Sunday, July 31, 2016

How can you vote for any capitalist party?

" The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves. We cannot, therefore, co-operate with people who openly state that the workers are too uneducated to emancipate themselves and must be freed from above by philanthropic big bourgeois and petty bourgeois.’ (1879, Marx and Engels)

We are not left wing. Left-wing, right-wing are all capitalism. They retain the waged slavery system and amount to, "meet the new boss, same as the old one". The Socialist Party is Britain's oldest socialist party. Socialism is the post-capitalist society and not some tinkering about with an irreformable capitalism.

The purpose of any capitalist government is to manage the affairs of the capitalist class. Its moral root is fertilised by the search for profit. By enabling the continued extracting of as much surplus value from those in work and reducing the maintenance costs of those, not in work they full fill their civic duty, moral compasses fully set, for the service of Mammon.  Capitalism is well past its sell by date. Time for a world, commonly owned, a society of free access. State control is state capitalism. It is a left-capitalism and not a communist or socialist proposition. Socialism/Communism/Marxism is a post-capitalist society, where the means of production and distribution are owned in common, by us all and not the state. There is NO means of exchange, as it is a free access society and the absence of a leading economic elite, renders the state also, obsolete.

Abolish the wages system and take everything into common ownership. With common ownership, production for use and free access, there will be no commodity production of goods for sale for the profit of a minority. Therefore no need for prices, wages are but the price of the workers, commodity "labour power". Some trade union banners have the slogan, "the abolition of the wages system" written on them. With real common ownership, (not state or government ownership) democratic control by us all and crucially, production for use, we enter the post-capitalist society or socialism/communism as correctly understood.

The wage is basically a ration which provides subsistence for the wage slave. It consists of so much food, clothing, shelter and an amount for bringing up the next generation of wage slaves to toil or even die in war for, the parasite owning capitalist class. So the workers commodity, (labour power) not only produces all wealth but reproduces itself, exceptional for a commodity, as a source for further future exploitation. As there is no such thing as a "Fair day's pay for a fair day's work", in a market system, where wages as a price conform to market principles for the purpose of profitable exploitation, seemingly advantageous situations for workers, as in the example of across the board £ increases rather than percentage ones, are just a reflection of workers bargaining strength at the time. We should focus our attention on getting rid of capitalism. There are no “fair do's” in a capitalist market system. It is time long past for a brand new post-capitalist social system. One which is owned by us all, in which production is for use and not for sale.

We have been accused of using jargon. Sorry if it appears so. Some also get the idea that we are happy to decry people who call, themselves socialists. But we are delighted if they identify with socialism as the way forward for humanity. However, socialism has been misrepresented sufficiently, not only by the ruling capitalist class, but by some who would consider themselves its adherents.

For instance the Labour Party which was never a socialist party but existed a a combination of Liberals and trade union reformers, with the purpose of gaining reforms for working people, rather than the overthrow of existing social relations of production, some with the view that capitalism could gradually be reformed into something it was not, known as “gradualists”, provides a convenient stick for unabashed supporters of capitalism to show that socialism doesn't work when the inevitable crisis of capitalism emerges from the trade cycle of capitalism. Effectively a failure of capitalism and its unreformable nature becomes a propaganda tool to beat socialists with, yet socialists of my kind have pointed out since 1904 the inevitability of gradualism becoming absorbed into the capitalist political mainstream. It is incumbent upon socialists to point this out, as it would be a gross dereliction of our educational responsibility not to do so.

Similarly, when the Russian revolution occurred, it was also incumbent upon us to show how this could NOT be a socialist revolution. But an attempt to kick start capitalist development upon a largely rural, peasant and feudal system. We welcomed initially, the ending of Russia's involvement in the slaughter of WW1. Yet, by August 1918 we had cut through the crap,"....Unless a mental revolution such as the world has never seen before has taken place, or an economic change has occurred immensely more rapidly than history has recorded, the answer is “No!”
The explanation for this conclusion is here.
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/1910s/1918/no-168-august-1918/revolution-russia-where-it-fails

Socialism isn't 57 varieties despite politically manipulated appearances. It has a definition. i.e. the common ownership and democratic control of all the means and instruments for creating and distributing wealth.  (NB, no means of exchange as it is a free access society.) As it requires the support and active participation of the immense majority who are politically aware of its implementation being indeed, a revolutionary break with the capitalist mode of production for sale and introduction of the socialist/communist/post capitalist mode of production for use.

Socialism/Communism/Marxism is a post-capitalist society, where the means of production and distribution are owned in common, by us all and not the state. There is NO means of exchange ,as it is a free access society and the absence of a leading economic elite, renders the state also, obsolete. In a socialist society, a real one, not a capitalist reformist pretend one, we won't need any classes or political leadership, as we will have local, regional and global control over all the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, in a commonly owned world, of production for use and free access, "From each according to their abilities to each according to their needs", with recallable delegates where we need to delegate administrative tasks.

Why settle for crumbs from the tables of the rich. We have a world to win.

Dissolve governments with their weasel words and their political management of us. Any reforms brought in will be dismantled in an 'inevitable' economic downturn, as capitalism cannot be managed, except in the interests of the economic parasite class. All government is over you. Elect yourself to own the world in common with your fellow workers worldwide. In a socialist society, a real one, not a capitalist reformist pretend one, we won't need any classes or political leadership, as we will have local, regional and global control over all the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, in a commonly owned world, of production for use and free access, "From each according to their abilities to each according to their needs", with recallable delegates where we need to delegate administrative tasks.

A cartoon version of Robert Tressell's classic, "The Great Money Trick".



Wee Matt

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Introducing the WSM (video)

Our flag is the red banner of socialism

Since the 19th-century thieving capitalists have used philanthropy to pose as social saints, to shape society in their image and to create confusion about the nature of capitalism. In 1998 Bill Gates’ company Microsoft was charged with illegal practices, and Gates, the world’s richest person, was condemned as a ruthless monopolist. A mere four years later, after launching a charitable foundation, Gates was praised as a generous philanthropist. The media lauds Gates for his compassion. He presents himself no longer as the scourge of mankind, using patents and intellectual property laws to acquire and increase his wealth, but now as humanity’s benefactor, even its saviour because of his perceived charitable giving. The ruling class have even re-invented war as philanthropy, now calling it “humanitarian intervention”.

Frederick Engels long ago explained charitable giving by the wealthy:
“The English capitalist class is charitable out of self-interest; it gives nothing outright, but regards its gifts as a business matter, makes a bargain with the poor, saying, ‘If I spend this much upon benevolent institutions, I thereby purchase the right not to be troubled any further, and you are bound thereby to stay in your dusky holes and not to irritate my tender nerves by exposing your misery. You shall despair as before, but you shall despair unseen…this I purchase with my subscription of twenty pounds for the infirmary!’ It is infamous, this charity of a Christian capitalist! As though they rendered the workers a service in first sucking out their very life-blood and then placing themselves before the world as mighty benefactors of humanity when they give back to the plundered victims the hundredth part of what belongs to them!”

Members of the working class are the only true philanthropists by producing a surplus that is taken by the employers instead of being used to meet human needs. Marx pointed out in Capital, value is not created simply by owning something, but only through the application of human labour. By owning the productive forces - i.e. the factories, the land, the mines, and all the science and technique that is necessary to utilise them - the capitalists appropriate all that is produced by the working class. Only a fraction of the value created by the working class is then paid back in wages. The rest, what Marx termed “surplus value”, is divided between the capitalists (as profit), bankers (as interest), and landlords (as rent). As companies grow bigger and bigger, so do the profits that can be appropriated by their owners. Thus for every billionaire, their wealth is based on exploiting the unpaid labour of millions of workers. That a handful of these billionaires decide to give away some of their amassed fortunes should come as a surprise, when you consider that there is absolutely nothing else they could do with such money. There are only so many mansions, yachts and private jets, that one person can buy. Once their bellies are full of caviar and champagne the only options facing these billionaires are to a) invest the money as capital in order to receive more money; b) pass their fortunes down to their children; or c) give the money away to “philanthropic” ventures.

