Thursday, July 31, 2014
A Suicidal Society
Capitalism Distorts Democracy
The Breadline Beckons
End Capitalism - End War
Contrary to popular misconceptions, in the beginning of human society war was generally unknown. Life was too precarious, the means of subsistence too difficult to obtain, and the instruments at hand too puny for war possibly to have been carried on to any considerable degree. Militarism means masses. War is an act of society.
The aim of pacifism is to bring about a state of affairs in which war will not exist. Pacifism would be satisfied where it would no longer be possible to compel a human being to kill or to be killed. The goal of pacifism is a warless society, but under exactly the same form of production, as at present. The goal of socialism is the socialist society, that is, a society without exploitation, the society in which the demand for the complete abolition of private property in the means of production will be realised. Not only is pacifism powerless to prevent war it can actually facilitate war, harsh as this may seem to pacifists themselves, many of whom are personally sincere in their convictions.
Pacifism instils illusions about the nature of war and the fight against war (advocating disarmament, treaties, the United Nations, etc., as solutions), and thus prevents a true understanding of the nature and causes of war. It takes advantage of the desire of the masses for peace and yet completely deludes people about the character of war.
Pacifists treat the struggle against war as a special struggle independent of the struggle for socialism. Above all, perhaps, confusions on the nature of the state as the political instrument of the class enemy. Thus any policy advocating “anti-war” actions (sanctions or the UN or what not) by capitalist governments means in effect to tie up the working class with the state, and through the state with the class enemy. Pacifists presented a two-stage view of struggle first reduce international tensions, then deal with domestic issues such as strikes, first unite with anybody and everybody against war, then when the war is over start to think about dealing with capitalism. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament for instance argued: first get rid of the Bomb, then talk about socialism.
Many genuine pacifists oppose war “in general”, but others pick and choose, finding this or that particular war to be justified because it is to make the world safe for democracy, to defeat terrorism or to end fascism, to uphold the UN to intervene for humanitarian reasons or for some other noble purpose. These pacifists , overnight, change from “anti-war” groups into fertile propaganda. They become, literally, the recruiting sergeants of the war-makers. The pacifist movement is impotent to solve the problem of militarism and war.
Their wars are not our war and the military of the capitalist state is not our military. We do not support the war and militarism of the capitalists any more than we support the capitalist exploitation of workers in the factories. We are against the war as a whole just as we are against the rule of the class which conducts it, and never under any circumstances vote to give them any confidence in their conduct of the war or preparation for it, not a man, not a penny, not a gun with our support. Our war is the class war of the working class against the capitalist order.
No normal person wishes to achieve his or her social goals through the use of violence. To reduce violence to the utmost in political life should be a common endeavor for all socialists. Only profoundly sick persons – totally unable to contribute to the building of a real classless society – can actually enjoy advocating and practicing violence on a significant scale. Indeed, the increasing rejection of violence in a growing number of countries is a clear indicator that at least some progress has occurred. One has just to compare the wild and brazen justification of war by nearly all the leading Western intellectuals and politicians in the 1914-1918 period to the near universal revulsion towards war today
The Socialist Party is against the war although we are not pacifists on principle. We, of course , take sides in war, but it’s a third side. It’s the side of the workers, against the owning class that exploits them now, as well as against the owning class that WANTS to exploit them. Those who disclaim against the terrors of war, should reflect upon the horrors of peace; food shortages, food insecurity, malnutrition, hunger, famine, starvation. Capitalist peace is no less dreadful than capitalist war. Our anti-war activity is only part of the general struggle for emancipation of the working class. To expropriate the expropriators, to oppose their coercion by that of the workers, to destroy all the instruments of class coercion and exploitation is our task. The future lies, not with pacifism, but in a recognition by the working class of the world that it must prepare the organization of all its forces for class war, the struggle between the workers and the capitalists. under capitalism war is inevitable. If you, fellow-worker, desire to abolish war, we say: Abolish capitalism with all its misery and replace it with a system of production for use and not for profit – all over the world.
NOT PATRIOTISM, NOT NATIONALISM, BUT WORKERS SOLIDARITY
NOT PEOPLE AGAINST PEOPLE, BUT CLASS AGAINST CLASS.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
The Not So Great War
With the 100th anniversary of the day the first world war began, it is sobering to look back at the way that conflict was so badly reported. The catalogue of journalistic misdeeds is a matter of record: the willingness to publish propaganda as fact, the apparently tame acceptance of censorship and the failure to hold power to account. 'But a sweeping condemnation of the press coverage is unjust because journalists, as ever, were prevented from informing the public by three powerful forces - the government, the military and their own proprietors. It is undeniable that newspapers began by demonising the German enemy. They published fabricated stories of German barbarism, which were accepted as fact.' (Guardian, 27 July) It has taken 100 years for British newspapers to come clean about their misreporting so how much of that still goes on today? RD
A Sick Society
Neither Separatism or Unionism
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.
The common interests of wage workers transcends all national boundaries and differences. Our aim is the emancipation of all humanity from exploitation and oppression or as the Communist Manifesto puts it:
“in place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”
The capitalists have their own type of internationalism, they have a kind of "solidarity" among the capitalists of the world, with their network of international organisations aimed at dominating and grabbing the entire natural wealth of the world and at enslaving the working people of all lands. The working class is impelled to internationalism in outlook and strategy and as Marx explains in the Civil War in France:
“class rule is no longer able to disguise itself in a national uniform; the national governments are ONE as against the proletariat.”
The socialist revolution, which will put an end to capitalism, must be international. Therefore, the workers must not think so much of their country as of their solidarity with the workers of all countries. Socialists should oppose all measures tending to perpetuate capitalism and be guided in these matters by considerations of tactics. The internationalism of the World Socialist Movement is the abolition of exploitation of man by man in all countries.
The interests of the working class are not tied to any particular country. The struggle of workers takes place on a world-wide scale to defeat the employer class on a world-wide scale. This means the simple solidarity of one worker with another, irrespective of nationality. Class conscious workers understand this and readily support the struggles of workers in other countries. It must look at the struggle in “its” own country in the light of the struggle world-wide. The most crucial aspect of internationalism is the unity of the working class. There is no way forward for the people of the world without breaking the power of capital and no way of breaking it except through the class struggle and the triumph of socialism internationally.
The more the capitalist world changes, the more it remains the same. The employer buys our ability to work, and for a set period of time, we become theirs. The value of an employee is our wage--the amount of money we need to pay for food, clothes, rent, liquor, bus fare and whatever else we need to keep showing up to work. This is more or less depending on whether we are expected to wear nice clothes and be able to talk about wine and French history with the customers or whether we're just supposed to show up and not spit in the food. It also changes depending on how much food and housing cost in the particular city or country the restaurant is located in. Wages also reflect the balance of power between workers and employers. Where we are strong, we can force wages up. Where we are weak, wages can be lowered to a bare survival level.
