Friday, February 28, 2014

Who Owns the South Pole - Polarisation

Antarctica and the Arctic are the focus of global hunger for untapped resources. As the Antarctic Treaty has grown in recent decades, some nations eager to join it and build bases in Antarctica appear to have long-term interest in the continent's mineral and energy resources.  The southern continent has been governed since 1961 by the Antarctic Treaty, a creation of the cold war, intended to prevent US-Soviet tensions from spilling into the region. The treaty enforces environmental regulations, allows nations to inspect each other's bases, and requires sharing of scientific data. It started with 12 nations, but now includes 28. Seven nations claim sovereignty rights to parts of Antactica.  Just as people playing the board game Monopoly profit by building a house on Park Place or Boardwalk, countries building a station and conducting research in Antarctica can obtain treaty membership and influence. Conditions in Antarctica will be tough, but rising commodity prices and improving technology may eventually make it worthwhile. Antarctica may hold plenty of mineral resources. Three hundred million years ago, it lay at the center of a supercontinent, Gondwana, which also included South America, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Folding of Earth's crust caused plumes of magma and superheated fluids to rise, concentrating minerals near the surface of Gondwana: copper, tin, silver, lead, and zinc along what are now the South American Andes; and gold, copper, lead, zinc, nickel, and cobalt in southeastern Australia.

"That motivates a lot of these countries to build a research station there and to fund some kind of scientific research," says Dag Avango, a science and industrial historian at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. "It is about being a part of a larger international community that can make decisions about the future of Antarctica." This includes decisions about how and when Antarctica's natural resources should be harvested. For the moment, this includes only fishing in the ocean waters around the continent. Antarctic krill have been fished for decades; they're used in commercial fish feeds and omega-3 fatty acid dietary supplements.

A ban on mining and drilling is enforced until 2048.

"The question of mineral exploitation hasn't gone away in Antarctica," says Anne-Marie Brady, a specialist in polar politics at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.  "The mainstream point of view" in China, she says, "is that it's only a matter of time that Antarctic minerals and energy resources will be exploited."

"It's globalization," says Lawson Brigham, a retired US Coast Guard icebreaker captain and now professor of geography and Arctic policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. "Higher commodity prices will drive frontier development."

Every nation that hopes to play a role in shaping the future of the poles – whether for exploitation, territory, or conservation – will require certain strategic assets: scientific research that maintains prestige and expertise; well-placed ports, airfields, and research bases in the polar regions; experience landing and launching large military cargo planes on glacial ice; and, of course, icebreakers.

Antarctica differs vastly from the Arctic. The Arctic consists largely of a sea covered by ice that averages six feet thick, fringed by the northernmost territories of three continents; the Antarctic consists of a lone continent isolated by a ring of turbulent seas. While Arctic sea ice is disappearing quickly, the continent of Antarctica is 98 percent covered by glacial ice thousands of feet thick; it contains most of the world's fresh water. Even as Antarctica sheds 200 billion tons of ice per year, contributing to sea-level rise, the immediate effect on human activity there is negligible.

In 1977 an American businessman began importing a new fish from South America to the US: a monstrosity with leathery lips and a mouth evolved for sucking up prey in the blink of an eye – the kind of looks you'd expect of a fish that lurks in the dark, as deep as 13,000 feet. Slicing the fish into skinless fillets relieved it of its appearance, and the businessman erased its last vestige of ugliness by changing its name from Patagonian toothfish to Chilean sea bass. The fish was a hit in restaurants, prompting fishermen to look for it in other places. Their attention eventually turned to a closely related species, the Antarctic toothfish, which inhabits the world's southernmost waters. Commercial harvesting of Antarctic toothfish began in 1996, in Antarctica's Ross Sea.
From here 

A tragedy was always around the corner

For those people who think that third world, nineteenth century factory conditions of work can never come back to the 'First' world, the New York Times reported (15/12.13) a garment factory fire in Prato, Italy. The building did not have emergency exits and windows were barred. The fire was likely caused by a camp stove used for preparing meals. Seven Chinese workers died in the blaze. This low-cost business model has developed over the last twenty years. Officials said that a tragedy was always around the corner but were apparently powerless to do anything about it. So much for government of and by the people. John Ayers

Point of View!

The December issue of The Socialist Standard, the journal of our Companion party in the UK, included an article in which British comedian Russell Brand aired his views. Though he made some comments no socialist would disagree with, he showed his limitations by his comments on politicians, " They are all dishonest and self-serving…Like most people, I regard politicians as frauds and liars." Contrary to what Brand thinks, some are well meaning but, once elected, find themselves trying to administer a crazy and constricted system that forces them to do things they had no intention of doing (see the article under Wage Slave News on our web site re Mandela). In other words, it's the system that creates the conditions or man makes his own history but not under circumstances of his own choosing! John Ayers

Workers Unite

A 2011 census showed that 579,000 Poles were living in Britain, 10 times more than a decade earlier. In Poland, unemployment among the under 25s was a whopping 27.4 percent in December 2013 (and 30 percent for young women). Just imagine how much higher the figure would have been if young Poles had stayed in their country. In Hungary, 24.6 percent of people under 25 are unemployed, while in Bulgaria it’s 29.4 percent (and 33 percent for men under 25).This mass exodus from Eastern Europe is brought about by lack of employment opportunities.

Certain employers tolerate, encourage and take advantage of this influx of immigrants, not only for the purpose of filling a labour shortage but also to artificially increase the reserve army of labour, an army of vulnerable workers who are forced to work at substandard wages. The principal aim of permitting and fostering immigration under imperialism is to greatly increase competition among workers and keep downward pressure on wages.

If some people  feel that the level of immigration is too high, that it is putting too much pressure on services and institutions , and that it is leading to a downward push on wages, then they should not be angry with the immigrants. Instead, they should get even with those who benefit - the 1 percent.

The Socialist Party holds that the working class the world over is indivisibly one; that as victims of the capitalist class their interests are common, regardless of race, nationality, or colour. The fact remains that immigration does add to the number of workers, and to that extent increases a competition among the workers, it is as a drop in the ocean compared to the real cause,  the introduction of labour-saving new technology and outsourcing of manufacturing. Even if every foreigner from now on were excluded, the misery of the workers would increase.

Class lines are clearly defined. There is no mistaking who is a capitalist and who is a worker, who is rich and who is poor. The capitalists are banded together in their Confederation of British Industry, Chambers of Commerce, their trade and manufacturers’ associations. The workers are organised in their trade unions. The British capitalist class also has at disposal, first: all the “forces of the State.” These forces comprise Parliament, a well-organised bureaucracy, a strong judiciary, a powerful police, and the armed forces. The British capitalist class has at its disposal a powerful media and information industry, colouring their outlook on life, determining largely their political opinions, fashioning their thoughts, moulding their minds to a servile acceptance of things as they are or as the mouthpieces of capitalism desire them to be. Lastly, the British capitalist class has its interests defended by numerous educational and religious institutions.

“What do we mean when we speak of "class consciousness"? We mean simply a thorough knowledge of the position in society of the class to which the class-conscious subject belongs.Socialists claim that class-consciousness is a mental condition which must necessarily precede working-class emancipation. The reason is because, owing to the peculiarly complex nature of the modern social system, the interest of the classes is obscured, and only a clear understanding of the working-class place in the social system can enable the workers to see in what direction their interests lie, and therefore what they have to fight for...Class-consciousness, the knowledge of his slave status, makes clear the opposition of class interests, and fits the worker for the class struggle.

