Saturday, April 30, 2016

The tyranny of profits

“The anarchy of the market produces the tyranny of the factory.”Marx

“Market socialists” raise objections to the Socialist Party call for free access. Their argument rests on some dubious assumptions.
First, that left to themselves human beings will produce goods that other human beings do not need.
Second, that human beings have and always will resist producing things efficiently and well in the absence of outside pressures.
Thirdly, that because they are innately lazy, human beings will not work unless compelled to.
Finally, they say that in an economy without a market there would be no price system and therefore no way to compare the production costs of different things. The increased waste would arise, they claim. The prices which people are prepared to pay for goods act as signals which tell individual firms what to produce and what not to produce.

The market is not the answer. There is only one way to escape for workers from the detrimental effects of capitalism and that is for the economy to be run by the immediate producers themselves. Once in control of the process of production they would have no interest in wasting effort on producing goods that no one wants, on turning out goods of low quality, or resisting innovations that would make their work easier. Think about it. Even in existing capitalist society when people produce for their own immediate consumption, you rarely find people cooking themselves meals when they are not hungry, deliberately spoiling the food or shunning the use of a food-processor to lighten the work. It would relatively easy for people in socialism particularly with all the computer potential at our finger-tips to get together so as to work out what and how much we should produce and in what ways we can use less labour and resources– and to do so without the devastation of lives that occurs when this happens at present in today’s capitalist economy. The price mechanism does not let firms know what to produce in advance any more than the free associated producers are able to foresee all needs and all links in the production process. But they would be quite capable of working out what their main needs are likely to be, if only because they can calculate what is needed in the same way that capitalism does – by seeing what was needed in the past – and then adjust it according to their own democratically expressed preference. Supply can be made to correspond to demand

The view that socialism is equivalent to single-party with all industry nationalised and is the Marxist idea of the socialisation of production is widespread within the workers’ movement and it is a false idea. That such a flawed conception of socialism should continue, despite all the experiences of the working class, is witness to the power of misinformation about socialism and Marx. It is the result of the 57 varieties of reformism which passes for socialism. The overthrow of capitalism demands the overthrow of its State. A victorious working class would not institute a new state but rather use its machinery so as to be able to realise its real goal, the appropriation of the means of production and their irrevocable transformation into social means of production under the control of the association of free and equal producers. Although assuming functions previously associated with those of the state, it does is not become a new state, but merely a means to the elimination of all suppressive measures through the ending of class relations. There is no room for a “socialist state” in socialism, even though there will be a certain need for a central coordination of the socialised economy, which, however, is itself a part of the organisation of associated producers and not an independent entity set apart and against them. Workers taking over the system of production would use their power to eliminate waste.

Socialism is a system of planning and management in which the workers allocate resources and democratically determine priorities themselves. Such a system demands that the people themselves articulate their needs as producers, consumers and citizens, in other words, that they become the masters of their conditions of work and life, that they progressively liberate themselves from despotism and diktat of the market and its tyranny of the wallet. Socialism will be a democracy of various diverse workers and community councils. The rule of bureaucracy or technocracy is irreconcilable with the conscious control and direction, through planned democratic association of self-managing producers.

Socialism is the exercise of power by the associated producers.  Worker self-management, which is not exclusively or mainly limited to enterprise level is articulated by general assemblies, workers’ councils, and democratically elected local, regional, global congresses of workers’ councils in which the associated producers freely plan production on the basis of various plan alternatives, determine priorities in the satisfaction of needs, and decide the extent of postponed consumption (“socialist accumulation”). There will be a collaboration and coordination with communities formed in federated communes or civic polis. A democracy of workers’ councils also means the beginning of the “withering away of the state”, by handing over more and more spheres of administration to direct democracy -i.e. the immediate self-management of those concerned.

Socialism is the end of commodity production, of money, of classes, and of the state, i.e. the construction of a classless society.  Socialism is an entirely new social system resting upon the abolition of exploitation. Socialist production permits cooperative rather than competitive production to flourish. Socialism pre-supposes a social organisation based on co-operation and solidarity for the common good, i.e. self-managing socialism where humanity becomes the masters of its society and there is no danger of it becoming enslaved by new technology and automation. If we don’t achieve socialism then the threats are innumerable: annihilation by war; suffocating in the poisoned air; ecological destruction; massive poverty; widespread famine; and decline of personal liberties; and now as speculated by some futurologists, possible enslavement by robots. What a terrifying prospect we and our children and grand-children may have before us. The tyranny of profits and capital accumulation reshapes our way of thinking yet it is not the fault of science but how it is being used against us. 

Missionaries come to Glasgow

US Christian activists, Hope Scouts – which describes itself as a worldwide charity - are raising cash to spread the word in Glasgow – because they reckon it’s so poor and deprived. 

It has organised relief projects in Abidjan, Ivory Coast and Bangalore in India. It says Glasgow is now in their sights because of the so-called Glasgow Effect, a term used to describe the low life expectancy and levels of poverty in parts of the city. 

Hope Scouts – which says it was inspired by the scriptures to serve the poor, sick and suffering - say poverty, stress, alienation and pessimism are rife in Glasgow where, it claims, a third of children live in deprivation.

Socialists in Scotland

Most of us don’t own a single square inch of Scotland. It doesn’t belong to us: we just live here and work for the people who do own it. During the referendum debate, the partisans of independence were painting an unbelievable picture of how life would be so much better if Scotland was no longer ruled from Westminster. A social democratic paradise was to be established in Scotland. Reformism, despite failing to do so on every previous occasion it has been tried, would somehow be able this time to make capitalism work for the benefit for wage and salary workers and their dependents. Socialists didn’t believe this either. And with the dramatic fall in the price of oil, few can now support the idea that an independent Scotland could have afforded those reforms.

 The Socialist Party does 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. Any fortune – whether in the form of money payments or subsidised services – that falls into our laps becomes an opportunity for those that live off our labour to lower their costs, and increase their profits. So long as there is a class divided society, it becomes impossible for us to enact measures to benefit the whole community. Socialists point to the continuing condition of our class as wage-slaves and affirm that whatever the gains we may receive, the wages system will take away.

The reason why lies in the very form of wage slavery. We are, collectively, compelled to sell our capacity to work – our labour power – in order to get access to those things which we need in order to live as members of our community – our food, clothes, housing, transportation and the like. The value of this labour power is the cost of maintaining and reproducing our capacity to work – and this entails the cost of keeping and rearing the next generation of workers, our children. This value is found through the struggle between ourselves and our employers, as they try to drive our wages as low as possible, and we try to prevent this or push up the price they pay us. It is not driven by the living costs of any one individual, but by the general costs of living in society. These general costs of living form a pressure on wages, which can force them upwards, as can the level of class consciousness and understanding of the workers; whereas counter-acting forces, such as the availability of a particular type of labour, general unemployment and the use of state power, combine to create downwards pressures on wages. All of which is to say that our wages are set by class struggle. This is a continuous struggle in which every gain has to be defended, and in which there is no relenting. If the price of one of our necessities of life falls, this will be reflected by a decrease in the upwards pressure on wages. Without a corresponding relenting in the downward forces on wages, our real wages would begin to dwindle towards a new level (either through direct wage cuts or by allowing inflation – that is a decrease in the value of money – to eat away at our spending power). Our objection to reformism is, then, 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.

