Monday, April 30, 2018

The Meaning of Social Revolution

An Address, delivered for the S. P. of C. in the Labor Temple, Winnipeg,

March 9, 1945, by J. Milne

The word Revolution is a source of fear to a great many people. In their minds, it brings forth a picture of civil strife, bloodshed, and destruction. It portrays the ruin of all the things they love and respect, and the setting up of conditions too horrible even to mention. It is a word that is not pleasantly received.

On the one hand, this attitude arises from a genuine consciousness of economic interests. To the owners of capital, it is not disturbing that dictatorships spread themselves across the earth, leaving economic and intellectual wretchedness in their wake – so long as the interests of capital are not affected thereby. These activities, indeed, are even useful at times, since they give the proper people a firmer grip on the affairs of society by cleansing the minds and purging the ranks of workmen who have become misguided and discontented. To the owners of capital, it is not disturbing that bombs should drop from the skies, that the work of man should be reduced to rubble, and that men, women, and children should be ground into that rubble – if these things happen in the interests of capital. To the owners of capital, it is fitting that insecurity and want should be permanent features of a world of plenty since these are the only things upon which power and wealth can be built. But Revolution! Intolerable!

On the other hand, this attitude towards Revolution arises from a genuine lack of consciousness of economic interests. The workers of the world do not understand wherein their interests lie. They are under the influence of the perverted outlook of the ruling class; and because of this they accept the evils of modern society with tolerance, or resentment turned in the wrong directions, while they face the thought of Revolution with an almost unanimous opposition.

We stand for Revolution. But let it be made clear now that we mean by Revolution, not the things they say we mean, not the tortured existence with which you are now all so familiar, not a change of rulers, masters, or government personnel: we mean a change that will put an end to all these things, a basic change in the economic relationships of society. We mean a Social Revolution – a Socialist Revolution.

Why do we speak of Revolution? There is a reason. What is it? Well, as a starting point, let us ask the question: “Is everyone satisfied with society as it is today?” Even the most optimistic capitalist apologist would be compelled to answer in the negative. There can be no dispute about the fact that discontent is widespread. It is not active, but it does exist. Why are people discontented? Why are you discontented? Ask this question of yourself and of your workmates. Consider the answers. In other parts of the earth, we should be obliged to head the list with the terror brought by bombs and shells; the grief brought by ruined homes; and the horror of living in the midst of death and destruction. Here, we must head the list with the sorrow brought by little items: “Missing”, “Seriously wounded”, “Fallen in the line of duty”. And following these comes the discontent arising from the many restrictions and impositions brought by war, the shortages in housing and in consumers’ goods, the rising price levels, etc.

It may be said that this discontent may be attributed mainly to the war. That may be conceded, but was the war necessary? “Yes”, perhaps you will answer, “It was necessary to destroy Hitler before he destroys us”. But that sort of thing was done once before, was it not? “No”, may come the reply, “but that was because we didn’t do a good enough job of it at that time. We shall not make the same mistake again.” But let us suppose that a better job had been done last time. Would it have prevented the coming of Mussolini? Would it have prevented the rise of Japan? Would there never have been the Hungry Thirties? And let us suppose that, after the war, Germany is completely exterminated. Will that prevent another Hitler from arising somewhere else – perhaps here? Will that prevent another great depression, another great war?

These questions are occurring to workers. Only so far, at present, can they find answers that satisfy them. The other questions remain unanswered, vaguely imprinted on their minds, but looming ever greater as the months go by, bringing with them the dawning thought that life can never be more than an endless circle of want and viciousness, that their periods of greatest access to the products of their own labors can come only at times when millions of their kind are thrown at each other’s throats, only at times of greatest tragedy.

A truly disturbing thought! Yet, where can there be found reason for another thought? Government plans for the post-war world (insofar as these concern the workers) are designed solely to check actual starvation. How can such plans be reconciled with the thought of a world of plenty? The “Big Three” conferences have already produced visible signs of disagreement, and if such signs are apparent in the midst of war, what hope can there be that the defeat of their present opponents will bring an end to such conflicts? Peace and plenty may feature prominently in the words of capital, but there is little room for them in the deeds of capital. They talk of plenty and prepare for scarcity; they talk of peace and prepare for war.

But even though the public figures of our time, the trusted and honored statesmen of today, can and will do nothing to ease the fears and difficulties of mankind, something can be done; and our task is to show what can be done and how it is to be done. This explanation will bring you closer to an understanding of the meaning of Social Revolution.

There is one outstanding problem in modern society. It runs constantly through all the changing fortunes of capitalism, ever present, tending to become ever more intense with the passage of time. And that is the problem of poverty. If we trace back this problem to its breeding ground, we shall find that these other problems which I have mentioned are related to it in such a way that their solution can be effected only through the solution of this fundamental problem. The insecurity of trade depressions, the destructiveness of modern wars, the wretchedness of everyday life under capitalism can be ended only when poverty is ended.

You and I and the great mass of humanity, in order to live, are obliged to work for other people. We have no choice in the matter. The mills, the mines, the factories, all the things that are needed to sustain the life of all the people are owned by only a few of the people – the capitalists. This is a statement that hardly needs to be elaborated upon. It is common knowledge. What is not common knowledge is the fact that here is to be found the source of the great evils of today.

