Tuesday, March 31, 2015

More Hard Labour?

The Labour Party, especially its left-wing, claims to stand for the workers’ interests and for socialism. Labour at one time claimed that socialism could be introduced gradually through a series of reforms using parliamentary means. In its early years many workers voted for Labour, believing that they could vote in socialism, but the experience of various Labour governments has brought disillusionment. Today no-one believes that Labour will establish a new and better political and economic system. Even Labour politicians themselves ask for votes with the promise that they will make capitalism work better than the Tories. Real power rests with the capitalist class and its state. All governments, Tory or Labour, represent this class. Tory and Labour work consistent as a team. We are all familiar with a certain police interrogation method; two policemen conduct the questioning, one bullying and brow-beating the suspect for a confession, and the second being friendly, suggesting it is in the suspect’s own best interest to admit his crime for his own good. This is just the way that Tory and Labour work together in capitalism’s service. Good cop - Bad cop.

Yet it has been a common refrain among the left for as long as we remember that “We have to keep Labour in because the Tories are worse.” The choice remains between austerity and austerity-lite. Is the Labour Party really the ‘lesser evil’ ? Or is it just a smokescreen to conceal that, yet again, this election will present us with no alternative?

Yes of course, there will be differences between a Labour and a Tory government, and the leaders’ debates will try to emphasise the important choices we face. But in reality none of those differences is sufficient to justify support for one over the others. If you are interested in furthering progressive politics and advancing the cause of serious social change, there is nothing to be gained. The exhausted ‘lesser evil’ argument can only do more damage to the prospects for creating a new politics of radical change in the circumstances of today. In the case of the Labour Party it has become increasingly more difficult for its supporters to justify their continued loyalty for a party that has abandoned its own social democratic traditions.

What remains of the left sticks to the ‘lesser evil’ mantra, although with nothing positive to say about Miliband they have to justify it by fantasising about just how evil David Cameron’s Tories really are. After every election the Labour Party let its supporters down. For sure, for those with a taste for nostalgic past, a Labour government did establish the NHS, welfare state and nationalised industries. It also imposed bitter austerity, fought dirty colonial wars, imprisoned strikers and supported the British nuclear weapons programme. Yet still the left clings to Labour. They forget that the Labour governments of 1974-1979 cut working-class living standards to meet the needs of British capitalism in the recession, slashing public spending and imposing a five per cent norm for pay rises at a time of rampant inflation and mass unemployment. The left still expounded the ‘lesser evil’ argument and turned job cuts and wage restraint into a way of ‘protecting’ the working population from the Tories. Hence did the left become complicit in Labour’s attacks – and in its own discrediting and defeat. The Labour Party proved pathetically inadequate to the challenge of Thatcher, failing to support key struggles – most notably the Miners’ Strike of 1984-85. Yet still the left dreams of ‘reviving’ Labourism, and tries to channel the widespread bitter anti-Toryism into support for the ‘lesser evil’. The left cheered Blair’s defeat of the hated Tories as if it was their own triumph. And what did they get for their trouble? Years of a Labour government that was marked by capitalist-friendly policies and ended with an economic crisis, more dirty wars abroad and the assault on civil liberties at home. Surely after all those years of humiliation and hurt, those who still think of themselves as progressives will have to face up to the truth about Labour? But no, still many of them cling to the tattered old banners of the ‘lesser evil’ in this coming election.

As another election looms the drumbeat for a Labour vote is growing louder on the Left-leaning blogs and in the offices of the trade union bosses. Labour politicians having comprehensively failed to defend the interests of workers when in power or even offer effective support when in opposition, these very same union officials want workers to do them a favour and vote for Labour. The spectre of 'lesser evil' politics rises once more on the horizon. We are warned that not voting for Labour will mean another five years of the Conservatives. You are invited not to remember what Labour did when it was in government because, apparently, it's going to be so much better this time round. Really?

 Labour apologists try to focus on the few issues where there are disagreements between the two parties, in an attempt to deceive people into believing that they are being offered a real choice by representative democracy.  The left avoid criticising Labour because that's what ‘lesser evil’ politics requires. Union leaders refrain from telling us is what Labour's core beliefs actually are because, if they were being honest, they'd have to confess that they are asking people to vote for anti-worker policies. On issues of foreign policy, both parties are willing allies of the US. Both parties count “Israel” as a very strong and "natural" ally, justifying US and Israeli aggression, explicitly or tacitly, whenever it occurs as we have seen over the last decades.

People now know that Labour is a capitalist party. If so-called ‘revolutionaries’ support Labour in election campaigns, even as a ‘lesser evil’ and despite all sorts of qualifications to their support, they are betraying the working class. This support amounts to an attempt to preserve, or re-establish, workers’ illusions that if only Labour had a more ‘left’ leadership things would be different. No party, however ‘left’ its leadership, can effect important changes to the capitalist system through parliamentary reforms. Today, to support Labour is to directly contradict the fundamental task of presenting the working class with a clear alternative to all pro-capitalist parties and to the whole system of capitalism. Through bitter experience the mass of workers has become cynical about any political claiming to support its interests. A mass party must be created which presents a clear alternative to the capitalist parties, and which is able to prove in consistent struggle that it really represents working peoples’ interests.

The problem of how to relate to the Labour Party has dogged the British left for more than a century. The left, which crucially never managed to establish any real political independence from Labourism and still supports Labour as the ‘lesser evil’. It seems that they are the last ones left alive with any illusions (or rather delusions) in the potential for Labour to change things for the better. Once there was a clash between competing visions of society today the ‘lesser evil’ case for Labour is based on little more than cynicism, negativity and demagoguery. If you are serious about wanting to change society, there is no reason to support Labour, and doing so can lead to nothing positive in post-electoral politics. The left’s acceptance that there is no alternative to Labour has over the years become a self-fulfilling prophecy, with the defeat of Labourism meaning there is no sign of any alternative in politics today. The left bears a heavy responsibility for creating the situation they now bemoan. Eduard's Bernstein's so-called 'evolutionary road to socialism' has proved a dead end. Rosa Luxemburg was right all along.

Voting for the lesser evil, voting for a party and for candidates in whom you do not believe has to be self-destructive. When we go into the voting booth, stand before the ballot and lift the pencil and then vote for something in which we do not believe, we take responsibility for destroying a little piece of our integrity, of betraying our conscience. We give our backing to something we know is not good, not right, not the best path for our class. We violate ourselves, or permit ourselves to be violated by the lesser evil argument. Don't do it.

We may not have a party political alternative and there is truth in the idea that we need power in the formal political sense. A working peoples' political party—one made up of and fighting for working people—would make a huge difference. Why, you might ask, would we want a party? Wouldn't a party inevitably succumb to the corruption of political compromise and opportunism? Ours would have to be a party with a difference. Ours would have to be a socialist party prepared to reorganise the economy, to reshape society. Ours would have to be a party controlled by ordinary workers. Ours would be the party that takes power away from the 1% and gives economic and political power to the 99%. Could we build such a political party? We in the Socialist Party think we can. In any case, we have no other choice than to try.

Monday, March 30, 2015

End Capitalism - Or the End of the World

Political and social change is scary but the alternative is terrifying. Our planet is in ecological free fall. Where will it stop? When will it stop? Is it too late to stop? There is not an issue that is more critical to our survival. We count on our elected representatives to do everything they can to reverse climate change. And what do they do? They undo what little safeguards we have and support policies that are designed to make matters many times worse. The world cannot continue on their current trajectory if survival is the goal. Our only hope is a transformation of the economic system. And it is quite possible. Those who scream the loudest about change being impossible are usually those who have something to lose when change takes place. Change is constant and inevitable. The only questions are what change will take place.

