Monday, July 31, 2017

The new ideal

The viability of our planet support humanity is now being questioned.

The Socialist Party claims that the majority of the working class are capable of understanding socialism. This being so we are often asked the question, why then, are there not many more socialists? At present, the vast majority of workers mistakenly can only see the solution to their problems in reforming capitalism in one way or another. Capitalism itself is not questioned, it is only the patching up of its effects that is attempted. What is seen and heard in the mass media is the misuse of the word Socialism and distortions of Marx’s ideas. This means that we are called upon to waste a lot of time in explaining what socialism is not, that socialism does not yet exist anywhere. What is important about the mass media is not so much that they create attitudes and values but that they continue to reinforce existing ones. Socialist ideas are not propagated in a vacuum but within capitalist society, meeting all the obstacles and prejudice of capitalist ideology. A great deal of expense and time is spent perpetuating attitudes which maintain the capitalist system. Marx wrote, and it still applies today, that “The prevailing ideas in society are the ideas of the ruling class.”

It is also a fact that capitalism will not let workers rest content, it is forever throwing problems in their way. Old problems such as poverty and relatively new ones such as pollution, drug addiction, increasing mental illness and many others. All the time capitalism with some fresh horror demands that we sit up and take notice. The problems, tragedies, and frustrations of capitalism are not easily escaped. To those who say “Yes, socialism is a good idea, but you will never get the majority of people to understand it,” we ask: If you can understand Socialism, why not then the majority of people? For those who think us idealists and say “Yes it sounds like a very fine ideal.” We reply that socialism is not an ideal. It is based on the sound facts of the way human society evolves, and the way capitalism works. We are not asking for a change of heart — we are asking for the conversion of the means of production from private or state ownership to common ownership. The material conditions for socialism have long been in existence. All that is needed is for the majority of the working class to realise their common interest in abolishing capitalism. That mighty force would then have arisen, the class-conscious working class with one objective — the establishment of socialism. With this end in view, and armed with socialist knowledge, the working class will fulfill their role. This great and final act as members of the working class will free them from the chains of the wage-labour and capital relationship which now holds them in its grip. Then they will emerge as men and women in a classless society, securely resting on the sound basis of the common ownership of the means of production. The wars, the rat-race, the poverty and all the other evils which arise from property society would then have gone from the scene of a truly human society. Men, women, and children would then be free to develop their potential and their relations with each other as human beings. This is not an ideal but a practical and material demand that is in line with the interests of workers throughout the world. 

Marx’s participation in the FirstInternationall was a resumption of the same strategy derived, through Engels, from the Chartist experience of the early 1840s which had motivated his earlier collaboration with Ernest Jones. Because he believed that out of the economic organisations of the working class would eventually evolve a conscious political movement for socialism, he was not too concerned about the political ideas of the trade union leaders he had agreed to work with. The development of the working class movement itself would, Marx believed somewhat over-optimistically, sooner or later put this right. The important thing at this stage for Marx was to set this movement in motion, to encourage independent working class trade union and political activity. Marx’s participation in the British trade union movement was not confined to theorising. The First International was concerned with trade union matters and has been accurately described as being during this period “an international trade union liaison committee". When a strike occurred in Britain and the employer imported blackleg labour from the Continent, the IWMA intervened, often successfully, with leaflets and speakers in the appropriate language, to persuade the continental workers not to break the strike. Similarly, when a strike occurred in Britain or on the Continent, the IWMA publicised it and raised funds from workers and trade unions in other countries to help the strikers and their families. Marx, as a member of the General Council, played his part in such activities, drafting for instance a leaflet addressed to German tailors concerning a strike.

The Socialist Party has no time for compromise; we stand entirely and singly for the establishment of a new social order. This order can be brought into being only through a social revolution which must be the outcome of a democratic act by the world working class. And the essential of that act is that it will he the work of politically aware socialists — of people throughout the world who understand that capitalism cannot operate in their interests and who have therefore resolved to sweep it away and replace it with socialism. But conscious political action cannot result from confusion and deceit. A party which aims, as the SPGB aims, at the development and expansion of political awareness cannot achieve its object by spreading confusion and by wavering in its principles. Such a party must be based on its object of socialism; nothing else will do and nothing else will therefore be considered. From this basis the events of capitalism, and the actions of the parties which support capitalism, can be analysed and exposed. Socialism will be a society based on the communal ownership.  It will be a democratically controlled society. Its wealth will be turned out to meet human needs and will therefore be freely available to everyone. It will be a system without classes and therefore without class conflict. Socialism's harmony of interests will remove war and poverty from human experience. That will be a very different social order from that which dominates us today.

Sunday, July 30, 2017


We envisage socialism as being established globally and almost simultaneously. As far back as 1847 Engels wrote:
“Will it be possible for this revolution to take place in one country alone?
 No. By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth, and especially the civilized peoples, into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others.
Further, it has co-ordinated the social development of the civilized countries to such an extent that, in all of them, bourgeoisie and proletariat have become the decisive classes, and the struggle between them the great struggle of the day. It follows that the communist revolution will not merely be a national phenomenon but must take place simultaneously in all civilized countries – that is to say, at least in England, America, France, and Germany.
It will develop in each of these countries more or less rapidly, according as one country or the other has a more developed industry, greater wealth, a more significant mass of productive forces. Hence, it will go slowest and will meet most obstacles in Germany, most rapidly and with the fewest difficulties in England. It will have a powerful impact on the other countries of the world, and will radically alter the course of development which they have followed up to now, while greatly stepping up its pace.
It is a universal revolution and will, accordingly, have a universal range.”

Ideas are a social phenomena and cross borders. How music genres arise and then travel the globe, or how fashions are adopted across cultures?

