Saturday, February 28, 2015

Socialism: Emancipatory and Liberatory

If survival as a human species is our primary long-term goal, then deep changes are necessary to the way we organise ourselves socially. Socialism seeks the end to artificial scarcity of all essential commodities.  Promoting the common good is the only way to create a sustainable future that ends deprivation of the poor and the profit-seeking of the upper-classes. Socialism replaces failed capitalism.

How has capitalism failed? The current situation is that capitalism has failed to provide the basic needs of society; even the “social welfare” state only manages to mitigate the misery and suffering of people. The rich are seen as successful by virtue of being rich and the poor are seen as unsuccessful by virtue of their poverty. This is a “Social Darwinist” view of human achievement which makes implicit that having money with little regard to how the money is made. Socialism begins with the assumption that lack of money should not be associated with lack of nutrition, health care, clothing, housing, education and the ability to pursue a productive work and social life. Universal entitlement eliminates desperation. Unlike capitalism, socialism supports the individual – no matter his or her background – in the pursuit of a better life. There will no longer be any starving artists living from hand to mouth in the garrets.

Under the economic system of capitalism, the capitalist class owns the means of production (factories, transport, etc.) as private property. Capitalists hire workers to produce commodities, which are socially produced, but privately owned by the capitalists, and then sold for profit. The state provides an infrastructure to assist the capitalist class in maximizing profit and towards this end provides some basic necessities (such as schools, unemployment insurance, and social security) to maintain a workforce and ward off starvation, social chaos, and revolution.

In socialism, the means of production are not in the private hands of the capitalists, but are socially owned and capable of producing abundance sufficient to meet the needs of all of society. The use of money disappears because commodities are no longer produced for a market, but for distribution on the basis of need. Technology has reached a stage where goods can be produced with little or no labour. This is the turning point at which we stand today. Humanity today faces the choice: will we do away with private property and build a future for all or will a system of private property be preserved at the expense of human beings and the planet?

More and more people are joining the ranks of those dispossessed by capitalism world-wide. A class that has nothing to gain from private ownership of the means of production has to take the reins of power and construct an economic system that can sustain a better world. In theory, physical labour may become totally obsolete. If every house has a decentralised energy source like solar panels and reliable energy storage, as well as an advanced 3-D printer or molecular assembler that can produce almost physical object imaginable from a few basic recyclable chemicals then human poverty will essentially have been abolished. We can just spend the vast majority of our time doing things that we enjoy, while spending only a few minutes or at most hours a day programming our machines to fulfil our material desires. That is the more optimistic vision.

In a less optimistic vision, only a small minority of people will have access to such technologies as while the technology may exist, the costs of mass distribution remain too high (at least for a time). The vast masses, will be stuck in impoverished material conditions — dependent on welfare, and charity — without any real prospect being able to climb the ladder through selling their labour. Only a lucky few — who have an inimitably good idea, or a creative skill that cannot be replicated by a robot — will have a prospect of joining the capital-owning upper class. Not man or woman but technology must be the slave of tomorrow's world.

Socialism says: "Let us go about the task of making machinery provide abundance directly. Let us begin by asking, not what price will bring profit to private owners, but how much food, clothing and shelter do we need for the good life for men. Then let us produce for the use of men, women, and children, in order to supply them with abundance."
 Clearly this requires social ownership of the principal means of production and distribution. This in order to give to the exploited workers, for the first time in the long history of mankind, the good things of life. We may make mistakes in social planning, but we can learn by our experience. Abundance is possible when we can set our engineers and technicians to planning for society, instead of planning, in so far as they can plan at all, for the profits of an owning class. The achievement of Socialism will be the result of struggle, and the successful application of socialism requires intelligence and the capacity for co-operative effort. The collapse of capitalism is inevitable. But there is no inevitability about socialism or shared abundance. We may have a long stretch of chaos, wars, dictatorships, and regimented poverty. This can be prevented only by men who will not accept poverty in the midst of potential abundance, and the eternal exploitation of workers.

It is not merely plenty that we want, but peace. Mankind is divided not only into economic classes but into nations. And nations as well as men are divided into the Haves and Have-nots. We live in an interdependent world where not even the capitalist nations with the most resources, the United States, the British and French or Germans, are fully self-sufficient. Yet each nation claims absolute sovereignty, absolute sway over its citizens, and blindly sees its economic prosperity, not in cooperation, but in shutting out its neighbors from its own markets. Meanwhile it seeks aggressively to capture the markets of the world, to obtain sources of raw materials outside its borders, and a place for its capitalists to invest more profitably than at home the surplus wealth they have acquired by the successful exploitation of the workers who are their own fellow countrymen. Modern wars arise out of the clash of nations for power and profit. Patriotism makes men blind and drunk so that they cannot see that out of this struggle for power and profit there can be neither true prosperity nor true peace. One of the hardest task for socialists, as recent history shows, is to bring about a real unity of workers across the lines of nation, race and creed. Yet it is only in the cooperative commonwealth that there is hope of lasting peace.

The Socialist Party seeks a world of freedom. This we do not have and cannot have under the shadow of war and the bondage of capitalist exploitation. All workers live in fear of those who control their jobs. There is, for a great many of us, a kind of haunting fear of a jobless tomorrow or an unwanted and unrecompensed old age. These things can be ended. They can be ended with the end of exploitation which a proper control of the means of production makes possible. They can be ended by a society of comrades. The Tree of Liberty today has feeble roots for itself except as it may grow in the soil of shared abundance. It is asserted that socialism is an end to freedom, not its beginning. Those who make that assertion define freedom only as the right to grab all you can and keep all you have grabbed.

The Socialist Party struggles for freedom, peace, and plenty and know that they can be realised in a cooperative commonwealth. Our goal is a society of abundance, of free men and women who seek life rather than death by the machinery which could produce abundance and which is so desirable that it ought to propel people to make it practicable. Members of the Socialist Party because of our examination of history and the achievements of our class convinces us that socialism is feasible. For sure, workers have made mistakes and it is far from being a perfect record but it is far better than the media and academic intellectuals belonging to Big Business would lead you to believe. Progress has been made in the face of tyranny and counter-revolution. The unions and the class struggle has not fed workers only with the bread of hope in a better tomorrow. The working class will awaken and organise itself in an orderly and peaceful revolution. Once separated from their dupes and lackeys the owning class are weak and ineffectual. The more peaceful the revolution the more priceless will its boon be. This does not imply passivism for we must have the courage to stand up against. We dare not stop with merely asking the ruling class to grant us as a concession what is ours by right. We shall never have a true cooperative commonwealth until men and women think of their reward as workers who create all wealth and not any longer of their reward as owners of property which enables them to exploit other men's labour. That is one of the reasons why our great socialist appeal must be always to the workers with hand and brain, white collar and blue collar, in city and country. It is they who have so long been exploited. It is they who can and must be free. It is only by organisation inspired by socialist principles, that we can fulfill the dreams and hopes of the people. 

Who Owns the North Pole (part 85)

The United Kingdom should select an ambassador for the Arctic or risk being left out of key decisions in the region, a House of Lords report says. It advised the UK should follow the example of nations including France, Singapore and Japan in appointing an ambassador for the Arctic.

