Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wages Fall

Workers’ pay packets in Ayrshire and Stirling have been among the hardest hit in Scotland. Data shows that nationally the real value of average full time earnings has dropped by 6.7% since 2008. In April 2008 the mean gross annual earnings for all full time employees resident in Scotland according to the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) was £28,528. The ASHE figure for the mean gross annual earnings for all full time employees resident in Scotland for April 2015 was £32,472. This is an increase of £3,944 or 13.8%. Between April 2008 and April 2015 inflation has been 20.6%. This means the drop in real value of average earnings of full time workers in Scotland between April 2008 and April 2015 has been 6.7%. For the UK the drop in real value of average earnings for full time employees was 13.6%.

The North Ayrshire and South Ayrshire areas together with Stirling saw the largest decreases in the real value of earnings.

For full time employees resident in Stirling, the drop has been 20.1% since April 2008, and for those living in South Ayrshire the drop was 17%. Workers in North Ayrshire experienced a drop of 15.8%. These are the three areas in Scotland worst affected by the recession. For full time employees resident in Perth & Kinross the drop has been 15.5%, the next area worst affected by the recession in Scotland. The drop in gross average earnings for all full time employees resident in East Ayrshire is 13.0%

From here

Our case justified by Keir Hardie (1974)

From the August 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

James Keir Hardie, one of the earlier Labour MPs, was, at different times, Chairman of the Labour Party Annual Conference and Chairman and leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party. He was largely responsible for the formation of the Labour Party and it has been claimed for him that “More than any other man, he shaped the political history of the Labour Movement.” Members of the Labour Party praise him for making their party what it is today but, for a reason which will become obvious, they never quote his detailed statement about the kind of party he claimed to be creating. It was published in 1910 by the Independent Labour Party under the title My Confession of Faith in the Labour Alliance.

Keir Hardie had founded the Independent Labour Party in 1893 and was its Chairman. His purpose in issuing hisConfession of Faith was to rebut the charge that, by affiliating to the Labour Party, the ILP had sacrificed its “socialist” character. Some of those who made the charge were members of the ILP. He defended affiliation to the Labour Party, which was, then as now, dominated by trade unions, on the ground of its practical advantage to the ILP but also, and primarily, on the ground of “socialist” principle — in line with his own declaration three years earlier that, for him, the socialist objective was “. . . free Communism in which ... the rule of life will be — ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’.” (Keir Hardie, From Serfdom to Socialism (1907), page 89).

His argument from expediency was to point out to the ILP that if they wanted to grow quickly, and in particular, if they wanted to get members elected to Parliament, their only hope was to have the support and the votes of trade unionists and to fight elections as Labour Party candidates. He indicated that there were some people “. . . who act as though their principle reason for being in the ILP is that they may get returned to Parliament.” He did not pretend that the votes the ILP thus picked up were the votes of Socialists.

He quoted figures to show that while it had taken the ILP seven years as an independent organization to reach 193 branches and an income of £721, within nine years of affiliation to the Labour Party (1900- 1909) these figures had jumped to 887 branches and an annual income of £8,871.

But his main argument was that forming Marxian Socialist organizations and propagating Socialism failed to bring quick growth and was wrong in principle. He instanced the small growth of the Social Democratic Federation and its failure to win any Parliamentary elections. (He did not name the SPGB but had a reference to “other Socialist or pseudo-Socialist” organizations.)

He argued that Marxian Socialist propaganda did not quickly attract large numbers of workers and that it was appreciation of this which had been the reason for the formation of the ILP, based on the different policy of
. . . conducting the propaganda in such a way as would win over working-class organizations, especially the Trade Unions to the support of Socialism, rather than alienate them.
This policy, known as “getting into the workers’ day-to-day struggles”, was advocated by the ILP and later by the Communist Party and always featured in controversy between the SPGB and those two organizations.

History has dealt mockingly with Keir Hardie’s theories. In appearance everything happened just as he said it would; in essentials nothing. The tactics he urged on the ILP got them members, money and seats in the House of Commons. In the 1929 Parliament more than 200 MPs belonged to the ILP — now it has no MPs and is all but dead, though its opportunist tactics are constantly revived by new so-called “left-wing” organisations. And the Labour Party first outstripped the Liberals, then became the largest party in Parliament and formed the government, all as Keir Hardie anticipated.

But what has happened to his belief that the policy he stood for would convert the working-class to Marxian Socialism? For that was the specific claim he spelled out in his Confession:
The Labour Party is the only expression of orthodox Marxian Socialism in Great Britain.
The Labour Party practices the Marxian policy of the class struggle, following Marx’s own example, and is blamed by its critics for doing so . . .
Thus it is proved that the founders of the ILP, and even more so, of the Labour Party, were, if I may use the expression, in the direct line of apostolic succession from Marx and the other great master minds of Socialist theory and policy.
Where is it all now? Keir Hardie himself later repudiated the class struggle. The ILP and Labour Party both dissociated themselves from Marxism. It was a General Secretary of the Labour Party, Mr. Morgan Phillips, who asserted that his party “. . owed more to Methodism than to Marx.” The Labour Party, TUC and the Unions all turned their backs on Marxian economics and gave whole-hearted support to anti-Marxist Keynesian myths of “controlled capitalism”, full employment and the end of crises. Even Keir Hardie’s belief that he was building a party completely apart and hostile to Tories and Liberals proved to be wrong because twice they have been in a three-party coalition government. (Is a third time now in the offing?). Above all, nobody in the Labour Party leadership today even pretends that that party is interested in the Marxian Socialist objective that Keir Hardie proclaimed.

The Labour Party has had sixteen years in office, years of administering capitalism just like any other capitalist party. Winning the workers over to Socialism was bound to be a slow business. It was made more difficult by Keir Hardie’s policies. Events have shown how right the SPGB was and how wrong was Keir Hardie

Edgar Hardcastle

Forging the Weapons of Class War

The economic and social system prevailing in the world to-day is known as capitalism. The dominating features of capitalism are the private ownership of capital, the production of goods for profit and the division of society into two classes, namely, the capitalist class and the working class. The land, factories, mines, railways and shipping, all the means of producing theworld’s wealth are owned by the landlord and capitalist class. The great mass of the people own nothing except their muscles and brains, that is, their power to work. Production is carried on not for the purpose of supplying the needs of the people but for the purpose of sale in order to realise a profit. Only those who have something to sell can get a living. Only those can obtain things who can afford to buy. This is the capitalist system.

The worker has nothing to sell but his or her labour power. He or she sells labour power to an employer for so many hours a day for a certain price, that is, wages. Since one cannot separate labour power from one’s body it comes to this, which a workers actually sells themselves like slaves. We socialists, call the workers under capitalism, “Wage slaves”. Wages are determined by what it costs to keep a producer and family. How many workers do you know who can save out of their wages? They may be able to put something by in a good season, but bad seasons come and the savings are gone. It is a fact that the average worker is not more than two weeks removed from penury. The capitalist will only buy labour if he can make profit out of it. Just compare the value of the goods you turned out in a day when you were in the factory, and what you received for your work. The difference between the two is the employer’s profit. Profit is the result of the unpaid labour of the worker. Under capitalist workers are continually robbed of the results of their labour. The capitalist will compel the worker to work as hard and as long as he or she can, for as little money as possible. Even through the efforts of the best-organised trade unions wages never rise higher than the cost of living. And even this is not secured.

