Thursday, April 30, 2015

Liberate the Election

The Socialist Party has always emphasised the importance and need for political democracy to secure the transition to socialism, the importance of a representative institution to demonstrate a majority for socialism and to ensure the abolition of capitalism is done in as peaceable and co-ordinated manner as possible. Once a mass socialist movement has come into existence capitalism's days are numbered and there is nothing supporters of capitalism can then do to stop socialism coming. Even if they were to try armed resistance they would lose and, after a period of chaos and bloodshed, socialism would still end up being established. If this mass socialist movement so chose, it could simply go ahead and seize power. This, too, however, would result in a period of chaos and perhaps bloodshed and it would give the opponents of socialism a perfect excuse to resist but the end result would still be the establishment of socialism. We concede that this is theoretically possible but we do not advocate such tactics should be tried. Using existing representative and elective institutions would be the best way to proceed. We do not see how it makes sense for the socialist movement to duplicate existing representative and elective structures. Obviously, the socialist movement will have to have its own democratic structures, but what would be the point of drawing up registers of electors, rules for nominating candidates, counting procedures, when these already exist for political elections? Why not use those that exist? Admittedly, new democratic structures will have to be developed at the workplace, where none exist at present, and we have always envisaged this happening through workers' unions of one sort or another, but this does not have to be done as far as geographically-based local and national elections are concerned. So, all in all, using existing institutions is the best option which is why we have always advocated it.

We are always being told that we live in a free society, but do we? As a politician you have to win a degree of popular support for the policies capitalism obliges you to pursue. It’s not enough to be truthful and say “I’m just reacting to whatever problems the uncontrollable workings of capitalism place on my agenda”. You have to give the impression that you are working towards a better life for everyone. Hence the need felt by politicians to do what George Bush called “the Vision Thing”. You must give the impression that you are engaged in doing something more than the mere routine management of capitalism.

We know that socialism includes democracy, and can only come when a majority of the working class voice their will and desire in favour of it. To us in the Socialist Party the vote itself is not the thing. Millions have had the vote for years, but lacking knowledge of how to use it in their own interest, they have steadily voted their masters into power; voted the continuance of the system that keeps them poor. We know that there are enough working-class voters to-day to defeat the capitalist class – but it wants intelligence behind the vote. Our work, therefore, is to convert the workers from supporters of capitalism into fighters for socialism. We want to enlist a membership for socialism, to build up a party of men and women who understand socialism to be their only hope. When a revolutionary class is strong enough to elect one of themselves to Parliament, then he or she will have behind a solid body of men and women who mean revolution. A Socialist Party MP will voice their interests, expose the bunkum bills of the workers’ enemies, and drive home the socialist position upon every question that arises. A socialist MP will occupy the parliamentary seat wholly as a fighter for socialism, and will regard all activity from the standpoint of their helpfulness to the speeding of socialism. We are necessarily and without any qualification democrats. Our electoralism is,(if only to minimise the risk of violence), to organise also to win a majority in parliament too, not to form a government of course but to end capitalism and dismantle the state.

The capitalist system may have nominally democratic institutions, but it relies upon working class compliance, passivity and lack of involvement in the process to carry out its worst and most illiberal functionings. Real democracy can only be achieved on the basis of the common ownership of society's means of living. The most damaging thing to the cause of true democracy is the repeated assurances that what we have nowadays is democracy, and so all the sleaze, all the dumbing down, all the secret negotiations and dirty deals get lumped together to suggest in people's minds that democracy is not all that great. Anyone who has engaged in politics must eventually come across such statements as "democracy is inefficient"; "the best form of government is a benevolent dictatorship"; or "the country should be run by experts, well trained managers, not just any Tom Dick or Harry". Such comments (which are surprisingly common) reflect a general lack of democratic culture among the working class. These points are easily countered: democracy is only inefficient if your only criterion is speed, but if you include wide consultation and a plurality of opinions and ideas within the decision-making process, then democracy is actually far more efficient in the long run. The benevolent dictator idea neglects the fact that dictators must have a class to back them up so as to ensure the primary aim of all dictators—of staying in power. Likewise, with the group of managers, the question becomes, how do we select such managers? And how are they supposed to manage the country? In whose interest?

These attitudes reveal, however, not that the working class is not interested in how the world is run, but that they have a strong desire for it to be done better. The whole ideology behind a benevolent dictator (the sort of ideology that led to the worship of Lenin, and then Hitler and Mussolini in the thirties) is that they have the power to do what is right, without being constrained by laws or petty interests. The dictator becomes the symbol of the law, all-capable, all-powerful, ready to manage affairs in a rational manner, not in the manner dictated by bourgeois law or by propertied interests. That's the idea at least. The dictator or the managers become a symbol for orderliness and rationality in an insane and disorganised world. They represent stability.

The problem is that most folk do not look to democracy to bring about this stability. The bourgeois propagandists have done their work, and have effectively destroyed any belief in democracy as the idea that folks can run their own lives and own communities. Years of battering and enforced passivity has come to mean that for most of the working class the idea of them being in charge of affairs is inconceivable.

Democracy is not a set of rules or a parliament; it is a process, a process that must be fought for. The struggle for democracy is the struggle for socialism. It is not a struggle for reforms, for this or that political system, for this or that leader, for some rule change or other—it is the struggle for an idea, for a belief, a belief that we can run our own lives, that we have a right to a say in how society is run, for a belief that the responsibility for democracy lies not upon the politicians or their bureaucrats, but upon ourselves.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Who needs Polls?

The old believe that the grass is greener on the other side certainly appears to apply to the vast majority of voters. They think that if the party of their choice is elected then they would be spared the many problems created by the capitalist system. And they haven't noticed that despite the promises of the politicians down the years the problems remain and may even get worse.

The recent referendum revealed that a great many people in Scotland think that a nationalist government would be the solution but nationalist governments all over the world have shown that they are powerless to avoid the problems, the plain fact is that governments of all kinds cannot dictate what the capitalist system does, it is the system which determines what governments do, and whatever the result of this election this will be demonstrated once again.

Shouldn't elections be about real choice

By now some of you will have grown weary of listening to the mainstream candidates in this General Election. They have waffled on and on about public spending, public services, jobs, crime, and how things will get better, if only we put them into power. They all talk about money – spend more, spend less, tax it, borrow it, lend it, find it - but they never talk about where it comes from. They never talk about the basic rules by which it is used. They just assume that money is being made, and that they can adapt their policies to the rules of the money-making game. That is, they assume capitalism. They defend a society in which the majority of the population must sell their capacity to work to the tiny handful who own most of the wealth. They defend a society in which things can only happen if there is a profit to be made. In short, they subscribe to the law of no profit, no production. The Socialist Party is the only party whose sole object is the replacement of the present social, economic and political system (capitalism) with a fundamentally different system (socialism). Politics today involves the mass of the electorate choosing at periodic intervals professional politicians as representatives who will govern them for the next few years. At election times it often suits politicians to make sympathetic noises about issues, but after the elections are over the same politicians can usually find "practical considerations" that make them have "re-appraisals" of previous "policy statements". This cynical manipulation is rife throughout the capitalist world.

