Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Our Common Future

We are not a party like other parties. We retain an unshakable confidence in the socialist future of humanity. We in the Socialist Party conceive of socialism, not as model society constructed from a preconceived plan, but as the next stage of social evolution which will grow out of the class struggle. The architects and builders of the socialist society of the future will be the socialist generations themselves. The people in the future society will be wiser than we are. We can only anticipate and point out the general direction of development, and we should not try to do more. The future belongs to the Socialist Party. It needs only to be true to itself, hold firm, dig in and prepare the future. The road we travel has many twists and turns; we will see and experience many things, but the goal is clearer than ever in our vision; but we haven’t found a smoother or more direct road yet. The Socialist Party has always believed in the primacy of ideas and taught others to believe it. We take Marxist theory seriously, study it attentively, and teach it to others. Our theory is a guide to action, not only for the party but for each individual member. It is only by action that one can give valid testimony to his or her theoretical convictions. Faith without deeds is dead. The true revolutionist lives and acts the way he or she thinks and talks. Capitalism can offer no prospect but the destruction of civilisation. Only socialism can save humanity from this abyss. This is the truth. Against the mad chorus of national hatreds we advance once more the old slogan of socialist internationalism: Workers of the World Unite!

Most people who call themselves left-wingers are dominated by the idea that socialism is about expanding the sphere of activity of the state. For them, the key criterion of socialism is the nationalisation of property. The more militant they are, they assume, the more they must favour state property. Marx and Engels did not identify socialism with nationalisation of property. Their attitude to the state was one of unremitting hostility. Far from wishing to expand its activities, they sought to do away with it. In 1844, Marx declared that the most useful thing the state could do for society was to commit suicide. The following year, he and Engels declared ‘... if the proletarians wish to assert themselves as individuals, they must overthrow the state.’ Marx celebrated the Paris Commune of 1871 on the grounds that it was ‘a Revolution against the State itself’. And in 1884, Engels looked forward to the day when the state would end its life ‘in the Museum of Antiquities, by the side of the spinning wheel and the bronze axe.’ Stateless societies did not lack social regulation; life within them could be orderly, and remarkably affluent. We keep each other ‘in line’ by various forms of peer pressure.

If the working class is to be successful in its struggles with capitalism, it must be united and organised. Only by all the workers acting together as if they were one person can we rival the power of the capitalists. The idea of socialism is powerless without a social force powerful enough to see to its implementation. There is but one such force in modern society – the working class. The achievement of socialism awaits the building of socialists. Capitalism must be replaced by socialism, by the common ownership of the means of production in the interests of the people as a whole. By bringing men and women together primarily as buyers and sellers of each other, by enshrining profitability and material gain in place of humanity, capitalism has always been inherently alienating. A socialist transformation of society will return to mankind’s sense of humanity, to remove this sense of being a commodity. Socialist democracy implies control of our immediate surroundings so community democracy is vital. Socialists strive for democracy at those levels that most directly affect us all — in our neighbourhoods, our schools, and our places of work, where people directly struggle to control their own destinies. Workers' participation in all institutions promises to release creative energies, promote decentralisation, and restore human and social priorities.

The decisive battles to assure humanity of its socialist future, to abolish war and misery and halt the degradation of the planet, are approaching. It is up to you to organise under the banner of the world socialist revolution. The victory of the world revolution will put an end to all exploitation, all oppression and all violence among mankind. The dawn of socialism, created by the people and for the people, is on the horizon. Turn toward it resolutely. In an epoch like the present, ravaged by cynicism, doubt, disillusionment and despair, our collective voice reaches out and speaks of better days to come, or rather of better days to be made.

Demand the impossible – everything depends on our ability to imagine a new world.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

We Can Transform The World

The peoples of the world are confronted today with enormous problems which include the poverty, malnutrition, disease, war and the threat of environmental destruction. This need not be so for we possess advances in science and technology that provide such opportunities for the full development of every human being. The wealth, effort and ingenuity which could be used to improve the living conditions of working people are, instead, used to expand the profits of the giant corporations and banks that dominate the economy and society. The Socialist Party aims to replace the insecurity, profiteering, inequality and social conflict of capitalist society with socialism. A socialist world would be run by and for the people, not for private capitalist profit. Production for use would be socially controlled and planned to guarantee everyone comfort and dignity. For over a century, the Socialist Party of Great Britain have had this aspiration to create a fundamentally humane, democratic and just society. It’s difficult for many socialists to have faith in the ability of the working class to change society. There will be those who still insist that the socialist movement has suffered more than a temporary defeat. Again and again, governments have cut public spending and attacked workers’ living standards through wage controls. Socialists need to be realistic about the present situation, recognising just how bad things are, not giving way to fake optimism. At the same time, we have equally to resist despair. The working class is far from finished, and our job is to prepare for coming struggles. If we are not to repeat the mistakes of the past, we must learn from those mistakes.

The struggle against the capitalist class is a struggle against all who live by the labour of others, and against all exploitation. Employers do not assist in the production of wealth, they only manage or mismanage it with a view to getting as much for themselves, and as little for anybody else, as possible. Workers must strike not only just against the effects of wage slavery, not merely against the conditions which their employers impose upon them, but against the power of the bosses to impose conditions at all. This can be done by exercising our sovereignty as the PEOPLE, and declaring void all the legal claims and customs by which the owning class hold possession of their wealth and dominion over the workers’ lives, for it is only in the name of and by the assumed consent of the people that their privileges are preserved by the legal statutes and the power of the military and police; and so soon as the people choose, they can in their own name, and of their own will, revoke these statutes; and, if need be, call upon the military and police to give effect to their decrees, or, what would be more effectual, disband these discredited agents of law and order altogether. Violent rebellion on the part of a portion of the workers is a hopeless expedient, so long as they must count upon the opposition of the forces of the State, backed up by the political support of the majority of the working class. It is not the power of the capitalists, nor of their armies nor police which keeps the workers in servitude but the ignorance and apathy of the workers themselves.

If one had to seek the reason why the workers’ movement is in such an abject condition, it would be due to the mistaken trust in the Labour Party and the forlorn hope in the reformism they offered. The Socialist Party aim to widen the audience for revolutionary change. With socialism, we can use the world’s resources, and human beings’ accumulated knowledge and skill to change the face of the world, to create a world in which poverty, exploitation, and war are only bad memories. It is with that goal in mind that we in the Socialist Party set out. We have no illusions about the scale of the task, or about the limitations imposed by our size, influence, and talents. We don’t regard ourselves as the elect, the bearers of the truth. We know that only the working class can transform society. We don’t seek to put ourselves in place of that class. We seek only to make workers conscious of their interests and their power, and to direct that power at the capitalist state. We appeal to all who agree with us, to join us. Together we have a world to win.

