Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Telling it like it is


Never before have objective conditions been so favourable to socialism. Never have the workers been more ready to listen to and examine the socialist case, but with this decline of hostility has come a corresponding disinclination to give enthusiastic support, due, no doubt, to the disappointment born of repeated disillusionment suffered at the hands of professional politicians of the old school, or at the hands of the new and numerous brood of Leftist who distort and bring into disrepute the principles of socialism. Remember that you and we are of the working class and we cannot, if we would, wash our hands of working class troubles. Their problems are also yours and ours, if they sink further into the mire so do we and you. If we cannot win the workers for socialism, they will be retained for the capitalist system and you will share the suffering that will ensue.

Capitalism may prepare the ground in people's minds, but that alone will not produce socialism. The growth of socialist knowledge requires effort; the effort must be organised and the organisation must have resources. Knowledge of socialism, the Socialist Party possesses as well as the fundamentals of organisationbut resources are far below even our present needs and a measure of effort quite inadequate to the task we have in hand. We have a few hundred members, a limited circulation of our journal and pamphlets, a not very visited presence on the internet and social media and with this we propose to conquer the world— to the not mirth and amusement of our class enemies. Why is our membership numbered in hundreds instead of thousands? Why not ten of thousands readers of our printed literature, and why not a daily or weekly paper? Why not twitter and Facebook accounts too numerous to mention? These things, even our members, at the moment dream about but realise are no way near on the horizon as practicable propositions.

We are a working class organisation and our funds are accordingly very strictly limited. The whole of the work of the organisation has so far depended entirely on the voluntary unpaid services of our members. This must, of course, remain generally true, however our activities may grow, but there are many things which can be done so much better, and others which can only be done at all by full time paid officials. We cannot, for instance, have organisers at work in the provinces until we can afford the expense, and only those who have tried know that there is a soon reached physical limit to the spare time work that can be performed after our employers have had their eight hours of the best that is in us. Much as we should like to attain a level of efficiency in internal administration equal to that of the best business concerns, it is a sheer impossibility to do so with the necessarily irregular and haphazard efforts on which we must rely.

But there are other developments by no means beyond our range, only waiting for just that little extra effort. Many who know the Socialist Party and its principles sympathise with us but have never yet felt the urgency of joining actively in our work. Many of them would justify standing aside, perhaps, with the remark that they would willingly join in if they could see some signs of activity; if only we would be more engaged and do something. To which we can only reply that with their help, perhaps, we might, and in any event if they would join they would better realise how great are the difficulties to be overcome before we can do even what little we succeed in doing now. We cannot compete in advertising and publicity with the numerous purveyors of political clap-trap who are our rivals for the attention and support of our fellow-workers. If, then, you already understand and accept our principles, why not apply for membership? To do so will give encouragement to us; it will keep you in touch with the internal work of the party, show you our difficulties and open up forms of activity you had not considered. You can, perhaps, find ways of co-operating with other members, at present isolated.

If you dislike what we say or how we say it, in our publications and websites and of the manner of their representation and presentation you can send us your criticisms of the matter. If you dislike what we say or how we say it we can promise to consider your points and endeavour to meet them so far as our limited powers permit.  Above all, if you have difficulties or want particular subjects dealt with and explained, do not hesitate to tell us. Without some such guide it is difficult indeed to know to what extent we are making the best use. of our limited resources.



Monday, February 27, 2017

A new way of working


To the man or woman with imagination, who recognises variety as the spice of life, there can be little that is more detestible than the idea of having to hold on to the same job for life. To be chained to an office desk, or a drilling machine, or a steering wheel, or a kitchen sink for all one's working days is to know boredom in the extreme. The worker's eyes wander continuously to the clock, knowing that the same process will go on day after day, week after week, year after year, then he or she experiences one of the most cruel curses of capitalism.  Workers may laugh and joke and appear contented with their jobs, but usually they are simply resigned to the monotony, making the best of necessity. The eagerness with which they welcome finishing time is evidence of their anxiety to escape the boredom.

Even the worker who is fortunate enough to capture a job where he or she can still use a little initiative and set their own pace is not free from the boredom of repetitive tasks. Capitalism calls for specialised efficiency and that is best obtained by keeping a worker at one task so that they will become as speedy and faultless as mechanical action can make them. It is speed of production that matters, not the nerves of the worker who does the producing. Profit is the motive, not the satisfying of human wants or the comfort of the workers. The inventor and the investigator, are being drawn from their fields of adventurous exploration and discovery into the laboratory to perform their jobs in a routine repetitive and mundane manner.

In addition to the repetitive nature of many of the tasks that capitalist production demands, the worker is deprived of an interest in the product of his or her toil. Unlike the craftsman of bygone days, we can have little joy in our work and even less pride in the product. The process of production is too impersonal. We perform just a part, a small part, in the chain of production. Frequently we do not see the finished product at all and, maybe, does not know how it will look or be used. We are just a cog in the process of producing wealth for his employer. There is nothing about our job to stimulate our enthusiasm and relieve the monotony of our work. With the ever increasing sub-division of work that capitalism imposes, together with the process of making production more and more automated, there is removed the final remnants of anything that might have held the worker’s interest and saved us from complete boredom.

In a world where people can, at any time, lose their livelihood through no fault of their own, a job that offers a prospect of continuous employment is one to be sought after, no matter how dull or monotonous the task to be performed. Such a job implies being a loyal and docile worker so as not to displease the employer and invite dismissal.

When the profit motive is removed from production and men and women produce things in order that they may enjoy them, they will have a different outlook on the tasks that they will have to perform. Making life more pleasurable will involve giving men and women opportunities for variety in their occupations. High-speed automated production can still be an asset, but to tie a person to one routine job for years will be a torment that must be abolished. Interest in the work can be instilled by allowing people to engage in the various processes necessary to convert raw materials to finished products, or to formulate and perform social services. Just as men nowadays can become highly skilled in the tasks that they undertake as hobbies so they can become highly skilled in a number of branches of activity and have changes of job that will retain their interest and enthusiasm. With variety of occupation boredom will be banished, with an interest in the work, "auto-monotony” will end. With goods produced for use instead of for profit, pride in production will return. An individual can be proud when he or she is doing a socially necessary job for the society of which they are a member, but not when toiling to fill the pockets of parasites.

Whilst the profit motive remains there will still be insecurity and workers will crucify themselves to their jobs in an effort to avoid it. When the workers abolish capitalism, the clock-watching commodity, labour-power, will be abolished with it.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Answering our critics

A conservative think-tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs gave the Socialist Party a mention.


Every socialist experiment has, at some point, been waxed lyrical about by Western intellectuals, including Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao’s China. It was only when their horrors could no longer be denied even with the best will in the world that the blue tick was withdrawn retroactively.
And yet, there are exceptions to this, such as the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB). They are not, and as far as I know, never were, apologists of Soviet-style socialism, which they describe as ‘state capitalism’. They are among the few socialists who have at least some idea of what they mean by ‘real’ socialism. They use that term to describe a hypothetical system in which working-class people own and control the economy’s productive resources directly, not via the state; a system in which public ownership is not mediated through a government bureaucracy. I have no idea how this should work in practice, but I suppose we could imagine some combination of public ownership with Swiss-style multi-level direct democracy.”