Experts have said the Arctic will be free of sea ice in the summer as soon as 2020, which will give way to extract resources, open up a northern sea trade route and opportunities to “take advantage of the expansion of shipping” on Arctic routes. The committee suggests the interests of British companies need better representation.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Make Everything Owned by Everybody

Everywhere one turns, the bad news just seems to be getting worse. There are times when social and economic problems become so bad that people are forced to choose between the system that makes their lives difficult and a new one that will make their lives better. Times like that are called revolutionary times. They don’t come often, but when they do the question of HOW to make the change that’s needed becomes as important as WHAT that change should be. We face that kind of choice today. Capitalism—the social system we live under—no longer serves the interests of the people. It creates countless problems that it cannot solve. It uses technology to throw people out of work and to make those who keep their jobs work harder. It creates hardship and poverty for millions, while the few who own and control the economy grow rich off the labor of those allowed to keep their jobs. It destroys the cities that we built up. It is destroying the natural environment that is the source of the food we eat and the air we breathe.  Every effort made to prevent these problems, or to keep them from growing even worse, has failed. Should we keep a social system that is destroying the lives, the liberties and the chance for happiness that our work and productivity make possible? Is it really worth the price to keep a small and despotic class of capitalists living in obscene wealth? Or shall we do the common sense thing by making the means of production our collective property, abolishing exploitation of the many by the few, and using our productive genius to create security and abundance for all? If we are to avoid planetary catastrophe we have to rethink what and why we produce, where we produce, how we produce, how we transport things and people. We need a new system that is based of democratic decision making for these questions. You can’t keep a good idea down. As much as politicians and academics try to declare socialism dead, it keeps coming back again. Why? Because it is the only way to understand the insanity of a world governed by an unrelenting drive to profit.

The Socialist Party recognises the need for fundamental change in our society and believe that the problems facing the world, such as environmental destruction, persistent unemployment, and the unequal distribution of wealth and power are not mere aberrations of the capitalist system — they are the capitalist system. This is why socialists are not impressed by political appeals based on the personal qualities or “charisma” of any individual politician. Socialists believe that it is the system — and the institutions which make up that system — that must be changed. The Socialist Party seeks a society in which the production and distribution of goods and services is based on public need not private profit. Production will be carried out to satisfy the people’s wants. Those wants are not the number of commodities we can consume but real needs that will be meaningful in our work, in our human relationships which will not be based on exploitation and oppression, but will rest upon cooperation and not competition.

Marx and Engels called this a society of associated producers where “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all” – a socialist society. That is a world fighting for. And all around the globe, millions of people are mobilising against what the current system is doing to us. People are saying another world is possible. We need to be looking for every opportunity to link hands in solidarity – in our local communities, in our workplaces and across the globe – with a vision of what that world could look like. If you agree with us that the time for such a change has come, then there are certain things we must all understand. Workers can only rely on themselves to build a better world and free themselves through their own class conscious efforts. Workers makes everything and we make everything work. Collectively, we possess tremendous potential power. However, we can apply their collective strength only through organisation. First, they must form a socialist party to assert their right to make the change that’s needed and to challenge the stranglehold the ruling class has on the political government. The working class runs the industries from top to bottom. The potential economic power rests in our hands but political power for the moment remains within the grip of the capitalist class. The only alternative is to take back the immense wealth accumulated by a tiny minority at the expense of the majority, and use it to democratically serve human need rather than corporate greed.

While many people have become increasingly cynical about this social system, their growing dissatisfaction is combined with political indifference that only exacerbates their alienation. It is the class consciousness that people acquire from political struggles that is critical for real change. The present feeling of impotence incapacitates many people’s ability to participate in political struggles against the system. This sense of powerlessness will always be able to sap the will to struggle. We must admit it has been the failure of the socialist movement to provide a genuine alternative to capitalism which has been perhaps the biggest tragedy of the 20th century. This failure drove many millions who were willing to fight for socialism to a state of despair and demoralisation. The decay of the socialist movement resulted in the rise of reactionary and nationalistic movements throughout the world. The roots of the failure are not the socialist ideas themselves but the distorted and betrayed ideas of socialism arising from the establishment of a monstrous state capitalist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union and the rest of the “socialist” countries and, of course, the reformist degeneration of the social democracy parties and their integration into the capitalist political and economic structure. Steered by these two conflicting factions unity against capitalism proved impossible. Social protest and political action against the common capitalist enemy often became ideological bickering sessions rather than class mobilisations. When loyalty is to the party or to political leaders rather than to class it is not possible to build solidarity. A change in the consciousness can occur only in a change in the way humans relate to each other and themselves. It is impossible to change the fundamental economic and social system without a fundamental change that uproot and transform the entire system from top to bottom. But without a transformation of those who want to bring about this social change, it is difficult to fight the system effectively and bring about this fundamental change. We need change we can believe in. The Socialist Party strives to establish a radical democracy that places people's lives under their own control, not mere government ownership, welfare state, or a benevolent bureaucracy but a new social and economic order in which workers and consumers administer their work-places and communities and their neighborhoods. The production of society is used for the benefit of all humanity, not for the private profit of a few. Socialism produces a constantly renewed future by not plundering the resources of the earth. People across the world need to cast off the systems which oppress them, and build a new world fit for all humanity. Democratic revolutions are needed to dissolve the power now exercised by the few who control great wealth and the government. 

By revolution we mean a radical and fundamental change in the structure and quality of economic, political, and personal relations. The building of socialism requires widespread understanding and participation, and will not be achieved by an elite working "on behalf of" the people. The working class is in a key and central position to fight back against the ruling capitalist class and its power. The working class is the major force worldwide that can lead the way to a socialist future – to a real radical democracy from below. Socialists participate in the electoral process to present socialist alternatives. The Socialist Party does not divorce electoral politics from other strategies for basic change. We advocate electoral action independent of the capitalist-controlled two-party system. By fielding socialist candidates in elections at all levels of office, socialists educate the public about socialism and promote the politically independent organisation of working people in direct opposition to the capitalist parties.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Who Owns the North Pole Part 84

Russia may consider protecting its national interests in the Arctic with military means if necessary, the country’s defense minister said, pointing to the increasing interest in the region’s resources by countries with no direct access to the Arctic.

“The constant military presence in the Arctic and a possibility to protect the state’s interests by the military means are regarded as an integral part of the general policy to guarantee national security,” Sergei Shoigu said at a Ministry of Defense meeting. “It’s not a secret that the Arctic is turning into one of the world centers for producing hydrocarbons and is an important junction for transport communications,” he said. “Some developed countries that don’t have direct access to the polar regions obstinately strive for the Arctic, taking certain political and military steps in that direction.” Shoigu said, “To secure the safety of navigation on the Northern Sea Route and of the response to possible threats in the Arctic region, a force grouping has been increased at the Chukotski Peninsula.”

Brand new Russian submarines have been rehearsing actions in the glacial conditions of the north since the beginning of this year. These actions follow last year’s drills of the quick reaction mobile forces that took place in the Arctic. The New Siberian Islands, Novaya Zemlya, Frantz Josef Land Archipelago, and Wrangel Island – all located in the Arctic Ocean – have seen a continuing creation of modern military infrastructure. At the end of last year, Russia adopted a new version of its military doctrine until the year 2020, which for the first time named the protection of the country’s national interests in the Arctic among the main priorities for the armed forces. Within its framework, a joint strategic command was organized as part of the Northern Fleet in order to control and coordinate troops.

