The debate in Canada now is about the value of our participation in the Afghani war. 168 soldiers died in the twelve years of the war and many more injured or damaged through post- traumatic stress disorder and other mental disorders. In the capital, Kabul, where one would expect the most security, the Toronto Star reports that business is conducted from behind blast barriers, razor wire, and thick steel doors. At the shopping centre, mall cops in camouflage carry AK-47s and even the grocery store is a bunker shielded behind steel doors thick enough to withstand a hit from a rocket-launched grenade and bag boys pack assault weapons. What a tragedy that Afghanistan and Iraq have been reduced to such horror only to make things worse. We all know that the real reason for the two wars was nothing to do with security or democracy but it is still a tragedy that need not have happened. John Ayers.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Reading the World Section of the newspaper is always a horror story. On March 1 The Star reported, "In Malawi, more people have HIV than have electricity, and many of them are girls who are encouraged to have sex and marry when still barely adolescent. It means when life should be beginning, it is already ending." And, " North Korea: The Atrocity Guide – extermination, murder, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions…" Our critics on the Left will say how terrible, we need to eliminate this awful situation now, along with a thousand other awful situations and thus never get to solve one of them entirely. That's because they quite happily leave the cause of the problem, capitalism, in place. The bitter, ironic, truth is that if the working class want it, socialism could be established immediately and end this and most other 'ills' of the present system. John Ayers.
People feel the impact of the changing world on their daily lives and search for an answer to their problems. Socialism is not merely a means of improving the immediate conditions of people but has a greater object than that; it aims at controlling the means of wealth production on behalf of the workers. Socialism may be most quickly defined as the complete democratisation of society. There is a difference between hollow rhetoric about “ freedom and liberty” and real democracy. The fact is that Big Business and the giant corporations dictate policy to the government. By ending the political, economic and financial domination by the clique of millionaire CEOs, socialism, for the first time, creates the conditions for the free expression of the people’s will. The only “liberty” which Socialism ends is the liberty of the privileged class to own industry and amass wealth at the expense of the majority. Socialism ends the “freedom" to exploit and oppress the producers by a class of privileged parasites.
Social democracy must proceed from the bottom upward, whereas the democracy of the capitalist political society is organised from above downward. Socialism does not aim at domination of the individual by an all-powerful State. It has been customary for the wage-workers to be told that they must look to the State for salvation. As socialists we have argued that State ownership takes all control away from the workers. It is the concept of the management of capitalism and not its overthrow. What these policies seek to do is create the idea of a “people’s capitalism”. The motive for production would remain profit and the relations of production would remain capitalist relations. It would remain a capitalist society, with all the features of the capitalism albeit with perhaps some measures designed to soften the impact of capitalism on working class interests. Nevertheless, the political State of capitalism has no place inside socialism; therefore, measures which aim to place industries in the hands of, or under the control of, such a political State are in no sense steps towards workers freedom. Socialism will abolish the State and substitute the full direction of society into the hands of co-operatives producing for the benefit of all. Socialist teaching is all about collective property and collective involvement of the producing class, or citizens as a whole, in the process of production and political decision making. The reduction of this idea to Statism has no part in the authentic Marxist tradition.
The struggle for socialism is the struggle for socialist consciousness. There is not a socialist in the world today who can indicate with any degree of clearness how we can bring about the co-operative commonwealth except along the lines suggested by the Socialist Party. In Socialism, States, countries, or nations, provinces and territories will exist only as geographical expressions, and have no existence as sources of governmental power, though they may be seats of administrative bodies.
The solution for the ills of present-day society is the socialist ownership of the industries and production for the common good, instead of profits for the few. The solution is to end the private ownership of the means of production and replace it with social ownership and production planned to meet the people’s needs, that is, socialism. To enjoy the wealth created by society will be a right given to citizens at birth and, against that, what is required of them is to contribute to society as best as they can. When you are born you have a right to live like everybody else and socialism assumes that you have the common sense to get up and contribute something to society according to your creative ability. There must not be any economic or political connection between people's contributions to production and their enjoyments of its fruits.
It is socialism that is our goal, a future for humanity where classes and the state will have been completely eliminated. The Socialist Party’s primary role is to education and agitation, to orient the struggle of the entire class so that it brings an overall perspective to each branch of the workers’ movement, explaining the root causes, and unite all the isolated battles into one powerful revolutionary offensive. The Socialist Party turns the anger of the workers into a political voice that calls for an end to this criminal capitalist system.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
The Toronto Star reported (March 15 2014) that the cost to taxpayers of the 2008 financial collapse in the US was $12.6 TRILLION in the form of bailouts to prop up the financial sector. More than 8 million workers lost their jobs and as the malaise spread to Europe, the cost was in the high rates of unemployment – 10.2% in France, 12.9% in Italy, and almost Great Depression levels in Spain (26%) and Greece (27.5%). Last year, "The Dallas Federal Reserve estimated that, even assuming the US climbs out of the economic doldrums, the financial crisis will cost that country as much as $14 trillion – or about 90% of GDP – to cover increased spending on social assistance." The article speculates how many of the culprits will be prosecuted as the statute of limitations is fast running out. To date – none, because the relaxation of laws and controls was all part of the scheme to rake in big profits and that's what the system was designed to do.
Many on the Left are deluded into thinking that the Labour Party could be the vehicle for revolutionary social change. The Socialist Party did not fall into the trap of portraying the Labour Party as in some way less capitalist than the Tories. We exposed the Labour Party as an essential part of a double act, as much as a theatrical performance as those of Laurel and Hardy. It works like this: The Tories try legislative means to curb incomes and conditions; this leads to confrontation, i.e. intensified class struggle. Labour then comes on the stage to bail out the Tories by securing trade union cooperation, thus bringing the country back from the brink. Cooperation with the unions, however, has its limits, as the union leadership, no matter how much they collaborate themselves, do not have limitless power over their members, so Labour in turn reaches a dead end. The Tories then have to return with their customary coercion again. This in turn leads back to confrontation, and so on ... This familiar cycle constitutes the ‘two-party system’. The Labour Party, then, cannot be said to ‘betray’ the working class, for it was not a working class or socialist party in the first place.
