Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Lesson from INEOS

 “abolition of the wages system.”

There is a post-mortem taking place amongst the labour movement and the Left parties about the developments at Grangemouth. The Trotskyist group Socialist Party of England and Wales/Socialist Party Scotland have followed their usual party line. The UNITE leadership were at fault for not staging an occupation and calling for nationalisation. The old leaders should be  substituted by them as new leaders who would defy the law and go down fighting rather than capitulation without a fight. Bantam-weights should square up to heavy-weights. It is all about the perfidy of union bureaucrats. Others accuse the unions of being the enforcers and the agents of capital.

The point is that the context of the struggle at Grangemouth was not shaped by Unite but they were instead simply reacting and responding to factors beyond their control i.e. victims of the ebb and flow of the demand for world fuel and how corporations finance themselves under global capitalism.

The union itself is an inadequate form when the entire working class has to be mobilised because the employers are already fully mobilised. A union - even an industrial union - only acts for its members interests. It is the reason for the socialist part. A socialist political party exists for the class. It's about how to advance a class struggle from the industrial field to the political battle. The trade unions can bargain with the capitalists over wages and conditions, but they cannot bargain away the wages system. A socialist's task is not to fight for better terms in the sale of labour-power - we rightly leave that to those better positioned ie the employees and their representatives themselves, but it is to fight for the abolition of the capitalist system.

We live in times of mass de-politicisation when class consciousness is arguably at an all time low and any level of work-place organising is minimal and undeveloped. The trade union movement has contributed  to this current situation and should take responsibility, as the first step towards fixing it. Yet while the unions are indeed weak and often compromise with employers, the idea that unions are some kind of class enemy, out to hoodwink the workers, is wide of the mark. Yes, trade unionism has an mediation role within capitalism but our priority has to be how we organise in the workplace at this point in time. It is necessary to still work within unions until we are in a position to replace them with something better (workers councils?). How we get from where we are now to how we'd like it to be, especially given the current levels of organisation and class consciousness, is important and there are no easy answers.

"The working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate working of these everyday struggles. They ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects ... that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady." - Marx

We Want Revolution

“The history of all societies to date has been the history of class struggle.” - Marx

Britain is no stranger to revolutionary working class activity and some claim it has been to the very brink of revolution. In 1919, at Milford Haven, the crew of  HMS Kilbride hauled down the Royal Navy ensign down and hoisted the red flag.

Socialists agree upon one thing, and that is that they constitute a revolutionary party, the champions of the class interests of the workers. But unfortunately the idea of revolution is many-sided, and conceptions of the revolution differ very greatly.

The working class has many names, proletariat, labouring classes, labourers, waged workers. There are people who are clearly members of the working class who are not producers of real wealth, that is, who do not produce surplus value. But in a much broader sense it includes the families of workers, that is, their wives, their children, single parents, students, the unemployed and the retired and the infirm.

Revolution does not simply happen. Revolution is made by people who consciously and collectively assume control over their lives, their surroundings, and the society in which they live. They can only do so on the basis of their experience. No class can ever be reduced to its economic function alone to the extent that its not the simple result of the conditions of its existence but  its conditions of existence require of it a continuous struggle for transformation. Does the worker link his fate to all levels of his social existence and, consciously or not, to that of his class? Too often abstract phrases - class consciousness or class solidarity - overlooks the fact the worker is not only a member of his class, but an individual within a community and conscious of only being able to go beyond that by acting collectively. Seeing the worker only as victim would be a mistake. Although the working class is overwhelmingly fragmented by divisions of sex, ethnicity, and race, a by the division of labour,  job status and hierarchy, our can be unity is surprising strong.

Many wonder how workers will acquire consciousness of their situation and assume their role in the management of Humanity. Marx argues that capitalism has transformed the worker into a machine and robbed him/her  of “every human physical and moral characteristic” and that capitalism has removed from work all semblance of “individual interaction.” The result has been a “loss of humanity.” However, according to Marx, because it is totally alienated, the workers’ revolt against their fate can emancipate all of humanity. It requires “a class…for which humanity is entirely lost and which can only reconquer itself by conquering all of humanity” or “the proletariat of the present day alone, totally excluded from all personal activity, is able to realize its total personal activity and no longer recognize limits on the appropriation of the totality of collective forces.” (German Ideology).

 But how could the working class successfully make a socialist society?

One response could be: the working class undergoes a metamorphosis through revolution. But even if there is an acceleration of historical processes in a revolutionary period, one that upsets existing relations amongst men and establishes communication that links each to society as a whole, it would be over-optimistic to see the class as born of revolution. Its maturation is only possible due to prior experience that it interprets and puts into a positive practice.

 The working class is crucial to the socialist revolution for essentially two reasons. One is that the process of production, the production and transportation of food, clothing, shelter, etc., is fundamental to any society and the section of society which can gain control of that process can gain control of the society as a whole. For example, a strike of teachers may have a  political impact but it doesn’t bring the economy to  stop. But workers in a steel plant or car factory, can affect the economy far beyond their own specific workplace.  The second reason for the centrality of the working class is that the socialist revolution must involve the transformation of work and the workplace or it is not a social revolution at all. If the workers do not gain possession of the means of production, then governments may have been overthrown, but society has not been transformed. Class, is the product of capitalist relations of production; we are working class because our labour is alienated. Clearly, the working class will disappear when alienated production is obliterated. The anti-capitalist movement’s a dream of freedom and liberation is yet  to be realised but the power to  make the revolution, still lies with the working class.

However, the union movement is not a force for revolutionary change and the future outbursts of social discontent that are still to come will likely  have the appearance of new revolutionary forms, organisations that are not simply organs of struggle but organs for control of production.  The fact that society forces them to struggle begins to transform the working class.

The great lesson of history that the working class must be organised independent of, and in uncompromising opposition to the capitalist class can be forgotten only at the cost of continued  defeats. So long as workers resist alienation and oppression they will revolt. And these revolts will emerge, as they always have, with remarkable power and suddenness. It would be a pleasant change from past experience if, for once, it was not the revolutionaries who are caught unawares and unprepared, by the revolt of workers. Working class struggle can return but will we be ready.  Too many seem convinced that the idea that revolution is no longer possible yet the  struggles against capitalism continues unabated. The real workings of the capitalist system  has been exposed. We must see to it that the working-class tactics against capitalism in future are determined solely by the circumstances of the moment, and the possibilities of success, and not by any stale, crusty formulas.

What we should guard against are those Leninists and Trotskyist parties that aim to break our legs so it can provide the crutches.

There will be a revolution one day. Even now conditions are beginning to ripen for it. But this ripening will not take place overnight, and conditions for revolution are far from being ripe today. The majority of working people are just beginning to wake up, to fight, to take interest in politics. A successful revolution cannot be made by a minority. A revolution must be made by the masses of people. It has happened in past years that a small handful of self-styled revolutionaries have imagined that by bold action, by taking up arms or whatever, they could “incite the masses to revolution. But they failed. They have failed because people are as ready for revolution as they imagine. They have failed because, as already stated, a revolution cannot be made with a minority of the people. If we trust in the workers, we will never settle for a few reforms and we will never settle for a few crumbs.

