Saturday, January 31, 2015

Conflict Flashpoints

EGYPTIAN ATTACK                                              
'At least 26 people have been killed in a series of attacks by Islamist militants in the north of Egypt's Sinai peninsula. A car bomb and mortars hit military targets in the North Sinai capital El-Arish, killing a number of soldiers.' (BBC News, 29 January) Other attacks took place in the nearby town of Sheik Zuwayid and the town of Rafah, bordering Gaza. Militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which pledges allegiance to Islamic State, said it carried out the attacks. RD

'Negotiators from Ukraine, Russia and Europe are set to hold fresh peace talks on Friday in a bid to end a surge in fighting between Kiev and Kremlin-backed rebels, with tensions running high after the EU hit Moscow with more sanctions.'  (Gulf News, 30 January) Talks in Belarus's capital Minsk will bring together the contact group of representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Belarus foreign ministry said. But the meeting is set to be overshadowed by a deal reached by EU foreign ministers on Thursday to tighten sanctions against Russia over the conflict, which the United Nations says has left at least 5,100 people dead.  RD

Capitalism or Common-Sense Common Ownership

 “If class warfare is being waged in America, my class is clearly winning.” Multi-billionaire Warren Buffett

There has been much talk about class warfare, mostly from right-wingers accusing socialists of fomenting unfair and divisive hate against the wealthy. Class war must exist so long as society is divided into classes with opposing interests. Capitalism, by its very nature, creates that division. Class war must end as soon as society is no longer divided into hostile classes. Socialism, by its very nature, creates a classless society. Socialists don’t "preach" class war—they describe the class war that already exists. Class struggle is both the reality of everyday life under capitalism and the way forward to a society based on human needs and not profit. They call upon the working class to help bring about the change from a society which must be divided into classes to a society where no such division is possible. They urge that universal brotherhood, which can be only a dream under capitalism, be transformed into a reality under socialism.
Jack London in his novel ‘The Iron Heel’ explains it:
"And, believe me, we foment no hatred. We say that the class struggle is a law of social development. We are not responsible for it. We do not make the class struggle. We merely explain it, as Newton explained gravitation. We explain the nature of the conflict of interest that produces the class struggle." 

London wishes to present a vision beyond class conflict;
“Let us not destroy those wonderful machines that produce efficiently and cheaply. Let us control them. Let us profit by their efficiency and cheapness. Let us run them for ourselves. That, gentlemen, is socialism...”

Class, class struggle and class war are terms usually deliberately avoided in the media. There is a good reason for this: The ruling elite don’t want working people to see the massive division in wealth between the 1% and the rest of us. They especially don’t want us drawing the political conclusion that working people, the poor and young people have common interests that are opposed to those of the richest 1%. There is a class war going on and being waged against those that have nothing in comparison to those that have everything the best homes, food, medication, education and the material wealth at the expense of the majority, and further more they intend to hold on to it, and we the majority will pay a very high price unless we fight back, we must organise we must come together like never before. We live in a class society. We can't wish that away or pretend like small children that if we can't see it that it can't affect us. Class politics remains the key to uniting the overwhelming majority of the world's people in the fight for a new and classless society.

Today’s robber barons know that the media matters and have effectively bought-off the popular opinion makers. Stylishly groomed corporate executives and financiers, who are morally no better than sneak thieves, have become celebrities. They are flattered on reality TV shows, unquestioningly praised on business programmes and voyeuristically acclaimed in the celebrity columns. The media knows better than bite the hand that feeds it. But most people can recognise class struggle for, on the one side, there are the ceaseless reports of high-levels of unemployment  and mounting unpaid bills and, on the other, in a skyrocketing stock market with sky-high bonuses paid to financial wheeler-dealers. Capital is confident that it appears to have won the class war while many socialists have lost confidence in their utopian hopes. People have lost their belief that change is possible. We need to rebuild belief in the possibility of a better world. Today, when capitalism, the free market, and private enterprise are being hailed as triumphant in the world, it is a good time to rekindle the idea of socialism.

There are two classes in capitalist society— property-owners and propertyless workers. The capitalists, own the banks, the factories, and the corporations and their profits derive from work that is done by workers. Workers, on the other hand, can only survive by selling their ability to work to the owners. The owners of capital have a single goal: increasing profit. Since profits are based on the value that workers add in production above and beyond the cost of production, including wages, owners try to keep the cost of labour as low as possible. Workers, on the other hand, need to earn enough for food, clothing, shelter, education and other necessities. Workers’ and owners’ interests are diametrically opposed. This is the basis for class struggle. A form of class struggle is strikes and other labour struggles. In those fights, workers join together based on common interests as workers to win back some of the surplus value they have produced. But class struggle is constant, even in periods of relative labour “peace.” Even when workers are not struggling to increase their share of the wealth they produce, the owners are trying to increase their share by raising productivity or cutting benefits. Workers seek safety on the job and better rewards for their work; owners seek the maximum amount of cost-cutting and expropriation without completely breaking the mental and physical wellness of workers. Awareness of class interests and looking for ways to advance these interests in the class struggle is called class consciousness. For the working class, class consciousness means understanding the need for unity and solidarity of the whole class against the tiny class of employers.

Socialism means production for need, whereas capitalism is production for profit. Capitalism increases productivity, but this just means more exploitation for higher profit. Socialism is self-management of the workplace and society. People’s conscious direction of their own lives, which the free market only pretends to offer. A revolution means an awakening of the people, rising to their feet from their knees so that they can become true human beings. They will feel that the world truly belongs to them. Under capitalism people are not free at all as they compete with each other in an animal struggle for existence. It is an inhuman and immoral. Socialism is based on respect and solidarity. The division of society into order-givers and order-takers must be ended. Socialism must start as it means to carry on: means and ends are interrelated. We can’t use authoritarian methods to create a society without bosses. Politics is too important to be left to politicians. We cannot wait for saviours to come and liberate us. The faith in the vanguard party must be abandoned.

Class inequality increases over time because employers pay workers less than the value of what they produce. However, this exploitative relationship is hidden by the lies that a) employers create jobs and b) workers are lucky to have them. In fact, labour creates all wealth, and capitalists are lucky that workers keep producing it for them. Lies are used to divide workers. Only employers benefit when workers are divided. The purpose of pitting workers against one another is to prevent unity. "Foolish and vain is the working man who makes the colour of his skin the stepping stone to his imaginary superiority," Eugene Debs decried. We must remember what it takes to win – fighting as a class. Class struggle is built into the fabric of all societies that have classes. Our challenge is to rebuild a movement that can end the class-division of society and all the oppressions that go with it. The employing class are organised and fighting their own offensive against the working class, as they always have been. Itʼs time to organise ourselves.

The not-so-golden years

Thousands of Scots face decades of poverty in retirement.

More than four out of ten questioned by Scottish Widows admitted they hadn't considered how they would survive when they gave up work. Almost as many optimistically said they would look to their children for financial support, while one in seven expected the state to cover their costs.

According to Aviva, 50 to 65 year olds underestimate the length of their retirement by up to eight years. Women put the average lifespan for a reasonably healthy person at 84 years, while men say it is 80, but they could well live to 89 and 88 respectively.

A survey by HSBC found that despite almost six out of ten UK workers worrying they won't have enough to retire on, the economic downturn has prompted more than four out of ten to cut their pension savings or stop altogether. Just over half of those taking part in the HSBC survey said they simply couldn't afford to save enough and a third said paying off debts was preventing them.