Capitalism inevitably divides humanity through racism, nationalism and sexism. Socialism is a sensible process of overcoming humanity's divisions and building economic and social democracy, where the resources and productive capacity of the world belong to its people, who use them to meet human needs rather than to generate private profits for a few owners. Reforms can never achieve this goal; the system must be overthrown, and that requires revolution. The capitalist system is designed to stumble from one crisis to the next. Thirty people own 6% of the world's wealth. Meanwhile, 80% of the world's population share 20% of the world's wealth. About 1000 people on the planet, according to Forbes, own roughly 10% of the world's GDP.

The world's richest people (a few dozen billionaires) tentatively agreed to give away to the charities of their choice half of their wealth, which amounts to $3.5 trillion, or just over one-quarter of the EU's GDP. Will global poverty end if the 1000 richest people and the next one million richest donate all their wealth? Of course not! Charity has never been the solution to the problem of unequal distribution of wealth. Philanthropy is not the solution to poverty.

One billion people do not have access to drinking water largely because a handful of multinational corporations, in which the billionaire philanthropists own much of the stock, they own water rights around the world and charge exorbitant utility rates for water that IMF and World Bank insist must be under private ownership as Tim Di Muzio pointed out in his ‘The 1% and the Rest of Us.’

Two billion people are victims of chronic malnutrition and lack of medicine, largely because multinational corporations, in which billionaire philanthropists again own most of the stock, make it unaffordable for people to eat and have medicine.

Water, food, health, education and affordable housing are among the problems that billionaire philanthropists want to address but the political economy which these very same ‘generous philanthropist billionaires, created the aforementioned problems in the first place. Inequality and poverty cannot be eradicated by business interests even with the support of the UN and World Bank whose driving goal is commercial exploitation of natural resources, labour and markets. Most of the programs introduced to combat have been band-aid solutions to patch up the victims

Our foods are polluted. On one hand our food is polluted with herbicides and on the other hand by antibiotics. And then we have hormones and pesticides. The World Health Organization has concluded that the glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup, a herbicide widely sprayed on GMO food crops, is a likely causes of cancer in humans and animals.

93% of doctors are concerned about the meat industry’s excessive use of antibiotics, and independent scientists have definite evidence that the growing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics is due to the use of antibiotics as animal feed. 70% of all antibiotics are fed to livestock because it produces weight gain and saves money on feed costs. Scientists at the University of Iowa found Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in 70 percent of farmed hogs. A Consumer Reports investigation found that US meat, regardless of the meat’s source, is full of “pathogens, commensals, and antibiotic resistant bacteria.” Pork tested contained five resistant bacteria strains. As the drug companies have more or less stopped the development of new antibiotics, the protection antibiotics provide against infections is rapidly fading.

The FDA tried in 2008 to ban farm use of cephalosporins (antibiotics like Cefzil and Keflex) because they are needed for pneumonia, strep throat, and other serious human conditions, the egg, chicken, turkey, milk, pork, and cattle industries and the animal Health Institute protested The Animal Health Institute consists of the drug companies who make profits selling 70 percent of their production to meat, egg, and milk producers. The members of the “health” institute are Abbott, Bayer Healthcare, Elanco/Lilly, Merck, Boehringer, Ingelheim Vetmedica, Novartis, etc.  Congress responded not to the health and safety but to campaign donations. In other words profits come far ahead of public health.

While a severe drought in the western US is ongoing, with California reportedly left with one year’s supply of water, the fossil-fuel fracking industry is polluting the remaining surface and ground water.

Dr. Jacqueline Kasun, professor of economics at Humboldt State University in California, observes in her 1988 book The War Against Population that:
1.         No more than 1-3% of the Earth's ice-free land area is occupied by humans.
2.         Less than 11% of the Earth's ice-free land area is used for agriculture.
3.         Somewhere between 8 and 22 times the current world population could support itself at the present standard of living, using present technology.
This leaves 50% of the Earth's land surface open to wildlife and conservation areas.
The lower limit of 8 times the current population (about 44 billion) has been considered as being perfectly workable. According to Dr. Kasun,
"Better yields and/or the use of a larger share of the land area would support over 40 billion persons."
Former Harvard Center for Population Studies Director Roger Revelle estimated that the agricultural resources of the world were capable of providing an adequate diet (2,500 kilocalories per day) for 40 billion people, and that it would require the use of less than 25% of the Earth's ice-free land area. Revelle estimated that the less-developed continents were capable of feeding 18 billion people, and that Africa alone was capable of feeding 10 billion people.

In addition to the fact that many new strains of food have been developed that can boost food production, there are other indications that food would not be a problem. In the September 1976 issue of Scientific American, Dr. David Hopper asserted that the worlds "food problem" does not arise from any physical limitation on potential output or any danger of unduly stressing the environment. The limitations on abundance are to be found in social and political structures of nations and the economic relations between them.

The landmass of Texas is 268,820 sq. miles (7,494,271,488,000 sq ft) So, divide 7,494,271,488,000 sq. ft. by 6,908,688,000 people , and you get 1084.76 sq ft/person That's approximately a 33' x 33' (about 10 x 10 meters = 100 m2) plot of land for every person on the planet, enough space for a town house. Given an average four person family, every family would have a 66' x 66' plot of land, which would comfortably provide a single family home and yard - and all of them fit on a landmass the size of Texas. Admittedly, it'd basically be one massive subdivision, but Texas is a tiny portion of the inhabitable Earth. Such an arrangement would leave the entire rest of the world vacant. There's plenty of space for humanity.

Capitalists make money by exploiting labour and by externalising the costs of the waste products of the manufaturing process by dumping the wastes on the environment. The short-term time horizon of production for profit focused on quarterly profits is destroying the livability of the earth. To deny this is nothing but an apology for capitalist exploitation of labor and the earth. To ensure that ourselves and our children and their children can live through this and next century, we must do what seems impossible. And that’s to have a worldwide united action for socialism. The wealthy 1% is now focused on maximising their wealth; we must show the unavoidable disaster they will inflict upon the planet if they are permitted to pursue their goal of capital accumulation.

The current economic system is not geared toward sustaining global life support systems and is fundamentally flawed. It is clear the economic system is driving us towards an unsustainable future and future generations will find it increasingly hard to survive. The current system is not concerned with human need, such as stable global ecosystems, but the personal enrichment of a tiny minority, even at the expense of the health of the planet. It is therefore up to people to fight against the exploitation and plunder of capitalism and to set up a society in which the use of Earth’s natural resources can be rationally planned—a socialist society.

Capitalism’s pursuit of profit is destroying life on earth.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lessons of Failed Strategies

Perhaps the greatest obstacle we face in creating a new socialist world is the enormous capacity capitalists have acquired to shape and control what people think, and how they see the world and the events taking place in it. Not only has there been the church and the education system conditioning our way of thought but the mass media has become a great weapon in the hands of any ruling class. Given all this it is hard to see how an autonomous, oppositional consciousness could ever emerge, much less survive the system’s attacks if it did emerge. Nevertheless, capitalist control of consciousness and culture is not total. Opposition movements continue to be born even now. There are cracks through which human beings find outlets to prove that we have not been totally brainwashed by the doublespeak of capitalist ideology and assert our own values and perceptions. This is our hope.

We can’t destroy capitalism by running for office and instituting various reforms through legislative acts. It won’t be done because governments don’t have the last say, they don’t control society. Capitalists do. The government doesn’t control capitalists; capitalists control the government. Modern government (i.e., the nation-state system) is an invention of capitalists. It is their tool, and they know how to use it and keep it from being turned against them. Capitalism goes rolling on no matter who controls the government. The only method is to build socialist  political parties, then using those parties to win elections and get control of the state-machine to abolish capitalism, dismantle the state and establish socialism.