Elections are ultimately about which class is to control political power. Capitalist political control is essential to the continuation of capitalism as, while this does not give them control over how the capitalist economy works, it does give them control over what laws are made and over the deployment of the armed forces. As long as society is divided into owners and non-owners of the means of producing life, different sectors of the capitalist class will support different types of governments, including right-wing ones, left-wing ones, centrist ones, or whatever, depending upon their needs for more or less governmental intervention. Corruption among sections of their class, wishful thinking that a stronger state may guide the economy out of serious recession, friendlier taxation policies, or the needs for improved state subsidies, are just a few of many variables influencing the owning class to at times support leftwing brands of government. The capitalist class are not able to sustain any form of government to operate their plundering ventures in the money trick that gives some those rations called wages and others those riches called profits, not even dictatorships, without the support of the wealth-producing working class. Besides producing socially necessary wealth, the working class operates the administration of the state, carries its guns, and provides at times its direct support in the form of votes in open elections. Workers therefore need to be hoodwinked.

While there are historical reasons for the existence of the separate parties into which these career politicians are organised, the differences between them are superficial and often sham. All of them stand for capitalism, its wages system and its production for profit. The capitalist class are not particularly concerned over which of them wins as long as one of them does (even if they don’t like one party to stay in power too long in case the politicians involved overdo the cronyism and the corruption). It doesn’t matter to workers either, even if many are tempted to choose the “lesser evil” – Tweedledum in preference to Tweedledumber – generally perceived by critics of capitalism to be the Labour Party despite its dancing to the tune of capitalism every time it has been in office.

One thing is certain, whichever candidate or party wins will bring about no significant changes to the way things are. And in between elections we will have little or no say in the important decisions, the 'real issues' that concern us. Because of the way things are organised at present, none of us are allowed to take part in the really important decisions that affect us – the ones about our schools, about health and housing, peace and pollution, and the distribution of wealth.

The Socialist Party seeks an alternative to this insane set-up and calls for a truly democratic society in which people take all of the decisions that affect them. This means a society without rich and poor, without owners and workers, without governments and governed, a society without leaders or the led. Socialist society would consequently mean the ending of buying, selling and exchange, an end to borders and frontiers, an end to force and coercion, waste and want and war. Today we have the technology, the resources and the know-how to satisfy everyone's needs. That fact is well established. Fellow workers, replace the lies of the politicians with the trust in your own power. Unite with the workers of all lands to take over the planet for all. Is it not high time that we took back control of our destiny from the profit-mongers and the masters of war?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Blowing Up Balloons

In Zimbabwe, the Independent Lawyers for Human Rights said an unidentified man was arrested in a bar on Feb 22 while watching the 88th birthday celebration for President Mugabe. The lawyer group claimed he has been charged under laws making it an offence to insult the president. He is accused of asking whether or not Mugabe had the strength to blow up any balloons at his party. The accused is to appear in court, March 12, and if found guilty will be fined. Well-meaning people have fought for civil rights for two hundred years and the struggle continues. Why not remove the cause? 
John Ayer.

Where Are Those Jobs Coming From?

Grey Power surprise – The Toronto Star reported on the economic resurgence of 2009. Nobody could figure out who was getting all these new jobs, not unions, not the unemployed. Now we know – seniors. Since July 2009, Canadians over 60 have accounted for 30% of the country's job gains although they make up just 8% of the labour force. Most gains were in the low paid retail sector. Three cheers for Walmart! 
John Ayers.

BBC News - Longer Version

We are not alone, or are we?

We are not the only group calling ourselves socialist. Anyone seeking to understand what is wrong with present-day society will come across others, all having some such word in their names as “socialist”, “workers”, “revolutionary” or “communist”. Most of these will be of Leninist or Trotskyist origin and have aims, theories and methods which have nothing in common with ours. People cannot be led into socialism or coerced into it. They cannot be forced into cooperating and participating; this is something they must want to do for themselves and which they must decide to do of their own accord. Socialist society can function on no other basis. This is the basic principle that underlines the whole political activity of the Socialist Party. It commits us to a policy of making sure that hearing the case for socialism becomes part of the experience of as many people as possible. It commits us to treating other workers as adults who are capable of being influenced by open public debate and argument and not to try to hoodwink or manipulate them. It commits us to opposing the whole concept of leadership, not just to get socialism but also for the everyday trade-unionist struggle to survive under capitalism. We do not seek to lead such struggles but limit ourselves to urging workers to organise any particular struggle in a democratic way under the control of those directly involved. Our own party is organised on this basis and we envisage the mass movement for socialism, when it gets off the ground, being organised too on a fully democratic basis without leaders.

We have been forewarned. It is going to get worse; worse than it was – and for most it was never good; worse than it is now. A deep unease haunts the land; a sense of foreboding as politicians, the media and the man next door talk of The Cuts and the impending cuts. Something is drastically wrong. Tens of thousands of people who thought they had secure employment have been made redundant and more going every day. The houses that people have on hire-purchase from building societies are in many cases worth less than what is owed on them. The state ‘benefits’ that guaranteed a mean living are being eroded, and the authoritative voices solemnly proclaim that it is going to get progressively worse. For the working class that means that generally we will be expected to do without more than we were doing without previously; a more restricted standard of living, a financially crippled health service and the ending of access to second-rate education. Whereas, in the past, politics was about politicians and their parties telling us how they were going to improve our living standards, today politics is about the pace and duration of the cuts that are going to bite into our lives in the future: the political Right, abetted by the craven Centre, thinks the pain of economic retrenchment should be fully applied now; the Left argues that less pain over an extended period is preferable. But the common watchword is that it is going to be painful! The cuts are not the result of any change in our potential to produce wealth and there is plainly urgent human need for vibrant wealth production. That such wealth production in any form of society is the result of human mental and physical labour power being applied to nature-given resources is clearly obvious and both these factors remain as they were before the advent of the present crisis. Unfortunately capitalism adds another predominating factor into the simple wealth-producing equation: capital investment on the promise of profit.

We have to recognise that it is the working class that politically endorses capitalism in elections and it is only the working class that can abolish that system in conditions that will allow for the establishment of socialism. That statement requires recognition of the limitations of bourgeois democracy but such limitations do not alter the fact that without the conscious democratic consent of the working class real social democracy is out of the question. The workers, the producers of wealth, are poor because they are robbed; they are robbed because they may not use the machinery of wealth production except on terms dictated by the owners, the propertied class. The remedy for working class poverty and other social ills is the transfer of ownership of these means of production from the capitalist class to society. That, in a few words, is the case for socialism. The work of rebuilding society on this new basis cannot be started until power is in the hands of a socialist working class, and that cannot be until many millions have been convinced of the need for change and are broadly agreed on the way to set to work to bring it about. It is just here that the Socialist Party meets with an objection which is in appearance reasonable enough. Many who would accept the foregoing remarks can go with us no further.