Socialism obviously isn't going to be an endless series of referenda about how many tins of baked beans we produce.

The long shadow cast by the centrally planned model of socialism has done incomparable damage to the socialist  cause and - lets face it - this is what lies behind this grotesque caricature of the "economic planning process" in socialism - that all decisions affecting the production of goods will be made democratically by the population as a whole on a society-wide basis and hence in a centrally planned manner

This has become a stick with which to beat the socialist cause - to demonstrate its alleged impracticality - and the Leninists and their ilk have conspired to give credibility to this ridiculous accusation with their loose talk of a "planned economy".  As if the totality of production can ever be planned  in advance. there is much mileage to be made for socialists to emphasise instead that real socialism must of necessity be a self regulating system of production in the same sense that a capitalist market economy is self regulating - except of course that a socialist system will be completely devoid of any kind of market transaction. 

Sure, there will be a role for democratic decision-making within the vision of socialism and no doubt it will be much enlarged by comparison with today but we should not make the mistake of confusing the part with the whole

 Socialism as understood by the Socialist Party is namely, a non-market, non-statist system of society based on the common ownership of the means of wealth production in which goods are freely distributed and labour is performed on a purely voluntary, self-determined basis. Socialism would necessarily be a decentralised system of production in which the great bulk of decisions would be effectively communicated via a self regulating system of stock control using calculation in kind. In fact, this kind of production model already to an extent exists today under our very noses. A supermarket for example makes use of two systems of accounting – calculation in kind and monetary based accounting. In socialism we will completely dispense with the latter but continue to use the former. Democratic decision-making will of course play a role in socialism and a much enlarged one by comparison with what is the case today


A Political Party Proposing Freedom

How do you know when politicians are lying? When you see their lips move.

The Socialist Party possesses a position, a philosophy and a policy, which has been tested in every possible way. Social cientists, economists, politicians, have attacked it, belittled it, sneered at it, but here we remain undaunted.  As a policy, we of the Socialist Party have always realised that socialism can only come when the majority of people want it. We conceive it our task therefore, to convert a majority of people to our point of view. With this clear object before us, we believe there cannot be too much opportunity for discussion. We are so convinced of the strength of our position that our platform is open to anyone who cares to try to prove us wrong. We have nothing to hide, no secrets to keep, no leaders to apologise for, nothing but straight socialism to advocate. So we have nothing to fear. If anyone thinks we are crying for the moon, or are on a wild-goose chase, he or she is at liberty to tell us so. One of our earliest decisions of policy, was that we allow an opponent access to our platform. Having heard our case, and subject only to the common usages and decencies of debate, we offer any opponent the right to oppose us, on our own platform. We believe that, as a party, we are unique in this respect. To allow questions is not enough. Do not be led hither and thither by leaders of any sort. Do not read the exclusive literature of any one party; read all, and come to your own conclusions. Read and think deeply. Do not hurry to a decision, but let what you read and hear, have time to digest in your brain and then stick to your own opinion. Politics is essentially a subject for public discussion, and that cannot be called discussion which says "These are our views. You may ask us questions about them, but we will not allow your contrary views to be heard.”

Politicians have failed us so many times it is a standing joke. They pass comfortably through disaster after disaster while in power, but when elections loom they panic completely, lose all dignity and promise anything they can think of. Each election they beg for another chance. Each election we give it to them. And the starvation and misery in the world, the poverty, the pollution, the stress in our lives and the despair of so many, all of these get worse instead of better. In spite of "greening" themselves politicians can do almost nothing to stop the immense destruction caused by pollution, basically because it's cheaper to pollute than to reprocess waste.

And what could they do about poverty? Abolish it? If they do that then they must also abolish riches, surely, because you can't have one without the other. And what will the rich have to say about that? Can they abolish homelessness, perhaps by giving people free houses? Again, what would the rich building contractors say? Can they abolish hunger by making food very cheap? Not if they want the support of rich food producers. Politicians who are smart know this.

They know exactly how helpless they are in the face of problems which defy any attempt to control them. But they know also that to admit defeat is political suicide. Somebody else will make the same promises and get all the votes instead, as we've been seeing with the Greens. So instead they always beg us for one more last chance.

But there could be a better way. The Socialist Party makes proposals. They are not "common sense" proposals, so "realists" won't be interested. We think, however, that it is time to think big. The proposals we make are ambitious. Probably more so than any you will have heard before. Because the problems are world-wide, we think that the solutions have to be world-wide. First, we are going to propose that the world organises itself democratically. It is not so at the moment, because we rely on leaders. We put people into positions of power, where they can control vast fortunes and vast armies, and then we expect them to act in our interest. That's like putting children in charge of a sweetshop. We should not be surprised when they let us down. But the world is no sweetshop, it is a matter of life and death. If we cannot trust leaders, we must learn to stand on our own feet - without leaders. We are not children, however much we are treated like children. We do not have to be helpless and weak. If we decide to make our world into a democracy, we are well able to do it. If we decide that we should not be ruled over by tyrants and masters, we are well able to do that too. If enough of us organise together, we can accomplish anything. Which is just as well, because not everyone would welcome more democracy. In fact, there is a tiny minority of people who would not be at all pleased if we decided to run things ourselves. And that's because they happen to own nearly everything on this planet. There's nothing wrong with owning things per se. We all do. But when somebody owns the food you need to live on, it's as if they are holding a gun to your head. They can make you do almost anything. The world we live in is so arranged that a small minority of people holds that power over a very large majority, simply because of what they own. And this affects everything we think, feel and do.  If we want a real democracy, we must face the fact that property stands in the way. However huge a step it is, we cannot ever be free until we have abolished the ability of people to hold such terrible power over each other. Property and money are worldwide institutions. To uproot them would mean turning the world as we know it virtually upside down.

 We know how much is against us, and we know what the rich and powerful might try to do to stop it. Yet we believe it can be done, that it can be done quickly, and that it can be done without violence of any kind. 




