Saturday, March 31, 2018

Understanding the system

In 1999 Karl Marx was voted the “Greatest Thinker of the Millennium” in a BBC online poll. Then in 2005, he was voted the “Greatest Philosopher” in another BBC poll. One voice from the wilderness though is too faint to be heeded, neither strong enough nor loud enough or even adequately broadcast so as to be heard. The only solution for the economic problems of the workers is socialism. Chasing after the endless revivals of old fallacies evolved by the ingenuity of the reformists has brought them no lasting advantage. Their ideas of a world compatible with a profit-driven market economy are illusory and their prospects for reform in the interests of humans and the environment a fallacy. It has diverted their attention from things that really matter and has left them as far as ever from achieving socialism. There have been repeated economic crises. Every one of them has shown the same general characteristics. Every one of them has been viewed as a sign of irretrievable ruin, and every one has been used to dissuade the workers from looking towards socialism. Recessions are not evidence of capitalist weakness They will not of themselves result in the collapse of the capitalist system, and only a misunderstanding of the nature of crises leads the workers to slacken their efforts to maintain wages at those times. Crises are not the ruin of capitalism, but merely correctives to its contradictions. Capitalism and its crises can, and will, go on indefinitely until the workers take conscious steps to end the system. The Socialist Party tells the workers that socialism is the only remedy for their troubles. There is no time which is not a proper time for them to work for socialism.

 Only too frequently, when the word 'socialism' is deployed it is used as meaning more government intervention in the running of capitalism and the lives of the people. Not only does the Left exclude questions of the ultimate goal of society, but they do not even admit socialism—that is, common ownership of the machinery of production and distribution—as being a question at all. For the,m the question of the ultimate goal of society is merely the issue of state capitalism versus private capitalism. Socialism of course means the end of government since there will be no minority class who need state power to maintain their dominance. For capitalism to end, political power will have to pass out of the hands of their capitalist ruling class and into the hands of the working class. So it comes back to the need for a consciously socialist majority to win control of political power after all. This is an essential precondition for the establishment of a world socialist society, the only basis on which our vision of a world without money can come into being.

Capitalism, we can safely argue, perpetuates inequalities. People with money will always have an inherent advantage over the poor and uneducated in free-market economies. And since capital grows faster than wages thanks to the power of compound interest, the gap in wealth between the haves and have-nots will continue to grow. In the near future, capitalists who own robots will be able to multiply their productivity and profits without a corresponding increase in wages, as the majority of blue-collar jobs go extinct. Unemployment will rise as a result, triggering violent class warfare that could threaten the very fabric of many global societies. The workers are poor because the capitalist class own the machinery of production and because they retain and consume a vast amount of the wealth produced.

The Socialist Party has nothing in common with the parties that preach peace but continue to prepare for war. Our opponents defend their actions with talk of the need for security. We must, they say, guard the integrity and independence of the nation. They differ among themselves only as to the amount and kind of armaments necessary, for security. They argue the respective merits and costs of the battleship, the submarine, aircraft and poison gas. There are some who urge that the nations should agree to gradual and mutual disarmament, and there are even pacifists who claim that the best of all guarantees of security is for this country to disarm completely without waiting for the rest of the world. The Socialist Party does not agree with any of these points of view. For us, it is not a question of deciding which is the. best method of achieving security, but a question of deciding whether the security referred to is of any real concern to the working class.  Commercial rivalries set capitalist states one against the other. The class which has property and privilege must maintain armed forces to protect their property and to make secure the social system which affords them their privileges. The capitalists and their politicians do not consciously seek war as a means of snatching wealth and power from their rivals but they are driven by the forces at work in the capitalist system to follow policies which bring them into conflict with each other.  The governments are called in to further the interests of the national groups of capitalists. Under the cloak of patriotism and national defence, with the blessing of the church, the press, the labour leaders and the politicians, millions of workers are thrown against each other in battle. They do not know that they are fighting to defend or to extend the interests of the class that lives by robbing them of the fruits of their labour.

One cannot but sympathise with the exasperation of Labour Party members who are always promised something new and inspiring. The Labour Party is not a socialist party. It is not even united in its views as to the best way of running capitalism. Its record shows that its leaders are willing and able to use it against the interests of the workers. Workers who take to heart the lessons of the past will abandon it and join the Socialist Party. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Charity ends

The Meals-on-Wheels has been a lifeline to thousands of elderly and disabled people. The service has been withdrawn from many parts of Scotland - and will cease entirely by the end of the year.
The service has now ended in Moray, Argyll and Bute, East Dunbartonshire and West Dunbartonshire. The Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) said it could no longer ensure the service is safe and sustainable. RVS believes a lack of support from local authorities has forced them to cut services. In recent years an increasing number of council's throughout the UK have withdrawn subsidies, and the service operated by the RVS has dwindled.
Director Sam Ward said: "We've gone from having over 80 services - we're just down to seven in Scotland and only 15 across the whole of the UK."
Alternative services are being offered - including lunch clubs, frozen meal deliveries and a variety of home care packages. Many of the people who have been delivering meals as RVS volunteers, are doubtful the alternative provision being made will be right for everyone.
Kirsteen Mitcalfe has been a volunteer for about 30 years said: "I can't see that it will be as good. It's all very well saying that they can go to a community lunch but... there are several people who are housebound that can't go out to anything in the community." She added: "They get a nice meal three times a week at the moment and that's no longer going to happen."

Movement or Monument? The SPGB

The Socialist Party has great confidence that our analysis offers the only explanation of capitalism and the necessity of socialism. Socialism means the common ownership where the administration of society would also be transferred into the hands of the people. Socialists are opposed to the idea that a state or a nation must have a single “national” culture to which all its citizens are expected to conform. The way to end capitalism is to build unity among the working class in common struggle against the present rotten system and for a socialist society. We stand for the unity of the working class to achieve a socialism. Our greatest force, however, is the power of correct ideas. Our ideas and case for socialism can now be a powerful lever in the building a new society. No general prosperity will be possible as long as capitalism exists. Only socialism will bring prosperity to all. But socialism can only be achieved by men and women who are intellectually free.