Just as capitalism is a world system of society, so too must socialism be. There never has been, and never can be, socialism in just one country. Socialism will be one world-wide community without national boundaries, a united humanity. It would also share a world administration. This is the socialist alternative to the way that capitalism divides the planet into rival states and sets people against each other. But this does not rule out local democracy. A world administration will not mean the power of central control over local democracy. In fact, a democratic system of decision-making would require that the basic unit of social organisation would be the local community. However, the nature of some of the problems we face and the many goods and services presently produced, such as raw materials, energy sources, agricultural products, world transport and communications, need production and distribution to be organised at a world level. One of the great technological developments under capitalism has been communications and the rapid processing and distribution of information. This will alter our awareness of being in the world and the boundaries between what is local and distant are shifted or become blurred. So, as well as the face-to-face contacts of our daily lives at home and at work with friends, neighbours and relatives, and as well as our part in local affairs, at the same time we would be involved with all other people in world issues and events of every kind.

The motivation for this new world comes from the global problems thrown up by capitalism. There are no parochial solutions to world problems like world poverty, hunger and disease. Ecological problems make a nonsense of the efforts of national governments. War and the continuing threat of nuclear war affect us all. The problem of uneven development means that many producers in the Third World suffer starvation, disease, and absolute poverty. All of these problems of capitalism can only be solved within the framework of a socialist world.

Socialism will be a co-operative world wide system. National frontiers and governments and armed forces will disappear. Groups of people may well preserve their languages and customs but this will have nothing to do with claiming territorial rights or military dominances over pieces of the world surface. To move forward, the dispossessed majority across the world must now look beyond the artificial barriers of nation-states and regional blocs, to perceive a common identity and purpose.

Because political power in capitalism is organised on a territorial basis each socialist party has the task of seeking democratically to gain political power in the country where it operates. This, however, is merely an organisational convenience; there is only one socialist movement, of which the separate socialist organisations are constituent parts. When the socialist movement grows larger its activities will be fully co-ordinated through its world-wide organisation. It is suggested that socialist ideas might develop unevenly across the world, and that socialists of only a part of the world were in a position to get political control. This relates to the possibility that the socialist movement could be larger in one country than in another and at the stage of being able to gain control of the machinery of government before the socialist movements elsewhere were as far advanced. The decision about the action to be taken would be one for the whole of the socialist movement in the light of all the circumstances at the time. It would certainly be a folly, however, to base a programme of political action on the assumption that socialist ideas will develop unevenly and that we must therefore be prepared to establish "socialism" in one country or even a group of countries like the European Union. For a start, it is an unreasonable assumption that socialist ideas will develop unevenly. Given the world-wide nature of capitalism and its social relationships, the vast majority of people live under basically similar conditions, and because of the world-wide system of communications and media, there is no reason for socialist ideas to be restricted to one part of the world. Any attempt to establish "socialism" in one country would be bound to fail owing to the pressures exerted by the world market on that country's means of production. Those who become socialists will realise this and also the importance of uniting with workers in all countries. The socialist idea is not one that could spread unevenly. Thus the socialist parties will be in a position to gain political control in the industrially advanced countries within a short period of each other. (It is conceivable that in some less developed countries, where the working class is weak in numbers, the privileged rulers may be able to retain their class position for a little longer. But as soon as the workers had won in the advanced countries they would give all the help needed elsewhere. The less developed countries might present socialism with problems, but they do not constitute a barrier to the immediate establishment of socialism as a world system.)

"...By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth, and especially the civilized peoples, into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others...It follows that the communist revolution will not merely be a national phenomenon but must take place simultaneously in all civilized countries – that is to say, at least in England, America, France, and Germany.... It is a universal revolution and will, accordingly, have a universal range...The nationalities of the peoples associating themselves in accordance with the principle of community will be compelled to mingle with each other as a result of this association and thereby to dissolve themselves, just as the various estate and class distinctions must disappear through the abolition of their basis, private property." Engels. 

There is but one world and we exist as one people in need of each other and with the same basic needs. There is far more that unites us than can ever divide us along cultural, nationalistic or religious lines. Together we can create a civilisation worth living in, but before that happens we need the conscious cooperation of ordinary people across the world, united in one common cause—to create a world in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation, a world without borders or frontiers, social classes or leaders and a world in which production is at last freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used for the good of humanity—socialism. There is in reality only one world. It is high time we reclaimed it.

Saturday, July 29, 2017


The goal of social ownership and democratic control of production and distribution has to be articulated directly.To seek political improvements to the capitalist system is a distraction from what needs to be done. When we insist that the working class has to be educated before it can make progress, some people on the left who have good intentions say that they "don't want to wait that long." But this isn't an option. A "revolution" carried out by people who are angry at the injustices of the old social system, but unclear about what to replace it with, or not sufficiently dedicated to the democratic structure of the new system, is the road to a new dictatorship. The working class who will create a socialist society must also know how to operate it. They need to understand what the basic rules of the game are, so to speak. There needs to be a widespread consensus about what to expect of people if a socialist society is to properly function. "Anti-capitalism" in itself can never succeed in overthrowing capitalism. To bring capitalism to an an end we need to have a viable alternative to put in its place. And this is an alternative that we need to be conscious and desirous of before it can ever be put in place. A class imbued with socialist consciousness will be far more militant and empowered than any amount of mere "anti-capitalism". Socialist consciousness is class consciousness in its most developed sense. The idea that such an alternative could somehow materialise out of thin air without a majority of workers actually wanting it or knowing about it is simply not realistic. Such an alternative can function if people know what it entails. In itself, engaging in workplace struggles within capitalism - important though this is - doesn't take us much forward since capitalism can only ever be run in the interest of capital. The capitalist system isn't a failure due to bad leaders or bad policies, but because of the kind of system that it is.