All the political actions and judgments of a workers party must always be directed against the capitalist class, and never be taken in collaboration with them. The class struggle is the central principle of socialist politics. It is by carrying the class struggle to its necessary conclusion — that is, to the victory of the working class and the abolition of capitalism — that the socialist society will be realized. And every attempt to find another way, by supporting the capitalists, by conciliation, by collaborating with them, in peace or in war, has led not toward the socialist goal but to defeat and disaster for the workers. Whenever socialists discuss the socialist path, they talk in terms of a worldwide struggle.
Can the socialist revolution come wrapped in the Saltire? The Communist Manifesto said:
“In the national struggles of the proletarians of different countries, they [the communists] point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independent of all nationality.”
It is the internationalist, not nationalist, outlook that must be brought to the fore. It is not the business of communists, nor anyone who wants liberation, to put their shoulder to the wheel of history and push backwards. This means that communists are internationalists, and not nationalists. The Socialist Party position on the independence referendum is that no fundamental problem facing working people can be solved, or even seriously alleviated, by tinkering with the state structure or the constitution. Those on the Left who argue for the right of self determination for all peoples and therefore you must support the Scottish national struggle are expressing a non-Marxist attitude. What role did the Scottish parliament play in the INEOS Grangemouth dispute? Very little. Business decisions are not made in parliaments. The policy being advanced by left nationalists that independence is a solution to workers’ problems, must be exposed as false and a diversion from the real task of developing a united and class conscious movement of workers everywhere.
Global peace built on a foundation of nation-states is an oxymoron. As historian Michael Howard noted in his book The Lessons of History:
“From the very beginning, the principle of nationalism was almost indissolubly linked, both in theory and practice, with the idea of war. Attempts to create regional or international alliances to bring stability have always been stymied by national interests.”
National interests are business interests. We won’t begin creating global peace until we learn how to bypass nationalism. Against the mad chorus of national rivalries and ethnic hatreds we advance once more the old slogan of socialist internationalism: Workers of the World Unite!
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Another NHS Scandal
The Stupidity Of Leadership
Their World Or Ours?
Economic stagnation is forecast. World economic growth, from an overall 3.6 percent (but only 1.2 percent for OECD countries) in the 2010-2020 decade to 2.4 percent (0.5 percent for OECD countries) in the 2050-2060 decade. The implications mean more unemployment and more inequality because capitalism is a system that requires growth. A system based on endless growth can’t function without it — slow growth (worse still, no growth) means misery for working people as the recent years of so-called “recovery” from the 2008 economic collapse has demonstrated.
Among the remedies prescribed by the OECD:
“Worker mobility (e.g. pension portability” which is code for privatizing public-retirement systems. It also presupposes that working people have pensions connected to their jobs, but in the United States that is a relic of the past for the vast majority of employees. At best, a worker might have a “defined contribution” plan such as a 401(k) that mostly relies on the employee’s own contributions and shifts the risks from employer to employee. A public retirement system has no need for “portability”; only a privatized system free of employer responsibility and job security does.
“Enact social insurance reforms to maintain labour supply in the face of rising longevity and an ageing workforce.” means advocating people work more years before being eligible for retirement and receive less money on which to retire.
“Flexible” labor markets that are “pursued in a way that cushions their potentially negative impact on equality.” Another way of saying speedups and layoffs continually introduced by capitalists subject to relentless competitive pressures as more and more new technology is introduced. But just how are the falling wages and substitution of part-time work for full-time generated by labor “flexibility” not going to create a “negative impact” on equality?
Capitalism already fails to produce jobs. Professors John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney calculate that the “global reserve army” — workers who are underemployed, unemployed or “vulnerably employed” (including informal workers) totals 2.4 billion. In contrast, the world’s wage workers total only 1.4 billion!
The new view is that the working poor are not “deserving” because they are “too lazy” The majority of poor non-senior households in America have someone who works (62 percent). Further, roughly one in five poor households has a full-time, year-round worker. Eighty percent of families with children receiving means-tested assistance for food, housing or health insurance have a worker in the family. Or they did not put in the effort in school they should have – so they “deserve” low wages. Among families with children receiving means-tested assistance, 40 percent have some college coursework, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree – or more.
Martin Luther King Jr:
“In the simplistic thinking of [the early part of the 20th Century], the absence of worldly goods indicated a want of industrious habits and moral fiber. We have come a long way in our understanding of human motivation and of the blind operation of our economic system. Now we realize that dislocations in the market operation of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will. The poor are less often dismissed from our conscience today by being branded as inferior and incompetent. We also know that no matter how dynamically the economy develops and expands it does not eliminate all poverty.”
Martin Luther King then concludes:
“We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking. The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.”
To criticise capitalism and to suggest there an alternative and better way of life, more relevant to the times, is to be branded as a utopian dreamer.
A rational economic system designed to meet human needs, rather than profit, would have no need to keep growing. But capitalism is designed for profit, and requires continual growth to maintain itself. This calls for harsher austerity and the increased coercive force that will be necessary to implement it. This is what is on offer by the world’s elites. Together with profit, competition is the driving force in business and are behind a plethora of conflicts and corruption, to the land-grabbing from indigenous people and the abuse of migrant workers.
“Competition good, it’s part of human nature; it’s the only means to motivate and regulate.” So say the fundamentalist believers in the profit system. “Without competition, mediocrity would prevail, apathy and indifference triumph.” argue the apologists for exploitation. All attention is focused on the end result – on winning, ignoring the means. ‘Succeeding’ is all that matters, no matter the impact or effect – human or environmental. The inevitable collateral damage is seen as an acceptable side effect of far-reaching division and separation, leading to conflict, suffering and violence. If, for example, driving costs down entails employing child labour to work in sweatshops, that’s fine as long as prices are competitive and sales increase. Politicians are ideologically driven to secure votes and climb the greasy pole. Their manipulative motives distorted and dishonest, their campaign promises hollow.
Humanity and the planet need to imagine new ideas and revolutionary ways of living. We live in a world of abundance; there is food and water enough for everyone, there is no need for a single child to go hungry, or die of hunger related illnesses, as around 22,000 do today. All that is required is that we cooperate with one another instead of constantly competing. Cooperation and sharing unites, encourages trust and builds relationships; competition divides, it sets people against one another. Cooperation and sharing are key requirements in bringing about social harmony justice and peace.
Monday, July 28, 2014
The Class Divide
Time to reboot the world
Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? What awaits us? Many feel confused in a state of anxiety and fear. World history shows that we live in a situation where devastating wars, exploitation and oppression of peoples have become a permanent fact of life. In many countries, hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and all kinds of degradations make the lives of hundreds of millions of men, women, and children scarcely tolerable. In our world, injustice and the denial of the most elementary rights have become common practice. More and more peoples are under the iron heel of military regimes and police states. Billions of dollars are spent to perfect methods of surveillance, repression and torture. Humanity’s resources are wasted in senseless adventures while people’s basic needs remain unsatisfied, land is spoiled, misery increases, and poverty spreads. The gap between rich countries and poor ones, far from diminishing, is increasing. In this capitalist world the normal condition is war with abnormal interludes of peace.