The Socialist Party is the UK’s oldest revolutionary party. Founded in 1904, the SPGB reached its peak of membership and influence in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, though ever since has remained a visibleand self-styled thorn in the side of organisations situating themselves in the Leninist and anarchist traditions. Viewed by many as a monument to revolutionary purity, i nevertheless developed a considerable reputation for Marxist political education – especially in the field of Marxian economics – which continued after the war.

Underpinned by its anti-reformism and infamous ‘hostility clause’ against all other political parties, the SPGB’s sense of being ‘the other’ was emboldened by the rise of the New Left from the 1950s. However, its influence on other thinkers and organisations was sometimes wider than it liked to concede: from, for instance, being the originator in Britain of the theory of state capitalism, to its explicit promotion of the idea of socialism or communism as a society without the wages system, any price mechanism, or money. Whilst the former view influenced the group which went on to found the International Socialists/Socialist Workers Party (to which the SPGB has been opposed), the latter was an outlook which found wider resonance on the ‘ultra-left’. This was specifically in the perspectives of the left communist, council communist and anarcho-communist organisations that developed in Britain from the 1970s, and then in the twenty-first century in groups such as the Zeitgeist Movement.

Democratic political action by a majority that wants and understands socialism is the way we see socialism coming about, not by "socialistic” communes or cooperatives gradually becoming more and more self-sufficient and eventually squeezing out entirely capitalist production for profit. This argument amongst those who want a class-free money-free society of common ownership and democratic control goes back a long time, right back to the origins of the modern socialist movement in the first part of the last century. On the one side was Robert Owen, who spent (and lost) the fortune he had made as a textile capitalist on founding communistic colonies in Britain and America. On the other were the Chartists, whose position was later supported by Marx and Engels, who argued that political action for social change was the most effective way to achieve a co-operative commonwealth.

It might be more pleasant to live in a communistic community but the trouble is they never last. Not because communism is against human nature as opponents claim, but because they can’t escape from the surrounding capitalist environment. Far from them overwhelming capitalism it’s been the other way round. Either they isolate themselves as much as they can from capitalism, in which case they are only able to offer a very frugal existence, or they engage with the surrounding capitalist economy, for instance by selling their products, in which case they get more and more sucked into capitalist ways of doing things. The kibbutzim in Israel are a good example of this. Some of them did start out as communities which didn’t use money internally and in which affairs were run democratically with everyone having an equal say. But over the years they have not only competed successfully on the capitalist market as sellers; they have also taken to employing non-members as wage workers, i.e. become capitalist enterprises.

We are not saying that people shouldn’t live in communistic communities if they want to—we are not in the business of telling people how they should live their lives under capitalism—only that it’s not the way socialism is going to come. We can imagine that, when socialists are measured in millions rather than thousands so that it has become clear that sooner or later socialism will be established in the near future, people will be making all sorts of plans and experiments in anticipation of the coming of socialism and that this will include communal living in the countryside as well as in towns, but we are not there yet since this presupposes the existence of a mass socialist movement which must come first. So at the moment, we need to concentrate on spreading socialist ideas rather than promoting experiments in "socialist” living.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Basis of Socialist Organisation. (1931)

From the December 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Lesson of the Election
The one thing that most clearly marks off the Socialist Party of Great Britain from the other organisations which claim an interest in Socialism, is our view that the only possible basis for a Socialist Party is an understanding of socialist principles. When the founders of the S.P.G.B. decided on our present Declaration of Principles as the minimum condition of' membership, they had already had long experience of alternative forms of organisation. They had seen the disastrous results of bringing together people without socialist knowledge who were attracted merely by one or other of a long list of political and social reforms. Such an organisation cannot be more advanced than its members, and therefore cannot take action for the furtherance of Socialism. Indeed, it can take action at all only with the greatest difficulty, for it rarely happens that all the members are agreed upon any one of the reform demands. Every attempt to be definite provokes internal friction or secession movements. The electoral success of such a party is its aim and also its undoing. For with office comes the demand from the members that steps be taken to fulfil all the promises. Of course they cannot be fulfilled; capitalism stands in the way. The elation of victory gives place quickly to angry criticism of the men or the programme. So every such party meets its fate sooner or later at the hands of the workers who gave it life and strength. The last election, coming after more than two years of Labour Government, shows us the internal contradictions of the Labour Party, working out to their necessary conclusion. Those who still cling to the belief that an organisation of non-socialists, brought together upon a programme of reforms, can work for Socialism should ponder over the Labour Party’s collapse.

"Forward," the Scottish I.L.P. journal, in its issues dated November 7th, 14th and 21st, published articles from a large number of Labour candidates in Scottish constituencies telling why they lost seats and votes. The collection is a very powerful justification for the position of the S.P.G.B. Below we give some brief extracts:—

Mr. Thomas Johnson (West Stirlingshire) : “We lost, inter alia, because about 15 per cent, of our abnormal vote in 1929 transferred itself to our opponents.”

Mr. T. Henderson (Tradeston) gives as one of the reasons for his defeat, “warring elements within the movement.”

Mr. Michael Marcus (Dundee) says: “Recent events prove conclusively that our first task is to convert certain socialists to Socialism.” He records that panic at the thought of a Labour victory seized even the poorest workers who had not so much as a few pounds in the Savings Bank.

Mr. James C. Welsh (Coatbridge) tells that the unemployed and their wives voted against him, although, as he complains bitterly, “ I think I can claim that nowhere have the unemployed had better services given them.”