Socialist revolution is the most radical break with oppression and exploitation in history. The battle between bosses and workers rages everywhere. Socialist society is the first society based on the conscious application of objective laws where society no longer proceeds in chaos, but according to the planned fulfillment of genuine human needs. The establishment of a socialist, planned economy, based on the needs of the people, will mean the end to the anarchy of capitalist production and its repeated crises. Commodity production, that is, production for sale or exchange on the market, will not exist. The system of wage labor will be abolished and the guiding principle of labour will be “from each according to ability, to each according to need.” The means of production will be held communally and private/state property will be eliminated. With the abolition of classes and class distinctions, all social and political inequality arising from them will disappear. The conflicts of interest between workers and farmers, town and country, manual and intellectual labor will disappear. As classes will not exist, the state will not be necessary as an instrument of class rule and will wither away.

We want a system that encourages every worker to become involved in running society; that encourages everyone to act for the common good. We want society to help each person grow. In capitalist society, only the bosses are truly free--free to hire and fire, free to pillage and plunder. , The wage system forces each worker to think of his or her work in selfish terms. Only socialism can change that. Socialism will abolish the wage system. In  socialist society, the principle "to each according to need" will be as basic as the principle "every person for themselves" is to capitalism.  People will work because  they want to, because their brothers and sisters around the world need their work. They will share in decision-making, including the distribution of goods and services according to society's needs. They will share in the abundance and if there happens to be an occasional shortage they will share in that too. Socialism will abolish socially useless forms of work that exist now only for capitalist profit. Socialist society will have no need of lawyers, advertisers, or salespeople. In one stroke, it will do away with layers of needless government bureaucrats, as well as the hordes of petty supervisors and administrators who oversee and manage us  for the bosses. It will free everyone to perform socially useful work, which is the source of true creativity.

We are for socialism because it is better. We will have better human relations and we will have a better material life. But socialism will not succeed unless people understand it, agree with it, and vow to make it succeed. We oppose nationalism and fight for internationalism. By nationalism, the bosses mean that workers must respect capitalist borders. These borders are artificial; they exist to divide workers and keep different sets of bosses in  power. Workers need no borders. Workers in one part of the world are not different from or better than workers in  another. Nationalism creates false loyalties. Workers should be loyal only to other workers, never to a boss. We  endorse the revolutionary slogan: "Workers of the world, unite!"

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Another Useless Solution

All over the world homelessness is a prevailing problem, but in Florida they have come up with a "solution". 'Over the past decade, municipalities in Florida's Osceola County, just southeast of Orlando, have spent more than $5 million to repeatedly jail three dozen homeless people for quality-of-life offenses. Rather than major crimes like assault or burglary, nearly every one of these arrests were because of violations of local ordinances prohibiting activities that many homeless people do to survive, such as sleeping in public or panhandling.' (Think Progress, 5 February) Even from the standpoint of capitalism this seems financially crazy. From the standpoint of socialism it is socially crazy, as houses would be built for people to live in. RD

A Wasteful Society

At a time when many families are finding it difficult to feed their children the action of some supermarkets appears crazy. 'Last year Tesco threw away almost 30,000 tonnes of food in just six months, 41 per cent of it from the bakery. Across the UK an estimated 15 million tonnes are discarded a year, including by customers. Despite this many supermarkets are hitting back at skip-divers, the students said. Some pour bleach or blue dye on their products, while others slap "not for human consumption" stickers on them.' (Daily Mail, 8 February) Needless to say inside a socialist society food like everything else would be produced to satisfy human needs not to make a profit. RD

A socialist lesson from Kiev

The events of Ukraine may be far away from Glasgow and Edinburgh but the driving force of the conflict is very familiar.

 What is making people take one side or another and feel so passionately about it that they take to the streets in violent confrontations, is nationalism, that sense of identity based on “ethnicity” (and in Ukraine, language). Nationalism has made allies of people who we might have called "liberals" and people who we definitely call "fascists."

Nationalism is the idea that the most important thing about a person is his or her nationality When nationalism is strong, then people judge their politicians  by asking "Are they of the right nationality?" What this means is that leaders are not judged by asking, "What are their values?" or "Are they for equality or inequality" or even "Are they honest or corrupt?"

Evaluating politicians this way is a recipe for enabling leaders who are personally corrupt or who want society to be very unequal and undemocratic to gain power on the grounds that they are of the right nationality. Such leaders know that in order to make the correctness of their nationality trump all other concerns they need to keep "their" people in fear of another "enemy" nationality.  This is why some politicians relish and foment national or  ethnic or religious strife.  One way of doing this is to use the rhetoric of "freedom"

For those of us who want a socialist  society, the important question is not what nationality you are but whether you support or oppose the values of socialism - equality and mutual aid among people regardless of nationality. Ukrainians will continue to be oppressed by inequality, by the rule of the few haves over the many have-nots. No matter what nationality the haves are, their goal is to make sure that the have-nots remain dominated, exploited and oppressed by the haves.

And can the Scottish nationalists say an independent Scotland will be any different? The Socialist Party is confident that  ordinary Scots want a socialist society, meaning that if they were presented with that goal clearly spelled out they would say it would be wonderful to live in such a world. The Socialist Party is also sure that most Scots follow their political leaders because they hope it will result in an improvement in their lives by reducing the domination and oppression by the haves. This domination is all they know and experienced, and any big change such as the prospect of independence and the promise of having their nationality in power instead of the “enemy” nationality offers the hope that maybe it will make things better. But most Scots have never heard the case for genuine socialism and  think anybody who uses the word "socialism" wants another Soviet Union and Stalin.  All that is left is for them to choose which nationality to identify with and vote for.  People are in an ideological trap, in which only the haves win and the have-nots are doomed to lose. the Scottish working-class need to break out of this trap.

Instead of trying to figure out if it is separatism or the union to support it makes far more sense to build a socialist movement where we live. When it comes to keeping the have-nots out of power, the haves of all nationalities cooperate with each other far more than they fight each other to strengthen the power of the haves generally, everywhere in the world. . The best thing we can do to help the have-nots (in Ukraine) is to fight against the haves where we live and try to remove them from power.

Freely adapted from a Countercurrents post by John Spritzler

Kilmarnock Discussion Group

Kilmarnock Discussion Group  

 Thursday, 27 February 2014
 Thursday, 27 March 2014
 Thursday, 24 April 2014
 Thursday, 29 May 2014
 Thursday, 26 June 2014
 Thursday, 31 July 2014 -

7:00pm - 9:00pm
The Wheatsheaf Pub,
70 Portland Street,
 Kilmarnock KA1 1JG
(About three minutes walk from the rail station and five minutes from the bus station)

For more information contact: 
Paul Edwards.
Tel: 01563 541138

Orange Pith

From the August 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Orange Myths

It is Sunday 7 July. In Portadown this morning a riot took place and working people, including policemen, were hurt; some were arrested. Another battle  . . . another myth . . . another contribution to the bitterness and hatred that divide the working class in Northern Ireland.

The government and police and wanted to ban this morning's march through the exclusively Catholic Obins Street district. The marchers, Orangemen going to church accompanied by bands playing sectarian tunes and flaunting sectarian symbols, refused to obey the Government, the police and the law despite their vociferous protestations of loyalty to all three. The police - probably working on the assumption that they could cope more easily with the Catholics than they could with the loyalists - gave in and the march took place. The holy men of the Orange Order marched defiantly through Obins Street to communicate with their god.

The Orange Order intend repeating this exercise on the twelfth and thirteenth of July. The police have issued a notice proscribing these marches and - to compound this lunacy - the Catholics have announced their intention of staging parades at the same time and on the same date.