The modern worker works in a plant which he does not own, with machinery which he does not own; and the wealth which he produces, he does not own. What he receives in return is contained in an envelope, or is represented by a check, and is called wages. And his wages are a claim upon the wealth which he has produced. Not all the wealth; only some of it. He does not receive wealth proportionate to the amount which he produces. His wages rise at one time, and fall at another time; then rise and fall again at other times, depending largely upon the conditions of the labor market. His productivity does not fluctuate like that. And if we examine his real wage (i. e., the amount of goods he can obtain for his money wage) over an extended period of time, it will be seen that his standard of life has increased only in a trifling degree (in many cases not at all), and even this increase is of doubtful benefit in view of the greater insecurity of advancing capitalism. Contrasted with the steady and tremendous advance in productivity, there can be room for doubt that the living standards of the workers come a sad-looking second.

Then what becomes of the ever-increasing wealth which the workers produce but do not receive? Into the coffers of capital it goes. Part of it is used for the replacement and expansion of plant and machinery. Part of it, of course, is used to surround the capitalist with massive evidences of wealth and luxury. Part of it used to pay off the politicians, pedagogues, priests, pressmen and such like for their services in keeping the minds of the workers stunted.

But, between the factory and the coffers of capital, a devious line is travelled by the wealth produced by labor. Obviously, the articles produced in a given plant are not in themselves of much use to the plant owner. The manufacturer of shoes can wear only one pair of shoes. It may suit his vanity to reserve for his personal use a dozen pair, or even more; but clearly he cannot use the entire output of a shoe factory. And that, of course, is not his purpose. Neither is it his purpose to provide shoes to those who need shoes. His purpose is to realize profits. So the shoes, which the workers have produced for him, are placed on the market, to be bought by those who need them and have the price to pay for them. And this, as everyone knows, is what happens to the entire out of modern industry.

The workers, as we have already pointed out, are not in a position to buy back all their produce. Only part of it is within their means. Nor can the capitalists themselves consume the balance. They are compelled, therefore, to reach ever farther afield in search of new outlets for their commodities.

But the markets thus created, although always expanding, do not expand at a rate uniform with expanding productivity and production, and every so often great masses of wealth pile up and cause the capitalists to curtail production. Then we have the spectacle of idle and hungry workers trudging the streets in search of work and begging the powers that be for crusts of bread in a land of plenty. Such a condition existed during the Hungry Thirties. And the great surpluses of wealth at that time were never fully disposed of until the present war was well under way.

In the everyday production and circulation of wealth, the capitalists find themselves in need of sources of raw materials, protection in the transport of goods, new markets, etc. They fight amongst themselves over these things. In a given country their differences are settled periodically at the ballot box. On the international field, they frequently resort to violence, and the workers are then called upon to join in the fight for freedom, to save the world for democracy, to defend “our way of life” and such-like nonsense. Such is the true nature of this war.

This has been a brief sketch of the adventuresome and troublesome nature of commodity production. A great deal more could be said on the subject. But perhaps enough has been said at this time to more than strongly suggest that wars are not the result of the wickedness of power-mad dictators, that depressions are not unfortunate natural phenomena, and that poverty is not the result of the failure of individuals to get ahead in the world. Perhaps enough has been said to show that these evils are definitely related, that they are definite features of the economic fabric of society as at present constituted. Perhaps enough has been said to show that they stem directly from the capitalist ownership of the means of life.

A lot of people around us think something ought to be done for the workers. They think wages somehow out to be protected and even increased – reasonably, of course. They think someone ought to take the workers under a protective wing during times of depression, that minimum standards ought to be set up, that boards of this and that ought to be formed, that the government ought to purchase some industries. They think that if something (almost anything, it would seem) was done by a well-meaning government, it would prove beneficial to the downtrodden underdog.

These people (and occupying an honored position within their ranks may be found the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation) forget, or don’t know, that they are not pioneers in this kind of activity, that they are simply the current representatives of a long line of misinformed warriors who have been baying at the moon for generations. Two great modern monuments provide adequate testimony to the success of their efforts: the Great Depression of the Hungry Thirties and the Great Catastrophe of the Bloody Forties.

Capitalism reminds one of the German workers back in the days of secret rearmament in Germany. He worked in a factory that produced parts for baby carriages. His wife was to have a baby, so he naturally had to carry home the necessary parts. He complained bitterly afterwards because, no matter how he assembled the parts, the results was always the same – a machine gun.

Capitalism is like that. No matter what you do to it, it reacts in the same way. Wrap yourself up in capitalism, sew up its rips and tears, call it by some other name, and it will still be a poor shelter from the wind.

The solution to the problem is Revolution – Social Revolution. And by this we mean a new system of society, a system in which there will be neither private nor government ownership of the means for producing and distributing wealth, a system in which all these things will be owned in common by all the people, where wealth will be produced for no other purpose than to satisfy human needs. We do not mean a condition of chaos, anarchy, and bloodshed. We have these things now. We mean a system in which peace, happiness, and freedom for the mass of the people will have a real meaning for the first time in history. We mean a system of society in which poverty, wars, insecurity and all the evils existing and arising from the economic nature of capitalism will be ended, once and for all time.

Is there any reason why such a state of affairs ought not to be introduced? For thousands of years the slaves of society, with brains and brawn and sweat and blood, have toiled to develop and erect the magnificent structure that is the modern means for producing the needs of mankind. Who can stand up and state bluntly that only the capitalist class may own these means and benefit from their operation? Who can stand up and state bluntly that the workers of the world should continue to live in hovels and feed on swill and shower the greatness of their ever-expanding abilities on the lap of a useless parasite class?