What right have a handful of individuals such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Mark Zuckerberg to decide the priorities in tackling the many social problems of the world, whether it should be healthcare or education, or in industrial production generally? Surely these decisions should be made collectively, as part of a democratic process involving everybody? We must also ask ourselves whether it is necessary that in order to eradicate poverty and diseases we should rely on the “generousity” of such wealthy individuals to donate some of their vast fortunes at these problems, in an unplanned and uncoordinated way? Surely, no-one can seriously be suggesting that social problems will be solved in this manner, at the whim of a single person. If this wealth was socially owned and democratically planned, we could make tremendous advances, far surpassing what is currently achieved. We must question if the attempts to “eradicate poverty” and “create a more equal society” can ever be achieved by the charity of these billionaires? We must ask: what causes poverty? Why is there inequality? Poverty does not exist due to a lack of education, or a lack of hospitals. Just ask the millions of people in the USA without access to healthcare, in a country that contains some of the world’s finest, best-equipped hospitals.

 Poverty and inequality are in fact fundamental features of the capitalist system, and are a necessary result of an economy based on wage labour. Since the vast majority of the world’s population do not own their own means of production, they are forced to sell their labour power, i.e. their capacity to work, as a commodity to the capitalists, i.e. those who do own the means of production. The value of this commodity is determined more or less in the same way as for any other commodity, i.e. with reference to the socially necessary labour power required to reproduce the worker (and their family) at a certain standard of living. This standard can be raised or lowered as a result of the class struggle, but generally the “going rate” tends to sink to that just necessary to keep workers alive.

We need to expose philanthropy for what it is — a means to deceive and confuse workers. Before a wealthy benefactor can give away his wealth, he has to first accumulate it. Capitalists fight for profits on two fronts. One is against their business competitors. The other is against their workers, the source of their wealth. Marx and Engels noted in the Communist Manifesto, “A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society.” If any were to denounce capitalism, and make the case for socialism, they would quickly find themselves ridiculed and ostracized. A society in need of philanthropists is one rooted in inequality. The writer Balzac argued that behind every great fortune lay a great crime. This does not mean that the fortune-maker, in his personal make-up, is disposed to depravity. No, his actions may very well be driven only by the soundest business principles. But no one accumulates billions with clean hands. There is no reason to demonise members of the capitalist class as individuals, on account of their great wealth for in the final analysis, the issues raised by their private fortunes don’t go to the personal and moral qualities of their character.


Following in the footsteps of John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, to-days philanthropists believes in a special form of democracy, otherwise known as plutocracy or an oligarchy. Social engineering by these elite philanthropists is not compatible with real democracy. The real issue is that philanthropy does not actually change the most fundamental inequality in our society. It is no more a solution to poverty or inequality as a blood transfusion is a solution to a severed jugular vein. No amount of philanthropy or charity can solve the basic problem in society: the theft of most of the value produced by the working class by a tiny capitalist class. Even though workers run the assembly lines, drive the trucks, stock the shelves and build the homes, it is their employers who profit. Recirculating a proportion of that stolen wealth back to the poorest and most vulnerable in society does not solve the basic issue: that the fruits of our labour have been stolen from us.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Putting the "NOW" Into Socialism

“The economists have changed Marx, in various ways; the point is to interpret him — correctly.” Andrew Kliman

Socialism is not a too complicated doctrine to understand. Socialism is a theory of a system of human society, based on the common ownership of the means of production and the carrying on of the work of production by all for the benefit of all. In other words, socialism means that the land, the transport networks, the mines and mills, the factories and offices, and all such things as are necessary for the production of the necessaries and comforts of life should be public property, just as our public roads, our public parks and our public libraries are public property today, so that all these things should be used by the whole people to produce the goods that the whole of the people require.

The most obvious obstacle to the socialist transformation of society is the simple fact that most workers are not socialists. Indeed most workers accept capitalism, believe it can’t be changed, and view socialists who want to change it as idealists.  Capitalist society is founded on the principles of private property and the profit motive – and therefore is thought of as ‘natural’. Capitalist ideas seem to make sense because they reflect the world as we experience it. Businesses are run for profit and society is divided into owners and the property-less classes – so to believe these things are ‘natural’ seems simple commonsense. As Marx put it: ‘the ruling ideas of any age will be the ideas of the ruling class’.

Socialism cannot be created on behalf of workers, but must be the act of the working class itself, how can this happen when the working class is dominated by capitalist ideas? Workers’ ideas clearly cannot simply be changed on a mass scale by socialist propaganda. A socialist journal such as Socialist Standard even if it became a daily newspaper can’t match the operations of the millionaire-owned press. This doesn’t mean attempts by socialists to spread their ideas through newspapers, pamphlets and books is irrelevant or unnecessary. They are vital elements of the battle of ideas.

The basic premise of socialists is that the operation of capitalism itself drives workers into revolt against the system. The spread of socialist ideas must also have a material base; just as capitalist ideas dominate workers’ thinking because they reflect their daily experience, so the spread of socialist ideas will reflect changes in that daily experience. It is often supposed that the more people suffer, the more revolutionary they become. But if this were so, then the revolution would have happened long ago. In fact it is not suffering, but the experience of resistance against suffering that forms the material basis for the growth of socialist ideas. If the intensity of class struggle is high, then socialist ideas can spread like wildfire as workers’ confidence in their ability to change their own lives rises, and they become more able to see that alternatives to capitalism are possible. The transformation of working class consciousness is astonishing. All the mental energy that workers previously frittered away on a hundred and one diversions is suddenly directed towards trying to deal with the problem of how to change society. Millions of people working on such problems produce solutions of amazing ingenuity.

But socialist ideas have to be there, ready to inform those class struggles, to articulate and generalise and ready to prove their practical relevance by pointing to the way forward. The trade unions fight for shorter working hours, higher wages and better working conditions for their members but socialist parties fight for the liberty, equality, fraternity of all human beings. The world will only be guaranteed security, democracy and peace only when it is run on an entirely different basis than it is now; only when a socialist system replaces the present capitalist one. The capitalist ownership of the means of production and distribution means the exploitation of the great majority by a small minority; that brings recurring wars and constantly undermines democracy. Therefore the aim of the Socialist Party is the ending of capitalism and the building of a new socialist society. Its features are unique, not shared by any other section of the labour movement. They enable it to make an essential contribution to the growth of socialist understanding.

Contrary to the ideas spread by some on the Left, it is not the aim of the Socialist Party to undermine, weaken or split the labour movement. As Marxian socialists we sincerely desire the strengthening of the working class. We believe that to consistently explain socialist ideas will help its development. Without clear socialist aims the class struggle will lose significance. The dominant ideas continue to be the ideas of the ruling class. One way to oppose this is by education in socialist ideas. Fellow workers who are new to socialism require to be taught the rudiments of the its analysis of how society has developed and can be changed, to learn the lessons of past working class struggles, how we can understand the modern world, and the basics of the capitalist economy. While workers who are already socialists need continually to deepen their understanding of these matters, so that they can cope with all the arguments thrown against them.