Paisley and several other loyalist politicians and hate-mongering clergymen have let it be known that they will defy any Government order banning the march. In their eyes the issue is sufficiently serious to justify a civil war. Serious enough to endanger the lives, homes and liberties of working people, for, make no mistake, it is workers who would be asked to slaughter one another. Not because they suffer poverty or live in slums; not because they endure the miseries of unemployment or have mean lives. No. Paisley, who has used bigotry and hatred to become one of the best paid politicians in Europe, and his friends don't experience these things. What they are asking Protestant workers to spill their blood for is something really wholesome and important: the right to march through avenues of Catholics reminding them that their forbears were defeated in 1690!

We would ask our Protestant fellow workers to examine some of the historical facts that make up the myths and damned lies for which their leaders want them to kill and be killed. We have, many times, in the past, exposed the myths that make up the "principles" behind the IRA murder campaign and the fallacious reasoning used to inveigle Catholics into support of Irish Nationalism, so it cannot be said that in exposing the lies and deceptions underlying Unionism we have any sympathy whatsoever with nationalism or republicanism. Our purpose is to disabuse workers on both sides of the notions and fictions that keep them divided; to show that neither Unionism nor nationalism have anything to offer the working class and, to bring them to an examination of the cause of their real, common problems.

King James and King Billy

James II succeeded to the throne of England following the death of his brother, Charles II, in 1685. A convert to Catholicism and a sickly pious man - following a life of profligacy and sexual abandonment - he was determined to re-establish the power of Catholicism in his kingdom. Within three years of becoming king, James' policies had provoked fierce opposition in England and fear and distrust among the Protestant population of Ireland. In 1688 seven members of the English parliament petitioned James' son-in-law, William, Prince of Orange, to become king of England. James reacted by allying himself with the French king, Louis XIV, who manipulated the situation to his own advantage by making England a semi-dependent of his own kingdom.

According to Orange fiction, James was the agent of Rome and popery. Nothing could be further from the truth. In seeking the help and support of Louis XIV, King James was allying himself with the pope's bitterest enemy. Louis, bent on European domination, had made Lorraine a subject state, had attacked Genoa and attempted to sack Rome. The pope of the period, Innocent XI, was outraged and humiliated. In 1686 some of the European powers, alarmed at the strength and ferocity of the French, entered into the Treaty of Augsberg. This Treaty, established specifically to resist the marauding armies of Louis XIV, was subscribed to by the king of Spain, the Emperor of Germany and by William, Prince of Orange. The nominal head of the Treaty powers was Pope Innocent XI.

So, rather than being an enemy of the pope, as Orange mythology asserts, "King Billy" was the pope's ally when, in November 1688, he invaded England and his armies were partially provisioned and equipped by the powers of the Augsberg Treaty - and he had the official backing of the Roman Catholic church! Contrary to myth, when they fought in the Battle of the Boyne on 30 June and 1 July 1690, King Billy was an ally of the pope and King James an ally of the pope's most bitter enemy, Louis of France. Indeed, when news of King William's victory over King James at the Boyne percolated through to Rome the pope ordered the singing of a special Te Deum in St. Peter's and similar celebrations and rejoicings were held in Catholic churches in Madrid, Brussels and Vienna.

James was a Catholic, of course, and William a Protestant but, as always, the politics and economics underlying their conflict rose above religion.

Religious liberty

What about the notion that King Billy established religious liberty in Ireland and saved the Protestants from persecution? Again, Orange fable stands historical fact on its head.

It was James, as the legitimate incumbent of the English throne, who signed the Acts of the Dublin Parliament, giving freedom of religion to all citizens. King Billy, too, when he agreed the Treaty of Limerick in October 1691, accepted that the various religious denominations should continue to enjoy the freedom of religious worship established in the reign of Charles II and under the Acts of the Dublin Parliament agreed by James. Later he established the Episcopalian Church and effectively outlawed not only Catholicism but Presbyterianism -  the religion of the great majority of Protestants in Ireland.

A Presbyterian clergyman in 1691 was liable on conviction of delivering a sermon or celebrating the Lord's Supper to a term of imprisonment and fine of £100 and they were similarly punished for performing marriage rites. There are many recorded convictions for these "offences" during the period, especially in the counties of Antrim and Down. In 1694 the Williamite government passed a Test Act which effectively precluded Presbyterians from offices under the Crown and a further Act of 1713 set a punishment of imprisonment for Presbyterians convicted of schoolteaching and banned the marriage of Presbyterians and members of the Established church.

The History of Irish Presbyterianism gives the political and economic reasons for the persecution thus:
Presbyterians, having no political power, had to submit to political persecutions. The feudal system which transferred ownership of the soil from the toiler to the landlord was one of many evils introduced by the power of England.
King Billy was the chief agent of that feudal power which persecuted, viciously and equally, both Catholic and Presbyterian in Ireland.

Driven out of Ireland

Such was the "civil and religious liberty" enjoyed by the then, as now, numerically strongest Protestant denomination in Ireland that, in the first half of the eighteenth century, almost a quarter of a million Ulster Presbyterians were driven out of the country. These went mainly to America, where many played a distinguished role in the war of the American colonists to gain political and economic independence from England.

On both sides of today's sectarian divide it is ordinary working people, usually the very poorest, who are the victims of both the republican and loyalist myths. The hate mongers and fable peddlers don't live in the slums and are rarely victims of the violence they so actively promote.

When Presbyterians march to celebrate the Battle of the Boyne on "The Twelfth" and the victory of King Billy over his equally degenerate father-in-law, King James, they are commemorating a victory which was as opposed to the interests of their forbears in 1690 as it is to their own class interests in 1985.

Richard Montague
Belfast Branch WSP

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sensitive Billionarses

A couple of recent newspaper reports illustrate that billionaires are getting upset with the rest of us. 'Billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell agreed with capital pioneer Tom Perkins that wealthy Americans are being unfairly criticized and said that the 1 per cent work harder.' (Chicago Tribune, 6 February) 'Tamara Ecclestone, the daughter of Bernie Ecclestone, the billionaire head of Formula One, has accused Britons of having a "vicious attitude" towards people born into wealth. ...... The celebrity heiress has starred in a reality television show, Billionaire $$ Girl, about her opulent lifestyle, and is known to have spent £30,000 on champagne in a single night and bought a £1 million crystal bathtub.' (Times, 25 February) As far as we can ascertain Tamara has never worked a day in her life, despite Zell's claim about billionaires working harder. RD

Down with the State

Societies without States have continued to exist down to our own times among the many of the indigenous peoples of the world. As soon as there are in a society a possessing class and a dispossessed class, there exists in that society a constant source of conflict which the social organization would not long resist, if there was not a power charged with maintaining the “established order,” charged, in other words, with the protection of the economic situation of the possessing party, and therefore with the duty of ensuring the submission of the dispossessed party. This from its very birth  has been the role of the State. The offspring of struggles or threats of struggles between conflicting interests. The State, for socialists, is not any neutral beneficial social organization whatsoever. It is the public power of coercion created and maintained in human societies by their division into classes, and which, having force at its disposal, makes laws.  The State, having been created by the division of society into classes, is inevitably maintained by that division. The State is not an independent organism, having its own existence without regard to the interlaced economic relations of men, but is necessarily subordinate to the division of society into classes, and, in consequence, to a particular economic situation, no party whatever can reasonably set up, as the immediate goal for its efforts, the abolition of the State, nor the suppression of the political power that constitutes it. This where the so-called anarcho-capitalists, the supposed, right-wing libertarians are mistaken. The State, being a consequence, cannot disappearance before the disappearance of the social conditions of which it is the necessary result. The economic system  begets classes guarantees of perpetuity in the State. We can abolish the State only after having suppressed classes but unlike the traditional anarchist theory not to directly aim at present at its abolition because it cannot be abolished before the disappearance of classes, a disappearance that it must itself help to bring to pass. The only viable tactic for workers is the conquest of political power, the conquest of the State. It is the complete control by them of the public powers, that all their efforts must have in view; it is to this object that all their tactics must be devoted to make possible the suppression of classes.