Single-Issue Campaigns
We cannot end capitalism through single-issue campaigns, yet the great bulk of a great many radicals’ energy is spent on these campaigns. There are dozens of them: campaigns to defend abortion rights, to prohibit pollution, stop police brutality, stop union busting, abolish the death penalty, to protect the environment, outlaw genetically modified foods, stop the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, and on and on. What we are doing is spending our lives trying to fix a system that generates evils faster than we can ever eradicate them. Although some of these campaigns use direct action, for the most part the campaigns are aimed at passing legislation to correct the problem. Unfortunately, reforms that are won in one decade, after endless agitation, can be easily wiped off the books the following decade, after the protesters have gone home or a new administration comes to power.

These struggles all have value and are needed. Could anyone think that the campaigns against global warming, to aid asylum seekers ought to be abandoned? Single-issue campaigns keep us aware of what's wrong and sometimes even win gains. But in and of themselves, they cannot destroy capitalism, and thus cannot really fix things. It is utopian to believe that we can reform capitalism. Most of these evils can only be eradicated for good if we destroy capitalism itself and create a new civilization. We cannot afford to aim for anything less. Our very survival is at stake. There is one single-issue campaign we wholeheartedly endorse: the total and permanent eradication of capitalism.
Many millions of us, though, are rootless and quite alienated from a particular place or local community. We are part of the vast mass of atomized individuals brought into being by the market for commodified labor. Our political activities tend to reflect this. We tend to act as free-floating protesters. But we could start to change this.  We could attack the ruling class on all fronts. There are millions of us, plenty of us to do everything.

 Politics is Personal
The social movements, based on gender, racial, sexual, or ethnic identities, cannot destroy capitalism. In general, they haven’t even tried. Except for a tiny fringe of radicals in each of them, they have been attempting to get into the system, not overthrow it. This is true for women, blacks, homosexuals, and ethnic groups, as well as many other identities - old people, people with disabilities, mothers on welfare, and so forth. Nothing has derailed the anti-capitalist struggle during the past quarter century so thoroughly as have these movements. Sometimes it seems that identity politics is all that remains of the Left. Identity politics has simply swamped class politics.
The mainstream versions of these movements (the ones fighting to get into the system rather than overthrow it) have given capitalists a chance to do a little fine-tuning by eliminating tensions here and there, and by including token representatives of the excluded groups. Many of the demands of these movements can be easily accommodated. Capitalists can live with boards of directors exhibiting ethnic, gender, and racial diversity as long as all the board members are pro-capitalist. Capitalists can easily accept a rainbow cabinet as long as the cabinet is pushing the corporate agenda. So mainstream identity politics has not threatened capitalism at all.
The radical wings of the new social movements, however, are rather more subversive. These militants realized that it was necessary to attack the whole social order in order to uproot racism and sexism - problems that could not be overcome under capitalism since they are an integral part of it. There is no denying the evils of racism, sexism, and nationalism, which are major structural supports to ruling-class control. These militants have done whatever they could to highlight, analyze, and ameliorate these evils. Unfortunately, for the most part, their voices have been lost in all the clamor for admittance to the system by the majorities in their own movements.
There have been gains, of course. The women's movement has forever changed the world's consciousness about gender. Identity politics in general has underscored just how many people are excluded while also exposing gaps in previous revolutionary strategies. Moreover, the demand for real equality is itself inherently revolutionary in that it cannot be met by capitalists, given that discrimination and division are two of the key structural mechanisms for keeping wages low and thus making profits possible.

Leninism cannot destroy capitalism by taking over the government by capturing the state apparatus by force of arms. This has been the most widely used strategy by national liberation movements during the past century in countries on the periphery of capitalism. Dozens of "revolutionary parties" have come to power all over the world, but nowhere have they succeeded in destroying capitalism. In all cases so far, they have simply gone on doing what capitalists always do: accumulate more capital. They inevitably become in spite of their intentions just another government in a system of nation-states, inextricably embedded in capitalism, with no possibility of escape. Generations devoted their lives to this strategy but now, after nearly a century of trials, it's painfully clear that the strategy has failed, and more and more people have come to this conclusion. The few remaining die-hard Leninists/Trotskyists/Maoists, who are still struggling to build a vanguard party to seize state power, are definitely and thankfully a dying breed. National liberation movements in colonial countries in order to capture the governments there is a form of Leninism. Capitalists have learned how to defeat it. Capitalists have been delighted to have a new enemy - namely, "terrorists" now that "communists" are gone. But more importantly as a tactic for socialism it will not work because it doesn’t contain within itself the seeds of the new civilization.

Nor can we destroy capitalism by seizing and occupying the factories and the farms as the syndicalists advocate we should do. Syndicalism (federations of peasant, worker, and soldier councils) did have a faint chance of success, and even came close in the Spanish Revolution in the 1930s. Unfortunately, that revolution was defeated. In fact, all syndicalist revolutions have failed so far. But again there are serious flaws inherent in the strategy itself. For one thing, the syndicalist strategy excludes old people, young people, sick people, prisoners, students, welfare recipients, and millions of unemployed workers. To think that a revolution can be made only by those people who hold jobs is the sheerest folly. Perhaps immediately after syndicalists seize the factories and make a revolution, this exclusion could be overcome by having everyone join a council at home or in school, but this is no help beforehand, during the revolution itself. The whole image is badly skewed.
Moreover, syndicalists have never specified clearly enough how all the various councils are going to function together to make decisions and set policy, defend themselves, and launch a new society. In the near revolution in Germany in 1918, the worker and soldier councils were for a few months the only organized power. They could have won. But they were confused about what to do. They couldn’t see how to get from their separate councils to the establishment of overall power and the defeat of capitalism. In the massive general strike in Poland in 1980, factory, office, mining, and farm councils were set up all over the country. But these councils didn’t know how to coalesce into an alternative social arrangement capable of replacing the existing power structure. They even mistakenly refrained from attacking ruling-class power with the intent of destroying it. Instead, the councils merely wanted to coexist in some kind of uneasy dual structure (perhaps because they were afraid of a Soviet invasion; but a strategy that has not taken external armies into account is badly flawed).
Workplace associations would have to be permanent assemblies, with years of experience under their belts, before they could have a chance of success. They cannot be new forms suddenly thrown up in the depths of a crisis or the middle of a general strike, with a strong government still waiting in the wings, supported by its fully operational military forces. It is no wonder that syndicalist-style revolts have gone down to defeat.
Finally, syndicalists have not worked out the relations between the councils and the community at large, and to assume that workers in a factory have the final say over the allocation of those resources (or whether the factory should even exist) rather than the community at large, simply won’t do. Nor have syndicalists worked out inter-community relations. Syndicalism, in short, is a strategy that has not been capable of destroying capitalism, although it has been headed in the right direction.

General Strikes
The weapon often promoted by the syndicalists and the industrial unionists – the General Strike cannot destroy capitalism. There is an upper limit of about six weeks as to how long they can even last. Beyond that society starts to disintegrate. But since the general strikers have not even thought about reconstituting society through alternative social arrangements, let alone created them, they are compelled to go back to their jobs just to survive, to keep from starving. All a government has to do is wait them out, perhaps making a few concessions to placate the masses. This is what Charles de Gaulle did in France in 1968.
A general strike couldn't even last six weeks if it were really general - that is, if everyone stopped working. Under those conditions there would be no water, electricity, heat, or food. The garbage would pile up. We couldn't go anywhere because the gas stations would be closed. We couldn't get medical treatment. Thus we would only be hurting ourselves. And what could our objectives possibly be? By stopping work, we obviously wouldn't be aiming at occupying and seizing our workplaces. If that were our aim we would continue working, but kick the bosses out. So our main aim would have to be to topple a government and replace it with another. This might be a legitimate goal if we needed to get rid of a particularly oppressive regime, but as for getting rid of capitalism, it gets us nowhere.