 There are two roads open to the people of the world today. We can continue along the route of capitalism or we can take the socialist path.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Student Costs

Edinburgh is the most expensive city in the UK for students to live and work in, according to a survey. Above average rent costs plus lower than average term-time income made it the least affordable.


http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-36904289





Socialism Is Our Goal


Socialists admire that slogan “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” but assert that ONLY by carrying on the fight for socialism can it be achieved. It will ONLY be accomplished by the declaration of labour’s independence and the proclamation of labour’s coming emancipation. There is  a multitude of reasons why socialism is not much of a force than it is today. We must understand, first of all, that revolution is not a simple process of raising the crimson red banner and rallying everyone who is exploited and oppressed to muster under it and rise up. Capitalism is a very sophisticated enemy. It is a system which knows how to bribe and buy-off those who challenge it. It knows how to absorb reforms and innovations that offer a pretense of solving the people’s problems. It knows how to create a culture that makes it appear there are no bitter class antagonisms under the surface of society. And it is also very good at discrediting and slandering the ideas of social revolution and socialism in the minds of the people. In trying to change this system, we should never forget that these factors constitute an important part of the objective conditions under which we work. There are no short-cut schemes to alter them, only painstaking, and prolonged educational work of illumination and enlightenment.

People are seeking an alternative to the situation. They are disgusted by the capitalist politics. The world is divided not between “good men” and “bad men,” not between black, brown and white, not between foreign-born and native-born, but between working people and their capitalist exploiters. The government pretends to be the impartial umpire of the social struggle. This is a lie. The capitalist class has shown itself unfit to rule because it cannot even feed its slaves. To establish democracy is the aim of the Socialist Party. Not the fake limited political democracy but the real economic and social democracy which comes from a society where men and women collectively own their own means of livelihood, the factories and industrial machinery where “we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” In the view of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels “The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interests of the immense majority.”

The theory of socialists is that if the enormous wealthy of society, controlled by the few, were controlled by the people, poverty could be eliminated, an end could be made to the mass murder of war, and mankind could live in peace and plenty. In a revolution, the power and wealth of society change hands. They are transferred from one class to another. In our time, there are two fundamental classes in society, the working class and the capitalist class. This kind of social revolution would be necessary on a world scale this kind of revolution would be necessary on a world scale. Since capitalism is a global system, to be successful, socialism must replace capitalism globally. The minority class owns the wealth, profits from it, keeps down the standard of living of the majority class which has no wealth. The workers are cajoled and propagandised to protect the wealth owned by the ruling class and to maintain the profits and privileges of the ruling class.

Socialism can be constructed only on the basis of a highly productive economy capable of producing abundantly. Where there is scarcity, with the consequent scramble for the meagre necessities, the fight for privileges takes place; the material basis for a privileged bureaucracy appears. Genuine socialists have confidence in the ability of the working class to overthrow capitalism and do not have the slightest doubt of the ability of the workers to dispose of the capitalist class.

Thanks to the extraordinary development of industrial technology, the world’s vast resources and the existence of skilled workers, the organisation of socialist production on such a scale as to ensure plenty and thereby economic equality for all, can be assured almost immediately. Once workers have made their revolution, the decisive factors of resources and technology will provide the material basis for the broadest workers’ democracy, leading to the fulfillment of the revolution in the classless socialist society. But the thing now is to make the revolution.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Socialist Party's Road to Socialism

The Socialist Party has set out its essential doctrines and has formulated its case for the future so that its principles of socialism should enter the minds of fellow-workers and prepare them for the new society. The Socialist Party declares itself to be the only genuine socialist party in the United Kingdom, and acting on that view, it opposes every other party and fights them at every election.

Our party is proud of the fact that it looks upon the free discussion of party problems, party principles and policies, not as an occasional luxury but as an integral part of its daily life, as an indispensable element in its development. Any controversy that arises, whether it be a matter of internal organisation or the application of socialist principles to some problem of the moment finds its way into our Annual Conference at Easter (or our Autumn Delegate meeting.) There it gets analysed, investigated, debated and argued and then put to the full membership of the party to vote upon in a party-poll.

The Socialist Party is a revolutionary organisation. It has perhaps come into being along a different road from your own. Also in many ways, it traditions and its methods differs from yours. We know that many of you have significant differences with ourselves, particularly on questions relating to history, more specifically on the question of Leninism or Trotskyism and of aspects of the Russian Revolution. Since 1917, we believe our original analysis has been the correct one and now argue that history has confirmed this fact.  Take no one’s word, but find out for yourself, and after this has been done we feel that our conclusions will also be yours.  

By bringing men together primarily as buyers and sellers of each other, by enshrining profitability and pecuniary gain in place of humanity, capitalism has always been inherently alienating, contributing to  mankind's sense of  insignificance and impotence. A socialist transformation of society will return to mankind a sense of human solidarity, to replace this sense of being a commodity. A socialist democracy implies control of his or her immediate environment and in any strategy for building socialism, community democracy is as vital as the struggle for electoral success. To that end, socialists must strive for democracy at those levels that most directly affect us all — in our neighbourhoods, our educational centres, and our places of work so to control all our own destinies. The process is the raising of socialist consciousness to create workers' participation in all institutions to release creative energies and restore human and social priorities. The Socialist Party want not only a society in which people’s needs are provided for by an abundance of goods and services, but in which their great and varied capacities can be fully developed. The path to socialism is through a fundamental change in class relations.

 Changing the economic system is not an end in itself. It is a means of creating conditions in which human beings will be able to realise their full potentialities and work together for the common good, instead of being divided by sex or race. Capitalism distorts human individuality, subordinates men and women to the needs of the profit system, sets them against each other. Socialism aims to develop their individuality by creating a society in which exploitation and poverty are ended, and the resources of science and technology used to reduce the time spent in monotonous and mundane jobs to a minimum, and vastly increase the amount devoted to leisure and creative work. Modern technology itself would be rationally planned and applied. It is the people themselves who have to build socialism, become involved in its administration, and be responsible for the development of society. The success of socialist planning will depend on a detailed and intimate knowledge of the enterprises concerned, and on the commitment of the workers involved. With the advent of socialism and the ending of the conflict between worker and capitalist employer, the function of the trade unions would change. Through the development of industrial democracy, they would play a vital role in creating the economic basis for socialism with workers’ participation at all levels, in planning industry as a whole and in every enterprise and department. The workers would have a dominant say in determining the conditions of work. New attitudes to society, to work and to culture will develop. New relations, based on co-operation instead of domination and exploitation, will come into being between the sexes, between generations, between peoples.

A flourishing socialist economy would be able to meet the social needs of the people and improve the quality of life. Socialism is based on the principle ‘from each according to ability; to each according to needs’. Such a society requires the production of an abundance of goods to satisfy the needs of all, and a new outlook of co-operation and concern for the common good, with the ending of attitudes and habits associated with the class-divided society of the past. It will be a society without classes and in which the need for the state as an instrument of class rule will have disappeared. It will be free of exploitation, using science and technology to liberate people from drudgery and toil, extending leisure and education and culture, so that human capacities are developed to the full — a society in which, in the words of the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels, ‘the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all’.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Protect rail safety


Support the Strikers

About 400 North Sea oil workers have gone on strike for 24 hours over plans to cut their pay and allowances. Members of the RMT and Unite unions employed by the Wood Group on Shell platforms have walked out. The seven Shell platforms involved are Shearwater, Gannet, Nelson, Curlew, Brent Alpha, Brent Bravo and Brent Charlie. Wood Group provides maintenance and construction services to the installations

The unions claim workers could suffer a cut to their pay and allowances of up to 30%. Workers are also disgruntled that a two-week working cycle has been changed to a three-week cycle. leaving many away from their families for a longer time.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "After savage redundancies and attacks on workload and working conditions, this group of offshore workers are now told that they are going to be railroaded into accepting pay cuts of up to 30%. We are well aware that the company chief executive has had a pay increase of 28% to bring him up to £600,000. It is obscene that while the top bosses are lining their own pockets they are kicking the workforce from pillar to post. This brave group of workers are taking a stand against the greed and savagery that is a mark of corporate Britain in 2016."