It is always difficult to understand why some alleged leftists will go to an infinite amount of trouble to avoid recognising an unpalatable truth. Although they cannot wait to propagate socialism, they are prepared to go on forever, alternately denouncing known enemies of the working class and supporting them for "tactical" reasons. They will discard every principle and make themselves personally ridiculous and contemptible by perpetual shuffling, all in order to gain something by manoeuvre which they cannot gain in open fight. They never do get anything worth having, and the working class have to pay the price of failure in the despair of the disappointed followers of these blind leaders. The cause of this lies simply in their refusal to recognise the fact that socialism cannot be won without socialists. They shelter behind the excuse that the workers are too ignorant and foolish ever to understand their own interests, but, as Voltaire very shrewdly remarked, "He who dreams that he can lead a great crowd of fools without a great store of knavery is a fool himself."

The Socialist Party stands not for an independent Scotland nor a united Britain but a world without frontiers. We have no objection to cultural diversity. Differences of language, food, music and the like will continue to exist in a united socialist world; indeed, would no longer be subjected to globalisation and “Mcdonaldisation” as today under capitalism. We would add that different cultures can exist in the same geographical area and that individuals can partake of elements of different cultures (you don‘t have to come from India to enjoy a curry). Our objection is to the exploitation of cultural differences for political ends, as for instance to set up or maintain a state or as the basis for a political party. The nation and nationalism are not an eternal and essential characteristic of human beings as some would have it, but are solely a tool for pursuing the further interests of sections of the master class at given points in history. The interests of our masters are not our interests. What workers have to realise clearly is that the interests of fellow workers in other lands are nearer to their own than are those of the masters in one’s own country. The bonds which bind worker with worker, irrespective of nationality, are those of class solidarity.

The voice of the Socialist Party in Scotland is a small but a constant one. All parties are in opposition to it but it persists. It will continue to expose those who, under the guise of liberators, continue to mislead the working class, included in this category being the nationalists, whether, left or right. What those who want a better society should be doing – should have done – is to campaign to change people's minds, to get them to realise that they are living in an exploitative, class-divided society and that the only way out is to end capitalism and replace it with a new and different system based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, with production to satisfy people's needs, and distribution on the basis of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”. Once a majority have come to this realisation, they will know what to do: organise themselves into a socialist party to democratically win political control and use it to bring about a socialist society. That's what socialist politics should be about.

Friday, April 29, 2016

We want the best in life

Capitalism continues to exist not only by force but also by the power of ideas. These ideas are instilled into people from the day they start thinking to the day they die. The schools and colleges, the newspapers, magazines and books, all the media, the church pulpits, are all the ways by which the thoughts of people are shaped. They are used by the class that controls them to argue that the society we live in is fundamentally correct and the natural one. By and large, the working class accepts these ideas. If it did not, capitalism could not be kept alive for very long. Because we are stuffed full of these ideas, workers will usually accept the division of wealth to different classes as fit and proper. Some of us are made to toil, others are made to prosper. Why complain if you have not the talent to make money and become rich? Don’t the wealthy provide you with a job? Wanting to change the natural order is only the politics of envy”

Marx always describes socialist society as a society of associated producers. Socialism is an economic system based upon conscious planning of production by associated producers (not by the State), made possible by the abolition of private property of the means of production. As soon as that private property is completely abolished, goods produced cease to be commodities. Value and exchange value disappear. Production becomes production for use, for the satisfaction of needs, determined by the conscious choice of the mass of the associated producers themselves. This a post-capitalist society.  Humanity will be organised into a free federation of communities where work will have transformed itself into meaningful labour, making possible the development of each and every individual’s human personality. The State, the division of labour between manual and intellectual labour, the separation of town and countryside, will have withered away. The socialist future in a classless society of democratically self-administering associated producers.

It is a welcome sign of the times that a serious exchange of radical opinion is now under way concerning what is socialism and how can it be achieved. The first step in a class analysis is to understand the antagonism of the two basic classes: capitalist and worker. The capitalist class owns and controls the means of production, distribution and communication. The working class owns none of these, and therefore, workers must sell their labour power to the capitalist for wages in order to live. The worker creates a product of value, part of which is returned to him as wage, and the rest of which is taken from him by the capitalists as profit. Thus is created the basic antagonistic contradiction between worker and capitalist, since the interest of one is, and has to be, directly opposed to the interest of the other. This most fundamental of contradictions will not end until capitalism with its private ownership and/or control of the means of production is itself ended and replaced with socialism.

Racism, like nationalism and sexism, is the product of class divided society.  It is an ideology which serves to divide the oppressed classes and strengthen the oppressors. Capitalism is the basic cause of war in modern times. Capitalism controls the entire globe and war result from the struggles of the elites to divide and re-divide the world. The way forward for workers is through the establishment of socialism. Socialism puts an end to wars and the dangers of war because inside socialism there are no capitalists who are interested in war profits and the conquest of new markets and possession of raw materials. The solution is to end the private ownership of the means of production and replace it with social ownership and production planned to meet the people’s needs, that is, socialism. Socialist planned economy abolishes anarchy of the market and thereby puts an end to depressions and unemployment. Instead of production for profit, there is production for the benefit of the people. Social ownership ends the exploitation of man by man because it is through private ownership of the factories and workshops, mills and mines, and farm-lands that the wealthy minority exploit the great mass of the people. Socialism does not destroy democracy but, on the contrary, enormously extends democratic liberties. There can be no real democracy – no rule by the people as a whole –while the means of production are owned and controlled by a small minority, the capitalist class. Socialism, for the first time, creates the conditions for the free expression of the people’s will. The only “liberty” which socialism ends is the liberty of the privileged class to own industry and amass wealth at the expense of the great majority. Socialism ends all exploitation and oppression of the producers by a privileged parasitical class. Socialism does not “worship” the State and with socialism the State “withers away”. Future society will be one of world-wide co-operation for the common good of all people, a peaceful, free world instead of one torn by rivalries, prejudices and war.

The aim of the Socialist Party is the ownership by the people of the World’s natural resources and the means of production and distribution. Socialism is a thorough-going social transformation and it can be achieved only by the majority of the people agreeing to and desiring it.

"Why should it just be the bankers, politicians and the idle rich who get all the best things? As a militant trade union we demand a standard of living for our members that enables them to share in the fine wines and fine times that the likes of David Cameron and his Old Etonian mates take for granted."Bob Crow, RMT, Gen.Sec

Real Scottish Socialists

It would a most wonderful experience to live in socialism, yet, many workers cannot see socialism coming in their lifetime. However, the Socialist Party says to our fellow-workers that the next best is to fight for it.

It certainly does not require a great genius to understand that Scotland, like every other country, has a population which is divided into a majority who are non-owners and a minority who are owners. And that after centuries of joint development with England that all means of producing wealth are owned and controlled by large businesses whose shareholders are spread throughout Britain and the rest of the world. Just as certainly it does not need extraordinary intelligence to know that workers in specifically "Scottish" companies merely receive in wages enough to continue working—barely enough, as for workers everywhere.