Saturday, February 25, 2017

We need a new kind of life

BREAK THE CHAINS
 We are living through a period of mounting populism. The aim is to divide workers by nationalist and racist rhetoric. Against this, we need to tear down all walls and connect workers to solidarity and mutual aid. Let’s make our struggles for better living conditions and for a world without exploitation and oppression. Today, more than ever, we insist that the working class and the capitalist class have nothing in common and any hope in governments is not part of the solution, but part of the problem. We could spend the rest of our days trying to solve social problems one by one, but they stem from the same source – our capitalist economic system. No piecemeal solution will serve; we need to rethink everything according to a different logic. To change anything, start at the cause.
Are you living the way you want to live, or the way the ruling class wants you to live? You have a choice, but do you choose based on your own decisions or on the decisions imposed on you by this capitalist society? You act, but are you acting out of your own volition or because you have been conditioned.  Even those with the best hearts- including ourselves- have been raised in ignorance, with disinformation. Our examples of happiness are fake, sponsored, and used to sell products.  People are immensely repressed and experience tremendous suffering. Their lives are a slow torture. The 'haves' only retain higher status and power by making sure they use every means at their disposal to limit and control the 'have nots'.
Yet, life can be lived in a totally different way — a way that allows us to live up to our fullest potential, that helps us to find joy and contentment and peace, that brings us freedom to be spontaneous and make the most out of our life’s journey. A way that turns existence into a celebration, filled with beautiful moments that make life truly worth living.
For this to happen, however, we need a big shift in our consciousness. A good first step to achieving this is to escape the herd mentality that surrounds us by rebelling against anything that is imprisoning our minds. When you acquire the courage and the strength to say a big NO to capitalism and break free from the mental shackles that were imposed on you since the very day you were born, great things will start happening. Most workers don’t think for themselves — instead, they let others like politicians and the bosses media do the thinking for them. They are easily persuaded by the herd mentality and never stop for a moment to question anything that they’ve been told. Today's "heroes" are manufactured, phony, and are just successful brands used to promote other brands. The examples we're encouraged to idolize are all wealthy individuals famous for superficial trend reasons, not for any inherent genuine value of character or contribution to the world. Once your way of thinking stops being influenced by our social and economic system, you start using your reason more.
Our fellow workers when faced with any problems, place their only hope in some leader who will help them. But by themselves, our fellow workers feel totally helpless. We must begin to hone the art of free thinking, by not believing anything without evidence, by not accepting what doesn’t resonate with our own experiences. Responsibility and freedom always go hand in hand. Learn to take responsibility into our own hands. Do not trust in saviors of any kind, for example, politicians. Socialists don’t allow leaders to dictate to us or to control our thought and behaviour A marxist materialist doesn’t walk on a predetermined path — we create our own path.

Understand the system. Attack the cause. Channel all our outrage into building a new world. A sense of purpose could be found making our lives our own and worth living again by striving to create socialism.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Socialist Case

 
 
Many on the Left continue to see the immediate struggle for civil and human rights and against fascism and racism as having top priority. Other activists continue to argue that we have to lead with an all-consuming effort to eliminate fossil fuels and environmental destruction. The threat was, is and always has been capitalism. A well-functioning capitalist economy depends on maintaining large, competing pools of vulnerable docile and compliant labour force and on the continuously increasing exploitation of energy and natural resources. It has been obvious for decades that we can have either capitalism or a liveable planet but not both. We know that we can have either capitalism or economic democracy but not both. For most of us, there’s no dilemma there; only for capitalists themselves does the need to preserve capitalism warrant ruining the Earth for human habitation or having the majority of our fellow human beings live in misery. But in coming years we will have to face this question - are we prepared to make changes to the way the world is run. If folk continue to elect supporters of capitalism, the consequences will be terrible. Within a couple of decades, millions of people around the world will have lost their homes to flooding, and others will be going hungry because of crop failures. Socialism will ensure that you have access to sufficient food, basic goods, in a cleaner, healthier world.

Where do you go from here as regards politics. The Socialist Party's answer is unequivocal: the full programme of socialism. A money-free, state-free, and classfree society based upon the production of use-values rather than exchange-value, and from each according to his or her ability, to each according to his or her needs. And moreover this programme is to be carried out at a planetary level.  Our first task is to seek a better understanding of the world,  in order to change it. The world we live in is a world of contradictions. The environment is in a state of decline, yet industry continues to pump pollutants into the atmosphere whilst non-polluting technologies are neglected. Thousands starve, while food stocks remain unused. We can communicate with strangers from all around the globe, yet no-one knows their neighbour. Automation could free us from labour, yet we are chained to the machine. We live amongst vast material possibilities, yet poverty is the universal experience - not just in the narrow economic sense but also in terms of the quality of lived experience.    Never in history has there been such a glaring contrast between what could be and what actually exists.
Central to all these contradictions and reshaping all previous antagonisms is the global commodity-capitalist system. A system characterised by the production of  commodities,  wage labour  and the  market economy. A commodity is what is produced by the worker under capitalist conditions, its purpose to reproduce and enlarge capital (stored-up labour). The pursuit of ever increasing profits is the driving force behind the whole process – the fulfilment of peoples needs is a secondary and not always occurring result.

Commodities are only available in exchange for other commodities, money being the universal commodity and measure of all others. Since all goods have been turned into commodities and access to non-commodified materials restricted , those without the means of producing anything to exchange must sell the only thing they have, their physical or mental labour-power. The logic of the market economy treats this labour like any other commodity; to be bought, sold and discarded as the market dictates. In effect the worker becomes a commodity. This transformation of living activity into an object creates an  alienated  or estranged world in which humankind does not recognize or fulfil itself, but is overpowered by the dead things and social relations of its own making.

Capitalist society is therefore split into two camps, the bourgeois or capitalist class (those who own and control the means of production – the land, equipment, machinery, buildings and raw materials necessary to create the things we need and use every day) and the proletariat (those with “nothing to lose but their chains”). However, both classes are subject to the laws of the market economy - our concern is with the social relation  capital  not the individual  capitalist  - the functionaries of capitalism are more and more disposable as individuals. While the rag wearing classical proletariat of Marx’s time has all but disappeared, at least in the developed countries, the fundamental division remains; power and wealth are becoming more rather than less concentrated under the control of a small minority. The modern proletariat is  almost  everyone; it is the working class which must destroy both alienated work and class.

The “official” history of the working class’s struggle against capitalism is an inversion, what is presented as its greatest triumphs are in reality its most bitter defeats; Leninist “Communism” in the east and reformist “Socialism” in the west where both expressions of a general movement towards  state-capitalism.  The greatest tragedy of these times is that in the minds of the vast majority of workers the project for the dissolution of the commodity economy became associated with its exact opposite.

Though the call for a new society was never thoroughly extinguished; small and often profoundly isolated groups and individuals argued the case for a social reorganisation to bring free access and control of the means of production into the hands of the whole of humanity. “From each according to ability, to each according too need!”

The creation of such a society has two preconditions; firstly that technological production techniques have been sufficiently developed to be able to fulfill the material needs of the whole of society and secondly, that the majority of the population have an understanding of what needs to be done and want to carry it through. Revolutionaries are painfully aware that the first requirement has long since been reached but that the second is still far from being realised.

If we are to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past it will be necessary to develop a theory of revolutionary practice, a theory which seeks to “get to the root of all things” and improve them. It is not a matter of choosing from one of the pre-existing ideologies of the old workers movement and basing our world view around it, but a matter of finding the “moment of truth” in all the theories of the past and synthesising this with our experience of the present.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

People, Planet, and Peace not Profit.