Essentially, capitalism is the result of the exploitation of the labour power of the workers by the employer class, sole owner of the means of production.We live in a world where war and the threat of war characterise the relations between countries, peoples. Hunger, poverty, unemployment,racial and sexual discrimination are the lot of the majority of the earth’s inhabitants.

The mission and goal of the working class is  not only to replace the rule of one class with that of another, as has happened previously in other revolutions, but  to liberate all of humanity from the chains of exploitation and oppression by the abolition of classes themselves.  The divisions between the city and countryside, and between mental and manual labour will also be abolished, and a society without a State will be created, since the State is nothing other than the instrument of the dictatorship of one class over the others. The emancipation of the workers will be accomplished by the workers themselves and will be achieved through socialist revolution.

The bosses with most sincere conviction.
say there’s nothing wrong with the system,
It just needs a little fixin’.
But socialists around the world, 
we have the solution:
We want Revolution!

Fact of the Day

A new Scottish Government report shows boys living in Scotland's most deprived communities can now expect to live to just 46 before their health starts to deteriorate.

Being poor means poor intelligence

Economic health disparities are a reality. In two separate studies, researchers found that experiencing poverty in early childhood is linked to smaller brain size and less efficient processing of certain sensory information. Exposure to early life adversity should be considered no less toxic than exposure to lead, alcohol or cocaine. Exposure to poverty in early childhood negatively affects brain development, but good-quality caregiving may help offset this effect.

In one study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, children who grew up in impoverished households showed smaller white and grey matter in their brains compared with those who had more means — these make up the density of nerve connections between different parts of the brain. The less wealthy kids also developed smaller hippocampus and amygdala regions, which are involved in regulating attention, memory and emotions.

According to the researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the smaller brain regions may be due to the increased stress and anxiety that these children experience growing up in families where finances are tight, and therefore parental support and interaction with children suffers.  Researchers found poor parents reacted with less patience and were “less able to nurture the children.”
"Parents can be less emotionally responsive for a whole host of reasons. They may work two jobs or regularly find themselves trying to scrounge together money for food," explained Luby. "Perhaps they live in an unsafe environment. They may be facing many stresses, and some don't have the capacity to invest in supportive parenting as much as parents who don't have to live in the midst of those adverse circumstances."

Only half the children living in poverty reach what is defined as "a good level of development" by the time they are five, compared with two-thirds of the others. "Good quality early-years provision can help improve outcomes, especially for the most disadvantaged," a report says. "However,childcare is expensive in the UK, and many people cannot afford to utilise it or go back to work after having children.
In the second study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, scientists at Northwestern University, in Illinois, connected lower maternal education, a common symptom of poverty, to poor processing of sound in the brains of children raised in lower-resource environments. The researchers found that adolescents whose mothers had less education were more likely to register more varied and noisier nerve responses when hearing speech than those whose mothers had more schooling. That response, according to previous work, could translate into poor reading skills. The scientific team suspects that the lack of constant verbal interaction between mother and child could be one factor in the noisier brain responses to speech, since such back-and-forth can prime a still-developing brain to isolate and recognize speech more efficiently. Other data established that children in higher-income families are exposed to 30 million more words than those in lower-income families where parents have less education.

The good news, however, is that the effects may be reversible. Families don’t chose poverty, but changes in care-giving, especially during early childhood, could avoid some of the physical changes the scientists measured. Socialism can expect a lot more bright children.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


For the best part of 50 years Christia Freeland worked at the Financial Times and Reuters, so when she writes a book entitled "Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich" she has a fair idea of the subject. According to a book review by John Arlidge she has some revealing facts about the rich. 'These people have become richer. Not just a bit richer. But profanely richer. The top 10% of Americans, for instance receive half the nation's income. Freeland shows that inequality in Europe is rising sharply too, and points out how the rules of the economic game have been rigged to favour the rich.' (Sunday Times, 27 October) The reviewer points out the book is stronger on the whos, hows and whys of the rise of the new global super-rich than it is on whether we should (or can) do anything about this inequality. From a socialist perspective we can, we should and we will do something. We will abolish it! RD


More than half of all poor children in the UK are living in homes that are too cold, and around a quarter said their home suffered from damp or mould, a survey published by the Children's Society indicates. 'Of those children surveyed who said their family was "not well off at all", 76% said they "often worried" about how much money the family had. More than 53% said their home was too cold last winter and 24% said it was "much colder" than they would have liked, while 26% said their home suffered from damp or mould. There are over three million children living in poverty in the UK, a figure that is predicted to rise.' (Guardian, 29 October) Behind these grim statistics lie the awful realities of this crazy system that condemn working class children to endure these conditions.

Does capitalism work?

“How stupid and shortsighted the ruling class really is! Cupidity is stone blind. It has no vision. The greedy, profit-seeking exploiter cannot see beyond the end of his nose. He can see a chance for an "opening"; he is cunning enough to know what graft is and where it is, and how it can be secured, but vision he has none — not the slightest. He knows nothing of the great throbbing world that spreads out in all directions. He has no capacity for literature; no appreciation of art; no soul for beauty. That is the penalty the parasites pay for the violation of the laws of life.” - Eugene V. Debs

 Socialists argue that it does a disservice to people's needs and their democracy. Supporters of the system claim that capitalism empowers individuals. Capitalism has actually pushed individual enterprise to the fringes of economies. No more than ten percent of populations are self-employed. In Canada and the U.S. ninety percent depend on wage and salary work. Although capitalism gives individual capitalists title to means of livelihood—title that is bought and sold for private profit—wage and salary workers are actually engaged in cooperative, coordinated social labor yet are bound by wage-slavery. Capitalism is neither democratic nor egalitarian. Those with the most shares have the most votes. Less than one in four own any shares. Most  shares are owned by less than five per cent of populations. Major shareholders and top executives, who combined are less than 0.1 percent of populations, control most corporations.The twenty largest transnational corporations have more revenues than most governments. Capitalists dominate political agendas manipulate the media to determine the outcome of elections.

The profit system won’t save us because there is an irreconcilable conflict between capitalist economic growth and the survival of the planet as we know it. Capitalists who fail to obtain a return on their investments lose money. Capitalists as capitalists focus on maximising profits. Growth and capital accumulation is the relentless imperative of the capitalist. In the face of the scientific consensus and worsening natural disasters, capitalism responds by investing billions in fracking, tar sands, deep sea petroleum development, and expanding pipelines. Under capitalism,   Big Business can now deforest entire continents, level mountains, dam major rivers, deplete mineral reserves, and fish sea life to extinction. While, private property title allows corporations to give priority to profits it also permits them to externalize environmental costs, to pass these on to communities and future generations.

The capitalist class will continue destroying the planet. People who own the world outright for profit will have to be stopped by us. The Socialist Party accepts that working for reforms is not unimportant but no form of capitalism can prevent the ruination of the biosphere. Too many environmental activists fail to acknowledge this basic truth. Isolated individual action has little impact. Class power can change the system.