John Boland, Unite regional officer said: "This dispute is the first in the North Sea in three decades and shows the strength of feeling of our members who feel backed into a corner and left with no other option but to use their industrial strength to make Wood Group listen. Our members have been faced with changes to shift patterns which have seen them working longer offshore for the same pay, as well as having three rounds of redundancies imposed on them. This attack on their pay and allowances has pushed our members too far this time."

We are THE Socialist Party


A function of the Socialist Party is to ensure that our fellow workers are educated into realising that their industrial power must back up a political or general class fight. This struggle can only be accomplished by the working class through their own influence and sticking to uncompromising socialist principles. We cannot expect results unless the masses understand and organise. We have to overcome the power of the state, which is an instrument of capital against labour. This should be done by criticising and exposing the real character of the state.  The Socialist Party seeks to organise all workers into one great PARTY OF LABOUR. Our method is of political organisation at the ballot box to secure the election of representatives of the Socialist Party to all the elective governing public bodies and thus transfer the political power of the State into the hands of those who will use it to further and extend the principle of common ownership.  We, therefore, appeal to all workers to throw in their lot with the Socialist Party and assist it in the gathering the working class to achieve its great object – the common ownership of the means of producing and distributing all wealth.

For the working class of the world, the lesson is plain. Socialism is the overthrow of the capitalist system, and the establishing in its place of a co-operative commonwealth. Our goal of social revolution is the abolition of capitalist private property, the abolition of all exploitation of man by man, the common ownership of the means of production and their planned use for the benefit of the whole of society. The Socialist Party does not put forward this goal as a mere utopia but as a goal the practical attainment of which is made necessary by the actual conditions of modern society. Socialism is not inevitable. What has been termed its ‘inevitability’ consists in this, that only through socialism can human progress continue? But there is not and cannot be any absolute deterministic inevitability in human affairs since man makes his own history and chooses what to do. What is determined is not his choice, but the conditions under which it is made, and the consequences when it is made. The meaning of scientific socialism is not that it tells us that socialism will come regardless, but that it explains to us where we stand, what course lies open to us, what is the road to choose. Not one who really believes in socialism can afford to come to terms, in any shape or form, on vital principles with the class enemy. We do not ally ourselves with those who shy away at the very notion of the co-operative commonwealth being established in his or her day, and who rather propose that socialism can only be an ultimate aim where  everything will go on just as it is in your life-time, my life-time, and the life-time of your children; but sometime in the dim and distant future, perhaps in our grandchildren’s grandchildren life-time when it does not very much matter, socialism may come about. The Socialist Party is dedicated to the revolutionary socialist principles and to the struggle for socialist freedom in the here and now.

Are the Socialist principles and its fundamental ideas unsound? If so, we have been on the wrong track all the time. The Socialist Party is founded on three cardinal principles:
1. that society is divided into classes with conflicting economic interest;
2. that economic considerations is the mainspring of human action;
3. that surplus values are wrested from the working class through the private ownership.

Socialism can scarcely be better expressed than by Marx and Engels that the basis of the new society will be the administration of things, as opposed to the existing order which consists in the coercion and exploitation of persons. Socialism means the freeing of the individual from the fetters which weigh upon ourselves under the capitalistic system. And this is not to be understood as meaning that while the old fetters are removed new chains will be riveted. All direct coercion of the individual, as such, is contrary to the principles of socialism. Coercion will be the task of socialism to get rid of, if not immediately, as effectively and speedily as possible. One of the aims of the industrial and political organisation supposed by socialism is the guaranteeing of the freedom of the individual for good or ill. Socialism comes not to destroy individual freedom, but to fulfil it.


The Socialist Party, part of the World Socialist Movement to establish a new society appeals to you to join it and engage in the noble fight for working-class emancipation and socialism. We have the right to call upon you to enter our Party, for we have never flinched from the struggle against capitalism and never forsaken the principles of socialism. Given favourable conditions our activities will spread to where we live and work, awakening the consciousness and stimulating the militancy of fellow workers, winning them over to the banner of the party of the socialist revolution, the Socialist Party.

Monday, July 25, 2016

We only need the majority


"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation." - Herbert Spencer

Sympathy with Corbyn for the way the media have treated him as a person is one thing, but support for his reformist Old Labourite policies which failed in the 60s and 70s is another.

Capitalist, left,  right or centre, politicians, can only deceive themselves that they can alleviate in some way the inevitable concomitants of a capitalist society, of war (business by other means) and poverty (absolute or relative). Capitalism cannot be reformed, no matter however noble or ignoble the politician.

It is time long past for a brand new post-capitalist social system. One which is owned by us all, in which production is for use and not for sale.

In a socialist society, a real one, not a capitalist reformist pretend one, we won't need any classes or political leadership, as we will have local, regional and global control over all the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, in a commonly owned world, of production for use and free access, "From each according to their abilities to each according to their needs", with recallable delegates where we need to delegate administrative tasks.

The Labour Party, those in it who think they are taking small steps towards some kind of socialism, have been baby-stepping since 1906. As the left-wing of capitalism, they baby-stepped workers into war, baby-stepped their strikes with the army. (Attlee had the troops out 8 times)

Any reforms inside capitalism are made when the capitalist class are afraid of a social revolution, after wars etc., if there is a boom, even when there is not any real evidence of that happening.

There is no gradualist road to socialism.  That is a reformist delusion which keeps capitalism tickety-boo, as a caring wage-slave master, who frets about the cost and efficacy of his munificence, (welfare etc.) set against the surplus value which will accrue to him, or her, or them.

A social revolution will only happen when the majority make it happen. It won't be the work of Leftist leaders, but the conscious action of the immense majority asserting their common possession of the world and everything in it,and on it, to abolish ownership by individuals, the state, corporations and share its abundance in common with fellow human beings worldwide. with no ruling elites or classes.

We do not need to be led, we need a majority.

Educate! Agitate! Organise!

Supporters of capitalism argue that we have always had poverty, but you didn't have man-made poverty in the midst of plenty. Famine amongst food being available for export.

The Iraq war was not fought simply to overthrow a brutal dictator—though this surely happened — nor even to stop the spread of chemical and biological weapons - those didn't exist. It was fought over a key energy source - oil. The chief aim was to secure future supplies of such energy resources. In other words, the Iraq war was no different from any of the wars that have taken place in modern times. It was a business war.

War is fought for the interests and advantages of the ruling class, fought to protect or extend capitalist profits. Of course, no ruling class will ever admit going to war for such sordid motives. Every war has to be justified as a ‘righteous’ and ‘just’ war reluctantly resorted to for ‘humanitarian’ reasons or in defence of international ‘justice’, otherwise, no worker would sacrifice their lives or surrender their liberties so willingly.

Many assume Hitler was the sole cause of the Second World War and all the associated horrors. This is a gross oversimplification. Germany in the 1930's wasn’t suddenly corrupted by Hitler’s charisma. The political tensions and strife were all there, results of a previous world war and a great depression. Hitler was just able to capitalise on this. But if he hadn’t there’s nothing to say that nobody else would. Elimination of the main figurehead won’t necessarily prevent events that were as much a product of the wider socio-political context...and don't forget also the 'war science' of Nagasaki and Hiroshima upon a civilian population, done by liberal democracy, the 'good guys'. Still picking sides for another go too.