Why is it that we have to put up with these conditions? Who is responsible? What economic, political, and social system creates and perpetuates this situation? How can things be changed? Reality shows that who profits from this misery are those whose power depends on maintaining the present conditions. You cannot have capitalist profit without capitalist exploitation. Capitalist profit and the benefit of the entire community are irreconcilable. Capitalism is not an eternal system which has existed from the beginning and will prevail to the end. Like all preceding social systems, however, capitalism too must die. The direction of capitalism’s own development is towards the socialist solution.
If socialism is not the alternative to capitalism, then why a socialist movement at all? It is a question of learning hope. The new is never completely new. The economic basis for socialism was being created under capitalism. The world was ripening under capitalism itself for socialism. When the “inevitability” of socialism is talked about, it means that given correct human action it could come into being. It does not mean that socialism is bound to come, mechanically of itself, independent of human action. On the contrary, the destruction of capitalism could lead to socialism – or barbarism, that the latter could come out of capitalism’s disintegration as an alternative. If you destroy capitalism in a certain way, that is, by a certain form of social action, the road to socialism would be open. If socialism is to be the outcome of capitalism’s downfall, it is necessary that mankind take conscious action in that direction. The two classes of capitalist society are the capitalist class and the working class. Between them there is already a struggle going on; the struggle by the capitalist class to maintain its system of exploitation, and the struggle by the working class to overthrow it. In order to emancipate itself, the working class would have to expropriate the capitalists and socialise their property. The process of the working class emancipating itself from capitalism is therefore also the process of emancipating all mankind from exploitation.
One question that is always raised at socialist meetings is how society would be organised after a revolution. Socialists have to convince our fellow workers that socialism represents a better system if only a sketch of the future state of human society. for people, that the eventual withering away of the state is not a pipe-dream but a realistic aim. How people have always dreamed of this, dreamed of the better life that might be possible. Let our dreams grow fuller, clearer and more familiar. Thinking means venturing beyond. We do not believe in drawing up detailed plans for the socialist future now as such a project would be futile – millions of people engaged in the struggle to establish socialism will be much more creative than a few individuals in a small party as ours in drawing up blueprints. But we can get some idea of what is possible
Even in bourgeois economics there is scarcely a serious scientist or investigator who would deny that the abolition of hunger and of misery is possible with the productive forces that already exist technically. The abolition of poverty and misery is possible as is the abolition of alienation. Today we are less preoccupied with the abolition of the wages system than ever. The old cry for a fair day’s pay echoes itself time and again.
Marxism teaches that socialism will not fall from the skies. Neither will it be gained by any appeals to the good will and compassion of the capitalist exploiters, as the utopians, who preceded Marx, used to think, and as some people still seem to think. Socialism can be realised only as the outcome of the class struggle of the workers. Only socialism can save humanity from the abyss. This is the truth. We cannot be afraid of "indicting" capitalism and wage-slavery, or afraid of arousing the socialist consciousness and class struggle. We cannot be afraid of teaching the working class its socialist aim that can only be accomplished by way of a democratic revolution. We cannot be afraid of teaching the working class the evils of capitalism’s "halfway-houses" to “socialism”. The fight for socialism is not as a Utopian scheme but as the realisation of a historic necessity.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
A Broken Reid
From the April 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard
After twenty-five years Mr. Jimmy Reid, the doyen of Left Clydeside, has left the Communist Party where he was an Executive Committee member. His reasons for leaving the Party are obscure, as this institution of meddle and muddle has not altered either in its reformist leadership case, or in its slavish acquiescence to the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. (How could it, when the Morning Star, the Party organ, depends on Russian finance? Russia, and the Iron Curtain countries take nearly 14,000 copies of the Morning Star out of the daily number sold of 41,000 copies: Sunday Telegraph, 15th February 1976). According to the Sunday Telegraph, this amounts to a subsidy of 250,000 a year out of a total of 500,000 a year which is required to keep the paper alive.
This fact must have been known to Mr. Reid as a member of the Executive Committee. The British Road to Socialism, the Party statement upon which Mr. Reid bases his faith, has certainly made a large detour through Eastern Europe.
Unfortunately for the working class of Clydeside, Jimmy Reid did not leave his ideas, so we can expect the usual windy dialogues and mis-information about Socialism when his conscience has settled down, or his career has got the better of it. In an interview given to Ian Smith in the Daily Telegraph 13th February 1976, "Mr. Reid said that if a political party emerged which showed it supported Socialism and democracy he would consider joining it". Where has Mr. Reid been during his twenty-six years in politics if he does not know that such a Party has existed for over 70 years — the SPGB? Not that we are waiting on the doorstep to welcome Mr. Jimmy Reid into our ranks. Fortunately we have a choice over those who may decide to join us, and in his present state of muddle we could not permit an individual as ignorant on the fundamental aspects of Socialism to enter our organisation.
By Socialism Mr. Reid, in common with all left-wing parties, means freedom to worship reforms, State capitalism, a touch of Scots Nationalism, and anything else which will provide a peg for opportunist propaganda. It's all in the pamphlet The British Road to Socialism of which he was co-author.
In an interview given to Peter McHugh of the Daily Mail (13th February 1976) he expresses interest in the newly-founded Scottish Labour Party of Mr. Jim Sillars, MP, who apparently is a personal friend and who also is the same type of modern Labour fakir. Both men have in common their rejection of the organisations which brought them to political prominence. It is people like Reid and Sillars who hold back Socialist propaganda, and expect prestige for doing it, as does every professional left-wing politician.
It has taken twenty-six years in politics to convince Reid he backed the wrong horse in the Communist Party. Instead of making public confessions of his ignorance of politics he should gracefully retire to develop a few real Socialist principles. For his and others' information, Socialism means a social system based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of living, and its achievement depends on understanding
Saturday, July 26, 2014
The Capitalist Con
Capitalism is a system of economy where exists the anarchy of the market, capital, money, credit, etc., where social and political inequality is guaranteed by the capitalist state. This system is the fundamental basis of the maintenance of rule by the capitalist class, and the oppression of the working class. Capitalism is inseparable from the exploitation. It is a vicious system geared to buttressing the strong against the weak, to serving the handful of capitalists against the millions of workers, and to keeping many millions in poverty so that a few may prosper. Capitalism worships property and degrades life. It is at the root of the racialism and nationalism that poisons society and divides worker from worker. It is a system of massive waste and social disorder. It forces the working class to fight every inch of the way to better or even maintain its wages and conditions. The criteria of all capitalist enterprise is—does it make a profit? When it ceases to make a profit it goes bankrupt—it is finished and the workers are cast on to the scrapheap.