Socialism, in other words, meant a money-free wage-free state-free cooperative commonwealth. This was the general understanding of what socialism meant. Marx didn't talk about a "transitional society". he talked about the lower phase of communism. It was still communism...that is, a classless society. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”

Who decides what your ability or need is? It would take some sort of position of power to determine who is in need and who has the ability. Power naturally corrupts and tends to find ways to increase and consolidate power. a fter time, you are left with those who have consolidated power to abuse, and those who don't. Therefore who decides? The answer, you do! This is the whole point of the communist slogan "from each according to ability to each according to need". The autonomy of the individual is maximised and as a result, we all benefit. As the Communist Manifesto put it:

"In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all"

Specifically a communist (aka socialist) society - or at least what Marx called the "higher stage" of communism - exhibits two key features:

1) Free access to goods and services - no buying and selling. No barter. You simply go to the distribution point and take what you require according to your self determined needs. This depends on there being a relatively advanced technological infrastructure to produce enough to satisfy our basic needs. Such a possibility already exists. Capitalism, however, increasingly thwarts this potential. In fact, most of the work we do today in the formal sector will be completely unnecessary in a communist society - it serves only to prop up capitalism. What possible use would there be for a banking system under communism, for example? We could effectively more than double the quantities of resources and human labour power available for socially useful production by scrapping capitalism. Socialism will destroy the need for greed and conspicuous consumption

2) Volunteer labour. Your contribution to society is completely voluntary. There is no wage labour or other forms of co-erced labour. You can do as little or as much work as you choose. And you can do as many different kinds of jobs as you want, too. The presumption is that people would freely choose to work under socialism for all sorts of reasons:

- the conditions under which we work will be radically different, without an employing class dictating terms work will become fulfilling and pleasant
- we need to work, to express ourselves creatively
- with free access to goods, conspicuous consumption will be rendered meaningless as a way of gaining respect and social esteem. Which leaves only what we give to society as a way of gaining the respect of our peers. This should not be underestimated; it is one of the most important motivational drives in human beings as numerous studies in industrial psychology have confimed
- Socialism depends on people recognising our mutual interdependence. There is, in other words, a sense of moral obligation that goes with the territory
- Socialism will permit a far greater degree of technological adaptation without the constraints of the profit system. Intrinsically backbreaking or unpleasant work can be automated. Conversely, some work may be deliberately made more labour intensive and craft based.
- Even under capitalism today most work is unpaid or unremunerated - the household economy, the volunteer sector and so on. So it is not as if this is something we are unaccustomed to. Volunteers moreover tend to be the most highly motivated as studies have confirmed; they don't require so called external incentives
- We will get rid of an awful lot of crappy and pointless jobs that serve as a disincentive to work
- since we would be free to do any job we chose to what this means in effect is that for any particular job there would be a massive back-up supply of labour to cover it consisting of most people in society. In capitalism, this cannot happen since labour mobility is severely restricted since if you have a job you cannot just choose to abandon it for the sake of another more urgent job from the standpoint of society

With these two core characteristics of a socialist society - free access to goods and services plus volunteer labour - there can be no political leverage that anyone or any group could exercise over anyone else. The material basis of class power would have completely dissolved. What we would be left with is simply human beings being free to express their fundamentally social and cooperative nature

Free access socialism is not going to be brought to the point of collapse by the fact that we cannot all have a Porshe or Ferrari parked outside our front door. Imagine what it could be like without a boss class on our backs? Imagine what our workplaces could become without the cost cutting constraints of capitalism and have the freedom to decide on these matters ourselves. Imagine not being tied down to one single kind of job all the time but being given the opportunity to experiment with different jobs, to travel abroad to work in new places, to taste new experiences. Imagine a money-free, prices-free communist world in which most of the occupations that we do today - from bankers to pay departments to arms producers to sales-people - will simply disappear at a stroke releasing vast amounts of resources and, yes, human labour power as well for socially useful production. Kropotkin was quite correct on that. We dont need the whip-lash of the wages system to compel us to work. The mere fact that we recognise our mutual interdependence in a society in which we will fully realise our social nature will suffice to impose upon us a sense of moral obligation to contribute to the common good of our own free will. Indeed we already, to some extent, do this today even under capitalism, given that fully half of all the work that we do today is completely unremunerated. How much more conducive will a communist moral economy be to the performance of unremunerated work is not hard to see.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Brexit, Hard or Soft?

‘Soft Brexit’ – a scenario where the UK joins a free trade area with the EU, such as the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). While tariffs would remain at zero, non-tariff barriers (including customs checks, border controls, differences in product market regulations and legal barriers) would increase the costs of trade.
 ‘Hard Brexit’ – a scenario where the UK and the EU do not immediately form a free trade area and the default situation is to trade under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. This would result in an increase in tariffs and non-tariff barriers that would be substantially larger than under soft Brexit.

New research examining for the first time the potential impact of Brexit on cities and towns has found Aberdeen could be the hardest hit by higher trade costs with the European Union.

Economic output as measured by Gross Value Added (GVA) was predicted to decline by a 3.7% forecast decrease in GVA in the case of a hard Brexit, and 2.1% in a “soft” scenario. under a hard Brexit.

Edinburgh was predicted to incur a 2.7% loss in the event of hard Brexit and 1.4% if it is a soft Brexit.

Glasgow, it would be 2.4% and 1.3% respectively.

Dundee, 2.1% and 1.2%.