What does capitalism offer people? A life of toil and sweat, a bare subsistence. Always the dread fear of the sack. A drab, colourless existence and when unable to work any longer, to be thrown on the scrap-heap. However the alternative, socialism, offers everything which industries produce goes now not to enrich a small parasitical section of the community but the whole community. The whole world becomes a huge cooperative society, and the people, instead of slaving to enrich the idle investors, creates wealth without having to pay tribute to speculators and profiteers. Worker takes a direct part in the management of work, no longer a slave of another man, but a member of a great community of labour.

We are entering a period of new struggles and for these we must be prepared. Together we shall build a worldwide Co-operative Commonwealth. The Socialist Party scorns to hide its aims. Under capitalist society it exists to fight against the exploitation of those who toil by hand and brain, and to strengthen the political understanding of the need of ending capitalism and establishing socialism. We urge that there be no pessimism. Let there be no sense of frustration. The future is ours. And there are those of us who were never more optimistic, never more certain, never more determined to achieve the goal of socialism than we are on the final days of 2015. The stronger the Socialist Party becomes, the stronger the whole working-class movement becomes in its struggle against capitalism and its efforts to establish socialism. We stand at the threshold of great class battles. Raise high the people’s flag, our scarlet standard of freedom! Let us take the offensive in the battle of ideas, which is always a part of the daily struggle against capitalism. For there must be no mistake our class enemies do not neglect the weapon of propaganda. They mobilise the whole machinery of the media and press into service press every kind of charlatan.  The more the class struggle develops, the more capitalism will spew out various breeds of leftists, mouthing revolutionary phrases to entrap the workers and keep them in the capitalist net. We know that social changes are not made by leaders, but by great mass movements, and not stimulated by poseurs and political one-man bands, but by organised workers, free men and women. And therefore we will go into great battles, and we will emerge strengthened, with greater numbers.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Hungry Schoolkids

An increasing number of pupils in Scotland are going to school hungry and in some cases are stealing food from classmates, according to teachers.

Teaching union the EIS carried out a survey as part of its work on tackling the impact of poverty in schools.

About half (51%) of those questioned reported a rise in pupils coming to school without any food. The survey also found an increase in those taking free school meals and attending breakfast clubs. One in five (19%) identified an increase in the number of incidents of children asking for food and even stealing food from other pupils.

The union reported a 22% increase in the number of post-P3 children taking free school meals and a 27% rise in attendance at breakfast clubs. It also identified a 7% increase in the number of parents or guardians requesting referrals to local food banks.

On the issue of pupils' health and well-being, 71% of respondents reported an increase in the number of children displaying signs of mental-health problems including anxiety, stress and low mood. About half (52%) noted an increase in headaches, lethargy and weight issues among pupils.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "The findings offer a stark warning of the deep and damaging impact of poverty and the politics of austerity on children and young people across the country." Mr Flanagan added: "The fact that teachers are reporting such very high increases in both mental and physical health issues in pupils is a huge concern and highlights the true cost of political choices that have driven more families into poverty and widened the gap between the rich and the poor."

A New World

The whole world is chained to the capitalist system. The struggle to bring about the socialist transformation of the world economy will not be easy. Only when the working class abolishes capitalist relations of production and replaces them by non-oppressive, non-exploitive ones then the alienation characteristic of capitalism will begin to disappear. The people gain control of their productive activity and the products of their labour and so the antagonistic estrangement from each other and their aversion to work will be overcome. Productive activity will become once again a creative, fulfilling and truly human activity. The division between work and non-work will disappear and people will freely choose what to produce rather than being constrained by immediate necessities. In capitalist society, the capitalists own the means of production and engage in production for the sole purpose of making profits and satisfying their private interests. Therefore, though there may be planned production in a few enterprises, competition is rife and lack of co-ordination prevails among the different enterprises and economic departments as a whole. Anarchy in all social production is the order of the day. Cyclical economic crises which break out in capitalist society are the inevitable result of anarchy in production. They not only greatly undermine the social productive forces, but also are disastrous for the labouring people.

The world to-day is in the hands of billionaires-owners of the biggest corporations, the biggest banks; in short, the capitalist class. These capitalists, not only own or control the means whereby we work and live, but, in fact, control the whole governing machine. They pull the strings. And they use their power to make themselves richer and richer—at our expense. They hire workers to make profit out of their labour; their capitalist production is for profit, not for use: and to get more profit they slash wages, carry through speed-up and worsen conditions. This mad race for profit ends in a crisis; and then they try to get out of the crisis—at our expense. Workers must face with full and serious determination the situation as it is; face the fact that all capitalism has to offer them to-day is poverty, malnutrition, low wages, speeding-up and unemployment, despotism, war and slavery; and that neither they nor their families have any hope or future under capitalism.

There is no need for a single worker to be overworked or in dread of losing his job; no reason why an unemployed worker should lack the necessaries of life. All over the world millions of workers are year by year coming to realise these facts and to see that nothing except the existence of capitalism prevents them building up for themselves a decent and secure world. Everywhere the workers are becoming less and less willing to put up with an entirely unnecessary state of semi-starvation. They are showing themselves more and more determined to insist upon their right to food, clothing and shelter for themselves and their families. But to get this, capitalism must be overthrown.  To get this is only possible by the building up of Socialism, giving peace and prosperity, happiness and new life to the whole working population.

So long as the employer is the dictator in the factory, so long as the landlord is the dictator in the street, so long as the capitalist class everywhere holds the positions of real power in its hands, there can be no real democracy. It is only after the factories and mines have been taken from the capitalist employers and the conditions of work put under the control of the responsible delegates of the workers themselves; it is only after our houses have been taken from the landlord and put under the control of our own housing committees, that a democracy which, has much meaning for the workers can begin. It is the absence of this genuine participation in the work of administration which makes the present capitalist form of “democracy” so empty and useless from the workers’ point of view. The capitalists will be deprived of their ownership and control of the factories and workshops, mills and mines, shipyards and transport. All these means of production which they have used and misused only to pile up profits for themselves and poverty for the workers will be taken from them. The workers’ dictatorship will make an end of production for profit and will carry on production for use.The needs of all will be met, and new needs and pleasures now denied to the working class will be created and satisfied by a socialist organisation and extension of production. It will mean that the billionaires who now own the media will be deprived of their “liberty” to put forward their purses as “public opinion” and to spread lies amongst the people. The whole plan of production and distribution will be on the basis of things, not money. Not only economic security, not only ever increasing comfort and leisure, not only the day’s labour turned from useless grinding toil into useful work—but a far wider prospect is opened up. For these new material conditions will be but the basis for the most rapid intellectual and cultural development of the whole population. The new generation of children will be born into a new world. It is for us in our generation to bring this new world into being.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Towards socialism

The first requirement for the workers in all countries of the world is to break from the capitalist class and their political parties, and reject any and all concepts of coalitions with their parties. Their programmes are reformist when our task is revolutionary socialist. The reformists 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, preaching conciliation and co-existence with capitalism, not class struggle against it for a fundamental change. . 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 workers have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to gain. Workers of the world—unite!