Socialism has never existed, as it is a post-capitalist, production for use, commonly owned, priceless, waged slavery free, democratically controlled, global system of free access.

In the absence of elite social classes, the administration is over things, locally, regionally and globally by the people themselves rather than by government over people, using recallable delegation where necessary.

Some may be confusing post-feudal revolutions, (Russia, China) introducing state capitalism, or attempts to regulate capitalism by reforms, as 'socialistic'' in some way. All were doomed to fail, but as failures of capitalism, which cannot be reformed, despite politicians promises or aspirations.

Capitalism and any variants of it, must be replaced. It has outlived its usefulness in developing the means of production and educating its waged slaves, who already run it from top to bottom.

All that is required is the political mature decision of the majority, to seize ownership and control of the means of producing and distributing wealth, from the parasite class (private, corporate or state) and make ownership common, using the Achilles heel of capitalist political democracy, to usher in an age of super-abundance with production for use and not for sale.

Nothing is forever, including capitalism. It is an obsolete and outmoded method of production. It can never satisfy human needs while retaining private, corporate or state ownership of resources and the means and instruments for producing wealth, as its mode of production. It can only satisfy market requirements even then imperfectly and not human needs. The ideas of capitalism, overthrowing feudal relations and the Divine Right of Kings, would have seemed a fantasy in feudal times.

The bourgeois democracy brought in by capitalism, is its own Achilles heel. The educated working class who presently produce all of the wealth, but do not own it, who run capitalism from top to bottom, yet it is not in their own interests, but the interests of a privileged minority, will dig the grave of capitalism.

The wealth producers 99%, are compelled to wage-enslaved production (for sale) of wealth for the 1% capitalist parasitic class. The interests of the 99% lies in removing ownership and control from the 1% and establishing a commonly owned society. Workers have never controlled production, so many are confusing demand-led, state control with its antithesis, production for use and common ownership. It is workers who run capitalism from top to bottom and who make decisions on their behalf, so that the capitalist class, whether, state, corporation or private, are placed in an exalted, privileged position only due to their ownership.

Nothing will stop an idea which time has come.

"The paradise of the rich is made out of the hell of the poor." - Victor Hugo

We have a world to win. Dissolve all governments and elect yourselves.

"From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs"


Wee Matt

Sunday, July 24, 2016

For Industrial and Social Democracy



Socialism is revolutionary in principle, i.e. it puts up a totally new principle in place of the old, not just patches up the prevailing system. The old ideas of competition and self-interest fostered by capitalism once seemed sacrosanct are now slowly eroding away until they no longer seem so sacrosanct, and new ideas of cooperation and solidarity have gradually taken their place. It’s easy to lose hope when important battles are lost, or to become over-confident when they’re won. But, in both defeat and victory, workers must still go on striving for socialism. Unfortunately, more and more people to escape from the reality of their life and its disappointments seek solutions through nationalism and racism. It gives them opportunities to blame their misery and troubles, not on a broken economic system but on a tangible enemy: the brown and black people “taking” from the whites and native-born. These folks are rightfully angry that something they were promised was not delivered and much of the right-leaning media are pandering to prejudices about who is to blame for their woes. Even mainstream media rhetoric lead many to frame their economic disadvantage upon the supposed “theft” of jobs and welfare benefits by minorities and immigrants, creating a vicious class divide squeezing all levels of society other than the very wealthy. The anger has spawned an enormous amount of, xenophobic nationalism and we've seen how racism and scapegoating are so easily manipulated.

Today, we see the discontent of people in so many countries -- ordinary people who have lost trust in the elites and the powers that be. Even though socialists presently may not be successful in accomplishing their goals, they have at least got some people talking about the issue. Actually, it has convinced those people that there is an issue. So even if the socialist movement currently fails to change the status quo, it gets people arguing and thinking in ways they hadn't, and somewhere down the line, this will influence and inspire the future. What it means is that there is a constant struggle that constantly needs to be fought. Some causes seem more important than others, some are more urgent than others but it is the socialist aim that musters them all under the same banner. Today, we need to take socialist ideas seriously and work towards making them a reality. Be very wary of parties using the language of change that is merely the language of promise. The reformist approach is one of masquerade. The Socialist Party is still very small, and we have no illusions that we will get big votes. We know that there is much work to be done to transform the current situation where the majority of workers feel powerless to change things. Nevertheless, there are growing numbers of people who are not prepared to quietly accept the present order. We campaign in elections not to win votes but to use the elections as a platform to put the truth about the capitalist system before the workers at a time when they have an increased interest in politics. In the very unlikely event of an SPGB candidate being elected he or she would enter parliament to expose the system´s falseness; to treat that body as the camp of the enemy, to fight above all for the class interests of the wage workers, by which we mean both their economic and also their political interests. What are these? Simply, the achievement of a socialist society based on means of production under the rule, not of a small minority of capitalists as at present, but of the great majority of the working class; i.e., under working-class democracy.


Of course, we harbour no illusions that we will get a seat in parliament in the near future. Workers desperately need a political movement of our own. A movement which puts our interests first because it is a movement by, for and of us. Since the system we live under capitalism, is based on our exploitation, such a movement needs to be explicitly anti-capitalist. It needs to aim for the overthrow of the capitalist system and its replacement by a new truly socialist society, based on organising production to meet the human needs of all rather than private profit for a super-rich few

Saturday, July 23, 2016

"Doubt everything" – Marx

Socialism cannot be 'given'. It has to be won by a politically conscious majority, who know what it is. The democratic 'ends determine the means' rather than the Leninist/Stalinist justifying of them. All the parties of the right, Left, centre, blue, green, purple, red and tartan are parties of class rule.

 It is not going to happen until a majority recognise their common interests to make it so happen. But this doesn't stop us struggling to deal with the day to day effects of capitalist exploitation. Countries like China didn't get their timings wrong, as they established capitalism with all of its birth pangs, accelerated by their states, in the absence of a capitalist class, to take them out of feudalism. Effectively post-feudal revolutions. A fiction, useful to the capitalist class, the idea of socialism ever existing.
"State capitalism would be a step forward for us." (Lenin)
"What you have is state capitalism." (John Foster Dulles to Nikita Khruschev)

Common ownership is NOT state ownership. There is no government over people in a socialist/communist society.  Rather people themselves administer things (production and distribution etc.) Unfortunately, 'social ownership' was confused with state ownership. A 'meet the new boss' result. Common ownership and social ownership (means the same) has no need for a state as it is a classless society managed by us all in condition of free access to the commonly owned and created wealth.
"From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs." (Both abilities and needs are self-assessed)

We have a World to win.

"The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves. We cannot, therefore, co-operate with people who openly state that the workers are too uneducated to emancipate themselves and must be freed from above by philanthropic big bourgeois and petty bourgeois.’ (1879 Marx and Engels)

Capitalist democracy, flawed though it is, can and must still be used as the 'Achilles heel' of capitalism, as long as a sufficient majority are convinced of socialism, i.e. the establishment of a commonly owned society then the capitalist class will be unable to resist. (Peacefully if we can violently only if we must).
Clause 6 in the S.P.G.B.'s Declaration of Principles, (1904) states:
"That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organize consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic."