An introduction to world socialism

Wage Slavery Abolitionists

The Socialist Party of Great Britain was formed to work for socialism. We have carried on the hard struggle to build up a party of socialists, understanding and ready to work for Socialism. Our aim is to obtain for the whole community complete ownership and control of the means of transport, the means of manufacture, the mines, and the land. Thus we look to put an end for ever to the wage-system, to sweep away all distinctions of class, and eventually to establish the world cooperative commonwealth. Our tactics are as clear as our goals. We find ourselves opposed by the left-wing who believe that it was useless to advocate socialism. Their method is to try to win working-class support by promising and agitating for reforms. The workers, they claim, do not want socialism, but “something now.” Let us promise them what they want and thus get a Labour Party government. The numerous benefits it will bestow on the workers will then win their support for the introduction of socialism. This theory is based on a series of misconceptions. The work, however, of building a Labour Party thrusts socialism into the background. It also assumed that a Labour government could run capitalism to remove the grave problems which have been, and are being, produced by capitalism. It assumes that unemployment, poverty and the like, are the outcome, not of the system, but of the stupidity, malevolence or incompetence, of politicians. It overlooked the very important lesson that the party which happens to be in office gets blamed by working-class electors for the evil effects of the capitalist system on themselves. The Socialist Party has been the only organisation which declined to abandon socialism in order to build up the Labour Party, and the only organisation which will not be implicated in the disgust and disillusion which will follow the inevitable failure of Labour governments. The day that the workers are ready to vote solidly for socialism the game is up. It only remains, therefore, for the workers to look beneath the surface of all their troubles to find that the remedy for each and every one of them is socialism. Armed with the necessary knowledge, we, workers, are all-powerful and the capitalists know it, and that is why their paid hirelings disseminate so much confusion on the subject.

Although we cannot specify in advance a utopian blueprint lets try and describe free access socialism. Suppose that the new social system was to start tomorrow, we are not proposing just the abolition of money. In fact, the abolition of money alone, would solve no problems and undoubtedly create many difficulties. But what we propose is, that the whole system of money and exchange, buying and selling, profit-making and wage-earning be entirely abolished and that instead, the community as a whole should organise and administer the productions of goods for use only, and the free distribution of these goods to all members of the community according to each person’s needs. Simply put, in socialism there would be no barter economy or monetary system. It would be an economy based on need. Therefore, a consumer would have a need, and there would be a communication system set in place that relays that need to the producer. The producer creates the product, and then send the product back to the consumer, and the need would be satisfied. 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. Socialism does presuppose that productive resources (materials, instruments of production, sources of energy) and technological knowledge are sufficient to allow the population of the world to produce enough food, clothing, shelter and other useful things, to satisfy all their material needs. The new social system must be world-wide. It must be a World Commonwealth. The world must be regarded as one country and humanity as one people.

We are not so naive as to imagine that the changeover from world capitalism to world socialism will occur over a single weekend. The changeover can be envisaged as taking place over a relatively short period of time of, say, five years (we don't know.) Yet even before the full establishment of socialism people will have started to do what is needed to begin creating the new world. Local life will soon become largely self-administering and local plans will be devised to make the best alternative uses of buildings that no longer served their original purposes, such as banks, ammunitions factories, and stately homes. Communities able to grow their own food can very quickly become self-sufficient: food surpluses distributed elsewhere to areas of need without any requirement to pass through the asphyxiating intermediary of the market although later it will not be a question of communities passing on their surpluses to one another (most, if left to themselves, wouldn't have any surplus); it is a question of them being interlinked in a single network of production which in the end embraces the whole world. Wider co-ordination will ensue. It is as well to be aware to what extent local communities are interconnected and interdependent and that this places severe limits on what needs could be met locally. The fact is that people in small communities aren't able to produce all they need or anything like it. The final stage of the production of a range of goods for everyday use could be done locally--food, clothes, shoes, furniture--as well as repairs but neither (most of) the raw materials nor (in most cases) any of the metals to make the tools and machines used in this final stage could be produced locally. The community will ascertain what are the requirements of the people - anything and everything that the people desire. Food, clothing, housing, transport, sanitation — these come first; all effort will be to supply those first; everyone will feel it a duty to take some part in supplying these. Then will follow the adornments and amusements. There will be a real sense of working together for a common goal - a true community. If you read people’s reminiscences of the Second World War or the Depression of the Thirties, you will find time and again the refrain, “Times were hard, but everybody pulled together.” It matters not how accurate these memories are; what is crucial is the way that cooperation and solidarity are seen as positive values, to be cherished and kept in the memory.

"It's a nice idea but it will never happen" is one of the most common responses to the suggestion that it is in our interests to work towards building a socialist society. The assumption is that socialism will rely upon everybody being altruistic, sacrificing their own interests for those of others. In fact, socialism doesn’t require people to be any more altruistic than they are today. We will still be concerned primarily with ourselves, with satisfying our needs, our need to be well considered by others as well as our material and sexual needs. It is enlightened self-interest that will work for the majority. The coming of socialism will not require great changes in the way we behave, essentially only the accentuation of some of the behaviours which people exhibit today (friendliness, helpfulness, co-operation) at the expense of others which capitalism encourages (acquisitiveness, competition)

Given the control of human affairs that a socialist system would bring, people in socialism would be able to take charge of their destiny. What is undeniable is that we are a species with great talents. In science, technology, in art, crafts, and design we can call upon a wide range of great skills. The point now is to release these for the benefit of humanity and a new era for humanity will have begun. Production for profit will have been confined to a barely-understandable and barbaric past.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Lies That Kill (1990)

From the July 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

Bandsmen, and even, now, in deference to the times, bandswomen, sit around waiting against a discordant cacophony of banging drums and snatches of pop tunes, or “party" airs, played inexpertly on fifes or accordians. Even in waiting, the pipe bands are disciplined, more expert, better turned out and better at planning their waiting time.

But a pipe band can cost an Orange Lodge a lot of money. Economics have, thus, created a niche in the market for the gather-up, four or five tune outfits that will swagger aggressively behind the well-suited Orangemen. The four or five tunes will synopsize a version of history; remind Fenians that they were given a bloody good hiding at Derry, Aughrim and. on the 1st July 1690 (before Pope Gregory XIII changed the calendar) at the Boyne. Especially when passing a Roman Catholic chapel or an area inhabited by catholics, an aggressive increase in volume will taunt and threaten latter-day enemies.

Festival of bigotry
Hail. rain, sunshine or snow, the bands will march on the Twelfth. The serried ranks of marching Orangemen will tramp their way to “The Field” to be regaled yet again with the pure fiction that represents history— for, if ever a people were kidded and cajoled by what Marx called “the tradition of all the dead generations", it is both the protestants and the catholics of Northern Ireland.