The resources of the world must pass into the possession of humanity. All other problems, the problems of nationality and of race and colour will be solved once society is freed from exploitation and class divisions. We aim to replace the present capitalist system, with its inherent injustice and inhumanity, by a social order from which the domination and exploitation of one class by another will be eliminated, in which economic planning will supersede unregulated private enterprise and competition, and in which genuine democratic self-government, based upon economic equality will be possible. The present order is marked by glaring inequalities of wealth and opportunity, by chaotic waste and instability; and in an age of plenty it condemns the great mass of the people to poverty and insecurity. This lack of social planning results in a waste of our human as well as our natural resources. Our human resources are wasted through social and economic conditions which stunt human growth, through unemployment and through our failure to provide adequate education. Power has become more and more concentrated into the hands of a small irresponsible minority of financiers and industrialists and to their predatory interests the majority are habitually sacrificed. When private profit is the main stimulus to economic effort, our society oscillates between periods of feverish prosperity in which the main benefits go to speculators and profiteers, and of catastrophic depression, in which the common man's normal state of insecurity and hardship is accentuated. We believe that these evils can be removed only in a planned and socialised economy in which our natural resources and principal means of production and distribution are owned in common, democratically controlled by the people. What we seek is a proper collective organization of our economic resources such as will make possible a much greater degree of leisure and a much richer individual life for every citizen.

This social and economic transformation can only be brought about by political action, supported by a majority of the people. We do not believe in change by violence. The hungry, oppressed and underprivileged of the world must know democracy not as a smug slogan but as a dynamic way of life which sees the world as one whole. The vision of a new world of co-operative labor, the elimination of the exploitation of man by man, and the free development of, the human personality, is a practical possibility and a necessity. It is in harmony with the world-wide march of mankind. For over a century the domination of the capitalist mode of production has posed before humanity the alternatives: Socialism or Barbarism. The only definitive solution is the elimination of capitalism and its institutions, and the establishment of common ownership of the means of production and rational economic planning. Capitalism has developed as a world economic system. It is illusory to believe that the much higher development of the productive forces that socialism entails can be achieved within the framework of a single country. The construction of socialism can be completed only on a world scale. Capitalism must be abolished. The needs of working people can only be met by creating a planned economy, where ownership and control are taken from the tiny minority of capitalists and placed in the hands of the working people, to be run democratically.

Socialists often hear the comment that "Socialism is a good idea but it’s not practical." But today it’s becoming more apparent than ever that it is the present system — capitalism — that is impractical and unworkable. We know that a better world is not only possible, but absolutely necessary. If you think so too, join us. We take every opportunity to present the socialist case and to convince people of the need to do away with the repressive, unjust capitalist system, and replace it with socialism. Everywhere there is a searching for a solution to the problems confronting working people. We stand for a socialist society: where ownership and control of the means of production are taken out of the hands of the tiny minority of capitalists, and placed in the hands of the majority — the workers. The capitalist system is run for the profits of the few, not the needs of the majority. Workers are thus continually forced to fight to defend their interests. Through these struggles, they will come to see the need for socialism, to replace capitalism. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Everything is One Thing – Capitalism

There is currently a historically low level of strikes in the UK and the USA. At some point that is going to change, but it's difficult to say where or when.

We live in an age of threats to global peace and stability. The myths and illusions concerning the Labour Party have an extraordinary tenacity. Despite betrayals by its leaders, repeated electoral disasters, it has been the renewed confidence of each new generation that has kept the Labour Party alive all these years. The facts of life have been against them but their self-sacrificing work has ensured the continuation of the party and has never altered their conviction that continuous effort would bring about the conversion of the Labour Party to a firm socialist commitment. Yet in the real world, capitalism hooks up with any government that protects its investments - from military dictatorships to Islamic republics to whatever you want to call the Labour Party.

Corbyn’s supporters reflect this naïve trust in the party. Decades ago most biggish towns had their local labour paper, produced by the constituency Party, they had an active Trades Council who could count on a wide support. How many of such papers exist today? Are there any Trades Council that is more than just a rubber stamp these days? Those who continue to believe in the viability of the Labour Party as a political force for the achievement of socialism are today confronted with more serious questions than ever before. Evidence of Labour governments being weak, timid and wholly reformist is very evident everywhere and at every level. The Labour Party is a massive institutional obstacle to the achievement of socialism.

Nor can any review of the Left outside the Labour Party can offer anything but yet more pessimism. The combined political impact of these groups is very limited, except in those situations where the mainstream of the labour movement is also moving in their direction. Workers are more likely to support the status quo or reactionary ideas when we are being cowed by our bosses and divided against each other. It's when we start figuring out how to come together and resist that many of us become more politically open to radical politics.

What we need are new styles of approach as socialists: new methods of organisation: new forms of socialist agitation; but how and in what ways the old techniques and organisational forms can be supplanted are not easy questions to answer. Words alone will not suffice. There must, it should go without saying, be intensive discussion of the problems at all levels; but it will be in the practical achievement of unity and common action that the shape and form of the future movement will emerge. It will be an exploration in practice. The workers would do a much better job, not the class as it exists right now, but the one that can come into being through future struggles. Socialism isn't based on the premise that people are the same, only that they have the same rights and resources. Socialism is a society run by and for people. Socialism could liberate billions of individuals. Socialism is about extending democracy - by extending popular decision-making into arenas currently controlled by unelected institutions like corporations by creating many new democratic institutions such as neighbourhood assemblies and workplace committees. Capitalism keeps pushing new generations to look to an alternative. Socialism is about expanding social movements into a full participatory democracy.

For eons our ancestors knew all about how to get along without killing each other and destroying the environment. Only with the advent of class society did competition and "winning" replace cooperation and sharing as the primary ethos. And now class society has finished its evolutionary mission, allowing us to return to our anthropological roots. People don't realize that they have been conditioned to suspend their common sense. We don't understand that capitalism is invalid but sustained by ignoring its horrendous side effects e.g. the poor, crime, endless war, disease and destruction of ecospheres. Everything is One Thing – Capitalism and there is only one solution – Socialism. The Spanish left party, Podemos, had a slogan “one foot in the parliament, one hundred on the streets.”

A festive financial famine

More than 7000 Scots were forced to use food banks in the week before Christmas.

Low income was the biggest factor in 27 per cent of cases, while benefit delays were a factor in 24 per cent and 15 per cent were due to a benefit change.

Ewan Gurr, Scotland network manager for the Trussell Trust, said:

“The message we are clearly hearing in our food banks is not so much that people are struggling with a low income but with no income. This is not about misplaced spending priorities but families struggling on tight budgets where increased winter fuel bills and the absence of free school meals can mean having to make a decision between a warm home and a warm meal. Many individuals and families are simply experiencing a financial famine.”

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Socialism on the march

Our socialist revolution can and must be made. Our revolution is everybody’s revolution, of all nationalities and cultures. Who needs the compromisers of the reformist parties who have spouted about socialism for over a hundred years and never came close to making a revolution? “The final goal, no matter what it is, is nothing,” said Bernstein, “the movement is everything.” Every left-wing organisation seems to place the question of “Reform or Revolution” at the top of the agenda, but every conference seems to leave the question unresolved. The Socialist Party has not.

“Single-issueism” is the process of crossing class lines and watering down principles to a broadly acceptable level in order to construct an alliances with sections of the ruling class so a particular demand or reform can be achieved. The single-issue men and women yearn for immersion into the system have come to dominate over those who abhorred capitalism and seek its abolition.

Many brands of oppression—racism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, classism—are historical; they have not been always with us. It was not ever thus. And it’s not going to be this way, come the socialist revolution!

Some environmentalists concede that class exists all right, but it’s obsolete; capitalism and socialism are really the same thing because both deal with who shall own and control production. Some activists known as “deep greens” claim we shouldn’t produce at all because production is hazardous to health and environment and we should return to a more primitive life-style.