The capitalists have intellectuals of all categories to exalt their function. The wage-worker has few friends and defenders among the intellectuals. Hardly anyone but Marxists nowadays retain hope in the anti-capitalist strivings and sentiments of the working people or believe that they can in time participate in a mighty movement oriented toward socialist objectives. For adhering to these convictions and being guided by them, we are looked upon as ideological freaks and political fossils, relics of a bygone era, dogmatists who cling to outworn views. Our convictions are not an affirmation of religious-like faith. They are derived from a reasoned analysis and an understanding of capitalist development and the key role of the working class in history. All over the world industrialisation and urbanisation is causing the wage-working class, defined as those who sell their own labour power to the owners of capital to grow in size and gain in economic, social, and political importance. The capitalist today have an arrogant faith in the longevity of their system. They firmly believe that the empire of the almighty dollar shall always rule.

Labour  is undergoing marked changes in all industrial countries. Profit-making and the accumulation of capital depend upon the consumption of large quantities of labour power which creates value in the form of commodities. Although this or that segment or individual may be squeezed out of jobs temporarily or permanently, the industrial work force as such is not expendable, no matter how fast or how far automation proceeds under capitalist auspices. Workers are far from obsolescent and cannot be conjured away. Indeed, the inherent limitations upon its introduction and extension under capitalism, the inability of the profiteers fully to utilize the immense potential of the new science and technology for reducing the working day and rationalizing production, provide further reasons for breaking their hold upon industry. 

Capitalism isn't fit for purpose

In the most deprived communities, men and women can expect to spend 22.7 years and 26.1 years respectively in "not good" health.
That compares to just 11.9 years and 12 years for men and women in most affluent parts of Scotland.
 Cancer and heart attack rates remain higher among those living in deprived areas.
Since 2008 "the admissions rate in the most deprived areas has increased at a faster rate than in the least deprived areas", leading to an increase in both relative and absolute inequality.
Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of the BMA in Scotland explained "... "for those people living in the most deprived communities the inequalities in health have never been more apparent. We cannot simply continue to argue that public health policies are working to improve the lives of Scots when the differences between rich and poor are so apparent...whilst doctors can do all they can to treat these illnesses, they will not reduce the drivers of inequality in society."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

One for your book-shelf

Now out is the World Socialist Review, an anthology (224 pages) of socialist writings from the archives of the World Socialist Party of the United States.

Available USA $9.05
UK £6.60


The text of the Socialist Party's identity leaflet.

Somebody once remarked that the most important word in the  political vocabulary is “we”. It was a shrewd observation, since to get someone to use “we” in relation to some group of people is to  get them to identify their interest as the interest of that group.

In the battle for “we”, socialists are trying to get all those excluded from ownership and control of means of production to recognise the fact of their common interest as one  class within capitalist society, to regard themselves as “we” and to use “our” and “us”  only in relation to that class and its interests.

Those who control one or other of the two hundred or so armed states into which the  world is divided have to try to prevent this practice emerging, and deliberately seek to  undermine it, in the interest of the other main class in capitalist society – those who do  own and control means of production and who derive a privileged income from this. They seek to convince the people they rule over that the “we” they should identify with is  “the nation” as the nation part of what they call the “nation-state” they rule.

Immigration causes a problem for them since immigrants, having been brought up  under some other state, have not gone through the same process of brainwashing and  conditioning as have the “native” population. Those born and brought up in Britain have  been taught, through what’s been drummed into them in school and through what they  continuously read in the papers or hear on the radio or television, to regard themselves  as British. In school they are taught the history of the kings and queens of England, and  of the wars in which the British ruling class has been involved in over the centuries, and  of the evolution of the British state. The media reinforce this by reporting news from  an almost exclusively British angle and encourage identifi cation with “the nation” via  identification with “our” sports teams and performers.

It therefore comes almost as a reflexaction for people born and brought up in Britain to use “we” in relation to the British state and to regard themselves as part of a British  “nation”. So people spontaneously say such things as “we beat the French at Waterloo”  or “we won the Second World War” or “we got fi ve gold medals at the Olympics”. Even  opponents of particular policies pursued by the British state, yesterday as well as today, fall into the same trap and say such things as “we should never have conquered India”  or “we shouldn’t join the euro”. Such usage is music to the ears of the ruling class as they know it means they are on  top in the battle for “we”. They have succeeded in getting their subjects to identify with  them and their interests. Wage and salary workers, instead of seeing “we” as their class,  have come to see it as “the nation”.


It wasn’t always so easy. Historians have demonstrated that a nation is not a natural existed first and then proceeded to impose on those it ruled over the idea that they  formed a “nation”. The longest-standing states of Western Europe – England, France  and Spain – emerged at the end of the feudal era and then had to create a national  feeling amongst the population living within their frontiers. These frontiers were accidental and had been determined by a number of key battles amongst dynastic rulers  in feudal times. Had the outcome of these battles been different, then southern Britain  might have been part of the same state as northern France, while northern Britain might have been part of a state with Scandinavia, and southern France part of a state with Catalonia and northern Italy. That’s not how things turned out, but the point is that they  could have done. States pre-existed and in a very real sense created nations. Nations  are groups of people ruled by a state or a would-be state.

States that have been formed more recently – and most of the world’s states today  were only formed in the last 80 or so years, i. e., have only been going for two or three  generations – have had, and some still have, a serious problem in convincing all those  they rule over that they form part of a single nation with a common interest. It is why  their nationalism tends to be more shrill and authoritarian. It has to be, to overcome  the tendency of some of their subjects, especially those speaking a minority language  within their state, to identify themselves with some other nationalism particularly that of a  neighbouring state.

Even a long-established state such as Britain has not solved this problem entirely, as  witness Northern Ireland, where a considerable proportion of the population use “we”  not in relation to Britain but in relation to the Irish State and the “nation” it fosters. On the mainland the British state’s problem in this respect has been amongst the immigrants  from its former Empire, many of whom, notoriously to Norman Tebbitt’s annoyance, refuse to support the English cricket team and continue to support that of their country  of origin or that of their parents. More seriously, the ruling class were shocked by the  number of immigrants from Pakistan and their descendants who supported the Taliban  in the most recent of the Afghan Wars.

Until recently the dominant opinion amongst those in charge of the British state about how to deal with this was to make a virtue of necessity and pursue a policy of  “multiculturalism”. It didn’t work. In fact, it has encouraged division, by getting people  to identify with their “culture” rather than with the British “nation”. (Socialists, too, see “multiculturalism” as divisive but for the different reason that it gets workers to identify  with some other group over and above their class.) Now a change of policy is under  way, a swing towards “assimilationism”.

The fi rst to experience this change of policy are new applicants for British nationality.  They have to be able to show some knowledge of the British state, its institutions and  the history of its rulers, before being accepted into the British “nation”. The expectation  is that they will say “we beat the French at Waterloo” and “we should/should not join the  euro” as readily as any true-born Briton. Perhaps too they will support England in test  matches.

Feudal relic

They are also now required to publicly pledge allegiance to the queen in ceremonies akin  to the patriotic flag-worshipping that applicants for US citizenship have to go through.  This is a farcical revival of feudal times, but it brings out the importance of the royal family  to the British ruling class. The royal family’s role is to act as a focus for loyalty to the  British state. The 19th century Tory Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, is credited with first  having thought this up.

The royal family may be a relic from feudalism but it is easier to  get people to identify with it than with some abstraction like the constitution. Nor is any superannuated politician dubbed “the president” ever going to be able to act as such a  focus. It is also less hypocritical, because members of the British “nation” are called what they  really are – “subjects”, people subjected to the rule of a ruling class. Tony Benn finds this abhorrent. He wants us to be called “citizens” not “subjects”, as people are in France. But  the people of France are no less subjects of the French ruling class and its state for being called citizens. Let a spade continue to be called a spade.