Is there any reason why the state of affairs which we propose cannot be introduced? The workers feed and clothe and fight for the capitalist class. They wait on them hand and foot and carry them around on their backs from the cradle to the grave. When they decide that they will no longer engage in such foolishness, what power on earth is great enough to prevent them from asserting their will?

The day is coming when the workers of the world will rise from their knees, conscious of their own interests, their own strength, their own destiny. The day is coming when the workers of the world will proceed about the task of building society anew. How soon that day will come depends on how soon is built into an overwhelming force the movement striving for its attainment. Today that movement is small, but its growth is the growth of the working class will to power. It is not a movement of banners and bunting, of fanfares and parades. Neither fireworks nor heroics feature its activities. But it is the greatest movement ever undertaken by man. And those who are its members are sure of their position, proud of their position, and certain that every step they take is a step forward. They know where they are going and they know how to get there.

We invite you to join us. We offer you freedom from the mental enslavement of class society. We offer you the companionship of men and women who are not carried away by the sham, the hypocrisy, the lies of a decadent ruling class. Most of all, we offer you an opportunity to roll up your sleeves and take part in the activities of the one movement worthwhile – the movement for Social Revolution.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Capitalism Versus the Environment

Year in and year out we release millions of tonnes of hothouse gases into the atmosphere. Tropical forests are destroyed and farm-land seriously degraded.  These are global changes which involve incredible risks. Some of the dangers are understood but nobody knows and nobody can predict the critical point when any combination of such changes might produce a sequence of further rapid changes which would be catastrophic from a human point of view. Obviously, we share the concern of the environmentalists about the importance of the problem, and we too want a planet where we do not damage the environment. The first thing we've got to do is identify the cause of the problem and here the Socialist Party begins to part company with most ecologists. If one reads the literature from the likes of Friends of the Earth and others, you'll notice that they never truly identify the cause of the problem. Global warming and climate change result from the economic limitations of a system that puts privileged class interests before the needs of the community. The cause is capitalism which puts profit before needs and which therefore puts profit before the protection of the environment. The problem is out of control because the economic constraints of the system prevent the problems being solved. Rational resolutions to environmental destruction are impossible in the mad world of capitalism. 

It must be clear that a set of problems which are global in scale, affecting populations across the entire planet, can only be effectively tackled by cooperation between all peoples. You can't have the world divided up between rival capitalist states — all driven by economic competition both within their boundaries and between each other and all driven by the economic pressures of profit and class interests, with a good many of them at actual war with each other — and expect to be in a position to solve the problems of the global environment. Effective action has got to be based on world cooperation. we have to be in a position of control. In other words, we must be in a position of being able to make democratic decisions about what must be done and must be free to take the necessary action, using the available means without any economic constraints. It is surely self-evident that unless we have cooperation and control we are never going to begin to solve the problem and that we cannot get cooperation within capitalism.

The various international conferences on climate change have failed to make any significant progress and it could be said that they are mere forums for empty rhetoric, intended to put a public relations gloss on government inaction. However, the fact that these are international discussions does recognise one important thing. They accept that the problems are global and that global consensus is required for action on a global scale. What dooms them to failure is the fact that they take place in a world that is divided into nation-states which are in economic competition with each other. This makes global consensus impossible and rules out any effective global action. The pressures to keep down costs and protect profits means that the technology for reducing pollution is either ignored or applied in a minimal token way. With all people united about their shared interests, the division of the world into rival capitalist states will be replaced by a democratic administration organised on a world, regional and local levels. The global nature of the problem would surely require a world energy organisation and we can anticipate that its functions could include bringing together technical experts and planners from across the world and setting up research projects. This research would not be constrained by costs and it would not be tainted by commercial or nationalistic interests. Nor would it be shrouded in secrecy or geared to national security. So, in a completely open society, such a world energy organisation would make available all the most up-to-date information on the problems of pollution together with the various technical options for acting on them. Such information would be the basis on which democratic decisions would be made.

To get cooperation we first have to get rid of the present system which is based on economic competition. We need to establish a system based instead on common ownership, a world socialist cooperative commonwealth, where all means of producing and distributing goods and all productive resources are held in common by the whole community. This means the end of the wages system through which workers are exploited for profit and the end of producing goods for sale so as to get that profit. It means people living and working in the community in a relationship of direct cooperation with each other, producing the goods and running the services that we need. This is a way of organising the community where the use of money will be entirely redundant. If we establish common ownership, if we set up a society which is run solely for human needs as a result of people cooperating together, we are at fast in a position where we can control our actions. Under capitalism, we are at the mercy of economic forces that nobody can control. Get rid of these economic forces and we are at last in a position to make democratic decisions about how best to use production for the benefit of the community. With the establishment of socialism, we will throw off the economic shackles of the profit system and break through into the freedom to use all our talents, skills and energies to solve problems through co-operation.