Yes, capitalism is working ... for the Billionaires whose ranks swelled from 322 in 2000 to 1,645 in 2014. 85 billionaires now control half the planet’s wealth. And by 2100 we’ll have 11 trillionaires. But for the rest of the world - A billion people live on less than two dollars a day. Thomas Piketty warns inequality between the rich and the rest will get wider, more dangerous. Even the Pope warns “Inequality is the root of social ills,” fueling killings, wars, revolutions.
In an American poll, more than three quarters of self-described conservatives believe “poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything.” In reality, most of America’s poor work hard, often in two or more jobs. The real non-workers are the idle rich who inherit their fortunes. And their ranks are growing. Wealth is going to the privileged, who did nothing except be born into the right family. Six of today’s ten wealthiest Americans are heirs to prominent fortunes. This is the dynastic form of wealth French economist Thomas Piketty warns about. So-called “dynasty trusts” now allow super-rich families to pass on to their heirs money and property largely free from taxes, and to do so for generations.n
The super rich have invested in businesses, real estate, art, and other assets. The income from these is now faster than income from work. The top elite is raking even more from their investments.
Today almost everything and anything can be bought and sold. Markets and market values have come to govern our lives as never before. Today, the logic of buying and selling no longer applies to material goods alone. It increasingly governs the whole of life. Everything has a price. For-profit schools, hospitals, prisons. Out-sourcing war to private contractors or sub-contracting the police to private security guards. Buying and selling the right to pollute the environment. Buying and selling of elections. Everything is up for sale. If someone is willing to pay for a kidney, the only question asked is “how much?” Capitalism never asks “what’s the right thing to do?”
Wage slavery treats human beings as a commodity, to be bought and sold on the labour market and the moralisers fret about people trafficking in the the sex trade. Children are bought and sold to work in sweatshops or as domestic servants. In today’s capitalist world, everything has a price.
Millionaire bankers, CEOs, hedge fund managers will never voluntarily surrender their control of wealth machine. We need socialists to dispossess them and bring back some sanity to this crazy world we now live in. Otherwise the capitalist class will continue to keep blindly driving us down their self-destructive path to global extinction.
Reformist parties have been successful in passing themselves off as more radical than they have ever been in practice. Their deception shows itself in a thousand different ways, but chiefly in the conception that the working class and the ruling class have a common interest. Unless socialists are able to effectively pose an alternative to these parties, they will be able to go on peddling their illusions. Reformism or gradualism means in practice giving up the fight for socialism. The socialist goal is the liberation of the working class and the humanisation of work.
To turn a capitalist economy into a socialist one is not to nationalise this company or that. State ownership and social ownership of the means of production are two completely different concepts which should never be confused. The means of production may be owned by the state, but this does not mean that they are thereby the social property of the working class.
Socialism is based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, upon production for use as against production for profit, upon the abolition of all classes, all class divisions, class privilege, class rule, upon the production of such abundance that the struggle for material needs is completely eliminated, so that humanity, at last freed from economic exploitation, from oppression, from any form of coercion by a state machine, can devote itself to its fullest intellectual and cultural development. Much can perhaps be added to this definition, but anything less you can call whatever you wish, but it will not be socialism. Socialism for us, yesterday, today, tomorrow still means the end of class rule; the end of class privilege; the freeing of the people from all chains and all coercion, the fullest realisation of democracy, the emancipation of women and of children; abundance for all, and therefore liberty for all.
Social revolution has become the only form of radicalism possible. Never before has the working class been so in need of socialism and socialism alone. Never before have the conditions been so ripe for turning socialist ideas into reality. Socialism is nothing more nor less than the social and political system which breaks the fetters of capitalism and opens the way to a new society. Socialism is not something you can export and import. Socialism cannot be imposed on the points of bayonets. Socialism requires the free choice of conscious people as the main condition for its realisation. When socialism comes, it will not be sneaked in through the back door. Socialism which is constructed without the masses and against the masses is a hollow “socialism” indeed. It will come only when a socialist party, having won the confidence of the working class and convinced the majority that the social ownership and operation of the means of production, has become necessary. Socialist society is not created by gradual reform stepping stones steps toward socialism. Day-to-day struggle alone however does not create socialists. Socialism is a result of conscious building and planning, conducted by the organised majority of the population. There are no short cuts by which we can reach socialism. If the working class does not take into its own hands the power to achieve the new social order, it will pay the penalty of its own destruction. Capitalism is dragging us to global extinction. Our perspective must be working class action to bring down the capitalist system to put a working class socialist alternative in its place – rather than waiting for crumbs from the tables of the bankers and bosses. When society owns the means of production it will own the products. When it owns the products it can distribute them to its members according to their individual and collective needs. This is the only solution.
Friday, July 25, 2014
Citizens Advice Scotland discovered some workers have gone for long periods with only a few hours in their jobs, or none at all, and therefore little or no pay. In a few cases bosses had drastically cut an employee's hours in what seemed like an effort to force them to resign. Citizens Advice Scotland also found some employers don't tell their staff the job is a zero-hours contract when they are taken on.
According to the Office for National Statistics, there were more than 1.4 million zero-hour contracts across the UK in late 2013.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
A Corrupt Society
Crime And Capitalism
Poverty Amidst Plenty
We Are The People !!
Billions live in dire poverty amid unimaginable wealth, and we hurtle relentlessly towards environmental catastrophe. We see capitalism as a destructive system that hurts, divides and exploits the vast majority of our people for the sake of profits and power for the few.
There is no shortage of ready-made blueprints for a fairer society. However, socialism is not something which can be decreed into being by political parties or individuals but must be created by the mass participation of workers ourselves. Many people may think that socialism sounds like a good idea but doubt it would work in practice. However first it is worth asking "does capitalism work?". We believe there is ample evidence that a socialist society would function far better than our current capitalist one for the vast majority of people.
When we speak of socialism we are talk of a way of organising society based on the principle of “from each according to ability, to each according to need”, and secondly how we achieve such a society based on cooperation, solidarity and meeting human needs. Instead of ownership or control of the means of production - land, factories, offices and so on - being in the hands of private individuals or the state, a socialist society is based on the common ownership and democratic control of those means. And instead of production for exchange and profit, socialism means production to meet human wants.
Today workers produce everything and run all the services necessary for life. We lay the roads, build the homes, drive the trains, care for the sick, raise the children, make the food, design the products, make the clothes and teach the next generation. Examples abound demonstrating that workers can effectively run workplaces themselves. In fact, the bosses hinder us more than they help and we can do so much better without them. Without the profit motive, any technological advancement which makes a work process more efficient, instead of just laying workers off and making those remaining work harder (which happens at present), we can all just work a little less and have more free time. We can instead focus on how to work less, make what work we need to do more enjoyable, have more fun, more happiness and more joy. we can begin to relate to each other as human beings.