Mr. D. N. Mackay (Inverness-shire) confesses that the electors voted for the National candidate because they still regarded MacDonald and Snowden as “typical Labourists ” and “their views were accepted as final.” But what a confession to make! To admit that the party supporters had been recruited simply on the name's of its former leaders.

Mr. John Winning (Kelvingrove) says that working-class voters, employed and unemployed, after two years of Labour Government, flocked to the poll "to protect their few pennies in the Savings Bank and Post Office from confiscation by a Labour Government ”: not only the old and decrepit, but also "the young and vigorous." He finds it a chastening thought, and wonders what is wrong with the Labour Party’s "socialist” propaganda.

Mr. R. Gibson (N. Edinburgh) found that the unemployed voted Tory because they were promised jobs, and, it seems, were more impressed by this than by the Labour promise to look after their unemployment pay. It is a saddening discovery for reformers that the workers positively dislike their particular brand of reforms. Mr. Gibson had the support of the local Liberals, and paints a touching picture of a "Liberal woman . . . pleading with a Communist to vote Labour.”

Mr. J. S. Clarke (Maryhill) says "Prominent members of the I.L.P., including the Glasgow organiser, not only abstained from voting for the Labour candidate, but conducted a virulent campaign against him.” Mr. Clarke is one of those who in the past have told us that we ought to get together with the great united Labour Party. But even if we wanted to, how could we now that it is "united” into several furiously battling fragments?

Mr. J. Pollock (Kilmarnock) attributes defeat to the Labour supporters having been won over to tariffs, and to the deadly blow administered to the local Labour Party in 1929 when the Labour Head Office forced a particularly anti-working class Labour candidate on the division.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Leith) says that in his constituency the workers felt that they had had just about enough of Labour Government "and it was time to see what another Government would do.” That is confirmation of our own often expressed view of the results of Labour Government.

Mr. J. Sullivan (Bothwell) lost his seat because he had quarrelled with the other reform party, the Communists, and they ran a candidate against him.

Mr. G. Mathers (W. Edinburgh) relates that certain of his own dissatisfied supporters, instead of helping him, came to his meetings "trying to concoct trick questions.” He saw with surprise that the unemployed, the teachers, and others who were affected by the National Government’s economy plans, nevertheless voted "Nationalist.”

In South Ayrshire, Mr. James Brown suffered from the effects of his own party’s propaganda. The Labour Party, having decided to be Free Traders, were promising to keep prices down, so the farmers and fishermen—who wanted high prices, not low ones—voted against the Labour Party,, which was expecting to get their votes.

Dissatisfaction With Labour Government.
Mr. F. Martin (E. Aberdeenshire) gives the following reasons for the shrinkage of the Labour vote :—
  The general scare; support for Ramsay MacDonald, which caused a certain number of Socialists to vote for the Conservative, and which also induced many abstentions; dissatisfaction with the record of Labour in office.
The chief Tory asset was, in Mr. Martin’s view, the prospect of tariffs.

In Galloway, Mr. H. McNeill was beaten by a combination of factors. There was a Mosley candidate preaching "scientific capitalism” (and seemingly some voters thought this must be better than capitalism badly run by the Labour Party). Numbers of Co-operators voted Tory "to save the pound, and at the same time their divi” from their Labour friends.

In Motherwell, which the Communists used to declare had a solid Communist majority (although they won it on the usual Lib.-Lab. reform programme), the Rev. James Barr was up against a Liberal who is chairman of the local football club, and therefore popular. Then, it appears, the electorate failed to realise that a National victory meant protectionist capitalism instead of free trade capitalism, and “they paid no heed to the warning of the 'Manchester Guardian.’ ” The Liberal candidate won other votes by declaring that the rich are having a bad time; he "gave out grossly inaccurate figures as to additional burdens imposed on surtax payers.” And finally he tried to take away Catholic voters from the Protestant Rev. J. Barr.

May we offer to this Labour candidate what would seem to be a simple but certain road to victory next time? Let him become chairman of a football club, declare himself a Protectionist-Free-Trader and a Catholic-Protestant, and train all his supporters to read the Liberal "Manchester Guardian.” Then, no doubt, we shall soon have Socialism!! The chief obstacle from the Rev. Barr's point of view is that, if he discovers a vote-catching stunt, his opponents will use it too.

Mr. J. Gibson (S. Lanark) was defeated because, among other things, the workers did not like what they saw of Labour Government. He says :—
   The Labour Government did not help us. It had attempted to operate capitalism only to find itself faced with a crisis that demanded Socialist action.
Mr. Gibson does hot explain how, having been elected to operate capitalism, they could have taken socialist action even if they know what it is and wished to do so. It was only the disgust of the voters that prevented Mr. Gibson from being returned like the others “to operate capitalism." That was what he was offering to do.

“They Had No Savings."
In Berwick and Haddington, Mr. G. Sinkinson had a different experience from some of his colleagues elsewhere. He found that the miners solidly resisted the panic about Savings Banks, “for the very simple reason that they had ho savings." Mr. Sinkinson does not explain what the Labour Government had been doing for over two years that the miners should have been thus pauperised.

Mr. J. Rankin (Pollok) describes the “huge Labour majorities of 1929 melting like snow upon the desert's dusty face." The fall in the Labour vote was due to the following: “The ongoings in the Labour Cabinet during the crisis." At every meeting he was asked, “Did your own Cabinet not agree to nine-tenths of the cuts you are now opposing?" He describes the election as being “simply a vote of confidence in MacDonald"; and like others who for years and years had been telling the voters to trust blindly in MacDonald, Mr. Rankin was caught in his own trap.

Miss Jennie Lee, in N. Lanark, failed to get the votes of electors in a new district, and suffered from “the general disappointment caused by the spirit in which the Labour Government had applied itself to its tasks." It will be recalled that Miss Lee, when she was elected in 1929 on a programme of reforms which did not so much as mention Socialism-, claimed her election as a “socialist " victory. Of course, neither her victory then nor her defeat now had anything to do with Socialism.