Scottish workers don't have to attend a university to know that the ruling class of Scotland since the days of the Highland "Clearances" are any less brutal and avaricious than their English counterparts. The Scottish nation, whether independent or united with England, is divided into classes, as is society elsewhere. It is this division which accounts for the existence of the evils from which the Scottish workers suffer. English rule did not account for the fact that the depopulation of the Scottish Highlands led to the congestion in its industrial slums. The Scottish chieftains themselves turned out their own clansmen in order to make way, first for sheep and later for deer, in order to fill their own pockets. The notorious Duchess of Sutherland, for example, had 15,000 people hunted out in the six years 1814-20 and called in British soldiers to enforce the eviction. The political union merely facilitated the development of capitalist robbery with violence.

Capitalism was born and flourished on brutality, both at home and abroad. The history of Scotland, while differing in detail from that of England, followed the same general course. By their divorce from the land, a nation of peasants were converted into wage-slaves, exploited by a class ready to convert the world into one gigantic market. The forces of competition thus let loose may be held in check to some degree by national legislatures, but no final solution for the havoc they create can be found along such lines. The problem is essentially an international one, and must be internationally solved. That, however, calls not for nationalist parties, but for parties in all countries which clearly recognise the common interest of the workers of the world, namely, to achieve their emancipation as a class. The simple truth is that capitalism will be just the same as far as the working class are concerned. What is required is another system of society, not new administrators for the old one.

The defenders of capitalism adopt sundry devices to hide this fact of life and one of the handiest ones has been for years to play on the difference of nationality and the seat of government. Their anti-working class nonsense and buffoonery rests upon the political ignorance of the Scottish workers whose political and social interests—like their fellow-workers everywhere—are opposed to those of their masters and does not lie in schemes which will enable their employers to wring yet more surplus value from their skill and energy. Capitalism in Scotland, in England, America, Germany, Russia, in every country in the world produces the same set of problems to workers—poverty, unemployment, insecurity, war, and so on. These problems arise with sublime impartiality as to forms of government, climate and previous political history, they arise in democracies and dictatorships in the two hemispheres and in big and wee countries. Scotland is only a small part of an economic system which embraces the whole world. It could never enjoy any real autonomy or self-sufficiency in the face of the world market. From day one it will be buffeted by hostile economic forces entirely beyond its control.

The defence against this stratagem is, as always the re-statement of the socialist case and an iron confidence in the working-class ability eventually to solve their own problems without the assistance of any Lairds. The duty of the Scottish workers—like the workers the world over—is to-day—not tomorrow—to attempt an understanding of the basic nature of their problems and having done so, to organise democratically to take political power to establish socialism.

There are many parties claiming to be socialist who ally themselves with the capitalist class for temporary gains, ignoring the fact that working men and women will not make a distinction between those parties. If their votes are asked for in support of reforms which do not make any fundamental difference to their social position or problems, the workers naturally tend to support the political party that will make the most enticing promises, whatever be the label. Those who do not fulfil their promises are simply deserted. Too often, so-called ‘progressives’ and ‘radicals’ publish a mish-mash menu of wishful goals as an election manifesto. Such electioneering opportunism tries to give a movement size without substance and only raises false expectations and leave the way open for the inevitable disillusionment and collapse. On the other hand, had those parties based their case on sound principles, had all compromise been excluded, the parties in question would have been smaller, but would have raised no false hopes nor brought to many the inevitable despair.  Socialist education demands that besides advocating the establishment of socialism, the obstacles that stand in its path must be pointed out. So they offer their support and their vote for political parties that offer them half-a- loaf instead of the bakery and the wheat-fields.

When the workers get on the right track of understanding their position they will cease to worry over comparatively trivial differences in their conditions, whether as between nations or between districts or separate towns. They will recognise that they suffer varying degrees of poverty because at present they exist merely to produce profits for their masters and that it is a matter of comparative indifference to them whether these masters are English or Scots, Germans or Japanese. Their aim will be to abolish masters of every nationality and to organise the production of wealth for their common good.

The socialist case will continue to be heard and advocated in this part of the world despite our few numbers.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Why the SPGB?

In 1904 a small group of workers got together and formed the Socialist Party of Great Britain, aiming to bring the message of the necessity of a socialist solution to the gathering world crisis. That small group did have a few things going for it. They knew where to start and based their principles on the experiences of Marxist thought and action. The Socialist Party named the enemy—the capitalist profit system organised around the world. While supporting the workers’ organisations, the trade unions, the socialists in the SPGB saw their task as advocating action to establish socialism, the need for a socialist revolution, and for politically conscious working class to be the agent of social change. Members of the Socialist Party still hold that revolution is required if humanity is to survive the ever-present threat of extermination. There is nothing more threatening to the rule of the corporate oligarchs and plutocrats than the prospect of a party of hundreds of thousands that fearlessly tells the truth to the people. Only such a movement can in time become millions, then tens of millions and eventually win.

The Socialist Party can and will win the hearts and minds of people when they see us as reliable and unshakeable if we stand our ground. In due course, it will lead to respect and then support. Truth can only be ascertained upon the battlefield of ideas. The Socialist Party does not consider itself a substitute for other movements, such as peace groups and other single-issue organisations but seeks to unite people around one specific platform – the establishment of socialism. We continue along the road of political independence, building a party of, by and for the people. We disown the most well-trodden path of “lesser evil” politics. Those who call for a “lesser evil” make possible the greater evil. It has always been a dead-end strategy for working people.

In modern times the privileged groups are neither capable enough nor numerous enough to do the work of suppression themselves and so they beguile sections of the oppressed into the belief that the interests of all are identical with the continuance of privilege and they endeavour to weaken the movement for change by setting other sections at loggerheads. Such being the position the only thing that will combat capitalist movements is clearness of understanding—the spread of knowledge among the workers. Temporary expedients that give a movement size without solidity only raise false hopes and leave the way open for the inevitable disillusionment and collapse. While parties claiming to be “socialist” ally themselves with capitalist groups to gain temporary ends, working men will not draw a line of fundamental distinction between any of the groups that solicit their support. While their votes are asked for in support of reforms that do not make any fundamental difference in their social position, the workers naturally tend to support the group that makes the most enticing promises, whatever be the label—in fact, the newer the label the better. Those who do not fulfil their promises are temporarily deserted. The capitalists know this quite well, hence, their misuse of the term "socialist” so much lately.

Capitalism was born and flourished on brutality, both at home and abroad. As far as Britain is concerned, what a record of brutality is contained in the history of the treatment of its factory and agricultural slaves during the last century, of the treatment of the Irish, the African and the Indian. While there is no justification for a conclusion that capitalism can be knocked down with a feather, there is more and more evidence that people no longer hold their old confidence in capitalism. All around us all around the World, we have signs of a changing attitude towards capitalism. But there is an undeniable gulf between the objective revolutionary conditions and the political consciousness of workers that requires being bridged. Agitating for minimum demands realisable within the framework of capitalism has now outlived its usefulness, if it ever had one but we can affirm with absolute certainty, the working class will meet with disillusionment.  Our task is to build the socialist movement. The central issue is the burning need to replace the present profit system with socialism — a society geared to human needs. The Socialist Party uses its election campaigns to explain causes of the fundamental problems confronting working people today. It is the irrationality of the profit system.

Poverty, Cancer and Processed Meat in Glasgow

Glasgow has long been notorious for the astonishing gap in life expectancy between rich and poor. Men who can expect to die at the age of just 54 live within a few miles of those who will survive well into their 80s.