Surely, the realisation of a society where the old, the sick, the physically or mentally unwell would be as tenderly cared for as our own children, and neither hardship for today nor anxiety for tomorrow would mar the excellence of our lives. Surely, everyone should have an opportunity of enjoying life that is worth striving for.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Tenners for fivers (1990)

From the April 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

The privatisation of the water industry has seen "tens of thousands" of individual buyers cashing in by selling their shares at the first opportunity. This merely repeats what has happened in every previous privitisation. When British Gas was sold off in 1986 there were 4.2 million shareholders. That figure is now 2.6 million. Of the original 650,000 who bought British Steel shares in 1988 only 400,000 remained six months later. British Airways can boast the most spectacular fall—from 1.2 million shareholders down to just 420,000 in only months. And it's the same story with British Telecom, TSB, Jaguar and the others.
Research shows that between one quarter and one third of all investors in previous privitisation issue have pulled out within the first six weeks. (Guardian, 20 December, 1989.)
Why, then, do these sellers buy shares in the first place? Simply to make some easy money. After all, the government is so anxious to make sure that each flotation doesn't flop that it sells the shares well below market value and this has been well described as "selling tenners for fivers". Indeed, buying shares in privatised industries is such a sure money maker that people withdraw savings from building societies and even borrow to buy the shares, and this, more than any belief in the "enterprise culture", is what accounts for the growth in share buying.

Of course the government has other reasons for selling privatised industries cheaply. One is the genuine desire to get government out of business. Another is to raise cash to give away in tax cuts before general elections, but the most important is the wish to create "popular capitalism" in which a shareholding population will identify with capitalism and, especially when they have shares in the company they work for, never go on strike for higher pay in case this harms their dividends. This dotty idea ignores the fact the workers depend primarily for their living in their wages and salaries which far outweigh any puny dividends they may get. Anyway, owning shares in the company which employs them didn't stop workers in British Telecom and Jaguar from striking for higher pay.

The myth of "a nation of shareholders" isn't new. Back in the mid 1800s The Economist claimed: "Everybody is in stocks now. Needy clerks, poor tradesmen's apprentices, discharged serving men and bankrupts—all have entered the ranks of the great moneyed interests." This drivel is quoted by Colin Chapman in his excellent book, How the Stock Exchange Works. And during the boom in the American stock market in the 1920s which led to the Wall Street crash the popular the popular notion was that everyone, from housewives to waiters, was "in the market". J. K. Galbraith exposed this nonsense in his book, The Great Crash 1929:
Then as now, to the great majority of workers, farmers, white-collar workers, indeed to the great majority of all Americans, the stock market . . . was in every respect as remote from life as the casino at Monte Carlo.
Supporters of popular capitalism argue that buying shares could become a national pastime if it were made easier by having American-style "share shops" in every high street much as there are betting shops now, but these share shops haven't stopped the decline of individual share owning in America.

Can Britain ever become a nation of small investors? First of all, dealers in the City don't want it because it produces a vast increase in unprofitable, small transactions and try to discourage the small fry by charging them double commission on deals. meanwhile the dealers have halved charges for the big institutional investors which own two thirds of all company shares. However, the main obstacle is that most people couldn't buy shares even if they wanted to. Peter Morris of MORI, the research and opinion poll agency, confirms that at least half the public are excluded from buying because they have no cash (Colin Chapman).

Of course there will be more privitisations in the future and if the government continues to sell the shares cheaply then many of those who buy will take the money and run but, like every other scheme for soothing working class discontent within capitalism and eliminating the class struggle, it hasn't got a hope.

Vic Vanni
Glasgow Branch


Taken with thanks from the website 
The Socialist Party objective is the social revolution – the abolition of capitalism and wage slavery – and the emancipation of the working class. In countries with parliamentary democracy we use elections, because it is there to use; but in doing so the immediate is to win the people to socialism – to make socialists, in short – and to organise the working class for the social revolution. The winning of seats in the Commons, at this moment of time, is of quite secondary importance. What is important is to win votes – not merely as votes, but as evidence of the growing strength of the socialist movement. And to our anti-parliamentary rivals we say it is vital that we count heads instead of heads getting broken. The Socialist Party enters into politics hostile to all other parties and to the existing regime. It regards the present class society as only a passing phase in social development, and works to hasten its destruction. Its objective is not the maintenance or the palliation of existing conditions but their termination by the abolition of class domination and the emancipation of the working class. It pursues socialism by parliamentary means because parliamentary means are those most effective at the present time.

The two mainstream parties, Labour and Tory, spend much of their time attacking each blaming one another for the conditions of the people. Between them they are covering up the fact that it is the capitalist system which is the real enemy of the people. Both parties in their own way work to protect the system and the interests of the ruling class. The Left who claim that a change of Labour Party “policy” will bring relief to the people are doing nothing but prettifying the mirage of a Labour future. The Labour Party opposes the revolutionary transformation of society and even attacks the economic struggle of the working class and its basic democratic rights. Because of its false facade of “socialism” it becomes the “best” of the bosses’ parties. It is best placed to stab workers in the back.

The Left Labourites claim to stand for “socialism” because they support nationalisation. Anyone who works in a nationalised industry knows what a farce that claim is! State-ownership has nothing to do with socialism. The Labour Party and its Trotskyist hangers-on stand for state-capitalism. Industries get nationalised in order to rationalise them. In periods of crisis, capitalist competition means individual firms cannot raise the investment. The state steps in, feeds in the investment to make it more efficient and profitable. The Labour Party in the past have carried out an attack on real wages. The Labour Party defends the old order, capitalism and seeks to impede the coming of the new.

Principles are fundamental and by showing that the principles of the Left-wing parties are wrong, we can proceed to demonstrate the incorrectness of their tactics. And at the same time, by contrast, it will be conclusively proven that the principles and therefore the tactics of the Socialist Party are the only logical ones to be followed. If the Socialist Party’s analysis is correct, then it follows that the tactics reflected by this analysis are also correct. We must not be swept off our feet by revolutionary sounding phrases and rhetoric. The SPGB knows that no leaders are going to pull the workers into socialism. As Marx stated, “The emancipation of the working class must be the class conscious act of the working class itself.” A muddleheaded working class will never be able to act correctly or move in the proper direction no matter how brainy the leaders may be. In order to get the masses, the Left caters to the ignorance of the masses and so we find its platforms filled with all kinds of to attempt to garner a large vote. The Socialist Party holds that the political party must be a party of no compromise. Its mission is to point the way to the goal and it refuses to leave the main road to follow the small by-ways that lead into the swamp of reformism. The banner of revolutionary socialism is to be held high and not dragged down into the mire of petty reform and gradualism. Capitalism cannot be reformed. It must be overthrown.