In West Lothian Mr. Shinwell expected the shale oil workers and miners to be disappointed with the results of Labour Government whose “reforms" had, in fact, worsened their conditions. He saw the miners voting for a royalty owner, and Catholic workers voting for a Protestant Orangeman.

In Shettleston the Labour man was beaten by Mr. McGovern, who fought with the backing of the I.L.P. and its leaders (and the Catholic Press). The I.L.P. parent trying to kill its own overgrown child, the Labour Party!

In Bute and N. Ayr, Mr. A. Sloan attributed his defeat, partly at least, to the spectacle of the Labour Government putting its programme into operation.
  Frankly, I must say that the action or in- action of the late Labour Government had quite a lot to do with it. There was resentment in the minds of the workers that they had been badly let down by the Labour Government.
The Labour Government's "Means Test."
With regard to accusations against the Labour Cabinet that they had agreed to the economies, he says :—
   I have yet to see, hear, or read any reasoned reply to the accusation. I also struck the first fruits of the Anomalies Act. . . It is a means test of far reaching effect imposed by the Labour Government.(Italics his.)
Mr. Sloan gives it as his view that the Labour Government, if judged simply on its merits, would have had an even worse defeat at the polls. Only the unpopular National Government economies saved the Labour candidates some loss of votes.

In East Renfrewshire, Bailie Strain had to fight the “fighting marquis of Clydesdale," a popular sporting man, and also the I.L.P. The branch of the I.L.P. not only decided to take no part in the election, but refused to lend or hire out its hall for Labour meetings, this being done as “a protest against the actions of the Parliamentary Labour Party."

Bailie Strain, who was the Co-operative nominee, found himself up against Cooperative opposition. He says :—
   The Tories undoubtedly took full advantage of the elements, hundreds of motor cars and fine- dressed ladies, among whom were many prominent co-operators, helping to rush the electors to the polls.
Mr. A. Fraser Macintosh, at Montrose Burghs, gives a fine illustration of the dangers of depending upon leaders. His party has always told the workers to trust in MacDonald. So large numbers of Labour supporters continued to do so in this election. You cannot unmake a god in a few weeks. Other Labour supporters had become apathetic and would not vote, because the Labour Government had "let them down.’’ All that Mr. Macintosh and his helpers could do was to say that it was not the Labour Party which had betrayed the workers, but only its leaders. To which, as Mr. Macintosh confesses, the workers replied that you could not separate the leaders from the Party.
   Our little band showed them, but it was of little avail—we did not count, it was the leaders who counted, and they had let them down and would do so again.
The Labour Party cannot have it both ways. If they build a party on its leaders, they must put up with the devastating consequences when the leaders desert.

Reforms Which Hit The Miners.
Mr. J. Westwood (Peebles and S. Midlothian) was up against the opposition of the miners, whose sufferings had been aggravated by one  of the Labour Government’s "reforms.”
   There was also a feeling of bitterness amongst the miners at the inadequacy of the Coal Mines Act to deal with the problem of the mines, made more difficult by the short time worked, low wages received and recent reductions applied to our men in the Scottish coalfields.
There was also strong anti-Labour feeling, because of the Labour Government’s Anomalies Act, withdrawing unemployment pay from married women.

Helen Gault, the I.L.P. candidate for East Perth, lost 4,500 votes as compared with 1929. In that year she was official Labour candidate, and had the benefits of having MacDonald on her platform, and "generous financial assistance” from the trade unions. This time her official Labour Party endorsement was withdrawn, and with it the trade union money. She says  that the greatest factor in causing former voters to desert her was the action of the Labour Government—"My greatest handicap was undoubtedly the record of the Labour Government.” She makes the frank admission that, although she and her helpers knew that the charges against the Labour Government were true, they carefully refrained from admitting it.

The Same Thing Over Again.
The above extracts from "Forward” should serve to show what the workers actually think about the Labour Party, and how little they understand their class position and the socialist case. Here we can see the falseness of the I.L.P. and Labour Party belief that you can lead along non-socialist workers by giving them the "practical benefits” of Labour Government. Labour administration of capitalism antagonises the workers, just as speedily as Tory or Liberal administration. 

An incredible amount of work has been devoted to building up the Labour Party and I.L.P. on a basis of reforms, and when they have their chance of giving effect to their programme, capitalism simply smashes their fiddling schemes out of all recognition. It is obvious that in the election the complex jumble of plans and promises contained in "Labour and the Nation” had little effect on the voters.

They simply voted on what they conceived to be the issue of the moment. The Labour Party had been thrust through the natural unpopularity of being the Government, or had manoeuvred itself, on to the wrong side as regards electoral success. Now they are taking stock and preparing to get back again into office when the National Government also fails to solve the insoluble problems of capitalism. But the Labour leaders are not learning the real lesson of the election. They are not even aware that it has proved once more that the only basis for a Socialist Party is an understanding of Socialism. All they are doing is to mix up another mess of reforms, calculated to capture the largest number of votes.

Edgar Hardcastle

Scot's Population

It is no secret that Scotland - like many other European nations - has an ageing population. The Scottish Government has long been concerned that if migration to the UK is cut, Scotland’s population will drop in the long-term. The knock-on effect, it argues, is that fewer working-age adults would be left to pay for the pensions and services relied upon by a growing number of retirees.

The Scottish Government pointed out that 70 per cent of Scotland’s land mass is classified as “remote rural”. Areas far from urban centres already face acute demographic issues. The population of the Outer Hebrides is predicted to decline by 13.7 per cent by 2039 – the steepest fall of any Scottish region.

The Scottish Government’s Europe minister Alasdair Allan said: “The findings from this report are clear: lower migration is very likely to lead to lower growth in total employment and lower output growth, and a substantial majority of employers in Scotland remain concerned around future access to the EEA labour market.