Russia has recently commenced to develop its northern regions, which includes the production of hydrocarbons, with national companies developing the exploration and construction of drilling facilities in the north of the country. The Northern Sea Route is becoming a more attractive option for shipping goods as ice melts. The United States hopes to begin drilling for oil and gas in offshore areas of Alaska. Last week, the White House produced a set of rules to govern exploratory drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas that would ensure companies and contractors are prepared for the Arctic conditions. Last month, Denmark filed a claim with the UN for a total area of 895,000 square kilometers of the potentially resource-rich Arctic Ocean sea floor, provoking much criticism from Canada – who considers the territory its own

Shoigu also noted that countries that are adjacent to the Arctic are all trying to expand their presence. According to existing international law, Arctic nations – Russia, the US, Denmark and Greenland, Norway, and Canada – have a right to develop the continental shelf limited by 200 nautical miles. Should a state claim further territory, it should provide a special UN commission with scientific and technical data backing the claim.

Tell no lies – claim no easy victories

Language is powerful. Let's use it wisely. For many centuries people have fought for freedom and fairness. From olden days, the red flag was the emblem of the slave rebellions. It symbolised the red blood that flows in the veins of all humanity, with no distinction as to race or nationality, sex or social position. The red flag has been pulled down many, many times, only to be hoisted again. Why? Because it is the flag of the exploited and the oppressed, the flag of those deprived of their freedom, their labour, who are forced into slavery and eventually into revolution. It will be raised again in a thousand places as the workers' struggle for socialist emancipation revives.

If we keep our economic system it will eventually destroy us all. The more of the same will only speed up our demise regardless of technological abilities. It’s necessary to be aware that the 1% has about the same wealth as the rest of us, that’s due to legal robbery; that unfairness dates back to the first warriors who took over community’s resources. But instead of the theologians, it’s now the ‘economists’ who rationalises the theft and disseminate it through educational institutes and the media.

The whole of human history has consisted of a sequence of systems for social interaction, each with its own effects on the people living at that time and in that way. But we can, through careful historical and anthropological observation, reach certain conclusions about what it is to be human. Some of those key constants are social interaction and co-operation: homo-sapiens is, like most animals, a social being. We also plan, review, analyse and practise ways of becoming more and more in control of ourselves and our environment. The present, capitalist system of society is working against the most natural human instincts, inclinations and needs. It stifles and frustrates the human need to co-operate, to solve problems and even to collectively and individually meet all of our needs for good food, shelter, health, education, travel and recreation. Socialism is technically feasible in terms of the supply of food, energy, and so on; moreover, it is humanly feasible, in that people are not naturally lazy, greedy or selfish.

An alternative to capitalism requires an organised movement with a clear vision of what it wants in order to obtain them. The Socialist Party aims to create meaningful common ownership of the means of production and distribution. The most important feature that distinguished the Socialist  Party from the other so-called socialist groups is that it is “revolutionary”. Not in the sense that it is insurrectionary but by revolutionary we mean that the aim is the total transformation of society to the socialist mode of production.

Under capitalism the allocation of labour happens in a deeply impersonal, but nevertheless social, way. Instead of relying on interpersonal relationships, we rely on mediation through money, in markets. We try to find organisations which will pay us a wage so we can buy the things we need and want, and these organisations are responsible for allocating our labour in order to produce one or some of these commodities which are then sold on the market.

Those of us who happen to be capitalists will attempt to arrange socially useful labour by finding firms which can produce at profit, or simply invest in organisations who will do this for us.

The means by which the new society can be achieved are determined by its nature as a society involving voluntary co-operation and democratic participation. It cannot be imposed from above by some self-appointed liberators nor by some well-meaning state bureaucracy but can only come into existence as a result of being the expressed wish of a majority—an overwhelming majority—of the population. In other words, the new society can only be established by democratic political action and the movement to establish it can only employ democratic forms of struggle. Because the present system is, as a system must be, an inter-related whole and not a chance collection of good and bad elements, it cannot be abolished piecemeal. It can only be abolished in its entirety or not at all. This fact determines the choice as to what we must do: work towards a complete break with the present system as opposed to trying to gradually transform it.

A key element of socialism is meaningful participation and control of daily life at work and in the community (workers’ and community self-management), with administrators (where needed) elected by and responsible to workers and community members. This is incompatible with the current system of private ownership and control of the economy, and requires various forms of social ownership of the means of production and distribution — in other words, the abolition of the capitalist system. Instead of understanding socialism as a movement for the liberation of humanity many of its supposed adherents understood it as being exclusively a movement for economic improvement by government reforms and through state ownership. Thus what passed for socialism became the vehicle for the workers to attain their place within the capitalist structure rather than transcending it. The leaders of the labour movement considered as their most radical measures the nationalisation of certain big industries. Only to have many discover that the nationalisation of an enterprise is in itself not the realisation of socialism, that to be managed by a ministerial-appointed officials is not basically different for the worker from being managed by a board-appointed directors and CEOs. A change in the formal ownership of industry does not end the basic social exploitation and alienation of the employee.  So distorting has this development been that the average worker has little conception of what really is socialism. The problem for socialists now is how to move people towards independent political action without creating, or contributing to, the illusions about a state-managed capitalist economy and that workers aspirations can be achieved by reforms. Our objective is now to make authentic socialism a matter of urgency.

The working class is the social force in the struggle to replace capitalism with socialism. For socialism to be more than an idea it has to be a political movement of the working class. This proposition is at the heart of Marx’s theory. The crucial place of wage workers in the productive process gives them the social power to overthrow capitalism. No other social class or group has the power to achieve this. All the necessary material conditions exist for this social revolution. But the existence of the necessary material conditions is by itself insufficient. Unlike all previous social transformations, the socialist revolution demands conscious action by the working class. Socialism can only be achieved through the united action of millions of working men and women conscious of their social interests and take the steps necessary to realise them. Unlike the capitalist class, which carried out its social revolution after it had developed considerable economic power the working class can only realise its potential economic power after it has overthrown the old social order. And to do so it has to overcome a very powerful and influential capitalist ruling class. The main tool of the working class in its fight against capitalism is the potentially immense power of its collective action. The working class is capable of reaching the level of class consciousness necessary to create a mass socialist party suitable for challenging the capitalist class on the battlefield of politics to acquire political supremacy. We admit no such mass workers’ party exists today. The current Socialist Party is just the beginning of a new party.

Poverty is Child Abuse

The Child Poverty Action Group calculates that 220,000 children live in poverty in Scotland. That’s one in five children, but we know that in some areas, that figure is one in three. We know that in some areas out of a class of 30 children, ten of them can be living in poverty.

Living in poverty puts health, wellness and the ability to do well at school at risk. It’s not just a case of not having nice clothes and not being able to go on holidays. We are dealing with families who rely on food banks and emergency grants, not to get over a difficult time, but to survive. We are living in a society now where GPs routinely ask people, when they can find no other cause for their pain or illness, if they have enough to eat.

Living in poverty creates long-term difficulties for these children, who grow up at greater risk of mental ill health, chronic illness, unemployment and homelessness; and so the cycle continues.

 The Institute of Fiscals studies acknowledges that poverty increased quickly between 2011-12 and 2014-15 and further states that it will continue to increase with the introduction of Universal Credit, the latest iteration of the welfare reforms. It’s a well-acknowledged fact that only around 40 per cent of the cuts have so far impacted and that 2015-16 is to be the harshest year to date. And literally, we haven’t see the half of it yet. Many of the people are fearful for what the future holds, some are looking at a further reduction in benefit of £70 per child. Can you imagine the despair of parents who are fully aware of being unable to meet the basic needs of their children? Can you imagine the impact of the indignity of living in long-term poverty? And most importantly, can you imagine the impact on children’s confidence and self-worth?