The Labour Party has not made any mistakes by not introducing socialism, for it was never created to do that in the first place. Some portray the Labour Party as containing a socialist membership ready at any time to burst free from the control of its leadership but a party’s class nature is determined not by who its members are, or who votes for it, but by its political line i.e. whose interests it actually serves. Just because many workers still vote for the Labour Party does not mean it a workers’ party any more than the Liberal Party was at the end of the last century when most working-class electors voted for it.
It is common knowledge that whenever Labour has been in power it has worked in capitalism’s interests. To tell people that in voting Labour they can at the same time avoid succumbing to illusions is to shirk the first responsibility of socialists – to wean the masses away from reformism and win them to revolutionary politics. Socialists are duty-bound to expose the hollowness and hypocrisy of the Labour Party which is just as worthy of our profound feelings of class hatred as of the more obvious anti-working class parties.
Where do socialists go from here? The Labour Party long ago hauled down its tattered, torn, discredited red flag of socialism and instead raised the slogan of peaceful co-existence between capitalist and social ownership of the means of production. “Make capitalism work” is what Miliband now proclaims, echoing and parroting earlier Labour Party leaders. For years its leadership has been attempting to cut down the role as opinion and policy making bodies of the trade unions and transform them into election machines. The “socialist” rank and file with their serious approach to ideas and principles stood in the way of this process. In what, however, has it been, a socialist party? No socialist could have seriously considered the current leadership capable of inspiring the workers in the class battles that lie ahead. Nothing in the Labour Party’s policy programme is socialist. Yet the Left continue to support it.
The principle function of the socialist movement is to participate in the class struggle, which means to actually support any action of the working class against the capitalist class. we cannot expect results, unless the masses themselves get the understanding
and the spirit of organisation
The way to win workers to socialism is to tell them the truth, the plain unvarnished facts. The continued existence of capitalism will bring unemployment, wage cuts, poverty and insecurity to the majority of people. "Figures and facts, facts and figures!” as Mister Gradgrind in Dickens’s Hard Times would say.
We live with the paradox of poverty amid abundance. The productive capacity of the world, which could produce an abundant standard of living for all, is not being utilised. Industry is being run not for people’s needs, but for the private profit of the financial tycoons, the industrial magnates and the large landowners. It is this that is the cause of the crises which tears society apart.
The socialist movement seeks to establish a society based on the common ownership and democratic control of production. Socialism aims at the establishment of a system of social justice that holds no brief for charity or almsgiving. In the countries where universal suffrage is in operation, however imperfect the system may be, people must apply themselves principally to returning socialists to the various elective assemblies. Socialists must work to penetrate more and more the elective bodies, and this implies a constant propaganda.
It is easy to criticise parliamentarism and to criticise it justly, but criticism does not prevent it from existing. Modify the machinery of democracy if you can, just as much as you. Nevertheless, we still ask, is it worthwhile to undertake special campaigns to secure improvements which, however valuable they would be in another situation, are none the less, at present, of secondary importance?
What are we out for? Nothing less than a social revolution, a complete transformation of human society. The Social Revolution should not be an aspiration of the future but an immediate reality, and determine our immediate policy and tactics. Not something to wait for in some far-off future. The fight for socialism is now.
Monday, April 28, 2014
The competitiveness, said the BBC, stemmed from workers’ wages in the West being “held steady” and because they have “become more productive”. This is Orwellian language to obscure the conditions of systematic poverty and exploitation that exist for many workers in Western countries – the scale of which is so appalling that companies are finding Western countries more profitable than other destinations that were formerly thought of as providing cheap labour. Such companies had previously closed down, or as the Orwellian language called it “downsized”, operations in the US, Britain and other Western countries to boost their profits by taking advantage of low wages in China. But several years with chronic unemployment driving down pay and government policy facilitating wage cuts, workers in the West have now been turned into a cheap labour army. Western governments are also using taxpayer money to give corporate tax breaks to entice them to return – in order to exploit the ordinary worker ever more intensively.
The value in terms of average wages in the US is less than what it was back in the 1960s – a half century ago. This has led to a huge rise in poverty and polarization of wealth into the hands of the tiny social elite. America’s top 400 rich individuals own more wealth than half the population of some 155 million people. A quarter of all American workers are officially classed as subsisting below the poverty line. The real figure may be as high as 50 per cent.
In Britain, for example, the average salary for a company executive is now 120 times that of an average worker, according to the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. Twenty-five years ago, the difference was 49-fold.
The time has come for a genuine socialism in which the economy is organised and planned through public ownership and where production is driven by human needs, not private profit. Historically, capitalism has become redundant as an organizing social system. Not only redundant, capitalism has degenerated into the nemesis of the world, threatening its very survival. It is destroying human life through relentless exploitation. The system is irrational, iniquitous and unsustainable. The insatiable lust for private profit is also driving geopolitical rivalry that inevitably manifests itself in war. War is not just good for capitalist business; it also distracts the public.
As Rosa Luxemburg once said, we face a stark choice between the present barbarism under capitalism or creating a new democratic, viable world of socialism. A first step would be for the public to begin talking and thinking openly about the destructive irrationality of capitalism. That is what politicians and the rich elite, including their media mouthpieces, are most in fear of. They fear that moment when the vast majority of people will start to shout out “the emperor has no clothes!”