Strikes against a particular corporation cannot destroy capitalism. They are not even thought to do so. The purpose of strikes is to change the rate of exploitation in favor of workers. Strikes have only rarely been linked to demands for workers’ control (let alone the abolition of wage slavery); nor could capitalist property relations be overcome in a single corporation. The strike does not contain within itself any vision for reconstituting social relations across society, nor any plans to do so.
In recent years, strikes have even lost most of the effectiveness they once had for gaining short-term benefits for the working class. More often than not strikers are defeated: their union leaders sell them out; the owners bring in scabs, or simply fire everyone and hire a new work-force by out sourcing or exporting jobs abroad; the owners move their plants elsewhere; and/or the government declares the strike illegal and financially cripple the union. Strike breaking is a flourishing industry. Decades of anti-union propaganda by corporate-controlled media has destroyed a pro-labor working-class culture, which in turn helps management break strikes. Nowadays, for strikers to get anywhere at all, entire communities have to be mobilized, with linkages to national campaigns. Even so, strikers are still aiming only at higher wages, health benefits, and the like; they are not anti-capitalist. So however important strikes are, or once were, in the unending fight over the extraction of wealth from the direct producers, they cannot destroy capitalism as a system.
Although unions were created by workers to help protect themselves from the ravages of wage slavery, they have long since lost any emancipatory potential. They were easily co-opted by the ruling class and used against workers as a disciplinary tool to prevent strikes, to prevent job actions, to drain power from the shop floor, to stabilize the workforce and reduce absenteeism, to pacify workers, to water down demands, and so forth. Many unions have been "business unions," working in cahoots with capitalists to manage "labor relations."
In recent years there has been a movement to rebuild unions. In some developing countries there are some strong union movements, arising in response to the industries that have moved there or to the appearance of sweatshops. With rare exception, these unions are not anti-capitalist. Naturally, it's important to fight for better working conditions, higher wages, shorter hours, and health benefits. Such struggles do often highlight the evils of the wage slave system as well as improve the lives of workers. But something more is needed if we want to get rid of capitalism. Even if current labor activists succeed and rebuild unions to what they once were, can we expect these newly refashioned unions to accomplish more than previous ones did, at the height of the unionization drives of a strong labor movement - a movement that was embedded in communist, socialist, and anarchist working-class cultures that have now been obliterated? Hardly.

To The Barricades
Insurrections cannot destroy capitalism. You can rampage through the streets all you want, burn down your neighborhoods, and loot all the local stores to your heart’s content. This will not go anywhere. Blind rage will burn itself out. When it’s all over, these insurrectionists will be showing up for work like always or standing again in the dole line. Nothing has changed. Nothing has been organized. No new associations have been created. What do capitalists care if they lose a few city blocks? They can afford it. All they have to do is cordon off the area of conflagration, wait for the fires to burn down, go in and arrest thousands of people at random, and then leave, letting the "rioters" cope with their ruined neighborhoods as best they can. Maybe we should think of something a little more damaging to capitalists than burning down our own neighborhoods.

Civil Disobedience
Acts of civil disobedience cannot destroy capitalism. They can sometimes make strong moral statements. But moral statements are pointless against immoral persons. They fall on deaf ears. Therefore, the act of deliberately breaking a law and getting arrested is of limited value in actually breaking the power of the rulers. Acts of civil disobedience can be used as weapons in the battle for the hearts and minds of ordinary people, assuming that ordinary people ever hear about them. But they are basically the actions of powerless persons. Powerless individuals must use whatever tactics they can, of course. But that is the point. Why remain powerless, when by adopting a different strategy building strategic associations we could become powerful, and not be reduced to impotent acts like civil disobedience against laws we had no say in making and that we regard as unjust?

We cannot destroy capitalism by staging demonstrations and protest marches. As a rule, demonstrations barely even embarrass capitalists, let alone frighten or damage them. Demonstrations are just a form of petition usually. They petition the ruling class regarding some grievance, essentially begging it to change its policies. They are not designed to take any power or wealth away from capitalists. Demonstrations only last a few hours or days and then, with rare exception, everything goes back to the way it was. If demonstrations do win an occasional concession, it is usually minor and short-lived. They do not build an alternative social world. Rather, they mostly just alert the ruling class that it needs to retool or invent new measures to counter an emerging source of opposition.
 But even if demonstrations rise above the petition level, and become instead a way of presenting our demands and making our opposition known, we still have not acquired the power to see that our demands are met. Our opposition has no teeth. In order to give some bite to our protests we would have to re-organize ourselves, re-orient ourselves then when we went off on demonstrations to protest ruling-class initiatives and projects there would be some strength behind the protests, rather than just shouted slogans, unfurled banners, hoisted placards, street scuffles, and clever puppets. We would be in a position to take action if our demands were not met. Then when we chanted, "Whose Streets? Our Streets!" our words might represent more than just a pipe dream.
Demonstrations are not even good propaganda tools because the ruling class, given its control of the media, can put any spin it wants to on the event, and this interpretation is invariably damaging to the opposition movement, assuming the event is even reported since the latest approach to these events is simply to ignore them. This is quite effective.
And what are the gains? An issue can sometimes be brought to the attention of the public, even if only a small minority of the public. Also, more people can be drawn into an opposition movement. For those participating, a demonstration can be an inspiring experience. In many cases, though, this high is offset by a sense of dispiritedness on returning home. Demonstrations can thus contribute to building an opposition movement. But are these small gains worth it? Large national demonstrations drain energy and resources away from local struggles. And even local demonstrations are costly, requiring time, energy, and money, which are always in short supply among radicals. Are demonstrations worth all the work and the expense they take to organize? No matter what, they remain just a form of protest. They show what we're against. By their very nature, demonstrations are of limited value for articulating what we are for.
We are against the World Trade Organization, but what are we for?
Rather than taking to the streets and marching off all the time, protesting this or that (while the police take our pictures), we would be better off staying home and building up our workplace, neighborhood, and household associations until they are powerful enough to strike at the heart of capitalism. We cannot build a new social world in the streets.

Boycotts have always been an extremely ineffective way to attack the system, and are almost impossible to organize. They almost invariably fail in their objectives. In the rare cases where they have succeeded, the gains are minor. A corporation is forced to amend its labor policies here and there, drop a product, or divest somewhere. That’s about it.
In recent years, boycotting has become a way of life for thousands in the environmental movement. They publish thick books on which products are okay to buy and which must be boycotted, covering literally everything from toilet paper to deodorant, food to toys. All these activists have succeeded in doing is to create a whole new capitalist industry of politically correct products. They have bought into the myth that the "economy" will give us anything we want if we just demand it, and that it is our demands that have been wrong rather than the system itself.
It’s true that it is better to eat food that hasn’t been polluted with insecticides, to wear clothes not made with child labor, or to use makeup not tested on rabbits. But capitalism cannot be destroyed by making such life-style choices. If we are going to boycott something, we might try boycotting wage slavery.