The single-issue is the dead-end issue. True, it is often large, but it is also, invariably, diffuse, divisive, ambiguous, contradictory, deceptive and mercurial- here today, gone tomorrow. It persists because the ruling class and their media confers respectability upon it. The capitalist system cannot grant substantial reforms because these would seriously weaken the very pillars upon which the system itself rests: exploitation for profits.

Oppressions grew not out of somebody’s evil mind, but out of material reality. Given certain economic conditions, levels of technology, and the particular development of the forces of production, assorted varieties of subjugation had to happen. When production of “commodities”—goods for sale— became widespread, private ownership arose and with it came new family structures and relations among people. Classes emerged. And to entrench these new classes, new forms of rule developed. The State was born; laws came on the scene. The culture changed. We live in an epoch in which there coexists class oppression, racism and sexism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism, anti-Semitism, etc. There’s a name for this kind of society and it’s called capitalism. It relishes and thrives on oppression.

By capitalism, we mean the system that exists on the basis of your unpaid labour. You as a worker produce commodities to be exchanged on the market. You produce not only enough to pay your own wage, but also an added value, a surplus value, over and above the cost of your maintenance. Surplus labour is your unpaid wage. In polite circles it is called “profit.” And that’s what capitalism is all about.

Capitalism is the all-embracing social cause of every form of oppression and exploitation today. This common context and content creates the parallels and the similarities between all of us despite our superficial differences of color and sex and age and sexuality. Capitalism is the core that engenders the intersections of all of our struggles, and all of our lives, and all of our problems. New forms of oppression and exploitation are created depending upon the needs of the economy. There’s constant interaction and change among economic institutions, the state, and the culture. We are all afflicted—commonly afflicted—by a ruthless system, a cruel, vicious, remorseless, callous system. The same enemy holds us in bondage. That enemy has the same reasons for torturing all of us. The ruling class wants to preserve its privileges, its interests, its power, its wealth, its dominion. And so it engages in a very interesting psychological technology called divide and conquer. It’s a weapon designed to make us all hate and resent and compete with each other. And so many of us buy it. We can’t let ourselves do that! We have to make change!

As a socialist party, we do not worship sectarian smallness or dogmatic purity. We aim at a mass radical workers’ movement. But, we refuse to dilute our principles into some classless united front which hands power over to any leadership that glorifies reformism as preferable to revolutionary solutions. The Socialist Party maintains its integrity and will not compromise its methods. Our task is to retain and continue socialist ideas, without these we would be derelict in our responsibility to the mass of humankind. Whenever we say that, somebody always objects: “Oh yeah? You can’t change human nature. ” Wrong! Our business as socialists is changing human nature away from the distortion that capitalism has made of it. And we can do it through unity. We are the people. We are the majority. If we organise, we can change this world, and we must.

When we make contact, we become part of each other. We draw from each other. We reflect each other; we affect each other, without losing our identities. Our oppressions interpenetrate, interact, intersect and meet. Some people try to escape the system. They try to ignore it and pretend it doesn’t affect them. But although you may try to escape the system, the system won’t escape you. You may try to ignore it, but it won’t ignore you. Sooner or later life and the system are going to place you in the class struggle. When people realize the system has “betrayed” them, they are very, very quickly raised in political consciousness. They then begin to generalise and see that everybody is affected. So solidarity is born and we understand we have to stick together if we’re going to create change. We fight on all fronts. We see the interconnections of all the different struggles and we have a vision of the future. Class is the key link.

What is class? Class simply describes where a person stands vis-à-vis wealth. Socialists call it your relation to the means of production. What end of the commodity production process are you on? Are you a producer of goods, or are you an appropriator of profits? Are you a worker employed by somebody else, or are you the employer who reaps surplus value from the labour of your employees? Workers are all the people who don’t own their own means of production. By this I don’t mean personal tools but the factory and the equipment, the production operation.

So who are workers today? Who isn’t? Movie stars, artists, musicians, government workers, professionals of all kinds, teachers, professors—almost everybody is a worker today. Workers aren’t just manual; there are increasingly fewer of those as automation and robots take over and everything becomes computerised. We do different kinds of work these days. We work with our minds more and we sit on our behinds more. But we’re still workers. We are the class. We are the overwhelming majority. And taken together, the workers of colour, the women, the young, the aged, the LGBT and the handicapped are the majority of that majority class. That’s what too many of us lose sight of. We really have some power if only we would use it. And that’s why we should stop sniping at each other and start organizing. There can be no socialism without liberation for everybody. This system cannot grant freedom to Blacks, period. To Hispanics, period. To women, period. You can’t have liberation for one group and nobody else. You can’t be liberated as an individual if you suffer oppression on some other level of your existence. If you make the cultural lifestyles of your own group into a substitute for politics and a strategy for change. It doesn’t work. It never works, because it’s too superficial. What it can do is destroy a movement. You have to recognise class—who’s the boss, who’s the worker, who’s right and who’s wrong. Class is the line we don’t cross.

Socialism is not production for profit. It is production for use. It is not production for private ownership and the private ownership of resources. It is common ownership of the wealth. It is not inequality and misery and persecution and discrimination; it is equality and fairness. It is not poverty and want; it is freedom from want. It is freedom from war. It is freedom from ugliness and squalor. It is just the opposite of what exists today and it expresses what people need and dearly want and would love to see.  Socialism is a celebration of life. We will never find tranquility until we merge our common treasury of wealth with the socialist concern for all people.

 There’s a big class struggle going on. How dare these extollers of a system that starves and exploits and crucifies untold billions blame the underpaid and the destitute for the poverty, mis-education, crime, dope, domestic abuse and cynicism that the profit system itself generates? The global order of capitalism cries out to be replaced with production for use, not for greed, so as to eliminate the endless wars and hatreds spawned by dwindling markets and poverty. The people will rise up one day and say, “I’m fed up with all this. I’m sick and tired. I’m not gonna take it anymore.” When people start to discover their wishes and dreams, at that point in history the planet will once again bloom. And the question is, what side are you on?

RISE for what?

Scotland’s newest party, RISE, Scotland’s Left Alliance,dubbed the Scottish Syriza, unveils its regional list candidates for Holyrood on Tuesday. RISE will also launch a fundraising appeal for £100,000. RISE is an electoral pact between the Scottish Socialists, the Scottish Left Project, environmentalists and independence campaigners. Former Scottish Socialist MSP and current SSP co-convenor Colin Fox has explained the SSP will not field candidates in its own name, but will only stand under the RISE banner in order to avoid splitting the Left vote. Fox said RISE would appeal to SNP supporters for their second votes to maximise the number of pro-independence MSPs in parliament. The anti-austerity party, which is backed by former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars, is standing only on the list system, where candidates can be elected with just 6 per cent of the vote.

Among RISE’s policies are a minimum wage of £20,000, maximum wage of £100,000, free public transport, an income-based Scottish service tax instead of council tax, ending charitable status for private schools, and, ultimately, an independent Scottish republic with its own currency. RISE advocates the construction of half a million new affordable houses over the next 25 years. Of course, there is no guarantee that five consecutive governments would maintain the massive building scheme. Abolish Police Scotland which was established in 2013. RISE proposes to return to local forces and to end the practices of stop and search and police carrying guns that were introduced under Police Scotland. Rise also wants to abolish the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, which critics have claimed criminalises young football fans. RIAE advocates the decriminalisation of all drugs, and the introduction of a public programme of drug rehabilitation. The policy states that the so-called ‘war on drugs’ has resulted in organised crime and addiction. RISE proposes the “public ownership” of energy companies. It calls for the gradual phasing out of the oil industry to be replaced with renewable energy, which Rise policy says Scotland has in abundance. Although a transferance of ownership is implied in the policy, there is no detail of whether private energy companies would be compensated and how much this would cost. RISE will campaign to have employers who use zero hours contracts sanctioned with the withdrawal of subsidies and awards. The policy is one of several that RISE will campaign for under the auspices of an Employment Freedom Bill. Other policies attached to the Bill, much of which could only be instituted if employment law is devolved to Scotland, include employee involvement in workplace decision making and trade unionism taught to children at school level.