 What we should object to is  not to being called subjects, but to being subjects Republicanism and “citizenship” could become a useful alternative way of ensuring loyalty  to the British capitalist state if ever the royal family becomes too unpopular, but even  though royalty is much less popular than it was even 25 years ago, it is still an asset that  the British ruling class want to hold on to and use to the full. It serves to get wage and salary workers to be loyal to the British state and to use “we” in relation to the interests of  its ruling class.

The “we” that socialists say that all those, wherever they were born, wherever they live  or wherever they come from, who are not members of the privileged ruling class should  identify with is people in a similar position throughout the world. “We” are all members of  a world-wide excluded class of wage-working wealth producers – the world working class  – who have a common interest in coming together to abolish so-called “nation-states” and  establish a frontierless world community in which all the natural and industrial resources  of the Earth will have become the common heritage of all Humanity, to be used for the  benefit of all instead of, as to today, to make profits for the few. Then we would all really be members of the Human Race, citizens of the World - Earth-people.

Monday, October 28, 2013


With  gas and electricity prices rising a survey for Age UK found that 28 per cent of pensioners said their main concern for the coming cold months was ensuring they could heat their homes. 'The charity said the figures suggested the problems could affect as many as three million older people across the UK. Age UK also raised the alarm over the health dangers to the elderly people, warning that cold weather and poorly heated homes increased the risk not only of influenza but also of heart attack and stroke. There are about 24,000 excess deaths in a typical British winter, many of them preventable.' (Independent, 28 October) Britain is one of the most developed countries in the world yet it condemns millions of old workers to this health hazard. RD

Nazi Huns

No Surrender? No Comment

Home Truths

The sequel book, Crap Towns Returns, describes Kilmarnock as Scotland’s least desirable place to live. In 2010 Kilmarnock gained UK-wide notoriety when BBC documentary The Scheme featured graphic scenes of drug abuse, violence and ­anti-social behaviour in the Onthank ­estate.

 “Once an industrial powerhouse, famed internationally for its carpets, Kilmarnock is now a post-industrial wasteland, with much of its once handsome town centre bulldozed. The main shopping drag is a grim, litter-strewn wind tunnel with nary an outlet that isn’t a pound shop or a pawnbroker. The town is ringed by a growth of dirty-grey, pebble-dashed flats of unspeakable misery.

One contributor described the community as: “A truly crap town… where heroin addicts and stabbings, as well as football violence and pound shops, are aplenty.”

Broxburn in West Lothian and Galloway's Newton Stewart are also listed among the top 50 most undesirable British communities.

 Broxburn’s main distinguishing features are “religious bigotry, alcoholism, drug guzzling, fighting and hopelessness”.

Newton Stewart is labelled “the town that God forgot”, while the residents are described as “desperate to escape” and “deranged looking”.

In the first edition of the book Cumbernauld was named  the second worst place to live in the UK.

Isn’t it time to build a world and communities that are fit to live in?

Social Democracy

The apologists for capitalism will argue that it is the natural order. That people like and want it.  That the privileged few are better than the rest of us and deserve what they have.

Money is power, but it is also a result of power. More money, more power, more money, more power — a revolving door if you are among the wealthiest 1 per cent. In every system throughout history, economic and social power always became political power.  The world’s inability to deal with our looming environmental crisis are a result of the concentration of economic and social power in the hands of fewer and fewer people.  Oil and coal make money for powerful people. If a minority holds most of the economic and therefore social and political power the result will be that the minority will inevitably reward itself. Its power will grow and ever-expanding inequality will result.That’s how the system works.

 What can we do to fix it? High taxes on high incomes, inheritance taxes on the wealthy, taxes on all forms of property, nationalizing sectors of the economy to bring them under “public” control? these measures may reduce the power of the very rich and perhaps narrow the gap between rich and poor. But capitalism survives. In the past capitalists survived so well that they eventually reversed many of these sort of reforms. They won cuts in their tax rates, the privatisation of state-owned industries and the weakening of unions. Even in  countries that once proclaimed themselves “socialist”, free-enterprise capitalism prevailed once more and a new capitalist oligarchy emerged to replace the party apparatchiks and nomenklatura.

The answer is to this question of who has the power is more democracy. Real democracy. Economic democracy. Workplace democracy. Community democracy. Social democracy as it was originally conceived - socialism

The Madness of Class

Under Scotland's Mental Health Act, someone with a mental illness can be detained against their will if a doctor and a mental health officer agree that they suffer from a mental disorder. This must be for the maximum benefit of the individual. It should also respect the wishes of their relatives or carer.

Lady Hamilton, wife of the Duke of Hamilton, said a psychiatrist had suggested they go to hospital to check the duke's medication and she was led to believe this would just be for a few days but after she filled in an admissions form she was told her husband had actually been sectioned for 28 days.

"I said, 'It's alright pet. You're here voluntarily, you can come home if you want to'. Then a voice behind said, 'No he can't. He's been sectioned for 28 days and he may not get out then'."

"I thought, if this can happen to the Duke of Hamilton, what chance has Joe Bloggs got?"

Lady Hamilton managed to have her husband discharged on a 'pass' on condition that she arranged 24-hour care for him at home.

The Hamilton dukedom is the third oldest in the UK and the senior title in Scotland, dating from 1643. Indeed, and this titled aristocrat should now also be questioning all the privileges in life a duke gets compared with Joe Bloggs, not just only the possibility of paying privately for 24-hour private care.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Food for thought

Capitalism is a system of greed and corruption , if more proof were needed, comes from Heather Mallick's column in the Toronto Star, September 28. She writes about how banks pay massive fines as part of the price of doing business and then keep on doing whatever they want to. JPMorgan Chase, she writes, is negotiating the fine it will pay US regulators re mortgage -backed securities. The figure is around $11 billion, and comes after a $920 million fine last week for its London Whale loss. In Britain, the PPI (payment protection insurance) scandal has caused banks there to set aside sixteen million pounds (more than the cost of the London Olympics). Yet we are in the middle of austerity measures that seek to strip or modify every benefit the workers have gained for sixty years and health, education, and social programs are starved for money. Time to put this lot to bed! John Ayers.

It is a waste

Yet another report on unnecessary food waste. This time from India.

 40% of India’s fruits and vegetables and roughly 22% of wheat are lost annually due to poor cold storage facilities and infrastructural bottlenecks, according to a study done by a UK-based institute. 1.2-2 billion tonne of food items, or 30-50% of total production, is lost each year. Losses of rice in South-east Asian nations can range from 37% to 80% of production, depending on the stage of development, totalling around 180 million tonne a year, the report also said. About 550 billion cubic meters of water is wasted globally in growing crops that never reach the consumer

‘‘This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as the nearly one billion people in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food,’’ said Tim Fox, the head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. There is the potential to provide 60-100% more food by eliminating losses and wastages while freeing up land, energy and water resources, the report said.

Despite the economy tripling in size between 1990 and 2005 to become Asia’s third largest, 42% of children under five years are underweight – nearly double the rate of sub-Saharan Africa.