Sunday, April 27, 2014
The National Retail Federation recently complained bitterly that many shoppers were ripping them off, especially in the area of returns. Sham returns involving stolen merchandise, items bought with fake money, and doctored E-receipts cost the industry $8.8 billion. Another trick was spending a minimum of $50 for a free gift then returning everything but the gift. Senior retail analyst, (now there's a job that will disappear in a socialist world!) Matthew Ong, said, " Consumers are savvier and smarter than they have ever been before. There's so much more information available. They're talking to hundreds, thousands of other people." So after years of legal theft, a section of the capitalist class is experiencing some illegal theft or, at least, some gray areas. Doesn't your heart bleed for them. Better a society where there is no theft of any kind. John Ayers.
The Marxist theorist, Hal Draper remarked: "To engage in class struggle it is not necessary to 'believe in' the class struggle any more than it is necessary to believe in Newton to fall from an airplane. There is no evidence that workers like to struggle any more than anyone else; the evidence is that capitalism compels and accustoms them to do so."
How do we unite in a way where we keep the diversity of multiple movements but still work together in solidarity? The answer is a common vision.
For socialists it is largely the question of whether we can engage the union at our workplaces and social movements in our communities to challenge capitalism. We have to be able to argue that capitalism is bad even when its working well, that capitalism is now a barrier to human development. We need people to recognise that we're fighting the capitalist system. What socialists have to offer is making connections between people across different workplaces, bringing in a class analysis so they see it’s not just them alone. Workers can never win if it’s just a few of us against the State. They have to see there’s actually a class involved.
A socialist party like ours offers some historical memory, so people see how workers did this (often in more difficult circumstances) in the past. Our journals and websites present comparative analyses of what’s going on in the rest of th world—how people there organise and resist. So a socialist party like our own can play a role in terms of bringing a class perspective, information resources, memory into the picture. It is to be a bridge—responding to practical and immediate things, but putting them in that kind of a larger context. Because without that kind of larger context we’re losing the battle of ideas and we’re going to continue to lose. What’s really abstract is pretending that these kinds of questions don’t matter.
Unions are important as defensive institutions but a socialist party has to go beyond sectionalism where unions represent only their members or even workers at one particular company when people decide things on the narrow basis of “does this help me individually, even if it disadvantages others?”, an attitude that disregards the future consequences in the long term. The problem is that isolated struggles by workers in the context of intense capitalist competition will give the capitalists more ability to off-load any gains made by one sector onto other workers. A generalisation of class struggle will make that harder for them to achieve this and can potentially push back the austerity measures across a wider front at least on a temporary basis.
It may mean we have to develop new form of working-class organisations, that would see workers joining and linking across traditional occupational lines so it isn’t just a union with a sectional interest, but it’s workers joining something because they see it as a class interest, and that it also expresses all the other dimensions of their lives. So it’s joined to the community as an organisation facing more than a particular employer.
Can crisis, in certain circumstances provide an accelerant to the class struggle? And what will motivate the working class to overthrow capitalism if not the crisis of the latter?
For decades self-proclaimed "Marxists" (especially Trotskyists) fetishised the word "crisis", and describe every economic downturn and political turn of events as the "crisis of capitalism" or even prophesising the "inevitable" end of capitalism. Its proposed that in a crisis, the closer we are to revolution. The worse conditions become - the more politicised and inclined to take direct action the population become. Some “communists” welcomed the economic crisis of capitalism and claim there is no perspective of revolution without it because for the working class things will not be able to continue as before. It is argued that without some form of crisis there's no reason at all for workers to revolt. It is argued that crises opens up the possibility of revolution, even if it doesn't guarantee it. But without crisis there is no possibility whatsoever. There unfortunately won't be a perspective of revolution with it, either.
As long as capitalism can offer us palliatives (or at least the illusions of them) to soothe our exploitation, the system will survive. The current economic crisis is driving capitalist governments and businesses towards some desperate measures to try and stabilise the system and restore (and where possible) increase real profit levels. But this is not to assume that particular governments or companies are stuck with only one set of inflexible policies.
Genuine socialists prefer that working class living standards aren't severely cut. How do we agitate workers around this issue? "Cheers for the Recession"!! Most of the Left seems to be basing all of its activity around either recruiting workers into their particular party, or upon the vague hope that the working class will engage in some kind of spontaneous socialist revolution. Wishing the massive impacts of a massive economic crisis upon people's lives just in the hope that their fringe ideas will get picked up and perhaps adhered to by a handful of additional people, the contempt that it shows for humanity is disdainful. It also lays bare the complete and utter impotence of said movements in the first place. This overly optimistic wish-fulfilment mixed with its crude utopian determinism does no justice to Marx.
History does not show crises is capable of producing anything that is favourable to the process of implementing a sustainable social and economic system that could both eclipse and be more progressive than the current form of organising society. The track records of depressions are such that they have not produced a lasting positive effect on any attempts to eclipse the current method of organising society. We've seen countless crises since the birth of capitalism, all of which the effects of have been disproportionaly visited upon those who can least afford to bear those consequences, and none of which have ended up leaving the position of class struggle or even progressive social democratic politics in an enhanced position after the event, maybe for blips of time, but in the long run, crisis have been kinder to capitalism than they have to us - and those going into a crisis with power will invariably come out of the other end of it in a far better position than those who went into it with less power. Anyone who had a realistic view of the implications of the crisis relating to the environment, resources, food and population pressures would not be so gleeful in their wishing those effects upon an already downtrodden working class. Crisis in the main are useful to capitalism. Capitalism needs crisis to continually move onto the next stage and it is odd that those who are supposedly against capitalism wish for things that will help capitalism to reassert itself even wider and deeper than it currently is.
Socialists will not bring consciousness to the working class from the outside but it will be developed in its struggles to defend itself against the inevitable intensification of the attacks against it. There's nothing inevitable about this and if the working class cannot rise to the occasion overall it gets defeated. The economic crisis (like war, etc.) can provide a stimulus for class struggle, but this is not always the case. In some circumstances it can demoralise the class or, even if the class struggles it can be dragged onto bourgeois terrain like the strikers in France in the 30s who supported leftist governments and marched under the national flag. Despite the considerable militancy, the class struggle was contained. What can happen is that the working class could be beat down more than it already has been in the previous decades. The working class is mostly under the sway of bourgeois ideology, is not organised even into class fighting organisations, and therefore is presently unable to threaten the capitalists power. The Great Depression produced no revolutionary upsurge and the appalling conditions of workers in the 3rd world haven't automatically led to social revolution in those countries either. We can perhaps even expect to see reactionary ideology make a resurgence amongst the working class, in the midst of any coming crisis. If the working class is not already prepared it will be divided and defeated. That is not appealing prospect.