Enough! Enough! No More Capitalism!

The great only appear great because the poor are on their knees.

There isn’t actually anything great about “the great and the good” and certainly nothing good about them. They have simply done a good propaganda job convincing everyone else that the majority is good for nothing better than to be rule over. History is littered with examples of great men who were discovered to be pathetic empty vessels.

Capitalism is a global system and has become more so with each new year. A large majority of the public now agree we are devouring the planet and they increasingly recognise that capitalism exacerbates the hardship of the people around the world. The guiding principle of capitalism, its essence is competition, the to make a profit out of one’s fellows, and to grow richer than one’s fellows. This strife is inherent in all the ramifications of society. So the contest will continue, always growing fiercer, whilst capitalism continues. Science places ever more terrible means of warfare at the disposal of the great combatants, the few rich men behind the Governments who throw the entire populations of the nations into the strife for their enrichment. It is useless to imagine that a change of parties, a change of diplomatic method, will check the gigantic contest. The United Nations itself will be used as an instrument in the hands of whichever power can succeed in dominating it.

There will always be wars,” say the apologists of capitalism but socialists know otherwise. We know that wars will cease, but only with the downfall of the capitalist system. We know, further, that with the end of capitalism the coercion of nation by nation, class by class, by which the Government of present-day society is maintained, will also disappear. We know that no half-measures will suffice and that the entire fabric of capitalism must be swept away if its evils are to be eliminated. Socialism and capitalism cannot co-exist. There is no hope in eliminating merely the big capitalist corporations, for the small capitalist is continually growing with prosperity into the large capitalist. Only complete socialism can save us from capitalism, for socialism cannot exist as a half-measure. There must be:
Common ownership of the land, the means of production, distribution, transport, and communication, and management by councils of those who do the actual work. Money, barter, and all forms of payment, and buying and selling, and wages must be abolished: Rationing of any sort can only be tolerated in case of occasional scarcity. From each according to ability, to each according to needs.

Our name “The Socialist Party” is not a marketing slogan to recruit members, it is what we are and embodies why we exist. We are a political party for a radically new world guided by an emancipatory understanding of the class struggle. 

Immigration is being used as a scapegoat for many of capitalism's problems. Anyone in capitalism can become the “other”.  Unity  – if there ever was any – is a thing of the past. Yet welcoming newcomers is first and foremost the solution to low birth rates and labour shortages. In Paris, London, Madrid, Berlin, Dublin, Malmo, Milan and a thousand other European cities diversity is being innovation and imagination. Forget about a European Union. Let Europe unite with the world instead. The reality is that it has always been just an extension of Asia and Africa. The workers of the world by migrating to Europe and doing their thing are proving this. Europe is being re-born. And that’s to be celebrated.

The Socialist Party wants the people of the world to work together to create the potential for living harmoniously with each other and with the environment.  Although each struggle is unique according to their circumstances every struggle is connected to struggles of others. For that reason, we must understand the global nature of capitalism and its contradictions.

  Our world suffers from a peculiar paradox that raises fundamental questions about our economic system. Advances in science and technology are offering exciting new solutions to age-old problems like hunger, poverty, ill health and lack of access to education and livelihood opportunities. Yet there exists the continued prevalence of deprivation and misery. A systemic change is the need of the hour to address this grave situation.  If such a movement does not take off, we will condemn another generation to hardships and destitution.

Children have become the most vulnerable victims in recent times. Civil wars, conflicts, natural and man-made disasters have not only killed millions but also rendered millions of children homeless. Shockingly, there has been a five-fold increase in the number of orphaned or unaccompanied children who have moved are refugees. More than 40 million people, most of them children and youth are victims of modern slavery. Over 150 million children are still forced to work. And more than 260 million children are being denied their fundamental right to education at the primary and secondary levels. These innocent children stare at a bleak future. We can create a world where every child lives freely with dignity. It is a socialist future that we can realise together. The capitalist system must be completely overthrown and replaced by the common ownership.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Case Against The 'Living Wage' (1931)

From the March 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

Maxton's Curious Mixture.
On February 6th, Mr. Maxton, on behalf of the Independent Labour Party, introduced into the House of Commons a Living Wage Bill. -

The Living Wage, as defined in the Bill, "means a wage at least sufficient to meet the normal needs of the average worker regarded as a human being living in a civilised community, including the satisfaction of reasonable minimum requirements of health and efficiency and of cultural life and the provision of reasonable rest and recreation."

The amount of this living wage is to be determined by a Committee, appointed by the Board of Trade, "and which shall include among its members at least three working housewives, three representatives of trade unions, and three representatives of co-operative societies.”

The Committee is to take into account "actual retail prices and other costs of living,” in addition to various other factors, and is to review the wage at least once a year. 

The wage is then to be made obligatory on Government departments, local authorities, Government contractors, and finally on all industries. That is to say, no industry may pay less than this minimum. Should any industry not be able to afford the wage, a body called the "National Industrial Reorganisation Commission” is to have power to re-organise the industry.

The I.L.P.'s Main Plank.
Mr. Maxton explained in his House of Commons speech that the living wage proposals are the basis upon which the whole programme of the I.L.P. is built up. The programme includes many items, from increased pensions and increased unemployment pay, to nationalisation of the banks and the principal industries, and State control of the import and export trade; but "this proposal for a living wage is a pivotal proposal round which all the others are arranged.”

Miss Jennie Lee, M.P., whose name also appears on the Bill, went further and admitted that the "pivotal proposal” cannot be applied without the other proposals also being applied. She said :—
  I do not pretend that this Bill could be carried into effect without great stress and great difficulties in the country. I believe that it would mean that we should have to go in for controlled prices, and once we got on to controlled prices we shall have to control the banking system.
Let us now examine the theory behind the Living Wage Bill and ask ourselves whether its effects will be worth the time and trouble necessary to apply it. Is it worth the "great stress and great difficulties,” together with all the further measures which Miss Lee admits are necessary?