The object of the Socialist Party is to create relationships of co-operation between all people and to solve the problems caused by capitalist society. Initially, this will involve a commitment to great world projects requiring a new democratic administration, new institutions, and expanded production. However, we can also anticipate that in a situation where much of this great work has been accomplished there could be an eventual fall in production. This suggests the possibility of a sustainable, "steady-state" society which could work within the natural systems of the environment in a non-destructive way. When te Socialist Party speaks of a stable, sustainable society we do not mean a static society in which there is no development. On the contrary, when liberated from the profit motive of corporate research and the military machines of capitalist states, science will flourish and will serve the interests of all people. Nor do we suggest that new science will not result in new technology. The urgent need for care of the environment will be just one field where research and new technology would be given priority. However, we should also recognise that the abolition of all the economic constraints imposed by the market system on the use of labour will bring enormously increased powers of production. In socialism it will be possible to produce vast amounts of goods. It is in the light of this fact that people in socialism would have to ask if it makes sense to go on and on producing whilst using up the planet's resources or whether there should be voluntary limits to consumption and an eventual scaling down of productive activity. The Socialist Party do not presume to lay down in advance what decisions will be made in socialism we can set out a possible way of achieving an eventual zero growth society operating in a stable and ecologically benign way. This could be achieved in three main phases. First, there would have to be emergency action to relieve the worst problems of food shortages, health care, and housing which affect billions of people throughout the world. Secondly, longer-term action to construct means of production and infrastructures such as transport systems for the supply of permanent housing and durable consumption goods. These could be designed in line with conservation principles, which means they would be made to last for a long time, using materials that where possible could be re-cycled and would require minimum maintenance. Thirdly, with these objectives achieved there could be an eventual fall in production, and society could move into a stable mode. This would achieve a rhythm of daily production in line with daily needs with no significant growth. On this basis, the world community could reconcile two great needs, the need to live in material well being whilst looking after the planet which is our shared home in space. Seen solely from a technical point of view there is no doubt many ways in which the damage caused by pollution could be reduced with different uses of labour. But before any of these can become real options on which communities can freely make democratic decisions, labour itself must first be liberated. Labour must enjoy its own freedom outside the present enclosed system of commodity exchange in which it is confined to its function of profit making and the accumulation of capital.

The idea of a zero growth, sustainable society is not new and has been put forward by the Green movement. But whilst many of the declared aims of the Greens appear to be desirable these are contradicted by a fatal flaw in their policies. They stand for the continuation of the market system. The environmentalist activists aim to retain the market system in which goods are produced for sale at a profit. This must mean the continuation of the capitalist system which is the cause of the problems of pollution in the first place. Those in the environmentalist movement has never been able to answer the question which is how it can achieve a zero growth, sustainable society whilst retaining a market system which includes an irresistible, built in pressure to increase sales for profit and where if sales collapse, society tends to break down in recession, unemployment, and financial crisis. The only way in which the aims of the Greens could be achieved is through socialism. Not even in the most optimistic dreams of defenders of the free market will the "care of the environment" ever be made to equal "accumulation of capital". 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

UBI or Not?

In Scotland, the Green Party has proposed a model of UBI which could get close to being fiscally neutral. This would see much of the existing welfare system replaced by a payment of £5,200 per year for adults and £2,600 for children, alongside significant reform the tax system. In this scenario, personal allowances would be removed and combined tax and NI rates increased for all.
Citing security in the labour market as a key reason for the policy proposal, this model has been welcomed by proponents of UBI. However, at £400 a month for adults while also removing almost all the welfare state, it is unlikely to buy much economic freedom for those on low incomes or insecure and exploitative employment contracts. In reality some would see their incomes drop. For instance, in Scotland, lone parents would see their monthly earnings fall by around £300 a month.
What’s more, a model of UBI paid at this level would also have notable impacts on rates of relative poverty. Were this model introduced in the UK as a whole, it would also raise relative child poverty by 17%, placing a further 750,000 children into households who earn below 60% of the median income. This is because while it would raise the incomes of those earning the least, it would also raise incomes for all but the highest income decile, lifting the poverty line higher.
Research commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has similarly found that UBI schemes increase relative poverty for working-age adults, children, and pensioners. The introduction of a UBI, according to their modelling, could see the number of children in poverty rise by up to 60%.
Increasing the incomes of those at the bottom of the distribution is imperative. This is demonstrated clearly by the rise of food banks deprivation and income crisis in the UK since 2010, which is a direct result of government policy choices. However, using a UBI to achieve this, at the expense of say increases or reforms to Universal Credit and a more generous and less conditional unemployment benefit, comes at the cost of addressing, and in fact exacerbating, relative poverty. The pursuit of a fiscally neutral UBI has led to a series of proposals which, if implemented, would do little to raise the material circumstance of those in poverty nor provide sufficient additional power in the labour market. 
The Socialist Party is in favour of a society of common ownership and democratic control where people wouldn't have "incomes" but have free access to what they needed. The Socialist Party declares that most proposals for a UBI are merely just tax reformism and a reform of the poor law.