Most people think that child protection is about abuse. The common perception is that if an issue is deemed to be a child protection matter, then the child is being physically or sexually abused or neglected. The image that the public often come up with is a child whose parents are drug addicts or alcoholics. A single mother with a violent partner. When you mention child protection, one thing people are unlikely to think of is poverty. Poverty is a child protection issue and with the increase in the numbers of families living in poverty it is becoming more and more of a problem in Scotland. If you don’t have enough money to buy food, your child goes hungry. If you don’t have enough money to heat your home and buy clothes, your child will be cold. If you don’t have enough money to pay your rent, your child will be homeless. This is child abuse committed by capitalism. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Turning the screw

From the February 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

Three years ago the company I worked for announced it was closing. It was part of an ailing industrial giant which was itself finally sunk soon after when the banks withdrew their support. During the three month run-down period rumours that a "consortium" of managerial staff was trying to buy the place kept our hopes alive. Those of us who had been kept on to finish outstanding work knew that if the consortium didn't employ us then we would have little chance of a job anywhere else so we worked like we've never worked before. That deal fell through but an American multi-national moved in and bought the company. We soon learned that not everyone still working there would be employed by the new owners so each of us redoubled his efforts in the hope of being offered one of the available jobs.

A week after the old company finally closed some of us, the lucky ones, started work for the new company. A few days earlier we had been interviewed and the terms of employment had been spelled out to us. The wages would be increased by a few pounds but there would have to be "flexibility" which meant doing work previously done by other workers, and although there was to be no anti-trade union policy there would be no closed shop either. This last part didn't bother me, for workers who have to be forced to join a union are no asset to it and may actually be a source of weakness.

None of us will ever forget the first few months of working for the new owners. If we had been going like the hammers of hell before then it was nothing compared to what we now had to go through. The management, obviously wishing to impress their bosses, hounded us from clocking on till clocking off. No longer did we dare linger over our newspapers for another minute after starting time, take an unofficial cup of tea in the afternoon or wash up five minutes early. Some of us, even though we had a job, were applying for every job we saw advertised in the press, even if it meant working away from home. Nothing, we felt , could be worse than this.

Around this time government ministers were crowing about how the growth of unemployment had produced a different climate in industrial relations. "There is a new sense of realism among workers today" they said, and added that because of this productivity in Britain was rising. If what was happening to us was typical of the rest of the country then no wonder!

Frequent reminders of what job prospects were like outside were provided by former workmates whenever we met them. "It's hopeless" they told us. "I've been everywhere and there's nothing doing". On top of this we were hearing of other places in our line of work having redundancies or even closing and so increasing the supply of labour on an already glutted market. In the circumstances the management could walk all over us and we just had to take it, even when the heating was left off as an "economy measure" during the bitter cold at the end of 1981.

As time passed the pace became less frantic and gradually conditions changed to something approaching sanity, although we still had to work harder than any of us had been used to. At the end of the first year we had a 10 per cent rise without any haggling and the order book, we were told, was full enough. More men were being taken on and extra machinery installed, so the future was looking more secure. We should have known better.

Then last month came the visit from "the Yanks". The place was spruced up for these representatives of the parent company and they duly paraded through the factory wearing safety helmets, protective ear-muffs and big smiles. It was noticeable that the works management who accompanied them weren't smiling. All week we heard stories that the visitors were less than impressed with how things were going and that harsh words were being spoken.

On the following Monday afternoon the shop stewards were sent for. When they returned they called a meeting of all the hourly-paid employees and broke the news that there would be ten redundancies. The men were stunned. How could this be?, they asked. There was plenty of work now and for some time in the future. No matter, the visitors had decreed that the work must be done with less employees. The factory, they had said, was still only breaking even and would have to become profitable by mid-1984 when the situation would be reviewed. The ten men to go (plus one from the office) would be told next day and everyone at the meeting began to look around and calculate how much better or worse his chances were compared to the others.

Inevitably, the usual divisions between the workers emerged. The factory personnel raged because only one office staff was to go. "Bloody ridiculous" they said, "we're producers, not them". National prejudices also had an airing. It was the greed of those "Yankee bastards" that was to blame, as if British employers would have acted any differently in the same situation. My workmates, like most other workers, haven't begun to understand that their jobs are only provided on the basis that they will produce a surplus over and above their wages. Some of them even claimed that they have "a right to a job" which also must mean that employers have a duty to employ them whether they need them or not. Investors put their cash in order to make a profit, not to keep workers in jobs. There is no other way in which capitalism can operate. Next day at two o'clock the foremen broke the news to the chosen ten and told them to collect their money and go. Within twenty minutes they had gone with two weeks plus two days pay. The rest of us were shocked at this treatment but there wasn't a lot we could do about it.

Next day our foreman gave us a little talk. What it boiled down to was that the arm and leg we had given the new owners still wasn't enough and we would have to do even better in future. Apparently, the company have a factory in America which makes the same product as ourselves and the visitors claimed that the American workers are making it faster than we do. The implication was obvious enough but it doesn't stretch the imagination too much to picture those American workers being told that it is we who are the danger to their jobs because we get paid a lot less.

What about my workmates, what are their ideas and how have they been affected by all these experiences? Like most other workers they aren't in the least interested in politics. In fact some of them don't even have a reasonable trade union consciousness and blame nearly all their problems not on the capitalist system, but on other workers. A few weeks before the redundancy I overheard one of them saying "What I'd like to see is a wee bit more money for us and a wee bit less for them". Curious, I asked him who "them" was. "The unemployed" he said. When I asked him why, he replied "because there's not a big enough differential between what I get and what they get". He shared the widely-heard belief that people on the dole receive huge payments, although this didn't prevent him being terrified later on when he thought he was to be one of the ten. Luckily for him he wasn't.

Almost all of my workmates buy tabloid newspapers like the Sun which reflect, rather than mould their generally reactionary ideas. The talk at tea and lunch breaks, besides being about the usual subjects like football and gambling, often resolves around pet hates like the English, "poofs" and blacks. Our shop steward even refers to the latter as "jungle bunnies". They have experienced living under Labour governments and they know what life is like in the "communist" countries, so none of them sees any hope that things could ever be different. They imagine that the present social order has always been and always must be. I do my best, but where else do they ever hear anyone arguing the case for a world of production for use, without wages, prices, pensions, privileges and bosses? Because I am on my own I can be dismissed as a political flat-earther.

And yet, I know that they, like me, felt anger and humiliation at having to scramble for a job. Nor do they enjoy the feat of the sack whenever we hit a "quiet patch" or having to jump if the foreman or one of the "big shots" appears. And they worry, not only about their own futures, but of those of their children. The only thing wrong with the socialist case is that is has too few adherents and because of this socialists are unable to take advantage of the massive working-class discontent which exists.
Vic Vanni
Glasgow Branch

Understand the world to change it (2)

The Socialist Party believe that in order to save humanity from the economic chaos, social injustice, and environmental destruction caused by global capitalism, it is necessary to abolish the capitalist system altogether and replace it with a humane, democratically-run planned socialist economy. It will be necessary for people, worldwide, to adopt the principle of socialist revolution. There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about what “socialism” means. A big barrier to building the alternative to capitalism is confusion about what socialism actually is. This is not accidental. For those who are not familiar with it, let’s get one misconception out of the way right at the start. Socialism is not what existed in Soviet Russia, even before Stalin, or in China, even under Mao. No totalitarian or autocratic system can be considered socialist. Socialism also is not the same as the “social-democratic” capitalism that exists in Scandinavia and some other countries with welfare-states. Socialism is an economic system under which all natural resources, as well as all means of producing goods and of organising the delivery of services, will be owned in common by all and managed by a democratically-run for the benefit of the society as a whole. Rational planning, not competition for profit, will drive the allocation of resources, with the goal of meeting the needs of society as a whole. Under capitalism, advances in technology are used to replace workers, so that the wealthy owners of large enterprises can increase their profits, while the displaced workers are thrown out on the street and left to fend for themselves. Under socialism, in contrast, advances in technology – intelligently designed and environmentally sustainable – will be planned and implemented so as to reduce the level of human drudgery. Advances in productivity will result in reducing the length of the work week and raising the standard of living for everyone, rather than enriching a privileged elite. Everyone will reap equal benefits from, and thus have an equal stake in, improving the way goods and services are created and delivered. All workers – not just those in a few lucky occupations that possess a certain degree of job satisfaction – will be motivated by a positive desire to help others, rather than by the need to avoid hunger and homelessness.