It would be foolish to expect the capitalist class to voluntarily give up its privileged position in society. Governments exist solely to administer the society as it exists, in the interests of the ruling (capitalist) class, so governments will not end the privilege. Capitalism will continue as long as the working class accepts it. The working class will have to force the capitalist class to give up its position of privilege. Socialism will be the result of workers democratically choosing a new, classless society based on the satisfaction of human needs. And since capitalism is a global system of society, it must be replaced globally. The machinery of government has to be captured in order to prevent guns being fired upon the workers. Direct action as such will consist of workers being self-organised for the event.

No post-capitalist society has ever existed anywhere. Please do not conflate claims of 'socialism', which are really reformist capitalist positions, with the real thing, a commonly owned, democratic, wage-free, a World of free access. It is impossible to have some oasis of socialism inside a global capitalist society. It can only arise out of an advanced capitalism with a majority of educated and politically conscious workers, self-organised to this end. Nothing will stop this when it occurs. People will be caught up in the new post-capitalist Zeitgeist, nothing will stop an idea which time has come. Ultimately, everyone wants a World without war (business by other means) and poverty (absolute and relative). You can't have capitalism without those twin concomitants.
Wee Matt

Friday, July 22, 2016

Onward, fellow workers

Capitalism has failed, and so have efforts to reform it. The Socialist Party thinks a working peoples’ industrial democracy can displace the dictatorship of capital and organise society on values of human solidarity and dignity. The rulers say they’re rich because they’re smart, but the truth is they’re rich because they exploit us. The working class produces all the wealth, and we can become confident and strong enough to run all of this society. Our society is based on money, but we are worth so much more than we make in a paycheck. The working class is capable of using its intelligence and capacities to take the road to socialism. The needs of people, not profit, are the driving force of a socialist society. It is becoming increasingly apparent that our political system is not run by the majority, but controlled by a network of economic elites and private interests. The well-being and needs of the people must replace the accumulation of capital and profits.  The Socialist Party’s mission is to raise awareness of social, economic and political issues through dialogue with fellow workers, creating the foundation for wide-scale change. Knowledge is a torch of freedom and the fundamental step towards liberation begins with education. We aim to build a peaceful, people-powered revolution of conscientious active participants. Our objective is to help shift public perception towards true socialism, a society that benefits the many and not the few. It will take a collective effort of shared resources and ideas to restructure our world into one that is founded on economic security and equal opportunity. Tyranny and oppression cannot be challenged until we unite and act to reclaim our power. The dominance of capitalism has blinded us to the alternative – socialism. Much needs to be done to open the minds of our fellow workers to the new possibilities beyond capitalism and to redirect their energy from remedial campaigns to social revolution.

The campaigns to improve our lot under capitalism are endless. Once one form of oppression is dealt with, there’s always another left to tackle, but while engaging in that new fight, the former is bound to return because no progress is ever permanent under capitalism. Rights are won, and the next day they’re under attack. We put much of our energy into defence instead of offence. The fight against exploitation and oppression is never-ending, but does that serve to focus our attention away from the larger fight; from the fight to overturn capitalism and the oppressive structures it perpetuates? As we seek to reverse inequality, reduce poverty, achieve equal rights for minorities, fighting so hard for basic human decency, our minds become stuck in a frame of capitalist realism instead of challenging the very core structures that create the problems against which we fight. Until the structures that create this oppression are dealt with, the fight will never be over. Racism, sexism, and the class system will always return unless the structures responsible for them are destroyed. Instead of placing the focus on the battles for legislation and regulations that will most likely be eventually be overturned or side-stepped, the fight needs to be brought to the system as a whole. Humanity is in a very precarious place right now. It's time to take action in order to survive.

The task before us is to understand the world and how we relate to ourselves. In facing up to the many profound crises of our time, we face a conundrum that has no easy resolution: how are we to imagine and build a radically different system while living within the constraints of an incumbent system that aggressively resists transformational change? The Socialist Party challenge is not just articulating the socialist alternative, but identifying credible strategies for actualising them. The Socialist Party is focused on reclaiming our “common wealth,” in both the material and political sense. We want to roll back the pervasive property system with its profiteering from our natural resources and to assert participatory control over those resources and community life, to seek effective social control rather than abusive, unsustainable market behaviour. Socialism generates people’s social connections with each other and with nature. It helps build new aspirations and identities. The world socialist movement seeks to change our very conception of the economy.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A money-free world to win.


Who produces all the wealth, manages and runs capitalism from top to bottom? The working class - that is who. Please do not equate Marxism with Leninism. A bit like blaming Jesus for the sectarian Christian divisions manipulated by power-seekers. There is an honourable anti-Bolshevik tradition in Marxist politics:
‘We have often stated that because of a large anti-socialist peasantry and vast untrained population, Russia was a long way from socialism. Lenin has now to admit this by saying: “Reality says that State capitalism would be a step forward for us; if we were able to bring about State capitalism in a short time it would be a victory for us” (The Chief Task of Our Times)…If we are to copy Bolshevik policy in other countries we should have to demand State capitalism, which is not a step to socialism’ (Socialist Standard, July 1920).

 ‘Both Trotsky and Stalin draw up their programmes within the framework of state and private capitalism which prevails in Russia’ (Socialist Standard, December 1928).

 ‘[all the Bolsheviks] have been able to do is to foster the growth of State capitalism and limit the growth of private capitalism’ (Socialist Standard, July 1929.)

The social democratic experiments of the Labour Party were all attempts to manage capitalism with reforms. But capitalism cannot be reformed and shorn of its concomitants of war (business by other means) and poverty, absolute or relative (essential, to keep us as wage-slaves.) It cannot be shorn of its economic cycle of booms and busts.

“In 1918, in the shadow of the Russian revolution, they made a deliberate, conscious, ideological choice, that they would not pursue the syndicalist road, that they would not pursue the revolutionary road – it was a real choice in those days. They would pursue the parliamentary road to socialism.” Neil Kinnock

That just amounted to their infamous Clause 4 definition of 'common ownership' with a 'means of exchange'. In other words, not socialism at all, but nationalisation, state ownership and not common ownership, retaining the wages slavery system, prices and social classes. They are bourgeois vacillators between potential winning capitalisms, masquerading as radical. The Labour party was never a socialist party but a reformist one. Capitalism cannot be reformed however noble or ignoble the politician.

Representative democracy is seriously flawed, not least by the principle of leadership. Representation is a myth. It is a surrendering of power within a restricted choice of capitalist politicians. Proportional Representation merely diffuses the political power over us giving an ersatz illusion of choice of bosses. In a class society, the politicians are elected to govern 'over' us in the interests of the dominant economic class. This is the only control they exert, 'over us', as they are powerless in respect of the economic conditions of the day in a market society where production is for sale with a view of realising a profit and capitalist , left right or centre politicians, can only deceive themselves that they can alleviate in some way the inevitable concomitants of a capitalist society, of war (business by other means) and poverty (absolute or relative).

In a socialist society, a real one, not a capitalist reformist pretend one, we won't need any classes or political leadership, as we will have local, regional and global control over all the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, in a world owned in common, where production is for use and there exists free access, "from each according to their abilities to each according to their needs", with recallable delegates where we need to delegate administrative tasks.

Socialism isn't a commodity for sale, but a social relationship of classless free access in a post-capitalist social system which will arise out of the present system without the contradictions of private ownership, production only for sale, or social elites with advantageous access to the social product. Once people aspire to dissolve governments and elect themselves, no power can stop them. Nothing will stop an idea when its time has really come. Socialists have always wanted working people to ‘take control’ of their collective destiny. That’s what real socialism is all about. This is not possible under capitalism because it is a system governed by uncontrollable economic laws which impose themselves on people whatever they want or decide. The only way to take control (‘back’ is out of place since the majority class of wage and salary workers has never had any control) is to take control of the places where we work and where wealth is produced and run them for the benefit of all.