According to Prudential, a fifth of those planning to retire this year still have debts averaging just under £22,000, which will further diminish their standard of living.

No one should expect to live well on a state pension alone, the amount people get will still be meagre. Even with a complete NI record - which has been set at 35 years - the maximum individual pension is expected to be around £150 a week, or £7,800 a year.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Road to Socialism is Paved Red with a Green Verge

The political system does not take into account the essential needs of the people, and that they are not invited to participate in decision-making. The world capitalist economy with its unceasing drive for capital accumulation is the most immediate cause of the current environmental crisis. The solution requires replacing world capitalism with a socialist society.  Marx believed that the working class would lead in the transformation of society because it was at once the most dehumanised and alienated class, and potentially the most powerful, since the functioning of society depended upon it. The radical ecological approach dates back to the likes of Peter Kropotkin and William Morris. Forget socialism in one country — in ecological terms socialism in one country is even less feasible because environmental problems don’t respect national or institutional borders. That interdependence should be a reminder that sustainability will come only through global solidarity and world socialism. Socialists don’t need to go green to save the planet, environmental activists need to go red.

We, the people, different in many ways but alike in so many others, work hard. We depend on our pay to live, feel stressed out by too many hours, or too few. We worry about our future, or the future of our children and grandchildren. We are in college or in prison; retired or disabled. Young, old, unemployed, underemployed or overworked. Computer technicians and nurses. Delivery drivers and engineers. Teachers and students. Designers and scientists. We are the working class. Without us, nothing could happen, be produced, nothing grown or harvested, nothing fixed or invented. Whether we live in suburban developments or cities; in an apartment or a house; pay rent or owe on a mortgage. Homeless, just making it or worried we might lose all we've gained...we must work for our living or suffer the consequences. As a class, as a community and as a people, we share the same basic needs and basic desires: to live in and be part of a healthy, peaceful and humane society. Workers have voting for the 'lesser of two evils' and got greater evil. Unless we look at alternatives to profit and competition and the way industry and society is run today--from 'above' to benefit a few - it is hopeless.

We, in the Socialist Party, are like so many others, looking for real change and seeking a path to get it. While corporate control of the political arena is strong, rigged to protect the existing status quo, the political arena still offers the best means for peaceful and meaningful change. Whether Labour or Tory, either party gains office only by how well it serves to protect capital and profits, not how well it solves our real problems. Why vote? But what if we use our ballot differently? Not to vote for reform, but for a totally new society?

Today, we vote with little or no hope of results. With no single unifying effort - just scatter-shot, ineffectual complaints - most have become 'the silent majority'. Or become angry and join UKIP  in empty protest. We know we have problems, but at best try to attack them one at a time. We can't see the interconnected systemic cause, never mind the solution. With no sense of class solidarity, no place for social cohesion, with insecurity and threat now built into our daily lives we seem hopelessly divided. Is there hope? Can we come together and really have an effect? We in the Socialist Party believe we can and that stand at the beginning of a renewal of the workers’ movement. At the same time as we see apathy and cynicism, we also see huge numbers of concerned, active, independent and fragmented groups and political stirrings across the internet. It is proof that people's interest in changing the way things are have not declined but have greatly increased. How do we transform all the separate issues into a unified movement for socialism which will tackle them all? The coming years can only bring more problems, less faith in reform, and greater exposures about a system.  The problems and complaints will grow. Eventually independent candidates and independent 'social protests' will -intentionally or not- uncover the economic link between all the ills they address piecemeal and from that will grow a unified movement, stronger and broader than any union, party or theory could ever do. Right now we need to use what we know and help clarify that the goals of various 'groups' to recognize capitalism as the fundamental cause of our social ills, and that the institutions it rests on must be replaced by democracy where we work and where we live. Change can happen, peacefully in the way and at the time it is needed. The idea is not new.

While the concept of peacefully legislating to form a new, true civic and economic democracy with a sustainable green objective may be unfamiliar now, it will eventually start with one or two representatives being elected. From there, the simple fairness and rationality of it will make it grow and spread. A new society will be born. For radical, fundamental change to begin, of course, will require a broad base of citizen awareness, consistency and principles, but the socialist dialogue must begin now. For the first time in a long time, dire economic and environmental conditions have called into question for many people the old assumptions about capitalism's ability reform itself. For the first time in decades political activity on the right and left is burgeoning. Yes, there is plenty of apathy and skepticism, but that's from distrust of the old politics that haven't worked, the failure of reforms to achieve their promises. We must be grounded in the present and acknowledge the potential of independent action especially of those who have seen other approaches to change fail. Raising consciousness and understanding will take time but we need people who want real change, are excited by the vision of what a new, better, humane society could look like and willing to face the challenges and the possibilities. And, most importantly, we need to vote for them! Once elected, our candidates will not be office-holders, they will be advocates for change.

The idea that people can change the way we do things as a society, can actually progress and better our lives as a country has become a difficult argument to make. We've grown deeply disillusioned with our system, our politics, and rightly so. While we agree that much has improved, from technology to human rights, too many of us have become convinced that when it comes to real social or economic progress, it's impossible. Too many have been convinced that the present system, capitalism, with its dog-eat-dog competition, greed and aggression may not  be perfect but the best we can do given our 'human nature'. We're told endlessly that socialism is for dreamers, idealists and while it sounds nice, at best it's a utopian fantasy. However, our eyes and ears tell us our present road is leading to disaster, and that we must change. Our very survival is now being threatened by too much thoughtless disregard for the future. Seeing that all life is interconnected and co-dependent, we need to create ways to a more constructive and sustainable path. The point is, we can. But the question has actually come down to ‘How’?'

Societies are man-made which means they can be 'undone'. They're not divine' creations nor static. Societies are also 'organic', that is they have 'life-cycles' based on change. The idea that change is painful or violent isn't true. But like birth, it isn't pain-free either. The more prepared we are to think about the future, the better; the more defined our goal, the better the outcome. But once inner pressures begin and the old society starts to get rigid and no longer can adapt, the end of that society is coming and a new one develops to take its place. What evokes change vary but it usually is changed by our tools, how we use them, and what those tools do to our quality of life. Visions a better society, is always met with skepticism. That is 'natural':  being thwarted by the status quo, by reluctance to change, can be a 'survival mechanism' preventing changes that might fail. 'Replacing the Devil we know for the Devil we don't know' has some logic. Most often, however, if the changes are minor, they can be retrofitted into the old society and make their way more slowly, shifting society, its attitudes and beliefs into a new 'paradigm' or mindset. But as we have seen throughout history, even slight changes has a domino-effect, these alterations affect everything. New relationships lead to others until eventually, they cannot be adjusted within the existing framework and a new social order is born. If our present society doesn't change, it would indeed be the first time in human history and contradict everything we've come to know about being human. Capitalism’s goals are in direct conflict with society’s goal. The good news is History is on our side. Like our ancestors, we can envision a new way to live in harmony with nature and with others, for the benefit of the majority. We can meet as they did, in our neighborhoods, but also by the World Wide Web. Organised, we can start our own new party and vote for social cooperation and   social ownership.