The Left might protest that immediate organising for socialism does nothing to alleviate the current problems of capitalism. Is it not better, they say, in view of the certainty that socialism cannot be introduced at once, to devote much, if not all, our energy to making the best of capitalism, and getting "something now"? By "something now" they mean a minimum wage, increased State protection against destitution through illness or unemployment, and other like proposals. But if they accept that these problems are an effect of capitalism they must surely accept that the logical way to remove an effect is to remove its cause. It may then come as a surprise to them that we also believe in getting something now. We differ in that we are not willing to subordinate socialist principles to the demand for reforms of capitalism, and in that we strongly hold that the best way to get these things is by the revolutionary activity of an organisation of revolutionaries. In other words, the quickest and easiest method of getting reforms from the ruling class is to let them see that it will endanger their position to refuse.

While we recognise that socialism is the only permanent solution, we are not among those who consider that the capitalists are simply unable to afford better conditions for the workers. If workers ceased to struggle they would soon find a worsening of their conditions but on the other hand were they free from the mental blindness which prevents them from striking a blow when and where it would be most damaging, they might, even within capitalism, raise their standard of living and diminish their insecurity. Unfortunately they do not yet see the facts of the class struggle, and too often allow themselves to be paralysed in inaction. Employers will not give up any part of what they hold except under pressure one kind of pressure is fear; the fear that refusal to spend part of their ill-gotten gains on reforms will encourage revolutionary agitation for the seizure of the whole kaboodle.

There's nothing wrong with contesting elections, but it should be done on a sound basis: getting elected on a straight socialist programme of common ownership, democratic control and production for use not profit, with a view to using parliament or the council chamber as a platform from which to spread socialist ideas (while still a minority) and to usher in socialism (when a majority, acting on instructions from a mass democratically-organised and socialist-minded movement outside). This is quite different from trying to get elected by non-socialist votes on a programme of attractive-sounding reforms to capitalism. It's a bad tactic that can only encourage illusions about what can be achieved under capitalism. It glosses over the fact that capitalism is not a system that can be humanised or reformed or transformed into something better. It is a profit system subject to economic laws which can only work in one way: as a system of profit-making and accumulation of capital in the interest of a tiny minority of profit-takers. What those who want a better society should be doing is to campaign to change people's minds, to get them to realise that they are living in an exploitative, class-divided society and that the only way out is to end capitalism and replace it by a new and different system based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, with production to satisfy people's needs, and distribution on the basis of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”. Once a majority have come to this realisation, they will know what to do: organise themselves into a socialist party to democratically win political control and use it to bring about a socialist society.

That's what socialist politics should be about.

The landlords raking it in

Private rented accommodation accounts for around 4.2 million households – and in more than a third of these, the rent is paid in part or in full by the state. Private landlords were paid a total of £9.2bn in housing benefit in 2013-14.

Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, said: “This research lifts the lid on the mainly secret payments to landlords who are the real winners from Britain’s welfare system. We see taxpayers’ cash subsidising buy-to-let empires with £9.2bn paid into private landlords’ bank accounts – much of it ending up in tax havens.”

Mohammed Tanveer Taj in Watford came out as the landlord making the most from housing benefit, with an income of more than £3.2m. Second on the list was an estate agency while third was the King family, who run Thorney Bay Park, a caravan site in Canvey Island, Essex, who received £1,924,226. The caravans were “like an igloo” in winter and local councillors dubbed them unsuitable for year-round use. UKIP’s housing spokesman Andrew Charalambous is among the biggest landlord recipients of housing benefit, having received £826,395 in the last tax year, putting him 10th on the housing benefit rich list.

The sixth-biggest housing benefit private landlord – and the leader in Scotland – was the City Bellgrove hotel. Its owners, Ron Barr and Kenneth Gray, received £1,508,813 in housing benefit last year for the hotel, which they bought for just £65,000. It houses up to 160 men in east Glasgow, many of whom have drug and alcohol problems. An investigation by the Daily Record last year found squalid conditions, including  pools of vomit left on the floor of the windowless TV room.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The SPGB on the BBC

No to ReformISM

Reformers want to use the electoral process as a means of gathering as many votes as possible. Reform manifestos display the small changes advocated as attractively as possible, with little concern for educating the voters. Priority is given to winning elections and electing leaders. Reforms are to be pursued today, tomorrow the revolution - and tomorrow never comes. The Socialist Party is also prepared to use the electoral process, but with a view to challenging capitalist control of political power. The first task is to educate people and make socialists. The success of socialist candidates will measure the extent to which this activity achieves its aim. The Socialist Party no stake in how capitalism is run. Socialists are opposed to capitalism however it is organised. We do not enter into the debate about whether free market capitalism is better or worse than nationalisation. We oppose the profit system in all its forms and work only for its replacement by socialism.

The nature and meaning of democracy in society has become a topic of major interest in the media. People are repeatedly reminded that the ‘war on terror’ is being waged to defend ‘our’ democratic rights and freedoms. Although parliamentary government still operates to protect property, the concessions that have been won in capitalist democracy are important and of value to working people. Rights to organise politically, express dissension and combine in trade unions, for example, are valuable not only as a defence against capitalism, but from a socialist viewpoint are a platform from which socialist understanding can spread, while the right to vote the means by which socialism will be achieved. At the same time we must recognise that genuine democracy is more than these freedoms and the right to vote. Whilst ‘one person one vote’ is an essential ingredient of democratic society, democracy implies much more than the simple right to choose between representative of political parties every five years. Today exercising our democratic right to vote for a conventional political party does not effect change. It amounts to little more than making a selection between rival representatives of power and class interest whose overarching function is to protect private property and make profits flow. It is representative government where all the representatives support obedience to the capitalist system.

Clearly, ‘democracy’ under capitalism is different from the generally accepted meaning of the word as a situation where ordinary people make the decisions that shape their lives, frequently summarised as being the ‘rule of the people.’ But democracy is not simply about ‘who’ makes decisions or ‘how’ the decisions are to be made. It is an expression of the social relations in society. If democracy means that all have equal opportunity to be heard, then this not only implies political equality but also economic equality. It further presupposes that people have individual freedom. A genuine democracy is therefore one where people are free and equal, actively participating, without leaders, in co-operative discussion to reach common agreement on all matters relating to their collective as well as individual requirements. A genuine democracy complements equality and freedom and is therefore incompatible with capitalism. In capitalist democracy freedom has become a commodity strictly limited to the amount that can be purchased by a given wage or salary. In the workplace our ‘work’ organised under a strict division of labour is often tedious and repetitive; we have become an appendage to a machine or computer in industry organised on a strictly ‘top-down’ chain of authority – more fitting to a tyranny. This is what freedom means under capitalism.

The realisation that genuine democracy cannot exist in capitalist society does not alter the fact that the elbow room already secured by struggle can be turned against our masters. The right to vote, for instance, can become a powerful instrument to end our servitude and to achieve genuine democracy and freedom. Working people with an understanding of socialism can utilise their vote to signify that the overwhelming majority demand change and to bring about social revolution. For while democracy cannot exist outside of socialism, socialism cannot be achieved without the overwhelming majority of working people demanding it. Today, we must view with suspicion attempts to further restrict or limit our legal rights by carefully considering the motives that lie behind such moves. For we need to use these rights to organise and spread socialist understanding so a socialist majority can capture political power, end capitalism and establish socialism. Only then will we have genuine freedom and a genuine democracy.