We live in dark days where the planet is warming even faster than scientists anticipated, economic inequality is now likely the worst it’s ever been in history, Wall Street investors and large corporations have enormous control over our lives and continues to destroy millions of lives. Capital and the state are fused, and governments are unapologetically the tool for capitalists to enrich themselves and repress resistance. It’s tempting simply to focus on the immediate threat in the shape of Donald Trump and other reactionary populists around the world. Pretending that everything will be hunky-dory with the right leader and the correct policies is whistling into the wind. Socialists must offer a vision worth fighting for, one that people genuinely believe can be carried out. We must break decisively with reformism and palliatives which are perfectly compatible with business as usual and capitalism’s continued functioning. Tinkering around the edges of the capitalist system—increasing the minimum wage or introducing the social wage, increasing taxes on the rich or legislating stricter regulations cannot be our goal. We see this confirmed in the welfare states where capitalism still reigns supreme. We must no longer mince words about what we are against and what we are for.  Universal emancipation will only be attained when the capitalist stranglehold over our lives is forever broken.


We frequently hear calls for system change. The necessity of system change is inescapable. The present system is dependent on the exploitation of nature and the enslavement of labour, unaware of its state. The dying days of a civilisation is not coming because of a looming climatic catastrophe. Our task is to claim the future, and this will not be attainable if the current capitalist system persists. If we genuinely wish to combat global warming, which we know poses an existential threat to humanity, this alone will require us to advocate a socialist revolution. Capitalism will not magically solve global warming. Big Oil, Big Coal, and Wall Street banks heavily invested in fossil fuels.


Socialism is a call for a common-sense path that would secure the survival of the human race. Socialism is also a call for humans to recognise their humanity as one people on planet Earth.  Mankind stands a better chance of survival when we cooperate, live and work in solidarity rather than in competition and when we build bridges and not walls. We need a movement which allows us to move from the pervasive culture of violence, destruction and death to a culture of non-violence and peace. We require a global social democracy movement, providing an alternative world-view that replaces greed, consumerism and competition as objectives of human life. Socialist change will be born by a convergence of movements. It will not be a matter of either/or, but will be a matter for all of us continually reminding ourselves that our lives are formed by a web of relationships, issues and realities, and that we require diversity of approaches to effectively confront and overcome them, a diversity of movements coalescing around common goal and shared organising principles. This is the time for action to bring about ecological and economic well-being to all our communities. Those who benefit from the unjust and unsustainable system – the handful of men that have more financial means than billions of men and women – will not listen to the needs of the people or hear the demands for system change. Capitalism is a system where the poor, no matter how wise, cannot sit at the conference or boardroom negotiation tables. Our political system needs to be purged of all its undemocratic elements and the workers movenment must commit itself to democratic socialism: a movement that will finally, thoroughly, and irrevocably democratise economic, political, and social life.


Socialism will come about only if we stand together. It is no time to be silent.  It is time to speak up and shout out. Socialism will come about when the power of We, the People” becomes the rallying call for action. Freedom is not something that is given, it is taken. It is unjust that a small elite exercise power over everyone else’s security, happiness, and well-being. 


The principle of profit over all  gives us the politics and economics of violence and death. It legitimises the domination of nature. It yields modern-day enslavement in the form of wage labor, which allows capitalists to essentially own human beings. It unleashes a litany of plagues and social problems and the ruthless suppression of anything which endangers the almighty profit margin. War is motivated by the basest profit-seeking. Poverty and inequality kill people and squander the human spirit. Socialists oppose the politics of death and promote the politics of life. Our socialist goal will eradicate poverty, war, and inequality; end militarism, racism and all forms of discrimination; reverse environmental degradation and global warming; and promote joy, pleasure and happiness.  Unpleasant but necessary work would be automated as much as possible while  pleasant but necessary work would be distributed through a democratic decision-making processes within workers’ councils and cooperative committees and community congresses. A balance would need to be struck between centralised, national economic activity, which can achieve economies of scale and be easily administered, and decentralised, local economic activity, which would give people more direct control over their lives.The leisure time freed up by all this economic rejiggering would be redistributed throughout the population, enabling everyone to work far less, if at all. People would then be free to pursue the things that make life worth living: loving relationships with family and friends; immersion in nature; freely chosen work (as opposed to alienating, degrading jobs); and music, art and learning of all varieties. 


The Socialist Party has no illusions about how difficult achieving socialism will be. It’s no exaggeration to say that this will be the hardest task in recorded human history. There has never been an instance of successful peaceful revolution where all forms of oppression are overthrown at the same time but that is not to say it will be impossible. There’s no reason to think that the ugly anti-social aspects of human behaviour are more fundamental than the good ones: compassion, empathy, a passion for equality, and solidarity which are just as basic. What’s more, humanity has incredible powers of reason and has devised countless scientific and industrial technologies which were unimaginable just centuries and decades ago. To think that the human species is in principle precluded from bringing the full force of its rationality to bear on designing equally ingenious social systems is to surrender to despair. Precisely because of how bad life is for so many people socialists have an opportunity to politicise many people who were previously apathetic and disengaged.  Anxiety, rage and resentment are powerful political forces and they are present in large swathes of the population. Capitalism was partially discredited by the 2008 collapse; the inevitable next crash may discredit it even further, if not completely.


Movements need to be capable of recruiting, educating, organizing, and coordinating people locally and nationally. To do this, it’s necessary to have structures in place that create community and foster bonds between members of the movement. These structures need to have a high level of internal democracy. To efficiently coordinate a peoples' movement, delegate democracy is necessary, but which must be democratically accountable.  Social movements often require decades of careful planning; organising isn’t necessarily something that happens overnight. Non-violent civil disobedience can be quite effective in exposing the contradiction between a nominally democratic society’s professed values and its reality, but marches, protests, and demonstrations need to be strategic: they must be directed toward specific goals. We can learn from past class struggles. Politics is a battle of ideas, a struggle over power, and it requires power to win. It relies on culture, a sense of personal involvement, symbolism, and emotion just as much as on reasoned argumentation. Organised people can defeat organised money, but we have to be disciplined to overcome the many hurdles that confront any movement for significant change. We must thoughtfully organise. Our environmental, political, and economic systems are all in crisis right now, and we can’t afford to wait for change.

Adapted from here and here

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Liberation

Wealth commands attention. Money talks - people listen. Regardless of how good the idea is to bring change and save lives, nobody listens to you when you are poor. When a rich man speaks, even if it is foolishness, the media, the government - everybody gives attention. When you are poor, nobody listens to you nor takes your word seriously. Immigration problems don't affect the rich as they affect the poor. In this world, money talks and nothing else matters! When a rich man speaks, respect is shown - even if he is speaking nonsense. The rich have also learnt, to some extent, class consciousness. The rich stay in the company of their peers and support each other. The capitalist rulers have intellectuals of all categories to exalt them. The capitalist rulers today have an arrogant faith in the longevity of their system. They firmly believe that the empire of the almighty dollar is assured of perpetual dominion.