Advocating a New Society

Capitalism has almost engulfed the whole world. Every nation is involved in world trade and cannot escape the influence of international power politics, with its alliances and war preparations. Technical innovation goes on apace, augmenting military might, intensifying the labour process and maximising the exploitation of the worker. This drive for greater technical efficiency is basic to capitalism's insatiable thirst for profits; humanity's real needs are not considered. Science serves the ends of the capitalist system. It serves the military might of nations. It serves industrial efficiency not by satisfying community needs, but by intensifying the exploitation of the working class. Years ago Western workers, the Asian peasants and tribal Africans were living in different worlds. Today we live very similar lives. The same social problems are increasingly imposing themselves upon us. We are all cogs in the machinery of capitalism, and are exploited in the same way. Our diets and our language may differ, but the workers day-to-day material problems are essentially the same. Capitalism cannot avoid a continuing ferment of discontent, albeit generally expressed in negative ways, through hate, violence, cynicism and even despair. Politicians display little or no vision in a world dominated by corporate power, ignorance, denial, and greed. The capitalist economy treats natural resources as a business, undermining the life-support systems of our planet. The entire political and economic system of capitalism is inherently unstable Capitalist production is enclosed within an exchange economy. It does expand, but only as the self-expansion of capital takes place through the exploitation of the working class—through the use of wage labour. Defenders of the market system claim that the cost/price factors, through which it operates. enable modern production to be organised in a rational manner, that without the market modern production would break down and could not carry on in a practical way. Experience shows that it is precisely the operation of the market which constrains and dislocates modern production. It is only by first abolishing the market system that the useful structure of modern production could become free to be run in a practical way, directly for human needs. Without the market, production could be operated more efficiently in direct line with human needs. This could avoid all the present wasteful features. Whereas "oversupply" of the material in relation to the capacity of the market for sales at a profit involves a denial of human needs, in socialism the position of oversupply would not be reached until human needs had been met. However, it should be noted that behind the madness of the market, there are useful administrative structures which could provide ready-made organisation for the operation of production solely for use.

With socialism, on the basis of common ownership, the producers' social existence is formed by direct relationships of co-operative activity about mutual needs. The co-ordination of the world division of labour for production for use can be achieved by modern information technology without the need for centralised control. A complete monitoring of world production is now technically possible at any level throughout the entire system. With a shared and equal interest between all people in world production, control can be maintained by a system of decentralised co-operation. Centralised State control is hostile to democracy. The present position whereby governments impose their decisions on the wider population will have to be replaced by a system of decision-making and action where the decisions flow from the broadest social base to make up the democratic view of the community. This is the reverse of the present system of centralised state control, and it is what is meant in the socialist object by democratic control, by and in the interests of the whole community. Production for use and democratic control is adaptable. Different productive activities can be organised in different ways according to practicality and according to the importance of the activity as it affects the whole community. All sorts of spontaneous activities could arise in different local communities.

A great deal of discussion about socialism centres on how needs will be determined in the absence of markets, money and prices. How will decisions be made about production? Needs are socially given by the nature of existing problems. The objective of socialism is to organise society directly for human needs and therefore support for socialism must be on the basis that we take over the means of production and resources, and then concentrate the priorities of social action on the areas of greatest human need.  Socialism will abolish all economic relationships of exchange.  The capitalist exchange relationships between commodities themselves, including the human commodity, labour power, will be replaced by a direct relationship in the line of productive activity; items of wealth, and human need. This direct relationship of wealth to need replaces the capitalist relationship between things. The price mechanism which transmits an economic message throughout capitalist production, to do with cheapness and competitive, profit-making success, will be replaced in socialism with a direct relationship of production to human needs. Socialism will enjoy the flexibility to combine different methods of production where this might be considered necessary by the community. It will deploy all its resources more freely according to practicality and desirability regardless of possibly different rates of working efficiency. Socialism will enjoy more people available for the production of useful wealth; without the limits of market capacity it will enjoy greater use of production methods; without price competition it will enjoy wider selection of production methods; with the ending of national barriers it will enjoy a more rational deployment of world resources; and without capital investment it will enjoy greater adaptability of social production. Socialism will combine all these practical advantages with all the criteria for the selection of production methods according to need, such as material necessity, the enjoyment of work, safety, care of the environment, conservation.

The only remaining barriers against a system of integrated world production are the class relations of capitalism, the profit motive, and the political division of the world into rival capitalist nations.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Fracking Dangers

One of South Korea’s largest earthquakes on record may have been caused by hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – according to a study. A team of researchers from the University of Glasgow, ETH-Zurich in Switzerland and GFZ-Potsdam in Germany analysed data from seismographic stations as well as satellite data to locate where the main shock and 46 aftershocks of the quake occurred.

For decades, the Korean peninsula has seen almost no seismic activity. A magnitude-5.5 earthquake hit the south-eastern city of Pohang on 15 November, injuring at least 70 people, temporarily displacing hundreds, and causing millions of dollars of damage.  Residents and researchers have questioned whether the quake could be connected to a geothermal plant – the country’s first – less than 2km (about 1 mile) away.

 The main shock occurred within 1.5km of where plant workers had been pumping thousands of cubic metres of water into the ground, creating or opening fractures in the rocks to enable water to pass between boreholes. The last of those injections was about two months before the quake. They also found that the main shock and aftershocks all occurred at depths of between 3 and 7km, which are shallow compared to previous quakes in that area, but similar to the depths at which the water was being injected.
“It would be a very a remarkable coincidence if this earthquake were to be unrelated to the activity at the site, given that it occurred so close to it,” said Robert Westaway, a senior research fellow at Glasgow university’s school of engineering, and one of the paper’s co-authors. “My own personal view is that it is highly likely there is a connection...“No one ever thought that injecting such a small amount of water could lead to such a large earthquake,” Westaway said.