Talk of a "complete change" in the basis of society is what is rejected by campaigning activists. This wasn't always the case. In the not-so-distant past both the Labour Party (and then the Green Party) did talk in terms of changing society True, this was only as a long-term prospect, but the idea of an alternative society was there. Now this has gone and those of us who are left proposing this are denounced as "unrealistic" for continuing to advocate a "big solution" when supposedly there is none. Let's suppose for a moment that there isn't. What would that mean? It would mean that we'd have to continue with what we've got—capitalism and try to make the best of it, as individuals and as sectional interests. Political parties have already become rival groups of professional politicians with virtually identical policies and certainly identical practices, offering themselves as the best managers of the system. So it would mean that politics would be reduced to pressure group politics as different sections of the population tried to persuade governments—whichever the party in power—to make changes in their particular sectional interest or, in the case of campaigning charities, of the disadvantaged group they have chosen to champion. Political action would consist of lobbying, backed up from time to time by direct action, for reforms in the sectional interest of some group.

This is not an attractive prospect but it is one that is, somewhat surprisingly, championed by a number of people who are severely critical of capitalism. What they like is the idea of "direct action" as such. This, they think, is the way to get improvements; electoral action via local councils and parliament, they say, doesn't get you anywhere. But "direct action" is merely a method, a tactic, not an end in itself and can in fact be employed for different ends. In the present political context it is being advocated as a better way to get reforms than elections. May be it is, but maybe it isn't. One powerful argument as to why it might not be has just been demonstrated: those with the biggest vehicles can reclaim the streets more effectively than those without. In other words, with direct-actionist, pressure group politics, those who can exert the most pressure will tend to come off best, and it is the more powerful who can generally exert the most pressure.

Those who concentrate on trying to obtain reforms within capitalism—whether by direct action or through the electoral process—are on the wrong track. What is needed is precisely what most of them refuse—and in fact have consciously rejected doing—and that is raising the issue of an alternative society as the only framework within which the problems for which they are seeking short-term relief can be solved.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Be Reasonable – Demand the Impossible

A long time ago parties that now call themselves Labour Party or Social Democratic Party used to subscribe to different versions of what we describe as socialism but they have abandoned this over the last hundred years. They have accepted capitalism and now concern themselves with putting forward various ideas for modifying the system, to promote fairness  -  most of them completely impracticable. Ed Miliband is now on record as promising to “make capitalism work for the people”. Oh no, he won’t – because that’s not possible. Currently under capitalism although we can vote for parties in elections, huge chunks of our lives are beyond our influence. The politicians have no control over the economy and so neither have we.  We can’t decide on our standard of living or our level of prosperity.

With the electoral circus in full swing the parties have been competing with one another in a seemingly endless round of pledges, promises, scare stories and counter claims. The media openly spends more time telling us about "the election" itself - its stratagems and ruses - than about the policies on offer from any of the parties. The election campaign is carried out as if by marketing agencies selling superficially different (but nevertheless fundamentally identical) products. The tools of their trade are the typical PR techniques employed by corporate business everywhere - "spin", "positioning" in relation to key target sectors, junk mail/internet spam and cold-calling of those in a targeted market niche, all refracted through the magnifying glass of Twitter and Facebook. An advertising war and charm offensive in which we are mere collateral damage. Is it any wonder the electorate react with a cold shrug of apathy?

The Greens are not anti-capitalist. Certainly, they criticise Big Business and some of the ways the profit-driven market system works, but from the point of view of small business. For them, Big Business is Bad, Small Business is Beautiful. But a return to smaller businesses is neither desirable nor in fact possible, and it wouldn't help the environment either. And Green Party Ministers in Germany, France and Italy haven't made any difference to the way capitalism works.

As for the others on the Left putting up candidates in this election, a socialist organisation will get nowhere without a firm grasp sound Marxist principle, a disdain to conceal its socialist objective, and a membership in full possession of the facts about current society and the revolutionary alternative. None possess these organisational principles, and none are showing any clear sign of understanding or desiring to develop them.

As socialists, we wish to help change the world in a positive direction, not get our bums on the benches of the House of Commons or on the seats of chauffeur-driven ministerial cars. So in this election we call on the "silent majority", unhappy - and even disgusted - by the performance of the clowns in this political circus, to protest by spoiling their ballot papers if there is no Socialist Party candidate standing in your constituency. In so doing they will be taking part in the democratic forum yet at the same time withdrawing their consent from those who would rule over them in the name of wealth for the few and tedium for the rest of us. Where no candidate standing for the one genuine alternative to the present system - a world socialist society of free access to available wealth - is on offer in this election, socialists and those in general agreement with our cause will be writing "WORLD SOCIALISM" across our ballot papers. So our voice will be heard. We will not allow it to be stifled under a welter of mindless political psychobabble. And the more people who agree with us and do the same, the louder the voice and the more effective the protest against the whole ridiculous charade currently being played out before us in the name of our interests. We suggest a write-in vote for socialism. Our appeal to people to become socialist is not based on ethical considerations or compassionate feelings for people who are less well off than them. You should become a socialist for your own self-interest, for a better life for yourself.

The richest get richer

The collective wealth of Britain’s richest people has more than doubled in the last 10 years. The 1,000 wealthiest people in the UK are now worth £547bn, not counting what’s in their bank accounts, according to the latest Sunday Times Rich List. A fortune of £100m is what it takes to make it into the top 1,000.

London-based Ukrainian businessman Len Blavatnik, whose empire includes the Warner Music Group, came top of the list thanks to his estimated fortune of £13.17bn. He rose from fourth to first after his wealth rose by more than £3bn.

Galen and George Weston and family, who run a retail empire including Selfridges and Primark, enjoyed a particularly prosperous year – with their wealth soaring by £3.7bn to £11bn.

Meanwhile, the the Nasdaq and S&P 500 closed at new record highs after US tech firms reported strong first quarter profits. Amazon shares by more than 14%, in the wake of revelations about its cloud computing services on Thursday. The company's value now stands at $206.7bn (£136.1bn.) Microsoft, which saw its share price spike over 10% after it beat growth expectations.

According to the new capitalist motto, the banks are too big to fail, while the poor are too wretched to be salvaged

General Election – Fast Forward to the Past

In many areas affecting their lives people realise that there is no real choice, only an illusion of choice, a choice between unwanted and unwelcomed options presented as the only alternatives. Throughout the ages humanity has sought and achieved advancement motivated by desire, passion and a will to produce something better, to succeed in their aspirations. Lack of meaningful choice in national elections and the realization that politicians of all persuasions are failing to represent voters has resulted in steadily declining numbers presenting themselves at polling booths. In the present electoral system not voting is both making a choice and not making a choice. It's clear that the reason voters are not turning out is because they think it's pointless. This is an inherent flaw of representative democracy: voters are infrequently called upon to cast a vote, which seems to be far removed from any action or result; there is no immediate reward for the vote. The voters thus feel, correctly, that their influence is slight. If the alternatives on offer are unacceptable then no valid choice has been offered and the process can only be perceived as a sham. Voters, non-voters and reluctant voters all require different alternatives from those on offer.