This day, the Twelfth, is the epitome of protestant culture, folklore and tradition. It is about this that Unionist and Orange leaders have hyped ordinary decent protestants to the anger that maims and kills—maims, kills and divides both themselves and those whom they have been rigidly conditioned to hate and fear. What we know about this festival of bigotry should be enough to cause protestants to look upon it with the same distaste as catholics: not simply because it is one of the elements that creates—300 years after the event—the material conditions for the bloody, futile violence that hurts protestant and catholic alike but because the great majority of those partaking in this orgy of ignorance, those who are Presbyterians, have no reason to celebrate the regime that emerged from William's victory at the famous Battle of the Boyne.

Almost always a ruling class (or, as in the case of Irish catholics, an aspiring ruling class) will suitably distort and fictionalize history to serve its purpose. Usually a substantial historical truth can be "adjusted" sufficiently to convince a lot of ordinary, propertyless workers that their past, and, more importantly, their present, is tied up with the interests of their real or potential exploiters. In the case of the events commemorated by so many decent working class protestants on the Twelfth of July, history has not simply been adjusted—it has been stood on its head.

According to the Orange Order, which uses religion to obfuscate historical reality and confuse and divide the working class, William, Prince of Orange, led a revolution against the Stuart king James II in 1688. James, a sickly pious, but cautious, convert to Roman Catholicism (and the father of William's wife, Mary) was according to Orange legend, an enemy of protestantism and, by defeating him at the battle of the Boyne in July 1690, King Billy won the day for those of the Protestant faith in Ireland. "He gave us our freedom, religion and laws", the Orange demagogue will declaim; "He saved us from popery, brass money and wooden shoes", some other historical expert will assure his listeners.

We are referring here to events which took place, not as irrelevantly far back as 1960, but 300 years ago in 1690. Whatever the facts, the first question that must be put to the Orange Order, and the clerical tub-thumpers who so frequently vomit hatred of their fellow human beings at Orange binges, is why they continue to organise an event which helps to fan violence and hatred and which has no bearing whatsoever on the lives of people today—other than those who may suffer hurt, abuse, or even death from the anger and hatred it generates? Surely, men and women who genuinely wanted peace in Northern Ireland would be prepared to sacrifice the, literally, thousands of annual marches and coat-trailing exercises that feed division and hatred?

That is a question for the holy hypocrites who pose as peace-mongers in Northern Ireland. It is a reasonable question and one that workers who support Orangeism but want peace should be concerned with.

The Pope backs King Billy
But what about the wider question? Was the conflict between King Billy and King James about protestants and catholics? Was Billy's victory one in the eye for the pope? Did his defeat of James at the Boyne make life better for the people of Ireland, or Ulster—or even for all the protestants of Ulster? The answer to all these questions is an unequivocal “No". Before dealing with the consequences of King Billy's victory, however, we should look at the background to the conflict between him and James and the separate interests they each represented.

After the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy there was a marked decline in the the political persecution of Irish catholics. Freedom of the Irish catholics to practise their religion was established and, on the other side, in 1672 Charles II won favour with the Presbyterian settlers in Ulster by granting a Regium Donam, or Royal bounty, to their clergy.

When James the Second became king in 1685 the emerging middle class in England, anxious to promote legislation that would facilitate its growing commercial interests, was striving for political power. Conflict centred around parliament and the king. Religion, the complex in-fighting between the various denominations and especially the broader conflict between the Church of England and Roman Catholicism, was used to disguise this class struggle and marshal the "lower orders" behind the contending factions. James resisted parliament's attempts to restrict his authority and parliament used this and his covert attempts to bring England back into the mainstream of European Catholicism to attack the king.

In 1688 seven members of the English government invited the Dutchman, William, the Prince of Orange, who was married to James's protestant daughter, to become king of England. James, the catholic, sought the assistance of the French king, Louis XIV. Though nominally catholic insofar as kings and members of the ruling class accept religion, Louis was the bitter enemy of Pope Innocent XI. Both leaders were in conflict over the spoils of Europe and both went to considerable extremes to humiliate each other. Louis had seized areas where the papal writ ran and had sent an army against the papal citadel, Rome itself.

The Pope had retaliated by calling together, in 1688, the German Emperor, the King of Spain and William Prince of Orange. Together they entered into the Treaty of Augsberg, the nominal head of which was the Pope. It was the Treaty (or League) powers, of which the Pope was the head, that armed, provisioned and financed King Billy when he landed in Ireland, to where James had retreated, to contend for the throne of England.

So the popular version of events that inflames considerable Orange passion, even now, 300 years after the event, is pure rubbish. It was the catholic king James who was opposing the Pope's interest and it was King Billy who championed the papal cause! Whatever Orangemen—and catholics—may think to-day, there was no doubt about the matter three hundred years ago when, at the behest of the Pope, a Te Deumwas sung in St. Peter’s, and special masses said in other European capitals, in celebration of King Billy's victory over James at the Battle of the Boyne.

Presbyterians persecuted
What about the freedom of religion and the victory for protestantism that William's victory is supposed to represent? History attests to the fact that William was largely untainted with the religious bigotry then a political factor in Europe but, in accepting the call of the English parliament, he had to respond to the authority of that parliament which saw catholicism as treasonous and presbyterian dissenters as too independent and lacking in loyalty to England. Ironically, it was the twisted, devious and bigoted catholic King James who unwillingly presided over the abolition of the penal laws against religion in Ireland. After his arrival in Ireland, he summoned a special sitting of the Dublin parliament (in 1689) and that body abolished legal strictures against all religious denominations, making all religions equal before the law. The “patriot parliament", as it was called, also established the right of the people to pay tithes to the clergy of their own church.