Socialism and communism mean the same thing. 'Common' or 'social' ownership. Just because power-hungry politicians utilised the name 'socialism' to sell their dodgy reforms as 'socialistic' doesn't alter one iota the definition of socialism. It is a commonly owned, world of free access and democratic control over the means and instruments for creating and distributing wealth. Nothing to do with nationalisation, state ownership or any of the paraphernalia of state-regulated market capitalism.

Socialism has to be the work of a politically conscious worker class themselves organising to this end. The democratic ends determine the means rather than the Leninist/Stalinist justifying of them. We have a post-capitalist world to win. Socialism will not be the bloody capture of power by a minority, but the politically aware and responsible act of the immense majority, expressed "peacefully if we can violently, only if we must".

The workers of the world already run capitalism from top to bottom, it is just a change a change of ownership, from private or state into common ownership and democratic control, with production for use and not for sale, allied with free access and voluntary production.

Wee Matt

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Capitalism - A Ship Without a Compass

The socialist case is a clear one but its advancement is held back by incorrect ideas constantly pumped at the workers through the media. Socialism can only be brought about by the working class taking conscious and political action to achieve it. As for reforming capitalism, the Socialist Party recognises that any attempt to smooth the rough edges off capitalism will not only fail in solving any basic social problem but will sidetrack the workers from the real path for their emancipation—Socialism. As long as capitalism lasts there will be a conflict of interests; in other words, war is caused by capitalism and cannot be avoided under that social system. Socialism will abolish war because it will bring a community of interests; it will be a society without frontiers, without nations, without classes, without conflict.

Like it or not, we live in an inter-dependent world in which we either all rise together or fall together. Blaming migrants for the problems and crises produced by a global economy that is a tyrant rather than a servant is no solution. To be a migrant is to be human, and to attack migrants is inhuman.

Migrants are blamed for taking up places in housing and schools, burdening the country's health and welfare system and weakening the working class. Anti-migrant xenophobia has become a recognisable feature of vote-catching politics in Britain and have shaped successive election campaigns. One reason why myths hang around so long seems to be that we like simple explanations – such as that immigrants are to blame for crumbling public services – and are inclined to believe them. Scant attention is paid to how policies of privatisation and austerity -- have led to a degradation of standards of living life and a growth in inequality in the UK. Capitalism will be replaced either by new visions of social progress or by a dystopia of racism and authoritarianism.

The impacts of immigration have not been distributed evenly in Britain. The rich have accrued the economic gains while the poor have faced cut and austerity policies. The burdens on public services of an increasing population have been over-stated but there are some neighbourhoods where strains are real. So too in some sectors of the labour market wages have been kept down through the exploitation of new workforces in Eastern Europe, whether through immigration or capital flight. The problem is not immigration per se but the way it becomes a focal point for deeper processes of dispossession. The culprits are not refugees or Eastern European immigrants but the whims of global capitalism. Scapegoating newcomers is particularly outrageous since economic and trade policies have been a major contributor to their plight. The fundamental problem then, as we see, is not migration but the misallocation and misdistribution of wealth and resources, which is a non-negotiable condition of capitalism. Stopping immigration by setting quotas and implementing ever more stringent border controls and measures is futile. The only way to reduce it is to deal with its underlying causes – namely inequality and poverty, stemming from capitalism.

The party of socialism in this country is the Socialist Party which makes socialism its one and only objective. The Socialist Party understands that only a majority of class-conscious workers can build socialism. It has made its task therefore the advancement of an unadulterated, uncompromising socialist its object. We urge the workers of all countries to organise as a class to gain control of the political machinery in order to establish the socialist commonwealth, where shall arise happiness, comfort, and luxury for all.


Speed the day!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Primitive Accumulation (1967) - How they got the Scottish Highlands

From the September 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

How they got the Scottish Highlands

Even after a newcomer to Socialism has seen that capitalism is based on the exploitation of the workers, he may still feel that originally the propertied class must have obtained their property by superior merit. Surely, he will argue, riches were obtained in the first place by worthy individuals who worked hard and saved?

Marx deals with the question of “primitive accumulation”, the original gathering together of wealth, in Part VIII of Capital. This “primitive accumulation”, he says, plays the same part in orthodox economic theory as original sin does in theology. “In times gone by there were two sorts of people; one, the diligent, intelligent, and, above all, frugal, √©lite; the other, lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living . . . And from this original sin dates the poverty of the great majority that, despite all its labour, has up to now nothing to sell but itself, and the wealth of the few that increases constantly although they have long ceased to work.” The facts, Marx pointed out, are very different. Wealth was originally accumulated by a process of legalised robbery. The land of Britain, for example, once belonged to those who tilled it. The theft of the land by a few has gone on in stages throughout the last fifteen centuries.

This expropriation was perhaps most striking, as we look back now, in the Highlands of Scotland in the 18th and 19th centuries. The reason is that the blight of private property struck in the Highlands later than in other areas, so that the whole of the coercive forces of Britain were available to help on the transformation, which as a result was particularly sudden and brutal.

The Highlands owed their long immunity to their physical configuration. Entrance to the mountainous area could only be gained through narrow passes, where a handful of men could defeat an army; and the glens and straths within the Highlands were easily defensible against invaders for the same reason. Within this area, during the first part of the 18th century, the clans owned their own clan territories as they had done for centuries. The Campbells in Argyll, the Stewarts and Robertsons in Perthshire, the Rosses and Munros in Ross-shire, could have been forgiven for thinking that their ownership of their land was eternal and unchallengeable. It was not individual ownership; no clansman owned this or that stretch of land to the exclusion of all other clansmen; clan ownership meant that every clansman had the right to hunt the game on the mountain and moor within the clan land, to share in the general grazing, and to till part of the clan's soil. The general right to a living off the land had a corresponding duty: the duty to defend the clan land against invasion. At any alarm the croishtarich — the fiery cross, a piece of wood burnt at one end and dipped in lamb’s blood at the other — would go from township to township through the clan land, and every man capable of bearing arms at once repaired to the pre-arranged rallying spot (the Grants, for example, at Craigellachie, and the Clan Chattan at Dunlichity hill) to ward off the danger.

But among the institutions thrown up by clanship was one which was pregnant with future disaster. It was the chiefship. The chief led the clan in war, and judged any dispute in peacetime. When a chief died, another chief would be chosen, usually a new or distant relative of the last chief: although this meant little when every member of the clan believed himself related to every other, and could recount his descent — whether real or mythical — from the clan’s founder. (Clan is Gaelic for children: the Clan Leod were the children of Leod — the originator of the clan — and each man was Mac Leod, or son of Leod, and each woman Nic Leod, or daughter of Leod). In time it became usual for chiefs to be chosen from the members of one family — the system of tanistry. If a chief’s eldest son were old enough when his father died to lead the clan in war, and the clan thought highly of him, he would usually have the best claim to the succession.

The Highlands, however, were not isolated. Together with the English-speaking Lowlands they formed the kingdom of Scotland. This was largely a theoretical arrangement: the king in Edinburgh had no control in the Highlands, and the only way he could force his will on any clan was by leading an army against it — and often not even then. There were in practice many kings in the Highlands — the chief was “king” of his clan territory. The chiefs soon began to meddle in Lowland politics; and to gain their support, the Edinburgh king would often grant a charter to a particular chief to say that he owned the land of his clan. These charters were of no practical effect at the time, since the chief was unable to exercise any of the powers of ownership. The clansmen paid the chief small annual sums, analogous to present-day taxes, to support him; he had no right to increase this annual tax, much less to evict the clansmen from the clan land. Indeed, if he had gone beyond his traditional powers the clan would have evicted the chief. As a matter of historical fact, whenever a chief was found unsatisfactory he was deposed, and replaced by another member of the chiefly family.