Socialism means a moneyless society where our activity - and its products - no longer take the form of things to be bought and sold. There is ample evidence demonstrating that we do not need the threat of destitution or starvation hanging over us in order to engage in productive activity. For most of human history, we have not had money or wage labour. In hunter-gatherer societies, for example, which were overwhelmingly peaceful and egalitarian there was no distinction between work and play. Even today, a lot of work is done for free. Nearly 10% of people also carry out unpaid care work and 25% of adults in England carry out voluntary work at least once a month. Almost every useful type of work you can think of is also done by some people for free, not as "work" for wages, demonstrating that they are not strictly necessary.
Studies show that socially useful reason for doing something is the best motivator and that money is not an effective motivator for good performance at complex tasks than people having the freedom and control to do what they want how they want, and having a constructive. The free software movement demonstrates that people don't need wages to be motivated to produce.
a socially useful goal and can be superior to traditional organisation for profit.
We are socialists because we see capitalism as harmful to the vast majority of the world’s people. The system we live under, by its very nature, grinds the poor and working people and sets one group against another. We see in socialism a more just, more cooperative and more peaceful society. Socialism can offer an alternative which can meet the basic needs of people and provide productive and fulfilling work. Socialism offers a future free from the fears of poverty, sexism, racism, dog-eat-dog competition, joblessness, and the loneliness of old age. It will be a society that allows each person to create and produce according to her or his ability and to obtain what she or he needs.
We advocate and work for socialism – that is, common ownership and collective control of the means of production (factories, fields, utilities, etc.) . We want a system based on cooperation, where the people build together for the common good.
The task of The Socialist Party is the organisation and the building of a mass movement of the working class to fight for socialism. We have deep criticisms of the practice of all the various groups calling themselves Marxist-Leninist vanguard parties. Only a conscious socialist movement of the working class can provide the organisation capable of struggling for and ushering in the new society. Parliament grew out of feudalism and after the capitalist revolution developed as the natural custodian of the interests of Capitalism. It was founded on private property foundations. Its laws are the laws of private property. The modifications that have taken place, the extension of the franchise and the growth of social legislation for the working-class are the reflection of the growing strength and power of the working-class. The more Parliament reflects the class struggle in its work, the more the capitalists attempt to use it as the means to regulate capitalist economy, the more they are impeded by the increasing claims of the worker. The “safety valve” of bourgeois democracy thus becomes no longer “safe” for private property. We call upon the workers to make the machine of Parliament effective for economic change. The way to defend the democratic gains won by years of struggle is to use those gains on every field for working-class advance day in and day out. It must by using the machine of Parliament, by adapting it and changing it to serve new purposes, to win power so that it shall transfer into the hands of the exploited the land and the industries. It must wage the class struggle if class domination is to end. By winning that fight real democracy will supplant capitalist democracy, genuine social democracy will take the place of the sham democracy that hides the dictatorship of Capital. Then, and then only, on the basis of the social ownership of the means of production will there be a government of the People, by the People, for the People.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
A New Politics is Needed
The capitalist class have no thought for the future; with eyes only for immediate plunder and with their dreams of avarice they plunged into the gamble of casino capitalism. They build up recklessly and without plan. They always assume that their winnings will continue for ever. Any attempt to organise the growing productive power to meet human needs is a question which does not even enter into their heads; it cannot arise within the conditions of capitalism.
Millions seek employment in vain, and have to struggle to exist on a grudged and bare subsistence rate of the minimum wage. The wages of the other workers who are still able to keep their jobs are cut and cut again; exploitation is increased. The parasitic burdens of capitalism grow ever greater. The attacks of capitalism, to maintain its profits, grow ever more sweeping and ferocious, ranging over every field, against both employed and unemployed, against working conditions and social services, for new forms of intensified labour to drive down the workers. All the capitalist parties, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Labour, speak of new policies of this, that and the other to improve the economy. They appeal to the workers to make sacrifices in order to do this. They imagine that if only business organisation and production techniques can be could be modernised and improved all will be well. Do not imagine that the crisis is to be solved by some form of re-organisation of capitalism. Not only do these so-called remedies fail to deal with the root of the problem capitalism, they often worsen the situation.
The capitalists can only look for the solution in fiercer competition, in reducing their own production costs, in cutting wages against their competitors, in increasing their own competitive edge, in fighting to enlarge their own share of the market. But these measures are pursued by every other capitalists in every other country. Although one set or another set may gain a temporary advantage for a short time. Within the conditions of the capitalist system there is no harmonious solution possible.
The crisis is not a crisis of natural scarcity or shortage. Goods of all kinds are stocked high. The power of producing wealth is greater than ever. 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.This position cannot last. The battle between the workers’ needs and capitalism grows ever fiercer. It can only end in revolution. The basis of reformism, palliative measures to amerorate the misery of people can no longer be conceded by the ruling class The Welfare State is ended. The only path before workers is revolution.
The so-called Left proclaim their “opposition” to the Labour Party policy and to advocate so-called “socialist” alternatives. But on examination their policy will be found to be only the old policy of the traditional Labour Party dressed up in new clothes. Many on the Left urge that if only employers would pay higher wages to the workers, enabling them to buy more of what they produce, there would be no crisis. This is economic 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 benefits of high wages but always for the other employer’s workforce in the hope of securing a larger market for their goods. But the actual drive of capitalist class 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. The most the capitalists can do is to wait amid the general misery until the universal stagnation, destruction and stoppage of production has produced such a vacuum that a feeble “demand” will again arise, beginning a new trade cycle, and leading to a new and greater crisis. Although they speak of “anti-capitalism,” they do not propose the overthrow of capitalism and the expropriation of the capitalists. Their basis is still the same basis of capitalism, of the capitalist State. Their only proposals are for the reorganisation of capitalism by a system of regulatory control boards, by which they promise a minimum wage for the workers. But in fact, capitalist reorganisation in the present recession can only, if the capitalist burdens are maintained, be at the expense of the workers.
Those on the Right such as UKIP want to “protect” home industry and native workers and thus secure more employment and better conditions for the workers. Capitalist prosperity is to be built up anew in Britain, fenced-in or “insulated” against the EU and the world. It endeavours to appeal to the workers with promises of immigration curbs. This is lying deception. The enemies against which indigenous workers needs to be “protected” are the capitalist exploiting bloodsuckers, who are intent upon making better conditions for the working class impossible.
Many workers in the past have placed their hopes in the Labour Party to bring the solution. People have recognised the urgent need of social change; the Labour Party spoke of social reform, and at times even of socialism, and promised to realise it. Swift disillusionment always followed each time a Labour Party was elected. Always their Third Way is the Old Way. The condition of the workers didn’t improve and there is no sign of the advance to socialism. The Labour Governments merely continued to act as a representative of capitalism against the workers. This was not a question of a lack of personal integrity a personal question (although there were many cases of such). It is a whole system of reformist politics — the supposed “alternative” to revolution — that stands exposed in the record of the Labour Governments. The Labour Party cannot act other than it has acted, does act and will continue to act, as the representative of capitalism — because its basis is capitalism.