The class struggle -- the conflict between the capitalists and the workers -- is at the very heart of the capitalist system. The great bulk of people would vastly prefer to live in a world free of poverty, unemployment, racism and war. This kind of world is only possible under socialism. Many today would readily agree that this is the kind of world they would want for themselves and future generations. But they think it’s a pipe-dream. Previous historic systems like feudalism and other more primitive societies were overthrown when they outlived their usefulness and could no longer bring humanity forward. Likewise the capitalist system is now retarding further advances for humanity. It is the working class which allows the economic system as a whole to run. Nothing can be built or moved without us. Yet, the vast majority of workers have no real stake in maintaining capitalism because we don’t own any means of production or businesses; we aren’t bosses. Indeed, workers have to sell their labour power to employers in exchange for wages. As the fundamental source of their profits, our strategic economic position gives the working class the power to forge decisive change but there are good reasons for workers’ current skepticism about the power of our class.  One of the biggest reasons is the misplaced trust placed in leaders. They have engineered decades of defeat for the working class. It is they who have made us feel powerless to change things. The so-called vanguard of revolutionaries undermine the unity of the whole working class. There is no need to “instigate” fellow workers: it is the conditions of capitalism itself which eventually force workers to act to defend ourselves, to engage in mass fight-backs. The best way for workers to see their own power in action and workers become confident and radicalised. The working class searches for its own alternative to capitalism only when it knows its own strength to actually achieve big changes. Today capitalism is on a global offensive that is wiping out past gains. As profit margins have fallen in the system as a whole, competition between capitalist firms and nations has become ever more vicious. The “race to the bottom” in which capitalists try to outdo each other in finding the cheapest labour possible is prevalent. The needs of the ruling class to boost profit rates mean they are well aware of the need to escalate their attacks against workers, to increase the number of low-wage jobs with harsher working terms and less generous benefits.  Workers’ pensions has been one focus of this onslaught. Pension funds have been underfunded for years. The previous stock market boom hid the fact that the bosses weren’t meeting their fund obligations with hard cash. When share prices crashed, the funds ended up short of cash. Now the bosses are demanding that workers either pay into the pension funds themselves, accept inferior plans or give up on their claims. However, now there is the return of the value of stock, there is no reciprocal rise in pensions being offered. The profits are being retained by the bosses.

Given capitalism’s necessary priorities, the desperate plight of people and the planet, only the working class, through socialist revolution, can end this nightmare. Capitalism will destroy the human race. It is absolutely clear that the ruling class will continue to put the drive for profit ahead of everything, even our own existence as a species. Capitalists are incapable of changing. Even when they individually recognise the dangers, collectively they cannot cease doing what they do, making profits, accumulating capital, re-investing for more and more new profit, growth for capital’s sake. If capitalism is not overthrown, humanity is most likely doomed. Socialism is the only solution. The only way out is the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by socialism. And the only means to do this is by socialist revolution.

To win abundance for all, the working class will have to take matters into our own hands. In order to build toward this future we urge interested workers to get in touch with the Socialist Party to learn more. Let us know what you think of our views. If you agree, let us know. If you disagree, let’s discuss it. Members of the Socialist Party are optimistic because we recognise that the best hope for a new future are the resilient working class. Nobody needs fundamental change in this corrupt, top-down economic and political system like we do. We reject in advance any argument that the social problems and crises are so critical that it stands above politics there is no time to wait for socialism to replace capitalism. We don't propose waiting for anything — we are campaigning all the time and are trying to drive the struggle forward right now. But the basic point still stands: the capitalist class is leading humanity to absolute disaster and its class position means it cannot and will not do anything else. What is necessary is to prise their mad grip from the steering wheel and carry out a drastic change of course. Can this be done? Ever since class society that came into existence had to face the resistance of the oppressed. There have been an endless series of revolts and uprisings — whether by slaves, peasants or workers. The dream of a society where there is no inequality, no division into rich and poor — i.e., of a classless society — is a persistent one. As been already said, the working class is essential for the operation of the social means of production but itself owns none of it. Its conditions of life make it cooperative and collectivist in outlook. Its objective interest is to collectively appropriate these means of production and establish a classless society. This makes it revolutionary — at least potentially. It is the sole authentically revolutionary class. It has no interest in setting up a new system of class oppression but can only end its alienation by destroying the whole edifice of class domination. The class at the very bottom of the social heap — struggles for power in order to construct a socialist society where all forms of oppression and exploitation are eliminated.

Reformists have denied the need for revolution and instead held out the fantasy of gradually humanising capitalism. The Socialist Party holds to our basic principle that objective conditions are being created in which the socialist movement can grow and attract a significant working-class following to mount a challenge to the system and allow the real history of humanity to commence, free, cultured human beings living in a collectivist society of social solidarity and cooperation. People cannot live without hope for the future. Our task as socialists are to inspire, to instil confidence that the future will be better than the present if only they strive to make it so. The world will be changed by people who believe in the boundless power of themselves. 

'Against state and capital – for the revolution'

One in five Germans believe that revolution, not reform, is the only way for living standards in Germany to be improved, a new study by the Free University of Berlin suggests.
Nearly a third of Germans believe that capitalism is the cause of poverty and hunger and a majority think true democracy is not possible under that economic system.

The report authors noted overall that a sizeable proportion of the German population are moving increasingly towards the left of the political spectrum, and are more likely to hold both anti-fascist and anti-capitalist views.

They may not mean what we mean but it is a promising sign that ideas are changing for the better

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Understand the world to change it

The notion of socialism can be traced back centuries in various forms, notably among the earliest Christians (Acts 4:34-5:11); and the model of “gospel” communism as in the Anabaptist and other religious movements, with individuals owning nothing except what they collectively shared. But the roots of modern socialism lie in the period of the industrial revolution. The goals and ideals of socialism had their beginnings in 19th-century pre-industrial movements and organisations, which cultivated in workers a keen sense of common identity. The Industrial Revolution had many profound effects on European civilization. It rendered much of the old aristocracy irrelevant, boosted the capitalists to economic and political power, and drafted much of the old peasant class into its factories. The result was naturally a shift in attitude toward wealth. Capitalist wealth seemed to have no natural limits. Partly because the new industrial modes of production had no pre-assigned place in feudal order of things, the industrialists viewed themselves as the creators of their wealth. Dependency was considered self-destructive, so the poor were punished for their poverty by harsh laws designed to drive them to work. Ideas still very familiar to us today with attacks on benefit claimants and how investment is viewed, now as then, as the engine that drives the economy. Any measure which can encourage investors to buy more stock is viewed as beneficial to society as a whole. This class also created the various movements for democratic government which swept across Europe; and it was only natural that they should have viewed their economic and political ideals as functioning hand in hand. Democracy was necessary to wrest power from the old nobility, to pass laws enabling business to thrive, and to guarantee their property rights. 