In all elections there are three options. The first one is to continue to vote for one of the numerous parties whose policies are limited by the narrow parameters of capitalism, the very system responsible for the vast majority of society’s problems. Secondly is the tactic favoured by the anarchistic and that is not to vote at all and to become politically apathetic, which contributes to the continuation of capitalism. Lastly in contrast to the above two, to support The Socialist Party which proposes the genuine, democratic sharing of resources amongst all the people, with production of goods and services for human need. In such a society, each individual would be of equal value and status, and would be able to make their own contribution, voluntarily towards producing the wealth of the new society. The people would then have free access to goods and services. In real socialism, since profit making and money will be abolished, it is all the people and the environment which will come first. The job of The Socialist Party is to bring the class struggle to an end, not to try and accommodate themselves with the system.

The Labour Party has failed, so let’s start a new one. That’s what some trade unionists and left-wingers are saying. That would be to repeat a mistake. It is not possible either to reform capitalism into socialism by means of a series of reforms enacted by parliament or to make capitalism work in the interest of the majority class. Once the political structure is unable, as now, to accommodate any semblance of reforms so as to offer aspirations, then have to resort to trying to scare the electorate into supporting them, into fooling them into voting for them. They know that to keep the system functioning, they have to persuade people to turn up, and give their support for it. That is the politicians' job; since they cannot actually make or change events, they have to work hard to pretend that they can. Their function is to win and maintain public confidence. At the end of the day they are merely actors, and our modern media-driven politics could be easily called a thespocracy, rule by actors, as we witness from the importance of television appearances and performances, strong emphasis upon presentation but woefully low on content.

Instead of the Labour Party gradually changing capitalism, the opposite happened. Capitalism gradually changed the Labour Party into an ordinary run-of-the-mill mainstream party taking its turn to manage the affairs of British capitalism. What is required is not a new Labour party but a party with socialism as its explicit aim and a policy of doing all it can to bring this into being. If the mistakes of the 20th century are not to be repeated this century the last thing that is needed today is a non-socialist, trade-union based “Labour” party. We’ve already been there, and it doesn’t work. Leftists no longer have any justification whatsoever for asking us to follow Labour and those who think themselves to be socialists have had their illusions thrown back in their faces with a rude wake-up call.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Fight for your planet, not your country

The Socialist Party insist the working class is the only social force capable of putting an end to capitalism—the root cause of economic chaos, poverty and war.

Workers everywhere are becoming aware that they are being exploited for the benefit of others. They are industrial slaves. The foundation of capitalist society is laid upon a basis of individualism, conquest and exploitation, with a total disregard of the good of the whole. As civilization has grown more complex the workers have become more and more enslaved, until today they are little more than parts of the machines they operate. A society built upon such wrong basic principles is bound to retard the development of all. The result is a false standard of values. Trade and material prosperity are held to be the main objects of pursuit and conquest, the lowest instincts in human nature — love of gain, cunning and selfishness — are fostered. What is the cause of malnutrition in some of our wealthy countries? And what is the cause of unemployment? These days we hear a great deal of charity hand-outs and food banks even in times which the media try to convince us of economic recovery and prosperous growth.

Crushed and stupefied by poverty, workers demand that they shall have some of the beauty, some of the comforts, some of the luxuries which they have produced. Slowly people are stirring, this “great common herd” are finding out what is wrong with the social, political and economic structure of the system of which they are a part. In spite of the historical proof of the futility of war, nations raise billions of dollars and millions soldiers in preparation for war. Socialists look upon the whole world as our human family, and every war has to me a horror of a family feud. What have you to fight for? National independence? That means the masters' independence. We look upon true patriotism as the brotherhood of man and the service of all to all. The only fighting that saves is the one that helps the world toward liberty, justice and an abundant life for all.

The burden of war always falls heaviest on the workers. They are taught that their masters can do no wrong, and go out in vast numbers to be killed on the battlefield. And what is their reward? If they escape death they come back to face a burden of poverty. Through all the ages they have been robbed of the just rewards of their patriotism as they have been of the just reward of their labour. Nothing is to be gained by the workers from war. They suffer all the miseries, while the rulers reap the rewards. Every modern war has had its root in exploitation.  War propagandists have still another very important purpose. They want to give the people something to think about besides their own unhappy condition. They know the cost of living is high, wages are low, employment is uncertain and will be much more so and regardless of how hard and incessantly the people work, they often cannot afford the comforts of life; many cannot obtain the necessities. So every few years we are given a new war scare to lend realism to their propaganda. Such as the “war” against terrorism or another countries supposed “aggression”. The media issues the appeal “Patriots; your country is in danger! There are foes on all sides of us. Quit your whinging.” Workers invariable fall for this trick and are fooled over and over again. If the workers would only use their minds a little, instead of letting others do their thinking for them, they would see quickly through the flimsy arguments of the newspapers they read or the TV news broadcasts they watch.

The Left’s "Tax the Rich and Make Them Pay" sounds very anti-capitalist, and certainly the capitalists don't like it, but it assumes that the rich continue to exist. It's the old illusion that you can use taxes and government intervention to make the capitalist system work for everybody's benefit. You can't, as has been proved time and again. The Left use such slogans as a sop to disillusioned Old Labourites - who still think capitalism can be reformed - to join their ranks.

What is the Socialist Party organised for? What is the chief bond of our unity? What is our avowed object? The abolition of capitalism. We believe socialism is practical. Workers have nothing to lose but their chains and a world to win. Let the workers form one great world-wide movement, and let there be a globe-encompassing revolt to gain for the workers true liberty and happiness.

When there is no Socialist Party candidate and that sadly is in most constituencies, we suggest a write-in vote for socialism.  Because we think that, in future, the election system could be used in a constructive way we shall be exercising our right to vote. Members shall be going to the polling stations and casting a write-in vote by writing "WORLD SOCIALISM" across the ballot paper. If you believe in a world without frontiers in which the natural and industrial resources of the Earth become the common heritage of all humanity and are used to provide enough for everybody in an ecologically-acceptable way then you should do the same. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Wealth Dividen Is Massive

 UNICEF's recent report, "State of the World's Children 2012" reveals that poverty affects children everywhere. According to Davis Morley, CEO of UNICEF Canada, "We often think of poverty-stricken rural areas in Africa, Latin America, Asia, but you can be in cities almost like middle-class Toronto, and hidden in valleys there are people living in shacks made of tin. We recognize this is where economic and population growth is going to happen and how do you make sure that children don't get squeezed out in the process? It is often thought that opportunity abounds in cities. Families may be closer to schools or health services, but that doesn't mean that all have the same access. The wealth divide between rich and poor is massive. Many can't afford the cost of uniforms and books or pay the fees for schools."  Well said Mr. Morley but why waste your talent dealing with effects when it could be better used tackling the cause. John Ayers.