After the final defeat of the Jacobite army, at Aughrim in July 1691, what had become known as "the war of the two kings " was formally ended by the signing of the Treaty of Limerick, in October 1691. William agreed to accept, as the first of the Treaty's thirteen “civil" articles, the law on religious freedoms which the "patriot parliament" had introduced. Back in England after his victory in Ireland, however. King Billy agreed, or had to agree, to the establishment of the Episcopalian Church in Ireland, effectively making not only Catholicism illegal but, also, the faith of the majority protestant community in Ulster, then, as now, Presbyterianism.

Immediately following William's victory, and as a result of that victory and the establishment of the Anglican church, Presbyterian ministers were refused the right to administer to their flocks. Delivering a sermon could result, on conviction, in a fine of £100 or three months in jail. They were not allowed to perform a marriage service, so Presbyterians were forced to submit to an alien church or carry the stigma of unlawfully and sinfully co-habitating, with their off-spring denied right of inheritance because legally they were bastards. Ordinary Presbyterians, like Roman Catholics, were denied entry to offices of the Crown, including the law, the army, the navy and the revenue services.

Little wonder then that during the decades that followed into the next century, some 250,000 Ulster protestants. the great bulk of them Presbyterians, left for the new world where their hatred of the regime established by King Billy made them foremost among those American colonists who defeated England in the American War of Independence.

The bosses change their tune
Like their fellow workers who are catholics, the protestant workers have been cheated with historical fairy tales. Once, in the early part of this century, these fabrications were used to marshal them behind those northern capitalist industrialists who feared the introduction of Irish Home Rule and the establishment of Irish trade protectionism. Today, there is not even that justification; free trade is no longer an issue and 1992 and the reality of a Europe united in trade and, increasingly, legislatively beckons the people of property, whether catholic or protestant—the bosses and the business fraternity.

Ironically, it was the political forces that represented these interests which fabricated history to con both the protestant and the catholic poor, before and after the turn of the present century. Today the business community, north and south, are happily united—both in contempt for the working class and in shock at the continuing results of their fabricated history. Academics are busily engaged re-writing history, trying to lie their way out of earlier fictions. Men and women of little talent have forged political careers on the ignorance of those, protestants and catholics, who make up our class, the working class. Sadly, only among our class do the lies prevail—the lies that make loyalists and the lies that make republicans. Lies that kill.

Richard Montague

Fat Capitalism

Scotland's poorest children are increasingly likely to be obese, while those in affluent areas are not, a new NHS Scotland report has found. Heather Peace, head of nutrition science and policy at Food Standards Scotland, added: "This report adds to the mounting body of evidence showing that little progress has been made towards improving the Scottish diet for the last 20 years."
The rate of children starting school in danger of becoming obese was 7% in the most affluent areas, but nearly double that at 13% for the least wealthy.
29% of women and 28% of men aged 18-64 in Scotland were obese. Adults living in the least-deprived areas of Scotland had the lowest obesity levels. However, people living in Scotland's most-deprived communities were more likely to be obese. For women obesity became progressively more common as the deprivation level increased.
The proportion of overweight women in Scotland almost doubled over 20 years - from 31% in 1995 to 60% in 2015, the report found. In the same period, the level of overweight men jumped to 66%.
Elaine Tod, who helped author the report, said: "Obesity used to be more common amongst the richer in society as it was only those who could afford to eat well who became obese. This trend has reversed and we now see higher rates of obesity in those who are less well-off. The reasons for this are complex and multi-factorial, including the affordability and availability of high-fat, high-sugar food in comparison with healthy food and the increasing popularity of more sedentary pastimes."
Lorraine Tulloch, programme lead at Obesity Action Scotland, said: "This report clearly outlines that the most-deprived in our society are suffering the greatest burden of obesity."

This is socialism

On June 12th, 1904 expelled militants from the Social Democratic Federation formed the Socialist Party of Great Britain and the members immediately set about framing principles and rules to guide them. The party also arranged to publish a monthly journal, the Socialist Standard, which first appeared September 1904.

Though similar parties have since been formed in other parts of the world, all adhering to the same socialist object and principles, the growth of socialist knowledge among the masses has been slow in comparison with the growth of confusion as to what socialism is. This will be readily admitted by anyone who has followed recent world politics, or even local politics. Yet through the past sixty years the Socialist Party has remained stable in character and consistent in its attitude and principles It has also seen two world wars, the rise and fall of state capitalism in Russia, the undemocratic imposition by force of the trappings of capitalist industrialisation on the populations of feudal China, yet has maintained its original thesis: that the socialist revolution will not be brought about by its being imposed on the workers by a body of leaders, but will only come when a working-class majority understand and want socialism, and vote for it at the polling booth.

 Skilled, professional opportunists whose purpose is to secure the continued existence of capitalism plead for our votes. But there can be no hope for the working class as long as they put their trust in leaders and support the capitalist system. The issue which should concern workers is the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of socialism. Whilst capitalism continues the conditions of the working class must tend to grow worse. Therefore, we urge upon all members of the working class to take advantage of the knowledge distributed by the Socialist Party, become organised into its ranks, and help to bring nearer the day when socialism will become possible.