State-capitalism is often mistakenly called state-socialism. Whenever an industry was nationalised it was declared an abandonment of capitalism and as an example of socialism in practice,  the transformation of capitalism into socialism. What came to pass was not socialism nor a step towards  socialism, but State- capitalism. Socialism is not state ownership, nationalisation or State management of industry, but the opposite: Socialism does away the state, its first act is to abolish the state. Socialism does not transform industry into the state, but state and industry are transformed into socialism, functioning industrially and socially through new administrative organisations  of the  producers, and not through the state. State-capitalism is not socialism and never can become socialism. A lure that is offered to the workers is that capitalism is  “democratised”  by state-capitalism, placing power in the hands of “the people” and the promise of regulation of working conditions through the fraudulent pretense of “industrial democracy.” But it strengthens the state and weakens the working class. The goal of the working class is liberation from exploitation. This goal is not reached and cannot be reached by a new directing and governing class substituting for the capitalists. It can only be realised by the workers themselves being masters over production. State-capitalism  planned by the rich for their own benefit and survival is quite possible, but it is far from the type of society where the rule rests in the hands of those who produce wealth and services and whose aim is the welfare of the mass of the people.

The Socialist Party must work for socialist  ideas to penetrate more and more the elective bodies, and this implies a constant propaganda among the working class.  For sure circumstances may possibly impose upon the socialist movement later on another mode of action, but that is a matter for the future not the  present. So long as such circumstances have not come to pass, socialism has nothing to gain by departing from its campaign for political power through the ballot box. Those who strive to keep the people out of the field of political action playing the same game of the ruling class. By shouting, “No politics!” they are merely echoing the rallying cry that the wealthy has always given to the working-class - “leave the running of the public affairs to your betters.”

Therefore, The Socialist Party say we must work without ceasing to elect socialists, to permeate and saturate the State more and more with socialist ideas, until, in the hands of the socialist party or the class-conscious, organized proletariat, the State with all its powers, and especially that of law-making, becomes the instrument, which it is destined to be, of the economic transformation to be accomplished. When that transformation is completely accomplished, there will then be, instead of persons to be constrained, only things to be administered, and on that glorious day there will still be a social organisation, but it will no longer be a State.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Great Divide

From the April 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard an article from an Edinburgh branch member

The "North-South divide" has become part of political rhetoric. The government recently issued figures which showed that of the jobs lost in recent years, 94 per cent were in the north of the country and only 6 per cent in the south, thereby seeming to provide still more evidence of a division between North and South. In fact the "north" now includes almost anywhere outside the south-east of England as the Midlands have also suffered massive job losses. Predictably, the opposition parties have blamed this on the government's mismanagement of the economy. Roy Hattersley, Labour's deputy leader and shadow chancellor, said the government had "scandalously neglected those areas of the economy with which it does not feel any emotional sympathy and deep political interest" (Independent, January 21). He accused them of favouring city and financial interests in the south-east at the expense of manufacturing industry, which is synonymous with the interests of the regions. Edward Heath, the former Tory Prime Minister and leading "wet", said that the North-South divide was moving further south and that the government should pursue a policy of investment for the regions. What was required, he claimed, was a "constructive, co-ordinated development policy for the country as a whole".

The Liberal-SDP Alliance is always keen to talk about divisions in society. At the recent launch of their joint election programme, which was designed to paper over the damaging splits between the two parties, they talked of the need to unite the country through co-operation and partnership. Partnership in government, they argued, is the only way to heal the divisions between North and South. They also urged co-operation between workers and employers. that class division should be forgotten in the interests of a united nation. This is rather like urging someone being mugged to co-operate with the mugger.

Chancellor Nigel Lawson and other Tory ministers denied the existence of any North-South divide. Lawson claimed that the worst of the recession is over, that the economy is growing fast and that over one million new jobs have been created since 1983. But these new jobs have not been spread evenly across the country. On the government's own figures, since 1983 there were 446,000 new jobs in the South-East, but only 135,000 new jobs in Scotland, the North-West, the North-East and Yorkshire and Humberside added together. There has been a five per cent increase in jobs in the financial services to 2.25 million, but manufacturing output is still four cent below its 1979 level. Thatcher has claimed that it is wrong to talk of a North-South divide as parts of the South are doing badly. She has got a point, although it does seem strange that she would want to remind people of the severe deprivation and decay that exists in parts of the South-East, especially areas of inner London.

Manufacturing industry has suffered badly in the current world depression. Many coalmines, steelmills, shipyards and factories have been closed and many others have had severe job losses. Some towns and cities have rates of unemployment in excess of 20 per cent, with some pockets in these areas having much higher levels. This is not a deliberate government policy however - governments can do little to affect the way the economy operates. All wealth under capitalism is produced for sale on the market in the expectation that it will make a profit for the owners. If a product cannot be sold at a profit then production is cut back and workers thrown on the dole. Many industries in the north of the country have been faced with this situation and have acted accordingly. Most of the political criticism seems to want a "fairer" spread of employment prospects across the whole country. Even if this were possible, the implication of this kind of argument is to spread poverty across a wider geographical area. Which ever way capitalism inflicts its suffering on the working class is unacceptable. To argue about its location but ignore its real cause serves only to perpetuate it.

Talk about a North-South divide, or indeed whether workers are employed or unemployed, only covers over the real division in society -  the class division. If you have to work in order to live, if you are a member of the working class, then you are likely to experience a life of shortage, insecurity and relative poverty. Whether you live in London or Liverpool or whether you earn 300 a week or are on the dole will not change this. Clearly existing on a giro means more intense poverty than existing on a wage packet but compared to the life of ease and luxury lived by the capitalist class, these differences are meaningless. As long as workers allow capitalism to continue there will be arguments about who is doing best (or least badly). We will be told that northerners are being hard done by compared to southerners, despite the fact that both endure various levels of poverty. In fact workers themselves will contribute to these artificial divisions - not so long ago there were reports of trouble at a football match when supporters of a London club waved bunches of 10 notes at Liverpool fans and sang songs about them being on the dole.

There always seem to be a plentiful supply of Scottish nationalists who claim that the "English" parliament doesn't care about the Scots, who should get their own parliament and run their own affairs. The Brixton and Tottenham riots happened almost within spitting distance of the House of Commons; clearly, having the "mother of parliaments" on your doorstep is no sure way to peace and prosperity. Not so long ago we were told how lucky we are to live in a developed country like Britain, because if we lived in parts of Africa we'd be starving to death. They were still talking about the North-South divide, but now in global terms. It is cold comfort to people on the dole to be told that they are lucky that they don't live in Ethiopia. The absolute poverty is not the same, but its cause and solution certainly are.

The possibility of finding differences in working class existence are endless. The urgent need is to put an end to the system that creates these artificial divisions. Capitalism is by its nature divisive and competitive, whether it divides people on the grounds of race, sex, nationality or geographical location. Workers have got to transcend these artificial differences and recognise our common interest - that of a degraded, exploited class. Once we recognise our basic class interests then no force on earth can prevent us from acting accordingly, and putting an end to all social division once and for all.
Ian Ratcliffe

Food For Thought

 A horrifying article in the Toronto Star of December 28 focused on the mutilation and sale of albinos' body parts in Tanzania, "In Tanzania's black market, black magic is for sale. Witch doctors offer bits of albinos' bodies; arms, legs, hair, genitals, and blood. They are used for potions that the sellers promise will bestow health, wealth, and happiness." It is shocking that in today's world where so much knowledge is available that such incredible superstition exists – an incentive to work for truth and scientific knowledge for the whole world in a socialist society. John Ayers

Helping The Poor?