Not everyone agreed that the shift of power into the hands of the new rich was entirely benign. In the newly industrialising countries of England and Germany, people suffered under many forms of exploitation. The old feudal restrictions which had fixed peasants in place on the land and limited their income had also guaranteed them a place in the world. They may not have prospered, but they were often able to fend off starvation and homelessness simply because they had been born onto estates from which they could not be removed against their wills. The dissolution of this old order meant that workers could be hired and fired at will and had to sell their labor for whatever the going rate was--and that rate was determined by their competition with each other to work cheaply enough to gain them an advantage in the job market. Traditional rules and protections went by the board in the new factories, which often ran for twenty-four hours a day (two twelve-hour shifts), seven days a week under the most inhumane conditions. Women and children were absorbed into the work force as well, often preferred because they cost much less than men. Industries severely polluted their environments, their machinery maimed and killed many workers, and food in the new factory towns was often of poor quality and in short supply.  Living standards and educational levels actually declined in many areas. Even many well-to-do people became concerned over the wretched conditions under which the new working class toiled, as reflected in the novels of Charles Dickens.

The late 1830s and 1840s saw the development of a mass movement known as Chartism, which demanded an end to political corruption and the introduction of democratic reforms. Chartism was not exactly a socialist movement, but it was a very important early, mass-political movement that tapped into the political energies of the working class. In the 1840s, Karl Marx was just one of a diverse group of socialist thinkers who gained adherents because he provided a solid historical justification for socialism. According to Marx, human societies had progressed through a series of economic stages determined by the forces of production, each one calling forth the next through an unavoidable conflict between old and new forces of production. Thus, the slave societies of the ancient world had given rise to feudalism, which in turn had been supplanted by capitalism. Marx further argued that capitalism was planting the seeds of its own destruction by first creating - and then increasingly oppressing and impoverishing - the working class (the proletariat.) The logic of competition and profit accumulation inherent to capitalism tended to keep wages at the minimal level necessary to physically sustain the proletariat.

The capitalist class owns the factories, the banks, and transportation, all the means of production and distribution. Workers sell their ability to work in order to acquire the necessities of life. Capitalists buy the workers ability to labour, but pay them only a portion of the wealth they create. Because the capitalists own the means of production, they are able to keep the surplus wealth created by workers above and beyond the cost of paying workers’ wages and other costs of production — unpaid labour that the capitalists appropriate and use to achieve ever-greater profits. This surplus is the source of profit. These profits are turned into capital which capitalists use to further exploit the sources of all wealth — nature and the working class. Capitalists are compelled by competition to seek to maximise profits. The capitalist class as a whole can do that only by extracting a greater surplus from the unpaid labor of workers, by increasing exploitation what capitalists often call increasing productivity. Under capitalism, economic development happens only if it is profitable to the individual capitalists, not for any social need or good. The profit drive is inherent in capitalism, and underlies or exacerbates all major social ills of our times. With the rapid advance of technology and productivity, new forms of capitalist ownership have developed to maximise profit and exploit new markets.

"Socialism" is an exceedingly fuzzy term which has been used to label an extraordinarily wide array of political and economic beliefs. But generally socialists advocate a democratically controlled economy run for the benefit of all. The unfettered competition of capitalists is replaced by cooperation and the anarchic business cycle by planned stability. Private ownership of industry and land abolished and replaced by a moneyless society in which market forces play no role, in which production is for the use of the producers, in which lands and factories are commonly owned and in which the State - and with it, war - is abolished.

The Dole Changes People

New research suggests long stints of unemployment can have long-term effects on personality traits, changes that may become near-permanent.

It's accepted knowledge that unemployment can have negative psychological consequences. Not only is a person's job status is not only often tied inextricably to a person's self-worth, but it's the life jacket that keeps the rising tides of poverty at bay. But how does unemployment affect the psyche long-term?

researchers found that men who spent several years looking unsuccessfully for work tended to demonstrate higher levels of "agreeableness" during their first two years of unemployment. Agreeableness is one of the Big Five personality traits identified by psychology's five-factor model (FFM) -- along with openness, conscientiousness, extroversion and neuroticism. The testing showed after an uptick in agreeableness during the first two years, men's agreeableness levels began to quickly slump, with long-term agreeableness levels consistently lower for unemployed men than for those with jobs.

"In early unemployment stages, there may be incentives for individuals to behave agreeably in an effort to secure another job or placate those around them," the researchers wrote in the new study, published last week in the Journal of Applied Psychology. "But in later years when the situation becomes endemic, such incentives may weaken."

Men who spent longer amounts of time without a job also demonstrated ebbing levels of conscientiousness and openness.

"The results challenge the idea that our personalities are 'fixed' and show that the effects of external factors such as unemployment can have large impacts on our basic personality," Christopher J. Boyce, a psychologist at the University of Stirling, in Scotland, explained. "This indicates that unemployment has wider psychological implications than previously thought."

Monday, February 23, 2015

Our Goal Is Socialism

Working people around the world have always sought a future without war, exploitation, inequality, and poverty. They strive to build a brighter future, one based on democracy, peace, justice, equality, cooperation, and meeting human needs. That future is socialism, a system in which working people control their own lives and destinies, and together build a better world. The Socialist Party is in existence to build this authentic social revolution. Socialism will usher in a new epoch. The great wealth of our planet will for the first time be for the benefit of all the people. Socialism is not a dream, but a necessity to working peoples’ lives. Only socialism has the solutions to the problems of capitalism.

Anyone who thinks even for a moment about the enormous productive capacity of our world cannot but ask: why it with such sophisticated means of technology that we are unable to guarantee the well-being of people? Why is the curse of unemployment and the plague of falling wages and living standards undermining the lives of millions? Why do millions of people go without needed medical care? Why have people all across the world always crying poverty? It is because these modern means of production – which can only be set in motion through the cooperative socialised labour of the whole working class – are owned by a tiny class of capitalists. A few thousand plutocrats control the economy and constitute a real financial oligarchy which commands the economic life of the world.

The necessity for socialism is rising to the surface, demanding recognition but the capitalist system is blocking the way forward. It is the capitalist system which is denying a livelihood. It is the system of private property which exploits human labour and creativity and turns society into a slave-market in which the rich live off the sweat and suffering of the poor. It is the system of private property, the capitalist system, which is poisoning the air we breathe and the water we drink, wilfully destroying the natural environment in the pursuit of maximum profit. Environmental activists face corporate power when they try to stop pollution, stop the dumping of industrial waste, or stop the ravaging of the remaining wilderness areas for profit.