The Socialist Party never compromises truth to make a friend, never withholds a blow at error lest it make an enemy. We pursue our course unswervingly and not to gain temporary advantage. In word and deed, we are ever outspoken and straightforward, believing that the integrity of purpose is the path which in the long run, win the respect and confidence of those whom it aims to weld into a class-conscious, organized body for socialism. Our propaganda is not alone to educate, it is to organize the working class for the conquest of power, for the complete overthrow of capitalism. Until that mission is accomplished the Socialist Party will yield nothing.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Against Labourism - For Socialism

 All around us are the signs of a world in crisis, yet men and women seem unable to do anything about it. Resources that should be used to feed the hungry are squandered in the name of commerce and profits towards the few. Of course, the greatest threat comes from the threat of climate change. In the past many loyal Labour supporters have found it difficult to distinguish the policies of Labour governments from those of their Tory rivals. Jeremy Corbyn as the new party leader has infused fresh hope and a new anticipation of for a ‘radical’ Labour Party. But the new influx of activists are not homogeneous in ideological and political terms.

The continuing hold of Labourism over the working class is an issue which confronts all socialists. The Labour Party, not being socialist, is useless. Facts show that the Labour Party opposes socialism. The Labour Party is a party of capitalism, a party of liberal reformers on to which have been grafted some features and language of social democracy. By social democracy we mean the political position that in the name of the working class nominally subscribes to socialism, promotes the gradual evolution to socialism and places reforms under capitalism as the solution of the problems to which capitalism gives rise. It has always acted within the boundaries of capitalism. It has “explained” and “interpreted” the socialist argument in such a way as to make it virtually unrecognizable to genuine socialists as having anything to do with socialism. By presenting itself as a workers’ party, the Labour Party has, nevertheless, attracted working class support. It serves no purpose whatever to think that the Labour Party would or could act in any way other than it does.

The only real solution for the working class is the socialist revolution: the construction of a revolutionary socialist party. The struggle for socialism is the struggle for socialist consciousness. We would contend that only the Socialist Party is capable of winning the battle of ideas. Some may question that claim considering our small size and lack of influence but we believe we are the practical base for building a party really capable of serving workers’ interests. We can be the party with the organizational integrity and political honesty that forces the Labour Party to drop their mask of “socialism”, revealing their true face so that the workers, who are still following them, will see the ugliness. We decline to separate the Labour Party from its origin, its evolution, its deeds, its leaders, and the attitude of the rank and file. Because the Labour Party is in the capitalist camp, it must meet with the opposition of Marxists. When the Left attempts to persuade socialists to devote themselves to an impossible ‘reform’ of the Labour Party, it becomes an accomplice of the Labour Party and becomes itself a reformist roadblock in the path of the socialist movement. 

The Socialist Party is said to be dogmatic and sectarian. We are dogmatic in so far as we hold ideas that make us strive to end capitalism. We are dogmatic because we talk about surplus value, another expression for rent, interest, dividends. We are sectarian because we preach the class war, another way of asking the workers to stop supporting the capitalist parties. We fight for nothing short socialism, because we believe that nothing short of that will save the workers. There can be no substitute for the basic ideas of socialism and the principles of socialism, for common ownership of the means of production and distribution. The day is arriving when every man and woman of our class will have to make a great decision. We shall have to choose whether capitalism with all its attendant miseries and horrors is to remain or whether we intend to be free. The Socialist Party comes forward to explain to our fellow workers the nature of the struggle in. which they are participating. To tell them of the principles for which we work and fight. We set out the way for our class to end the horrid nightmare of the competitive struggle which sets nation against nation, class against class, and individual against individual. The struggle between individual capitalists to realise profits sets employer against employer. The conflict between national groups of financiers sets nation against nation, and produces war. But despite their individual and national conflicts the whole capitalist class stands united in their common desire to exploit employees. Hence under capitalism the freedom of the working class consists in the freedom to starve or accept such conditions as are imposed upon them by the employing class. But the freedom of the master class consists in their untrammelled freedom to buy labour-power to create profit. Thus the workers are not free. Neither owning nor controlling the means of life, they are wage slaves of their employers, and are but mere commodities. In opposition to the Labour Party we affirm that so long as one section of the community own and control the means of production, and the rest of the community are compelled to work for that section in order to obtain the means of life, there can be no peace between them.

The Labour Party leaders have not led the movement astray but, rather, the general movement of the working class, as represented by the Labour Party, refused to follow the socialist movement. There was a party which has been for more than a hundred years endeavouring to impress the truths of what capitalism is and what socialism could be upon the working class – that they could not trust Labour or Tory, and that if they wanted anything done politically, and if they wanted socialism, they must join the Socialist Party, and agitate, educate, and organise for socialism. The Socialist Party has never wearied in pointing out the right road; but the reality is that the mass of the workers have preferred to take the wrong path, and there are those who have actively encouraged them in doing so. Every obstacle placed in our way by our opponents must be used to show that this opposition is really opposition to the interests of the workers and in favour of the capitalists. Socialist work means something very different for a socialist party than the kind of political activity of labourism. ‘Educate, Agitate, Organise’ is a valid slogan and tactic for the future and the coming years may give it more effective meaning than it has ever had in the past. The Labour Party will not lead us to socialism.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Are elections important?

We use elections to place before the workers the demand of the Socialist Party in sharp contrast to those of the capitalist parties. We take advantage at election times on the greater readiness of the workers to read political literature, attend political meetings and take part in political discussions to familiarise the worker with the socialist case. We use the election to teach workers the the connection between their employer and the state, the connection between their status and the economic system. We use elections as the time to rally all our support.  We also closely analyse election results to read from them the shifts in the moods and sentiments of our class. The purpose is of the Socialist Party is to bring together, to organise into an effective force, all supporters of its principles who seek to win others to the socialist objective. The first requirement for the workers in all countries of the world is to break cleanly from the capitalist class and their political parties with the aim of taking the power out of the hands of the capitalist class and into their own hands. The Labour Party programme is reformist when the task is revolutionary—that is, socialist. 

While capitalism is moving to slash the many gains already won, imposing new burdensome taxes, straight-jacketing organised labour with union-busting laws, cutting down on social legislation, and throwing hundreds of thousands into unemployment reformists talk in terms of the amelioration of class conflicts. They project a perspective of merely removing what they present as minor defects in the existing capitalist order of things, of patching capitalism up and making it more tolerable, instead of a perspective of fundamental change. The Labour Party preaches conciliation, peaceful co-existence with capitalism, not class struggle against it. Only through an irreconcilable struggle against capitalism, towards its elimination and the establishment of socialism, will the people of the world find the full freedom, equality and democracy for which they aspire. The Socialist Party supports all actions which heighten the consciousness of the working class of the situations confronting them; it endorses any action which further cements their unity against capitalism and which would strengthen their capacity to struggle.