At first it sounds reassuring. 'Pope Francis on Monday revolutionized the Vatican's scandal-plagued finances, inviting outside experts into a world often seen as murky and secretive and saying the church must use its wealth to help the poor.' (New York Times, 24 February) A department known as the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which manages financial holdings and real estate, will formally assume the role of the Vatican's central bank the statement said. The role and structure of the separate Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), will not change for the time being. Both the IOR and APSA have been at the centre of scandals. Italian magistrates are investigating the IOR on allegations of money laundering. Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, who worked as a senior accountant at APSA for 22 years and who had close ties to the IOR, is currently on trial accused of plotting to smuggle millions of dollars into Italy from Switzerland to help rich friends avoid taxes. Reassured? RD

For World Socialism

We have managed to create a new world full of technological wonders and a potential for a bountiful abundance for all, but we still run it the old way - the capitalist way.  Governments cannot fix the problems. The remedies will require a massive and new degree of cooperation. That, in turn, requires not just information networks, but basic changes in human behaviour such as our overly-attachment to nations and our approach to politics.

Capitalists are not interested in production to benefit the peoples of the world. They are interested only in profits. If the productive forces in the world were to be used for the purposes of construction, the entire planet could be transformed and the standards of living and level of culture raised to undreamed of heights. This is not possible under capitalism. It is not profitable to feed the starving people. Only the unity of the workers and a socialist world can produce that “One World” which can abolish want and oppression and war. Only a socialist world can give us peace and plenty. Look how the capitalist world totters on the brink of destruction. The capitalist political parties are as rotten and bankrupt as the system they uphold. The myriad evils of capitalism will disappear only with the destruction of capitalism and the building of socialism.  We will do away with the chaos of capitalism. Democratically-elected councils of workers in every industry and district will manage the factories and public services. We, socialists, refuse to join the reformists in leading the workers into the camp of capitalism. The intensity of the class struggle is greater today than at any time since the capitalists overthrew feudalism. Now it is the working class that must overthrow capitalism. The only road is the socialist road. Vote for the Socialist party, the only party that keeps the red flag flying.

The aim of the Socialist Party is not merely to take political power and establish socialism within the United Kingdom, that would be impossible but to join with the workers of all other countries in building world socialism. A world socialist society is the only solution to the many social problems in present day society. Only a socialist society can utilize rationally the natural resources and productive machinery of the Earth in the interests of the peoples of the planet. A network of socialist communities can alone solve the conflict between the efficient development of productive forces and the restrictions of artificial national boundaries.  Only world socialism will remove the causes of international wars that under capitalism now seriously threaten to send mankind into barbarism or complete destruction.  With world socialism the international division of labour would be organised in a more rational, cooperative and planned way than it is now. We see one revolution as links in the chain of revolutions which will emancipate the world from capitalism and establish world socialism. This conception stands in the center of the system of ideas which binds us together.

Socialism is the only way out from the difficulties in which humanity faces. To-day’s world is still a world of economic exploitation, misery, hunger, hatred, war and fear. The old problems are joined by new ones. Our desire is to contribute to the realization of a humane human community. The Socialist Party disdaining to bow to popular fads and fallacies or to sacrifice working class interests for the sake of temporary opportunistic advantage. Against capitalist-nurtured doctrines the Socialist Party has taken its stand.

The Socialist Party does not refuse ameliorations offered by the capitalist class, but contends that the more revolutionary the workers become, the stronger they make their economic and political organizations, the more prepared and anxious will the capitalist class be to throw sops to them in order to keep them contented.

The first condition of success for socialism is that its proponents should explain its aim and its essential characteristics clearly, so that they can be understood by every one. Socialists believe that society is divided into two great classes by the present form of property-holding, and that one of these classes, the wage-earning, the proletariat,  possess nothing. They can only live by their work. He can neither work, nor eat, clothe or shelter himself, without being held to ransom by the owning capitalist class.

The trade unions are based on the proposition that the workers by hand and brain, who sell their services to the capitalist class—i.e., the owners of industry—have interests which are opposed to those of that class. Trade unionists were not long in discovering that the State was not a neutral body representing the interests of the community. It constantly intervened against the workers in strikes. It passed legislation which hindered the growth of trade unionism. The object of nationalisation is not to lay the foundations of a new society. Socialists have always criticised the capitalist system because it gave rise not only to recurring economic crises, but to ever more devastating wars. The system of capitalist production leads inevitably to the alternating cycle of boom and  bust and periodical crisis under capitalism. With socialism, production is planned and rational, and takes place for peoples’ use. The establishment of a socialism will mean the end to the chaos of capitalist production with its lack of planning, repeated crises, unemployment, inflation and criminal waste. Exploitation, oppression, and degradation will not exist in socialist society. Commodity production, that is, production for sale or exchange on the market, will not exist. The system of wage labor will be abolished and the guiding principle of labor will be “from each according to ability, to each according to need.” The means of production will be held communally and private property will be eliminated. With the abolition of classes and class distinctions, all social and political inequality arising from them will disappear. The conflicts of interest between workers and farmers, town and country, manual and intellectual labor will disappear. As classes will not exist, the state will not be necessary as an instrument of class rule and will wither away. To replace the system of capitalism by which the millions of the majority are compelled to sell their only commodity, labor power, for the profit of a small minority.To end exploitation of man by man, to end the present system which compels the many to work to produce wealth for a few.

The problem before society to-day is not a financial problem. It is a property problem. The banks belong to the superstructure of capitalism. Private property is the foundation. The financial crises, consumption crises, credit crises and the like are nothing more than the reflections of the fundamental economic crisis arising from the fact that the private ownership of the means of production has become an anachronism in a society where social methods of production have superseded individual methods of production. No amount of credit supply to manufacturers, no amount of currency manipulation which leaves the question of property ownership untouched, can do other than aggravate the crisis of capitalism.

 The ownership question is a political as well as an economic question in society divided into owning and non-owning classes. This is the basis of the struggle of classes which many 'anti-capitalists’  appears to have forgotten. In their tirades against the financiers, the bankers won’t flinch because of this onslaught, but people may be diverted from that which matters more than all else to-day, namely, the struggle to secure the social ownership of the means of production—the prerequisite of economic and social prosperity. Social ownership must supersede the private ownership of the means of production, and can only come about through the political victory of the class without property over the class with property.

Our movement is leader-less and leader-full. Everything for everyone, nothing for ourselves.

Monday, February 24, 2014

238 Canadian troops have committed suicide

Another grim statistic goes to prove that killing humans is not a natural Activity. Since 1995, 238 Canadian troops have committed suicide, averaging ten per year until 2007 and seventeen per year thereafter. We spend $20 billion on so-called defence. Never was so much wasted on something so stupid! John Ayers

Rape Insurance!

In March a new law will take effect in Michigan that has been called Rape Insurance! It will force women covered by public or private health plans to pay extra for fear they may suffer an unintended pregnancy, including one that threatens their lives and well-being. This is the latest move by the Michigan's House and Senate to restrict abortion for poor women, whereas rich women do not need insurance plans. This bill is hardly the most democratic one considering only one third of voters support it. Senate minority leader, Gretchen Whitmer, " Requiring Michigan women to plan ahead for an unplanned pregnancy is not only illogical (there's that word again!), it is one of the most mysogynistic proposals I've seen in the legislature." Two aspects of this are crystal clear, life for the poor gets harder everyday and life under capitalism gets crazier.John Ayers

Capitalism or Socialism


The world in which we live is in a desperate situation. Poverty and unemployment, disease and war, are endemic in the modern world. Industrialisation have wreaked havoc on the environment. People starve, not because there is no food, but because food is distributed only when it can make a profit. Corruption is rife in politics and commerce. Work, for most people, means drudgery. A sense of community in our world is increasingly missing in our daily lives. The answer lies in ending the separation of economics and politics. It involves people taking control of their workplaces, their neighbourhoods, their communities – directly and without mediators. Without bureaucrats, capitalists and managers standing in the way, it should be possible to build a sense of community, of unity, of cooperation. Either we do this or we will destroy ourselves.