Capital is wealth used for the purpose of producing a profit. Profit is a portion of that wealth produced by the worker but robbed from him under the present system. Hence capital is wealth used for the purpose of robbery. Clearly, when the system of robbery is abolished, capital will disappear. Production will then be carried on for use; wealth will be used to promote the well-being of all. As socialism will mean the abolition of the idle class of present society—the capitalist class—who gather all the best of what is produced to themselves to lead lives of barbaric luxury, the first result of the establishment of socialism will be that a large quantity of wealth will become available for distribution among the producers that was never within their reach under capitalism. So far from it being necessary to reduce the populations under socialism, the elimination of the idle thieves will be one factor in making it possible to support far larger numbers than the present system is doing. What do you lack? Food, plentiful and pure; yet it is you who grow, carry and prepare the delicate meal for the rich man’s table. Clothing, adequate and beautiful: though by your toil your master’s person is protected and adorned. A dwelling fair and well provided: yet your hands raise palaces and fill them with comfort. Leisure you have not, though your service makes other lives one holiday. Nor travel, though you build planes and ships. Nor peace for your mind to roam and your limbs to rest. All these you lack, without knowing that you do. Your life wants breadth and depth and height, and you hardly dream that it might be different. Toil is your heritage, you think, and all else your master’s. The only thing wrong with the poor is their poverty. They are poor because they are robbed. They are robbed because the rich own the earth and the fulness thereof. The poor have to hire themselves to those who own the means of living. The price of their hiring is called a wage and is based upon the cost of keeping dusty death at bay. This is their sole share of the wealth they produce. They can alter this state of things whenever they like by taking possession of their means of livelihood.  until Socialism is attained, the workers will remain poor; poor because they are robbed. Capitalism is based upon the robbery of labour. “Labour” believes in its palliation; Socialism in its abolition.

Understanding the social alternative—a wage-free, money-free, class-free leader-free, state-free society where goods are produced for need, not profit—is as simple as ABC’ compared to the minefield of bureaucracy to be traversed when trying to obtain paltry dole money. Despite the promises of “jam today”, forever being made by those lapdogs of the capitalist class, the politicians, most of us are still struggling to obtain bread and dripping.
The time to make capitalism redundant is long past. It’s the working class which runs capitalism from top to bottom for the benefit of the minority. Think what we could do with the opportunities presented to us by a new society — socialism.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Capitalism Kills

Rising inequality during the 1980s increased the risk of drug-related deaths among members of "Generation X" in Scotland, a new study has found. The new analysis was carried out by NHS Health Scotland and Glasgow University.
Researchers found the "social, economic and political contexts of the 1980s" may have caused an increase in drug deaths in the following years. They found links to gender and deprivation - young men in poor neighbourhoods were found to be 10 times as likely to die from drugs as women of the same age from a more affluent area. Similar patterns had previously been reported about the risk of suicide in deprived areas.
 Dr Jon Minton, a quantitative research associate at Glasgow University, said his analysis was "consistent with the hypothesis that economic and other policy decisions during the 1980s created rising income inequality, the erosion of hope amongst those who were least resilient and able to adjust, and resulted in a delayed negative health impact. The same kind of pattern we have observed and reported on previously regarding the risk of suicide in vulnerable cohorts in deprived areas in Scotland is repeated, and even more clearly visible, when looking at trends in drug-related death risk. For people born in 1960s and 70s, the risk of drug-related deaths throughout the life course was much increased, and gender and area inequalities in these risks increased even more. The similarity in trends in both suicide and drug-related deaths suggests a common underlying cause."
A similar pattern occurred elsewhere in the UK.

Real politics V. Real politique

The game of politics, for all the sham, the vaudeville, the bombast, the empty promises so often associated with it, is a serious game. Vast sums of money are poured into it and these sums are not provided by the workers. The money that is used is provided by the property-owning class, the capitalist class, and they are not provided because of any thought that in this way the interests of society may best be served; they are provided with the expectation that only their own interests will be served, even though these come into serious conflict with the interests of society. The capitalists have special material interests that cause them to have differences among themselves and these differences result in the experience of two or more political parties in most countries. But in one thing above all others, they are united and that is in their support of parties that stand first of all for the continued existence of capitalism. They are prepared to sanction a generous outlay of attractive promises and political horseplay for the approval of the workers, since it is necessary that this approval be obtained, but whatever the politicians do to get themselves elected they cannot hope to retain the support of the capitalists if they allow the suggestion to enter into their activities that capitalism is not the best of all possible systems of society. Needless to say, they are careful to protect their sources of campaign funds. From all this, it must be clear that the capitalists are far more aware of the importance of political action than are the workers. They sponsor and finance vast campaigns to ensure that governments are formed that will protect their privileged position. So great is their interest that in all modern nations they control not only the government but also the greater part of the opposition. This leaves the workers with little of prominence to choose from other than the various parties which, with slight differences dictated by sectional capitalist interests, all represent the capitalist class.

Almost every day some new group or sect thrusts itself upon the political scene. They come—and go. The aim of the Socialist Party is to achieve perfection, and perfection is unattainable—so goes the argument. The assumption is that somehow human beings are to be transformed into supermen and women, all virtue and no vice, once the millennium has been reached. This approach to the problem is the wrong one and very misleading. The improvement in human behaviour which we envisage is not an abstract conception of how people might behave in a better world but is based on our observation and knowledge of how people actually do behave. It can be seen that sometimes people react in a truly human way to each other, and sometimes the reverse. An objection here may be: “What do we mean by truly human, surely all the actions of human beings must by definition be human? ” If we can agree that men are primarily social beings, that everything they do and think is connected in diverse ways with, and affected by, what others do and think (even in matters of sex), that what we recognise as human as opposed to merely animal is the result of thousands of years of social evolution; of living together in mutual dependence, then the act of, for example, saving life is more human than destroying it. This is no perfectionist myth which implies the singular development of man along the road of constant progress. The perfectionist idea implies also that man is now inferior to what the would-be perfectionists might make him. In some cases it takes a mechanistic form, too; that is, it conceives men as living together by agreement or contract, that society is a man-made utopia rather than a social growth. That socialism would be a distinct form of society and unconnected with capitalism, a Minerva springing complete from the heads of the idealists rather than being born of the society existing prior to it and bearing the marks of its origins. All this is a fallacy. What we as socialists aim to do is to organise society in such a way that there will be no fetters and restrictions on the desire for peaceful and purposeful co-operation, the desire of millions of people caught in the maelstrom of capitalism, who as yet see no way out. It is on the basis of our knowledge of what man is that we want to change the world, not from some abstract concept of what we imagine would be nice: simply extending our own preferences on to society at large. The only laws are the exigencies of the immediate social condition, the state in which we find ourselves and the power of social consciousness. Man makes his own history, albeit according to the conditions of the time. Conditions which have today raised problems not only of the fundamental relationships of simply living together but of even the very survival of the human race. Problems which have got to be solved. The Socialist Party holds that socialism is the only cure for the effects of capitalism. While capitalism continues so the workers must suffer from its effects and their condition become worse, so we ask fellow-workers to join us in the work of propagating socialism and organising for the overthrow of capitalism. Socialism is the only solution to their problems.