Food Banks Return

We all see the TV adverts from the Red Cross, UNICEF and Oxfam for donations to aid the starving in third world countries but what we do not expect to see are calls for aid and donations by Scottish based charities and organisations to help the poverty stricken and starving in Scotland. We live in a country that is supposed to be part of a developed nation yet it is cutting benefits alongside price hikes by energy companies.

Food banks are returning to Scotland’s streets. Not to feed the homeless and
those sleeping on the streets, but families who cannot put food on the table because they choose to heat their home rather than freeze.

 According to Margaret Lynch, chief executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, she said: “The reason for the rise in food bank cases is that household incomes are not keeping up with the cost of living. Half of those who use food banks are actually working, but their wages are too low to sustain them. The other half are people on benefits, whose low incomes have been squeezed even further by harsh policies like the bedroom tax. And with more welfare cuts on the way, this situation looks set to get even worse.”

"Its Human Nature..."

It is claimed that socialists are unrealistic who hold fantasies and dreams that things will change overnight, imagining people work together for the common good without being forced to by the carrot or the stick.  The most common claim is that a socialist society founded on equality and, cooperation is contrary to human nature and people are greedy. If you look at society today then the argument seems justified. Many people do see life as a rat-race in which the key thing is to take what you can for yourself, regardless of others.

It is curious that this claim is usually made by those who also insist that "everybody is different”. The fact is that all human nature is determined by conditions of life, education and experience.  It may seem that the. only human nature in present society is capitalist,  but that is because the capitalists  impose their views upon everybody. Often the theory of human nature is one spread by the capitalists to make the working class cynical about socialism. However, capitalism also involves people working alongside one another. Socialism does not require people to be either altruistic nor egotistic; selfish nor unselfish.

If society is run and controlled by the people, in the interests of the people, then society will encourage another side of human nature: cooperation and concern for others.  It is recognised that it will be up to the workers and their communities to organise work and to regulate their reciprocal relationships. Force can do nothing, agreement is necessary. We can’t impose socialism. It will occur through free  associations among themselves.

Socialism does not presuppose a complete change in human nature and the entire elimination of selfishness. We shouldn’t expect a miraculous transformation of human personality. Socialism only calls for enlightened self-interest, recognising that it can serve itself only by serving the common interest, which will completely change its character, so that it will cease to be the narrow selfishness of to-day, which so often defeats its own ends. The interests of each individual will, by the new circumstances, be best served by serving the common interests.

 Socialism’s first concern must be production -  we must live. Work is life and also the tie that unites men and women in society. To be sure, we possess, even today, sufficient means of production to satisfy all reasonable needs, i.e., to provide a well-being to all greater than that of today. But all this well-being must be created by labour and by the transformation of industry. There will no longer be, as is the case today, men and women condemned to long days of stupefying labour and fatigue.  People will pass from one job to another, from manual labor to study and artistic recreation. But in working, in studying, in cultivating the arts, etc, their goal will always be to make them useful. We shouldn’t lose sight of the extent and variety of socialism. There will be trial and error, even conflicts before agreement can be reached just to determine what must be produced, which needs deserve preference, and what limitations individuals should impose on their desires.  We will not immediately fall upon a perfect system but experience and agreements will tell the individual and the labour associations what society has need of at a given moment.

Thus understood, the revolution obviously can’t be the work of a party or a coalition of parties: it demands the assistance of the entire working class. Without the majority we can carry out a coup d’etat or a putsch but not a revolution. The workers have no need of chiefs: they are quite capable of charging one of their own with a particular task. Solidarity and co-operation cannot be decreed by a law, and though it can be applied by public opinion it is nevertheless necessary that public opinion be in agreement with individual sentiment.

Every strike is an act of dignity, an act of  revolt, and serves to get workers used to thinking of the boss as an enemy and to fight for what they want without waiting for grace from on high. A striker is already no longer a slave but a rebel already engaged on the path of socialism and revolution. It is up to us to help them advance along that road. When the workers demand improvements, pay increases, reductions in working hours, abolition of work rules; when they go on strike to defend their dignity or to affirm their solidarity with a colleague is fired or mistreated by bosses, we have to say to them that none of this ultimately resolves the question. We must use the occasion to advocate the need for the revolution, for the abolition of private property and government. We must do everything possible to widen and generalise the movement into making the revolution. Our programme is the social revolution and is our immediate goal while agitation among the working class are our means. We must prove to the world that socialism isn’t a utopian dream or a distant vision, but a vital and living force, destined to renew the world on the principles of well-being and human fraternity.

“Don’t tell me that some men are too lazy to work. Suppose they are too lazy to work, what do you think of a social system that produces men too lazy to work? If a man is too lazy to work don’t treat him with contempt. Don’t look down upon him with scorn as if you were a superior being. If there is a man too lazy to work there is something the matter with him, He wasn’t born right or he was perverted in this system." Eugene Debs 

The Unwanted People

"I never ever realised how much hatred there is towards me." - Noah

Katharine Quarmby’s book “No Place To Call Home” shows so clearly that there is a long and horrible history of hatred towards Gypsies and Travellers, from medieval days when they were killed, enslaved and branded in Britain to the slaughter of perhaps half of Europe's Roma in the Holocaust.

In Britain, they are our most excluded group. Gypsies and Travellers are at the bottom of the pile when it comes to education, health and housing, with lower life expectancy exacerbated by living on polluted sites.  Women die 12 years before the national average, while children are at higher risk of dying in infancy and adults more likely to kill themselves.  Travelling people are frequently victims of abuse and violence that they do not bother reporting. "Gypsies and Travellers are often victims, not perpetrators, of crime," Quarmby writes.

 She tells the story of one boy taken by officials from his family's tent in Fife and placed in children's homes, where he was sexually abused. His mother spent the rest of her life hunting for him, dying at the age of 41 without seeing her son again. Scottish authorities have never apologised for such disgraceful actions, which continued into the 1960s.

Gypsy elder Billy Welch thinks the solution lies in travellers opening up and opting in. After all, two-thirds of them now live in settled sites. Only 30 families in Britain travel all year round. Times are changing. "We live in a democracy," says Welch, "and we don't use it. We are our own worst enemy."

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Food for thought

It's nearly fifty years since Ralph Nader wrote his sensational book, "Unsafe At Any Speed", his expose of the auto industry and their ignoring of car safety in return for sales – hence profits. Recently, his autobiography, "Told You So", was published and it shows Nader has changed little over the years. To some he may seem uncorrupted (he refused the services of a prostitute hired by General Motors to way(lay) him, he doesn't own a car (too unsafe) or real estate, and lives on $25,000 a year. Nader has campaigned for anti-pollution laws, founded several public interest research groups, made public a forgotten study on the appalling conditions in the meat processing plants, founded a national anti-nuclear umbrella group, put all his income into his advocacy groups, campaigned for health care, attacked corporate crime, attacked NAFTA and the decline of democracy, and the list goes on. It's easy enough to say we need people like him, in fact, we need him as long as we need capitalism, which is not at all. In the final analysis, Mr. Nader is a corrupt man. Like most of us, he was corrupted into believing capitalism was the best of all economic systems. Nader's great failure is in thinking it would be better for all if greed and dishonesty at the highest levels could be eliminated. The plain fact is that capitalism is a profit-oriented system that thrives on, and is based on, greed and dishonesty. It would be much better if Nader were to pour his vast efforts into working for the abolition of such a system. John Ayers.