So far, we have been hoodwinked into thinking we are incapable of any fundamental change. Without thinking we believe the Big Lie. It’s obvious we need to reaffirm a real alternative based on the needs and wants of the people. We need to talk socialism, all the time and everywhere.  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Democracy At A Price

One of the boast of USA politics is that unlike some countries they have a democracy, but it is a democracy that is subject to the whims of the very rich. . 'A secretive political network led by two billionaire pro-Republican brothers plans to spend $889 million (£585 million) on next year's presidential election, a war chest that rivals the financial firepower of the official parties.' (Times, 28 January) Charles and David Koch, who are worth $41.5 billion each, revealed their plans to fellow donors yesterday. RD

Capitalism is Bankrupt. So What’s Next?

Economically the world has become one, yet workers remain separate and isolated, atomised consumers instead of communities. The current economic crisis, the incompetence and corruption of capitalist corporations and politicians, has led some commentators to declare that these elites are discredited and that this development creates an opening for the socialists. There is some truth in this view, illustrated by polls that suggest that people in the United States and around the world are becoming more skeptical of capitalism and supportive of what they believe to be socialism than anyone could have imagined just a few years ago. Socialism is no longer a dirty word and Marx is no longer the despised demon he once was.

The interests of capitalists lie not in the defense of a mythical free market but in making profit. When their profit-making is served by measures that interfere with the free market, capitalists will favor and aggressively push for them. This also explains the bank bailouts. The problem with the Wall Street bailouts that have fueled people’s anger is that they are symptomatic of the inherently undemocratic nature of the capitalist economic system. This undemocratic nature derives from the ability of the capitalists to use their control of wealth and the State to pursue their interests. Capitalism allows capitalists to leverage their economic power into policy outcomes that benefit themselves. Even well-intentioned policies are inevitably shaped and constrained by the imperatives of capital accumulation. Capitalism is economically undemocratic because it is a class society that exploits workers, whereby all human beings find themselves enslaved by an abstract social logic that they are forced to reproduce through their daily social and economic activity. It is namely this subordination of all people, (including capitalists), to the imperatives of profitability and accumulation that accounts for the inability of the “invisible hand” of the capitalist market to deliver the benefits promised by Adam Smith and his followers. When the goal of profit is paramount, nature becomes no less subordinated to the logic of capital than people themselves. Natural ecosystems become degraded and depleted faster than they can regenerate themselves. It is a process of ecocide. Capitalism is also undemocratic by virtue of the fact that it tends to subordinate the majority of society to the dictates of capitalist elites who are as economically and politically powerful as they are numerically small. Their power enables capitalist elites to shift the environmental cost of their economic activity onto the rest of society.

Socialism allows all human beings to have an equal say over the priorities the economy is called upon to serve. In contrast to capitalism’s subordination of life outside people’s control socialism as economic democracy promises to give people the ability to become the true authors of their individual and collective lives. It does so because only an economically democratic socialism can create an economic system with goals and priorities that are the product of democratic deliberative processes rather than the blind logic of capital accumulation. Socialist society must replace the pursuit of economic expansion at any cost with a commitment to keep the physical scale of economic activity never exceeds the ability of natural ecosystems to regenerate.

Rethinking socialism in terms of being an economic democracy has the added benefit of making it easier to debunk those who declare socialism contrary to individual freedom, made only too plausible by the mis-identification of socialism with Soviet-style authoritarian one-party-rule.   Designating these regimes as socialism is a terrible misnomer. Rather the economy being the democratic responsibility of their citizens, determining priorities, the Soviet bloc were run by a relatively small political and technocratic elite.

Capitalism’s crisis is already fueling the right-wing with racism, nationalism and anti-immigration. To counter these forces and build a better world, socialism as a vision of economic democracy must be urgently emphasized and presented as the strategy of economic democratization which can turn the popular struggles proliferating around the world today into the means through which such a vision comes to life. What’s needed now is neither fatalism nor utopianism, but a practical path towards socialism. We need to convey the messages that emphasises the personal and community benefits of a socialist society and a vision of an attractive future where human needs are met. We need inspiring examples, engaging narratives, and opportunities for learning and teaching. The transition to a socialist future deserves a prominent, persistent place at the centre of public discourse. Those gloom and doom preachers who say that only utter ruin and extinction, awaits us may be correct. However, it need not as there are still a wide range of possible futures. People have an option to change the system and choose another type of society. The practical suggestions for socialism to adopt as sustainable are far from new, what is original in its solutions is that their applicability will be now actually possible. The true dreamers are those who believe in the utopianism of a green capitalism, that a sustainable sound ecological world is possible withing the restraints of market expansionism, capital accumulation, its planning short termism - its logic for existence.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Polluted City

According to state media, Beijing's mayor, Wang Anshun, has called the city "unliveable" because of its noxious smog, according to the China Youth Daily newspaper. To establish a liveable and harmonious city, it is very important to establish a system of standards, and Beijing is currently doing this, he said last Friday, 'At the present time, however, Beijing is not a liveable city. Anshun,s speech came days before the market research company Euromonitor International announced, in its findings on the global tourism market in 2013, that tourism to Beijing had declined by 10% from the year before due to pollution and a countrywide economic slowdown.' (Guardian, 28 January) RD

Election Promises

With the election looming all the reformist political parties are proffering their "solutions"  to the social problems of capitalism. Ed Miliband promises a "10-year plan" for the NHS including longer home visits by social care workers. Prime Minister David Cameron also hinted that pensioner benefits may continue to be protected from further welfare savings mooted for after the election. 'All of the major parties have pledged what they say is enough money to maintain NHS services in the next Parliament after the general election. The Conservatives say they would ring-fence and "protect" the NHS budget while the Liberal Democrats have promised to meet "in full" the £8bn extra NHS managers say is needed by 2020 and UKIP has said it would commit an extra £3bn a year to the service.' (BBC News, 27 January) What none of them say is that they are all committed to running the buying  and selling system in the only way it can be run. In the interests of the owning class. RD

A future without money

Our planet is changing itself to cope with global warming in ways that will make our environments hostile to our continued existence as a species. Capitalism distorts the values, relationships and structures that ideally exist between people and between people and nature. At the heart of the capitalist system is the practice and concept of money.  Capital is money that begets more money. Money and markets represent capitalist power. You cannot have capital without money. You cannot have wage-labour without money. People who have no money understand that money is not a neutral tool, it’s a form of control. Capitalists are defined by money, their power is monetary power, their logic is a market-based logic. If our strategies for confronting, undermining and overwhelming capital are based in these simple facts, it is not hard to challenge the system.

Marx often ridiculed those who seemed to think that they could simply redefine money, issue it on different terms, regulate it in new ways, or give goods and services ‘prices’ at a distribution centre or before they reached the market. Marx opposed those who only saw money as a neutral tool or ineffectual form rather than appreciate that money is at the basis of practices that developed and maintain class and private property. Marx main points were to do with breaking with money per se, rather than thinking that all you had to do was to ‘tinker’ with it and achieve large-scale change, let alone revolution. Marx’s analysed experiments, such as workers’ cooperatives and labour money and wrote of their incapacity to fulfil the principles of decision-making being transparent and just, and production efficiently and effectively satisfying social needs. Today, socialists make the same points about the plethora of half-baked schemes — fair trade, carbon trading, community currencies and so on, using nebulous terms such as ‘social capital’ or ‘natural capital’ — that cannot lead to socialism unless they go hand-in-hand with political movements to erode capitalism, private property, and create a global commons focusing on production for everyone’s basic needs.