What is a Living Wage?
The backers of the Bill claim to have defined a living wage. But have they? What are "normal needs”? What is an "average worker regarded as a human being”? What are the "reasonable requirements of a civilised community”? What amount of rest and recreation are "reasonable”?

The employers regard as "reasonable” any wage which makes the worker an efficient producer of profits. Hundreds of thousands of workers in the cotton mills, on the railways, in the Civil Service and Post Office, on the land and in the mines, are getting well under 40s. for a full week's work. Miss Dorothy Evans, Secretary of the Association of Women Clerks, is reported in the Daily Herald(February 19th) as stating that women clerks in the Civil Service, 21 years of age, are paid as little as 24s. 7d. in the provinces and 31s. in London. The Daily Herald on February 17th reported that the pay of farm workers in Suffolk had just been reduced from 30s. to 28s. a week.

This last case is of special interest because agricultural workers already have their “living wage” fixed by law! The Agricultural Wages Act, 1924, passed by the Labour Government (which the I.L.P. claimed was an essentially I.L.P. Government) lays it down that the minimum wage paid to an able-bodied agricultural worker shall be
   adequate to promote efficiency and to enable a man in an ordinary case to maintain himself and his family in accordance with such standard of comfort as may be reasonable in relation to the nature of his occupation:
Translated into hard cash, this means 28s. or 30s. a week!

All Mr. Maxton proposes to do, in effect, is to substitute his nebulous phrase for the nebulous phrase in the above Act, and apply it all round.

Employers To Fix The Wage.
The Bill provides that the wage shall be fixed by a Committee including working women, trade unionists and co-operative society representatives.

The Bill does not say how many persons the Committee shall consist of, nor does it say what other interests are to be represented. It is, however, to include employers.

When the seconder, Mr. Kirkwood, M.P., was asked if employers are to be excluded, he replied, “They are not excluded ” (Hansard, February 6th, col. 2297).

So we have this extraordinary position put up by a so-called working-class party, the I.L.P., that they want the employing class to have a hand in fixing what is a living wage for the workers whom they exploit!

It will be noticed, also, that the co-operative societies are expressly brought in. Why? Does it need legislation to allow the co-operative societies to pay their own employees a living wage? The co-operative societies constantly have strikes and lockouts in their concerns, and have on several occasions been charged by their employees with paying less even than the standard rates of pay. Within the past few months there has been a strike of co-operative employees—the insurance agents. Yet the I.L.P. wants the co-operative societies, with their characteristic petty employer's outlook, to sit,with other employers on the Living Wage Committee. The extent to which the co-operative societies exploit the workers in their employ is shown by the amount of wages, and the amount of profits. The retail distributive societies in 1929 (see New Leader, February 6th) paid an average amount of £130 during the year to its wage-earning and salaried staff. The surplus left after meeting all trading expenses was over £22 million pounds, equal to a further £148 per head of the staff of 176,000. They could double the wages of their workers and still have a surplus. Why does not Mr. Maxton start his living wage campaign among his friends, the co-operators?

Another important point emerges from the composition of the Living Wage Committee. It is usual on committees of this kind for the Government to appoint equal numbers of workers’ and employers’ representatives, together with some so-called "neutral” members representing the Government. Seeing that the Labour Government during their present term of office have appointed at least two wage committees which have recommended lower wages, it certainly cannot be assumed that Labour Government representatives on a Living Wage Committee would press for a wage higher than present wages. On the other hand, the co-operators who would be there to look after their own interests as employers are regarded by Mr. Maxton as being on the workers’ side. So that in fact the Living Wage Committee will be dominated by employers.

Living Wage or Lower Wage?
How much will the minimum wage be? We are given some indication that it will actually be lower than the present average wage of industrial workers.

Miss Eleanor Rathbone, M.P., the enthusiast for lower wages by means of family allowances, gave her conditional blessing to the Bill, but wanted to be assured that the wage would not be enough to keep a family, but only enough to keep a man and wife. Miss Jennie Lee, M.P., gave the desired assurance (Hansard, February 6th, col. 2313). The effect of this is obvious, and it is the effect which Miss Rathbone makes no secret of desiring. It would mean that all unmarried and childless workers would be paid less than the standard rate of wages—to the benefit of the employing class, who would get a supply of cheaper labour. In view of the composition of the Committee, the “living wage” might well be below the present average wage of industrial workers.

The Australian Model.
A memorandum attached to the Bill refers to the Australian attempts to fix and apply a “living wage.” The reference is interesting, because it gives a practical illustration of the futility of the whole scheme. In Australia a “living wage” was fixed before the war, and the scheme has had a run of about twenty years.

Mr. Maxton claims for the living wage proposal that it would permanently raise the standard of living of the workers, and be a definite step towards Socialism. Australian experience shows that it does neither.

In the Australian Senate, on November 14th, 1930, Senator Daly, for the Government, gave the information that, after allowing for the increase in unemployment and the increase in prices, the average real wage in 1929-30 was almost exactly the same as it was in 1911-12. Then in January of this year the Arbitration Court ordered a reduction of 10 per cent. in the basic wage (see Daily Telegraph, January 23rd). This reduction is quite separate from the regular adjustments for alterations in the cost of living. So that after twenty years of “living wageism” the Australian workers are now 10 per cent. worse off than when they started, and are not one iota nearer to Socialism than they were then. That is how capitalism has worked havoc with all the pretty but false theories of the Australian reformers of capitalism. Capitalism here would quickly falsify every one of the flashy. promises of the I.L.P.

Capitalism and Wages.
The living wage scheme is as full of holes as a sieve. Every attempt to fix a statutory wage has run up against the snag of unemployment. If the living wage is not higher than the existing one, it is useless. If it is higher, it will give the employers an added inducement to instal labour-saving machinery and thus increase unemployment. This tendency to instal machines operates in agriculture to-day, in spite of the low level of wages fixed by the Wages Committees.