The clan (if it even knew of the fact) was probably relieved when its chief did secure a charter to the clan territory, since it meant that no other chief could do so. Occasionally a chief in particular favour at court would obtain a charter not only to the land of his own clan (which did not belong to him) but also to the land of other clans (which, equally, did not belong to him). The chief of Macintosh, for example, got charters to the lands of the Camerons and of the MacDonalds of Keppoch; and both the Camerons and the MacDonalds had to light several battles to assert their right to their own land by beating off Macintosh and his clan who, out of a mistaken sense of duty, had followed him to support his claim.

Some of the Highland clans followed James Stuart, the Old Pretender, in 1715, and Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender, in 1745. Both rebellions were defeated. The British Government determined to end the anomaly of having more than a sixth of Great Britain still under a type of society based on communal ownership, a system moreover which produced such superlative fighting men that only a few thousand of them had seemed about to topple the Government twice in thirty years. In addition the Industrial Revolution, beginning in the middle years of the 18th century, both provided the material strength needed to conquer the Highlands, and spawned great cities which demanded large supplies of food from the non-industrial districts, such as the Highlands. Soldiers marched and counter-marched through the Highlands, garrison towns were created, and the old Highland law was crushed, making way for the new private property law of the Lowlands.

According to this Lowland law, the charters which most of the chiefs had by this time obtained gave them exclusive rights to the whole of the clan land. This was such an enormous change, since it entailed the replacement of an entire system of society by another, that the chiefs themselves were hardly able to comprehend it for a time. Then some of the chiefs, desirous of making a fine figure in Edinburgh or London, realised that by turning out the clansmen and letting the clan land to sheep farmers, they could at one stroke increase their incomes five or six times. The clansmen were as astounded at this turn of events as if they had been told that the sun was henceforward to rise in the west. They had lived in and defended their land from time immemorial: and now the chief had brought in a lawyer who said that because of some writing in a foreign language on a small piece of paper in Edinburgh, the chief—chosen and loyally supported by the clan, and in fact the embodiment of the clan—had now the right to tell every clansman to leave, and to bring in instead a capitalist tenant farmer with great flocks of sheep! Some clearances were met with physical resistance, rioting, and violence; but where that happened, the chief brought up a detachment of Lowland, English, or Irish soldiers, and evicted the clansmen at the point of the bayonet. Often the threat of force was sufficient, especially since the local parish ministers backed up the landlords with warnings of eternal punishments as well as temporal ones. The odds against the clansmen were too great. In district after district the Gaels packed up their belongings, sold off their sheep and cattle, and left the glen for the last time, headed by a piper playing a clan lament. Often the chief cleared out his clan himself; sometimes he sold out to a buyer at such a high price that the new owner obviously intended to recoup—and did recoup—by a wholesale clearance. The tide of evictions crept steadily northwards. From the 1760s to the 1780s there were clearances among the Campbells in Argyll, the MacPhersons in Strath Spey, the various clans of MacDonalds in Glen Garry, Glen Coe and Keppoch, and the MacKenzies in Ross-shire. In the first decade of the 19th century there were many clearances in Inverness- and Ross-shires. MacNeil of Barra, the Chisholm, and MacLeod of Dunvegan were clearing out their clans; Glengarry was doing the same for the MacDonalds, Lochiel for the Camerons, Seaforth for the MacRaes and MacKenzies, and Lovat for the Frasers. Then, from 1807 to 1820, the great Sutherland Clearances took place, the Countess of Sutherland putting to flight thousands of Sutherlands, Murrays, MacKays, and the other Sutherland clans. Lord Reay, chief of a neighbouring clan of MacKays, was doing the same in what was now his land.

The clearances would have been completed sooner than they were but for two complicating factors. Chiefs who still had clansmen to call on found they could raise Highland regiments for Britain's repeated wars between 1740 and 1815; it was financially profitable to them, and in addition they could nominate officers (thus providing for impecunious relatives) and bask in the reflected glory of vicarious military adventure. Further, there was a kind of sea-weed called kelp found in the Hebrides and along the coast of the western Highlands, which when burned was a source of soda (an ingredient of glass) and of iodine. During the Napoleonic wars this burnt kelp brought £20 a ton, at a time when the kelp-worker got only £3 or less a ton. The enormous profits to be made meant that the coast and island landlords were eager to retain as many workers on their estates as they could. For these two reasons landlords would usually allow some of the evicted people to squat (for a rent) on odd comers of marsh and moor that no large farmer would have as a gift. The clansmen were always ready to accept these crofts because any toehold in the venerated land of the clan was better than none, especially when the alternatives were either to undergo the horrors of factory work in the Lowlands, or to go overseas in coffin ships to clear the thickly timbered wilderness in America—an experience many of the emigrants did not long survive.

After Waterloo great wars were few, and the demand for soldiers disappeared. Further, from the 1820s to the 1840s the kelp boom faded to nothing as Free Trade politicians allowed the duty-free import of foreign alkalis, with which kelp could not compete. Finally, the introduction of a Poor Law into the Highlands in 1845 meant that henceforward the landlords would have to pay steep poor rates to help support the very paupers they themselves had created. The clearances now rose to a crescendo. The steady driving out of the Gaels in the 1820s and 1830s (e.g. in Skye, Arran, Morven, Kintyre, Breadalbane, the Menzies country, and Rannoch) was now succeeded by a frenzy of evictions in the 1840s and 1850s. Most notable, perhaps, were those of Seaforth and Sir James Matheson in Lewis, Robertson of Kindeace in Glen Calvie and Greenyards, Colonel Gordon in South Uist and Barra, Lord Macdonald in North Uist and Skye, and Macdonell of Glengarry in Knoydart. These are only examples. Everywhere ships were ordered up to the sea-lochs of the Western Highlands and Islands, and people were herded on them for transportation to Canada or Australia without being consulted, and indeed against their strongly expressed wishes. Any escaping were hunted down and put back on board the emigrant vessels with the aid of the police. In this fashion the Highlands were emptied.

By the time of the 1880s crofters were to be found in any number only in Skye and the Outer Hebrides and along a few lochs on the west coast; even there they clung to patches of land, the good land having all gone to make either sheep farms, or deer forests where rich idlers—noble and royal— came from England and the Continent to make merry in the glens which had seen the tragic and brutal dispersal of the Highlanders. In the 1880s the groundswell of discontent burst out into a series of open insurrections in Skye, Lewis, Barra, Tiree and other places. It was called the Crofters’ War, and resulted in some measure of protection against eviction for the scattered remnants of the Gaels. But it was too late. The Highlands had already been won for capitalism, and great fortunes had been established through the expropriation by a few of what had previously belonged to the many. It may safely be said that the income from Highland land rose fifty or more times between 1750 and 1880.

Today in the Highlands many of the old chiefs’ descendants still own vast stretches of what was once their clans’ land—the Duke of Sutherland, Lord Lovat (chief of the Frasers), the Countess of Seafield (chief of the Grants), Cameron of Lochiel, the Duke of Atholl (chief of the Stewarts), the Marquis of Bute, the Earl of Cawdor (a Campbell chieftain). Lord Macdonald, Sir George Macpherson-Grant of Ballindalloch, and others. Many others of the old chiefs' heirs have preferred to sell their clans’ land, and otherwise invest the proceeds. None of them should be in any doubt as to the real nature of capitalist primitive accumulation.


Alwyn Edgar