Dropping Out
We cannot destroy capitalism by dropping out, either as an individual, a small group, or a community. It’s been tried over and over, and it fails every time. There is no escaping capitalism; there is nowhere left to go. The only escape from capitalism is to destroy it. Then we could be free (if we try). In fact, capitalists love it when we drop out. They don’t need us. They have plenty of suckers already. What do they care if we live under bridges, beg for meals, and die young?  Even more illusory than the idea that an individual can drop out is the notion that a whole community can withdraw from the system and build its own little new world somewhere else. This was tried repeatedly by utopian communities throughout the nineteenth century. The strategy was revived in the 1960s as thousands of new left radicals retired to remote rural communes to groove on togetherness (and dope). The strategy is once again surfacing in the new age movement as dozens of communities are being established all over the country. These movements all suffer from the mistaken idea that they don’t have to attack capitalism and destroy it but can simply withdraw from it, to live their own lives separately and independently. It is a vast illusion. Capitalists rule the world. Until they are defeated, there will be no freedom for anyone.
A number of radicals established free schools and even a free university or two, and there was a fairly strong and long lasting modern school movement among anarchists. But these are long gone. The notion that “libertarian” education is the path to change and the way out of the mess we're in is like the tail wagging the dog. We must not think that the capitalist world can simply be ignored, in a live-and-let-live attitude, while we try to build new lives elsewhere.

As wonderful as Luddism was, as one of the fiercest attacks ever made against capitalism, wrecking machinery cannot in and of itself destroy capitalism, and for the same reason that insurrections and strikes cannot: the action is not designed to replace capitalism with new decision-making arrangements. It does not even strike at the heart of capitalism - wage slavery - but only at the physical plant, the material means of production. Although large-scale sabotage, if it were part of a movement to destroy capitalism and replace it with something else, could weaken the corporate world and put a strain on the accumulation of capital, it is far better to get ourselves in a position where we can seize the machinery rather than smash it. (Not that we even want much of the existing machinery; it will have to be redesigned. But seizing it is a way of getting control over the means of production.)
Moreover, Luddites were already enslaved to capitalists in their cottage industries before they struck. They were angry because new machinery was eliminating their customary job (which was an old way of making a living, relatively speaking, and thus had some strong traditions attached to it). In current terms, it would be like linotype operators destroying computers because their jobs were being eliminated by the new equipment. Destroying the new machinery misses the point. It is not the machinery that is the problem but the wage slave system itself. If it weren’t for wage slavery we could welcome labor-saving devices, provided they weren’t destructive in other ways, for freeing us from unnecessary toil. We can draw inspiration from Luddism, as a fine example of workers aggressively resisting the further degradation of their lives, but we should not imitate it, at least not as a general strategy.

We must never forget that we are at war. It is not a war in the traditional sense of armies and tanks; it is a class war fought on a daily basis, on the level of everyday life, by millions of people. It is a war nevertheless because the accumulators of capital will use coercion, brutality, and murder, as they have always done in the past, to try to block any rejection of the system. They have always had to force compliance; they will not hesitate to continue to do so.

Capitalism must be explicitly refused and replaced by something else. We do not call for reforming capitalism, for changing capitalism into something else. It calls for totally replacing capitalism with a new civilization. This is an important distinction because capitalism has proved impervious to reforms as a system. We can sometimes, in some places, win certain concessions from it (usually only temporary ones) and some (usually short-lived) improvements in our lives as its victims, but we cannot reform it piecemeal. We can overthrow slavery and live without working for a wage or buying and selling the products made by wage slaves (that is, we must free ourselves from the labor market and the way of living based on it), and we can embed ourselves instead in cooperative labor and cooperatively produced goods. Destroying capitalism requires an awareness that we are attacking an entire way of life and replacing it with another, and not merely reforming one way of life into something else.

Adapted from an article Getting Free: Creating an Association of Democratic Autonomous Neighborhoods by James Herod

Saturday, March 28, 2015

There Must Be Something Else

The best lies are not lies but half-truths and implied half-truths are more powerful than what is directly said. We see this in our news. Leave out the part where you provoke someone to defend themselves and suddenly you have justification for further attacks found in someones defense against the initial attack. They tell you the presence of war is peace and the absence of war is violence. Our governments continuously tell us that the people shooting and killing are the ‘peacemakers’. The political narrative is distorted by lies, half-truths and rhetoric to evoke an emotional reaction without understanding a reality. The rhetoric goes further to often justify and promote this same violence and murder by re-painting it with words of patriotism, defense, freedom and other twisted rhetoric.

Patriotism is not only a part of nationalism, it is a crux of it, and often what most call patriotism is nothing more than nationalism. Nationalism is defined by as: a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. Often, it is the belief that an ethnic group has a right to statehood, or that citizenship in a state should be limited to one ethnic group, or that multinationality in a single state should necessarily comprise the right to express and exercise national identity even by minorities. It can also include the belief that the state is of primary importance, or the belief that one state is naturally superior to all other states. When governments rally around their anti-migrant war mongering praise of the nation they choose to mask this with the term ‘patriotism’, the love and devotion to the nation that is seen as ‘number one’. The belief of the so-called patriot is very much one that embraces the idea that their governments are naturally superior to all other states. This superiority is quite often falsely defined with words such as freedom, liberty, equality or rights. There is little emphasis on what those actually mean, outside of more emotional rhetoric that tends to be vague at best. There is no defined ethic or concept that all can see under a true definition. The declared belief in equality does not apply to many people groups still to this day. You must begin to question the rhetoric you are being fed. Look for the implied messages and the half-truths.

The New World Order conspiracy analysis is painfully close to the truth. Elites do work to push their agendas without public scrutiny. The World Bank, NATO, and IMF are all global institutions which leverage their power to pursue the interests of American empire and subdue rising threats from below. Globalization, a euphemism for expansionism, continues to have devastating effects on developing nations as transnational corporations ship  jobs overseas or across the border where they can exploit the cheapest labour markets. The mainstream media has evolved to serve its own interests (and thus the interests of the status-quo power structures upon which they depend). In working to maintain their dominance as  super-powers, Western nationa has transitioned from using the communist-bogeyman to the much more effective and never-ending threat of terrorism to continually increase its military might. And an appalling 1% of the world's population owns over 40% of the world's wealth, while over 3 billion people lanquish in dire poverty.

That these things are happening is not in dispute. What we have to question is the conclusions we should draw from them. This is important because we need to make sense of all these problems so we can ultimately determine our success in solving them. Blaming a few individuals for the problem leads to one set of conclusions and strategies for change. Recognising the deeper economic forces of which these individuals are only a part will lead to another set of strategies.  So let's think very seriously about the usefulness of framing all of the world’s problems around an elite group of bankers quest for world domination. If this narrative is misleading, then it will mislead everyone's efforts who take it seriously. The problem isn't "them." They are just symptoms of the deeper cause. Kill off all of the elite today and new people would jockey to take their place.

But the good news is, people are waking up, and they are rejecting the values of rulers. Capitalism is a worldwide system that over several centuries, carried their practices to every corner of the globe, destroying and displacing other traditions, usually through warfare. World history for the last five hundred years is thus mainly the story of this assault that capitalists have thrown against the world’s peoples, beginning with the peasants of Europe, in order to seize their lands and force them into wage slavery (wealth-making propertyless labourers). You should be aware that countries that came to be called communist were just capitalist states doing what capitalists always do: enslave and exploit their populations. There was always a tradition that perceived the Soviet experiment and the colonial revolutions that aped it in these terms. Now that the Soviet Union is gone, more people are realizing that those so-called communist countries were just capitalism in a different form and had little to do with the struggle against capitalism.

