Monday, February 05, 2018

Shattering illusions

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”

Implicit in the membership of the Socialist Party is an understanding of socialist principles. In fact, membership is conditional upon this. Exploitation gives the key to an understanding of capitalism. Today the workers as a class are born, and remain, propertyless; they, therefore, do not own capital which is a form of wealth. Capital is the accumulated wealth of the capitalist class. It is useful for further production, but with only one object — that it may absorb the further unpaid labour of the workers, and thus produce . . . surplus value, the source of rent, interest, and profit. Not the means of wealth production in themselves, but the class relations under which they are used to obtain the surplus value, realised through sale in the world market — make them capital. The Labour Party and the Left do not stand as we do for common ownership, which would mean the abolition of such class relations. If the workers are to enjoy the fruits of their toil and drudgery, they must own and control the means by which they produce them. The land, factories, railways etc. must be made the common property of all to meet the needs of all. That is what we mean by socialism.

The conventional wisdom assumes that in order to motivate people to action or to win elections, leaders have to project optimism about our ability to cure all evils and create a world free of hardship.  The Socialist Party, on the other hand, risks popularity by revealing the harsh truths and hopelessness of politicians promises. We do not cling to painless delusions to capture votes because such a position alienates us from the authentic experience of conditions around us. When we deny our pain, doubt, and despair, we deny the opportunity for solidarity with others who feel the same thing.   We end up convinced that we are weak and isolated. Given the massively powerful forces that we must overcome there is nothing more hopeless than thinking of ourselves as atomised individuals. By building that sense that we are part of something much bigger and more powerful than our individual selves, we help expand what is possible. We can reconnect with what we truly value.   Abandoning the dream of some sort of ideal capitalism allows for a broader public discourse about what the purpose of an economy should be and who it should serve.

Socialism cannot be crafted from a diverse variety of groups focusing attention on their own issue at the expense of a universal project all can share. Anytime you support a political party that can’t keep the promise that it made to you during election time, and you still continue to identify yourself with that Party, you’re not only a chump, but you’re a traitor to your class.

The question often occurs when socialists explain the Materialist Conception of History how is it that in identical environment some are socialist-inclined and some are conservative-minded, if economic conditions determine, in the last resort, the views of men? The matter of this “identical environment ” can be illustrated by a simple analogy. Suppose a hundred soft clay balls were put in a bag and sat on, these balls would all be in an identical environment, like men in any class in society subjected to economic pressure, so what would happen? Some balls would be squared, ' some, slightly flattened, and some utterly squashed, as determined by their position in this so-called identical environment. In society, different classes have a different environment. In a given class some would be slightly modified Conservatives, and some revolutionary: as pressure increases so all would become entirely altered. All, then, would be affected, but slightly unequally, since no two balls, or two persons, could possibly be in exactly the same environment. So in society men picture the future from what they see and feel in the present. Some by hereditary fitness and actual environment would more easily and clearly comprehend the needs of the present and the tendency of things; others in conditions less violently affected would find it more difficult to see clearly, or would from the materials in their hands or inherited weakness, form false pictures which would lure them in wrong directions.

Inequality is no accident. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
 argued that the privileges of the elite were attained by “the first person to fence in a piece of land and to say, ‘this is mine,’ and to find people gullible enough to believe him.” We must give more attention to the “rules of the game” that maintain inequality.  In its analysis of the Oxfam report, the Guardian noted: “Booming global stock markets have been the main reason for the increase in wealth of those holding financial assets during 2017. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, saw his wealth rise by $6bn (£4.3bn) in the first 10 days of 2017 as a result of a bull market on Wall Street, making him the world’s richest man.”   

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