Economic crisis and increasing misery for the working class doesn't necessarily and inevitably lead to revolution. Relying upon the effects of the crisis seems to be the lazy way to try and approach social change, scrap all the groundwork and hope the crisis does it for you. While it is argued that downturns make people angry and more susceptible to revolutionary ideas, the opposite may be true. It may be downturns just lead to despair, fatalism, acceptance of misery and cynicism to things getting better. Upturns in the economy make revolution more likely because it is the human condition never to be satisfied and when you've got the job, house, wages, car and all the mod cons then you want more - security, control over your own life which can only be got by workers ownership and control of our own work, residents ownership of their own homes and individuals control over our lives, all of which can only be got by anarcho-communism by way of social revolution. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That is our basic function: to develop alternatives, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable. The best we can hope for is to use this as an opportunity to re-group, in order to get the working class in a stronger position to start from when the boom returns. All we can do is to try to negotiate the best terms possible and try to resist as effectively as we can the increased downward pressures on wages and working conditions (for which we need collective organisation and action, even within the existing trade unions). As to what revolutionaries can do, at the moment being so small a minority, we can't do much more than keep on arguing that the only way-out is to replace capitalism by a system based on common ownership (instead of class ownership) and production solely for use (instead of production for profit) and to keep on urging workers to self-organise themselves democratically to bring this social revolution about
The whole point of class struggle is about winning gains, making our lives better, getting better conditions at work, at home and in society, things that the bulk of the population can easily measure in terms of the direct affect on their day to day lives. We are not going to get much support for our ideas if we come out with argument like "Your living standards may well have declined, you’re worse off now than when we started, and we havn't gained anything in terms of changing the incredibly unjust system of organising society, but just look at the enormous gains we've made in terms of the class struggle" - the whole point is to win real tangible gains that in turn can bolster people and show it can be done, thus allowing momentum to build, more people won over to a critical analysis of the society they live in, more ideas developed for such a time that when the crisis does come so that the right ideas are lying around, in sufficent depth and breadth, that they can be picked up and used, and some good made out of a crisis. But until that time comes it's just pissing against the wind. Struggles should be aimed towards achieving real gains for the sake of those gains or delivering 'an increased confidence, autonomy, initiative,participation, solidarity, egalitarian tendencies and the self-activity of the masses', but all of these are a means to and end and that end should be measurable in terms of improvements in our lives. Workers benefit from their struggles in terms of learning how to organise, discovering their collective power, etc.
Like it or not but capitalism did deliver huge increases in the standards of living over various phases, take the post-war golden age for example, capitalism in the social democratic era brought about a flourishing of consumer capitalism.) The intention of this was not to increase conditions and the general living conditions of the working class, but it was a means to an end for capitalism to accumulate more, and as we know capital will do anything if it means being able to accumulate more, so from that point of view capitalism was happy to, and indeed was required to, deliver a vast increase in living standards and quality of life compared with previous periods of history. In order for it to do this it meant wreaking havoc in other areas and storing up problems for the future, but the bottom line was that the general conditions of the working class have improved under capitalism. You could argue however that conditions have just improved because time has moved on and those improvements would have been seen in any method of organising society, but that would be indulging in what-if's. A substantial amount of the demands of early reformists and the like have actually been delivered. It is it's galling to perhaps admit these things but it does help if you want change, to actually know where you are before embarking on any activity, practical or theoretical, aimed at bringing about that change.
Marx said in the Holy Family:
"Not in vain does it go through the stern but steeling school of labour. It is not a question of what this or that proletarian, or even the whole proletariat, at the moment regards as its aim. It is a question of what the proletariat is, and what, in accordance with this being, it will historically be compelled to do. Its aim and historical action is visibly and irrevocably foreshadowed in its own life situation as well as in the whole organization of bourgeois society today."
The liberation of our class will only come about when we, the class ourselves, for ourselves, do the hard work of organising, which needs that we class conscious workers doing the equally hard work of convincing our fellow workers. At the end of the day, as pro-revolutionaries, it is not in our interest to try and save capitalism but rather to destroy it and to encourage current struggles to develop on an independent, self-organised, class basis and extend accross national boundaries which may well give rise to an escalation of the social crisis and starts to challenge capitalism as a whole from a position of some class strength. Only the self-organisation of the proletariat contains the potential to defend its own interests both in the short-term economic and the longer term political. A working class that can't defend itself is also a working class that is incapable of making a revolution.
Consciousness is something that workers has to acquire, even if it does not want to as Hal Draper said.
Alexander Berkman, the author of the ABC of Anarchism , put it, "Capitalism will continue as long as such an economic system is considered adequate and just". Until people see through it, capitalism will continue to stagger on from economic crisis to war to ecological crisis. To simply denounce finance capitalism as the main enemy is to side with industrial capital in the struggle between the two over how much each is to get of the wealth produced by the worker class. When we challenge capitalism, we challenge it all or we do not challenge it at all.
Marx wrote "Philosophers have only tried to understand the world. The point is to change it."
The Industrial Workers of the World slogan was "Don't moan, Organise!"
Saturday, April 26, 2014
New Decision-making Structures ?
The purpose of discussing socialism as a practical alternative is - in my view - to help elucidate just how simple and straightforward the revolutionary transformation can be. We need to take positive steps to convince sympathisers that the mechanics of the revolution and administration inside socialism are simply not that important in the scheme of things: they should present no psychological barrier to someone becoming a socialist.