It is impossible to defeat our ruling class by force of arms. The level of firepower currently possessed by all major governments and most minor ones is simply overwhelming. It is bought with the expropriated wealth of billions of people. For any opposition movement to think that it can acquire, maintain, and deploy a similarly vast and sophisticated armament is ludicrous. I have nothing against armed struggle in principle (although of course we don't like it); We just don’t think it can work now. It would take an empire as enormous and rich as capitalism itself to fight capitalists on their own terms. This is something the working classes of the world will never have, nor should we even want it. It means that we have to look to and invent if necessary other weapons, other tactics. But we must be careful not to fall into the nonviolence/violence trap. Is tearing down a fence a violent act or is it resistance to the violence of those who erected the fence in the first place? Is throwing a tear gas canister back at the police who fired it an act of violence or is it resistance to an act of violence? Nonviolence is a key ideological weapon of a violent ruling class. This class uses it to pacify us; it uses its mass media to preach nonviolence incessantly. Such rhetoric is an effective weapon because we all (but they don't) want to live in a peaceful world. We must never forget that we are at war, however, and that we have been for five hundred years. We are involved in class warfare. This defines our situation historically and sets limits to what we can do. It would be nice to think of peace, for example, but this is out of the question. It is excluded as an option by historical conditions. Peace can be achieved only by destroying capitalism. A major weapon of capitalists has always been to simply murder those who are threatening their rule. Capitalists (generically speaking) are not merely thieves; they are murderers. Their theft and murder is on a scale never seen before in history - a scale so vast it boggles the mind. Capitalists make Genghis Khan, and Attila the Hun look like saints. This is a terrible enemy we face. Capitalism must be explicitly refused and replaced by something else. This constitutes war, but it is not a war in the traditional sense of armies and tanks; it is a war fought on a daily basis, on the level of everyday life, by millions of people. It is a war nevertheless because the accumulators of capital will use coercion, brutality, and murder, as they have always done in the past, to try to block any rejection of the system. They have always had to force compliance; they will not hesitate to continue to do so.

We can turn now to a notion of how we might want to live. Let’s assume, for the moment, that we could start from scratch to build a totally new social world, building up our neighborhoods just the way we wanted. What would they look like? What would the core social forms be? In order for capitalism to be destroyed, millions and millions of people must be dissatisfied with their way of life. They must want something else and see certain existing things as obstacles to getting what they want. It is a new prevailing vision, a dominant desire, an overriding need. What must exist is a pressing desire to live a certain way and not to live another way. If this pressing desire were a desire to live free, to be autonomous, to live in democratically controlled communities, to participate in the self-regulating activities of a mature people, then capitalism could be destroyed. Otherwise, we are doomed to perpetual slavery and possibly even to extinction.

The content of this vision is actually not new at all. The goal socialists has always been to restore community. Marx defined socialism as a free association of producers, and the free development of each is a condition for the free development of all. The aim have always been clear: to abolish wage slavery, eradicate a social order organized solely around the accumulation of capital for its own sake, and establish in its place a society of free people who democratically and cooperatively self-determine the shape of their social world.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Socialist Comment

The richest 10% of households in Scotland own half of the country's wealth, figures show. The report by the Scottish government found the least wealthy 30% typically had no savings or pensions
Labour Scottish secretary Margaret Curran said "These figures show we cannot afford another five years of failed Tory austerity. (Metro page 23 March 25)

Who are those we she means? Is it the 30% or the richest 10%? I think talk of pips squeaking or noises of that kind is in the making once more. More so if Labour loses the next election.

Together to pursue the revolution

If you are in the 1%, the capitalist system works exceptionally well. Since the financial crisis in 2008, most of the wealth created in the world has ended up in their bank accounts. By next year, they could own more wealth than the rest of us put together. The World Bank calculated that ten Africans own more wealth than half the continent. Africa is the richest continent on Earth in terms of  natural resources and agricultural potential, yet Africa's people are the poorest people on earth - and getting poorer. That is why Africans are continually leaving Africa.

Research shows lobbyists spend hundreds of millions of dollars to influence government legislation for their industries benefits, saving them billions of dollars, for instance by securing the banks’ huge state bailouts. Across the world, we see that money buys power: immunity from justice; the passing of favourable laws; buying off the candidates in an election and paying a pliant media to justify it all. We cannot win under the current economic system. This is a system that sees a world possessed of huge wealth leaving most of humanity with virtually nothing at all. The vast majority keep falling behind economically while the rich get even richer. It is also a system that is leading us to runaway climate change.  Yet this situation doesn't translate into a winning politics. Working people have no effective party to champion their interests. Economic inequality translates into inequality of political influence. You'd expect people to be in the streets, but there is a cynicism about politics. A lot of social problems have been personalized and internalized with the assumption that we are all on our own. But that can be changed.

Another world is possible – it is up to us. People possess imagination, human invention, ingenuity and spirit. We need to build a world where people do not have to live in fear; where every child gets to fulfil their potential and where the planet is preserved and sustained for our children and their children’s children. This is not an impossible dream, it is a practical possibility, well within our reach. To get there we need to organise. We need to harness our boundless energy and creativity. We are many, they are few. We are the 99% and they the 1%. However, the plethora of campaigning groups can be seen mainly as a sign of fragmentation. The good news is that a growing number of different movements are joining together to demand change. If there's a group of workers that don't have rights, then that means that your rights are being threatened because there's going to be an excuse at some point to take your rights away from you. We're seeing that now with the state of labour unions and the fight that people are waging even to form labour unions.

Change can happen and is happening! But we won’t change the system until we change our politics and the economic system. We do not believe the Koch Brothers and the other billionaire oligarchs and plutocrats are more powerful than millions of people fighting for themselves and their own interests. But we require an invigorated popular democracy as the antidote to concentrated wealth. The remedies that evoke real change are far outside mainstream political conversation, and will not become mainstream until forced onto the agenda by a genuine mass movement. But without a potent socialist movement on the ground, mainstream electoral politics is likely to remain stuck in the rut with reforms too weak either to rouse public imagination and participation, or to provide more than token relief for today's extreme inequality. The Socialist Party has always argued that the low expectations and diminishing participation can be reversed, as it has been reversed at moments in the past. Just as the injustices we fight have no borders, neither should our movement. It's really hard for people to understand a movement that is full of “leaders”. That's how our homes work; that's how our communities work; that's how our workplaces work, whether or not we want to talk about it. We're just trying to reflect our own realities. We're trying to create more pathways for more people to participate and engage. If we want a full democracy, we can't just have people following one person. Everyone has to feel like they have a stake in shaping the kind of world that we live in. We want to create a different kind of political culture. We think it's important; we think we need it and we don't think we can survive without it.

 According to Frederick Douglass “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Our demands are the same as they have been  over the hundreds of years. We want quality housing that's comfortable to live in. We want a decent life-enhancing education. We want communities where people can live in dignity and in peace. We want to be able to live with our families without fear of poverty or deprivation. We want fulfilling and socially useful work for everyone who seeks it. We want all the things that we have been fighting for since people were turned into slaves. These are not a new demands, but it's certainly a new political moment where we have the opportunity to join people together across issues in a unified socialist movement and try to advance liberation. We are just getting started with that project.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Revolution is not dead

"Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number -
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many - they are few.'

When we talk about saving the world we mean saving the world as a human habitat. Accomplishing this will mean (must mean) saving the world as a habitat for as many other species as possible. We can only save the world as a human habitat if we stop our catastrophic onslaught on community for we depend on community for our very lives. The nearly universal access to radio, television and the Internet is creating a community of shared perceptions. Real Revolution can only be achieved through the power of socialist vision. Capitalism no longer has anything to offer. Capitalism can steal but cannot share. There is now widespread feelings of entrapment and despair, unfulfilled expectations, a unified solidarity in opposition to a tiny elite. Hope isn't blind optimism. It's a sense of possibility. We can choose to remain open to possibility and not be mired in despair.