Hardly anyone but Marxists nowadays retain hope in the anti-capitalist strivings and sentiments of the working people or believe that they can in time participate in a mighty movement oriented toward socialist objectives. For adhering to these convictions and being guided by them, we are looked upon as ideological and political fossils,ridiculous relics of a bygone era, dogmatists who cling to outworn views and cannot understand what is going on in front of our own eyes. Unfashionable as it may be, the Socialist Party offer substantial reasons for their adamant resistance to compromise and concessions. Our convictions are not an affirmation of religious-like faith. They are derived from a scientific conception of the course and motor forces of world history, a reasoned analysis of the decisive trends of our time, and an understanding of the mainsprings and the necessities of capitalist development. Marxism has clarified many perplexing problems in philosophy, sociology, history, economics, and politics. Its supreme achievement is the explanation it offers of the key role of the working class in history. 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 a sustainable society.  


Nothing less is at stake than the destiny of civilization and with it the future of mankind. Those who deny any latent radicalism in the workers seldom appreciate what consequences logically flow from this negative position in the areas of most concern to them. If the working class cannot be counted on to dislodge the capitalists, who else can do that job? It would be exceedingly difficult to point out another social force or find a combination of components that could effectively act as a surrogate for the workers. The struggle against capitalist domination then looms as a lost cause and a socialist world becomes a Utopia. Some present a prognosis of catastrophe and apocalypse and emphasize the powerlessness of our fellow workers. Rather instil confidence many on the Left accept the supposed omnipotence of the ruling class and  succumb to sentiments of hopelessness and despair. Many of today’s left-wingers are far more impressed by the undeniable shortcomings of the labor movement than by any of its positive accomplishments. Sometimes they appear to deny it any progressive features, whatsoever, and retreat into the politics of identity and reformism, rather than class.  They dismiss the potential and latent strengths of the sheer existence of powerful union organizations which act as a shield against lowering wages and working conditions and check the aggressions of the employers in the class war. Many allege that the workers will never become a force ready, willing, and able to transform the world. Their ranks are so smugly and snugly integrated into the “consumer society” that they can have no compelling reasons to turn against it. It is out of the question for them to attain the political or ideological level of a revolutionary temper. The skeptics who suppose unlimited confidence in the longevity of capitalism rule out the possibility that the workers will be any more insurgent.


Under intensified foreign competition, U corporations have been increasingly pressed to shave their costs, beginning with the cost of labor. Big business have reduced the earnings and living standards of the industrial work force. If the unions engage in defensive actions against such attacks, sharp tension can quickly replace the prevailing acquiescence and toleration between the bosses and the workers. It could provoke anger against anti-labor legislation. The possibilities are so diverse that it is impossible to foretell where or how the break in the dyke will come. The widespread under-estination of the working class comes from reliance on short-range criteria. 


The workers of the nineteen-twenties were far more passive, helpless, and poorly organized than today. Many experts at that time could not figure out how these weaknesses might be overcome, and it was not easy to do so. The touchstone of labor’s impotence in their eyes was its inability to introduce unionism into basic industry where most low-paid workers were located. They marshalled imposing reasons why the workers were unlikely to emerge from disorganization. The workers were divided against themselves: native against foreign-born, white against black, craft workers against mass production workers. The anti-union forces were rich, crafty, and powerful. The magnates of capital had the workers at their mercy. They controlled the courts, legislatures and the press. They used the blacklist, their private police, labor spies, and reserves of strikebreakers to crush and victimize organizers in the shops. Moreover, the mainstream union officialdom was uninterested in bringing unionism to the unorganized. How, then, were the mass production workers to organize themselves? They were considered too unintelligent and unaware of their own interest and bereft of the necessary resources, national connections, and experience. The gloomy prognosis drawn from these empirical facts had one flaw: it assumed that previous conditions would prevail with undiminished effect from one decade to the next. The prophets of gloom may easily mistake the recharging of the energies of the working class for their exhaustion.


It is true that the labor force is undergoing marked changes in all countries. Under capitalism, automation and computerisation do threaten the jobs of skilled and unskilled alike, in one industry after another. The dislocations and job instability caused by these processes have to be guarded against by both the economic action and political organization of the working class. The implications of these structural changes in the work force do not signify that the working class as such has less importance . The main meaning of these changes is that education and skill become ever more vital in the competition for jobs and the scramble for social survival and economic advancement. On the one hand, the low-paid, unskilled segments of the laboring population become more miserable, insecure, ground down. On the other hand, the growing numbers of white-collar, professional, and technical personnel become more subjected to capitalist exploitation and alienation, more and more proletarianized, more responsive to unionization and its methods of action, more and more detached from loyalty to their corporate employers. The capitalist regime is well aware of the latent power of the strike weapon and constantly seeks to hamper its use. In practice, the rulers have little doubt about its revolutionary potential. Capitalist production cannot do without an ample laboring force, no matter how many are unemployed, because profit-making and the accumulation of capital depend upon the consumption of large quantities of labor power which creates value in the form of commodities. Although this or that segment or individual may be squeezed out of jobs temporarily or permanently, the industrial work force as such is not expendable, no matter how fast or how far automation proceeds under capitalist auspices. the inability of the profiteers fully to utilize the immense potential of the new science and technology for reducing the working day and rationalizing production, provide further reasons for breaking their hold upon industry. Socialism envisages the elimination from industry of the capitalist proprietors , rather than the workers. The working class are far from obsolescent and cannot be conjured away by abstract extrapolations because they provide the minds and the muscles for the production of all material wealth.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Break the Chains

We live in a world dominated by capitalism, a system which allows a small minority of capitalists to oppress and exploit the great majority of humankind.  It is capitalism that brings about great inequalities in living standards. The whole world is now chained to the capitalist system. People know that capitalism is no good but few can see a way forward to a better type of society.  Either we get rid of this outmoded and decrepit system or it will devastate humanity.  The only way forward is a class-less and state-less society on a world scale where people where we live in harmony with our natural environment.

The Socialist Party is up against the fact of life that another new generation has to be convinced afresh that socialism does, in fact, represent a better and more rational system for the people, that Marx’s idea of the eventual withering away of the state is not a pipe-dream, but a realistic albeit  rough sketch of the future of human society.  The socialist revolution will not be won not with violence and guns, but with words, with argument, and persuasion. It is difficult to see the connection between the various national liberation revolutions of oppressed peoples with anything that Marx envisaged – unless you believe, as many Trotskyists presumably do, that the destruction of status quo is desirable at any price and in any manner. The Socialist Party has stubbornly clung to the basic concept of Marx, that only the working class, i.e. the mass of all those forced to sell their labour power in exchange of wages, unites the objective and subjective conditions for building a socialist, i.e. classless society.