D. The final decision-making arena is one that is not discussed in the 1985 report, but one which is - in my view - the most important. Most decisions regarding production and distribution are made inside capitalism by companies, firms, plc's etc. Not so much with regard to the qualitative aspects of how a process is undertaken (that is discussed at 'C' above), but rather the simple quantitative issues of how much should be produced.
The second scenario where decision-making regarding production cannot just be left to the producers, is where local issues impact. The siting of a factory, the construction of a road etc may have positive impacts for society as a whole, but will have negative ones for those who have to breathe in traffic fumes or have the visual impact of a factory. Delineating the plusses and minuses of such developments, and trying to ensure that the benefits and the disadvantages impact fairly is a massive problem inside capitalism and it will remain a problem inside socialism. The way of resolving the issue will be the same - by means of decision-making at the appropriate level - local (for those affected by proximity) versus regional/global (for those affected as consumers) . Of course, what causes so much of a ("Nimby") problem inside capitalism is the emotional attachment placed by someone on their property, the potential "amenity value" financial impact (eg reduction in value of their house), and the perception that someone is making money at their expense. While socialism would avoid or reduce some of these concerns, it is important to be realistic and recognise that it would not remove them all.
“Unite the many to defeat the few”
What is it people want? A more fulfilling life and happiness. People not only want change, they want a vision of a better society. The aspiration of every person consists, in the first instance, in safeguarding his or her life, and then in improving it. We want to live for as long and as well as possible. We want to ward off all that can degrade us but we are under great pressure from capitalism.
Mankind will only be able to act usefully when it has managed to destroy all lies, freed itself from all the superstitions and found the truth in the jumble of knowledge and observations. Much of the time of socialists has been spent in merely re-establishing what Marx and Engels said and stood for, to counter various new forms of age-old distortions. Much of what is being passed off for revolutionary theory in our movement is really just dogma which is of no use to anyone, especially the working class. Many on the Left pretend to see further than anyone else, but they do not even perceive that they are marching backwards. The word “revolutionary” is popular and it suffers the same fate of that other word “socialism”. Every petty political bureaucrat runs for office under the banner of this or that revolutionary policy. Every reactionary deed is accomplished under the banner of “The Revolution.”
We have so long been accustomed to receive without question the teachings of the master class so our message must be clear and unambiguous, and consistent. Man, as a social animal, has a claim upon the society which gave him (or her) birth. This claim involves, in the first place, the right of free access to the means of life. Yet far too many lack the simple necessities of life. The whole aim of socialism is that every human being, white, black, red, or yellow, shall have equal opportunity to have access to the natural resources which nature has supplied and to the technology which mankind has created and then to have the full social product of his or her labour.
Capitalism is an economic system which is based on the exploitation of working people by a handful of the extremely wealthy. As long as this basic system continues to exist, so will the misery of the working class. Recognising this, the World Socialist Movement seeks to organise the entire working class into a powerful movement to overthrow the power of the ruling class. . Only by all the workers acting together as one can the working class equal the power of capitalism. In order to maximise their effectiveness the working class must link up together and by organizing themselves they can develop a co-ordinated attack on their common enemy. Such an attack would be much more difficult for the capitalists to defeat. Sometime down the road, the people will break out of the strait jacket of the pro-capitalist parties, and form an independent mass socialist party. Organisation is how the working class will fight for its emancipation and hence why the form of organisation constitute the most important problem in the practice of the working class movement. It is clear that these forms depend on the conditions of society and the aims of the fight. They cannot be the invention of theory, but have to be built up spontaneously by the working class itself, guided by its immediate requirements.
Many still think of the socialist revolution in terms of the former revolutions as a series of consecutive phases: first, conquest of government and instalment of a new government, then expropriation of the capitalist class by law, and then a new organisation of the process of production. We are well schooled by the idea that it is we, the people, who elect the government and therefore it is we who are responsible for the laws of it. We are taught to regard ’the state’ (along with “the law” and so on) as a kind of neutral arbiter or “referee”. The word “state”, however, is not just another word for “society”. The state is, of course, the centralisation of capitalist economic management.
To the liberal, progressive Left “constructive” parliamentary work is of supreme importance as it constitutes in their eyes the gradual introduction of socialism. A reform here and a reform there, and the socialist state has become perceptibly nearer than it was. They do not perceive that the reforms have not even touched the basic interests of capitalists, and even as palliatives their value, in comparison with the needs, is frequently insignificant. Parliamentary manoeuvres and electoral strategies cannot change historical facts, conjure away class interests and bridge class conflicts.
The election of a Socialist Party candidate to any public body at present, is only valuable in so far as it is the return of a disturber of the political peace. If we do not say, openly and publicly, that a vote for Tweedledum or Tweedledee is a vote cast in favour of a capitalist party and will do the working class no good at all, what the hell are we in politics for?
Without socialism the working class is reduced to a constant struggle against the effects of capitalism because without socialism the system of capitalism remains intact. Socialism is powerless without the working class and the working class cannot advance without socialism. Instead of getting caught up with those who would have us rush with our eyes closed to build “The Left Party”, we will continue our work in trying to bring about the union of socialism and the working class movement. The role of socialists is not to append ourselves to working class struggles that are already happening in any case, but to introduce into them a whole range of other class issues. We must not allow our hearts to run away with our heads. When we criticise the Left we are accused of doing capitalism a favour, by disheartening and confusing many sincere activists. We, on the contrary, think that the Left foster illusions that genuine socialists have long warned against.
Only when the working class assume control of the means of production does exploitation cease. Then the workers direct entirely their conditions of life. The production of everything necessary for life is the common task of the community of workers, which is then the community of mankind. This production is a collective process. First each factory, each work-place, is a collective of workers, combining their efforts in an organised way. Moreover, the totality of world production is now a collective process; all the separate factories combined into a totality of production. When the working class takes possession of the means of production, it has at the same time to create an organisation of production. It is clear that the organisational forms of trade union and political party, inherited from the period of expanding capitalism, are useless here.