These policies are not unexpected and nor are they steps towards socialism but simply the usual platform of the Left to make capitalism run better and not to abolish it. We do not deny that certain reforms won by the working class have helped to improve our general living and working conditions. Indeed, we see little wrong with people campaigning for reforms that bring essential improvements and enhance the quality of their lives, and some reforms do indeed make a difference to the lives of millions and can be viewed as "successful". There are examples of this in such fields as education, housing, child employment, work conditions and social security. Socialists have to acknowledge that the "welfare" state, the NHS and so on, made living standards for some sections of the working class better than they had been under rampant capitalism and its early ideology of laissez faire, although these ends should never be confused with socialism. However, in this regard we also recognise that such "successes" have in reality done little more than to keep workers and their families in efficient working order and, while it has taken the edge of the problem, it has rarely managed to remove the problem completely. Socialists do not oppose reformism because it is against improvements in workers' lives lest they dampen their revolutionary ardour; nor, because it thinks that decadent capitalism simply cannot deliver on any reforms; but because our continued existence as propertyless wage slaves undermines whatever attempts we make to control and better our lives through reforms. Our objection to reformism is that by ignoring the essence of class, it throws blood, sweat and tears into battles that will be undermined by the workings of the wages system. All that effort, skill, energy, all those tools could be turned against class society, to create a society of common interest where we can make changes for our common mutual benefit. So long as class exists, any gains will be partial and fleeting, subject to the ongoing struggle. What we are opposed to is the whole culture of reformism, the idea that capitalism can be tamed and made palatable with the right reforms.

We oppose those organisations that promise to deliver a programme of reforms on behalf of the working class, often in order to gain a position of power. Such groups on the Left, often have real aims quite different to the reform programme they peddle. Many of the Left are going to put before the working class only what they think will be understood by the workers - proposals to improve and reform the present capitalist system- and, of course they are going to try to assume the leadership of such struggles as a way of achieving support for their vanguard party. These Left parties may try to initiate such struggles themselves and they will try to muscle in on any struggles of this sort that groups of workers have started off themselves. But it's all very cynical because they know that reformism ultimately leads nowhere (as they readily admit in their theoretical journals meant for circulation amongst their members, though not in the populist, agitational journals). The purpose in telling workers to engage in such struggles is to teach them a lesson, the hard way which is the only way some on the Left think they can learn i.e. by experiencing failure. The expectation is that when, these reformist struggles fail the workers will then turn against capitalism, under the Party Leadership. It is the old argument, advanced by Trotsky in his founding manifesto for the "Fourth International" in 1938, that socialist consciousness will develop out of the struggle for reforms within capitalism: when workers realise that they can’t get the reforms they have been campaigning for they will, Trotsky pontificated, turn to the "cadres" of the Fourth International for leadership. All that's achieved is to encourage reformist illusions amongst workers. The ultimate result of this is disillusionment with the possibility of radical change.

The Socialist Party does not accept the view that nothing but socialism concerns the socialist and in regards to trade unionism has stated that the non-revolutionary phase of the struggle between the classes is as inevitable as the revolutionary. When the worker acquires revolutionary consciousness he is still compelled to make the non-revolutionary struggle. We fight in the here and now, where we are and where we can, rather than tell everyone to wait until the revolution comes and that all struggle is a diversion from creating a united Marxian socialist party of the world. It doesn't mean we have to sit around and wait for a revolution. A blanket opposition to everything that does and can happen in capitalism in the guise of being supportive of working class interests and being true to socialist principles, they would involve actions (or sometimes, inaction) would be ridiculous and taken to its ultimate, logical conclusion would lead to the situation whereby socialists in parliament determinedly resolved to oppose all reform measures as a matter of course, even those of clear benefit to workers or the socialist movement (and by doing so inadvertently allying themselves with the forces of reaction to keep wars going, or oppose factory legislation and anything else that might benefit workers).

Every organisation has to decide what it is working for, and whether that aim is important. When the first of the parties in the World Socialist Movement was founded in 1904, it decided it was going to work for socialism. Socialists are, of course, not immune to the human tragedies which occur daily, by the millions, and which has generate thousands of reformist groups trying to stem the tide. Socialists made a choice. They chose to use their time and limited funds to work to eliminate the cause of the problems. One can pick any problem and often one can find that real improvements have taken place, usually after a very long period of agitation. Rarely, if ever, has the problem disappeared, and usually other related problems have cropped up to fill the vacuum of destruction or suffering left by the "solution". The mistaken idea that we should devote our energies to improving capitalist society through reforms has led, certainly in absolute terms, to the most destructive century in history. What has been the most pernicious lie of the century? It is that hope for the future lay in the gradual, imperceptible, but certain amelioration of capitalism through the process of reform. The false hope of piecemeal improvement of an essentially cancerous system captured the imaginations of millions, exhausted their energies in the reformist struggle to humanise the profit system, and then left them dumbed by frustration. Whether the changes were to come through Holyrood or by gaining control of local councils or by humanitarian and "green" appeals for a nicer, gentler world, the system which puts profit before need has persistently spat the hope of humane capitalism back in the face of its advocates. The progressive enthusiasm of millions has been stamped out in this way. Dare we imagine how different it would have been if that energy—or even a half or a tenth of that energy—which has gone into reforming capitalism had gone into abolishing it? 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Dawn and the Day is coming

Socialism is the doctrine for sharing and caring but for many people socialism is the philosophy of the ‘crazies’. The ruling class claim for themselves the mantle of progress, logic, truth, beauty, and knowledge. They represent socialists as deluded, irrational, psychotic, and hateful. But just look at these critics of socialism: the distorted finance capitalists who would see a world plunged into barbarism before they relinquish a penny of their fabulous profits; the power-mad industrialists who grind the working class to dust beneath the wheels of the juggernaut of new technology. Are these people sane? Wise? Right? Benevolent? Reasonable? Only we socialists really take reason seriously. We are infinitely more rational than our class enemies. Socialists do not rape the Earth and do not worship Mammon at the expense of people and nature. This has made socialism the anathema of the ruling class, hence, they misunderstand and distort the ideas which reflects the class struggle. The only alternative is socialist revolution. Nothing is more impossible than the goal of self-survival on a ruined planet. There is a better way for suffering humanity–to go forward together to reestablish the democratic collective ownership of the means of producing life’s necessities.

It is practically impossible to make capitalism work rationally with a plan. The purpose of production always remains the same – how much is there in it for the owners of industry! The profit system recognizes no plans except one: private gain and the accumulation of even more gain. Our bosses has to exploit us in order to keep their own businesses making profit. In capitalist economics, the workers are reduced to a “resource” and a “cost item” to be kept to the absolute minimum through speedups, wage-cuts and layoffs. The bosses spend millions figuring out how to squeeze every possible ounce of labour out of us, for it is only out of our labor that they make their profits. Under capitalism, workers have no control over what is produced and how. All that is decided by how much profit some capitalist will gain. But socialism enables the working class to decide how to organise itself and the resources of society to meet the needs of the people. Socialism means workers are not at the mercy of the crises of capitalism. As long as profit for the few is the basis of the economic system, that system–capitalism–will continue to go from crisis to deeper crisis, with more misery for the majority of people.