Socialism is rule by the working people. They will decide how socialism is to work.  To use the word “socialism” for anything but working people’s power is to misuse the term. Nationalisation is not socialism but is simply a degree of state capitalism, with no relation to socialism.The idea that state ownership of the means of production constitutes socialism is wrong.  Engels pointed out in Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, “...the transformation, either into joint-stock companies or trusts or into state ownership, does not do away with the capitalist nature of the productive forces. In the joint-stock companies and trusts, this is obvious and the modern state, again, is only the organization that bourgeois society takes in order to support the external conditions of the capitalist mode of production against the encroachments as well of the workers as of the individual capitalists. The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of the productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit State ownership of the productive forces is not the solution to the conflict...”

Socialism is not spontaneous. It does not arise of itself. Marx and Engels  from the days of the Communist Manifesto proclaimed that the makers of a socialist society will be the workers and that it is the task of socialists to help the workers to power but not to decide for them what a classless society is to be like it.   The task of the Socialist Party, therefore, is to help and guide the transfer of power from capitalists to working people. Socialism is a classless society—with abundance, freedom, and equality for all; a society in which there would be no state, not even a democratic workers’ state, so popular with the Left but where a bureaucratic dictatorship of a privileged minority would prevail.

One of the most common arguments used against socialism is the claim that “it goes against human nature.” Private property, it alleges, is “innate” in the human species. Rich and poor have always existed and will always exist. Anthropology and archaeology teach us that this claim is groundless.  When social classes were eventually established the fact remains that these class-divided societies were challenged repeatedly.  Despite the courage, and the idealism of their social vision these movements failed in the sense that they were not able to establish durably a classless society. They either lost power to their enemies or ended up re-establishing a class regime fundamentally similar to that which they had set out to overthrow. Nevertheless, without these popular revolts and revolutions, the radical ideas that sprung from them would not have resonated as they have down the years.
al class in history ever had to perform: building a new society without ever having exercised either economic, political, or cultural and ideological power before.  What we learn from the past is that the exploited and the oppressed have rebelled, are rebelling and will rebel against their unbearable conditions.  The only alternative would be to tolerate exploitation and oppression as a lesser evil to the emancipation.

The task facing the modern working class is the most difficult task that any socialist has faced. For Marx and Engels, the real measure of human freedom is leisure time, not in the sense of  idle time for doing nothing but in the sense of time freed from the iron necessity of working-hours to produce and reproduce material livelihood, but free-time for all-round and free development of the individual talents, wishes, capacities, potentialities, of each human being. As long as society is too poor, as long as goods and services satisfying basic needs are too scarce that they require rationing only the ruling class become free. The “socialist” vision of Lenin, is the capitalist’s vision of a factory, efficiently run by an overseer.  The Socialist Party envisages a society of true and ultimate human freedom, of fellow workers working together in harmony. In such a society, there would be no State, no criminals, no class conflicts. Each man and woman would find inspiration in their own work and in the work of other workers. They will need no rules imposed from above, no moral exhortations to do their duty, no ‘authorities’ laying down what is to be done. Ours is a vision of voluntary co-operation.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Socialist Goal

The Socialist Party's goal is socialism, because socialism is the only way to solve the problems of the planet and end the class divisions in society. The two classes at present existing will be replaced be a single community possessing all the means of production and distribution in common. The Socialist Party proposes the abolition of wage slavery and establishment of the cooperative commonwealth. To-day's tyranny revolves itself around the tyranny of the possessing class over the producing, and that to this tyranny in the ultimate analysis is traceable almost all evil and misery. A tyrannical class like a tyrannical man stops at nothing in order to maintain its position of supremacy.  Socialism is based upon the planned organization of production for use by means of the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production. It is the abolition of all classes and class differences. Socialism is a practical possibility and urgent necessity.

Socialism is not a utopian ideal, a blueprint for society that exists in the minds of some people. It is a social necessity; it is a practical necessity. It is the direction that the people must take in order to save society from disintegration, in order to fulfill their social needs. To be a socialist, merely means to be conscious of this necessity, to make others conscious of it, and to work in an organised manner for the realisation of the goal. The first step a socialist society would take will be directed toward satisfying the needs of the people. With socialism, private ownership of property will end so money would lose the functions which it possessed under capitalism and would be abolished.


The source of all wealth is human labour, and that not the labour of the possessors of that wealth. The Socialist Party believes that the means of production and distribution should be the property of the community. For the man or corporation that owns them has control over the class that does not possess them. The fundamental feature of a socialist society is that all the means of production – the factories and the transport – are owned by the people and the goods that are produced, are produced for use. Under the present system, which we call capitalism, the means of production are owned by private persons or corporations and, although some owners may be virtuous gentlemen, they operate their industries not because people need the goods that they produce but because they want to make a profit. The productive wealth of society, machinery, mills and the mines will be owned in common by the people, and goods will be produced for the use of the people. There are no classes in socialism – that is, there is no class that owns the wealth and no class that is exploited. Today a worker has only his labour power and he sells that to someone who owns machinery and he gets a wage in return and the man who owns the machinery makes a profit out of the labour power. That is what socialists term exploitation of labour. Individuals within socialism will not be permitted to own any productive wealth and thus exploit labour. Society cannot be changed by the mere desire of a small group to change it. It must, in the first instance, be ripe for a change and in the second instance the majority of men and women must understand the necessity for a change. 

Mankind must become master of its own destiny.   If humanity does not do so, then barbarism and the destruction of all culture and civilisation will most likely result.  

Poverty and cancer

A cancer survival gap is growing between people living in the most and least deprived parts of Scotland, a charity has warned. MEN with prostate cancer living in the most deprived communities are nearly twice as likely to die from the illness as those in the most affluent postcodes.
Analysis of survival rates for six common cancers found wide variations depending on where patients lived. The analysis examined the survival rate of patients diagnosed between 2004 and 2008 and followed them for five years up to 2013, to reveal the increased risk of death for patients living in deprived areas, compared with affluent areas:
  • Prostate cancer - 98%
  • Breast cancer - 89%,
  • Head and neck cancer - 61%
  • Colorectal patients - 45%
  • Liver cancer - 28%
Lung cancer patients faced poor outcomes regardless of their socioeconomic status, the charity found.

The study found lower rates of screening uptake and lower rates of treatment in deprived communities, while surgery was found to have had the most influence on survival. This suggested those from deprived communities were less likely to receive surgery, possibly because of having more advanced cancer or poorer overall health, the charity said.

Janice Preston, head of Macmillan in Scotland, said: "It's completely unacceptable that someone's chances of surviving cancer could be predicted by their postcode.”
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-39021665


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Steady State Socialism


The aim of the Socialist Party is to replace the global capitalist system with world socialism. Socialism will be won and built by the working class, the billions of oppressed people. The socialist revolution is the most radical break with oppression and exploitation in history where society no longer proceeds in chaos, but according to the planned fulfilment of genuine human needs. With the abolition of classes and class distinctions, all social and political inequality arising from them will disappear.  As classes will not exist, the state will not be necessary as an instrument of class rule and will wither away. Socialism is not some Utopian scheme. Capitalism has created the economic conditions for socialism. Socialism will be possible only when the workers, those who meet the needs of society, decide that they are determined to lay the living conditions of mankind on a new foundation. The whole future of humanity rests on the emergence of the working class as the creative force in society.