The Yellow Brick Road

"Have you heard of the wonderful wizard, The wonderful Wizard of Oz, And he is a wonderful wizard, If ever a wizard there was"

While many today consider gold an instrument of financial and personal freedom, Frank Baum, author of 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' painted it as a villain - the tool of oppression. Baum published the book in 1900, just after the US emerged from a period of deflation and depression. Prices had fallen by about 22% over the previous 16 years, causing huge debt. Farmers were among those badly affected, and the Populist political party was set up to represent their interests and those of industrial labourers. The US was then operating on the gold standard - a monetary system which valued the dollar according to the quantity of gold. A key plank in the Populist Party platform was a demand for "free silver" - that is, the "free and unlimited coinage of silver and gold" at a fixed ratio of sixteen to one. Populists and other free-silver proponents advocated unlimited coinage of the white metal in order to inflate the money supply, This would have increased the US money supply, raised price levels and reduced farmers' debt burdens thus making it easier for cash-strapped farmers and small businessmen to borrow money and pay off debts. Baum's allegory is a critique of the Populist rationale. The Land of Oz, is a microcosm of America and Oz is short for ounce, the measure for gold and silver. Emerald City, its center, and seat of government, represents Washington, D.C. The journey to Emerald City corresponds to the Populists effort to acquire power in Washington. The yellow brick road is the gold standard. The brainless Scarecrow represents the midwestern farmers. The Tin Man represents the nation's workers, in particular, the industrial workers. The Wicked Witch of the West and the Wicked Witch of the East represent financial-industrial interests and their gold-standard political allies (NY banker J.P.Morgan and JD Rockefeller), the Emerald City of Oz (greenback money is also a delusion). The Wizard is simply a manipulative politician who appears to the people in one form, but works behind the scenes to achieve his true ends through deceit, and even Dorothy’s silver slippers (changed to ruby slippers for more effect in the color movie version) is a symbol of the belief that adding silver coin to gold coin would provide much-needed money to a depression-strapped, 1890s America). Oz is full of monetary reform symbolism.

But it also included some utopian hopes.

In the sequel to the Wizard of Oz 'The Road to Oz' Baum has the Tinwoodman explain:
“It must have cost a lot of money,” remarked the shaggy man. 
“Money! Money in Oz!” cried the Tin Woodman. “What a queer idea! Did you suppose we are so vulgar as to use money here?” 
“Why not?” asked the shaggy man. 
“If we used money to buy things with, instead of love and kindness and the desire to please one another, then we should be no better than the rest of the world,” declared the Tin Woodman. “Fortunately money is not known in the Land of Oz at all. We have no rich, and no poor; for what one wishes the others all try to give him, in order to make him happy, and no one in all Oz cares to have more than he can use...
...[later]"Don't they work at all?" asked the shaggy man.
"To be sure they work," replied the Tin Woodman; "this fair city could not be built or cared for without labor, nor could the fruit and vegetables and other food be provided for the inhabitants to eat. But no one works more than half his time, and the people of Oz enjoy their labors as much as they do their play." ”

The next book in the series, The Emerald City of Oz, Baum goes into more detail (inconsistencies notwithstanding) on the money-less economics:
"There were no poor people in the Land of Oz because there were no such things as money, and all the property of every sort belonged to the Ruler. The people were her children, and she cared for them. Each person was given freely by his neighbors whatever he required for his use, which is as much as anyone may reasonably desire. Some tilled the land and raised great crops of grain, which was divided equally among the entire population so that all had enough. There were many tailors and dressmakers and shoemakers and the like, that made things that any who desired them might wear. Likewise, there were jewellers who made ornaments for the person, which pleased and beautified the people, and these ornaments also were free to those who asked for them. Each man and woman, no matter what he or she produced for the good of the community, was supplied by the neighbors with food and clothing and a house and furniture and ornaments and games. If by chance the supply ever ran short, more was taken from the great storehouses of the Ruler, which were afterward filled up again when there was more of any article than the people needed. Every one worked half the time and played half the time, and the people enjoyed the work as much as they did the play, because it is good to be occupied and to have something to do. There were no cruel overseers set to watch them, and no one to rebuke them or to find fault with them. So each one was proud to do all he could for his friends and neighbors, and was glad when they would accept the things he produced." 

A wizard idea !!!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Change Must Come

Our planet requires a radical rethink by all of us. It requires an economic, social and environmental revolution. We need to think BIG. We do not have the luxury of waiting any longer nor of pinning our hopes on a new government. This may sound apocalyptic, but it is not hyperbole. We need to organise now.

The Socialist Party is up against the fact of life that a new generation has to be convinced afresh that socialism does, in fact, represent a more benevolent an more efficient system for people, that the socialist's idea of the withering away of the state is not a pipe-dream, but a realistic proposal for the future society of human society. The prospects for socialism will be created only when people believe these things again, and only by reasoned debate and discussion can we hope to convince them. Marx and Engels did not identify socialism with nationalisation of property. Their attitude to the state was one of unremitting hostility. Far from wishing to expand its activities, they sought to do away with it. In 1844, Marx declared that the most useful thing the state could do for society was to commit suicide. The following year, he and Engels declared ‘... if the proletarians wish to assert themselves as individuals, they must overthrow the state.’ Marx celebrated the Paris Commune of 1871 on the grounds that it was ‘a Revolution against the State itself’. And in 1884, Engels looked forward to the day when the state would end its life ‘in the Museum of Antiquities, by the side of the spinning wheel and the bronze axe’. What inspiring visions. What is wrong with the state is that it supports the ruling class, capitalism, and private property. But more so, its existence is nothing but a barrier to socialism. Socialists who seek to maintain the state are simply not socialists.