Many environmental and social activist campaigners appeal to a logic of use values rather than exchange values to advocate their position. For instance, they will argue that an old-growth forest has more use values and reproductive and sustainable potential to the communities that rely on it for all their basic needs, such as food, potable water, shelter, clothing and medicines, than its use for making profits for a multinational conglomerate that plans to clear the trees, sell them for timber, let or help the remaining forest ecosystem die, and replace it all with a tree farm. Similarly, anti-nuclear campaigners will argue that the industry is unnecessary to fulfil people’s basic needs and a risk to their wellbeing and livelihoods, while the nuclear industry will argue that it will create ‘clean’ energy to sustain growth, jobs and profits. These examples contrast arguments based in use values and those based on exchange values. If the ecologists continue to consciously and conscientiously argue and propose options that are based on a logic of use values we can offer a clear and unequivocal alternative to capitalism. Once we start to try to convince capitalists and the state to be more environmentally and socially sound using arguments based on economic values — ‘You can make more money this way’; ‘Why not trade in environmental values?’ — we are lost. Capitalists cannot in practice appreciate environmental and social values. The system they employ reduces everything to a market assessment, a monetary value, a price. Marx’s analysis shows the absurdity and risks of efforts to try to set prices, which today focuses on making prices reflect environmental values, as in carbon and water-trading schemes or pricing forests and other environmental ‘assets’. He reveals the absurdity of market values, alludes to the workings of the market as absolutely distinct from meeting basic human needs and the needs of ecological systems. The political conclusion is:
“The religious reflections of the real world can, in any case, vanish only when the practical relations of everyday life between man and man, and man and nature, generally present themselves to him in a transparent and natural form.” (Marx,1867)

To institute socialism we only need to understand the potential, limitations and needs of a natural and built world held in commons along with the basic needs of humans — and share decision-making based on a discourse of use values and distinct measures appropriate to differing use values. There is no need for a universal unit of account or means of exchange. Acknowledging money as a tool of power points to revolutionary strategies which undermine capitalism non-violently and involve instituting direct democracy in the process. Money is not a ‘mere tool’ at all, but rather omnipotent. So powerful and pervasive a force, in fact, that even some of the most committed and passionate socialists can complain that they cannot envisage a socialist future without some kind of monetary framework or role for money and markets. What a dictatorship of the imagination money and its market has wrought, that even its most ardent detractors cannot think outside their prison walls.

We are already in a process of species suicide or we are in a process of renewal of what it is to be human. We cannot afford to think in terms of a long-term plan or reformism, if only because of the haste with which we must move. It is fitting that we take the most accurate route. There will be a revolution or, literally, nothing left of our species. Revolution means workers’ gaining control of the means of production and making work meaningful through self-organised cooperation and collective self-realisation. Post-capitalism means increasing our free time to enable a growth of individuality and humanity replacing labour as the source of value in society. Socialism is a market-free, money-free, class-free and state-free society, as well as want-free, sustainable and just.

The Socialist Party does not lay down a hard and fast plan for a socialist future but tries to stimulate people’s imaginations and counter those who regard it as impossible. We need to have a clear idea of where we are going and how our different activities might ultimately constitute a socialist future. We want as many people as possible elaborating ideas of a post-capitalist future so we can argue, experiment and establish this society. We can express it in various terms. A local–global compact society. The noun ‘compact’ refers to a social agreement and, used as an adjective, ‘compact’ is associated with efficiency and economy, referring to a condensed, small and efficient use of space. The concept of a compact world is one of multiple horizontal cells, which aim for relative collective sufficiency within neighbourhoods and bioregions, connected by networks of various sizes appropriate to their functions, with voluntarily created and agreed to compacts structuring the production and flow of goods and services. ‘Collective sufficiency’ is a term to refer to material, basic-needs sufficiency evolving on the basis of a commons and people working together to ensure their communal sufficiency (in contrast to individuals or singular households developing ‘self-sufficiency’). ‘Permaculture’ stands for permanent and sustainable culture, integrating human practices with natural processes to yield security in food and other basic needs. Diversity and resilience are both enhanced by relatively autonomous collectively sufficient neighbourhoods and bioregions.

Marx’s clear analysis, based as it was on use values offers a clear way forward. People seeing our basic human needs and the needs of the environment in direct, scientific and practical forms and then advancing to discussing options for just and sustainable futures in terms of such use values would be a real advance. Socialist politics must be embedded in people’s direct and immediate control of the means of production and distribution.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dysfunctional Society

Gledhill Public School in Toronto has its grade six students (11/12 years) creating murals for a public information evening on mental health. A spokesperson said, " The reality is, even in grades 3,4 and 5, we do see children with stress, with gender issues and violence issues and in grades 5 and 6 some do have issues around texting and sexting, so the need for mental health supports can be great." If people so young can have serious mental problems, it is an indication of a dysfunctional society that is worth working to abolish. John Ayers.

Coalition Losses

According to a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) the spending power of middle class families with children are among the losers of tax and benefits changes brought in by the coalition.'The wealthiest 10 per cent of households are among the hardest hit since the coalition came to power. Those in this  bracket, which includes childless couples with a combined net income of more than £52,238, and couples with two children and a joint income of £76,267, have lost £2,330 a year on average.' (Times, 23 January) RD

Telling it like it is

There are numerous studies by banks, think tanks, universities plus television networks and newspapers that keep giving a picture of how bad things are but it is always invariably partial and incomplete. What they leave out, and what the working class needs to know above all, is that the problem is the capitalist system of wage slavery — and the solution is socialism. People need to know that it is because of the capitalist system, that the powerful ruling class dictate legislation. The struggle against capitalism and for socialism requires knowledge of the system of exploitation. That is essential to the struggle for socialism. Understanding the enemy is a basic necessity for working-class. Class consciousness means understanding the enemy class and all of its treacherous features. Workers own only their ability to work and a few personal possessions they have been able to accumulate in a lifetime of labour. Workers are dependent on the bosses to live. They must sell their ability to do a job of some type to a capitalist, day after day, month after month, year after year. If the bosses won’t hire them or business falls off, then the workers are out of luck. They work at the will of the owners. Workers get paid just enough to live, or nowadays even less than that. The wealth they create above and beyond the value of their wages goes into the pockets and vaults of the bosses. The more they can get from the workers, the more they can produce with fewer workers, the more profits they make. Working people are suffering from the law of the maximization of profit, which drives capitalism. That is why the management introduce new technology. That is why they outsource jobs. That is why they cut benefits. The bosses dominate the political system. No promises of the politicians to create jobs, lessen inequality will influence the bosses for they are guided by their own profit motives.

The real point is that the system does not work. Millions of people see the flaws, cruelties and injustices of capitalism, but they do not view as a system which requires social change. Capitalism is an anarchic, crisis ridden system, as unpredictable as the weather. It affects your standard and quality of life. It affects your education. It affects your physical health. It affects your mental health. It affects your environment. Capitalism holds no future for the human race other than disease and war. A major example of wasteful capitalism is the enormous war machine, which sucks up much of our resources. This makes crazy sense for a capitalist system that must seek to protect markets and trade routes and obtain raw materials with the use of military power i.e. kill people to dominate the rest of the world and accumulate great wealth. It makes no sense to socialist who asks what if these enormous resources devoted to war were put to work instead in meeting social needs – building housing etc.? Unemployment creates insecurity and poverty and pits worker against worker, often along lines of race. Capitalism's race for profits requires enormous expenditures for advertising with its manipulation of our wants and fears. Capitalism’s not natural and it need not prevail. What if the world were a place where everyone had the comfortable essentials of a full life, including satisfying work, housing, food, clothing and health care? Plus the opportunity to learn and develop into all she/he could be? A world where neither the environment nor people were exploited? Socialism is the exciting, life-affirming idea for a world that works for everyone, a vision whose time can come.