There is no time left to be complacent. The time has come to say: enough!! The world is changing now. Not tomorrow. Be part of the change for good. The greatest discovery is that human beings, by changing attitudes and minds, can change lives. What we do and say doesn't just influence our friends, but also our friends' friends and our friends' friends' friends. Thinkers no longer continue to defend the ruling class.

We don’t want to become a vanguard, “leading” or imposing our will on others, as that would run counter to our anti-authoritarian and anti-hierarchal values and commitment to full democratic decision making. “Power to the people can only be put into practice when the power exercised by social elites is dissolved into the people,” wrote Murray Bookchin in Post-Scarcity Anarchism

Too many think the most beautiful thing that you can do for your beliefs is to fight and die for them. But it’s not true… you have to LIVE for what you believe in. Humanity hasn’t come this far by crawling on our knees. Stand up – and reclaim the dream. A world without capitalist exploitation and environmental destruction has often been depicted as “utopian” and “unrealistic.” Yet this world is not some imagined future that comes to us from fantasy and sci-fi novels but from history books of what existed before in our past.

“Don’t be in such a hurry to condemn a person because he doesn’t do as you do, or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today”Malcom X

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What's Fair About Capitalism?

It’s time for revolution if we want a livable future. We do not need a guru to instruct us on how to act. Those who wish to remain as slaves will continue sit by in anticipation of the coming of the savior or of a guide, that once followed to the letter will bestow upon them freedom. We have witnessed such men who have set out to be the revolutionary vanguard and the failure speaks for itself. History owes us nothing: we must struggle! We must not mistake our enemy. We must not to fight the wrong enemy. The need for a scapegoat is as old as civilization, and is nothing but the product of the frustrations of those who seek facile answers to the burdens that afflict us. Here there can be no ambiguity as to the nature of our battle. We favour the emancipation of all of mankind, without any form of exception. All for all is the principle that we stand by.

Around the world the right-wing and religious reactionaries are on the rise. If you're visiting this blog, chances are you are a member of the working class - not because the post specifically pertains to your interests but because, by definition, the vast majority of us are compelled to work for a wage or salary to survive. The Occupy slogan the 99% and the 1% - is actually not far off. The 99% essentially refers to the working class - those of us who are underemployed, unemployed, making minimum wage, making an hourly wage, working multiple jobs, earning a salary, working as "salaried professionals," working "under-the-table," etc.. In other words, if you weren't born with enough privilege and wealth to carry you through life, you are likely working for a wage in some form or another, or would be compelled to do so if left to your own means. Consider how far removed we are from the age-old concept of workers "enjoying the fruits of their labour." The working class has found itself in a breakneck "race to the bottom." “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work” sounds like a good thing. However, what is a fair day’s wages, and what is a fair day’s work?

From the perspective of a boss the answer is pretty simple. The labour market defines the capitalist’s role as a buyer of workers’ ability to work, and the employee’s role as the seller. The employee sells her time to the employer who in turn pays the employee in wages. The capitalist pays his version of a “fair wage”—the amount required for a worker with average needs to survive and keep coming back to work each day. Some bosses might pay a little more, some a little less, but on average this is the base rate of “fair” pay. A fair day’s work to the boss is the maximum amount of work an average worker can do without exhausting herself so much that she can’t do that same amount of work the next day. You, the worker, gives as much, and the capitalist gives as little, as the nature of the bargain will allow. People praise the “free market” that wages and working conditions are fixed by competition between the buyers, the capitalists. Supposedly, capitalists are all competing for workers, so that competition inevitably leads to fair wages and working conditions. After all, the seller—the worker—theoretically has several options of employers to choose from. If a buyer doesn’t offer a price that a worker thinks is fair for her labor, then she can look for another job that pays better. By agreeing to the prevailing wage, so goes this line of argument, workers have essentially made the statement: “We think this is fair.

This is a very strange sort of “fairness.” One problem is that workers and bosses do not start on equal terms when they are buying and selling. It’s not like you’re selling something E-Bay, in which you can wait until someone pays the price you want. For most of us, if we don’t have a job, we can’t pay our bills, feed ourselves and our families, or heat our homes. Having employment is a life or death issue. It may not be life or death in the short term, but eventually if you can’t find a job or someone with a job who will help you out financially, you will not be able to buy the things you need to live, let alone the things you need in order to be happy and fulfilled. It’s a very different for employers. They have money in the bank, and if they don’t get employees tomorrow or even this month, they might be inconvenienced or take a hit in profits, but they don’t risk anything like the consequences workers do.

Let’s express it more simply. Jones is an individual who has zero access to capital, which excludes him from being self-employed. He must find somebody who will share access to capital if he is to continue to eat. Fortunately, Smith has plenty of capital, and is willing to share it -- under certain conditions of course. Smith says to Jones that he can use Smith's capital to produce, *provided* that Jones engages in 90% of the productivity while Smith engages in 10%. Also, Jones will only receive 10% of the revenues despite all of his hard work, while Smith gets to keep 90% for his self. Jones agrees to these conditions because he has no other option. Is Jones morally bound by his agreement to allow Smith to keep 8 in 9 parts of what Jones produces? The capitalist, of course, answers, "Yes” Such an arrangement would be grossly unfair. This relationship between Smith and Jones is inherently exploitive, and Jones is entitled to much better. A society in which “forces” people to "agree" to subject their will to that of a boss is by no means "free". Capitalism simply put is a system of, by and for the owners of capital; and so long as it retains that primary characteristic, any society is capitalist even if the State has assumed ownership of the capital.

In sharp contrast, under regimes like feudalism labour was not a commodity but the property of the landlord. Indeed, labour had no price (i.e. no wage was paid) and its activities were commanded, or commandeered, by the person who had inherited the right to do so.

Contrary to the rosy version of the Industrial Revolution where it is believed that the capital investments on which the factory system was built came largely from hard-working and thrifty entrepreneurs who saved their own earnings as investment capital. In fact, they were junior partners of the landed elites, with much of their investment capital coming either from the Whig landed oligarchy or from the overseas fruits of mercantilism, slavery, and colonialism.

In addition, factory employers depended on harsh authoritarian measures by the government to keep labor under control and reduce its bargaining power. In England the Laws of Settlement acted as a sort of internal passport system, preventing workers from traveling outside the parish of their birth without government permission. Thus workers were prevented from “voting with their feet” in search of better-paying jobs. You might think this would have worked to the disadvantage of employers in underpopulated areas, like Manchester and other areas of the industrial north. But never fear: the state came to the employers’ rescue. Because workers were forbidden to migrate on their own in search of better pay, employers were freed from the necessity of offering high enough wages to attract free agents; instead, they were able to “hire” workers auctioned off by the parish Poor Law authorities on terms set by collusion between the authorities and employers. The Combination Laws, which prevented workers from freely associating to bargain with employers, were enforced entirely by administrative law without any protections of common-law due process. And they were only enforced against combination by workers, not against combination by employers (such as blacklisting “troublemakers” and collusive setting of wages). The Riot Act (1714) and other police-state legislation during the Napoleonic Wars were used to stem the threat of domestic revolution, essentially turning the English working class into an occupied enemy population. Such legislation criminalized most forms of association.

The initial acts of coercion and robbery on which capitalism was founded didn’t stop there. Once the system was up and running, it depended on the state’s ongoing efforts to maintain a legal structure of privilege, based on artificial property rights and artificial scarcity. Capitalism depended on even more massive state intervention. There never was anything remotely approaching laissez faire. Capitalismhas had very little to do with free markets and everything to do with legalized theft and violence. So the free market idea of an “even playing field” is, in reality, a sick joke.