The class struggle is simple to understand. A handful of industrial and financier capitalists who are in control of the factories, the banks, the natural resources and the government, are steadily whittling away at the living standards and democratic rights of all the working class. The Socialist Party proceeds upon the understanding that society is at present divided into two classes, whose economic interests are antagonistic. The Socialist Party calls on the workers of to unite for their common cause.  We must pit the unity of the workers against the unity of the exploiters.  We must match the solidarity of the working class whose ideal is freedom, with the solidarity of the employers whose aim is exploitation. The task for the capitalists and exploiters is unfortunately comparatively easy as they control both the capitalist state, the media and the education of the workers; and it is knowledge which sheds light on social and international questions. History and facts are falsified to present a skewed picture of reality.

The great majority of workers struggling to resist the employers are still under the influence of reformists who can only think of how to solve problems within the framework allowed by capitalism. As sops to the  workers, the capitalists have introduced some nationalisation  here and there but industries nationalised are no cure for wage-slavery, because they are still carried on for profit; and nothing but the socialisation of the means of life under a free co-operative commonwealth will abolish the present system, and give the wealth of the world to the workers of the world. The last thing reformists strive for is the  reconstruction of society and the abolition of wage slavery. That is what the Socialist Party stand for. The workers of the world have tried every other way and found it leads up a blind alley. The question for the workers is how to combine industrially and politically to got hold of the means of production and distribute their products throughout the whole community, according to the needs. It’s not such a difficult question to solve. Why do the workers continually turn away from it?

The Socialist Party is not a political party in the sense that other parties are - it has no reform to advocate.  This party cannot, and will not, free the workers; the workers must free themselves. The workers who would be free must organise and must educate themselves to obtain the knowledge which will enable them engage in the revolutionary work necessary to change the era of wage-slavery into the era of the Co-operative Commonwealth.

The gains of the past must be defended now. But the best way to do this is by understanding that unless the capitalist system itself is overthrown, those past gains and any temporary victories will be reversed by the needs and drives of the bosses who own and control it. Capitalism has brought technology and the organization of production to a point where the potential to adequately feed, clothe and house the entire world population is reachable. But the creation of abundance would end exploitation and destroy profits, so the capitalists themselves stand as a barrier to a society fit for human beings. Socialist revolution is the only solution! Socialism is the system of society in which production would be controlled and directed by the community in the interest of all of the society. It is the alternative to the existing system. The workers’ socialist revolution is the only “practical” politics, not a “wild" unrealisable notion but the sole constructive path.  Nothing is more certain than that any alleviation of the workers’ lot involves the capture of the State. The battle between the workers’ needs and capitalism grows ever fiercer. It can only end in revolution.

The only path before workers is Revolution. All the reformist remedies not only fail to touch the root  — the burdens of capitalist disorganisation and parasitism, and the gulf between growing productive power and mass impoverishment. They can only intensify the disease. The capitalists look for the solution in fiercer competition, in restricting production, in cheapening their own costs of production, in cutting wages against their competitors, in increasing their own competitive power, in fighting to enlarge their own share of the market. But these measures are pursued by the capitalists in every country. Although one set or another set may gain a temporary advantage for a short time, the net effect can only be to deepen the crisis. The net effect of every advance of technique, of every wage-cut, of every cheapening of costs and intensification of production, is to intensify the world crisis. The crisis is not a crisis of natural scarcity or shortage.  Millions of workers are willing and able to work; but existing society has no use for their labour. The crisis is a crisis of capitalism alone. Every advance of production only intensifies the crisis, intensifies the ferocity of capitalist competition for the market.

All the leaders of capitalism, economists, financiers, politicians, are at sixes and sevens. Many would-be reformers of capitalism (including many on the Left) urge that if only the capitalists would pay higher wages to the workers, enabling them to buy more of what they produce, there would be no crisis. This is utopian nonsense, which ignores the inevitable laws of capitalism — the drive for profits, and the drive of competition. The drive of capitalism is always to increase its profits by every possible means, to increase its surplus, not to decrease it. Individual capitalists may talk of the “gospel" of high wages in the hope of securing a larger market for their goods. But the actual drive of capitalism as a whole is the opposite. The force of competition compels every capitalist to cheapen costs of production, to extract more output per worker for less return, to cut wages. It conceals the real process of capitalism at work. Capitalism has no solution. The most the capitalists can see is to wait amid the general misery until the universal stagnation, destruction and stoppage of production has produced such a vacuum that “demand” will again arise, beginning a new trade cycle, and leading to a new and greater crisis. But of any attempt to organise the growing productive power to meet human needs — the question does not even enter into their heads; it cannot arise within the conditions of capitalism.

Capitalism to-day is no longer willing to grant concessions to the workers, on the contrary finds itself compelled to withdraw existing concessions, to make new attacks, to worsen conditions.  To enforce worsened conditions on the workers in order to save capitalism has been the role of the Labour Governments. The Left proclaim their “opposition” to the Labour Party policy and advocate so-called “socialist” alternatives. But on examination their policy will be found to be only the old policy of the Old Labour Party, dressed up in new clothes. Although they speak roundly of “socialism” against “capitalism,” they do not propose the overthrow of capitalism, the working-class conquest of power, the expropriation of the capitalists; their basis is still the same basis of capitalism, of the capitalist State, and therefore the outcome can only be the same. In the end where will all the policies of capitalism lead? They will not solve the crisis. On the contrary, the more they increase the impoverishment of the workers, the more they increase competitive power, the more they intensify the crisis. The same types of policy are pursued by all the capitalists. The only viable proposal for change is the reorganisation of capitalism.

Only socialism can bring the solution. Only socialism can cut through the bonds of capitalist property rights and organise production to meet human needs. Once capitalism is overthrown, then and only then can production be organised in common for all, and every increase in production bring increasing abundance and leisure for all. This is the aim of the working-class revolution. Only the organised working-class can fight and destroy the power of the capitalist class, can drive the capitalists from possession, can organise social production. The capitalists and their propagandist reformists, try to frighten the workers from revolution by holding before them the spectre that revolution means civil war violence and starvation and that the workers depend on capitalism for their existence. The contrary is the truth. Already millions are unemployed or under-employed,  brought down to the barest subsistence basis. Deprivation spreads and the demand for food banks grow.

The issue of class-power, the issue of capitalism or socialism draws close. Forward to the social revolution! There is no time to lose. To-day the workers are mobilising their forces to meet the new capitalist attacks. The spirit of fight is rising in the working-class. Forward to the fight for socialism!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

more food for thought

Here is how logic works in capitalism. The Toronto Star wrote that the state of Florida is set to boom as its population will very soon overtake that of New York State with its attendant increase in economic expansion without thought. Florida's prime source of water comes from the Florida Aquifer that is replenished by rainwater soaking into the ground. The more you pave over driveways, parking lots, and other structures, the less water seepage you get. Logical, eh? Can you predict the result? Capital cannot! John Ayers

Food for thought

 On December 26, scientists announced that eighteen million tons of methane gas had been discovered near the Siberian arctic coast that, owing to global warming, was being leaked into the atmosphere. What will be done? Nothing! Why? Because global warming is a direct result of capitalism's mad dash for profits at any cost. Isn't it logical to stop harmful activities?  Yes, but logic and capitalism are not compatible. The only real logic is to organize and stop capitalism. John Ayers

Marx and the Soviet State

Marx and Engels never believed that their millennium could be brought about on earth by the will of the few and imposed on man generally. The society they envisaged must result from a ‘natural evolution’ and their theory only showed men how to behave, how to recognise favourable conditions – that is, if the material basis on which such a society is possible exists – and eventually how to act so as to hasten its advent in such circumstances. This they called  the materialist conception of history. The ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life. More than this Marx never asserted.