Socialism is an economic system in which the means of production are socially owned and used to meet human needs instead of to create profits. The means of production refers to the tools, technology, buildings, and other materials used to make the goods or services in an economy. Society could then be planned to meet the needs of the majority, not just a privileged few, and the basis laid for eliminating poverty, inequality, violence, oppression and environmental destruction. Despite the trappings of democracy, under capitalism real decision-making about most of the main issues which affect our lives resides ultimately with the small minority who have economic and social control. Socialism would enable people to have genuine control over every aspect of their lives. Through democratically-elected committees in the workplaces and communities it would be possible to participate in the running of society at every level. Socialism would be based on collective ownership and democratic control of the economy. Exploitation, inequality and hierarchy would be replaced by cooperation and negotiation. Early human societies were communal: they weren’t divided into rich and poor and they shared property instead of having to buy and sell the things they needed. By common ownership of the means of production we would begin to construct a society not based on profit but based on human need. A utopia? No. It’s a necessity.

Socialists want to extend that democratic control to the way goods and services are produced. We want to change from a form where production is for profit (capitalism) to a form where production is for the use of all, in harmony with the earth (socialism). Are people "good" enough to become socialists? Being a perfect person has nothing to do with it!  People don't have to be intrinsically good. For capitalism to function it must encourage personality/behavior that is aggressive, acquisitive, manipulative and selfish ("bad"). But a system based on real human values will reinforce humane behavior ("good"). You don't have to be a saint to be a socialist, merely act in your own self-interest which just happens to be shared by many others. Socialist society is based on cooperation and respect for others, not competition in the sense of defeating others. The conventional wisdom presented by the mainstream media is what we have is "the way the world is". Socialism challenges that assumption and one result can be for some of us to lapse into denial, to avoid the discomfort of having to accept the implication that we can shape a new world. Socialists will not settle for less than a system where fundamental human needs of all are fully met: food, housing, health care, life-long learning and the opportunity to become the person you can be. People will decide democratically what things and services they really need and want – not wants and wishes created by advertising – and those will be produced in workplaces where workers participate in decisions about production processes and working conditions.
The enormous resources, technology and production capabilities of today can easily generate a comfortable life for all. Production requirements will be smaller than in the wasteful capitalist system we now have, where production must constantly expand. Socialism is about producing in a humane, ecological way for the benefit of each other. Of course, not all work is fulfilling and satisfying so it might decide that some dirty, dangerous, dull work would be evaluated to see if that service or product were really needed or if there is another way to do it. If not they can be shared around and no one condemned to a lifetime of drudgery as they are nowadays.

 People have to know about socialism and the nature of capitalism and socialism needs to get on the immediate agenda and not relegated to some far off time in the future. This is crucial. When people actually know what we are suggesting, are rid of their misconceptions and are not tied into uncritical acceptance of capitalism, then most people will realize that socialism is what they need and want because it gives them assurance of not only all the basics for a good life, but humane and satisfying work and sympathetic relations with others and a symbiotic relationship with nature. With this understanding, change is inevitable. Real socialism has never been tried. We can build a society that is democratic and not capitalist. The historic name for such a society is socialism. Since socialism has other unwelcomed connotations with the past, why not use another term? How about economic democracy? Or cooperative commonwealth? The point to remember is people will say “Hey, that's really socialism. Are you trying to deceive me?”

Who Owns the North Pole part 83

Canada is moving ahead on building a fleet of Arctic patrol ships to provide a naval presence in the resource-rich north. The CAN $3.5 billion project (US $3.2 billion with Lockheed Martin handling onboard combat systems, will produce five ships.

Royal Canadian Navy commander Vice Adm. Mark Norman has said the Arctic patrol ships will give the service greater reach into the remote region. "The Arctic offshore patrol ships will enable us to become a truly Arctic, rather than just northern, Navy with the capability to operate in the Canadian Arctic archipelago on a sustained and persistent basis," he told delegates to a naval conference in October.

Defense analyst Martin Shadwick said for the Navy, the contract is significant as the ships will be capable of patrolling farther into the Arctic and stay in the region for longer than the service's existing ships. "For the Navy it is a deal changer," said Shadwick, who teaches strategic studies at York University in Toronto. "We have been without a credible Arctic naval capability since the late 1950s."

Monday, January 26, 2015

Greek Upset

Greece's general election has been won by the Anti-austerity Syriza party putting them on a possible collision course with the EU over its massive bailout. Syriza is projected to win 149 seats, just two short of an absolute majority with nearly 75% of the votes counted. 'Outgoing Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has admitted defeat and phoned Mr Tsipras to congratulate him. Syriza's result will send shockwaves through Europe, the BBC's Gavin Hewitt in Athens reports.. (BBC News, 26 January) RD

For the planet not parochialism

Independence then socialism is often the nationalists’ favorite bait for workers. Independence is said to be a step forward towards the workers’ own liberation, a step towards socialism. Nothing could be further from the truth. With the conditions that prevail today around the world, movements for independence would not mean a step forward towards socialism. It would be a step backwards. Despite protestations of being populists nationalists work on behalf of the capitalists but those on the Left declare they merely wish freedom from “imperialist domination”. The Left-wingers simply play with words. The point of nation states is that they compete with each other, sometimes through alliances with other nations.  In fact it is usually through alliances with other nations, but this doesn’t make such alliances examples of internationalism.

The success of socialism depends on achieving the greatest possible unity of the working class and it is utterly ridiculous to argue that the working class ought to divide itself into different countries in order to accomplish this unity. It is completely absurd to justify this with the false argument, disproved many times, that the battle for socialism would be easier if it were led by a more nationally “pure” and homogeneous working class. Working class unity is a must right now if effective resistance is to be mounted to the crisis measures imposed by the capitalists. Unity is necessary to stand up against all the attacks on our democratic rights. The working class faces a powerful class enemy which is solidly united (despite differences within its ranks). The people’s forces are not going to win by dividing themselves on the basis of their place of birth, rather than their place within the capitalist machine. Those who dress up as socialists in order to push nationalism in the working class are the objective allies of the capitalists who dominate the politics and pull the strings.

We do not fight capitalism with nationalism. We fight capitalism with socialism. The working class is an international class. McDonald workers in Britain, America or India have more in common with each other than they do with the millionaires of their own countries. The capitalists often try to turn the workers of one country against another through rousing national hatreds and promoting myths of national superiority. There is no national solution to the crises caused by global capitalism. It is not possible to build socialism in one country – socialism, like capitalism, would need to be a global system in order to survive. We face huge problems like poverty, disease and climate change that can only be eradicated by a world-wide effort mobilising people and resources across the borders that currently divide us. Let us not fight against each other. The working class have no power individually; we must fight collectively as part of trade unions, and as a political party.