Now researchers believe they have found a key reason for this disparity – the regular consumption of cheap, processed meat, particularly by the city’s poorest men. Last year the World Health Organisation warned that processed meat caused cancer and red meat was also “probably” carcinogenic. 

High levels of phosphate in red meat was linked to premature ageing and kidney damage. And the study found that phosphate was much more easily absorbed by the body from meat containing additives. Phosphate occurs naturally in many foodstuffs, such as meats, fish, eggs, dairy products and vegetables. But consuming too much of the substance wears down telomeres, vital structures on the tips of a person's chromosomes that help protect against a range of diseases -- from cardiovascular disease to Alzheimer's and cancer. Telomeres are so important that some scientists even believe they can be measured to give an accurate prediction of when someone will die.

The researchers found the link between high phosphate levels and more frequent consumption of red meat only in men. The most deprived men had 7.4 per cent higher phosphate intake than the least deprived. The type of meat appears particularly important. Someone eating red meat might absorb 60 per cent of its phosphates, but would take in 100 per cent from red meat with additives, Professor Shiels said.

The Glasgow study analysed people from the most deprived and the least deprived areas covered by NHS Greater Glasgow. The results, reporting in the journal Ageing, suggested that phosphate from red meat consumption increased a person's biological age in contrast to their actual age. While some people in less deprived areas ate a similar amount of red meat, they also tended to eat more fruit and vegetables which helped offset the effect.

One of the researchers, Professor Paul Shiels, of Glasgow University's Institute of Cancer Sciences, said the main reason people were eating a bad diet was because they could not afford a better one. 

It’s poverty, it’s not a personal choice. Addressing poverty is the route to tackling this properly,” he said. “You need to be able to afford to buy good-quality food. If you don’t and you can’t get quality red meat without additives, you’re going to have an issue.” [Socialist Courier emmphasis]

End Capitalism Now

The Socialist Party of Great Britain, a party of the World Socialist Movement, addresses itself to fellow workers. We stand for a socialised economy in which the profit system will be replaced by the cooperation of people. If you don't want a classless world of common ownership then the Socialist Party doesn't want your support.

 Between droughts and floods, it appears that vast sections of this planet are becoming uninhabitable. Millions of people are driven from their homes and plunged into dire suffering before the onslaughts of nature. While we call it `nature’, it is well known that behind the present destructive developments of natural forces, lies the responsibility of the capitalist class. This planet has been a great treasure house of nature, which the capitalists the owners of the natural resources, have despoiled. The environmental ravages of today are directly traceable to their activities. They cut down the forests and made great profits in selling timber and raising cattle or soya. With the forests has gone the undergrowth and root-system and thus the soil has been deprived of the natural spongy character it originally possessed, which absorbed the excess water of melting snows and spring rain. Hence, the floods which now afflict many parts of the land.  The great industrialised monoculture farms have been stripped of their natural protective covering of grasses in order to plant great fields of grain and then sprayed with fertilizer and pesticides. The top soil, necessary, has been blown or washed away.  Scientists do not hesitate to show that capitalism has destroyed the, has reduced the size of the lakes, has eroded the soil, has dried up the rivers and so forth.

Temperatures today are far more severe and subject to more violent changes than ever before. The dire results of the capitalists’ wastefulness and destruction are now effecting capitalist property as well as working class lives so now some governments are sitting up and taking. Private property must be protected. But any plan undertaken today to cope can only be based profits, not in the benefit of humanity as a whole. Such capitalist planning can be carried out only at the expense of the working class and by means of the exploitation of the working class. It is not for us to propose plans for the capitalists to solve their problems, nor to support any of their plans. We know that when the workers of this country take over the means of production, they will inherit the aftermath of capitalist mismanagement. But they will be able then to tackle these problems in the interests of humanity as a whole, not of a tiny minority. Science will then be freed from the main functions, which are shackling it today, namely profit making and warfare and full face can be turned to solving the ills that beset mankind. It will be understood then that natural resources will be treasured and used carefully. The great cities, those urban-centres of today, will disappear and with them the barren, unproductive waste-lands. The ancient harmony between man and nature will be restored, but on a much higher plane in which man will not be the victim of nature but its steward and trustee.

Today this profit system is old and decrepit, infected by incurable diseases, demented by delusions of grandeur and vain hopes that it can succeed in solving its ailments. The cure is not easy, and anyone who thinks it is, will be fooling him or herself. These are not easy times in which to make progress. The nature of the struggle is political. Socialist will not remain a minority; because our ideas conform to reality and are right, they will attract the majority of the people, and they will triumph. The ruling class cannot stop ideas or their spread because it cannot do away with the conditions of life that produce those ideas and it cannot prevent the rise of new generations of activists whom the future rests and who will not want the future to be like the past. Our confidence in the future is not the result of wishful thinking or of an ability to delude ourselves, but the product of study and understanding of society and history and the class struggle. Some people believe it is hopelessly impractical and idealistic to continue a struggle to end capitalism against such seemingly great odds yet experience with capitalism is going to have consequences. It is going to teach the people that if they want to survive, capitalism must die
 and that if they want peace and dignity they will first have to take power away from the capitalists. It is not the Socialist Party, primarily, who will teach these things, but capitalism itself. We’re educating all whom we can reach to the best of our ability — but capitalism is educating them too and in a way that will have deeper, more lasting, profound and revolutionary effects than any words we can speak or write. Whether they like it or not, capitalism is forced to continue to produce all kinds of opportunities for awakening people and driving them into a struggle against the conditions they endure. If socialists know how to stick to their guns and seize the opportunities offered them, then they will win over to their side all the other workers and then it will be goodbye forever to capitalism. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Don’t be Duped by Religion

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” - Marx, (Introduction to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Law)

Today the spread of atheism is unrelenting, so much so that Christianity itself is becoming increasingly  secularised. That far fewer people believe in God or Christ nowadays is some sign of progress. There is no “true” Islam or pure Buddhism, there is just the endless variety of ways humans try to interpret their world in order to act in it. Religious groups have a notorious history of stifling dissent by any means possible, even if, in Britain, nonbelievers are no longer persecuted, tortured and killed and that is because the superstitious myths and rituals with which religion cloaks itself are no longer taken seriously by the majority of the population. But there are countries where the heads of religion are still able to wield considerable power and influence. To belong to a different faith or to question that religion and try to have a reasoned discussion instead of blindly accepting its "rules" is to take great personal risks. To be a good Muslim is to possess a religious outlook that offends against the most elementary requirements of reasonable thought. And a society inhabited by unreasonable workers is one which is safe for the minority who prey on ignorance.

Religion is the badge of the mentally enslaved. It uses a cloak of mystification to reinforce its authority by promising a mythical afterlife as a reward for blind obedience and by making threats of eternal punishment, backed up by intimidation and persecution for those who do not submit. It has been a useful tool in the hands of the ruling classes to keep their subjects subservient. With their beliefs based upon “holy scriptures”, the religious looks at the world, embracing that which reinforces the beliefs, retreating from experience which conflicts with them. New knowledge, untried feelings, novel perspectives must be first mistrusted, then banned. Nothing must interfere with the dogma. But dogmatism is fragile. It is upheld by denying all other images than those which reinforce it.