The Socialist Party views this as one the most revolutionary period in human history. Capitalism promises people not amelioration of conditions but austerity, oppression, dictatorship and the environmental destruction of mankind. Technological progress is now reaping vast profits for the industrial and financial oligarchy and condemning thousands to permanent unemployment. Socialism itself will organise the benefits of technological change for the workers by establishing the shorter working hours and better conditions. The establishment of industrial democracy, participation of the people in the productive processes and the planning of the economy for the service of the people, is not some abstract principle or the expression of an ultimate objective but the immediate necessity. The Socialist Party opens up the tremendous possibilities that lies before working people. But to realise the potential it must present itself as a real alternative to the capitalist parties. The working class is the only class in modern capitalist society in profound and persistent conflict with the tiny handful of financial and industrial tycoons who control the economy and state apparatus. The socialist movement must be democratic—open to all who commit themselves to its support. It must have an internal life which not only permits, but consciously encourages the full play and exchange of ideas. We are confident that the experiences ahead will prove the validity of our ideas which have been forged in the debates and of the past and will be re-tempered in the discussions ahead. Despite the campaign of lies and distortions about the socialist viewpoint we are confident that developing realities, together with the conscious participation of all who consider themselves socialists will bring a powerful step forward on our march towards the socialist objective. With the will to power, a genuine socialist movement can transform the structure of world capitalism into a real Socialist Commonwealth, for the benefit of all – white, brown, black, yellow. Only along this road will people find lasting security, economic prosperity and social well-being.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Socialist Party Choice

The Socialist Party is the party of the workers organised to express in political terms their determination to break their fetters. Socialists are no better, cleverer or sharper than anyone else but when we act together we have far more influence than we would have as isolated individuals. Socialists come together in an organisation committed to campaign against capitalist society in whatever guise it appears. Socialists seek a cooperative society where we pool our abilities and resources to create more for everyone, and to share it out fairly. The rich and powerful for their part combine with their own class consciousness to confound our aspirations. There is a crying need is for socialist organisation, in which socialists unite to produce their own media and organise solidarity for those who have taken the bosses on. There will be the people who have no truck with the bosses’ attacks upon workers’ living standards; no truck with wage cuts; no truck with cuts in welfare benefits or cuts in the public services. They will be the people who know that every sacrifice demanded from workers is just another way of protecting the wealth and power of the minority who control the wealth. In other words, there will be class struggle. Nevertheless workers’ struggles for wage increases or better conditions, even when successful, do not result in the anticipated rise in living standards, because in time gains are always  canceled out.

The living conditions of workers can only be improved when production is administered by the working class instead of the employers. An essential condition of victory in this struggle is that workers must break with not only the outright lackeys of capital but also with the reformers who compromise with our avowed enemy – the ruling class. A struggle which limits itself to merely obtaining a new re-distribution of our poverty is not yet a political struggle because it is not directed against the social structure of the production relations. Marx argued that the prevailing ideas will always be those of the ruling class. Socialists have to challenge these ideas and success is far more likely when its socialists are strong, confident, acting together, than weak, uncertain, fragmented and left to think things out on their own, at the mercy of these prevailing ideas.

The most important political work Socialist Party members do is among their own family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues. The democratic nature of a socialist revolution depends on its enjoying the support of the majority of the people. The winning of a majority is considered essential not only on grounds of expediency, but also because of the democratic nature of the socialist project. From the outset Marx rejected the elitist approach which proclaimed, ‘Here is the truth, kneel down before it!’ As against that, he wrote in 1843: ‘We develop new principles for the world out of the world’s own principles. We do not say to the world: Cease your struggles, they are foolish; we will give you the true slogan of struggle. We merely show the world what it is really fighting for, and consciousness is something that it has to acquire, even if it does not want to.’ Moreover the prospect of the withering away of the state was based, as Engels made clear, on ‘a free and equal association of producers’ to the effective development of which minority rule would constitute an insurmountable obstacle. Marx and Engels were convinced ‘that in no social order will personal freedom be so assured as in a society based upon communal ownership’.

The Socialist Party has made some original and creative advances in Marxist theory, it is for us to now communicate these political ideas imaginatively and organise effectively to make political change. The Socialist Party party is not the future ruling class of a state, or a directing dictatorial body, but that section of the working class which is most politically and class conscious and which seeks to argue, agitate, and mobilise for mass working class struggle and self-activity. Pannekoek and Gorter agreed at key moments on the need for exactly such a party. Pannekoek noted, ‘The function of a revolutionary party lies in propagating clear understanding in advance, so that throughout the masses there will be elements who know what must be done and who are capable of judging the situation for themselves’, while Gorter argued for the need ‘to unite the section of the proletariat that has a large and profound understanding within one organisation ... to overcome or relieve all the weaknesses ... to which the factory organisation is subject’.

The task of building a mass socialist party today is vital. We should seize the day in a non-sectarian spirit, using measured language, which takes into account the existing and long-term needs of the labour movement. In these conditions we should generalise our agitation on a broad range of questions, eschewing like the plague left-talk sloganising. The first and most obvious lesson is the importance of socialist organization is we keep our socialist commitment not just in the flow of the tide – which is easy – but in its ebb as well. When the workers’ confidence turns down, when employers rule the day, the only way to keep high the aspirations for a new social order is through association with other socialists, learning from and teaching one another, extending our understanding of how the revolutionary tide has ebbed and flowed in the past. No matter how great the victory of the ruling class, it can never escape the continuing class struggle. Since the society it governs is founded on exploitation, there will always be people resisting it, sometimes aggressively, confidently and successfully; more often defensively, and unsuccessfully. This resistance is the only real hope for lasting change. Association with it by organised socialists is the best guarantee that the socialist ideas which inspire us can be kept alive and relevant in the bad times as easily as they can in the good. In this way we never lose contact with socialist aspirations or the living battles of real people on which they depend.

Our most dangerous enemies are our so-called ‘friends.’ The Socialist Party shall continue to oppose the Left because we are working and fighting for socialism. We want cures instead of palliatives. The more misery increases, the more working people sink into despair and become the hopeless prey of all the most reactionary influences and movements. By far the great majority of workers will stay ‘reformist’ because either they do not see an alternative or because they fear the alternative. Our task in the Socialist Party is to offer the socialist choice as the only feasible practical option. 