The Socialist Party says: Let us take away the ownership of the land and factories from the present owners and make them the common property of all. Let us make all those people who now perform no useful function do some useful work in production and distribution. Soldiers, policemen, sales canvassers and a host of other people who waste their efforts on useless work. All of this energy could be pressed into service for the community, and the hours of labour considerably lessened. We will have plenty of leisure. We are all so work-weary that we do not really know how to play at all. Socialism will give us time to learn. Socialism means the abolition of poverty of the mind as well as the body. Capitalism means crooked bodies and crooked minds, but not all are so malformed that they cannot think in their own interests. To these, we appeal to come and help us to clean up the mess.

Only through the establishment of socialism can we get rid of poverty and unemployment. 

It is the Socialist Party who says that we have now solved the problem of producing all that we need. In other words, what the Socialist Party has been saying for a long while is that sufficient for all could be produced but isn’t being produced. The fertile fields and rich mineral deposits are there in abundance, so are the highly developed and productive machines, the railways and motor roads, ships and aeroplanes, and everything else needed for production. So are the human beings who could do the work needed to put everyone far beyond the fear of poverty and deprivation. The Socialist Party is well aware that enough is not being produced at present, and this in spite of the curious thing that there are numerous instances of production being deliberately restricted and goods destroyed. So destruction and restriction go on in spite of the well-established fact that if the hundreds of millions of poor people in the world were suddenly told that they could satisfy their needs free of charge there would be an immediate and immense shortage of the necessities of life. End capitalism and have the means of production owned by the whole community, then goods will be produced for use alone, and the supply of them will not be hindered by artificial barriers of profit and private interest.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Socialist Party Versus Capitalism

Turning aside from the horrors of the present, people are thinking about the possibility of another world. Socialists welcome this interest, but are alive to its dangers. It is so easy for those workers who are not experienced in political and economic questions to be taken in by proposals that are useless or worse than useless, and what is at once obvious to the Socialist Party in all these proposals is that none of them are even fresh—all have been tried before and found wanting.

Capitalism, with its private ownership of the means of life, its rent, interest and profit, its buying and selling, and its system of wage-labour has been abundantly proved to be a wasteful, callous, and out-of-date form of social organisation? Only socialism can meet the needs of our age and abolish once and for all poverty and war and the other products of capitalism? If this is true, and it is, then anything other than socialism is not what is needed. There is no half-way house. If the world does not go over to socialism it will remain under capitalism. Socialism involves the abolition of capitalism. It involves the abolition, therefore, of the roots of capitalism, i.e., wage-labour and capital. Inside socialism there can be no wages-system, no finance, no investments. In Socialist society the means of production—land, factories, railways, and so on— will belong to all society; all its able-bodied members will take an active part in production and each and every one will have free access to the means of life.  As Marx and all socialist thinkers have emphasised, socialism will only be achieved by a working class that knows what it is about, that wants s and that organises politically to capture the State machine in order to introduce it democratically. For the workers who are concerned with the real problem of their emancipation and the building of a different and better social system, the only sure line is to give up trusting and hoping in the temporary convulsions of the political Jekylls and Hydes.

The Socialist Party supports trade union organisation; so does the Labour Party. Yet there is a world of difference between the two attitudes. On the political field the Socialist Party does not deny that a particular piece of legislation may, for a time, relieve extreme hardship to workers affected by some outrageous failure of the capitalist system; yet the Socialist Party logically and consistently opposes reformism, the policy of building up a political party on a programme of demands for legislation to relieve all the separate evils. The trade unionist, for the most part, and the advocate of reform, takes capitalism for granted. His aim is to improve wages or to help the old-age pensioner, or reduce the special hardship of the low-wage earner who has a large family. For him capitalism, the wages system and the comprehensive, problem of poverty are things in which he is only remotely interested, if at all. hat does not mean that the trade unionist or the reformer is satisfied with the results of his efforts. He sees that they are not achieving what he wants, but he does not know why. He is usually able to lay the blame on other shoulders than his own. He blames the non-union member, the apathetic, the members of other Unions, or the advocates of other reforms. He asks why all the workers cannot get together and act unitedly; but what he really means is, why will not other workers forget their sectional interest and pet reform and back me up in my sectional interest and the reform which, for the moment, seems to me to be the really vital one. He does not see that trade unionism and reformism have the limitation that they encourage and provoke sectional activity and all the friction arising from it. The skilled craftsman necessarily gets into the habit of mind of trying to enlarge what he calls the “value” of his work against that of the unskilled or semi-skilled grades. The woman worker asking for “equal pay for men and women” is always in danger of blaming male workers for her plight, and, like the craftsman, is equally indifferent to the problems of other groups of workers. 

The question for the workers is what to do about it. For the non-socialist it will be another effort to build up what war has destroyed. For the socialist the question is not whether capitalism can be reformed, can wages keep up with prices, can pensions be increased, but how to end the capitalist system of society. With the replacement of capitalism by socialism, the problem becomes how to handle the economic problems of a system based on common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution. Production being then solely for use there are no profits, interest or rents to be considered, no problems of prices or wages, no insurance or old-age pensions or worker’s compensation. All members of society will be provided for as a matter of course, not in accordance with the present absurd system based on piecemeal legislation for each particular sub-division of poverty. Mankind’s efforts will be given a new direction, helped on by the vast release of thought and energy.