It is only by having an extra-parliamentary force to fall back on that the working class can make full use, of its parliamentary power. We can accomplish in parliament what can be accomplished there only on condition that we are ready to defend our right to representation. We must be prepared at any moment to fight for the ballot with all the means at our command. Nowhere can workers accomplish anything worthwhile by the method of compromise which leads always to division and so to a loss of power. Only under the banner of the class-struggle, never under that of legislative bargaining, can the whole working class movement be united, can it finally succeed in unfolding its full power. Instead of a party striving for a rapid transformation of the existing society into a socialist system we should have a party content with reforming capitalism.
Friday, April 25, 2014
Slavery is not yet abolished. So long as the worker is deprived of property in the instruments of production, so long as his labour-power is a commodity which he is obliged to sell to another, he is not a free being, be he white or black. He is simply a slave to a master and from morning until night is as much a bondsman as any plantation slave ever was. Slaves are cheaper now and do more
work than at any time in the world’s history. The same principle of subjection that ruled in the chattel system rules in the wage system. slavery consist?
It consists in the compulsory using of men for the benefit of the user. One who is forced to yield to another a part of the product of his toil is a slave, no matter where he resides or what may be the colour of his skin. This was the condition of the African-Americans before the Civil War, and it is his or her condition today, but also the condition of all propertyless workers. That the worker
can today change masters does not alter the fact. Today he or she may leave one master but must look for another or starve. Workers may change their master, but they are still at the mercy of the master class. The choice of the chattel slave was between work and the lash, the choice of a
wage slave is between work and starvation. The whip of hunger is all sufficient to drive the wage slave to toil. The worker today, then, is a slave, bound by the pressure of economic wants to compulsory servitude to capitalist masters under the greatest tyranny of all — the tyranny of want. The person who is compelled to submit to wages dictated by a corporation, and who is at the beck and call of a boss has not much personal liberty to boast of over the chattel slave.
Under chattel-slavery the slave was bought and sold and became the property of the buyer. Under the system of wage-slavery, to which workers of all lands are subjected at present, the labour or more accurately the labour-power of the individual worker is bought, a wage is paid to the worker by the employer, and the employer only takes an interest in the welfare of his workers in so far as it helps him to make profits out of them.
The most barbarous fact is the labour market. The mere term sufficiently expresses its commerce of the buying and selling of people as beasts. It is the inhuman traffic of people and it is brutally simple, a handful of capitalists and financiers control of the factories, the farms the mines and the natural resources and they decide who will work and who shall not. The lives of the workers are made up of worry, anxiety, insecurity, and hardships, the constant pinching to make ends meet, and the continual necessity of learning to do without things. As long as the wages system continues, part of the wealth which the workers create will be kept back from them. The share which is withheld from the workers is the larger share, and, as machinery increases and improves, the share will grow larger. The things necessary for the production of wealth must be made the common property of the people and must be controlled by them. The workers who would be free must organise and must educate themselves. They must get out of their heads all idea that the era of wage-slavery cannot be ended and work towards the era of the co-operative commonwealth. The working class must affirm the unity of the workers of the whole world in common struggle for the realisation of this common goal.
The workers cannot restrict themselves to addressing only the symptoms of their oppression. They must prepare for removing the source of the disease, the capitalist system of wage slavery, that is the source of all the problems facing the working class and establish socialism. The apologists for the capitalists and the reformists dismiss this as “unrealistic”. They pretend it is so laughable as not to deserve serious discussion. The capitalists and their retainers do everything to try to ensure that the idea of the transformation of the social system is not even debated precisely because that is the real danger to themselves.
Socialist revolution is not only a possibility, it is a necessity in order to avert the grave dangers facing people, to prevent the further immiseration and destitution to avert the dangers of war and to reverse the environmental destruction of our planet. The class struggle must be strengthened and deepened.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
On February 24, we were treated with the delightful photographs of Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe cutting one of his birthday cakes. Residents were compelled to wave flags and cheer in his honor of his 90th celebration. This is quite a contrast considering that 2.2 million Zimbabweans are in need of food assistance according to the UN Food Program. Though the official unemployment rate for the country of thirteen million is officially eleven per cent, unofficial estimates peg it at eighty per cent. The economy hasn't been helped by Mugabe's seizure of privately owned farms and giving them to his political cronies who lack agricultural experience. Meanwhile, Mugabe is renovating his suburban mansion, in readiness for his daughter's upcoming wedding. Nor are there any political opponents. As one commentator said, " I think people are no longer much interested in politics. They are interested in getting relief." This, however, is the time to get political so they can be relieved of a system that creates Mugabes. To him it could then be said, "Go and eat cake!" John Ayers
Lake Cachuma in California, a lake created in 1953 by the damming of the Santa Ynez river to provide water for 200,000 people has completely dried up in California's worst drought. Usually, it's 15 metres deep and not long ago spilled over the top. This is just another indicator of our changing climate and the need to act now. John Ayers
Although we speak of Scotland as “our” country, and millions have died or have been mutilated in defence of what they called “their” country over the ceturies, as a matter of fact, Scotland does not belong to the whole of the Scottish people, but only to a small few. How many of us can point to a particular place on the map and say “This is mine”? And of those who can claim title the greater number own just small plots after a lifetime of paying off the bank mortgage. But the truth is that greatest part of Scotland belongs to a few great land-owners.
The SNP speak of Scotland as a wealthy country. Does that mean that the Scots as a whole are well off or will be better off? By no means. Some Scots are immensely rich, most of us though barely get by and many of us are degradingly poor. The great majority of the people own nothing except their muscles and brains, that is, their power and capacity to work.
