work needed to produce goods. Socialist society is based on the free association of all individuals who work together to produce the goods necessary for their collective well-being. All will work according to their capacities and their needs will be fully satisfied.  People will no longer be ruled by the division of labour and all opposition between city and countryside and between manual and intellectual work will be eliminated.  The expropriation of the capitalists and the socialization of the means of production will lead directly to the abolition of society divided into classes with opposing interests. The abolition of classes will in turn lead to the withering away of the State, and ultimately to its extinction for the State is not, and can never be, anything other than the instrument of dictatorship of one class over others.

The fundamental interests of workers are the same throughout the world. The socialist revolution in Britain is inseparable from the world-wide revolution. Workers will capture State power, dissolve the administrative and military apparatus set up by the capitalist , and establish the broadest possible democracy for all working people. What is democracy? It is the rule of the people, by the people, and for the people.

There is no room for any collaboration or compromise - of any kind with the class which holds both political and economic control which they must be dispossessed of.  Nor is there any room either for the anarchistic illusion counselling an abstention from political action, as this only helps the holders of capital, whose privileges will remain intact until political power has been taken from them. We  reject the argument  advocated by the industrial unionists and anarcho-syndicalists that the direct seizure of industry of itself without the workers capturing the State machine will be the means through which industry can be transferred from the capitalists to the workers. We can use the weapon of the vote that our forebearers fought and struggled for to dispossess the rich.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Wake up, workers

Capitalism knows no law but the law of its own will. It acknowledges but one law — the law of force. Capitalist society, like all class societies, is divided into unequals. So long as one class continues to own the means of production, and another class owns nothing but its ability to work, which it is compelled to sell to the other class in order to live – the best government in the world, composed of the best men and adopting the best laws, cannot possibly establish equality between the two classes.  Capital always seeks to intensify its exploitation of labor. Labour seeks to resist the lowering of its working and living standards, and attempts to improve them. Capital always seeks to strengthen its power in society. Labour defends itself from this growing power and tries to develop its own.  In view of the fact that the capitalists are so few and the workers so many, the workers could impose their will by sheer weight of numbers. The government is the executive committee of capitalism, the over-all manager of its common affairs. A machine whose basic function is to maintain the rule of one class over another is necessarily also a machine of oppression. The capitalist government is therefore an instrument for maintaining the power over society of the capitalist class and for suppressing the class that is ruled over, the workers. The capitalist government exists to keep labour in the position of the exploited class.

It is  impossible to gain influence or control over the government without organisation. The capitalists are organised economically, in powerful industrial and financial associations, and politically, in big parties. They have the wealth which makes it possible to organise, control and maintain them. They have always enjoyed the unrestricted right to organise them. Capitalists have no difficulty in maintaining their political parties. But countless restrictions and obstacles are placed in the way of independent working class parties, even in such matters as getting on the ballot, and above all in the fact that the workers do not have the wealth that the capitalists use to maintain their parties and conduct their election campaigns.

The right of free speech  is enjoyed equally by all only in form and not in reality. The economic power of the capitalists enables them to own the mass media. If  they do not own the media outright, they control it firmly, through advertising or simply by virtue of the fact that the owners and editors have a thoroughly capitalist point of view themselves. The capitalist class owns and controls the means of creating and influencing opinion through its control of the mass media. In a thousand different ways it instills its class ideas into the minds of the workers. It poisons their thinking. It not only gets them to believe that capitalism is eternal and natural, but that socialism is unnecessary and impossible. It even gets many of them to oppose such an elementary necessity as union membership. If the capitalist class can do ninety-nine percent of the talking and writing, because of its economic power, and the working class only one percent – then we do not have a genuine democracy but, as we have called it, a bourgeois democracy.

 Are we doomed forever to be wage slaves of capitalism? Must we endure the exploitation and misery of capitalism without hope of changing society and our position in it?

We are not helpless. We need not be so many submissive, acquiescent individuals. It is no longer possible to oppress us at will. Every socialist should recognise the mission and encourage its growth. Every worker should recognise the socialist ballot as the weapon of their class and use it accordingly and not vote to perpetuate the system. Until then, as in the past, the Socialist Party shall support every strike and when they lose any of these struggles, no disheartening words from our journal shall add to the bitterness of their defeat. We understand capitalism will over time always prevail unless it is overthrown. The attitude of the Socialist Party toward the trades-union movement broadly endorses it and is one allowing it to manage its own internal affairs, without meddling which must result in harm and no possible good.