No Remedy except Revolution

At the present time, the spokesmen for the ruling class are making an all-out effort to convince us that there is a “recovery” taking place. With the current economic crisis capitalism cracked across the world they are crying for a return to normalcy, and normalcy to them means the former golden age of unlimited exploitation and oppression of labour. They believe they can turn back time. They do not perceive that they are creating new antagonism and bitterness and preparing the ground for renewed and intensified working class revolts against their despotic misrule. There can be no return to capitalist normalcy. The profitability of capital must be restored before the accumulation process can be resumed.

The struggle between labour and capital involves the system’s very existence, bound as it is to its continuous expansion. Objectively, the ordinary economic struggle takes on revolutionary implications and thus, political forms, because one class can only succeed at the expense of the other. The burden of the crisis rests entirely upon the shoulders of the working class. Capitalism has proved again that it cannot and will not provide for the working class. Of course, the workers might be prepared to accept, within limits, a decreasing share of the social product via the austerity cuts, if only to avoid the miseries of drawn-out confrontations with the employers and its state. But this might not be sufficient to bring about a new economic upswing. The working class should fight the class struggle as it is fought by the bosses. The working class has a long way to go to reach the stage of class consciousness, and a will to struggle. But that it is on that road and will continue to travel it, is indisputable.

 A host of politicos have also come out for “fighting back,” demagogically trying to profit from the discontent of the people. They peddle the view that the crisis can be solved by electing them. They say the banking system should be nationalised under democratic popular control. Only on this basis would it be possible to get rid of the spivs and speculators that are holding working class people to ransom. A  nationalised banking sector would be run for the benefit of the majority, rather than for the super-rich. Those struggling to pay their mortgage would have it converted to an affordable rent; small businesses could get cheap loans, and public works such as a massive house-building programme could be cheaply financed.  The Marxist economist Andrew Kliman opposes this. He writes: "Some leftist economists called for state control or nationalization of the financial system, rather than just regulation, of the financial system... But there cannot be socialism in one country. What results when you try to have socialism in one country is state-capitalism, a state-run system that is still embedded in the global capitalist economy, and which is still locked into a competitive battle with capitals elsewhere in the world. A state-run bank is still a bank."

 Some Left parties and the TUC claim that companies are being irrational when they suppress wages, and they do not mean the simple fact that workers are having a hard time to make ends meet. They point out that somebody has to buy the commodities with which capital makes its profits. Their proposal is: wage increases create more effective demand and this benefits everyone – workers have more wages and capital more profit. Capitalism could be a nice symbiosis if companies were not so short-sighted.

What is remarkable about this theory is that it is only ever proposed to support rather limited wage demands: a minimum wage, a wage increase of 3% or even an unconditional basic income of a few hundred pounds. Why are the proponents of this theory so humble? Why not an hourly wage of £50, a wage increase of 100% and an unconditional basic income of £5000? If the theory was right, then this would make the economy go pop. Their humbleness shows that they themselves do not really believe their own theory. Rather, these advocates are looking for a reason to have their interest in higher wages recognised in the national discourse.

The theory is also simply wrong. For one, a single company has no advantage if it increases the wage. Even the workers of Nestlé spend only a small part of their wage on Nestlé products. Of course, if other companies pay their workers higher wages, then Nestlé might make more sales. However, it is not the logic of a single capital to pay its workers more for this effect.

Yet, sometimes competitors must be obliged for their own benefit. This is why the Left looks to the state which ought to enforce such wage increases. Workers get more money because the state mandates it. All companies sell more commodities to workers and, hence, attract more money from them. However, the imagined advantage for everyone is not realised: what companies pay more to their workers, they get back through their sales. Though these proponents of higher wages in the interest of capitalist success would not admit it, from the standpoint of the rate of profit, the ratio of advance and surplus becomes worse.

And of course, as it's the pursuit of maximum profit that drives the capitalist economy, reducing the rate of profit will have negative consequences. Which is why this won't work or even be tried. So what's the point of campaigning for it instead of for socialism? People need to know not just what to be against, but what to be for and we have to look beyond mere political and legal changes to changes in the actual relations of production. What is require is not leaders but popular consciousness. The core issue is not one of “taking power,” but of what happens after. People are not just the muscle that brings down the old power, but must become fully equipped, theoretically and intellectually, to govern society themselves.

Developing socialism within capitalism as advocated by proponents of co-operatives and worker-owned enterprise cannot be done. The economic laws of the larger system will not allow it. If you buy from the capitalist world “outside,” you also have to sell to it in order to get the money you need to buy from it, and you will not sell anything if your prices are high because your costs of production are high. To fight for socialism is consciously to struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and its state institutions. The idea that socialism equals state planning, ownership, and control is not a Marxist conception.

It seems that most people want to see another world, but think it can come about, if at all, by voting it in, or by workers becoming their own bosses, or by paying everyone the same amount, or by means of whatever political, legal, and administrative measures they have been led to believe can accomplish the redistribution of power and wealth and really make their lives better. Despite the new priorities, new forms of organisation, new forms of ownership, new laws, and the new name you give your society, it remains capitalist. It remains capitalist because the economic laws that govern capitalism continue to govern your society. And they continue to govern your society because new priorities, new forms of organisation, new forms of ownership and so forth are not enough––by themselves––to overcome the economic laws of capitalism. These well-intentioned changes  would merely be capitalism in a different form or they would not be viable and lead back to capitalism.  And the reason why they wouldn’t work, Marx argued, is that these supposed alternatives to capitalism all try to get rid of capitalism without getting rid of its mode of production.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Food for thought

Economic advisor to the Indian government, Jayati Ghost, recently co-authored a book titled, "Economic Reform Now: A Global Manifesto to Rescue our Sinking Economies." As Ghost points out, " China is suffering from a banking crisis and in India the situation is even more dramatic. Economic growth has almost halved and panicking investors are abandoning the rupee. Is the Asian era over before it has even begun?" – No comment needed. John Ayers.

The UK

Clear thinking brings clear action

The Socialist Party of Great Britain wants to make the revolution as soon as possible. When we speak of revolution, we speak of the capture of power by the working class itself. Many who call themselves socialists urge the formation of a “revolutionary party” but such a party cannot be revolutionary. The “revolutionary party” is based on the idea that the working class needs a new group of leaders who vanquish the capitalist class for the workers and construct a new government. According to this theory, the leaders will build a workers’ state and create the socialist society by means of decrees; in other words, the working class is still incapable of administering and organising for itself its work and production. The working class are not deemed capable of revolution, so it is necessary that the revolutionary vanguard, the party, make the revolution for it. From experience of history and the failure of past “revolutionary parties”. These often well-meaning activists merely conclude that they will have to do better. They do not realise that the failure of these parties is due to the fundamental conflict between the self-emancipation of the working class through its own power against the substitution by a vanguard  because they see the majority of workers indifferent and inactive. But the working class are inactive only because they cannot yet comprehend the course of the struggle and the unity of class interests.