From its very emergence, the working class has been locked in a struggle against capitalist exploitation and the capitalist class. All who work for a living - the vast majority of the people - face a relentless, vicious, and amoral enemy: the capitalist class. We are oppressed by one of the most controlling entrenched capitalist ruling classes ever, concentrating enormous political, economic, and military power in the hands of a few. The overwhelming majority of the workers still live in a state of job and economic insecurity. Just to maintain their physical existence, the workers are forced to fight the capitalists over the issues of wages, hours of work, working conditions and so forth. In addition, the working class wages continual struggles in the political sphere, asserting its rights in opposition to and struggle against the capitalist class and capitalist state. The workers have won many victories in their economic and political battles but still the fundamental problem remains unresolved and the same issues come up again and again. Every movement for change and progress is challenged by the power of the employers. One day the workers are able to establish union organisations and gain higher wages; but the next day, the capitalists are able to smash the union and cut wages. These days it is easy to see that such social and political victories as workers gained over decades of struggle are again under attack. The root of the problem is precisely the capitalist system which, at its very foundation, is based on the exploitation of wage-labour. Capitalism recognises the worker only as a seller of labour-power, only as a beast of burden to be exploited. The bosses and their paid hacks in the media constantly proclaim that competition requires lower wages, fewer benefits, fewer holidays, gutted pension plans, continuing wage differentials and discrimination, and the out-sourcing of jobs to other regions. People are misled as to their real interests, blinded by the propaganda of fear and scapegoating, used to divide working people and achieve extra profits by relentless efforts to drive wages down to the lowest possible level and by attempts to destroy unions and all protections won by workers through struggle

All this is not an aberration that can be adjusted by some thoughtful legislation and well-placed reforms but is normal and necessary to the functioning of the capitalist system. Our environment is being destroyed by the greed of a few obscenely wealthy capitalist groupings. Our world is threatened by the ravages of carbon emissions and global warming. We shouldn’t let this continue – we can't let it happen. We need radical solutions, real democracy, and real unity. We, the people, need to take power from the hands of the wealthy few, their corporations, and their political henchmen. We need real solutions to real problems, not the empty promises of politicians and corporate bosses. We need socialism. The Socialist Party believes that the working people have the power, if organised and united, to run the whole wide world, to create a democracy of the people, by the people, for the people. We can eject capitalist class through the election process.

Snouts in the trough

BONUSES paid out to financial sector workers since the start of the 2007 crisis are likely to break through the £100 billion barrier this year, campaigners said today. The revised total from the Robin Hood Tax campaign comes as the big banks gear up to report their 2014 full-year results, triggering fresh bonus payouts and stoking public anger. Today’s report is based on analysis of Office for National Statistics data which shows that bonuses paid out in the financial sector – including insurers – since the start of the crisis in October 2007 have already reached £91bn. By the end of the 2014-15 financial year, this figure is likely to have surpassed the £100bn mark, the campaign noted.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Socialist Path

The path of the socialist revolution is not an easy one and the history of the working class movement proves this as it has been full of false shortcuts and wrong turnings, leading to class collaboration and compromise. Humanity has gone through the two most savage and bloody wars of its history. For a hundred years the world has known no rest or respite as poverty, hunger and war has continued to wreak destruction. Tens of millions of men women and children perish needlessly. The threat of a new world war hangs over our heads permanently as the crisis over Ukraine brings back the Cold War and this time there can be no debate of its cause, it is a battle not of ideology but a war for economic advantages. Humanity’s resources are wasted in senseless adventures while people’s basic needs remain unsatisfied and our environment is spoiled. There is an increasingly imbalance between civilisation’s capacity for progress and the wretched misery that hundreds of millions of people must live under daily.

We ask: why this? Who is responsible? What economic, political, and social system creates and perpetuates this? How can things be changed? And the answer is that, despite diversity in political regimes, in language, and in culture and beyond differences in race and nationality, the vast majority of the people of the globe share a common condition: that of living in a society where the owners of the means of production impose their will over those who possess nothing or little. In other words, the vast majority of people live in a society divided into social classes where the propertied classes, the capitalists, dominate those of us who have little or no property, the working class. The economic base of this social regime is the capitalist system.

The reason for existence is in its name – employers and investors own the means of production and distribution for the purpose of the accumulation of capital; a capitalist who does not constantly expand is, as a general rule, a capitalist condemned to disappear.Yet, the capitalist has nothing if he cannot find in society a large number of people who have no other means of subsistence but the sale of their labour-power in exchange for a wage equivalent to the strict minimum for survival. The secret of capitalist exploitation lies precisely in the fact that what the capitalist buys from the worker is not his or her work but rather labour-power. If the capitalist had to pay for the work furnished, he would not be able to make the profit he does. Let’s look at an example to illustrate this.

Suppose that a worker produces 10 pairs of shoes a week which sell for $25.00, thus making a total value of $250.00 per week on the market. This worker receives a weekly wage of $100.00. Where does the value of the shoes come from? The raw materials – the leather, thread, and glue – along with the other means of production such as electricity, the machines, etc. alone account for $75.00 to which is added the value added by the worker’s labour, i.e. $250.00 less $75.00 or $175.00. This sum represents the amount that the worker added by his work to the value of the materials that he was given at the beginning. If the capitalist paid the worker according to the value of his labour, he would have to give him $175.00. However, this is not what happens because the wages paid to the worker do not correspond to the value of the work he furnishes; rather, they correspond, on the average, to what it costs the worker to reproduce this labour-power or, in other words, to recuperate his energies and ensure his subsistence given the cost of living and the living conditions at a given time.

There lies the essence of capitalist exploitation: the worker gives a certain value of work to the capitalist but his or her wages do not correspond to this value but to only a fraction of it. The value of the non-paid work is called the surplus-value; the capitalist appropriates this non-paid fraction which constitutes the source of his profit, the source of capital. Here lies the key to the exploitation of the employed by the employer, the key to the enrichment of the bosses on the backs of workers.

“The workingmen have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got.” There is good reason to always recall this elementary truth in the “Communist Manifesto”, for it is a truth that capitalist ruling classes are always seeking to camouflage. In Scotland various factions within the ruling class have been exhorting workers to abandon its own interests for the sake of the Scottish “nation”. For the members of the ruling SNP government in Holyrood, to fight unemployment and poverty, English “colonialism” must first be fought. As far as they are concerned, the role of the Scottish worker is to supply the foundation blocks of the “homeland”, and to make it into an independent State. Sturgeon declares “Elect me, I am the saviour of our country, forget about your exploitation and your misery for the time being. Instead, help us get more subsidies and more powers: then you’ll get more jobs...” While the Labour Party rivals and the aspiring Murphy insert their own nationalist demands with their grandiose defence of UK unity. Both have one aim: getting people to abandon the point of view based on its specific class interests so that it falls into rank behind their particular section of the ruling class, getting the workers to postpone its main objective forever; putting off putting an end to the real source of exploitation, of oppression and of crises, capitalism itself. This boss class has learned how to exploit the spirit of sacrifice that the people has demonstrated under difficult conditions, in order to get it to serve its own interests using its lies and demagogy to divide and rule. They can also count upon its lickspittle lackeys and mouthpieces to appeal to national loyalty “Be more productive and things will be better for the country...” that’s what they say repeatedly to justify their latest model of class collaboration. Its media, newspapers, radio, and television, never let up in their calls for peace between the classes.

The only true solution is socialist revolution. There is no middle path between capitalism and socialism. The capitalist swindlers have launched a most savage attack against the working class. The difficulties which the capitalists are presently facing brings it to bear upon those that creates its wealth, onto the backs of the working masses. The capitalist class has joined ranks to use its instrument of repression, the State, to inflict laws, one more oppressive than the next, upon the heads of the people in its efforts to intensify its exploitation in order to increase its profits. Impoverish and divide is their austerity policy. The capitalist owners use their state power, their government, to shift responsibility for the young, the elderly, the disabled and the sick, the impoverished. Social reforms gained in the past the capitalist class now wants back. Pauperisation, a large reserve army of the unemployed working class, our weakened trade unions, necessities for capitalist recovery, provides the leverage in the bosses' drive against the entire working class. The propertied 1% keep coming at us, relentless and ruthless, and their resources—political and financial—are large. Class struggle waxes and wanes. Certain workers have become demoralised and embittered, making them susceptible to conspiracy theories and they become the feeding ground for right-wing and fascist-minded groups who try to scapegoat other workers, both native-born and foreign newcomers for the faults of capitalism.   