Many sincere political activists profess the aim of socialism as an ideal for the future. They hope to reach their aim without the necessity of overthrowing capitalism, but on a basis of co-operation with capitalism, on a basis of winning for the workers gradual gains within capitalism, on acceptance of the capitalist State, on administering capitalism the best way they can, helping to bolster their national capitalists. This they term the “practical” policy for the working class to follow. What has been the outcome of this approach? Certainly there were gains for the workers, some unquestionably substantial such as a “free” health service and education system. But this has ended. Capitalism to-day is no longer willing to grant concessions to the workers. On the contrary, it finds itself compelled to take away existing entitlements and to impose more stringent conditions. The servants of capitalism still posture as reformers although their role is now to assist capitalism to attack the workers, to enforce wage-cuts, to suppress workers’ resistance - all in the name of “practical” politics. Workers should neve bind their organisations, the trade unions, to capitalism and to the capitalist state, in the shape affiliation to the Labour Party. In elections union members who voted for the Labour Party have abstained with discontent widespread. Millions of workers are turning from the Labour Party and seeking a new direction and sadly not always a positive path. The only way forward is the path of struggle against capitalism, the path that leads to the social revolution, to socialism.
Only real socialism can bring the solution. Only by ending capitalist property rights and organise production to meet human needs 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, care drive the capitalists from possession, can organise social production.
“But these inventions and discoveries, which supersede each other at an ever-increasing pace, this productiveness of human labour, which increases day by day at a hitherto unheard of rate, finally creates a conflict, in which the present capitalist system must fall to pieces. On the one side, immeasurable wealth and a surplus of products which the purchasers cannot control. On the other, the great mass of society proletarised, turned into wage workers, and just on that account become incapable of taking possession of that surplus of products. The division of society into a small over-rich class and a large propertyless working-class, causes this society to suffocate in its own surplus, while the great mass of its members is scarcely, or, indeed, not at all, protected from extreme want. Such a condition of things becomes daily more absurd and unnecessary. It can be abolished; it must be abolished. A new social order is possible, wherein the class differences of to-day will have disappeared, and wherein — perhaps, after a short transitional period, of materially rather straitened circumstances, maybe, but morally of great value-through the systematic use and development of the enormous productive forces already in existence (with equal obligation upon all to work), the means of life, of enjoying life, and of developing all the physical and mental capabilities, will be at the equal disposal of all in ever-increasing fullness.” (Engels: Introduction to Marx “Wage-Labour and Capital,” 1891.)
What is its meaning for us?
First, all the means of production, the land, the factories, mills and mines, the system of transport and the methods of distribution, are the collective property of the community. The class of social leeches of employers and landlords no longer exist. Through their own elected workers councils the actual producers control the process of work and its administration but the product of labour belongs to us all. The workers are free to organise production for the needs of the consumer rather than the pockets of the capitalist. There is no longer the capitalist anarchy of production by competing businesses for an unknown market, with the consequent gluts and slumps. Instead, a socialist society is able to determine how much steel, the amount of energy required, so much agricultural machinery to cultivate so much land with such and such crops, etc., — all planned to satisfy the wants of the people. All production is directed solely to supplying the workers’ needs. It is for use, not for profit. Therefore every expansion of production means greater abundance and leisure for all.
We are not speaking of some utopia, but only of what is immediately and practically realisable so soon as the workers are united to overthrow capitalism and enforce their will. It is evident that, on the most immediate practical basis, and leaving out of account the enormous increase in production which will result from universal socially organised production, the workers’ rule will be able immediately, so soon as the change is achieved, to realise the most enormous advances in standards, hours, conditions of labour, social conditions, health, housing, education, cultural facilities, etc. We can immediately banish poverty. Capitalism already begrudges us a bare subsistence.
We stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow workers against capitalist oppression. Workers can by social revolution, and by the method of social revolution alone, rapidly reconstruct society. We need to prepare for this. We need to prepare new forms of struggle. Only by uniting all the workers in a conscious fight for socialism, spreading throughout the working-class, throughout the factories, docks, mines, railways, drawing everybody together into the struggle and carrying it forward, in a thousand forms of mass activity, can we be assured victory over capitalism.
The Scottish Police State
The figures show a 400 percent rise in searches in some parts of the country, including Fife, since the creation of the single national force in April 2013, and a spike in the number of children under the age of criminality being search illegally.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Should the future have a name?
The path to socialism is long. The task is to develop a new politics. For the up-coming generation there will be a vastly expanded terrain of initiatives to be active upon. We must construct an authentic socialist strategy, to be seen as realistic in its objective, the transformation of capitalism into a classless society. To begin with the ends is the proper starting point for a socialism of our times. Our purpose in the Socialist Party is to sketch the reality of our goal and vision in its general characteristics. To transform capitalism, we must transform its representation of the world.The socialist perspective is no longer to be treated as an ideal for the future, but very resolutely refers to the everyday. We must dream, not in the manner of losing ourselves in fantasy, but in the way that prepares us to picture our goal, what Marx describes in the Manifesto the "real movement that supersedes the current state of things".
The terms socialism and communism implies solidarity and collectivity. To begin with the ends is the proper starting point for a socialism of our times. Class war in the traditional sense of the term is no way obsolete. Exploitation persists, and is as ferocious as ever; the class struggle remains entirely on the political agenda. The extraordinary changes in conditions and with the people’s relationships with them since Marx's time, far from rendering the idea of socialism superfluous, has made these ideas more contemporary than ever. Social revolution is not seeking simply another way to regulate the market, but to move toward a post-commodity economy; not simply to prepare a better future for individuals but to make their full development an immediate object; not simply to develop democracy further, but to undertake the disappearance of the state through the appropriation of decision-making whereby humanity is beginning to have the power to decide what it will be.
Workers individually, as a class, and as part of the entire society are not moved by economics alone. Competition among workers, sectional and selfish interests, short-term favors, plus social pressure and nationalist and racial chauvinism have often diverted various groups of workers from a revolutionary role. Divide and rule, is still th rulers’ basic strategy and best tactic. A big part of keeping these workers in their place is the sex, colour and age discrimination and ethnic division tactic. This is enforced not only by the individual boss, but by the whole system.
Revolutions are made by facing problems, not by denying that they exist. Changing society is a big job and the working class is still the prime mover. If we prove incapable defining, much less resolving, new facts and problems, or relate to new people with new ways, it can in no way further the cause of social change and revolution. There is nothing to teach unless we are first willing to learn. Action is aimless without the purposefulness which comes from understanding and knowledge. Many political activists are wrong on a lot of things, but their contempt for distorted “socialism” justified with its worthless programmes of cure-it-alls, with their road to socialism full of false turnings. Against this, the only weapon of the workers is their political awareness and class solidarity. What workers need is organisation with a class outlook and fighting muscle. Workers are inevitably concerned with immediate conditions – both to hold whatever they have and to make gains if they can. But petty reforms or even substantial gains of themselves to not change the system in the slightest. The only way to break through the vicious circle of reformism is basically a mass understanding that working people cannot beat the system at its own game but must end the game and system completely. People have everything to gain in this universal struggle.