Sharia-compliant Islamic banking is apparently expanding with even non-Muslims switching to Islamic banks. Islamic theologians, following in the footsteps of their end-of-Middle Ages Catholic and Protestant counterparts. In the Middle Ages, the dogma of the Catholic Church banned usury, defined as charging money for a loan. Well, but not quite. Sharia law condemns the appearance but not the substance. Capitalism is sharia-compliant.

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).

Let us for a moment entertain this religious fantasy that the world and all of us who inhabit it are the children of a Holy Father (very rarely Mother) — never seen, but ever feared — who rules over us and must be obeyed to the letter of his commandments. Now, it tells us something about the condition of millions of workers if they can be persuaded that they are little children in need of an invisible Father, but let us examine the Christian conception of fatherhood. God, The Father (he also works as a Son and a Holy Ghost) tells us that certain forms of behaviour are wrong. Some of his children disobey the God-Father and do what is "wrong". His fatherly response is to invent a fearful, painful disease which will wipe out vast numbers of his children, thus teaching them to obey him in future. But according to the Christians, this is precisely what we should expect a father to do: the only way to teach workers the right way to behave is to kill off a few of them for behaving the wrong way.

 If God was a real parent he would need to be given help by others less deranged than himself; his children would need to be taken into care. That is what those who think they are God's children need: to be taken into care — not the care of another phoney god-image but of themselves. Transcending religious folly means learning that we are not little children destined to obey a master, but that we are capable of controlling our own lives. The Marxist materialist method allows us to understand both how humans come to create the ideas they hold, and how to change the world for ourselves. Workers must one day learn to believe in themselves. That they can really make a new and better world. And that nobody else can do it for them. We need to look to a genuine worldwide movement that offers the prospect of establishing a genuine global community through common ownership of the wealth of the world. Our materialist understanding is that by changing the way we live will change ideas and that will be liberating. Religion has always been about forcing people to conform in their ideas. The conformity required is that which meets the needs of the profit-stealing ruling class. No self-respecting worker will fall for it for long. Let us exercise our freedom to live as brothers and sisters and learn to live together as a human family of equals. As well as referring to religion as "the opium of the people", Marx called it "The self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet found himself or has already lost himself again". The religious mentality exists in those workers who have not yet discovered the essential, exhilarating fact that we are the gods. We must make the future out of the material conditions which surround us: gods, prophets, bishops, gurus and mullahs are the illusory masters who people invent to tower over them. The socialist transformation of society will banish the capitalists from the earth and the gods from the skies—or to be accurate from the minds of men and women, where they have exercised their pernicious fantasies for too long. Those who choose to believe in powers beyond will be free to do so in a socialist society. Indeed, without the state to adopt this or that religious dogma as the official one, religious believers will be freer than they are now. Freer, but never free to tell others what to do. It will take more than a divine injunction from one of the “anointed” to tell socialists what we can think, say or write.

Nevertheless, the danger presented by religious fundamentalism is a real one. It threatens us as socialists at least as much as it threatens all other “servants of Satan”. Our ability to spread our ideas depends on the tolerance of minority opinions. Moreover, people whose minds have been addled by belief in magic, miracles and divine texts are unlikely to be receptive to socialist ideas. So we cannot say: “It doesn’t matter which group of theologians rule; they are all equally bad.” Of course, it matters. Socialists share a certain amount of common ground with non-socialists concerned to defend democracy and secularism. However, we must not jeopardise our identity as socialists by joining broad atheist blocs that accept the continued existence of capitalism. Only socialists, by holding out the prospect of real community, can act effectively to undermine the illusory religious community.

A world of free access and production for use not profit is ours for the taking. Make it so!

Socialism and a humane world

Most people consider "politics” boring, because what is generally thought of as politics is one set of professional politicians claiming to know how to make the lives of the majority even more profitable for the minority who employ us; another set quarrelling over how to do the same without it showing, and yet another set trying to do both. But politics is about power and the Socialist Party is about “people power”.  Politics is not profound or mysterious; it is the expression of class interests. The Socialist Party stands for the interests of the working class and therefore has as its policy the abolition of world capitalism and the establishment of common ownership. The profit system is hard to defend by rational argument and so many myths are used as a gloss over a system based on instability and violence. The struggle for a world of common ownership is the only struggle with a future and involves the end of mystification and the beginning of history made consciously by people free from dogma. Capitalism’s cover and camouflage have been blown away many years ago by Karl Marx.

The vital work of the Socialist Party is to encourage people to face the reality that their problems can be solved, and they can live a full, humane life, only through a social revolution which will overthrow the society of class ownership of the means of life. When these are the property of the entire human race there will be a world free of war, poverty, repression, of the tensions and ugliness which we live with today. In socialism, human beings will work and live together in harmony for the common well-being. Social relationships will be fashioned by the basis that wealth will be produced for its usefulness to people and not for the profit of a minority. In an unprecedented freedom, humans will be able to discover their true abilities; there will be a veritable explosion of creativity and people will look back on capitalism, with its wars, its poverty, its fear, its posturing leaders and the compliant, suffering people, as a black nightmare. To achieve such a new society, the world’s workers must look beyond the deceits of the leaders, to confidence in their own ability to run society in the interests of the majority. They must grasp the fact that capitalism is decadent, reactionary and repressive and that progress lies with the revolution for socialism. All the evidence encourages this conclusion; the ideas of socialism fit in with what we know of history, with the facts of our experience now, with all reasoned prospects for society tomorrow. Socialism will work and bring a humane world because it is based on reality. Socialists are the true realists. Socialism is a question of the entire re-organisation of society where the abundance of possibilities and potentialities is translated into reality.

 Neither cybernation or automation determine the direction which capitalism must take; only profitability does that and technological complexity can act to reduce profitability. But new technology may make more workers want to realise the potential through a political solution. We can welcome the new technology as another example of capitalism’s abundant productive potential which could be used to make free access easier in a socialist world while attributing to capitalism all the social conflicts such as unemployment and alienation that are arising. Capitalism has solved the problem of production; it has built up a stock of means of production capable of eliminating hunger and poverty throughout the world and even of providing plenty for everyone. But what capitalism has not solved, and cannot solve, is the problem of distributing this potential abundance. It is incapable of doing this as its economic laws decree that priority has to be given to accumulating capital, or growth. Production under capitalism is geared to making profits, and not to satisfying needs. The only way to solve this problem is production solely for use, but this can only be done on the basis of the common ownership and democratic control of the earth’s resources, both those made by people and natural resources; in other words, by abolishing capitalism and replacing it with socialism. Only on the basis of common ownership can the aims of the activists in the environmental movement be achieved. Only in a society in which goods are no longer produced for profit can the problems of climate change, pollution and adulteration be eliminated. Only in a society where goods are no longer produced for sale can high-quality, long-lasting goods be produced. Only on the basis of the common ownership of the earth’s resources can humans restore the balance which capitalism has upset between them and nature and live in harmony with their natural environment and live sustainably. We have been taught to organise co-operatively to produce wealth for a minority, and only the bare essentials for ourselves. There is nothing but our own fear of freedom preventing us from organising co-operatively to establish socialism, to produce for the use of all.