How is the living wage to be enforced? Anyone who has seen at close hand the operation of the Agricultural Wages Act knows that in many districts the minimum rates are largely ignored. The men prefer to take less than the minimum rather than lose their employment. What remedy has the I.L.P. to offer for that? What will it do with the older men and, those not up to the average standard of fitness who will be sacked to make way for young and fit workers?

It is no answer to say that the I.L.P. also proposes to nationalise various industries. State capitalism, as applied in the Post Office, leaves the worker subject to practically all of the forces which face him in private capitalist concerns. The process of selection and throwing out the less fit men and women goes on in the Post Office as on the land and in the mines and elsewhere, although in the Post Office the method of securing the same end is slightly different. The workers in State industries suffer the additional disadvantage that they cannot seek similar employment with a different employer.

Patching Up Capitalism.
And what justification can the I.L.P. offer for a proposal which in effect is patching up the capitalist system? Mr. Maxton expected that criticism and tried to forestall it. In an interview given to the New Leader (February 6th) he said :—
  I admit that the old method of approaching the living wage problem would be correctly described as patching up capitalism. . . . Our approach is fundamentally different.
This, incidentally, is an admission that the I.L.P. ’s past policy for most of the period of the party’s existence has been a policy of patching up capitalism, as indeed was avowed by Mr. Wheatley in reference to the Housing Act he introduced as Minister of Health in the 1924 Labour Government.

The only difference Mr. Maxton could point to was that the present scheme is not based on what any particular industry can afford to pay, but on what the “nation” can afford. This is a distinction without a difference. The two schemes have precisely the same fundamental defect that they leave the capitalist system intact, and leave the capitalist class in ownership and control of the means of life. Does Mr. Maxton think that the capitalist class as a body will show a different attitude towards the wages question because they are approached nationally instead of industrially? He gives his own answer when he quotes Civil Servants as being people who are already “guaranteed a minimum wage” and whose good fortune he wishes to extend to other workers. Thousands of Civil Servants—adults working a full week —receive less than 40s. Yet influential bodies of employers constantly complain that the levels of pay in the Civil Service are too high and should be reduced. A demand has just been made to the Government by an employers' association, that Civil Service wages should be reduced to the level of the depressed export trades (see Times, February 20th). A postman, aged 32, charged with theft at Kingston, on February 21st, was receiving 49s. Id. per week. Out of this he had to keep a wife and two children and was paying 27s. 6d. a week rent (Evening News, February 21st). Mr. Maxton is a supporter of State capitalism as it exists in the Post Office, and wants to solve the workers' problems by extending that system.

Socialism The Only Remedy.
The only solution for the economic problems of the workers is Socialism. Chasing after the endless revivals of old fallacies evolved by the perverted ingenuity of the I.L.P. has brought them no lasting advantage. It has diverted their attention from things that really matter and has left them as far as ever from achieving Socialism.

Even as regards making the best of capitalism, the living wage scheme is an illusion. It is no substitute for trade unionism—Mr. Maxton admits that—it is not an improvement on trade unionism, and it is open to serious objections from which the former is free. In Australia the 10 per cent. reduction in the basic wage, referred to above, has taken place in spite of a Labour Federal Government. Resistance to the award of the Arbitration Court set up by the Australian Maxtons devolves upon the trade unions.

A measure of the irresponsibility of the I.L.P. is provided by the speech of Mr. David Kirkwood, seconding the Bill. He was asked from what source any higher wage would come. Instead of replying that an increase in the wages of the workers would be at the expense of the employers' profits, he informed an amused House of Commons that wealth can be created without limit merely by printing more bank notes.

It does not seem to have occurred to Messrs. Maxton and Kirkwood that if their money theory is sound, it is a sheer waste of time and trouble to print bank notes at all. Why not issue free blanks to the workers and let them write their own bank notes? Or, better still, solve the street litter problem by presenting used-up bus tickets over the counter in payment for goods ?

It was a curious but appropriate coincidence that on the day of Mr. Kirkwood's speech a very similar purveyor of quack nostrums—a German who collected money on the strength of a claim that he knew how to create gold out of base metals— was sentenced to a longish term of imprisonment. Political quacks who trade on the ignorance and trustfulness of the working class suffer no such penalties.
Edgar Hardcastle

Defiant Socialism

Protest. Petition. Pester your politicians. Nothing changes. No matter how large our demonstrations get, no matter how many millions of people march or write to their local MPs governments keep turning a blind eye and deaf ear to our cries for change. Only businesses and rich people manage to get legislation passed.  And sure, it looked like we had a few victories, so long as some capitalists were sympathetic to us. But when we wanted something they didn’t, Governments just didn't listen. You would have thought we would have learned from decades of experience that getting corporate- controlled politicians to pass reforms is not our only option.  We have more power than we think.  We’ve got to go beyond the appeal for palliatives routine.  If organisers and activists are going to ask people to protest, we challenge them to add a second strategy – build a socialist movement for real change.

We have a labour movement that is completely discouraged and demoralised. We have a labour movement that is unable to put up an effective struggle against our masters. It is inherent in the capitalist system that it generates discontent and protest but it has also been unfortunate that the long history of protest has been empty of political action that could end the system. It is now sad to observe the abandonment of socialist aspiration and principles amongst the labour movement. The name of socialism itself has been used by well-intentioned social reformers to cynical dictators such as Stalin or Hitler. It has been tragic that the word has suffered misuse, confusion, and distortion. But there can be no doubt that generations of working people were moved by their own problems and by their indignation at the plight of others, dedicated their political lives to a vision of a better society and for whom socialism meant an end to privilege and exploitation, and in place of these evils, the building of a new world. Now is a time for learning from past mistakes and for remember those who came before us.