The whole society orients the worker toward competition in accumulating things, doing his job, taking orders and allotting all responsibility for major decision making to bosses and politicians. Poverty and affluence exist at the same time side by side. The existence of poverty is a spur to insure a supply of loyal and industrious labour. It is also a source of profit for slum landlords, and sweat-shop slave-drivers. Why should the system eliminate if it could, anything so useful and indispensable? Even the better-off live in life-styles that are always fragile and subject to change. The only way to win is to fight the entire system. Since time is not unlimited, we have to start doing this now. The waste and junk products which are poisoning our lives and our environment, indicts one of the biggest of the crimes of capitalism. The big corporations make the profit and the environmental costs are paid mostly by the government.
No one denies that planning in a future socialist society will always be smooth-running and that no snags will ever arise. But there is no reason to suppose that they will be insurmountable. The premise of abundance, on which socialism is founded, is not utopian in the technological sense. We can assume that for many items production will be reduced, for example, armaments, and other products’ manufacture will be increased, medical equipment, for instance. One of the advances brought about by capitalism is that there are now a great deal of statistical data on consumption patterns that are remarkably similar across a large sections of the population. These reveal an order of priorities common to hundreds of millions of people, over many decades. There are fundamental needs. There are secondary needs. There are also luxury needs. It finds expression in spontaneous or semi-spontaneous consumer behaviour itself. We now have the computing power to do countless calculations in determining the general pattern of what people want. We have scientific market research procedures trusted by the capitalist class itself. We have consumer feedback to judge efficiency and highlight improvements either to the product or its distribution. There need not be any dictatorship of central planning committees. Bar-code scanning can direct us to where there are shortages on the shelves or a glut of unwanted goods. Everything that can be done better socially should be done collectively, co-operatively and without waste and polluting by-products. There is no other socialism except democratic socialism.
People should not console themselves with illusions. The system is running on over-time to conceal the fact that we’re running out of time. What the system needs to hide is exactly what we need to expose to speed up our common liberation. We must bring socialist ideas anew to the various social movements. We must provide the theoretical tools for people to analyse their own situation. As a socialist party we have the collective responsibility to ensure that our experience, the lessons we have learned, our human and material resources, and our political convictions continue to serve the cause of socialism. We are not in a position at this juncture to predict what forms of organisation would be most appropriate to the concrete conditions which exist for the fight for socialism. More modestly than others, we have come to see ourselves as the embryo of a future mass party.
Mucky coal and electric
The report shows the top 30 polluting power plants in the EU, ranked according to their total carbon dioxide emissions in 2013.
The UK and Germany came joint first, with nine of the dirtiest coal plants each. The nine UK power stations produced just under a third of the UK's electricity supply last year but were responsible for nearly two thirds of carbon emissions from the power sector. The UK's coal plants produce air pollution in the form of nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, particulates and mercury, which have significant negative impacts on human health and the environment. Air pollution caused by UK coal power stations is estimated to be responsible for 1,600 deaths per annum in the UK.
Monday, July 21, 2014
A Billionaire's Plan
Marx described the process of globalization of production one hundred and fifty years ago and saw the direction it would take…"And instead of producing for the individual merchant or for particular customers, the weaver now produces for the entire world of commerce…Trade now becomes the servant of industrial production, for which the constant expansion of the market is a condition of its existence. An ever- increasing mass-production swamps the existing market and thus works steadily towards its expansion, braking through its barriers. What restricts this mass production is not trade (in as much as this only expresses existing demand), but rather the scale of the capital functioning and the productivity of labour so far developed. The industrial capitalist is constantly faced with the world market; he compares and must compare his own cost prices not only with domestic market prices, but with those of the whole world. Previously, this comparison was almost exclusively the task of merchants and ensured commercial capital its mastery over industrial." (Capital, volume III, pp 454/455). In other words, in order to exist, production must be constantly expanded. When capitalism consisted of small pockets of industrialization in Western Europe, expansion was indeed manageable but as the scale of capitalism covered the whole world, such expansion necessarily has great and irreversible impact on our environment, totally unnoticed by capital.
From Taylor Caldwell's "Captains and The Kings" about the American Civil War, "My dear Mr. Francis, who do you honestly believe rules the nation? The apparent rulers, or the real ones behind the scenes who manipulate a nation's finances for their own benefit? Mr. Lincoln is as helpless as you and I. He can only, unfortunate man, give his people slogans, and slogans, it would appear, are what people want. Tomorrow you will meet some of the gentry I have spoken of, most congenial and tolerant men, who have no nationalistic prejudices at all, and no allegiances even to their own countries but only to each other and their banking interests."
The Plain Brutal Fact.
On May 23rd, 150 employees of the Heinz Ketchup factory in Leamington, Ontario, were let go. At the end of June, another 350 were forced to leave. This will leave 250 working for substantially lower wages. This has come as a shock to many because the company has been there for 105 years and many have spent their whole working lives there. Ever since Warren Buffett and the Brazilian private equity firm, 3G Capital, bought Heinz in 2013, there was talk of downsizing but no one suspected how bad it would be. The plain brutal fact is that no matter how long a company may exist within capitalism, change is the constant factor according to the market and profitability and it will always be the worker who gets the worst of it. John Ayers.
The Devil And His Evil Ways?
Recently, pope Francis has been ranting about the devil and his evil ways, "Look out because the devil is present." His holiness is concerned because satanic cults are spreading like wildfire on the net. Vito Mancuso, a Catholic theologian, complained that, " He is opening the door to superstition." As if the more 'respectable' religions aren't based on superstition. "The sad truth is that there are many bishops and priests who do not really believe in the devil", commented reverend Gabriele Amorth, a priest and exorcist. The sad truth is that while people look to any cult, including Christianity, to solve their problems, they are deceiving themselves. Only in throwing overboard all forms of superstition including belief in an afterlife and a supreme being and organizing for socialism and sense, and security for all can they accomplish that. John Ayers.
No Mean City - book review
From the November 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard
During the thirties, a Gorbals bakery worker and a journalist by the names of McArthur and H. Kingsley Long wrote a novel describing the Glasgow slum area — the Gorbals — as it appeared to them in the 20's and 30's.
Basically, it is the story of a slum hooligan named Johnnie Stark, nicknamed Razor King, and of the gangland violences which were regular features of Glasgow life at that period. The gangs in Glasgow were not organized for criminal purposes and were hooligans trying to overcome the boredom and monotony of a sordid existence. Most lived in squalor — ten and eleven to a room — most were unemployed.