In capitalist Scotland, production is carried on not for the purpose of supplying the needs of the people but for the purpose of sale in order to realise a profit. Only those who have something to sell can get a living. Only those can obtain things who can afford to buy. This is the commercial system, and this is how it works out:- Scotland manufactures enough to supply all the requirements of the people. But the workers cannot afford to buy all that they require of these commodities. To use the language of commerce, “the home market cannot absorb the home production”, and so the capitalist sends his goods where he can sell them, to England, to Europe, to America, to wherever while the workers who have produced these have to go without them. If things were produced for use, nobody would spend time in the manufacture of shoddy goods or adulterated food. Commerce is the only purpose of Scottish industry.
The worker has nothing to sell but his or her labour power to an employer for so many hours a day for a certain price, that is, wages. Since one cannot separate labour power from one’s body it comes to this, that workers actually sells themselves like slaves. We socialists, call it “Wage slavery”. Wages are determined by what it costs to keep a family. These days not many can save out of their wages. They may be able to put something aside, but soon savings are gone. It is a fact that in Scotland on the average a working person is not more than two weeks removed from penury.
The employers will only buy labour if they can make profit out of it. Just compare the value of the goods you turned out in a day when you were in the factory, and what you received for your work. The difference between the two is the employer’s profit. Profit is the result of the unpaid labour of the worker. In capitalist Scotland, the workers are continually robbed of the fruits of their labour. The bosses will compel the workers to work as hard and as long as he can, for as little money as possible. In spite of Factory Acts and Health and Safety regulations sweat-shops still flourishes in Scotland and inhuman conditions of work and pay still exist. Despite the efforts of the best-organised trade unions wages never rise higher than the cost of living. And even this is not secured. In the endeavour to produce as cheaply as possible, the capitalist continually introduces labour-saving new technology, which enables him to produce more in less time and reduces the standard of skill required so wages fall while unemployment is continually on the increase.
What does capitalism offer working people? A life of toil, a bare subsistence. Always the dread fear of redundancy. A drab, colourless existence in the jerry-built housing estates, and, if too sick or too old to work any longer, to be thrown on the rubbish-tip, discarded and used up, sucked dry.
All governments exists solely to serve the interests of the capitalists and there is no reason to suppose that a sovereign Scottish parliament would be any different. There will still be riches and leisure for the few, toil and poverty for the many. Palaces for the wealthy, slums for the workers. A capitalist independent Scotland can offer its workers nothing but wage slavery.
The Socialist Party wishes whole world to become huge cooperative society, and the working person, instead of slaving to enrich the idle capitalist, creates wealth for the whole community. The worker enjoys the results of his or labour, without having to pay tribute to speculators and profiteers. Workers will take a direct part in the direction of industrial production and will no longer be a slave of another, but a member of a great community of labour. Together we can form a world-wide co-operative commonwealth rather than serve the employers in their Edinburgh parliament.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
With the system’s profits declining, some corporations moved to take advantage of cheaper labour abroad, re-locating a great deal of their own industrial production. Other capitalists turned to speculative financial deals that boosted their income on paper without significantly expanding production or productivity. The long-term result of speculation and unprecedented state and corporate borrowing was the bubble of fictitious capital (as Marx termed it) which inevitably had to pop at some time or other. Working-class people have no cause to take joy in such an event. We have to prepare for the worse, which is no sustained capitalist recovery is possible without pay cuts and increased productivity.
Capitalism has historically made use of recessions to rescue profits—by pushing down workers’ wages and forcing weaker capitalists to sell their assets at bargain prices. When the bottom dropped out of the stock exchange in 2007, the capitalist class felt a paralysing shock. The working class may have lost confidence in the often unquestioned expertise of the financial advisers, but, more strikingly, the businessmen themselves suddenly became anxious to take political and economic direction from someone, somewhere, who somehow could save their system. The President and the Federal Reserve promised a “bail-out” but criticised Wall St for excessive speculation and extravagant bonuses. A large proportion of the capitalist class decided that Washington might be the savior, even if it meant submitting to new codes of “fair” business practices. Some capitalists, however, resent the interference of government in their businesses, fearing the thin edge of the wedge which may eventually impact upon their treatment of worker and profit margins. They decline to acknowledge that central government served the interests of capitalism by saving their system. The capitalists today have thousands of laws on paper regulating and legislating the operation of capitalism, but still the corporate corruption thrives and even worsens. This is because they have a greater law in command – the law of maximising profit – and it is under this law all of society is maintained.
Many describe the crisis in terms of workers suffering from low wages and austerity cuts on their benefits are unable to purchase the very goods they themselves have produced. This is called the “under-consumptionist” theory of crisis. This then leads to the advocacy of government policies to boost spending power of consumers.
Mary Lyn Cramer writes:
"Bourgeois theorists will insist that consumer demand of the working population is what drives Capitalist production. It is clear that many of these well intentioned spokespersons actually believe what they are saying...
If a feudal lord were to have told his serf, that the sole purpose of his exploitation was to enable his lord to provide the serf with the material goods necessary to maintain an acceptable level of poverty, the serf would have thought the lord insane. Likewise, if an African slave had been told by the American plantation owner that his enslavement and low standard of living was necessary so that the plantation could produce what the slave needed for survival, she would have thought her master crazy.
But for some reason, laborers exploited by Capitalists are suppose to believe that the accumulation of vast resources, enormous factories, state-of-the art ports, refineries, etc., etc., owned by the Capitalists are necessary for, and simply serve the purpose of producing what working people need to survive and maintain an acceptable standard of living. It is all done for us, and it all comes back to us working people. If that sounds absurd to you, maybe the following will more clearly reflect your reality:
Yes, under the Capitalist system of production and distribution, "consumer goods" sufficient for the the employed labor force to survive (at a more or less acceptable standard of living), is necessary. However, Capital expansion and production of real, material "producer goods"--- such as industrial machinery, factories, infrastructure, technology, planes, company limos, corporate cars, trucks, freight trains, ships, docks, commercial ports and transport of all kinds, along with the communications centers, security apparatus, administrative compounds, together with the pipelines, refineries, natural resources, raw materials and fuel to operate this enormous, global empire---make up the larger part of material production and privately-owned accumulated wealth in this nation and globally; and these tremendous means of production are neither consumed by nor owned by the workers who produce them. Under a system of Capitalist production, exploitation of a labor force that produces much more than it consumes is the essential source of real profits. It is production and expansion of the enormous, modern industrial Capitalist empire that is the aim of Capitalism (and all those who identify as successful competitive players in this deadly game), not increased consumption of goods and services for working people. The latter is the necessary "spin-off" so to speak, until those workers themselves are no longer deemed "necessary."