The Labour Party throws all the blame for the crises upon the ConDem Government and contends that it could permanently improve the material comfort of the people if it were returned to power. The Labour Party occupies a most important and strategical position in appealing to the workers because it is the most important and only real influential opposition to the present government.  Past Labour governments  revealed it as the defender of capitalism and profit, and oppressors of the working class. As socialists we know that the Labour Party cannot solve any single important economic problem at present bearing upon the working class. We know that their servile acceptance of the propertied interests can only result in the perpetuation of capitalism and its many problems.  The Labour Party as a government will not only prove as helpless as the present one, but it will become identified as the Party of Capitalism, just as it was before. The Labour Party has become discredited in the eyes of the many.

There is only one  class to defeat the capitalist class. Whatever its faults, it is the working class alone that can take power and establish the Cooperative Commonwealth.  Steadily the workers move along the road to socialism. Circumstances compel them to take that road. Economic laws operate whether they are known or not, but if we understand their operation we can bend them to our purpose and assist society along the course it tends to travel. As a Socialist Party we must bring this knowledge to the workers. The Socialist Party must carry its propaganda to the workers; the workers will not come to us.

Whenever the power of the governing class asserts itself, then the workers must fight. The distinction between political and industrial action is false; they are the two poles of the same movement. Although engaged in the class struggle, often in conflicts on a gigantic scale, the trade union movement acts without coherence, and with a dim perception only of its reason and purpose in the struggle. Workers, in spite of the long traditions of trade union­ism, are gradually becoming aware of the inadequacy of their trade unions in modern class-warfare. Trade unions cannot effectively express the class interests of the workers. However, when a worker votes for a Socialist Party candidate he or she votes against the whole of the capitalist class and for his own class without regard for craft or industrial divisions. The essential thing is the direction in which things are moving.

What is Democracy? It is the rule of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is the workers’  battle-cry in the fight against the capitalist class. The establishment of a genuine democracy the working class can possibly enable us to painlessly to do away with capitalism. The establishment of a full and unrestricted democracy is best means of achieving socialism. Our work in the Socialist Party is one of education, organisation, and agitation.  We, as Marxists,  hold the interpretation which alone can help the people to crystallise their scattered dispersed ideas of rebellion into an ordered, co-herent demand, backed up by political and industrial action. Never before have the capitalists provided such favourable conditions for the spread of socialist knowledge. Through the class war workers themselves, via their own varied organisations, elected solely by themselves , will take and hold for the benefit of the whole community the power that administers all things which are necessary for the life of the community and it will be the workers of the world who have won the world for the workers.

The socialist revolution will not be brought about by an act of parliament nor through the trade unions but in one form or another by the masses themselves, outside Parliament, outside the trade unions and, probably also, outside the Socialist Party. Revolution must involve a majority of the active population. How and when this will come about, is not within human competency to forecast. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. If there were a general will to establish a socialism a way would be found even by those very people who either have never heard of socialism or think themselves its enemies. Wherever a wage worker confronts an employer strife and conflict is born. Not ideology but necessity brings the masses into revolutionary motion. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Power of Capital

The lesson on the power of the capitalist has been re-learned at Grangemouth.

Unite's general secretary Len McCluskey said shop stewards had decided to accept the company's survival plan "warts and all" in the wake of the closure decision. That included a pay freeze, ending of a final salary pension scheme and other changes to terms and conditions which had initially been rejected by staff in a union vote.

Workers who struggle to maintain and better their conditions should be commended, but until the working class consciously and politically organise to end the wages system the same battles will have to be fought over and over again. The bitter experience of the Ineos workers may lead some of them to question the basis of capitalist society, but from start to finish all this struggle was attempting was to get the best from a bad situation. Workers are learning by bitter experience. They are learning very slowly. Our job is to shorten the time and try to speed up the process. 

Food for thought

High in the Himalayas is the kingdom of Bhutan, the prototype of the mythical Shangri-la, a country, due to its isolation, was free from the turmoil and strife that beset the rest of the world. It survived for centuries without paved roads and electricity and with barter for currency. It wasn't enough for Bhutan's king to leave well enough alone – in the early sixties he decided to bring his happy land into the modern world. By 1999, it was decided that Bhutan needed something they never had before, a psychiatrist! Since then, Dr. Chenco Dorji has treated more than 5,300 depressed, anxious, psychotic, alcoholic, and drug-addled Bhutanese. Welcome to the modern world! Welcome to capitalism! John Ayers.

Socialism is what?

What is socialism must be the query each of our readers must ponder over. There is a tendency to confuse socialism with reform of one sort or another, to make it respectable and palatable. The Socialist Party draws the clear line between socialism and reform and revolution. Socialism means but one thing, and that is the abolition of capital and the turning over of production to the control of the workers and community.   Anything else is not socialism, and has no right to use that term. Socialism is not the reduction of the working-week nor the enforcement of minimum or living wage. None of these, nor all of them together, are socialism. They might all be done by the government tomorrow, and still we would not be any closer towards socialism. They are merely reforms of the present system, mere patching-up. Socialism is the common ownership of the means of production and distribution. While not opposing any reforms or improvements which may be secured under capitalism, the Socialist Party steadfastly refuses to divert resources away from its main battle, for revolution, in order to carry on the struggle for reform. It refuses to  abandon its main demand in order to campaign for immediate demands.  to the tempting baits so deftly twitched before the noses of the working class to lead them astray into side issues and blind alleys. The one demand of the Socialist Party is socialism and the unconditional surrender by the capitalist class of the machinery of industry. We reject the criticism that our refusal to engage in the innumerable one-issue reform campaigns makes us less interested in the humanitarian movements. The Socialist Party is based on the material programme which will make the realisation of those numerous groups and organisations aspirations an accomplished fact. Socialism alone will supply the basis for any permanent improvement in the condition of humanity and the Earth.

Socialism means a higher civilisation by multiplying and making use of all the means of culture of present society. Socialists do not propose a return to primitivism, we do not  intend to go backwards and start communistic utopian colonies. Socialists do not propose to run away from the capitalists; we intend to stay right in the battle and confront capitalist society. Nor do we advocate the arrest the progress of humanity which is going on before our very eyes. We want to lighten the burdens on the shoulders of the wage workers and producers in general.

Socialists are class conscious. This does not mean that the socialist must hate every capitalist individually although many are richly deserving of our contempt. It means that while we understand that every individual capitalist is the result of the present system as much as the wage worker, we still must fight the capitalists as a class, because the producers cannot reasonably expect anything but exploitation from the exploiters as a class.

The ballot, if used rightly, forms a far more powerful weapon in most countries than in any other. Socialism will not come through force. The ballot box is by far a safer weapon than the rifle. It must be with the socialist vote that the wage slave class seeks to rid itself of its chains.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Food for thought

On September 3, The Toronto Daily Star reported that 100,000 kilograms of dead fish have been scooped up from China's Fuhe River. The Hubei province's Environmental Department blamed the Hubei Shuanghuan Science & Technology Company. Officials said that a sampling of its drain outlet showed an ammonia density that far exceeded the national standard. Other incidents this year involving dead animals in rivers have added to public disgust and there are suspicions about the safety of drinking water. It is well known that, as China grows economically, inadequate controls on industry and lax enforcement of existing laws have worsened China's pollution problem. If this is the price we pay for capitalist development, then let's stop paying for it and opt for socialism. John Ayers

Ineos Closes Grangemouth

STUC general secretary Grahame Smith today called for the closure of the Grangemouth refinery to be treated as a similar economic emergency to the Royal Bank of Scotland collapse. Downing Street, however, has indicated there will be no bail-out for Grangemouth. Scotland’s biggest industrial plant  is worth about £1 billion to the Scottish economy. One member of staff claimed that Grangemouth Petrochemicals chairman Calum Maclean had been "smiling" when he made the closure announcement.