Apologies for the lifestyle reformism offered at the end as some sort of remedy but a good video otherwise. 

Against the anti-electoral purists

Turn universal suffrage from a means of trickery into an agent of emancipation

With the general election now fast approaching and the media reporting on it daily, this blogger has decided to concentrate the themes of his posts on democracy and elections until after polling day. Apologies if this adds to your feelings of a general world-weary ennui and apologies if the separate posts tend to repeat similar arguments although there was an endeavor to focus on different issues.

 The series begins with a defence of the Socialist Party against those who are anti-parliamentarians who have had a strong influence in the Scottish workers’ movement in the past.

Against the anti-electoral purists

The SPGB of today are not the socialist "party" that its founding members envisaged it becoming i.e. the mass of the working class organised politically for socialism. At the moment the SPGB are not much more than a socialist propagandist educational club and can't be anything else (and nor should we try to be, on principle). Possibly we might be the embryo of the future mass "socialist party" but there's no guarantee that we will be (and some think it’s more likely we may just be a contributing element). But it is such a mass party that will take political control via the ballot box, and since it will in effect be the majority organised democratically and politically for socialism , thus it will the majority, not the party as such as something separate from that majority, that carries out the socialist transformation of society. Without having any delusions of grandeur, we try to organise ourselves today in our small party in the same way we think that a mass socialist party should organise itself: without leaders and with major decisions being made democratically by a referendum of the whole membership ratifying decisions made by conferences of mandated delegates or by elected committees. But who cares? As long as such a mass socialist party eventually emerges. At some stage, for whatever reason, socialist consciousness will reach a 'critical mass', or in your words "when militancy becomes the norm" , at which point it will just snowball and carry people along with it. It may come about without people even giving it the label of socialism.

The Socialist Party strategy does not ham-strings the workers’ movement. The growth of the socialist movement would have profound and perhaps unpredictable impacts. The Socialist Party does not hold that the growth of the socialist movement will leave capitalism completely unchanged until a cataclysmic revolution occurs. But we cannot now predict in any meaningful way the various ways in which capitalism will change as socialist ideas spread, so we do not think it is possible or advisable to incorporate some version of these changes into our political position. We can determine, however, that all aspects of our daily life, from neighbourhood to work, will be re-organised democratically and assuming control over Parliament is complementary to that process. It has always been the established SPGB position to be organised on the economic front as well as the political front so to ensure the smooth change-over of production and distribution from capitalism to socialism.

But an important part of our case is that political organisation must precede the economic, since, apart from the essential need of the conquest of the powers of government, it is on the political field that the widest and most comprehensive propaganda can be deliberately maintained. It is here that the workers can be deliberately and independently organised on the basis of socialist thought and action.

When people want something and where elections exist they will organise to contest elections as well organize outside of Parliament. Where there isn’t a democratic opportunity to capture the state machine via elections and parliaments, then, of course, some other means would have to be used, probably mass protests, demonstrations, civil disobedience and political strikes. In Eastern Europe at the beginning of the 1990s there was no possibility of voting the rulers out, so mass street demonstrations were the only alternative. Despite the fact of nominally having at their disposal powerful means of suppression (the armed forces, Stasi, etc) the hard-line rulers in East Germany and Czechoslovakia decided to face the fact that a majority of the population were against them and to give up power without firing a shot (or rather without ordering a shot to be fired). Only Ceausescu in Romania tried to resist and he ended up before a firing squad within a week. There is a lesson here for those who insist that, faced with a mass movement for socialism whether or not also expressing itself as a victory at the polls, the ruling class would resort to violence to crush it. Unless they are suicidal or fools we wouldn't have thought this was likely.

In an anecdote recounted in Desmond Greaves's biography of James Connolly about what happened when Connolly left the De Leonist SLP of America (which was committed to using the ballot box) to join the IWW (which wasn't): “He was asked if he approved of its repudiating the principle of political action. He laughed, 'It will be impossible to prevent the workers taking it'.”

And in case we are accused of cherry-picking second-hand hearsay, here is another Connolly quote
"I am inclined to ask all and sundry amongst our comrades if there is any necessity for this presumption of antagonism between the industrialist and the political advocate of socialism. I cannot see any. I believe that such supposed necessity only exists in the minds of the mere theorists or doctrinaires. The practical fighter in the work-a-day world makes no such distinction. He fights, and he votes; he votes and he fights. He may not always, he does not always, vote right; nor yet does he always fight when and as he should. But I do not see that his failure to vote right is to be construed into a reason for advising him not to vote at all; nor yet why a failure to strike properly should be used as a gibe at the strike weapon, and a reason for advising him to place his whole reliance upon votes." 

Our “wise” counsel for fellow-workers is put not your trust in leaders - be they trade union or left-wingers - but strive for that goal which can only be brought about by your own efforts. The necessity for the industrial struggle and organisation of the workers as against the employing class and its organisations, is not denied by the Socialist Party. Being workers, socialists are also trade unionists, and engage in, and support all worthwhile trade union action, struggling side by side with their fellow workers on this battle-field. To the nationalists we say why help to change a flag and leave the old enemy, capitalism, with its poverty and exploitation and class-borders ? Why should socialists assist a clique that are forever eager to speculate with the blood of workers in the markets of international catastrophe.

Marx in 1852 “But universal suffrage is the equivalent of political power for the working class of England, where the proletariat forms the large majority of the population, where, in a long though underground civil war, it has gained a clear consciousness of its position as a class and where even the rural districts know no longer any peasants, but only landlords, industrial capitalists (farmers) and hired labourers. The carrying of universal suffrage in England would, therefore be a far more socialistic measure than anything which has been honoured with that name on the continent. Its inevitable result, here is the political supremacy of the working class.”

His meaning is clear - a working class majority in Parliament, backed by a majority of the population, can bring about the real transfer of power. Marx reaffirms “the way to show political power [in Britain] lies open to the working class. Insurrection would be madness where peaceful agitation would more swiftly and surely do the work.”

Several decades later Engels still argued for its use commenting that in the USA the workers "next step towards their deliverance" was "the formation of a political workingmen's party, with a platform of its own, and the conquest of the Capitol and the White House for its goal." This new party "like all political parties everywhere…aspires to the conquest of political power."

In Britain Engels continued to argue that the task of the British working class was not only to pursue economic struggles "but above all in winning political rights, parliament, through the working class organised into an independent party" (significantly, the original manuscript stated "but in winning parliament, the political power").

It is indeed a long and winding road, but all the supposed short-cuts that have been proposed over the decades led to cul-de-sacs. The Socialist Party will plod on until persuaded of another more viable route. So far, many of the previous road maps to an emancipatory society have been proved to be as fictitious wrong turnings and our party has been confirmed correct holding to its own compass.