The aim of the Socialist Party is to overthrow world capitalism and replace it by world socialism,  which will end the class division of society. The future socialist society will be state-free. With private property in industry and land abolished (but, of course, not in articles of personal use), with exploitation of the toilers ended, and with the capitalist class finally defeated and all classes liquidated, there will then be no further need for the State, which is an organ of class repression. In socialism, the guiding principle will be: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” That is, the distribution of life necessities—food, clothing, shelter, education, etc.—will be free, without let or hindrance. Socialist production, carried out upon the most efficient basis and freed from the drains of capitalist exploiters, will provide such an abundance of necessary commodities that there will be plenty for all with a minimum of effort. There will then be no need for pinch-penny measuring and weighing. Social solidarity will be quite sufficient to prevent possible idlers from taking advantage of this free regime of distribution by either refusing to work or by unsocial waste.

The road to this social development can only be opened by a social revolution. This is because the question of power is involved. When the workers have conquered political power the way is clear for an orderly development of society by a process of evolution. The Socialist Party seeks to liberate ourselves and fellow-workers from patterns of thought that replicate the inequalities built into our social systems.  Because capitalism is a globally integrated system, it must exist everywhere. Contrary to the assumptions of left-liberals the social ills of capitalism is not merely a bad policy adopted by “greedy” elites.  It is, in fact, fundamental systemic flaws within the capitalist society itself. The system is called capitalism because it was forged for centuries and is presided over by those whose overarching objective is to serve the interests of owners of capital.  The bottom-line priority of those who own society’s most valuable asset, its means of production, is that society be organized around the continuous increase of wealth, especially the wealth and income of its wealthiest.  The evidence is unambiguous.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Typhoid or Cholera?

Socialism is almost globally misunderstood and misrepresented. Socialism will be a basic structural change to society, and many of the things that most people take for granted, as "just the way things have to be", can and must be changed to establish socialism.
People tend to accept as true the things they hear over and over again. But repetition doesn't make things true. Because the truth and the facts often contradict "common knowledge", socialists have to show that "common knowledge" is wrong. That takes more words than just accepting the status quo.

Commodity production is organised within the constraints of the circulation of capital. This capital can accumulate, maintain its level or become depleted. The economic pressure on capital is that of accumulation, the alternative is bankruptcy. The production and distribution of goods are entirely subordinate to the pressure on capital to accumulate. Therefore the practical, technical organisation of production is entirely separate from the economic organisation of the accumulation of capital in which cost/ price, value factors play a vital part. The economic signals of the market are not signals to produce useful things. They signal the prospects of profit and capital accumulation, If there is a profit to be made then production will take place; if there is no prospect of profit, then production will not take place. Profit not need is the deciding factor.

This market system, involving the circulation of capital, generates commodity values which are brought into a relationship of exchange in the market, so that value, surplus to the value of labor-power, embodied in commodities is realised through sales. When enterprises calculate costs as a relationship of labour-time to output this is not with a view to passing on socially useful information about the organisation of production. They are calculating costs plus the average rate of profit. Through the exchange of labour-power for wages, capital is invested in the power of workers to produce goods. It is with active labour functioning as deployed capital that capital expands. Labour-power generates more values than it consumes. These surplus values belong to the enterprise in the material form of commodities which are then sold on the market. This is where capital realises its self-expansion and thereby accumulates. The market price of commodities produced must exceed the price of the materials and labour-power required to produce them. This is what costing is all about, it has nothing to do with the practical organisation of production In its overall effect the subordination of useful production to the accumulation of capital distorts and constrains social production. The market is at every point in the system a barrier of exchange between production, distribution and social needs. The circulation of capital confines useful labour within a self-enclosed system of exchange. Labour is activated by an exchange of labour-power for wages and this is determined by the capacity of the market to provide profit through sales.

In a socialist society, there will be no money and no exchange and no barter. Goods will be voluntarily produced, and services voluntarily supplied to meet people's needs. People will freely take the things they need. Socialism will be concerned solely with the production, distribution, and consumption of useful goods and services in response to definite needs. It will integrate social needs with the material means of meeting those needs.

Common ownership is not state ownership. State ownership is merely the ownership by the capitalist class as a whole, instead of by individual capitalists, and the government then runs the state enterprises to serve the capitalist class. In the self-proclaimed "communist" states the state enterprises serve those who control the party/state apparatus. The working class does not own or control. It produces for a privileged minority.

Common ownership means that society as a whole owns the means and instruments for distributing wealth. It also implies the democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, for if everyone owns, then everyone must have equal right to control the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth.

The task of capitalist ideology is to maintain the veil which keeps people from seeing that their own activities reproduce the form of their daily life,  the task of the Socialist Party is to unveil the activities of daily life, to render them transparent. As soon as people accept money as an equivalent for life, the sale of living activity becomes a condition for their physical and social survival. Life is exchanged for survival. Creation and production come to mean sold activity.As soon as people accept the terms of this exchange, daily activity takes the form of universal prostitution.

Capitalist ideology treats land, capital , and the products of labour, as things which have the power to produce, to create value, to work for their owners, to transform the world. This is what Marx called the fetishism which characterises people's everyday conceptions, and which is raised to the level of dogma by economics. For the economist, living people are things - factors of production -, and things live money - works, Capital - produces. When men refuse to sell their labour, money cannot perform even the simplest tasks, because money does not " work ". The notion of the "productivity of capital," and particularly the detailed measurement of that "productivity," are inventions of the "science" of Economics.