Capital is simply money and commodities assigned to create a profit and be reinvested. Profit is made by the "magical" addition of surplus value to the value inherent in the product. The "added value," the profit, is produced by workers. The value of a commodity comes from the labour invested in it, including the labor that manufactured the machinery and extracted the raw materials used to create the item. And the boss' profits do not come from his smarts or his capital investment or his mark-up, but from the value created by labour - specifically, surplus-value. Surplus value derives from unpaid wages. The worker is never paid for the value of the product, only for the value of her or his labour time, which is considerably less, and which meanders widely depending upon the historical, cultural and social conditions of a country. Labour-power is miraculous, like the Virgin Birth. You get more out of it than you put in. Workers produce a commodity which has more value than what they get in wages to keep them functioning. This differential is surplus value, which is the source of capital. The secret of value, the labour theory of value, that was unearthed by the classical economists and by Marx is what the ruling classes fear and hate. It is the secret that will set the world free. People will learn how to control the supposedly sacred, eternal, and inscrutable method of production and distribution that now controls us.

Socialists will produce for use according to a reasonable plan and without a thought for the odious notion of profit. And with no insatiable parasitic class to maintain, socialist society will produce abundance for all. The global human family will arrange its standard of living as easily as affluent families do today.

Capitalism isn't directed by some sinister cabal, but by millions of individual owners. The whole system is coordinated through trade and the money prices that trade generates. Much engineering and manipulation and control through pacts does go on, but Marx pointed out the truly anarchistic nature of modern industrial capitalism - an irrational, disorganized hodge-podge operation that enormously rewards price fixers, crooks, gangsters, exploiters, con artists, gamblers, stock manipulators, and all manner of corruption. It's a crazy and ruthless economy that survives by inflicting anguish on untold billions. The underlying profit system is perpetuated by mostly unknown industrialists and financiers.

Today, millions challenge and protest. We have had enough of those patronising “radicals” who tells us that “You socialists are too impatient — Rome wasn’t built in a day.” After decades the working class is eventually becoming sophisticated enough to dare to revolt. Millions of people are learning to shed regressive prejudices and reactionary ideas. The socialist future is clearly within view for our epoch and our lives. What better use to make of one's life than in preparing that new civilization, the participation in the emancipation of humanity. We are no longer occupied with explaining defeats such as the 1917 Russian Revolution and rising above betrayals of all the reformist social-democrats. Not because we will have forgotten those, but simply because we are now focused upon fulfilling our role in creating a new world, rich with freedom, able to produce abundance while maintaining humane relations between people. Men and women intend to create a new society where everybody can stop being sheep start being human. You must play a part in bringing this about. Together, we must either change the world or be doomed by it. Together, we can win. Our mutual aid and shared support grows naturally out of our common experiences and joint actions. We are a movement with a goal. This world is ours, and you fight for what’s yours. The comradeship of fellow communists engaged in a common crusade is to be cherished. Our revolution is everybody’s revolution, and our revolution can and will be made, as the song puts it, with a little help from our friends.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Socialism is the ONLY answer!

 The future of humanity calls for an end of the profit system. Capitalism is an outmoded and exploitative system that needs to be changed for the salvation of humanity before it’s too late. We’d better learn and act now. Today the bosses own. Tomorrow the workers will own in common the means of production and would therefore be in a position to control and direct distribution in the interests of the majority of people. The working class must make its stand against the capitalist system – whose lust for profits and interest, for investments, markets and expanded capital, for raw materials and cheap exploitable labour, can mean only exploitation and abject wage slavery. Then ALL the peoples of the world will indeed be free.

With socialism, there will be no wages at all. There will be no prices or market in the sense of goods obtainable only on the basis of paying for them. Under socialism, men and women will receive a share of what has been produced by the common social labour. They will receive it on the basis of having participated in that social labour in one way or another, and not, as in capitalism, on the basis of the amount of expended energy which must be replenished. The latter is the way workers receives their “share” under capitalism; the capitalist receives his “share” because he owns the means of production and can buy the worker’s labour power. Under capitalism, workers, receives wages which simply go to refurbish him for another work-week or whatever. And so it goes on for the worker under capitalism – a continuous treadmill (perhaps only broken periods of unemployment or sickness. The exploitation of wage labour is the exploitation of one class by another class—the working class by the capitalist class—and is not necessarily the exploitation of the individual worker by his or her employer. Unless we understand this, the class struggle is only a meaningless phrase.

If you are a wage-working man or woman, your life is conditioned upon having access to a job; you must establish yourself as an employee to some employer. To establish this relationship you must possess something which the employer requires in the business in which he is engaged. You have the power to produce wealth—labour power. It is the only thing you have, but it is an essential factor in industry. In fact all capitalist industry is predicated upon the existence of men and women like you who have no other way to live, except by offering their life energy, labour power, for sale. The labour power of the workers in nearly all industrial occupations is used in connection with other expressions of power such as steam, electricity, gas, water, gasoline and horses. Labor power differs from these other powers in that it not only expends itself but expends itself intelligently and directs, controls and uses these other power expressions. The brain of the worker, as well as his arms and legs, is a factor of his labour power. The other powers would as likely injure as serve without the guidance of labour power. The worker sells his labor power and receives in return a wage, out of which he must provide the means of life for himself and his dependents. The boss buys labour power because he needs it to operate his establishment, whether that be a factory, a mine or a farm. The most up-to-date equipment is valueless as a means of producing wealth unless the magic influence of labour power sets it in operation. It is not a philanthropic motive that inspires the boss to employ the wage worker; it is because he must employ him, or fail in his enterprise. When he does employ the labourer he drives as hard a bargain as he can, which means that he will pay the laborer as little as the labourer will work for. But the least the labourer is inclined to accept, on the average, is a wage sufficient to maintain him and his family according to the standard of living obtaining among the workers. And this standard is what determines his wage. The labor time necessary to produce values equal to that required to maintain and reproduce the laborer sets the exchange value of his labor power, or the wage of the worker. As you will see later this is what determines the relation of all commodities to one another—the amount of socially necessary labour time contained in them—and, as labor power is a commodity, its exchange value is similarly determined. But labour power, unlike other commodities, besides being part of the worker is associated with the aspirations, hopes, ambitions and will of the owner. That is, as well as being a commodity, it has human attributes, and being inseparable from the labourer has the effect of reducing him to a commodity basis. In capitalist society he is not only a producer and seller of a commodity—labour power—but is himself practically a commodity—a package of labour power wrapped up in a human skin. As dead workers cannot be exploited it stands to reason that the workers must be kept alive if their exploitation is to continue. The boss is not at all concerned about how the workers live just so they are able to deliver to him the labour power for which he bargains with them. A favourite argument on behalf of capitalism is that “labour needs capital and capital needs labour.” This is not at all so, for capital in that connection is meant to disguise the capitalists. Labour does not need capital as capital. What labour needs, and will eventually have, is the instruments of production, without their character of capital. This character, which is a character imposed upon the means of production, the workers will destroy without injuring these tools, without so much as even scratching the paint on them. Only the instruments, without their capitalist ownership, are necessary to labour.