We are advancing along a difficult path, one which places us in irrevocable opposition to the capitalist bosses and their allies. The objective of any movement dictates or determines its activity, its work, its demands. It follows, therefore, that for a movement to be a revolutionary one, or aspire to be one, it must have a revolutionary objective. Capitalism is a system that can and has absorbed and integrated many reforms and it automatically rejects all reforms that run counter to the logic of the system (such as completely free public services which cover social needs). The structure can only be abolished by overthrowing it, not by reforming it. We must continue to demonstrate that we stand for the emancipation of all men and women and that our aim is to end forever the exploitation of man by a small exclusive class. It is regrettable that we still have people who have not learned from former experiences, who still insist that it is possible to achieve freedom with the weapons and instruments of former times. This self-appointed minority wish to impose ‘freedom’ on people, who themselves form an elite, without any contact or support from the mass of the people, those who make the question of violence and insurrection the focus of the struggle are going to find themselves isolated and will surely fail, as other efforts of a similar nature failed in the past. The task of the Socialist Party is to organise the people not for revolt, not for rebellion, not for insurrection but for revolution. A social revolution that will change the entire political and economic system.

One of the basic problems of today is lack of class consciousness among the people. We, as socialists \do not believe that capitalism will suddenly collapse as a result of some miracle or inner contradictions. We do not believe we should sit on the sidelines and interpret current events hoping for some revolutionary event happening. We must build a movement of people who are aware and conscious of all the many avenues that are open to the movement. We accept the key teaching role that struggle has, and of the experience born from such struggles. We understand that it is only by trying to expand actual living working class struggles against the employers and of the capitalist system, can a rise be achieved in working class consciousness. Only through such struggles can the workers build the actual organs through which they can tomorrow take over the administration of the economy and the State, freely elected workers committees at factory or street level which will federate themselves afterwards locally, regionally, and thenworld-wide. That is that the conquest of political power by the working class really means. This will be a long path but if we build our foundations on a conscious people we cannot but succeed.

“However, our politics must be working-class politics. The workers’ party must never be the tagtail of any bourgeois party; it must be independent and have its goal and its own policy.”Friedrich Engels, Apropos of Working-Class Political Action

Saturday, February 21, 2015

We Are Many, They Are Few

What is the place of socialism in the world and what is its future? These questions are inseparably tied to the more relevant question, “What is our view of socialism?” If socialism is being advocated what kind of socialism is it? Are we being utopian in the sense of advancing a pleasant but impossible dream?

Apologists for capitalism have long devoted enormous efforts to arguing against socialism. They argue that it is a completely utopian exercise that flies in the face of human nature but more seriously some on the left suggest that talk by the Socialist Party of a peaceful transition to socialism is nothing but naiveté, a denial of history’s lessons. But is this true? While there are examples of ruling classes using force to block social change, there are also instances where corrupt and discredited regimes have been swept away without mass blood-letting. The brutal South African apartheid regime gave way to the forces of freedom without the country being thrown into civil war; Russia and its Eastern Bloc satellites jettisoned the Communist Party dictatorships and state-capitalist economies practically bloodlessly. Iran threw out the Shah, Philippines rejected Marcos. Thus a peaceful transition is possible. We would be organised in the workplaces and communities so as to defend democratic change.

Today millions of people feel alienated from the political process (nearly one-third of the population doesn’t vote.) Many people see politics as disconnected from their day-to-day lives, even an obstacle to their aspirations. But the Socialist Party is well aware that along with political action to capture the state machine, new popular institutions and indirect forms of governance will likely emerge during the revolutionary process that draw millions into struggle and devolve and disperse political power to the grassroots. We need a radically different political system: a system of participatory democracy that empowers the people who are currently excluded from genuine decision making power. This would be based on organisations of popular democracy in localities, workplaces and schools which could directly make decisions affecting their respective communities. Any administrators or officials elected by these bodies should be subject to recall through a simple process if their electors are dissatisfied.

The problems we face are not the result of mistaken policy positions by government or a poor choice of leaders. They are the inevitable product of a system based on the interests of a tiny minority. Under capitalism, a tiny handful of people—the capitalist class, “the 1%”, control the means of production, distribution and exchange. They own the corporations that own the mines, factories, banks, transport networks, supermarket chains, media empires, and so on. It is not enough to simply appeal to the better nature of the current rulers or try to persuade them by clever arguments to make changes. Even to win very limited reforms and improvements within the current system requires the pressure of a popular mass movement. This is because the corporate elite fight ferociously when their interests are challenged. We need revolutionary change. Revolution doesn’t mean a violent coup by a minority: a revolution can only come about when the majority of people see the need for radical change, and are actively involved in bringing it about. A revolution is a mass struggle to create new and far more democratic forms of political power and a new social system.

If our vision of socialism is simply a modified version of what presently exists today, don't expect too many to embrace it. Only a vision that is forward looking will capture the imagination which places people at the centre of a new society and, and this is paramount, its creation. Our picture of socialism must be painted in many colours. Socialism's vision and practice must be democratic, emancipatory but above all humanistic.

Economic crisis alone, however, is not the sole cause of revolutionary change. It doesn't follow that it will simply automatically emerge out of everyday struggles. As someone once said, people do not live by bread alone; they also need ideas, understanding and inspiration. The soil in which our revolutionary ideas take root is prepared by the cumulative effects of many different material conditions - economic, political, social, and moral - taking place over time, during which people's understanding grows deeper and their political consciousness expands in sophistication going beyond the simplistic "the system sucks".  Cut-and-dried formulas, simplistic answers, and high-sounding slogans with no reflection in concrete reality are of little help. The old determinist idea that an economic breakdown is followed by "the revolution" should be discarded. Socialism must be the product of a united and politically engaged majority. The point of political action isn't to conjure up illusory shortcuts to socialism. It is to change the world. If we struggle for the new society then it must really be new.

Socialism cannot be achieved without the support and activity of the majority of people. Marx and especially Engels thought that universal suffrage, for example, is big step forward and important weapon in hands of working class. Marx wrote in the Statute of the First International that liberation of working class must be done by itself. It is expected to be done by it and only by it because if socialist revolution is fundamental change of one society with another, if it means that the class of owners who ruled for centuries have to disappear economically, it is impossible to reach this aim only with activity of political organisation, no matter how well organised, mass and supported it is. It is said that new society is in the interest of great majority of people. If this society is to come, this majority have to understand and accept it as its interest and ideal. You can't liberate those who don't want liberation. The substance of socialism is that there is no a group of people who will be in position to hold the power and in that way to exclude all others from exercising democracy. The Paris Commune was the best example of self-governing society. Marx highly evaluated this experience which had so strong impression on him. Engels also described the Paris Commune as a form of dictatorship of proletariat, although it proclaimed political freedoms, multi-party system and workers' self-management in enterprises. Rosa Luxemburg insisted that, “without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of the press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element.” Hence, the requirement of “socialist democracy,” she insisted, “begins simultaneously with the beginnings of the destruction of class rule and the construction of socialism.” Socialist democracy is not to be conceived as applying merely to the political sphere, narrowly conceived, but would have to extend to all aspects of public and private life. Socialism is not just a dream or a utopia that can be wished into existence. It depends on workers taking over the massive wealth of capitalism and using it for human need.

“Democracy in government, brotherhood in society, equality in rights and privileges, and universal education, foreshadow the next higher plane of society to which experience, intelligence and knowledge are steadily tending. It will be a revival, in a higher form, of the liberty, equality and fraternity of the ancient gentes [people]. - Lewis Henry Morgan