Every society must allocate its scarce resources between different productive activities. Market-societies emerged only very recently (around three centuries ago). The difference between a society-with-markets from a market-society is that in market-societies the factors of production are commodities (e.g. land, labour and tools) and, therefore, their employment is regulated through some market mechanism (e.g. the labour market). In this sense, market societies (which emerged during the past three centuries) have the distinctive feature that the allocation of resources, as well as the distribution of the produce, is based on a decentralised mechanism functioning by means of price signals: the activities, goods and services, and processes whose associated price rises attract more ‘attention’, and are invested with more resources (e.g. land and labour), while those whose prices decline repel producers. Market-societies, or capitalism, emerged when, sometime in the 18th century, the expulsion of peasants from their ancestral lands (the so-called Enclosures in Britain), and their replacement with sheep (whose wool had become an internationally traded commodity), gave rise to the gradual commodification of land (with each acre acquiring a value reflecting the value of wool that could ‘grow’ on it) and, then, of labour (as the, now, landless peasants were eager to sell their labour time for a loaf of bread, money, anything of exchange value). Once land and labour became commodities that were traded in open markets, markets began to spread their influence in every direction. Thus, societies-with-markets begat market-societies. We must beware of those promoters of the market. They amount in practice to allowing the robbers—arms still full of loot—to say: “All right, no more stealing, starting . . . now!”

The Wealth Gap

The wealthiest 10% of households in Scotland owned 44% of all private wealth, the same percentage as for the rest of the UK. By contrast, the poorer half of Scottish households owned just 9% of all personal wealth. Three out of 10 poorer households have no savings or pensions.

Nearly half of the poorer households were headed by someone in employment. The less affluent households were more likely to be single adults and lone parents.

The study, published by the Scottish government, looked at wealth and assets over a six-year period from 2006. 83% of Scots thought the gap between those on high and low incomes was too large.

Between 2010 and 2012, a snapshot of the wealth and assets in Scotland report found that the least affluent 30% of households owned just 2% of all personal wealth, mainly property and personal belongings.

Between 2006 and 2012, before and after the economic downturn, found that 2% of households owned 17% of all personal wealth in Scotland.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said: "It's not right that the wealthiest 10% of households have 20 times more wealth than the least wealthy 30%." 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Next Revolution

Despite the misrepresentations socialists fully understand that the history of the future will be written by choices yet to be made and actions yet to be taken, under circumstances yet to exist. We organise for one possible scenario that we think most probable for very plausible reasons. We argue that our vision for the future is desirable and feasible. We work towards a subjective shift in consciousness which would underpin a corresponding objective shift in society. Does our hope have any future as we set about unraveling old thought patterns and dismantling redundant mindsets and urging the adoption of new ones by people to open up the opportunities for the transformation of society. Since Ancient Greece philosophers have long dreamed of a time when the entire human family would encompass the whole world, a truly single global humanity, “citizens of the world”. Existing international bodies and movements can offer lessons and, in some cases, even building blocks. But a centerpiece of world socialism will be fashioning institutions beholden to the whole body politic, rather than merely balancing the interests of competing states as feebly attempted by the likes of the United Nations. It all may seem far-fetched but to dismiss such a goal out-of-hand would be a failure of historical perspective. It would be rather like an 18th C insisting that their world map of 200,000 territories was eternally fixed and not imagining  it would soon be transformed into one with a mere 200 nation-states. Capitalism evoked a spirit of cosmopolitanism and globalisation which socialists are now convinced can go much further and develop into a world commonwealth. Who will change the world by harnessing both the discontent and the aspirations to overcome the resistance of entrenched interests? We cannot hardly expect it to be the old order, the ancient regime of intergovernmental institutions and transnational corporations, bringing change from above. We need to look elsewhere. History offers the clue for us to see that what is required can only come from below – the working class.

What will it take to the ghastly cycle of poverty, hunger and war and create a peaceful society in which humanity lives cooperatively and harmoniously? The socialist answer is we must overthrow capitalism, a system that inevitably generates inequality and conflict. And overthrowing it will require a revolution. What will it take to make a revolution? The socialist answer is the majority of people must realize that capitalism can't provide them a decent life. Global capitalism has lurched from one crisis to another, and the ruling class keep resorting to desperate measures to keep it afloat. More and more people are seeing how their and their children's lives are being degraded for the sake of profits. But we're a long way from revolution yet if people do not succeed in replacing capitalism by socialism the prospects for humanity and our environment, are very dismal, far worse than now. We have all the objective conditions for the socialist revolution and socialism itself. The hostility to socialist ideas is not as predominant present now because many have experienced the deep failures of capitalism. Red-baiting and red-scares no longer work as they used to. People want change and are seeking a solution. They are looking for something radically different. We, as socialists, must convince them about what that alternative is. It is our job to point out that the crises of capitalism will happen over and over again and to save the ecosystem and ourselves we must break out of the cycle of capitalist exploitation. 

Inequality has been a condition in society since the dawn of class society. It is no secret that capitalism thrives off exploitation. It needs people to be completely reliant on their labour power. It needs a considerable part of the people to be impoverished and unemployed - "a reserve army of labour," as Marx put it - in order to create a "demand" for labour and thus make such exploitative positions "competitive" to those who need to partake in them to merely survive. It needs these things in order to stay intact. Capitalism is based in the buying and selling of commodities, its lifeblood is production. And since production in a capitalist system is not based on need, but rather on demand, it has the tendency to produce more than it can sell. If millions of people are unable to access basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare, the commodification of those needs becomes all the more effective. When society commodifies the bare necessities of life, they are commodifying human beings, whose labour can be bought and sold. The apologies and philosophical rationalisations of is a defence of wage slavery. For, if your labour is for sale, then you are for sale. You are a slave – a wage-slave.

The world economy is a structure of cycles of expansion and contraction. There is no doubt that in the next contracting cycle the number of people in the world who will languish in abject poverty will rise. The malnourished and hungry will increase while the real value of labour decrease and living standards will lower throughout Western nations. It means more beng dragged down into poverty as workers scramble to pay ever-climbing bills with ever-smaller pay-checks. The think-tanks and the various NGOs working to reduce world poverty keeps promising the world that the goal is zero poverty within a few years. Yet, the reality of the existing political economy continues to disprove the apologists of capitalism that ask people to keep their faith in a system that perpetuates inequality and exacerbates social injustice. When the issue of poverty is raised, many people rationalise this through the Malthusian argument that there are too many people and too few resources, therefore there will always be poor people in the world. Many of those very same educated intellectuals have never argued that there are not sufficient resources to bail out capitalism costing trillions of dollars. Feeding a starving child that faces death every five seconds is not nearly as urgent for the state as buttressing finance capitalism. If a billionaire is a philanthropist who has given back some of the wealth she/he had appropriated through a system that promotes capital concentration, then that billionaires becomes a hero and role-model, rather than robber baron that she/he truly is. It must be clear now that the dream of a better life under capitalism surely must have its expiration date coming up.

We may not be on the eve of a revolution but imagine what life would be like if capitalism was overthrown if we replaced it and were able to live in a genuinely socialist society. Imagine a society of ecological sanity, material abundance and social equality, a society where social relations were premised on human solidarity, not capitalist exploitation and human competition, where people are not set against each other, where production for profit, driven by accumulation of capital, has given way to production for use. Another world is not just possible; it is inevitable if we are to exist in the long-term. The most poignant question you can now ask yourself is this; “What can I do to bring to life this collective yearning for a much better world?” The task of building the global socialist movement now beckons all of us who care about the future and we must seek to bridge divisions of nationality, sex and race and bring all the single issues within an umbrella of common principles and goals to sustain the basis for unity. All this is necessary, but not sufficient. A socialist party can only articulate the inspiring vision of another world, it takes people and a social movement to create one.

“I’ll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours.”Bob Dylan