Prods vs Papes in Glasgow (1982)

From the May 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

In 1878 the City of Glasgow Bank crashed to financial ruin. In the same year the Scottish Roman Catholic Hierarchy was restored by the Pope and Charles Eyre became Archbishop of Glasgow. Protestant extremists, such as members of the Orange Lodges (who even today see almost every calamity as part of a global papist conspiracy), probably saw some connection between the two events. Whatever they thought they were certain of one thing: the restoration of Catholic Hierarchy was nothing less than "papal aggression". In response they protested in Glasgow Green. The Army was sent to prevent rioting but fortunately, for Glaswegian working-class skulls, the troops were not called into action.

The main factor leading to both the restoration of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy and the religious intolerance in Glasgow was the vast influx of Irish immigrants who, since the 1840s, had been entering the industrial areas of Britain to escape the famine. From December 1847 to March 1848 alone, about 43,000 Irish arrived in Glasgow, "a mass of broken wretches".

These immigrants were generally unskilled workers who had been forced to live in conditions even more squalid and degrading than those of the indigenous proletariat. They were able, therefore, to subsist on lower wages and consequently occupied the worst slums in the city.

It is a matter of fact that competition for employment between the Irish and the similarly unskilled Glaswegian workers led to a fall in wages for the latter. The native workers did not fail to notice this and, in their brutalised ignorance, blamed the Irish. That the majority of these unfortunate Irish workers adhered to the Roman Catholic brand of religious superstition, instead of the Protestant, was yet another focal point for hatred. The presence, too, of immigrants from the North of Ireland led to violent feuds of the Orange and Green variety among the Irish themselves. Added to this was the quarrelsome nature of the various Scottish Protestant sects who were already squabbling among themselves and were quite prepared to enter into hostilities with the adherents of the "one true church".

Nowadays, in Glasgow and the South of Scotland in general, fewer people are committed to any form of religious superstition; "of 20,000 Roman Catholics registered in Clydebank, only about a third attend church regularly" (Current Account, BBC1 Scotland, 25 February, 1982). Similarly an even greater proportion of those describing themselves as Protestants will only be seen inside a church at their funeral.

This decline in church attendance may seem encouraging, but unfortunately "religious" bigotry still flourishes among many of these non-churchgoers in the form of allegiance to certain football teams" Glasgow Rangers ("Prods") and Glasgow Celtic ("Papes"). These unfortunate and bigoted workers blame each other for all manner of social problems and it is almost incumbent upon Socialist Party of Great Britain speakers in Glasgow to criticise King Billy, the Queen, the Pope and the Catholic church in one breath lest, by reference to one alone, it is assumed by one side that we are in alliance with the other. Sellers of the Socialist Standard in Glasgow pubs must beware of the occasional IRA-supporting Catholics and UDA-supporting Protestants, neither of whom will hesitate to kick one's head in if given the chance; and there are certain pubs, particularly in the East End, into which we dare not go. Regular readers of the Standard will recall that our propaganda meeting of 29 July last year (the Day of the Nonsensical Nuptials) was disrupted by a frenzied gang of Orange thugs and it is a likely attack upon us by some papal-jerseyed hooligans which will prevent us from holding a similar meeting on June 1 (the day of the mumbo-jumbo at Bellahouston Park).

A woman from Livingston, West Lothian, told us (Current Account, BBC1 Scotland, 25 February 1982) that she has no need to think about anything she finds too complicated " . . . the priests, the bishops, the archbishops and the Pope are better equipped to deal with this kind of thing. To advise me". An old man, asked what his religion meant to him, was not quite sure except that he knew it was "great"  . . . "You must go to the chapel". When asked if he had ever rebelled against the church he replied: "No! Rebel? No! No!", as though shocked that anyone could conceive of such a thing.

A widow then informed us that her wayward husband's death-bed return to the faith convinced her of the existence of god. Although she was prepared to listen to other people's opinions, she was not prepared to change her ideas in any way: "I do respect other people's religions . . . I am willing to listen to other people, but I feel, basically, we were all Catholics at one time and . . . it's more the pity that they lapsed from our faith, for maybe good reasons, but basically we should all be Catholic and there's nothing in our religion that I want to give up." ("No Surrender!" seems to be a Catholic slogan as well as a Protestant one.)

The above examples of Catholic "thought" clearly illustrate the harmful effects of religious belief. The Catholic church and the Orange Lodge are very good at producing ignorant, docile and fervently religious wage-slaves, and so long as workers remain in these organisations so long will they neglect to deal with the cause of their poverty.

A leaflet, issued by the Orange Lodge in protest against this month's Papal visit and the Catholic Church's insistence on having its own schools, declares: "As absolute ruler of the Roman Church, Pope John Paul II bears the ultimate responsibility for this disgraceful school "apartheid" (Leaflet:Why Should We Welcome This Man?—He is no Friend of Ours). But responsibility for this lies with those workers who believe the superstitious twaddle preached by the Pope and who therefore find it necessary to obey his instructions to send their children to schools which specialise in the Catholic form of indoctrination. The Protestant variety of religious indoctrination is carried out, not only by their churches and the state schools, but by the juvenile section of the Orange Lodge.

Pastor Jack Glass (who thinks even Ian Paisley is "pro-romanist") also sees the Pope's visit as a major problem, so much so that he stood in the recent Hillhead by-election as the candidate for the Protestant Crusade Against the Papal Visit (388 votes—lost deposit). Another group of religious maniacs has been holding a series of meetings with titles such as "The Papal Visit Examined Doctrinally; the Papal Visit Examined Politically" (Glasgow Evening Times, 6 march 1982). They say: "Does not the sacrifice of our martyred forefathers suffer a grave insult by the permitting of the Pope to come . . . ". On March 24, in Bellahouston Park, about 20 Protestants tried to prevent the uprooting of some trees for the Pope's visit and one woman was arrested while trying to chain herself to a tree. It is most regrettable that so many members of the working class consider it worthwhile to waste so much of their time. It is also regrettable that so many others are eager to see the Pope and will pay £5.00 each to hear his inane incantations.

Socialists hope that the Pope's visit will fail; we hope the lapsed will stay away from the church and that believers will continue to decrease in number. There are no reasonable grounds for belief in the supernatural, or in gods, just as there are no grounds for belief in the existence of pink elephants, leprechauns, fairies or flying pigs. Socialists actively oppose all forms of religious superstition not only because such beliefs are unscientific and act as a barrier to understanding the society in which we live and its historical development, but also because of the socially divisive nature of religion. Workers who suffer from the delusions of religion are prepared to kill their fellow-workers in time of war; there are churches in America where blacks are not allowed; women are often considered subordinate to men and the Catholic Church will neither allow its women to become priests nor decide how many children they will have (although many Catholics now ignore the Pope's ruling on the latter).

The Catholic Church, with its roots in feudalism and its still feudal structure, has adapted very well to capitalism. It has shareholdings in many major companies throughout the world including those producing armaments. Nowadays the Vatican is a major financial institution and it is not surprising that the Pope is such a vehement supporter of capitalism. Only three years ago Pope John II warned his priests in South America against a too injudicious support of workers and peasants in their struggles against poverty.