Smith said: “As many have noted over the recent period, the Grangemouth complex is too important to the Scottish economy to be closed on the vindictive whim of an unaccountable billionaire. When the stability of the economy was threatened by the failure of RBS and HBOS, government was quick to act. Now when the stability of the Scottish economy is threatened by the industrial blackmail tactics of INEOS, government must again find the will to act.”

The local Labour MP for Linlithgow and Falkirk East, Michael Connarty, hit out at the firm’s handling of the crisis. “It was very strange - like 1920s gangland boss type of management and not sensible negotiation as it should have been.”

Unite has accused the company of "playing Russian roulette" with the future of Grangemouth.

The billionaire majority owner of Ineos, Jim Ratcliffe, is now one of the richest people in the UK. His “super-yacht” Hampshire II is moored at the French Riviera port of La Ciotat.

The sad reality of capitalism is that if massively rich capitalists cannot have massive returns on their investment they walk away and find other sources of profit to exploit. Part of the blackmail tactics was to pressure the government into financing the upgrade that Grangemouth required to compete more effectively. Perhaps that will happen but then the government also will be adding their power to Ineos to force the work-force into accepting cuts in their pay and conditions. As for the promised 15,000 pounds compensation offered to workers for accepting reduced wages, the small print says up to 15,000. I hazard a guess that only a few employees will be entitled to the maximum.

What is Socialism?

Definitions matter because imprecision leads to carelessness when clarity is necessary. The term “socialism” has been bandied about by all and sundry, to the point of risking losing its sting, its cutting edge, and becoming instead the catch-all for every social movements or the  political gymnastics antics of individuals claiming to be socialists. To use the term without explanation is to get one’s self and one’s cause seriously misunderstood. The word socialism dates from the early decades of the nineteenth century and was first used by Robert Owen but socialism is not the product of the isolated thinking of an individual.  Rather it is the product of many thinkers and activists.

Socialism is not a reform, it is a revolution. Socialists do not merely wish to patch up the present system and keep it. Old political parties, and new ones that are  springing up everyday advocate reform measures. The Socialist Party of Great Britain are not “reformers” — we are “revolutionists.” By revolution we do not
mean violence or bloodshed. The future may indeed see violence but if such should be the case it would be not the result of the instigation of socialists, but rather the result of the refusal of the ruling class to accept the will of a socialist majority. For socialism offers a possible, a peaceful solution. Socialism will arise from  the capture of the political power by the working class as opposed to the capitalist class. This is the essence of socialism. Whoever sees clearly and holds firmly the necessity of the organisation of the working class into an independent political party, distinct from and opposed to all capitalistic parties to capture democratically the powers of government” in order to carry out the principles of socialism; whoever holds this position of the Socialist Party.

Socialism is an economic proposition, however, the real strength of socialism lies in the  consistency of socialists in pointing out the concreteness of human society in each of its phases of development – in exhibiting socialism, not, indeed, in its details, but none the less in its general tendencies, as a coherent doctrine of social life, to which nothing human is foreign.  It is because the aim of socialism is the recognition of the economic change as being the basis upon which the other changes will he effected that the chief stress is laid upon the latter, and not because socialism has no interest in anything other than the technical economic transformation itself. The intellectual, emotional, artistic sensual  sides of human nature can not escape the influence of their material environment and their dependence on it, Even though these intellectual developments may follow an independent line of causation of its own this obtains only up to a certain point. In the long run material conditions of life assert their importance in modifying the “spiritual” side of things human. The socialist conviction involves a complete revolution in all departments of human life, and that though beginning with the economic change it does not end there. Socialism entails no compulsory abandonment either of current superstitions or of prevailing family relations, but merely leaves the way open for the transformation of traditional ways and modes of life by others more consistent with human freedom and more adapted to the new times than those that have been left behind.

 Socialism is the equal participation by all in the necessaries, comforts, and enjoyments of life and the people themselves will be organised to this end, with the means of production and distribution commonly owned by all and run in  the interest of the whole community. It is  commonly to be heard from the man-in-the-street the idea that socialism involves a spartan way of living and that we are against  luxury which  presupposes a saint-like quality  on the part of the individual. Even the old belief of the general liquidation and dividing up equally of existing wealth as being the economic goal of socialism, is not yet extinct. Nor is charity and alms-giving, whether good or bad, right or wrong, socialism.

 The direct aim of all practical socialists to-day is the transformation of private ownership and control by individuals or the State  of the means of production and exchange into their common ownership and control by the community at large. The word socialism, for many, has come to be applied to any activity of the state or municipal authority in an economic sphere. Hence any industrial or commercial enterprise undertaken by a governmental body is labelled socialism nowadays. State-ownership does not mean socialism. The State is an agent of the possessing classes and industrial or commercial undertakings run to-day by  the government are largely ran in the interests of these classes. Their aim in all cases is to show a profit, in the same way as ordinary capitalistic enterprises. This profit accrues to the possessing classes in the form of relief of taxation, mainly paid by them, interest on loans, etc. In other words these industrial undertakings are run for profit and not for use and their employees are little, if at all, better off than those of private employers.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always maintained that the change from capitalism to socialism would be a fundamental change, that is, we would have a complete reorganisation of society, that this change would not be a question of reform; that the capitalist system of society would be completely changed and that that system would give way to a new system of society based on common ownership and the democratic control of the means of production and distribution.

What is capitalism? Capitalism is that system of society in which the means of production and distribution are owned by a few individuals for their own profit. You take the large industrial plants. You take the land, you take the banks, you take the railways, you take all of the factories that have to do with production, take all the means of distribution, and you will discover that they are owned by a few individuals or corporations, by financial institutions, for the profits that can be derived from these institutions. Socialists maintain that all our institutions are based on labour-power of the working-people. Labour- power is essential to make them valuable and to provide profits for those that own and control them. All of our institutions are based on the labour-power of the working person. Without that labour-power society could not exist. Not a wheel could turn. Value could not be produced. That is very easily recognisable. Suppose Bill Gates with all of his wealth and all of his stocks and shares and bonds,would go to the Sahara Desert and pile his securities sky high to the billions of dollars, and stay there himself, do you think that value would be produced? Do you think that the assets would be valuable? Do you think that he could get for himself the comforts of life? Not at
all. Bill Gates could stand there, look at his paper mountain of shares and he could not get something to drink, and he could not get anything to eat. But you can take a group of workers. Taken them from any section of the world, bring them to a place and tell them to get busy and make life worth living. And what will you have? What will you find? That the workers will get on the job, they will use their labour-power, by their creating ability they will build a society in which workers of every degree enjoy the comforts and pleasure of life. All of our wonderful institutions, our boasted civilisation, has been the result of the creating ability of the working men who use brains and muscle power. Capitalism controls the creative power of labour for its own particular advantage.

Our era is that of the passage of capitalism to socialism, the era of the struggle between two opposing social systems, the era of socialist revolution and that of the overthrow of capitalism. The fundamental question is which will win out – socialism or capitalism?