Socialism does presuppose a certain level of consciousness: before it can be established there must be a majority that wants and understands it. Such a socialist consciousness clearly does not exist today and that is why socialism can’t be established straight away. In fact, this is the only reason why it can’t, since everything else is there: a world-wide productive system capable of providing abundance for all and trained and qualified workers able to operate it. Those people who called themselves ‘socialist’ should devote all their efforts to helping a socialist understanding to develop. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Let’s Change

Have we learned nothing from history? Has all the sacrifice and suffering for a better world been for nothing? We precariously perched on the edge of an abyss. The time has come when big changes are necessary. The profits of the capitalists and corporations are higher than they have ever been. The sham measures of government regulation have only increased exploitation and put still heavier burdens upon the workers. The boss class has done exceptionally well and, indeed, they have never been better off. Only by the establishment of Socialism can the World’s problems be finally solved and its people guaranteed a good life, lasting peace and decent living standards. Socialism means an end to capitalist profit and exploitation, for it will deprive the capitalists of their ownership and control of the factories and offices, mills and mines, farms and landed estates, transport, and ensure that production is organised for the use of the people and not for the profit of the tiny minority of property owners.  Because it abolishes the capitalist profit system socialism means an end to slumps and unemployment. Socialism means peace and an end to the danger of wars because under Socialism there are no longer capitalists who want to conquer new markets and capture raw materials and resources. Socialism ends all the restrictive policies of capitalism, ending the gulf between poverty and plenty, and frees the creative energies of the people and the productive resources of the world for gigantic economic, social and cultural advances on the basis of a planned socialist economy to create abundance for all to share in. Socialism means freedom for the people—freedom from poverty and insecurity, freedom for men, women and children to develop their capacities to the full, without fear or favour. The people cannot advance to socialism without real political power, which must be taken from the hands of the capitalist minority and democratically grasped by the majority of the people. The power of working people, united and who recognise the need for social change and participation in carrying it through, is capable of building socialism through an elected Parliament, creating the conditions for the establishment of socialism.

We are living in a society which is geared not to serving human needs but to producing goods, or rather commodities, to be sold on a market with a view to profit. In these circumstances food, and indeed everything else, can only be obtained in exchange for money. All social systems erect a moral, legal and intellectual superstructure suited to the interests of the ruling class. But at the same time, a social system develops a conflict between its mode of production and its social relationships, which can be resolved only through changing those relationships. Day by day, the experience of capitalism works to convince the world's workers that problems such as war and poverty will be eliminated only through a radical, fundamental change in society — by revolution.

Is the plight of humanity inevitable? No. Supposed eternal “truths” can be exposed and revealed for what they are, ideological justifications for the status quo. One attribute socialists possess in abundance and that is tenacity. We have the will, the determination and the power to overcome. Let us use our intellectual gift of problem-solving. When the socialist idea is sufficiently widespread the working class will need a political apparatus to implement their will for a revolution. That apparatus will be a world socialist movement which, when socialism is established and its historic function has been fulfilled, will go out of existence. Until that happens, socialists everywhere work to speed the change in ideas, to increase the pressures of persuasion on the workers that a class-free, money-free, poverty-free, peaceful society is the only way to eradicate all that is feared and hated and despised in modern — that is capitalist — society.

 The Socialist Party is not yet the mass socialist party that is needed to transform society. The Socialist Party are in no way trying to lead or cajole the world's people to socialism. We endeavor to raise political awareness, to alert the workers to the need to replace capitalism with socialism and to the fact that socialism must come about through our own conscious action. In the socialist revolution, and the society which will follow, the world's workers will be sisters and brothers together in a co-operative, abundant, peaceful and free human family. Will you help us grow? Let’s change.

A world socialist commonwealth

The capitalist system, not workers were responsible for the economic crisis. The present government does not represent the interests of the majority. It is dominated by agents of the big banks and corporations. All are committed to maintaining the profit system. The ‘reformers’ offer no alternative to big business control. Only the working class have the power to overturn capitalist rule and their profit system. Capitalism must be abolished. Working people need to overthrow the capitalist parties. The needs of people can only be met by creating a planned economy, where ownership and control of the means of production are taken from the tiny minority of capitalists and placed in the hands of the people, to be run democratically. Reorganised on a socialist basis, the world can be free of racism, sexism, poverty, economic insecurity and exploitation where the vast resources available to us are used to serve the needs of all instead of the profits of the few. We seek a world socialist commonwealth with an unparalleled growth in culture, freedom and the development of every individual. Such a society is worth striving for. 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. The standards and quality of life are deteriorating. Reforms and individual ‘reform’ candidates will not change the condition of working people and they won’t provide society that serves workers’ interests

The Socialist Party wants to change society. But we think that problems will not disappear by wishing or hoping them away. The only way we can get a rational society, based on the needs of the majority, is by organizing for it. We host public meetings. We distribute our magazine the Socialist Standard, hand out leaflets, answer questions and just generally talking about socialism. We don’t close up shop after election days. We participate in the struggle to change the world the year round and  replace this society with a socialist one, where production and resources are controlled by the majority to serve our human needs and where every individual will have the opportunity to develop his or her potential to the fullest extent. We know that a better world is not only possible but absolutely necessary. Everywhere there is a searching for a solution to the problems confronting people.

The Socialist Party stands 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 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, many will come to see the need for socialism, to replace capitalism. The Labour Party seek only to make capitalism work more effectively.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Capitalism, your place is in the cemetery

It follows from an analysis of capitalism that the primary task of a socialist party is to wage an intensive campaign of agitation for change by a revolution to the power and wealth of society which is transferred from one class to another. In our time, there are two fundamental classes within society, the working class and the capitalist class. The minority class owns the wealth, profits from it, keeps down the standard of living of the majority class which has no wealth. The theory of socialists is that if the enormous wealthy of society, controlled by the few, were controlled by the majority of the people poverty could be eliminated, an end could be made to war, and mankind could live in peace and plenty. To achieve its goal, this kind of revolution would be necessary on a world scale. Many real socialists today rally to the Socialist Party, the bearer of the traditions of Marx and Engels. It stands for the abolition of the profit system, social ownership management of industry, the end of wars growing out of the profit system – peace and plenty for all. Hard times for us means good times for the rich. Capitalism is proving every day that it can offer the world’s workers nothing but endless horrors. The “triumph” of the legacy of the profit system is poverty war and disease. As has been shown many times, the bosses can survive any number of crises. What they cannot survive will be the socialist revolution. The widespread discontent with the existing social order which is manifesting itself in the many voices raised against the evils of this system. But without an understanding of what is wrong and the sources of these wrongs, it is impossible to formulate a reconstruction vision which will end the problems from which we suffer. It is necessary that we have a clear understanding of what is evil and whence its source if we are to take intelligent action to remedy the situation. Among the very first of the things that are wrong and must be righted, we will set down the great uncertainty in regard to securing the necessities of life. From this anxiety only the favoured few are free.