The authors concentrate their story round the Gorbals area (McArthur lived there), but the social conditions they described could be found in all working-class slums in Glasgow; Bridgeton, Anderson, Plantation, Calton, Townhead. All that these misguided hooligans could hope to gain from their inter-gang wars was permanent facial disfigurement as a result of razor-slashing, or a cracked skull as a result of being hit on the head by a beer bottle. But the excitement and anticipation of the fight relieved the boredom, and this was a major factor in making their miserable social condition tolerable.
This perverse way of looking at life could not, nor cannot, be explained if the slum background is ignored.
The Gorbals became part of Glasgow in 1846. Situated in rather a pleasant area on the banks of the Clyde, it was originally a fishing village. (Glasgow, in fact, specialised in salmon fishing up until the 18th century). The Clyde was a fordable stream about three feet deep at the Broomilaw (eventually deepened to take ships of 25-foot draft).
The commercial development of Glasgow was due to the tobacco trade. Ships took manufactured goods, leather work, saddles, clothing materials, etc to the American colony, Virginia, and returned laden with tobacco. The Glasgow "tobacco lords" made huge fortunes.
The more pleasing architectural parts of Glasgow owe their origin to the wealth and largesse of the tobacco lords. The tobacco trade collapsed with the American War of Independence in 1776, and the heavy industrial development of the Clyde valley (coal, iron and steel) began a few years later, and started to intensify in 1815 when George Watt designed the first steamship. Glasgow became a huge immigration centre for Eastern Europeans, mainly Russian and Polish Jews, Italians, Germans, Belgians, and of course Irish (the New York of the 19th century). All came to seek employment in the mills, mines and shipyards.
Scotland generally had no large indigenous labour force, and needed immigrant labour. Glasgow probably had the highest proportion and the least time in which they could be absorbed into the meagre social background which existed. Tenement houses were literally thrown up in the immediate areas of the factory or mill. Mile upon mile of these social abominations still form the bulk of working-class housing in Glasgow. Most consist of two rooms with no bathroom or hot water and outside W.C. on each of the four floors.
A slum is a product of overcrowding and through the lack of proper washing facilities, the house usually becomes verminous. Engel's descriptions of the slums of Manchester and Salford apply with more force in Glasgow. Overcrowding, lack of privacy, and domestic discomfort forces the slum-dwellers into the streets and eventually into the pub. It is no accident that Glasgow had, or had up until recently, the highest number of pubs per square mile than any other city in the world.
Not unnaturally, the people became heavy drinkers. Unlike the slum dwellers of Calcutta and Bombay, who at least have the warmth of the sun for an ally and can even sleep in the open air, the Glasgow tenement and slum-dweller is not so lucky. Living in a soot-laden atmosphere in a cold, wet and windy climate, he becomes dominated by his living conditions and the tedium of work (and the lack of it). Such is the urgency of immediate existence they become aggressive, argumentative, and intolerant. Directed along Socialist lines this would be an advantage, but as it is these only serve to perpetuate a narrow conservatism and a suspicion of any new ideas, including those of the SPGB.
Much has since changed since 1932. For one thing Glasgow, far from being the second city in the British Empire with over 1 million inhabitants, now has a population of 816,000 (1972 estimate) — a reduction of 18 per cent in the last twelve years. Many of the slums have gone, but many more remain. In fact, the slum reception housing areas built in 1933-37 like Blackhill and Shettleston are rapidly becoming slum areas as overcrowding grows afresh. It should not be assumed that it was socially enlightened planners and politicians who were responsible for demolishing the slums. A far more potent reason was the appalling health hazards which these slums produced. Apart from inevitable poverty diseases like TB and rickets, infectious diseases like scarlet fever and diphtheria were quite common in the 'twenties and 'thirties in the Gorbals in the south, Calton and Bridgeton in the east; Cowcaddens in the north and the highest infantile mortality rate of any industrial county. The infant mortality rate for the city as a whole in 1935 was 110 per thousand.
The tower blocks rise in the Gorbals — whole streets have been demolished. The Irish and the Jewish immigrants of the old Gorbals have been socially assimilated, but the Pakistanis and Indians and other Asian immigrants now take their place. The same old squalor plagues these newcomers and racial tension has now become a new element in gang warfare. The post-war slum reception areas like Castlemilk, Easterhouse and Possil have produced their own gangs and vandals, and little wonder. These cheerless cellular dormitories could only inspire in the young the urge to get out of them as quickly as possible.. Miles from the city centre, poor transport services, little or no amenities; in fact, pubs were not allowed in pre-war housing schemes. They present such a desolate prospect that many wish they were back in the slums again with its intensive social life based on the camaraderie of poverty.
Full employment after World War II eased the worst rigours of poverty. The Bingo halls and the betting shops are full. The pubs are now catering for women (a post-war innovation), and more whiskey and less "red biddy" is being drunk.
The creation of an industrial sore such as Glasgow in the heady days of unrestricted exploitation in the 19th century has taught the capitalists a very expensive lesson. The scale of re-housing, health and welfare services, were and are far higher than any city of comparable population in the UK and possibly Europe. And yet Glasgow, it is claimed, is the success story of the social reformer! Low rents, good Council housing, health centres, new schools and hospitals. The poverty of the past, we are told, is so much water under Jamaica Bridge. The drunks and the derelicts still sleep it off in the Glasgow Green, but a newer phenomenon, the prostitutes and drug addicts, are now to be seen in George Square. Truly a sign of the affluent society, as nobody could afford either in pre-war Glasgow.
Politically Glasgow has had more than its share of prominent Left-wingers. A stronghold of the ILP for many years, it certainly did not lack advocates in Parliament — Maxton; McGovern; Campbell Stephen; Kirkwood; MacLean and others. But still Glasgow does not flourish. As unemployment re-emerges, as prices rise, and the threat of redundancy becomes more imminent, the old feeling of apprehension returns. Have the good times gone — will slump and poverty return?
The Socialist knows that we cannot have capitalism without these for very long. There is no permanence in social reform. It all has to be done again and again.
Why should the working class in Glasgow and elsewhere gamble on poverty or capitalist prosperity? This choice need not be made. Glasgow has allowed itself to be wrung dry of surplus-value by the rapacity of capitalism. Its sons became undersized, undernourished, under-housed and over-worked in order to build massive fortunes for a race of arrogant parasites. There is absolutely no reason why they should continue to do so.
If they will look beyond the sponsored parochialism of local politics to the broader issues of Socialism and consciously associate themselves with a working-class movement intent on the abolition of capitalism, then and only then will Glasgow flourish.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
This Is Progress?
They are not the only desperate people. Many from North Africa are trying to flee poverty and cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. 600,000 are waiting to make the journey and so far this year 42,000 have reached Italy. The risks they take to escape their poverty are high, often using unseaworthy boats causing the deaths of 170 so far this year. Such a system that causes and allows this to happen should be trashed and soon. John Ayers.
What is the basis of present-day society? T his is called a "property-owning democracy" where 10% own 90% of the wealth. Ther...
If capitalism is presently incapable of solving the more pressing problems faced by humanity, we can well ponder what a difficult time ahe...