Had not the Catholic Church an appalling record as a force against social progress, were not the Pope a peddler of reactionary views and religious nonsense, socialists would still not welcome him. Like his opponents in the Orange Lodge, he is no friend of ours.

Johnny Cadillac


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Nothing changes unless we make them change

Why is it so many people who belong to the left cling to the Labour Party, notwithstanding all their disappointments and disillusionments. Change does not just happen, and it certainly doesn’t just come because one day Jeremy Corbyn might be prime minister at the head of a left-wing Labour government. It comes when people fight for it. And that is why we with our few hundred members determined and a steadfast monthly journal, are still optimistic and confident than all the Left with their resolutions and intrigues masking their self- doubts and internal dilemmas. There is only one possible way in which we and the Left can come together: for them to come to us. The left-wingers consistently fall into the trap of portraying the Labour Party as in some way less capitalist than the Tories. This lesser-evilism strengthens the misconception that the private sector alone constitutes the capitalist enemy, and that the state sector is not really capitalist at all, a myth which many class-conscious workers have long seen through. For the Left, why successive Labour governments have not introduced socialism has nothing to do with the nature of the Labour Party itself. They never say, for instance, that the Labour Party is a capitalist party, or that it does not want to introduce socialism, or that its policies are not socialist, merely that the leaders subvert the rank and file and mislead the grass roots. To argue that there is no alternative to the Labour Party means that there is not the slightest chance, of bringing into being an alternative mass socialist party.

By contrast, the Socialist Party hold that so-called workers organisations like the Labour Party are capitalist to their very core and its members are not surprise at being ’deceived’ and ‘betrayed’ when the Labour Party is in office. We have understood that that the only thing the working class can rely on is its own strength in class struggle and are thus never ’disappointed’ by the Labour Party since we never had any illusions about it in the first place. The left-wing such as the SWP and SPEW, never cease to claim how the working class has been ‘let down’ by the Labour Party, thus such a standpoint confuses by arguing the fact that the Labour Party is in itself not an integral part of the capitalism’s power politics. At the core of socialism lies the question of the necessity of the capture of the state machine by the working class to establish socialism, and the Labour Party has never ever accepted this task. The left gives legitimacy to the view that the working class is better served by the Labour Party than by, say, the Tories and that socialism could, given a bit more determination from the Labour leadership, come about through the kind of reformist measures associated with the Labour Party. Only by breaking loose from labourism can the working class come to rely not on reformist means to advance their interests, but solely on their own class struggles and a genuine socialist party to wage war on the political field. For genuine socialists, the prospect of the Labour Party’s collapse as a mass organisation is to be welcomed.  

There are those who endeavor to portray the Labour Party as containing a socialist membership ready at any time to burst free from the trammels of its leadership and today Jeremy Corbyn is being cited as the party-leader who will act as the catalyst for this. For those who have seen through the role of the Labour Party, however, such affairs are of no concern – let the party tear itself to pieces, with its internecine strife, it is not up to socialists to prescribe remedies to ailing capitalist parties. On the contrary, they should be demoralised as much as possible; all the Labour Party’s contradictions should be used for the sole purpose of exacerbating them, and exposing its capitalist nature to the masses, so as to accelerate its demise, not give it a new lease of life as the Left would have us do.

Obviously there are many in the Labour Party who are sincere workers seeking solutions to the social problems they face and the individual members of the Socialist Party will engage with individual Labour Party members on a particular issue or issues that come up in the daily class struggle we all face together but no degree of cooperation with individual members absolves The Socialist Party from its duty to expose the Labour Party’s class nature. By working in the unions, for instance, with Labour Party members, is not conceding that this party, is in fact a workers’ party. A party’s class nature is determined not by who its members are, or who votes for it, but by its political line, i.e. whose interests it actually serves. Just because many workers still vote for the Labour Party when it promises their version of a ‘socialism’, that does not mean that it is a workers’ party any more than the Liberal Party was at the end of the last century when most working-class electors voted for it. (Those that declare that the Labour Party is ‘the party of the working class’ and that ‘there is no alternative to it.’ Now face the situation, electorally, a major part of the working class which do not vote but now do so for Scottish or Welsh nationalists.) The Labour Party’s political line is to contain working class opposition within the increasingly narrow bounds prescribed by capitalist class rule. The Labour Party is thus prolonging capitalist class rule - it is a capitalist, not a workers’ party. Thus, though its mass base may include some working class elements, its class nature remains capitalist. The Socialist Party is very clear in our standpoint towards the Labour Party. It is a product of capitalism and has been tied to capitalism from its inception. It is consequently dominated by pro-capitalist careerists and intellectuals despite a few exceptions.

The Socialist Party has never opposed trade-union action as ‘reformist’. Far from it; right from the start in its original manifesto the SPGB declared that it was in agreement with “working-class action on the industrial field when based on a clear recognition of the position of the workers under capitalism and the class struggle necessarily resulting therefrom”, but that it was opposed to “all activities of unions in support of capitalism or tending to sidetrack workers from the only path that can lead to their emancipation”. In our view trade-union action is necessary under capitalism, but is limited by being of an essentially defensive nature. To overcome this limitation the workers need to organise themselves into a socialist political party aiming solely at the capture of political power to establish socialism (i.e. the so-called maximum programme).

We need the deepest possible roots in the new protest movements and the working class. And this requires that we educate, organise and agitate to the best of our ability and resources. Our roots in the socialist tradition and this tradition speaks emphatically on every issue. Socialism will abolish the landlord class, the capitalist class, and the working-class. That is revolution; that the working-class, by its actions, will one day abolish class distinctions. Defeats experienced by the working class movement, however, have led to despair and cynicism, to the feeling that the real world will never change. It is no surprise that many workers and activists grasp at straws when the likes of Jeremy Corbyn gains some popularity. But that is not enough in itself. The dominant idea still prevails that the dream of socialism is impossible to achieve so we must settle for compromise and concessions. The only way to combat this reformism is by education in Marxism. People have to be taught the
basic principles of the Marxist analysis of how society has developed and can be changed, to learn the lessons of past working class struggles, how we can understand the modern world, and way the capitalist economy works on behalf of the owning class. People need continually to deepen their understanding of these matters, so that they can cope with all the arguments thrown against them. Some of us are not usually able to put across those ideas themselves in an effective manner and we may well be overawed by some academic putting across opposing ideas. Sometimes we simply do not possess the confidence to put across socialist ideas outside the confines of comrades and friends.  Two things are usually necessary to give this confidence: reading articles and books, and an opportunity to discuss the ideas in a non-intimidating atmosphere, where we are not going to be attacked for getting something wrong. In this way our own organisation may attract a substantial measure of support and to hold out a genuine promise of further growth.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Increasing Poverty Statistics

In June, Statistics Canada released the following figures – In 1975, the minimum wage, expressed in today's dollars, was $10.14. In 2013, it was $10.15, an increase of one cent in thirty-eight years! The number of workers on minimum wage more than doubled between 2003 and 2011, due mainly to free trade agreements killing mostly well-paid manufacturing jobs. Close to one million have lost their jobs since the mid-80s, forcing them into part-time, low-paying, and sometimes dangerous, jobs. More people are living in poverty today, in Canada, than at any time since World War II. There is only one way that workers can feel secure, and it surely is not under capitalism. John Ayers.