In the past when people went hungry it was because sufficient food was not produced. A harvest failure or blight brought scarcity. Today’s problem is of a different character. We have an elaborate transport system, we have wonderful technology and we have freed ourselves from the danger of lack of food, clothing, or houses to live in because of the inability to produce them. We have solved the problem of production. We can produce all that is needed to supply the necessities of life, as well as the comforts of life — education and the opportunity for recreation — to all the people. Yet around the globe people cry for food, for homes, for healthcare and for education for their children. The ruling class would like us to forget these things. We know that the business organisations do not exist primarily for the purpose of supplying human needs. Their purpose is to make profits for their shareholders. If they cannot make profits for their shareholders, they go out of business. They are interested in producing wealth as a means of securing wealth for the limited number who share in their profits. The motive which drives the vast industrial machine which has grown up under capitalism is the desire for profits. The work of supplying human needs has become mere incidental to the process of realising profits. The evils of the present social order — insecurity and misery - are the product of the capitalist system in which the supreme purpose is the making and taking of profits. Society divides the people into two classes. Anyone with common sense will have to admit that. There are people who work for wages and those who employ wage workers. There are the people who own the industries and those who must go to the owners of industry for the opportunity to earn a living. The ownership of the means of production is the source of the power of the profit-seeking class. It gives them control over people to secure the necessities of life. The millions of men and women who are dependent upon the wages they earn for a living are economic serfs or wage-slaves. The power to hire and fire the workers, to give and take away the opportunity to earn a living, carries with it the power to compel the workers to work for such wages as will leave the capitalists a profit from their labour. The business of making profits and the source of profits is no mystery.  The capitalists’ source of profits and their great wealth was not created out of thin air. They make profits because they purchase the labour-power of the workers for less than the value of the goods the workers produce; that is, they do not pay the workers the full value of their labour. There is no other way of making profits out of industry. The lower the wages for which the capitalists can purchase the labour-power of the workers or longer they make employees work or by their increased productivity by new technology, the greater will be the capitalist’s profits. Naturally the capitalists will try to pay the lowest wages at which they can induce the workers to work. Since they are in a position to deny the workers employment if the workers do not accept their terms, they have been able to keep the wages at the point where they yield the workers a mere subsistence, or even less than a mere subsistence.

The workers naturally seek to increase their wages and reduce their working hours. They endeavour to secure for themselves better working conditions. The capitalists resist. They see their profits menaced by the workers’ demands. The workers organise their power and refuse to work unless their demands are granted, and we have a strike with all its accompaniments of stopping of production, misery and suffering for the workers.

If the goal is to build a better world, to bring them “life, liberty, and happiness”, the aim must be the abolition of the profit system. It must come hand in hand with industrial democracy and accompanied by the abolition of the rewards of private ownership — rent, interest, and profit. Together with the establishment of common ownership of industry there must be the democratic management of industry by the workers. The workers of the world will enjoy the wealth they produce. If, after supplying every family with good food, good clothing, a comfortable home, and the opportunity for culture and leisure, we find we have a surplus and an abundance, we will simply cut down the hours required to work. We can through the collective cooperative organisation and coordination of our powers of production, eliminate waste and increase in our productive capability. It will enable us to bring into existence more than enough wealth to give a high standard of living, which means good food, good clothing, good homes, well-being, peace and happiness, to every family in the world. We can eliminate all the social conflicts which are the constant accompaniment of production under the profit system. We can assure to the workers that joy which comes through creative effort when men and women are not drudges and slaves, but free. There is no hope for the working class if they continue to support the political parties representing the interest of the capitalist class. Socialism will not be established through a series of legislative acts but will be established by a mass movement of the working class. The task the workers have to do for freedom, is through building a class-conscious political movement which will carry on the work of educating the workers to an understanding of the system of exploitation which now exists. The struggle of the working class will henceforth be a political struggle for control of the State because it must gain control of the machinery of government to wrest control of the State out of the hands of the capitalist class before it can hope to establish economic democracy.  The Socialist Party is the medium through which this work can be done. At the same time it is an essential workers build up organisations in the work-places themselves, having as their goal to supersede the capitalists in control of industry and to expand and grow until they have become a huge cooperative organisation of  control and management of the work of production and of all matters pertaining to the communities common interest.

We won't be slaves any longer

Capitalism has failed miserably to provide the basic necessities of life for hundreds of millions of workers around the world. Millions of workers are unemployed, hungry and homeless.  Older workers are thrown out like garbage when they no longer have any value to employers. Capitalism is the dictatorship of the bosses. In the capitalist society, only the bosses are free - free to hire and fire, free to pillage and plunder, free to make our class fight for their profits. We will allow no freedom to exploit workers. They hold power through their political parties, their cops, their courts, and their military. Like all thieves, bosses have no honour among themselves. They are constantly falling out.

The entire labour movement should concern itself with eliminating ignorance through increasing knowledge to the working class. Men and women must transcend the narrow limits of capitalist thought  if mankind is to be saved from barbarism. Socialists look for every opportunity to turn things around. Socialism means an end to capitalism through the means of planned methods of production for use in the interests of all. We want a society whose workers run everything in the interests of the world's workers. We want a system that encourages every worker to become involved in running society; that trains everyone to act for the common good and does not indoctrinate people to "look out for number one;" that opposes placing selfish interests above the social needs. We want society to help each person grow as individuals. We want a system that stamps out such capitalist ideas as racism, nationalism and sexism. We seek to render religions unnecessary. Religion serves only the interests of the rulers, who use it to mystify workers so that conditions stay as they are.

Socialism will abolish the wage system and the sharing principle "to each according to need" will be as basic as the selfish principle "every man for himself" is to capitalism. For the first time in history, workers will receive a fair share of society's wealth, regardless of the work they do. People will work because they want to because their brothers and sisters around the world need their contribution. They will share in decision-making, including the distribution of goods and services according to society's needs. They will be abundance. Socialism will abolish socially useless forms of work that exist now only for capitalist profit. Communism will not need millions of lawyers, advertisers, or salespeople. In one stroke, it will do away with layers of needless government bureaucrats, as well as the hordes of petty supervisors and administrators who oversee and manage us for the bosses. It will free everyone to perform socially useful work, which is the source of true creativity. Socialism will not succeed unless people understand it, agree with it, and vow to make it succeed.

Ending the wage system will reduce the problems capitalism causes inside the working class. Racism, one of capitalism's greatest evils, exploits one worker to a greater degree than another.  Marx said over 100 years ago that, "the worker in white skin can never be free as long as the worker in black skin remains in chains." An egalitarian society ends the exploitative wage system and ends racism once and for all. Having rid itself of the wage system, society can also end the oppression of women and end male chauvinism, which serve only capitalism. We oppose nationalism and fight for world socialism. By nationalism, the bosses mean that workers must respect capitalist borders. These borders are artificial; they exist to divide workers and keep different sets of bosses in power. Workers need no borders. Workers in one part of the world are not different from or better than workers in another. Nationalism creates false loyalties. Workers should be loyal only to other workers, never to a boss. Our views on the war are clear, too.  We oppose all wars. We endorse the revolutionary slogan: "Workers of the world, unite!"

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Homes not Hovels

“A house may be large or small; as long as the surrounding houses are equally small it satisfies all social demands for a dwelling. But if a palace arises besides the little house, the little house shrinks into a hut. The little house now shows that its owner has only very slight or no demands to make; and however high it may shoot up in the course of civilisation, if the neighbouring palace grows to an equal or even greater extent, the dweller in the relatively small house will feel more and more uncomfortable, dissatisfied and cramped within its four walls.” Marx, (Wage Labour and Capital)

The problem of securing a roof over one’s head is one of the greatest uncertainties for most working people, subject as they are to the vicissitudes of the capitalist business cycles. Those who have sufficient savings for a down payment on a home stand to lose it during the depressions. Renting tenants unable to pay are mercilessly evicted. The need for homes is never satisfied, precisely because the profit system bars the way.