This is also reflected by the position as advanced by Greg Sharzer:
“First, wages don't create all demand: they're just one way for capitalists to realize the capital invested in commodities (…) Most people encounter the market when they shop, so it seems natural to believe that capitalism exists to satisfy our consumer needs. But while the market in consumer goods is constantly on display, exploitation is hidden. Workers matter as workers, the source of surplus value: they're only able to receive and spend a wage if their employer makes a profit first. Moreover, capitalist production creates capital goods that only business buys: the machinery and building materials that go into factories, offices and other sites of exploitation. Capital has to consume materials at all stages of the production process. Machines increase production, making more machines necessary and increasing the importance of industries producing the means of production. There are huge areas of the economy off-limits to workers' spending power. (…) Even if localist missionaries convinced all workers that local consumption could change the world, workers could, at best, change the conditions of production for their own housing and durable goods, a small portion of the capital circuit.” (Greg Sharzer, "No Local. Why Small-Scale Alternatives Won’t Change the World".)
Marx pointed out in Volume 2 of Theories of Surplus Value:
“The word over-production in itself leads to error. So long as the most urgent needs of a large part of society are not satisfied, or only the most immediate needs are satisfied, there can of course be absolutely no talk of an over-production of products— in the sense that the amount of products is excessive in relation to the need for them. On the contrary, it must be said that on the basis of capitalist production, there is constant under-production in this sense. The limits to production are set by the profit of the capitalist and in no way by the needs of the producers. But over-production of products and over-production of commodities are two entirely different things."
Marx himself noticed:
“It is sheer tautology to say that crises are caused by the scarcity of effective consumption, or of effective consumers. The capitalist system does not know any other modes of consumption than effective ones, except that of sub forma pauperis or of the swindler. That commodities are unsaleable means only that no effective purchasers have been found for them, i.e., consumers (since commodities are bought in the final analysis for productive or individual consumption). But if one were to attempt to give this tautology the semblance of a profounder justification by saying that the working-class receives too small a portion of its own product and the evil would be remedied as soon as it receives a larger share of it and its wages increase in consequence, one could only remark that crises are always prepared by precisely a period in which wages rise generally and the working-class actually gets a larger share of that part of the annual product which is intended for consumption. From the point of view of these advocates of sound and “simple” (!) common sense, such a period should rather remove the crisis. It appears, then, that capitalist production comprises conditions independent of good or bad will, conditions which permit the working-class to enjoy that relative prosperity only momentarily, and at that always only as the harbinger of a coming crisis.”
The SPGB crisis position is based upon the "anarchy of production" which if you wish to take a swipe at them this can be simplistically described as "supply and demand" - producers not knowing that there is a buyer for their commodities until after they have been put on the market and giving rise to disproportionate growth. (This is, of course, not defence for some form of central planning!!)
Economic crises are due to the basic features of the capitalist system. One feature is the anarchy of production. Businessmen decide what kind of things to produce and how many to produce either individually or in small groups. Production is not planned. Over time, disproportions between the activities of various firms and different industries eventually occur. The effect of this unplanned method of production under capitalism causes either too many products or too few products on the market. Disproportions in the economy affect the capitalists’ profits. When business do not make the expected level of profits, they shut down production. Shutdowns, order cancellations, and bankruptcies can cause a chain reaction leading to economic paralysis, which is called a crisis. Part of the chain reaction of the economic contraction is a falling level of working-class consumption. Another reaction is growing unemployment. However, it is the economic contraction which causes a decline in wages and working-class consumption and growing unemployment, not under-consumption by the working class that causes capitalist economic crises.
Again, why is the question important? For the reason that if an organisation supports the line that underconsumption is the reason for capitalist economic crises then there is no need for revolution. All the working class has to do to solve its problems is to demand some tax relief and extra spending on the part of the capitalist state. The under-consumptionist line channels the working class away from militant class struggle and into dead-end reformism. Struggle is confined to making appeals through the system to this or that politician. The under-consumptionist line, helps the capitalists to foster reformist illusions in the working class.
As long as the capitalists are in control, production is based on profits not social needs. The level of production allowed by the capitalists is determined by how much profit is to be made, not by the needs of the people who live under the capitalist system. If an employer determines that he can produce a smaller amount of some product and sell each item for a higher individual price, making higher profits, he will do so. No matter what the level of technology, how high the unemployment level, or how gorged the stocks of raw materials, the capitalist will sabotage production in order to make a higher profit. Food, for example, from milk to wheat, are regulated to profits rather than social needs.
It is not an era of social reforms that we hope for, but for a great epoch of social revolution! Reformism is capitalist trickery used to keep the working class under wage slavery. Reformists maintain that we can arrive at “socialism” by winning reforms one after the other. What they don’t say is that whatever the employers has to give up with one hand after a hard struggle, they always take back with the other.
Socialists make no compromises with the capitalist class but fight them relentlessly. But those on the Left reproach the Socialist Party and tell us “no idealism, comrades, the working class are not socialist – on the contrary, they are still dominated by bourgeois ideology, so let’s sit back and wait.” The Socialist Party does not hide its positions out of fear of cutting themselves off from workers but rather carry out their educational work in order to persuade them. Reformism provides no ultimate solution to the problems of capitalism. Reformists, on the other hand, are people and people change all the time.
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