In 1923 the communist activist Sylvia Pankhurst opened an article with the declaration that ‘Socialism means plenty for all. We do not preach a gospel of want and scarcity, but of abundance…We do not call for limitation of births, for penurious thrift, and self-denial. We call for a great production that will supply all, and more than all the people can consume.’ (1) We have the technology and the know-how to end deprivation and offer everyone on this planet the decent and comfortable standard of life they deserve that Sylvia advocated and it need not take decades to come about. Yes, socialism can bring security to billions within our lifetimes. It is achievable.
Along with folk like Herman Daly, socialists are seeking ultimately to establish a steady-state economy (or ‘zero-growth’) society, a situation where human needs sits in balance with the resources needed to satisfy them. Such a society would already have decided, according to its own criteria and through its own decision-making processes, on the most appropriate way to allocate resources to meet the needs of its members. This having been done, it would only need to go on repeating this continuously from production period to production period. Production would not be ever-increasing but would be stabilized at the level required to satisfy needs. All that would be produced would be products for consumption and the products needed to replace and repair the raw materials and instruments of production used up in producing these consumer goods. The point about such a situation is that there will no longer be any imperative need to develop productivity, i.e. to cut costs in the sense of using less resources; nor will there be the blind pressure to do so that is exerted under capitalism through the market.

It will also create an ecologically benign relationship with nature. In socialism we would not be bound to use the most labour efficient methods of production. We would be free to select our methods in accordance with a wide range of socially desirable criteria, in particular the vital need to protect the environment. What it means is that we should construct permanent, durable means of production which you don’t constantly innovate. We would use these to produce durable equipment and machinery and durable consumer goods designed to last for a long time, designed for minimum maintenance and made from materials which if necessary can be re-cycled. In this way we would get a minimum loss of materials; once they’ve been extracted and processed they can be used over and over again. It also means that once you’ve achieved satisfactory levels of consumer goods, you don’t insist on producing more and more. Total social production could even be reduced. This will be the opposite of to-day's capitalist system’s cheap, shoddy, “throw-away” goods and built-in obsolescence, which results in a massive loss and destruction of resources.

In a stable society such as socialism, needs would change relatively slowly. Hence it is reasonable to surmise that an efficient system of stock control, recording what individuals actually chose to take under conditions of free access from local distribution centres over a given period, would enable the local distribution committee to estimate what the need for food, drink, clothes and household goods would be over a similar future period. Some needs would be able to be met locally: local transport, restaurants, builders, repairs and some food are examples as well as services such as street-lighting, libraries and refuse collection. The local distribution committee would then communicate needs that could not be met locally to the bodies charged with coordinating supplies to local communities.
Of course there will be a short phase where there an increase in production will be necessary to relieve the worst problems of food shortages, health-care and housing which affect billions of people throughout the world. There will also be action to construct the means of production and infrastructures such as transport systems for the commencement of the supply of permanent housing and durable consumption goods. These would be designed in line with conservation principles, which means they would be made to last for a long time, using materials that where possible could be re-cycled and would require minimum maintenance. When these objectives have been accomplished there would begin an eventual fall in production, and society could move into a stable mode. This would achieve a rhythm of daily production in line with daily needs with no significant growth. On this basis, the world community could reconcile two great needs, the need to live well whilst sharing and caring for the planet, sparing it from excesses.

Whether it is called ‘the market economy, ‘neo-liberalism’, ‘free enterprise’ (or even ‘mixed’ or ‘state-command’ economy”), the social system under which we live is capitalism. Capitalism is primarily an economic system of competitive capital accumulation out of the surplus value produced by wage labour. As a system it must continually accumulate or go into crisis. Consequently, human needs and the needs of our natural environment take second place to this imperative. The result is waste, pollution, environmental degradation and unmet needs on a global scale. The ecologist’s dream of a sustainable ‘zero growth’ within capitalism will always remain just that, a dream. If human society is to be able to organise its production in an ecologically acceptable way, then it must abolish the capitalist economic mechanism of capital accumulation and gear production instead to the direct satisfaction of needs.

The problem for a great number of people in the environmental movement is that they want to retain the market system in which goods are distributed through sales at a profit and people’s access to goods depends upon their incomes. The market, however, can only function with a constant pressure to renew its capacity for sales; and if it fails to do this production breaks down, people are out of employment and suffer a reduced income. It is a fundamental flaw and an insoluble contradiction in the green capitalist argument that they want to retain the market system, which can only be sustained by continuous sales and continuous incomes, and at the same time they want a conservation society with reduced productive activity. These aims are totally incompatible with each other. Also what many green thinkers advocate in their version of a “steady-state” market economy, is that the surplus would be used not to reinvest in expanding production, nor in maintaining a privileged class in luxury but in improving public services while maintaining a sustainable balance with the natural environment. It’s the old reformist dream of a tamed capitalism, minus the controlled expansion of the means of production an earlier generation of reformists used to envisage.

David Pepper in his ‘Eco-Socialism’(2) suggests we start from a concern for the suffering of humans and look for a solution to this. This makes us ‘anthropocentric’ as opposed to the ‘ecocentrism’ – Nature first – of many ecologists. The plunder and destruction of Nature is rejected as not being in the interests of the human species, not because the interests of Nature come first. Environmentalists can learn from Marx’s materialist conception of history which makes the way humans are organised to meet their material needs the basis of any society. Humans meet their material needs by transforming parts of the rest of nature into things that are useful to them; this in fact is what production is. So the basis of any society is its mode of production which, again, is the same thing as its relationship to the rest of nature. Humans survive by interfering in the rest of nature to change it for their own benefit. Those active in the ecology movement tend to see this interference as inherently destructive of nature. It might do this, but there is no reason why it has to. That humans have to interfere in nature is a fact of human existence. How humans interfere in nature, on the other hand, depends on the kind of society they live in. It is absurd to regard human intervention in nature as some outside disturbing force, since humans are precisely that part of nature which has evolved that consciously intervenes in the rest of nature; it is our nature to do so. True, that at the present time, the form human intervention in the rest of Nature takes is upsetting natural balances and cycles, but the point is that humans, unlike other life-forms, are capable of changing their behaviour. In this sense the human species is the brain and voice of Nature i.e. Nature become self-conscious. But to fulfil this role humans must change the social system which mediates their intervention in nature. A change from capitalism to a community where each contributes to the whole to the best of his or her ability and takes from the common fund of produce what he or she needs.