Our position on workers councils and parliamentary action is not an either/or one but that there will be overlaps and parallel movements taking place. Its ideas that are vital not simply just organisational forms. The way to achieve it, the means to the end, certainly is important but one particular road should not exclude other paths. We all have the same compass that points the same direction, however, some are going to opt for the bus and others the train or plane to get there.It is to be expected that there will be some dispute over which is the best form of travel.

Ultimately, the Russian and German workers councils lost out to the party that held state control and could impose its political power and dismantle any class independence. The capitalist class rule, i.e control the state, because they have been able to deceive workers into voting for their representatives. But what if workers see through this and are no longer deceived? Incidentally, they exploit via capital but rule through the state. The ruling class cannot simply turn on and off political democracy just like that.  Political democracy is not just a constitutional matter. It's also, more so in fact, a sociological, even a cultural fact, the product of historical evolution reflecting past struggles. It can't be done away with by decree. It is not because they own the means of production, otherwise it would be the Confederation of British Industry that appoints or directs the government. We suggest that they own the means of production because they control the state. It is the state that grants and upholds their right to own. Without state backing their ownership titles mean nothing. Certainly, their (state-backed) wealth gives them power to influence the great mass of the people including how they vote. At present most people, holding or influenced by pro-capitalist ideas, vote for pro-capitalist politicians and it is this that gives the capitalist class control of the state. In other words, they rule (control the state) indirectly through universal suffrage and pro-capitalist politicians and parties. They don't rule directly by (somehow) appointing the government and the top state officials. The capitalist class do not own and control the means of production through physically occupying them or even own them personally as they once did. Nowadays they own them through limited liability companies or corporations but these are legal constructions created by the state. Without state backing they are nothing (a statement you found meaningless, I don't know why). In other words, it is because they control political power that they have economic power. Without that they have no economic power. It follows from this that if they lose control of political power they lose everything. They would be unprotected and there'd be nothing to prevent the workers, if they wanted to, taking over and running production. Hence the prudent strategy of trying to first take political power away from them.

Marx's coined the slogan "Turn universal suffrage from a means of trickery into an agent of emancipation". Of course it won't be the only such agent, but it can/will be one. Why not? What objection can there be, since we've got the choice, to voting out pro-capitalist politicians and replacing them by socialist delegates (in addition to whatever else is decided should be done)?

The Socialist Party advocate the revolutionary, not the reformist, use of elections. As part of the revolutionary process during revolutionary times and to capture a tribune from which to spread socialist ideas in non-revolutionary times, but not to try to get reforms of capitalism as leftists like Sawant in Seattle does. That only encourages the illusion that capitalism can be reformed to work in the interest of the working class (it can't be reformed to do this by "direct action" either, as some "electoral pessimists" seem to imagine). To free itself from wage-slavery and capitalist exploitation, the working class should organise as a political party that contests elections and not just in industrial unions or one big union or workers' councils.

Socialism is not possible without a mass communist consciousness, and the members of the Socialist Party cannot understand why this would not or should not express itself electorally as well as in the other ways people here have envisaged, e.g. organisation in the workplaces to take over and run them. In fact, it is inconceivable that it wouldn't.

If people were prepared to stage a general strike to try to overthrow capitalism then (if this would work) there would be no need to stage the more risky armed insurrection (if that would work). In any event if people are not prepared to even cast a ballot for revolution they are not likely to do anything else for it. Even from your perspective a ballot would be useful to measure the degree of likely support for your insurrection. If people in America are not prepared to vote for revolution. That must mean that they are even less likely to support an armed insurrection against capitalism and its state.

Of course the modern state has evolved to defend capitalism. So it has to be dealt with, but how? In today's conditions it cannot be smashed in an armed insurrection. So, what's left but two realistic possibilities. Ignore it and proceed to organise independently of it in the hope that it will collapse of its own accord. Given a mass communist consciousness, that might work as once this exists nothing is going to stop socialism coming into being. As Victor Hugo pointed out, “No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.” But it seems the long way round. The other way is to proceed to organise independently of the state but at the same time to organise to win control of it electorally so as to neutralise it.

Let us set a scenario.

The population in general has seen through capitalism and is in favour of replacing it with a stateless, classless, moneyless, wageless society based on productive resources being the common heritage of all and the application of the principle "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs" i.e socialism or communism (depending on which term you prefer. We use them interchangeably) They have also self-organised themselves on democratic lines in the places where they work and where they live with a view to bringing about this change and ready to implement it on the ground.

Given these circumstances, the revolutionary use of the ballot would be one where they also voted to send mandated delegates to the elected central law-making body (aka Parliament, Congress) and to local municipal councils. Being the majority outside these bodies, they would also be the majority inside them. The majority could therefore declare all stocks and shares, all bills and bonds and all property titles and authorisations to form limited liabilities companies or corporations null and void. These would become useless pieces of paper and there would be nothing to prevent the population outside parliament proceeding to take over and run industry and services.

The second thing it would have to do is lop off the undemocratic features of the existing state. "Smash the State", if you like, but from the inside. The government and top state officials would be dismissed and replaced by committees of mandated delegates. What would remain would be a fully democratic central administration. What would the point be, however, in smashing existing current non-coercive parts of the existing state such as those dealing with the organisation of health, education, transport, energy, agriculture, industry, etc. At the start, some coercive powers including armed force (suitably re-organised) might have to be retained in case there was to be a "slave-holders revolt" by the ex-capitalist class, but if there was, it could easily be dealt with as the vast majority of the population would be against it.

This is what a revolutionary use of the vote might look like. The Socialist Party argues that the vote to acquire control of the State still possesses a revolutionary value. It is not the X itself but the person behind it at the ballot box which is more important -  knowledge is power.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Can You Spot The Difference?

 Recently the New Democratic Party elected a new leader, a former Liberal. That means that while the NDP is led by a former Liberal, the Liberal Party is led by a former NDP provincial premier. Can you spot the difference? John Ayers.

Partners In Crime, No Change.

On March 14, Greg Smith quit his job as a director of Goldwyn-Sachs (GS). He said, "It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off." GS was rescued as part of the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street in 2008-9. If the executives at GS and their partners in crime won't change, there's no hope for the financial system and every reason to believe the experts who say it will crash again soon. There is every reason to work for its abolition.

Simpler is Better

Why are capitalists so obsessed with making more money than they started with? This isn’t just due to their greedy personalities, but because of competition. Competition forces capitalists to "accumulate capital"– they have to buy more and more labour power and more and faster machines to stay ahead of their commercial rivals. Thus, the driving goal for the capitalist is not production for use, or production simply as a means to increase his personal consumption. It is production for the sake of money, as a means to further accumulation–every capitalist must accumulate capital or go under. As an executive at U.S. Steel once famously declared, "we’re not in the business of making steel. We’re in the business of making money."