The fact that the capitalist system is stronger and more extensive than ever is disappointing by it should provide fresh impetus to the work for socialism. World socialism is now a practical possibility because over the past three hundred years global capitalism has developed a material basis for. The aim of socialism is to establish the relationships of equality that will dignify and empower our communities and so enable them to solve social problems in the interests of all people. The problems are huge. The actions and organisation required to solve them mean that, to begin with communities in socialism will be bound to respond to these compelling pressures of necessity. This will determine what socialism will have to do and this sets out a framework of known facts within which we may propose how socialism could be organised. 

The workers are an overwhelming majority and their strength is multiplied by their vital position in the centres of production everywhere. An educated and conscious working class will insist on democracy.  When there is plenty for all, there is no material basis for a privileged bureaucracy and the danger, therefore, is eliminated.  The Socialist Party has no intention of forming a government and trying to solve the problems of modern capitalism. It was certainly under no such illusion that a “workers' state” could control capitalism in the interests of the workers. Political parties which pretend that governments have the power to solve the problems of capitalist society are deceiving their supporters: and so it is no wonder that voters are deeply disenchanted with politicians and even the democratic process itself.  We can see today that even the limited democracy we have achieved can seep away because capitalism is antithetical to genuine democracy. What the Socialist Party seeks is a society in which questions such as education, transport, and housing are under the control of real democracy, not the economy and the insatiable drive for profit. We consider that capitalism urgently needs superseding by an organisation of society in which people will work, but not be employed as wage-slaves; in which goods are produced because they are needed, not because of the drive for profit; in which men an women make decisions for themselves, and not have them compulsorily imposed upon them in the interests of our ruling class.

The capitalist system has exhausted every possibility of meaningful development. 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. There is in reality only one world. It is high time we reclaimed it. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Capitalism: The Threat to Humanity

Beyond the madness of the capitalist system there lies a great prospect. In place of a world driven by competition and conflict, there is the prospect of a united humanity. Instead of being driven by the economic laws of an exploitative system there lies the prospect of a society that would work democratically in the interests of all people. This is the prospect of a new society based on common ownership, democratic control and production solely for needs.  The only way the capitalist system will be consigned to history is when a majority of people take political action to end it.  We hold in our own hands the possibility of a different world system with a good life for all people in peace and prosperity. But instead of one world, one people, we have exploitation, war and poverty. The present lurch towards nationalism, conservatism and the politics of hate is regressive and can only bring more misery. Never has there been so much misery whilst the potential for a better world are so close. We have a network of world production; we have the communications; we have abundant labour with every necessary skill and talent; we have decision-making bodies; we have administrations at local, regional and world levels; all of which could be swiftly adapted, re-organised and developed so as to concentrate all these resources on providing directly for needs. However divided the world may seem to be, all people share common needs which can only be served by cooperation.  When divisive politics prevent people from coming together as a united humanity socialists argue for a world organised solely for needs, in which all stand in equal relation with each other.

The challenge of building a new world society may appear to be a daunting task. Indeed, it would involve great change and a re-organisation of the way we live. However, when we speak of a "new world society", the word "new" should be qualified because there would be nothing in socialist society that would be outside age-old human experience. In this sense very little would be new. Socialism will depend on voluntary cooperation and there would be nothing new about this. Cooperation is a vital part of any society, even capitalism. In looking forward to a society organised through cooperation we do not imagine anything new, on the contrary, we recall age-old relationships which have always been in harmony with our basic human makeup. It is for this reason that every person is capable of cooperating with others to the benefit of all. Cooperation is not simply a moral choice, it is a relationship that enhances our lives and is in every person's material interest. In setting out the practical ways in which society could be organised through cooperation we are proposing that cooperation is brought back to the activity that matters most, that is, in the entire organisation of our lives. To argue and organise for a world in which each person would be responsible for their own lives and by working in cooperation, for the lives of other citizens; a world where this is made possible by the use of all resources, solely and directly for the interests of communities, is not an objective that should run counter to the basic hopes of anyone. Whilst a work on politics cannot avoid the use of political labels it is all too often the case that labels act as a barrier to communication. Just as these proposals for a changed world are argued as a response to needs that are universal, so are they in accord with the basic hopes and aims of all reasonable people, who may at present, appear to be divided by separate political identities. In this view, the ideas that could unite humanity in a changed society are the ideas that could unite a majority of people in working for it. The appeal of freedom and social justice extends to more than those whose loyalties are to radical politics. It appeals to all those, of whatever political complexion, who value freedom of choice, responsibility and the interests of the whole community. In this sense, although socialism has to be clearly defined and systematically argued as a distinct political choice, it rises above the traditional political differences that have existed between radical, conservative and liberal views. The various creeds that divide people into separate parties can be seen as motivated by aims which have many things in common.

Socialism will operate with one simple and ordinary human ability which is universal; the ability of every individual to co-operate with others in a world wide community of interests. For this, co-operative labour must have free access to all the means of production, distribution and the earth's resources which are our common inheritance. As well as its abundant natural wealth everything in this inheritance has only one source which is useful work in all its variety. This has been the work of arts and crafts; science and technology; mining and industry; tool making and manufacturing; building, farming, transport; services such as health and education. All these skills represent the accumulated power of useful labour. Wherever we look throughout the world we see the best things it can do once it can flourish in freedom for the needs of all people. The first task of socialism will be to solve the great social problems of capitalist society. This will be co-operation to produce more food, to provide housing, sanitation and clean water for the hundreds of millions who endure sub-standard conditions or who live in squalor; to provide health services; to construct a safe world energy system, to stop the despoliation of the planet and the pollution of its atmosphere, seas, forests and lands; to provide for education, enjoyment and world contact. These are the great projects for which world socialism would release the immense resources of useful labour that are now exploited, misused or wasted by the insanities of the profit system.