Present-day society, capitalism, which exists all over the globe is a class-divided society where the means of production are owned and controlled by a tiny minority of the population only. Capitalism differs from previous class societies in that under it production is not for direct use, not even of the ruling class, but for sale on a market. To repeat, competitive pressures to minimise costs and maximise sales, profit-seeking and blind economic growth, with all their destructive effects on the rest of nature, are built-in to capitalism. These make capitalism inherently environmentally unfriendly. It is a highly misleading notion that society can live with a market economy that is ‘green’, ‘ecological’, or ‘moral’, under conditions of wage labour, exchange, competition and the like.

Humans behave differently depending upon the conditions that they live in. Human behaviour reflects society. In a society such as capitalism, people’s needs are not met and reasonable people feel insecure. People tend to acquire and hoard goods because possession provides some security. People have a tendency to distrust others because the world is organised in such a dog-eat-dog manner. If people didn’t work society would obviously fall apart. To establish socialism the vast majority must consciously decide that they want socialism and that they are prepared to work in socialist society. If people want too much? In a socialist society ‘too much’ can only mean ‘more than is sustainably produced.’ For socialism to be established the productive potential of society must have been developed to the point where, generally speaking, we can produce enough for all. This is not now a problem as we have long since reached this point. However, this does require that we appreciate what is meant by ‘enough’ and that we do not project on to socialism the insatiable consumerism of capitalism.

If people decide that they (individually and as a society) need to over-consume then socialism cannot possibly work. Under capitalism, there is a very large industry devoted to creating needs. Capitalism requires consumption, whether it improves our lives or not, and drives us to consume up to, and past, our ability to pay for that consumption. In a system of capitalist competition, there is a built-in tendency to stimulate demand to a maximum extent. Firms, for example, need to persuade customers to buy their products or they go out of business. They would not otherwise spend the vast amounts they do spend on advertising. There is also in capitalist society a tendency for individuals to seek to validate their sense of worth through the accumulation of possessions. The prevailing ideas of society are those of its ruling class so then we can understand why, when the wealth of that class so preoccupies the minds of its members, such a notion of status should be so deep-rooted. It is this which helps to underpin the myth of infinite demand. It does not matter how modest one’s real needs may be or how easily they may be met; capitalism’s “consumer culture” leads one to want more than one may materially need since what the individual desires is to enhance his or her status within this hierarchal culture of consumerism and this is dependent upon acquiring more than others have got. But since others desire the same thing, the economic inequality inherent in a system of competitive capitalism must inevitably generate a pervasive sense of relative deprivation. What this amounts to is a kind of institutionalised envy and that will be unsustainable as more peoples are drawn into alienated capitalism.

In socialism, status based upon the material wealth at one’s command, would be a meaningless concept. The notion of status based upon the conspicuous consumption of wealth would be devoid of meaning because individuals would stand in equal relation to the means of production and have free access to the resultant goods and services. Why take more than you need when you can freely take what you need? In socialism the only way in which individuals can command the esteem of others is through their contribution to society, and the stronger the movement for socialism grows the more will it subvert the prevailing capitalist ethos, in general, and its anachronistic notion of status, in particular.

All wealth would be produced on a strictly voluntary basis. Work in socialist society could only be voluntary since there would be no group or organ in a position to force people to work against their will. Free access to goods and services denies to any group or individuals the political leverage with which to dominate others (a feature intrinsic to all private-property or class based systems through control and rationing of the means of life.) This will work to ensure that a socialist society is run on the basis of democratic consensus. Goods and services would be provided directly for self-determined needs and not for sale on a market; they would be made freely available for individuals to take without requiring these individuals to offer something in direct exchange. The sense of mutual obligations and the realisation of universal interdependency arising from this would profoundly colour people’s perceptions and influence their behaviour in such a society. We may thus characterise such a society as being built around a moral economy and a system of generalised reciprocity.
Capitalism is not just an exchange economy but an exchange economy where the aim of production is to make a profit. Profit is the monetary expression of the difference between the exchange value of a product and the exchange value of the materials, energy and labour-power used to produce it, or what Marx called ‘surplus value.’ Defenders of capitalism never seem to ask the practical question about what the critical factor determining a production initiative in a market system.

The answer is obvious from everyday experience. The factor that critically decides the production of commodities is the judgement that enterprises make about whether they can be sold in the market. Obviously, consumers buy in the market that they perceive as being for their needs. But whether or not the transaction takes place is not decided by needs but by ability to pay. So the realisation of profit in the market determines both the production of goods and also the distribution of goods by various enterprises. In the market system the motive of production, the organisation of production, and the distribution of goods are inseparable parts of the same economic process: the realisation of profit and the accumulation of capital. The economic pressure on capital is that of accumulation, the alternative is bankruptcy. The production and distribution of goods is entirely subordinate to the pressure on capital to accumulate. The economic signals of the market are not signals to produce useful things. They signal the prospects of profit and capital accumulation. If there is a profit to be made then production will take place; if there is no prospect of profit, then production will not take place. Profit not need is the deciding factor. Under capitalism what appear to be production decisions are in fact decisions to go for profit in the market. The function of cost/pricing is to enable a business enterprise to calculate its costs, to fix its profit expectations within a structure of prices, to regulate income against expenditure and, ultimately, to regulate the exploitation of its workers. Unfortunately, prices can only reflect the wants of those who can afford to actually buy what economists call ‘effective demand’ – and not real demand for something from those without the wherewithal – the purchasing power – to buy the product (I may want a sirloin steak but I can only afford a hamburger.)
Socialist determination of needs begins with consumer needs and then flows throughout distribution and on to each required part of the structure of production. Socialism will make economically-unencumbered production decisions as a direct response to needs. With production for use, the starting point will be needs. By the replacement of exchange economy by common ownership basically what would happen is that wealth would cease to take the form of exchange value, so that all the expressions of this social relationship peculiar to an exchange economy, such as money and prices, would automatically disappear. In other words, goods would cease to have an economic value and would become simply physical objects which human beings could use to satisfy some want or other. (One reason why socialism holds a decisive productive advantage over capitalism is by eliminating the need to tie up vast quantities of resources and labour implicated in a system of monetary/pricing accounting.)

Humans are capable of integrating themselves into a stable ecosystem. and there is nothing whatsoever that prevents this being possible today on the basis of industrial technology and methods of production, all the more so, that renewable energies exist (wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and whatever) but, for the capitalists, these are a “cost” which penalises them in face of international competition. No agreement to limit the activities of the multinationals in their relentless quest for profits is possible. Measures in favour of the environment come up against the interests of enterprises and their shareholders because by increasing costs they decrease profits. No State is going to implement legislation which would penalise the competitiveness of its national enterprises in the face of foreign competition. States only take into account environmental questions if they can find an agreement at international level which will disadvantage none of them. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? Competition for the appropriation of world profits is one of the bases of the present system. So it is not “Humans” but the capitalist economic system itself which is responsible for ecological problems and the capitalist class and their representatives, they themselves are subject to the laws of profit and competition.

Yes, socialism is a real alternative and the only viable means to achieve the steady state economy sought by so many.

Summer School

Summer School 2017

Summer School 2017  21st – 23rd July Fircroft College, Birmingham   These days, con...