With socialism, goods are produced for people’s use and NOT for the profits which they bring in to bosses. Labour power is no longer regarded as a commodity to be bought and sold. It is not purchased at all, let alone purchased at the lowest possible price to keep it alive and able to produce more value. People, inside socialism, will work and produce useful goods. But they will produce these for their mutual needs and for their mutual development. The sufficiency of goods which people and machines can create will be given to men and women to develop their bodies so that their minds can grow rich in the wealth of human knowledge, esthetic appreciation and artistic creation. From day to day, from week to week, and from year to year, the spiral of possible individual activity will widen as human productive and intellectual achievements increase. Freed from the necessity of working for the bosses the time that each person must work will be small, yet the goods produced for all to enjoy will be plentiful. Once people have been freed from the capitalist system, they will also have been freed from wage labour, price and profit. That is why, instead of the conservative motto, “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” workers must inscribe on their banner the REVOLUTIONARY watchword: “Abolition of the wage system!” Socialism is the ONLY answer!

Merry Marxmas, Comrades

Thursday, December 24, 2015

There is Another Way

One of the basic proposition of socialists is that capitalism, even at its most liberal, remains a system of domination and exploitation. It is a system which involves the concentration of economic power, based on the private ownership and control of the main means of production and the maintenance and defence of this system possesses strong tendencies towards an ever-greater concentration of political power and a corresponding erosion of civic, political and democratic rights. There is an increasing centralisation of production and finance into fewer and fewer hands, while at the same time the dynamic of competition governs the system ever more ruthlessly as global corporate giants and anonymous financial markets compete over rates of profits. A vast reserve army of the unemployed has emerged even in the major capitalist countries. Old industries are abandoned or ‘rationalised’; and through constant mergers and speculation new areas of accumulation are fostered on a global scale. ‘Peripheral’ capitalist nations are weighed down by enormous debts, whose ‘recycling’ is accompanied by demands from creditors for ‘austerity’ measures on the part of the debtors; and these measures naturally fall most heavily upon already desperately impoverished populations. A ‘debt crisis’ continues to grow, and threatens to engulf the whole capitalist world in yet another economic cataclysm. All the while militarism is ever more blatantly a necessary prop of accumulation. Further still, the evidence grows daily of the undemocratic lengths to which capitalist governments are prepared to go to protect their interests and not only in foreign lands, but right at home domestically as the ‘strong state’ is combined with the ‘free market’. The ruling class seeks to its own view of how people should live – so that ‘virtue’ comes to mean accepting one’s social position, ‘honesty’ means leaving the rich to get richer, And the state, by using its power to try to make society cohere, in fact acts to make the exploited classes accept the rules laid down by the ruling class.

There is no doubt important differences between countries. More is done by way of welfare in Sweden than in Britain; and in Britain more than in the United States. But in all cases, social relations based on domination, exploitation and competition continued to structure the everyday experiences of the populations of advanced capitalist countries; and the reforms which were then achieved by dint of pressure and struggle remained limited by the social relations of capitalism. So long as the development of the welfare state and state intervention appeared to offer the possibility to alleviate some of the economic and social ills produced by the logic of capital accumulation for the majority, there are many people on the Left who believe capitalism could gradually be reformed out of existence by ‘incremental’ advances on many fronts. In short, the case for ‘gradualist reformism’ has been easier to make, even if the actual reforms that were achieved have serious limitations. Now, even these reforms need to be defended against the attacks and cuts. It is surely past argument that all such reforms, in the context of capitalism, are extremely conditional. The idea that reforms are in place forever once they are established and that the only remaining issue is the pace and scope of further advance, has been demonstrated to be no more than an illusion. Labour Parties have so far mainly sought legislation to regulate and constrain capitalist power but the point, however, is to dissolve it, and to replace it with a democratic, cooperative and egalitarian social system. The Keynesian welfare state reproduced the basic division between rulers and ruled, and did very little to tackle the undemocratic nature of capitalist democracy. Nor was it ever to be expected that it would or could.

Some critics of capitalism such as Richard Wolff and Gar Alperovitz talk about alternative socially useful production, based on the needs of society and (thus the needs of the employees and ordinary people.) alternative production is, not only what is to be produced, but also how it is to be produced. How the work is to be organised so that it’s not just fair but also pleasant. Within these new models of cooperative production goods shall be designed and manufactured more for the needs it fulfils than for the profit it might make and should not waste energy or resources, neither in its manufacture, nor in its use. The product should not harm the environment nor deprive workers of their initiative, creativity, or job satisfaction. Prosperity isn’t only higher living standards, but also the right to a meaningful job built upon the capability of workers to bring an endless wealth of ideas, knowledge and imagination.

The main lines of ‘new’ economic thinking emerge quite clearly. Wolff and Alperovitz have presented together two quite different things. At one level, they are concerned about propaganda about the superiority of life under socialism. This is nothing new and has always formed an important part of the socialist case. The other thing that they have done is to suggest an alternative for production under capitalism. Even if the alternative model of production is established in this or that factory it will not and cannot insulate the working class from the consequences of the compelling drive of capitalism to make profits and to increase profits. Capitalists, capitalist states, even worker-directors, cannot break loose from that objective necessity of speed-up, sackings, replacement of human beings by machines, cutting corners on health and safety, etc., etc., for that is the logic of the capitalist system itself. The dream of alternative production is not a panacea which neatly skirts all of these real constraints. There are two results from this alleged cure-all. First, the question of commercial viability is introduced into the argument by the workers themselves. Second, it hands to all other employers a golden opportunity for diverting the prospect of struggle into one of negotiation where a wonderful store of initiative and imagination is opened up to them, a host of new possibilities for profitable production are presented. But of course, they will grasp it in their own way. Reformism is strengthened by giving workers a place in the capitalist economic system through the development and articulation of cooperatives, but such is not the road to a socialist revolution by the working class. Socialists have always argued the case for alternative production in one sense: the idea that in a socialist society production will be for need and not for profit. Devoting time, energy and resources to drawing up detailed plans for such production in a capitalist society will ultimately be disillusioning and demoralising at best or strengthen capitalism at worst.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Strange Growth?

Engineering and construction giant, SNC-Lavalin plans to lay off four thousand workers next year, including one thousand in Canada. The Montreal based company claims this is to help the company grow. To quote CEO, Robert Card, "It may be ironic, but it's a growth move. We have a target to become a $15 billion company in the near future and that's going to generate jobs." Imagine how gratifying that must seem to those about to be laid off in the 'near future'. John Ayers

What holiday?

Low-income families should be given help to cope with increased emotional and financial pressures over the school holidays, a Child Poverty Action Group report, commissioned by Glasgow Life - an arms-length body of Glasgow City Council, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health said. Some families felt the strain when free school meals were not available. This could be exacerbated when working hours were cut for childcare reasons and families resorted to borrowing. The research highlighted the problems posed by the extra costs of feeding children over school holiday periods when free school lunches were no longer available. Lack of affordable childcare, leading to reduced working hours was also identified as an issue. The report states that subsidised travel and free activities and lunches could help struggling families.

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said "The pressures low-income families face are magnified during school holidays," he said. "It's harder for parents to juggle work and childcare and it's harder to feed, clothe and keep children warm, never mind give them the kind of holiday experience better off families take for granted.” 

Many families also reported borrowing money during holidays to pay for the additional costs of heating and clothing. Parents also spoke of the guilt they experienced at not being able to meet children's expectations.