In regards of claims of national sovereignty nations do not exist in some kind of abstract, mythical world of complete autonomy. States exist in relation to other states. Some are strong and some are less strong. There are big robbers and smaller robbers collude over how to divide up the booty. For anyone who calls themselves socialist, by definition the problem is the social system.  One that produces disaffection everywhere and therefore cannot arise from ‘foreign rule’.  Socialists are also, or rather they should be, well used to nationalist campaigns that put the ills of society down to the nationality of the state, and which therefore obscure real causes. Apparently a capitalist state can be reformed in the interests of the workers according to left nationalism theory.  Such a new state will not be part of the prevailing world order.  How?  Who knows – for even a workers revolution that placed political power in the hands of a completely democratic workers’ state could not escape being locked into a world economic system of capitalism.  Only in a scenario of immediate spread of the revolution could it have any hope of surviving and still be something worthy of the description socialist.  Socialism is the movement of the working class and its conquest of economic, social and political power, irrespective of nationality.  It can exist only at an international level.  This too is a simple description.  But even at this simple level is shows the incompatibility of nationalism with socialism. What independence movements do is promote nationalist solutions to the problems of capitalism

Nationalism, no matter how left it is, always confuses action by the state for socialism, so it calls upon the state to redistribute wealth and take control of resources “for the people”, whereas socialism calls upon workers to take ownership of production itself and build the power of its own organisations so that one day these can replace the state.  Internationalism is not the solidarity of one progressive state with another but is the international action of workers, from organising in parties and unions across borders, not favouring the population within certain lines on a map. Left nationalism is not internationalism but the alliance of nationalisms. The betrayal of socialism involved in the embrace of nationalism by sections of the left is revealed by this statist conception of socialism, although this is hidden from many because socialism was popularly identified with the growth of gigantic, bureaucratic state power, exemplified by the Soviet Union.  This is one reason it remains unpopular among the mass of workers.

Borders don’t protect us, they divide us—creating needless friction with the excluded while obscuring real differences among the included. We need forms of belonging that are not predicated on exclusion, and the possession of a passport or visa.

Marx said that “The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living”.  This is an apt epitaph for the nationalists, particularly those who say they are socialists. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Did You Know Its Sponsored?

Here comes 1984 once again. Harper's federal Conservatives are paying a publicity agent to create and distribute government-approved news items to community newspapers, television and radio stations. The articles must be credited to "News Canada" but there is nothing in this so-called news that lets the audience know that it is sponsored material. John Ayers.

Money Counts, People Don't

When speaking about the threat of Ebola, John Ashton, president of the UK faculty for Public Health said, We must also tackle the scandal of the unwillingness of the pharmaceutical industry to invest in research to produce treatments and vaccines, something they refuse to do because the numbers involved are, in their terms, so small and don't justify the investment. This is the moral bankruptcy of capitalism acting in the absence of an ethical and moral framework." In other words, money counts, people don't. John Ayers.

The Tree of Liberty

The Tree of Liberty 

Heard ye o’ the tree o’ France,
I watna what’s the name o’t;
Around the tree the patriots dance,
Weel Europe kens the fame o’t.
It stands where ance the Bastile stood,
A prison built by kings, man,
When Superstition’s hellish brood
Kept France in leading-strings, man.
Upo’ this tree there grows sic fruit,
Its virtues a’ can tell, man;
It raises man aboon the brute,
It maks him ken himsel, man.
Gif ance the peasant taste a bit,
He’s greater than a lord, man,
And wi’ the beggar shares a mite
0′ a’ he can afford, man
This fruit is worth a’ Afric’s wealth,
To comfort us ’twas sent, man:
To gie the sweetest blush o’ health,
And mak us a’ content, man
It clears the een, it cheers the heart,
Maks high and low gude friends, man;
And he wha acts the traitor’s part,
It to perdition sends, man.
My blessings aye attend the chiel,
Wha pitied Gallia’s slaves, man,
And staw a branch, spite o’ the deil,
Frae yont tho western waves, man.
Fair Virtue watered it wi’ care,
And now she sees wi’ pride, man,
How weel it buds and blossoms there,
Its branches spreading wide, man.
But vicious folk aye hate to see
The works o’ Virtue thrive, man;
The courtly vermin’s banned the tree,
And grat to see it thrive, man;
King Loui’ thought to cut it down,
When it was unco sma’, man
For this the watchman cracked his crown,
Cut aff his head and a’, man.
A wicked crew syne, on a time,
Did tak a solemn aith, man,
It ne’er should flourish to its prime,
I wat they pledged their faith, man.
Awa they gaed wi’ mock parade
Like beagles hunting game, man,
But soon grew weary o’ the trade,
And wished they’d been at hame, man.
For Freedom, standing by the tree,
Her sons did loudly ca’, man;
She sang a sang o’ liberty,
Which pleased them ane and a’, man
By her inspired, the new-born race
Soon drew the avenging steel, man;
The hirelings ran-her foes gied chase,
And banged the despot weel, man
Let Britain boast her hardy oak,
Her poplar and her pine, man,
Auld Britain ance could crack her joke,
And o’er her neighbours shine, man
But seek the forest round and round,
And soon ’twill be agreed, man,
That sic a tree can not be found
‘Twixt London and the Tweed, man.
Without this tree, alake this life
Is but a vale o’ wo, man;
A scene o’ sorrow mixed wi’ strife,
Nae real joys we know, man.
We labour soon, we labour late,
To feed the titled knave, man;
And a’ the comfort we’re to get,
Is that ayont the grave, man.
Wi’ plenty o’ sic trees, I trow,
The warld would live in peace, man;
The sword would help to mak a plough,
The din o’ war wad cease, man.
Like brethren in a common cause,
We’d on each other smile, man;
And equal rights and equal laws
Wad gladden every isle, man.
Wae worth the loon wha wadna eat
Sic halesome dainty cheer, man;
I’d gie my shoon frae aff my feet,
To taste sic fruit, I swear, man.
Syne let us pray, auld England may
Sure plant this far-famed tree, man;
And blithe we’ll sing, and hail the day
That gave us liberty, man.
Robert Burns 
25th January is Burns Night

Socialism Matters

Many believe that socialism means government or state ownership and control but socialism is something entirely different. Socialism means economic democracy, workers making decisions every day where they work and in the field in which they are most qualified. When we use the word “worker,” we mean everyone who sells his or her ability to work (labour power) to an employer. Coal miners are workers, but so are musicians, scientists, nurses, teachers, architects, inventors and mathematicians. Industry should be used to benefit all of us, not restricted to the creation of profits for the enrichment of a small group of capitalist owners. Our natural resources could be intelligently conserved. We would have full and free access to the means of wealth production and distribution. There would be a complete and full democracy in which the final and only power will be the great mass of our people, the useful producers, which in socialist society would mean everybody. Society no longer would be split into two contending classes. The power of the socialist vision has always been that it offered for the first time in the history of humanity a realistic means of overcoming alienation and exploitation, inhumanity and misery, violence and war.