The Leninists, Maoists and Trotskyists call themselves Marxists and of course proclaim their theory to be true communism. In reality, however, it has nothing to do with Marx. In their form of society, the producers have no control or administrative power whatever over production, so that the picture thereby painted represents a strange version indeed of Marx's concept of the association of free and equal producers. For Marx it is not the state which is conceived as being the leader and administrator of production and distribution, but far rather it is the producers and consumers themselves to whom these functions would fall. The reformists and ‘revolutionaries’  turned his theory completely upside down. The struggle for social reforms and the transformation of the various branches of industry into state or municipal enterprises meant for them a steady approach towards socialism. What becomes apparent is that this nationalisation can only lead to the construction of state capitalism, in which the state emerges as a single vast employer and exploiter. Despite their veneer of Marxist terminology, Bolshevik  reality can be easily identified with everything abhorred, criticised and fought against by Marx and Engels all their lives.

 A British worker, employed in a state-owned industry is still  a ‘wage-earner’ in the Marxian sense of the word, and still ‘exploited’. His opposite number in the old USSR (where ‘the system of wage labour and exploitation has been abolished’, as Stalin pretended) earned less, worked longer, had trade unions which existed only to squeeze more and more work out of him, and had the prospect of being sent to a gulag if he protested against his lot; yet he, according to Soviet ‘Marxism’, represented the most ‘advanced, emancipated and free’ worker in the world (as the pretence continued). To justify this, one must first accept the Soviet distinction between an amount of unpaid labour which is ‘surplus value’ when it is the British state which is the beneficiary, and the same amount of unpaid labour which is not ‘surplus value’ when the Russian state is on the receiving end – a subtlety that would perhaps not have been very well received by Marx.

Marx and Engels aspired to a free association of completely free men, where no separation between ‘private and common interest’ existed: a society where ‘everyone could give himself a complete education in whatever domain he fancied’. For ‘man’s activity becomes an adverse force which subjugates him, instead of his being its master’ when there is ‘a division of labour’; everyone must then have a profession, that is a ‘determined, exclusive sphere of activity’ he has not chosen and in which ‘he is forced to remain if he does not want to lose his means of existence’. In their socialist society, on the contrary, a man would be given ‘the possibility to do this today and that tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, to go fishing in the afternoon, to do cattle breeding in the evening, to criticise after dinner’, as he chose (‘The German Ideology’) It is clear that there was not the slightest relation between Marx’s vision of the future society and the Russian system and nor was the slightest sign in the Russian regime of any future development towards the communism of which Marx and Engels desired.

Was it true that the ‘people as a whole’ own the means of production in Russia? The answer, according to the Leninists was and still predominantly ‘yes’, but according to Marx’s conception can only be ‘no’.
For in Russia there is an intermediary between the direct producer and the conditions of production, and this was the state, that is, the working-class = the Communist Party = the commissars, apparatchiks, nomenclature plus the rest of the party leadership. It is true, there was no private ownership of the means of production, and it is the state which is the owner. But state property is no more socialism for the workers are still not the masters of their labour conditions and remain separated from the production process. State ownership of the productive forces is not the solution...  'neither the conversion into joint-stock companies nor into state property deprives the productive forces of their character as capital... The workers remain wage-earners, proletarians. The capitalist relationship is not abolished; it is rather pushed to an extreme.'(Anti-Dühring, Engels) The fact is that in the USSR the state was the owner of the conditions of production – ‘the general capitalist’ – and the direct producers are wage-earners, that therefore the relations between them according to Marx are still the relations between capital and labour, between employer and proletarians.

There is no difficulty in discovering that all the characteristics of the capitalistic system of exploitation are to be found in the Russian system of relationship between the state, owner of the means of production, and the direct producer, the worker. It is true that they are ‘rather pushed to an extreme’ in this ‘most advanced form of state capitalism’. The state pays the labour it employs with wages, and ‘wages... by their very nature always imply the performance of a certain quantity of unpaid labour on the part of the labourer’ (Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 25/1), that is ‘surplus value’.

It is also true that the 1917 Revolution abolished the right to private property and reduced the difference between highly-paid and ill-paid workers  but it did not bring equality. Stalin’s constitution was created to protect the bureaucracy’s newly-acquired wealth, it reintroduced the right to private property and the right to inheritance which was not paid for out of the ‘surplus value’ of the working class, but are the product of the personal labour of the elite - if we were to believe the propaganda.

When Lenin and his party of ‘professional revolutionaries’ took power, they were faced with innumerable  problems they they had inherited. It was a question of life and death for the Bolshevik government to succeed where its predecessors had failed, that is, to install a capitalist society, and it must be admitted that they succeeded. When Lenin declared that ‘if we introduce state capitalism in approximately six months’ time... within a year Socialism will have gained a hold and have become invincible in our country’ (Left-Wing Childishness and Petty-Bourgeois Mentality), he was once more talking nonsense. Indeed, it took much longer than six months to introduce ‘state capitalism’, and socialism must await another revolution. The Communist Party followed the classic process of primitive accumulation which Marx studied, and described in Capital a century ago and they called them 5-year Plans.

Marx and Engels are often faulted for the ‘errors’ of their predictions but credit where credit is due in the foresight they showed in the Russian situation. Marx wrote to Mikhailovsky:
‘Now what application to Russia can my critic make of this historical sketch [on primitive accumulation]? Only this: If Russia is tending to become a capitalist nation after the example of the Western European countries, and during the last years she has been taking a lot of trouble in this direction – she will not succeed without having first transformed a good part of her peasants into proletarians; and after that, once taken to the bosom of the capitalist regime, she will experience its pitiless laws like other profane peoples. This is all...’ (1877)

 Engels argued against Struve’s assertion that ‘the evil consequences of modern capitalism in Russia will be easily overcome as they are in the United States’, and  reminded Danielson, ‘that the United States are modern, bourgeois, from the very origin...’, whereas in Russia a ‘pre-civilisation gentile society, crumbling to its ruins’ was the basis ‘upon which the capitalistic revolution – for it is a real social revolution – acts and operates’. Thus, he told Danielson, ‘the change, in Russia, must be far more violent, far more incisive and accompanied by immensely greater sufferings than it can be in America’ (17 October 1893). For the industrial revolution in Russia ‘cannot take place’, he asserted, ‘without terrible dislocation of society, without the disappearance of whole classes and their transformation into other classes; and what enormous suffering and waste of human lives and productive forces that necessarily implies, we have seen on a smaller scale in Western Europe’ ( our emphasis). Russia’s history bears witness to the accuracy of their forecasts.

Marx borrowed the formula the dictatorship of the proletariat from Blanqui. But the meaning he gave it was completely different. It was in the Paris Commune that they saw the form of government closest to their conception. Marx and Engels never possess any contempt for democracy. They did not wish to destroy it, but to enlarge and perfect it.