What Will They Say?

Climate scientists say that January to May this year were the earth's warmest five months ever recorded. This follows 2014 that was also the warmest year ever. They issued the following statistics, all in Celsius – 0.09 degrees that this January to May surpassed the same period in 2010; 3.1 degrees, the number that Alaska's average temperature for May surpassed the average from 1981 to 2010; 1976 was the last year that was cooler than the global long-term average; Twenty-one years have passed since a month was last cooler than its long-term average (February 1994); 45 degrees was the temperature in Pakistan in the last week of June – the heat killed hundreds. Still, the apologists for capitalism insist that global warming is a problem secondary to the economy. What will they say when the economy no longer exists? John Ayers.


Socialism is a worldwide stateless society where money and markets have been abolished and production is collectively planned by all. It is the abolition of all exploitation and oppression, where the divisions of human beings into classes, nationalities and genders has been transcended. Skin colour which function unevenly today as markers of racial and ethnic distinction will carry no more significance than differences of eye colour. Rather than mere worker ownership of factories or state-control of resources, socialist society is one within which “value” as we know it has been abolished and free access to goods has replaced markets and rationing.

 Also abolished is the mental/manual division of labour where there is a great reduction of the social working day, allowing for a maximisation of leisure time and fluidity between different forms of socially necessary labour. Socialism can only be achieved through the revolutionary struggle of the workers, a class whose self-emancipation is the emancipation of all humanity. The working class are those without reserves who must sell their labour power to survive, compelled by these conditions to engage in the economic and political battle against capitalism. In order to triumph in the class struggle the proletariat must organise into a world-wide political party that expresses its exclusive class interests. As socialists we aim for the abolition of the state and cannot deny that any collective project of changing the world means grappling with political power.

We are internationalists. We refuse to side with any nation in worldwide conflicts. We also reject all forms of nationalism as an obstacle to revolution and reject political alliances with nationalists of all stripes including those espousing patriotism for our own countries or “national self-determination” for oppressed groups. This includes rejecting “socialism in one country” or any other national road to socialism. Socialist revolution must be world-wide in scope or nothing. In logical continuity with our internationalist principles is also our conviction in the importance of upholding a pro-immigrant stance. This means support for the abolition of borders and maintaining an uncompromising position against all forms of xenophobia and national chauvinism. Anything less would mean departure from the basic ethic of working class solidarity.

We categorically reject what was the old USSR and its various offshoots such as the People’s Republic of China and Cuba are examples of socialist societies or functioning proletarian dictatorships which serve as models for us to use. While no functioning socialist society has existed, we point to the Paris Commune, the early days of the Russian Revolution, the 1918/19 German Revolution, and aspects of the Spanish Civil War as brief historical moments where the working class grappled with the task of forming a new society.

We uphold the right to open debate, factions and accountable collective decision-making within revolutionary organisations, especially our own. This means opposing bureaucratic 'democratic centralism' and working against the development of layers of leadership. All disputes among fraternal and comradely groups and individuals are to be aired publicly and to be conducted in a manner befitting organisational discipline. Threatening splits to assert minoritarian vetoes over rank and file majorities, personality politics, lack of transparency — all of these are roads to degeneration for any organization. We also reject secretive and authoritarian “cadre” models of organisation that are based on an unchallenged dictatorship of the central leadership over the rank-and-file. Proletarian organisations will either function according to norms of internal democracy or fail. However, we also recognise that democratic forms as such do not have an inherently socialist content and that democracy when meaning the sharing of power between antagonistic classes is to be rejected.

We deny political support for all pro-capitalist parties, including those belonging to the left-wing of capital. Throughout history various factions of the left have served not to advance the class struggle towards socialism but to stifle it. This entails recognising that our enemies aren’t limited to outright reactionaries but also those who defend capitalism under a veneer of anti-capitalist radicalism. Political alliances with reformist or reactionary groups can only mean sacrificing our political independence and compromising our principles.

We do not discourage workers from joining unions to defend their basic economic needs but we recognise that the class struggle must extend beyond the limitations of unionism. Unions are organs of mediation between workers and capital and are thereby structurally compelled to develop bureaucratic and conservative tendencies. Repeatedly throughout history, the unions has proven itself to be a conservative force that stifles the development of the workers’ struggle and act as a roadblock in the fight for socialism. Therefore we reject a strategy of union entryism that seeks to recuperate the existing unions and employ them towards revolutionary ends

All socialists are agreed upon their objective, that being the social and economic freedom and equality for all, and the realisation of the highest individual development and liberty conceivable for all, through the social ownership and democratic control of all the material means of production and existence. They must all agree upon this in order to be socialists.

The Socialist Party seeks to organise the workers of this country, irrespective of creed or race, into one party of emancipation and liberation. It believes that the dependence of the working class upon the owners of capitalist property, and the desire of these capitalists and landowners to keep the vast mass of the people subjugated and dependent, is the cause of all our modern social and political evils – of nearly all modern crime, mental degradation, religious and racial strife, and political tyranny. Recognising this, it counsels the working class of the world to organise politically with the end in view of gaining control and mastery of the entire resources of the world. Such is our aim: Such is socialism. Our method is: Political organisation at the ballot box to secure the election of representatives of socialist principles to all the elective governing bodies and thus transfer the political power of the State into the hands of those who will use it to establish the principle of common ownership. We mean to make the people of world the sole and sovereign owners of the world but leave ourselves free to adapt our methods to suit the development of the times. We live in times of political change. Old party rallying cries and watchwords are destined to become obsolete and meaningless. We appeal to all workers to throw in their lot with the Socialist Party and assist it in giving force, clearness and effectiveness to the gathering working class movement. And on its part the Socialist  Party, conscious of its high mission, pledges itself to pursue, unfalteringly and undeviatingly, its great object – common ownership of the means of producing and distributing all wealth, the material basis of the higher development of the future.