Socialism is a vision of a transformed society in harmony with nature, and the development of practices that can attain it. Our mission is to facilitate a global movement towards a new society. Our whole future depends upon achieving it. But socialism doesn’t drop from the sky, nor can it socialism be delivered to people from above, to be handed down to us by the enlightened.  There is only one way we can reach it — through our own activity. We would be pedantic fools if we insisted that there is only one path to the social revolution. Yet to construct a socialist society, one step in every particular path is critical — the capture and control of the state. Without the removal of state power from capitalist control, every real threat to capital will be destroyed. The capitalist state is an essential support for the reproduction of capitalist social relations; and the army, police, legal system. Capital always uses the power of its state when challenged. Socialism is not a statist society where decisions are top-down and where all is the property of state office-holders or the party cadres of self-reproducing vanguards. Socialism is the banner under which millions of working people will the horrors of the factory system and demanded a new society of equality, justice and freedom. Socialism is the promise of the emancipation of labour, a society in which work would be transformed from drudgery done in the pursuit of profit to collective activity done in the service of human needs. Every person will have an equal say in how the new economy is run. Private ownership of the industries will be eliminated, in favor of social, or common, ownership. We will have a society of free access to the goods we produce in direct exchange for our services rendered, and we shall all be given useful and rewarding occupations that we have a personal aptitude for, each of us working a fraction of the amount of time we have to work in capitalist society. Poverty, hunger, racism, sexism, environmental destruction, unemployment, rampant crime and war will become things of the past. Education will be given to anyone who has the desire to learn free of "charge." Health care shall be free to all who need it, as will be housing and transport. Recreational and cultural facilities will now be open to all as well, and we will now have plenty of leisure time to enjoy it. Magazines, the television stations, radio stations and the Internet will be in the hands of everyone collectively, so we will no longer have our means of communications in the hands of the few, deciding what we can publish or which ideas we can express. Those who are physically or mentally incapable of work, or those who are too old and infirm to work, will share in this abundance. Even the slothful can be supported by a healthy society.

What is the political role of a socialist party? The objective of a socialist society is the promotion of a free, universal development of its individuals. A socialist society may only form itself around the generalisation of the emancipatory achievements of earlier struggles and by linking them to future tasks. We need to articulate a compelling vision of a new society, bring together disparate campaigns and organizations on an ongoing and coordinated basis, and mount a general political offensive against the system in its totality. The gap between the challenges we face and our ability to meet them is daunting. Socialism can and must be established before capitalism brings our world to an end. Currently, the working class is not class conscious, and most support the pro-capitalist political parties. We may dislike certain politicians and policies, we may hate the poverty, inequality and environmental destruction that capitalism creates, but never do we actually blame capitalism itself or even consider capitalism as the problem. Always do we consider "solutions" to the problems within the framework of capitalism, and never do we oppose the politicians and the capitalist class that controls them. In our education we are taught to obey the government and to trust our political betters for they are looking out for us and we are taught all this by schools, mass media and other sources of information controlled by the capitalists. We are encouraged to work our jobs, keep our noses at the grind-stone and endure the exploitation and ignore the humiliation that we suffer.

We must become class conscious. We must recognize ourselves as members of the working class, regardless of our occupations, income or employment status. Anyone who must work for a living is a member of the working class. Anyone who owns enough property to live off of the labor of others, yet never needs to work themselves, is a member of the capitalist class. It's that simple. We must cast off social mythology that casts us into fictitious classes such as the "middle-class." Or an “under-class”. We must heed our commonality as a class above and beyond simplistic identity politics. A socialist political party will present us with the opportunity to use the ballot in a revolutionary manner.

Socialism is not dead. It didn’t die because it is still to live and has never existed before, anywhere.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sunrise capitalism

From the May 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Japan is often cited as an example of how capitalism can work, if only all workers were hard-working and loyal. Its low unemployment, high growth rate and high wages are apparently what we should all be striving for. Indeed, when he was describing Labour's economic policy recently, Neil Kinnock said that Labour was after a Japanese-type economy.

It is not only in this country that Japan is held up as a shining example of "successful" capitalism. In the United States, competition from Japan has led to many industries closing down - especially car and steel plants - which in turn has resulted in some American workers mistakenly blaming "dirty foreigners" for their unemployment. Russian leaders have also been pointing to Japan's economy, and the quality of their goods, as an example of what their workers should be aspiring to.

Despite the fact that in Japan unemployment is one fifth of Britain's, that wages are on average one third higher and that the economy is growing at a relatively high rate - conditions which are supposedly the best that capitalism can achieve - Japanese workers face problems and conditions that are bad even by British standards.

Housing in Japan is generally very poor and costly in comparison with Britain. It costs three times as much, which makes a nonsense of directly comparing wage rates. In the late seventies, one third of Japanese houses averaged 11 feet by 11 feet, and are often referred to as "rabbit hutches". Nearly one half of the 34 million homes in Japan have no flushing toilet and 6 per cent have no piped water. Within the three main metropolitan areas, 50 million of Japan's 120 million people are crushed; Tokyo has very few parks or gardens.

The old and sick in Japan are in a precarious position. Pensions are usually low, and some workers do not even get one. Many have to rely on savings or charity from their families, although less old people are now being looked after in this way. Some old workers are retired by companies at 55 years old, although pensions don't usually start until they are 60. On the other hand, many small businesses in Japan employ old workers who have to work until they drop.

It is not advisable to fall ill in Japan. Although there is health insurance, it is not comprehensive, and up to 30 per cent of the bill may have to be paid by the patient himself.

Unemployment in Japan may be lower, but if you are out of work then you are in trouble. Unemployment benefits usually lasts for only 90 days, although older workers at the bigger companies might get a maximum of eight months' benefit. After this, workers who cannot get a job have to rely on any savings they may have, or on their families, as there is no supplementary benefit.

Although security of employment is better in Japan (at least in the bigger companies), when companies do make workers redundant it is the 45-55 year age group that is most vulnerable. Pay rates in Japan are linked to age and workers may get as much as three times more than their colleagues in their twenties which, apart from dividing the workforce, makes them a ready target for cost-cutting employers.

Employment in Japan is not an altogether pleasant experience, and workers there have less protection than their European counterparts. Independent unions are discouraged and instead workers join company unions. These unions preach subservience and loyalty to the company, which is like cattle preaching loyalty to the butcher.

In the bigger companies workers do have relatively high wages and security (of exploitation). Long hours are expected, however, and overtime is often little short of compulsory. Many Japanese workers, however, are employed in smaller firms, where wages are much lower (up to a third), and conditions and job security are much poorer. This is most noticeable in the car industry, where the further down the sub-contracting line the worse the working conditions tend to be. Temporary labour is used a lot, with the advantage to the capitalists of being cheap and disposable.

Workers in Japan are cajoled and exhorted to work hard and be loyal to "their" company. A strict labour discipline which is instilled in workers at an early age. The school system in Japan can be brutal. Strict codes define all aspects of a child's behaviour throughout the day. The uniformed nonentities found in Japanese factories are found in the schools, where rules of dress are strict.

Large classes are geared towards passing exams, which are themselves geared to the needs of their future employers (pronounced exploiters). Failure is not tolerated. The creating of a compliant, docile workforce, suitable for the profit requirements of capital, leaves its mark on the children. Violence, bullying, absenteeism and delinquency are on the increase. Those children whose academic achievements are poor or appear different are the main targets for bullying in the classroom jungle.

In 1984, 572 people under the age of 19 committed suicide. The figure was 62 for those under 14, compared to two in Britain. The "success" of Japanese capitalism has its price.

Japan's economy is now the second biggest in the world, after the United States. But the problems facing workers in Japan, who created this wealth, have not disappeared. In fact, you could argue that they are relatively worse off, in that the wealth they have created has increased faster than their wages, becoming an oppressive, alienated force in the hands of capital. Certainly, Japanese workers do face similar problems to those elsewhere.