 Engels in his introduction to the 1891 edition of Marx’s Civil War in France: it was a ‘new and truly democratic’ form of government. It showed how the ‘transformation of the state and the organs of the state from servants into masters of society – an inevitable transformation in all previous states’, could be avoided. And the means, it is interesting to note, were (i) ‘election on the basis of universal suffrage of all concerned, subject to the right of recall at any time, by the same electors’ of all administrative, judicial and educational officials; (ii) ‘an effective barrier to place-hunting and careerism’ by reducing the wages of the high officials to the level of those of the workers.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Couldn't Care Less Society

Everyone agrees that being a carer is probably the most humane action that anyone can perform, but as we live in capitalism it can turn out to be the most costly. 'Almost half of carers in Northern Ireland are indebted and struggle to pay household bills, new research has claimed. The financial straits endured by many of those who have been forced to give up or cut back on work to look after an older, disabled or seriously ill loved one have been revealed in the year-long study by charity Carers Northern Ireland.' (Belfast Telegraph, 4 February) The charity's research found that amongst other horrors that more than four in 10 carers (42%) were unable to afford utility bills. Almost half (46%) were in debt as a result of caring. One in seven adults in Northern Ireland said their work was negatively affected by caring. 11% of adults in Northern Ireland, 151,811 people, had given up work to care at some point. The fate of carers in Northern Ireland is typical of carers world-wide. RD

The National Ill-Health Service

From time to time the media and politicians like to brag about how Britain's NHS is superior to other countries but they ignore the fact that leading doctors have raised fears that high numbers of patients are dying  while waiting for heart surgery in Wales.  'The Royal College of Surgeons wrote to healthcare inspectors last year warning   of "grave concerns" that too many people were dying in the south of the   country because of long waits for heart surgery.  The letter, seen by The Daily Telegraph, calls for swift action to tackle "unacceptably high mortality" levels and highlights more than 150 cases in which patients died waiting for life-saving treatment.' (Daily Telegraph, 20 February) Needless to say all those 150 deaths were of workers. If you could afford it you would get the best of health treatment without recourse to the NHS. RD

Break the Chains

The history of society (since classes first developed in ancient times) is the history of class struggle. The continuing development of society from a lower level to a qualitatively higher one has been accomplished throughout history by the overthrow of one class by another which represents a more advanced form of organization of production and society as a whole. Thousands of years ago, when the development of the productive forces first made possible the accumulation of a surplus above what people needed to live, and the accumulation of privately owned means of production, the slave-owning class arose and established the slave system. As the productive forces developed, the feudal aristocratic landlord class arose within the slave system, finally overthrew the slave system and established the feudal system. With the further development of the productive forces, the capitalist class arose within the feudal system, finally overthrew the feudal system and established the capitalist system. And now it is the turn of the working class (the proletariat) to overthrow the capitalist system and build a completely new kind of society.

The mission of socialism is so to organise the production so that wealth can be so abundantly produced as to free mankind from want and the fear of want, from the brute’s necessity of a life of arduous toil in the production of the brute’s mere necessaries of life. The working class possesses tremendous potential power to change the world, a fact that is shown every day in the process and product of its labour and in its many struggles against capitalism. It is the task of the working class to remake society to serve the interests of the great majority of the people.

The great store of society’s wealth is created by the millions of workers who with their labour mine, grow, and transport raw materials, construct machinery, and use the machines to transform raw materials into finished products. The machines, raw materials and other means of production created by the workers are an important part of the productive forces of society, but the most important part is the working class itself without whose labor the means of production would rust and rot. But in the hands of the capitalists the means of production become tools for the continued enslavement and impoverishment of the working class.

Capital chases after the highest rate of profit – this is a law beyond anyone’s will, even the capitalists’, and it will continue in force so long as society is ruled by capital. Owning and appropriating a part of the total capital of society privately, each capitalist must try to enlarge his share at the expense of the other capitalists. Capitalists battle each other for profit, and those who lose out go under. While each capitalist tries to plan production, the private ownership, the blind drive for profit and the cut-throat competition continually upset their best-laid plans, and anarchy reigns in the economy as a whole. Capitalists constantly pull their capital out of one area of investment and into another, along with bringing in new machines to speed up production. Some capitalists temporarily surge ahead and expand while others fall behind or are forced out of business altogether. With each of these developments, thousands of workers are thrown into the streets and forced once again to search for a new master to exploit them. All this is why, from its beginning, capitalism has gone from crisis to crisis. The law of capitalism is the commandment: “expand or die.”

From the standpoint of historical development, capitalism was a great advance over the feudal system of landlord-serf relations that preceded it, but capitalism still represents the rule of an exploiting minority over the laboring majority. The “democracy” of capitalism (bourgeois democracy) is really democracy only for the capitalist rulers, just as ancient Greek “democracy” was democracy only for the small minority of slave-owners. Capitalist rule is still a form of dictatorship, and capitalism still a form of slavery for the working class. In its early  rise against the feudal system, the capitalist class raised the banner of “freedom.” It meant “free trade” and “free competition,” which were then spurs to the development of the economy. But more than that it meant the freedom to exploit the workers. Capitalism created the “free worker” by separating the working people from ownership of land through the Enclosures and forcing them to work in ever larger factories. For the workers, capitalist “freedom” means in essence the freedom to choose between toiling for some capitalist or starving.

The rise of capitalism, though brought about through great oppression of the people, was historically progressive, because it made possible the development of large-scale socialised production, and more because capitalism brought into being and concentrated as a mighty army capitalism’s own gravedigger, the modern worker. The working class is the true creator of large-scale socialised production and the true motor in developing the productive forces in modern society. It is the historic mission of the proletariat to overthrow capitalism and replace it with a higher form of society, to liberate the productive forces from the shackles of capitalism, finally eliminate all forms of exploitation, ending all domination of one section of society over another.

 It is time to break free of the chains enslaving us and which are now fetters upon production itself.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Rich get Richer

The notion much beloved of politicians that despite the recent recession "we are all in this together" seems a bit thin on the publication of the following figures. 'The richest 100 people in Britain saw their fortunes grow by 11 per cent last year, making their combined wealth equivalent to the poorest 30 per cent of the UK, according to a new report. Research by pressure group the Equality Trust claims that the combined wealth of the top 100 rose by £25 billion to £257 billion last year. Meanwhile the poorest 30 per cent of UK households have a combined wealth of £255 billion.' (Daily Express, 19 February) Of course this imbalance of wealth is not peculiar to Britain as Oxfam recently published a report which claimed the 85 richest people on the planet have as much wealth as half of the world's population. RD

A Madhouse Society

Capitalism is an insane society but it is doubtful if there is a more  obvious example of its insanity than the so-called housing problem.  Desperate families are reduced to living in temporary bed and breakfast accommodation as they attempt to get a council flat or scrape up enough for a deposit on a house. Meanwhile this farce is enacted.  'A third of the mansions on the most expensive stretch of London's "Billionaires Row" are standing empty, including several huge houses that have fallen into ruin after standing almost completely vacant for a quarter of a century. A Guardian investigation has revealed  there are an estimated £350m worth of vacant properties on the most prestigious stretch of The Bishops Avenue in north London, which last year was ranked as the second most expensive street in Britain.'  (Guardian, 31 January)  Inside a socialist society houses will be built for people to live in not to be bought and sold to make a profit.   RD

Quote of the Day

It is not often that the Socialist Courier blog will quote a member of the old Communist Party polit-buro but when he talks as a trade-unionist then his views are worth repeating

In 1968, the late Mick McGahey, president of the National Union of Mineworkers in Scotland, attacked nationalism, an increasingly prominent force in Scottish politics, as a bourgeois deviation from the class struggle:-
 “[The Scots are] entitled to decide the form and power of their own institutions,” he said at a specially convened trade union conference on devolution. “But Scottish workers have more in common with London dockers, Durham miners and Sheffield engineers than they have ever had with Scottish barons and landlord traitors.”