Under capitalism the economic organisation of society is determined by the requirements of profit accumulation. Work, the essential relationship between human energy and the natural environment, is transformed into a commodity. To work within the capitalist economy is to be employed, and employment is an alienated labour process in which one's mental and physical abilities are appropriated by an employer. Work is an activity performed at the behest of the buyer of wage labour. It is an activity characterised by a tense and antagonistic relationship between buyer and seller, producer and possessor, profit-maker and profit-taker. Like work, distribution takes a specific form under capitalism. Goods and services are not distributed solely because they are needed. They must be purchased. If one is incapable of buying in order to satisfy a need, then one must be deprived; one is free to buy in excess of any explicable need if one has the buying power to do so. This process of distribution is known as market allocation, and defenders of capitalism, usually well-trained economists, refer to it as the most rational method of resource allocation available - probably the only one. The control of the capitalist economy is linked directly to ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution. Such control is not democratic, is highly centralised and bureaucratised, and leaves non-controllers (who constitute the majority of the population) with the status of secondary economic citizens. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Technology Can't Solve Poverty

Russell Hancock, whose Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Group produces an annual State of the Valley report said, "Something has changed here, something fundamental, because the technology we've invented here in Silicon Valley has rendered a whole class of jobs obsolete." In other words, technology can't solve poverty and unemployment. John Ayers.

The Lord Will Protect?

Not even 'the lord's work' is free from lay-offs. The Billy Graham organization, that only brought in $91.6 million in 2011, announced job cuts owing to a need to emphasize its 'airline ministry and other priorities'. Fifty-five were let go in February but the company said that the move, "…in now way reflects the financial health of the organization…and the Lord will protect."

Wealthy People Are More Likely To Steal!

A new study shows that rich people are more likely to engage in unethical behaviour than poor folk – like cutting off motorists, lying in negotiations, and cheating to win a prize (really!). These were the findings from researchers at the universities of California and Toronto that were published in the proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences of the USA. They also found wealthy people were more likely to steal valued items than poor people. Another good reason to abolish a system that creates rich and poor. John Ayers.

Don’t blame newcomers

Capitalism is a system based on divide and rule, male versus female, young against old, employed pitted against unemployed and successive governments in Britain have played the race card (in Northern Ireland it was religion) or resorted to xenophobia to try to set workers against one another. The slogan of “British jobs for British workers” deflects from the possibility of solidarity and reflects a “divide and rule” situation in which fearful workers turn on “foreigners”. One section of the ruling class does not benefit from migrant workers and therefore does not want to bear the costs, while another section has been keen to defend the benefits of immigration. Political parties in Britain have once more begun to talk about immigration during this 2015 general election campaign. Unfortunately the debate is usually an ill-informed one and typically just a cover to introduce nationalist notions about the impact of immigration.

Migrant workers play a distinct role in capitalism as a “reserve army of labour” Employers use special schemes in agriculture and the so-called “hospitality” sector to import workers on a temporary basis. Advanced capitalist economies regularly poach workers with particular skills, such as nurses, teachers and social workers, from developing countries.
 The use of migrant workers also allows the receiver country to externalise the costs of renewing the labour force. The state uses migrant workers to fill gaps in the labour market but does not pay any of the costs of them or their families settling.
 Migrant workers are especially useful as part of the reserve army of labour because they can quickly be expelled. Nigeria expelled two million immigrant workers from other West African countries in the wake of the collapse of the oil market in the early 1980s, for instance.
 Employers do not simply want to obtain additional labour. They also want to get workers who can be used under specific conditions to raise the rate of exploitation. In some cases bosses will try to employ migrant workers even when indigenous workers are available because they assume that migrants’ status will make them easier to exploit. The vast majority of migrant workers have been used to fill the worst and most badly paid jobs. The use of migrant workers is inextricably linked to increasing labour “flexibility” to ratchet up the rate of exploitation. This is driven by increased competition between capitals.

Research puts a strong case against linking immigration to depressed wages or increased unemployment and suggests little or no evidence that immigrants have had a major impact although it is conceded that there is a limited negative effect on the lower skilled and the lower paid. While there is pressure on the wages of the worst paid workers, it is not the case that migrant workers are responsible for this. The drive for “flexibility” and lower wages goes back much further than the influx of workers from Eastern Europe. Privatisation, outsourcing and subcontracting have intensified competition over the past two decades in industries such as cleaning and other badly paid service sector jobs as well as construction. It is expensive for employers to invest in the infrastructure to train workers, so the exploitation of an already highly skilled labour market is utilised. When there is contraction in the market, the pushing back of migration occurs and vice versa. During these times the scapegoating of migrants and refugees is prevalent. Worker's fears are stoked by an austerity driven government, successfully deflecting people’s attention away from a lack of job prospects and cuts to services by pointing the finger at migrant workers.

Undoubtedly some employers in individual workplaces have sought to employ migrant workers on poorer pay and conditions of service. It is easy to see how employers could seek to employ workers on worse pay and conditions. The lesson to learn is in the importance of uniting indigenous and migrant workers, and of the role of trade unions. Not to organise these workers would weaken the movement as a whole. We are rightly fearful that migrant workers will be used as scapegoats. It is bosses who try to hold down pay to make bigger profits. They want workers to blame each other because it keeps them divided. Workers who resist this division can win better pay for all. It is crucial to argue in their workplaces and unions that blame does not lie with the migrant workers but with the cut-throat competition of capitalism that sets one person against one another in dog-eat-dog rivalry.  The most successful way to defeat low pay and conditions is to unite and organise against exploitative employers. When workers unite for fair pay and conditions, it strengthens the position of all workers.

Many of the above arguments are a rehash of ideas which opposed the movement of women into the work-force and even supported pay differentials, restricting their wages relative to men. Same with the employment of younger workers who once were placed on a pay-increment scale based upon age. Migrants and refugees are the scapegoats for people’s anxieties and fears about their livelihoods and quality of life. Migrants are not only being blamed for unemployment, but they are also being blamed for taking advantage of free healthcare and other welfare benefits.

Immigrants are also being blamed for the housing shortage. Rents are going up, and homes are becoming harder to find. But who is to blame? It’s certainly not migrants, who end up with some of the worst and most overcrowded housing. There is a shortage of housing because not enough is being built. And those being constructed are luxury flats aimed at the well-off and unaffordable to those on average wages.

“Health tourism” and “benefit tourism” are myths. The NHS would grind to a halt without migrant workers. It has relied on migrant labour from the time Enoch Powell as Health Minister invited West Indian nurses to staff the wards. Many say Britain is already “full up” and this seems to chime with a certain common sense—surely, more people means less to go round. But that isn’t how it works. Wealth is not shared out either fairly nor rationally. And the pot of wealth is not fixed. Our labour creates wealth. Yet the rich get more than the rest put together.

 In reality the debate on immigration in Britain is not about the economic causes and consequences of immigration at all. It is overwhelmingly a ‘debate’ that allows politicians and others to whip up xenophobia while posing as being concerned about the interests of workers or the poor. Borders are designed to control workers in the interest of capitalist accumulation. Immigration laws turn people into criminals.  Threats by employers who use immigration status to keep workers from organizing unions or protesting illegal conditions should be a crime. We have many big cities with scores of different nationalities living within them and as socialists we celebrate that rich tapestry of life. Some of us are waking up. We are finding out what is wrong with the world. We are going to make it right.