One parent told researchers: "You are living just to survive not to actually live a valued life. You just have to live through each day and thank God it's one less."

Another added "It's worse at Christmas when it's cold and I have to put more money in my gas to heat my house. When the kids are in school I don't use my heating and I save it for them coming home." 

The Labour Party is not, and has never been, a Socialist Party (1977)

From the June 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent furore in the press and within the Labour Party itself over whether the Party will admit to its ranks “Marxists” has been the cause of much debate concerning the origins of Labourism. Tony Benn, a member of the Government, defended the notion that Marxism has had a strong influence in developing the Labour Party. Benn’s claim is spurious and unfounded: the rejection of Marxism, and hence revolution, fated Labour to follow a reformist path leading to the inevitable disillusionment of its members.

Most of Labour’s early leaders if asked what books were seminal in shaping their views of society would probably mention John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Henry George’s Progress and Poverty, the Bible. If Capital was mentioned at all it would come a long way down the list. In fact, it has been claimed that the Labour Party owes more to the writings of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, than to the founder of scientific Socialism, Karl Marx. Keir Hardie, founder of the Independent Labour Party, said: “I claim for Socialism that it is the embodiment of Christianity in our industrial system,” It was said of Hardie’s meetings that they often began with a hymn, followed by a lesson, and concluded with a prayer.

The Labour Party’s view of society at its foundation was not an economic analysis of capitalism. The capitalist system was bad because it was run by hard-faced politicians who were indifferent to social evils, and not because of its economic laws which placed the pursuit of profit above all else. Therefore, the solution to the problems of society lay in removing these men from; office and replacing them with a more decent set who would, by reforms, abolish the poor, feed the hungry, etc.

This was a denial of reality. No party, however well-intentioned, could hope to spirit away the essential basis of capitalism, whilst at the same time acting as custodian of that very system. The only option was to change society in a revolutionary way and this was rejected out of hand by the Labourites. Thus, having no Marxist outlook, it was understandable that Labour leaders would find working with the avowedly capitalist Liberals no hardship (it still is the case). Ramsay MacDonald, the first Labour Prime Minister, said he could see “no profound” gulf between Liberalism and Socialism. He argued that socialism was to be furthered by the close collaboration of men of goodwill from all [sic] classes on the basis of “conceptions of right and wrong” common to all. Keir Hardie’s hatred of class strife was a direct result of his Christian beliefs and Liberal upbringing.

The Labourites from the beginning shied away from the fact that the working class’s interests were diametrically opposed to those of the capitalists. In fact they held firmly to the principles of free-trade Liberalism. Keir Hardie himself left the Liberal Party not because he found the policies of Gladstone distasteful, but as a result of the way the local party branch chose its parliamentary candidates; a method which excluded working men. Hardie affirmed his still-felt affinity for Liberalism when he stood for election as an independent labour candidate in 1892. His election manifesto stated: “Generally I am in agreement with the present programme of the Liberal Party.” So much was Liberalism the cornerstone of much of the early ILP ideology that the Manchester Guardian could say, in 1901, of its annual conference: “what must strike a liberal . . . is, one would say, how much of the proceedings are devoted to the advocacy of traditional Liberal principles.”

When it came to deciding what Hardie’s party was to be called, the 1893 Conference rejected the idea of naming the new party the Socialist Labour Party, for in the words of Katherine Conway: “The new party has to appeal to an electorate, which has as yet no full understanding of Socialism.” This opportunistic approach to the working-class electorate has characterized the Labourites from the earliest times. Its refusal to commit itself to definite principles was the nearest it ever got to having principles, Henry Pelling, the historian, has argued in his book The Origins of the Labour Party that by adopting the broad, indefinite title of the ILP, the party was only reflecting the fact that most of its support lay in local parties and union branches which were not committed to socialism. The object of these bodies was to build a parliamentary party on the basis of social reform, not social revolution. The eight-hour day, abolition of overtime, old-age pensions, and so on, were prominent amongst the ILP’s early demands. Their allies in this were to be trade unions.

This appeal to trade unions proved ultimately successful. It was union support which saved the infant Labour party. For in the general election of the late 1890’s all the Labour candidates had been defeated, polling 44,000 votes in all, and the ILP was on the verge of bankruptcy.

But the unions were not attracted by overthrowing capitalism and replacing it with Socialism. What interested them most was the creation of a political party which would safeguard their immediate existence by using parliament to pass favourable legislation. This would have been entrusted to the Liberals, as traditionally had been the case. However, they had allowed the employers to organize strike-breaking organizations, especially in the docks, they had voted against the eighth-hour day demand, they had watched without a murmur the Taff Vale case of 1900. It was disillusionment with Liberalism and not capitalism which forced the unions to throw in their lot with Labour.

During the period between 1906 and 1914, the Labour mps merely acted as a pressure group, prepared to barter their vote for small, piecemeal legislative measures advancing the cause of trade unionism, and in this they were reasonably successful. For example, they secured the repeal of the Taff Vale judgement in the Trades Disputes Act of 1906. However, Labour was normally content to follow the Liberal lead at this time, which led it to be described as the “handmaiden of liberalism.”

Let us turn to another group concerned in the formation of the Labour Party, the Fabians. They were a group of well-to-do intellectuals, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Sidney and Beatrice Webb amongst them. It was the Fabians who, in Britain, made socialism synonymous with the state. They made the remarkable discovery that in the wasteland of capitalism there were patches of socialism in the form of public baths, parks, playfields, cemeteries, washhouses and public conveniences. Even the War Office and Scotland Yard had for them the character of socialist institutions. Another of their brilliant contributions was the theory of gradualism: the official socialism of the Labour Party. Finding words like “revolution” alien to their vocabulary, the Fabians argued that socialism was to evolve almost imperceptibly over many years, until one night everyone would go to bed (except those on nightshift) and in the morning they would wake up inside socialism. To quote Keir Hardie, Socialism would come “like a thief in the night”. The main agent for this unconscious change in society—no one was to be aware it was occurring, except the Fabians — was to be the state. Attempts at putting this theory into practice via nationalization have not brought Socialism one inch nearer, neither have they reduced class conflict—witness the recent bitter battles with the miners.

The emphasis it placed upon working within the capitalist system, meant that the Labour Party was open to all sorts of social reformers and cranks. Trade unionists, dissatisfied Liberals, well-to-do philanthropists, and out-and-out careerists saw in the Labour Party a meal-ticket. A direct result of the influx of the intellectuals and managerial types was the ousting of working people from the representative positions in the party. By 1945, Arthur Greenwood, Labour’s Lord Privy Seal, could say approvingly: “I look around my colleagues and I see landlords, capitalists and lawyers. We are a cross section of the national life, and this is something that has never happened before.” (Hansard, 17th August 1945)

Thus in the origins of the Labour Party we can see the seeds of future failures. The Labour Party has not brought Socialism about because from the outset it never was a Socialist party. It sought to win votes on the basis of social reform and not social revolution. Any socialists who might have existed in the Labour ranks at that time were swamped by non-socialists, who dictated the party’s course along essentially reformist and capitalist lines. Any notion that once into office the Labourites could take the capitalist dog for a walk has been subsequently shown to be false. The dog has taken them for a long walk down the road of power politics and social evils. Support of two world wars, presiding over massive unemployment, etc., has been the sorry outcome for a party, which failed to realize that capitalism can only be run in the interests of the capitalist class. It was not a question of good men with Christian principles, but of socialist economics.

Bill Knox
(formerly of Edinburgh Br)