When capitalism is a "success", as we are led to believe it is in Japan, it is only the capitalists who benefit. It is clear that those who express an admiration for, and desire to emulate, Japan are only wanting capitalism to be "successful" in their countries. The lot of the working class is not substantially changed by capitalist success or failure. It will only be changed by its abolition.

Ian Ratcliffe

Crisis In Ukraine

We live in a social system beset with conflict and and nowhere is this more apparent than in Ukraine. 'Some 5.2 million people live in conflict-affected areas and 1.4 million are considered "highly vulnerable and in need of assistance". More than a million people have fled their homes with 633,523 living as displaced persons within Ukraine and 593,622 living outside Ukraine, mostly in Russia.' (BBC News, 22  January) According to a UN report of 9 January more than 4,800 people have been killed in the fighting and at least 10,322 have been injured, including at least 102 children. RD

Bound Together to Break the Chains

Society stands at the crossroads of socialism or chaos. If the working class does not succeed in overthrowing capitalism, then this chilling prediction will seem in retrospect to have been too mild. The current economic crisis brings back on to the agenda the prospect of revolution but also the possibility of counter-revolution. There will be ebbs and flows, setbacks and outright defeats in the class struggles ahead. The workers do not immediate seek revolution. There will be illusions in reformism, religious demagogy, populism, nationalism and – most dangerous of all – racism and xenophobia. All contributing to despair and confusion. However, there will also be a resurgence of socialist ideas, which will grip the minds of the working class. It will go against all Marxist thought if socialist ideas do not find an audience. There is speculation about a rise of a popular right wing such as UKIP. But it will be even more surprising if a new left does not sooner or later present a challenge. The crisis brings the classes into direct confrontation. The failure to overthrow the rule of capital and introduce a rationally planned socialist system has brought a return of scenes hardly witnessed since the19th century: hunger, homelessness, hysteria, the destruction of the environment plus wars and civil wars. The only way out of the nightmare, resulting quite possibly this time in the terminal destruction of human society itself, is to reorganize society on the basis of a rational administration of resources and a harnessing of humankind’s productive potential. The end of the Soviet state, the eclipse of Stalinist parties along with the rejection of Trotskyist opportunism and adventurism plus the exposure of the treachery and betrayal of the reformists of the social democratic labour parties offers a clean slate to socialists to win over fresh layers. However, old traditions die hard. The paralysis of the working class in moving to change society today comes not so much from the old illusions in reformist or national programmes, but in the perceived helplessness of the mass of ordinary people.

The initial response to the crisis is usually one of stunned shock. As workplaces close, as workers lose their jobs and have their homes foreclosed it is true that there will be a weakening in the cohesion, solidarity and initiative of the working class. However, in the process of the descent into the abyss, there will inevitably be inspiring struggles. The period of the Great Depression in the 30s also witnessed the great waves of sit-in strikes in the USA and France. In some countries there have already been explosive reactions. These are clearly only the tentative beginning of a massive worldwide movement of protest.  It is remarkable that there is a general understanding throughout society today of the causes and nature of the current crisis. The attempts to blame asylum seekers, illegal immigrants, benefit scroungers, single mothers, Polish plumbers, or even Islamic terrorists for the crisis has all been tried but overall without too much success. Bankers and financiers are held in universal contempt as are their political servants and media mouthpieces. Few needed to be told that the Iraq war was over oil. The revolution could be within reach If only there were a political party strong enough to channel that mass class hatred into building a new socialist world. A socialist political party is needed to generalise this discontent, to plan for democratically elected committees to liaise and co-ordinate, and above all to imbue the people with confidence in the historic meaning of the change, give their actions an international horizon, and make explicit and conscious what would already be taking place on the ground in an instinctive and pragmatic form.

Many new factors have strengthened the workers’ movement. The squeeze of the so-called middle class, their proletarianisation as some would term it, has strengthened the working class. We are far better educated and informed than previously via the communications revolution. Despite of the nationalist threat, the internet has drawn the world together and an international consciousness has arisen that would have been inconceivable before. They have created a cultural climate which drastically tilts the relative balance of forces in society. Democratic social movements have arisen above all the women, who have risen to their feet and forever shaken off their historically subservient role, but also mobilised and in the forefront of working-class struggles are the ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples.  It is a new cultural awareness – a mood to which capitalists themselves have had to pay lip-service and homage to in pledges of social equality, fair trade, ethical banking, sustainable development– that has become an unquantifiable factor standing in the way of the capitalists’ resolve to drive down living standards. This new awareness was manifested in an unprecedented international movement of anti-capitalist protest, with thousands of activists crossing national frontiers in solidarity campaigns in spontaneous eruption of protest enough to alarm the ruling class, as in the Zapatistas, Occupy Movement, the Arab Spring or the Indignados. The outsourcing and relocation of industrial capital has led to the new theatres of class war, in China and Bangladesh and other regions of the world. In 2005 there were 90,000 officially designated “public order disturbances” in China i.e. strikes and protests

Capitalism has long outlived its usefulness. The global banks and corporations which rule the world have been revealed to be totally parasitic. Non-socialists keep asking themselves if a solution be found within capitalism itself? Yet this ongoing destruction of the world has made many once more question the assumption that the idea of a socialist society is a utopian mirage. The material basis for socialism is plenty. The irony is that it is this very plenty which is posing apparently insuperable problems for capitalists. Their problem is how to dispose of the goods, but they present us with a picture of scarcity and hopelessness. Capitalism has now reached the point where, at least in some areas of the economy, productivity is so advanced that its products are effectively available free of charge.  Music is available online at no cost. Within the computer industry, much of the software products are now given away free, partly a reflection of fierce competition but also an indication of technological progress. It is an anomaly that it is the very productivity on which the chances for socialism and for human survival depend which is too much for the capitalist market to cope with. What is needed is not simply more renewable energy, or this or that technological fix, but a changed attitude to technology and the relationship of man, society and nature.
It is unfortunate that for the majority of in the environmentalist movement, none of their findings questions capitalism. On the contrary, Big Eco-business has sprung up even though the Stern report described climate change as "the greatest market failure the world has ever seen." Some suggested a carbon tax on emissions. Some have drawn up elaborate geo-engineering projects. "We must act quickly" the experts all agree. "Can we afford to do what it takes?" the economists and politicians ask. The people answer "Can we afford not to?” they should ask themselves just who is meant by “we?” and who it is that has to act now. Irrational capitalism is now prevailing and it is urgent that it is understood that the only people who can turn the sustainable ecological vision into something real is the working class. If not the “socialism or barbarism” is closer to hand than ever.

The battle has still yet to be joined together, and we will be surprised by what latent resources the working class can still summon forth when the time comes. The struggle to build a worldwide workers' party goes back almost to the beginnings of capitalism. The working class majority have not yet spoken in one voice. When they do, they will transform the outlook.

“There is no supreme savior,
No God, no Caesar, no Tribune,
Producers, do it yourselves!
Proclaim universal salvation!”
The Internationale

Tory stirs the sh*t

It is not often that the Socialist Courier blog finds itself agreeing with a Conservative Party MSP but when Ruth Davidson describes the lowering of flags to half-mast to mourn the death of the Saudi Arabian despot, as  "a steaming pile of nonsense". we can only congratualate her and can only assume her choice of the word nonsense may have not been the word she had in mind.