We, in the Socialist Party have been reproached because we reject to drop our socialist principles for the sake of unity. The object of a Socialist Party is the realisation of socialism; and incidentally to assist in the organisation of the working-class and the amelioration of its conditions in existing society. The object of a trade union is to make the best of existing conditions; to make the best terms for its members in competitive society. The co-relation between the two, as well as the difference of function, is thus clearly established. We are trade unionists, but we are more than trade unionists. The trade unionist who is only a trade unionist is to the socialist what the believer in constitutional monarchy is to a republican. The constitutional monarchist wishes to limit the power of the king, but still wishes to have a king; the republican wishes to abolish kingship and puts his trust in the people; the trade unionist wishes to limit the power of the master but still wishes to have masters: the socialist wishes to have done with masters and pins his or her faith to the collective intelligence of a democratic community. We, as socialists bend our energies to the abolition of that principle of evil, whose influence reformists would seek only to mitigate.

The Socialist Party of to-day cannot bring socialism. The Co-operative Commonwealth will be inaugurated by the mass action of the workers. To assert the contrary is a denial of the very principles we acclaim. Workers move along the road towards socialism because circumstances compel them to take that road. Economic laws operate whether they are known or not, but if we understand their operation we can bend them to our purpose pad assist society along the course it tends to travel. As the Socialist Party we must bring this knowledge to the workers. The necessity for political action is taken for granted. Whenever the power of the ruling class asserts itself, then the workers must fight. The State is the political expression of the dominant class, and since that dominant class uses the machinery of the State—law, justice, force—to maintain its own privileges and to impose its will upon the labouring mass, the workers contest their claims by political action. The distinction between political and industrial action is false; they are the two poles of the same movement. Some regard industrial action as more important than political. That belief is without justification.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

To the workers belongs the future.

The Socialist Party is organised to assist the working-class movement by a dissemination of its literature, to educate into a knowledge of socialist principles.  It affirms its belief that political and social freedom are not two separate and unrelated ideas, but are two sides of the one great principle, each being incomplete without the other. The Socialist Party is organised because we are face to face with conditions that require united action of our class at the ballot box.

Today’s society rests on ownership of the land and the machinery of production. The owners of most of the land and the tools of production constitute what is the capitalist class. Ownership divides society into two distinct classes. One is the class of employers, and the other is the class of wage-workers (the working class). The working class, by their labour, produce the wealth that sustains society, they lack economic and industrial security, suffer from over-work, enforced unemployment, and their attendant miseries, all of which are due to the present capitalist form of society. The capitalist class, through the ownership of most of the land and the tools of production — which are necessary for the production of food, clothing, shelter and fuel — hold the working class in complete economic and industrial subjection, and thus live on the labour of the working class. Workers, who do all the useful work of society, in order to secure food, clothing, shelter and fuel, must sell their labour-power to the employers who  are the exploiters and live on the wealth produced by the working class.

The interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interest of the capitalists. The capitalist class — owning as they do, most of the land and the tools of production — employ the workers, buy their labour-power, and return to them in the form of wages, only part of the wealth they have produced. The rest of the wealth produced by the worker the employers keep; it constitutes their profit — i.e., rent, interest, and dividends. Thus the working class produce their own wages as well as the profits of the capitalists. In other words, the working class work a part only of each day to produce their wages, and the rest of the day to produce surplus (profits) for the owning capitalist class. The interest of the employing class is to get all the surplus (profits) possible out of the work of the working class. The interest of employees is to get the full product of their labour. Hence there is a struggle between these two classes. This struggle is called the “class struggle.” It is a struggle between the owning class — which must continue to exploit the workers in order to live — and the non-owning working Class, who, in order to live must work for the owners of the land and the tools of production.

The ruling class control the State and govern the working class not for the well-being of the workers but for the well-being and profit of the capitalists. It is only by using their political power that the capitalists make their exploitation of the working class legal and the oppression of their system constitutional. And it is only by using their political power that the working class can make their own exploitation illegal and their own oppression unconstitutional. It is only by the use of their political power that the workers can abolish capitalist rule and privilege, and establish a social system based on the common ownership of all the land and the tools of production, to be the share of all. In a socialist society, the only people who live on the work of others, and who have the right to be dependent upon their fellows, are small children, people who are too old to support themselves, the sick and disabled. To win economic freedom the non-owning working class must force this struggle into the political field and use their political power (the ballot) to abolish capitalist class ownership, and thus revolutionise in the interests of themselves the entire structure of society.

To the workers belongs the future. We ask fellow workers to organise with to end the domination of private ownership — with its poverty-breeding system of unplanned production — and substitute in its place the Socialist Co-operative Commonwealth in which every person shall have the free exercise and full benefit of his or her faculties, multiplied by all the modern factors of civilisation.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Edinburgh: Working Class Housing (1961)

From the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

How many boxes of shortbread have caught the customer's eye with a gaudy picture of Edinburgh Castle? And very nice, too: they would not sell much shortbread by showing Edinburgh's slums, although there are enough of them.

Yes, Edinburgh has a slum problem, just like any other great city. Panorama went there a few months back, showing up the damp and rotting houses around Arthur Street, where the workers pay rent to live with the rats and broken sewer pipes.

And like a lot of other places, Edinburgh also has dwellings which are not classified as slums, but which are not much better; it has its prefabs. These, as the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch said recently, are " . . . the relics of the immediate post-war housing crisis . . . " which are " . . . still with us, although when they were built they were intended to be only temporary makeshifts."

Are the prefabs likely to come down soon? The Edinburgh City Council Housing Committee has said that, because the process of removing them is long, and because alternative housing has to be promised for the tenants before the sites can be cleared and new dwellings erected, the prefabs will be with us for some time yet.

Let nobody be deceived that as the slums come down new housing is bound to take their place. Sometimes the land on which they were built has what is called a high site value. In narrow Kirkgate and the surrounding streets a lot of tenements, some of which have been standing for a century or more, have been demolished. No new houses have gone up on the site; instead, a whiskey bond store is being built there and Woolworths are putting up another of their red and gold shops.

What is to the point in all this is that the working class, although they build the beautiful mansions and palaces, can only afford to live in the slum, or the prefab, or the council house, or the little semi-detached. And why is this? Simply because the workers have only one method of getting their living by selling their energies and skills to the capitalist class. These workers own little more than their ability to work. The great cities of Scotland are not theirs, nor are the Lochs and Highlands which they sing about. Sad Irish lads may dream of the Lakes of Killarney, but they are owned by an American capitalist, just as the song said they never could be. Proud Cockneys own nothing of London Town. The working class of the world, in fact, own no country, no city, no land—most of them do not even own the place where they live.

No use to approach that problem with just another slum clearance scheme. It needs a world in which society's first concern is for the security and happiness of the human race. 

The prefabs were supposed to be temporary, but they have been temporary too long. In a way, that applies to capitalism as well.

David Lamond.
Edinburgh Branch