Assuredly it is urgent to make a change here – a change to production for use, to rational planning. The housing shortage is becoming more and more acute with no real relief in sight. The mounting cost of living and the shrinkage in housing are the twin burdens that weigh most heavily upon the mass of the people. And they can lead to the most serious upheavals. We are not speaking about some developing country where millions of suffering human beings must seek shelter among urban slums and shanty towns. We are speaking about one of the richest countries in the world. In the UK skills are available and so are the raw materials. Technology has made new and great strides. And yet, there is exist a housing shortage where young no longer believe they can get on the first rung of ownership. Nor do people believe they can have the security of long-term rentals. The housing crisis is not a new phenomenon in Britain.

Decent housing, as well as the problem of other necessities of life, is indissolubly linked with the social and economic conditions of the working class. Nowhere in the world can capitalism point to having provided adequate housing for the people. Nevertheless, in contrast to the hovels of the poor, we have the luxurious palaces and mansions of the rich in their gated communities. To escape the pollution and acquire clean fresh air many of the rich own their country estates far from the prying eyes of the poor.  On the one hand, limitless luxury and affluence – on the other, want and misery. The housing problem, as well as all other social problems, reflects the distinction of class, of economic position, of wealth and poverty. As we all know, in a system whose production is governed exclusively by the profit motive, the needs of the people must of necessity be left utterly disregarded. Production for profit and peoples’ needs constitute two opposite poles. That housing is one of the basic needs of people nobody denies; and yet every housing programme and project has been stymied by the profit motive and by the attitude and actions of the government and city councils, and by the conduct of the mortgage bankers, the real estate sharks, all the way down to the building contractors. Why is there a housing crisis? How can there be a housing shortage with so many houses left empty and unused? Why, with stockpiles of bricks, cement, timber, and roof-tiles are houses not being built in sufficient quantity? Why, after centuries of progress in construction and building technology and the passing of masses of housing legislation by successive governments do poor dwellings continue to be built and unhealthy, uninhabitable older buildings still stand? The lesson is inescapable. The housing market is so irrational and unplanned that even those who own and control the industry cannot now make a profit without the state helping them out. Subsidies, tax-relief and other forms of government inducements are all intended to make the housing market profitable enough for capitalists to invest in.

The capitalist profit system itself remains the greatest obstacle in the way of adequate housing for the people, just as it stands in the way of satisfying all the other peoples’ needs. Hence our determination to fight for the socialist solution. Such a system would put an end to speculative land owners, to the land-owners and rent-gougers, not to mention the profit hungry mortgage brokers and financiers. Profit returns would no longer enter into calculations for home building. Houses are not built to alleviate the very real problem of a housing shortage. They are built solely in order that the speculator and the house builder can squeeze the last penny-worth of profit out of a small site. Some rooms are so small as to be unusable for the routines of nuclear family life and fences “protect” tiny, private patches of lawn. On the contrary, the needs of the people would be the highest concern. Society will apply to the fullest extent new building materials and more efficient construction methods. Healthy and comfortable homes would be the rule.

The working-class should not delude themselves by thinking that there is anything basically different between rented and mortgaged accommodation for the quality and quantity of both types are, in the end, determined by the very same market. Both depend on the conditions under which those with money, land and materials are prepared to lend, invest or build in the housing market. Those with capital to invest do not mind whether it is used to build council houses or houses in the private sector; they participate in the housing market to make a profit. The market determines what is available and at what price — which means that the capitalist class gets the housing they want and profits come before the housing needs of the community.

Engels, writing in the nineteenth century, wrote of the housing crisis in these terms:
“The so-called housing shortage which plays such a great role in the press nowadays, does not consist in the fact that the working-class generally lives in bad, overcrowded and unhealthy dwelling. This shortage is not something peculiar to the present, it is not even one of the sufferings peculiar to the modern proletariat in contradistinction to all earlier oppressed classes. On the contrary all oppressed classes in all periods suffered rather uniformly from it. To put an end to this housing shortage there is only one means: to abolish altogether the exploitation and oppression of the working class by the ruling class . . . The housing shortage from which the working class suffers today is one of the many evils which result from present-day capitalist production.”

The problem remains the same today as it did for Engels

Churches in retreat (1987)

From the February 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Christian churches in Britain have lost half a million members in the last five years. According to the UK Christian Handbook, Christian church membership has declined to under seven million people, which is about fifteen per cent of the population. But other religions have shown an increase. In particular the number of Muslims has increased by over a third to 852.000 and many churches have been converted into Mosques. Other religions to have increased their membership, on a smaller scale, were Sikhs. Hindus, Buddhists and Satanists while the number of Jews showed a slight decline.

Although there has been a change in the type of superstitious nonsense being peddled, on the whole religion is a very minor activity in Britain. There will be a greater number than the above who still profess a belief in a god of some kind but who don't want to be confined to the absurd behaviour patterns these churches demand.

In fact, Christianity has been in decline for some time. It has also continuously retreated from what it claims to be able to explain. At one time it said that the world was created by god in six days and that the sun revolved around the earth. Although there are still some who claim a literal translation of the bible, most Christians now accept the theory of evolution and other scientific facts. Instead they now try to stress the "symbolic" nature of god and the bible — how god is about love and kindness — and play down the roasting in Hell bit. Hardly a week goes by without some trendy bishop on the telly saying that religion is fun and positive and not about saying no to the things people enjoy.

The churches have always felt able to say that, despite god being all-powerful and creating the world (even if he used evolution to do it) when anything unpleasant happens it's always the fault of human beings. So he takes the credit for humanity at its best when we are being loving, kind, creative and successful. But when it comes to Hiroshima and Auschwitz, pyorrhoea and Aids it's got nothing to do with him - unless he is moving in mysterious ways.

Religious ideas and socialist ideas are incompatible. Socialism is about understanding the way society operates with a view to changing it. Religions preach submission, basically saying that a superior being controls our destiny and we must accept our lot. Such beliefs grew up to explain away large gaps in human knowledge. But as our knowledge has widened, the religious explanation is shown to be increasingly untenable.

The persistence of religious ideas can be understood against the background of an insecure world where, due to the class- divided nature of society, people feel powerless. Religion, with its promise of a pie-in-the-sky afterlife, may offer some hope and comfort. But as Marx said, "The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about their condition is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions".

Religion has often been used by ruling classes to justify their dominance and the subjugation of the poor. Kings rule by the grace of god, it is supposedly ordained from on high. Often the first shock troops of the British Empire were the missionaries, who sought to convert the natives and teach them their proper (servile) place in the world.

The Catholic Church has made deals with fascist dictators in the past and is often a force for reaction in Latin America, although some priests have embraced "liberation theology", perhaps in an attempt to be on the right side of any new ruling class.

In Ireland, religion has been used to viciously divide workers to fight for their employers' interests, and many of the wars and disputes in the Middle East use religion and the idea of a holy war to get workers spilling each other's blood. Millions of deaths in capitalism's bloody wars have been blessed by religion.

Religious ideas are political and must be defeated. Only when workers are free from such illusion will be we able to set about the real task facing us, transforming the world into a place fit for people to live in. It is the only world we will get and we should make the most of it. And not let any trendy bishops or long-haired preachers get in our way.

Ian Ratcliffe

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