The production of surplus value is a condition of survival, not for the population, but for the capitalist system. Surplus value is the portion of the value of commodities produced by labour which is not returned to the labourers. It can be expressed either in commodities or in money, but this does not alter the fact that it is an expression for the materialized labour which is stored in a given quantity of products. Since the products can be exchanged for an "equivalent" quantity of money, the money "stands for," or represents, the same value as the products. The money can, in turn, be exchanged for another quantity of products of "equivalent" value. The ensemble of these exchanges, which take place simultaneously during the performance of capitalist daily life, constitutes the capitalist process of circulation. It is through this process that the metamorphosis of surplus value into Capital takes place.
The portion of value which does not return to labour, namely surplus value, allows the capitalist to exist, and it also allows him to do much more than simply exist. The capitalist invests a portion of this surplus value; he hires new workers and buys new means of production; he expands his dominion. What this means is that the capitalist accumulates new labour, both in the form of the living labour he hires and of the past labour (paid and unpaid) which is stored in the materials and machines he buys.

The capitalist class as a whole accumulates the surplus labour of society, but this process takes place on a social scale and consequently cannot be seen if one observes only the activities of an individual capitalist. It must be remembered that the products bought by a given capitalist as instruments have the same characteristics as the products he sells. A first capitalist sells instruments to a second capitalist for a given sum of value, and only a part of this value is returned to workers as wages; the remaining part is surplus value, with which the first capitalist buys new instruments and labor. The second capitalist buys the instruments for the given value, which means that he pays for the total quantity of labor rendered to the first capitalist, the quantity of labour which was remunerated as well as the quantity performed free of charge. This means that the instruments accumulated by the second capitalist contain the unpaid labour performed for the first. The second capitalist, in turn, sells his products for a given value, and returns only a portion of this value to his laborers; he uses the remainder for new instruments and labour.

If the whole process were squeezed into a single time period, and if all the capitalists were aggregated into one, it would be seen that the value with which the capitalist acquires new instruments and labour is equal to the value of the products which he did not return to the producers. This accumulated surplus labour is Capital.

In terms of capitalist society as a whole, the total Capital is equal to the sum of unpaid labour performed by generations of human beings whose lives consisted of the daily alienation of their living activity. In other words Capital, in the face of which men sell their living days, is the product of the sold activity of men, and is reproduced and expanded every day a man sells another working day, every moment he decides to continue living the capitalist form of daily life.

Matters little if capitalism is small or large - either way, it is based on robbery. The choice of "good" or "bad" capitalism is little different than choosing between typhoid or cholera.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Robots are Coming

Two-thirds of Scots fear the impact of robots.
Scotland needs to do more to address the risk of robots replacing humans in the workplace, trade unions have warned.
The unions claim urgent action needs to be taken to ensure workers are not left unemployed as a result of widespread advances in automation. The warnings came as a report revealed the UK is lagging behind other countries when it comes to preparing for the changes - with education and training the main areas of concern.
Pat Rafferty, Scottish Secretary of trade union Unite, warned the report should "set alarm bells ringing" for Scots. He said: "The report’s analysis that we are behind in the education of young people to enable them to benefit from automation is a warning. "So too is the fact that the report finds there is a clear lack of adequate training in innovation in the workplace, and the policies to make that happen."
Rafferty claimed trade unions believe there are positive gains to be made from automation, but warned against a "nightmare scenario of machines replacing workers and cataclysmic numbers thrown out of work". He added: "We need to learn lessons quickly and if the Economist report is to be seriously considered we need to face up to the fact that currently the UK is lagging behind dangerously."
Dave Watson, Unison head of public affairs, said,  "We should be anticipating where we are likely to see job losses and putting measures in place to ensure that we have a just transition to new types of jobs. Industry will not do this, it's very hard to get companies to plan that far in advance, so government needs to step up to the plate."

Food Parcel Nation

Food banks in Scotland handed out a record number of food parcels last year, according to new figures.
More than 170,000 three day emergency food supplies were distributed by The Trussell Trust's 52 food banks.
The charity said it saw a 17% increase in demand north of the border in 2017/18, compared to the previous year.
And it claimed a growing proportion of people referred to Scottish food banks have found that their benefits do not cover the cost of essentials. It said the proportion of low income households seeking help from its food banks had increased significantly since April 2016.
The key findings of its latest report were:
  • 170,625 food parcels were distributed in Scotland in 2017/18 - 17% more than in the previous year
  • 55,038 parcels went to children
  • 28% of referrals were on a low income, receiving benefits (up from 22% in 2016/17)
  • Debt accounted for 8% of referrals, up from 7% last year
  • Benefits delays (22%) and benefit changes (18%) accounted for a large number referrals

Audrey Flannigan manages one of The Trussell Trust's food banks in Glasgow. She said people whose benefits did not stretch to buying essentials were using the service.
"They need to be able to buy things like soap, toothpaste, put money in the meter, they need to be able to buy the kids new shoes or clothes when they need them...asking someone to wait between five and seven weeks before you get your first lot of money surely has to be seen as immoral and inhumane."" she said.
Tony Graham, the director of Scotland at The Trussell Trust, said no-one in Scotland should be left hungry or destitute.
"Food banks are providing absolutely vital, compassionate support in communities across our country, but no charity can replace the dignity of having long-term financial security," he added. "It's completely unacceptable that anyone is forced to turn to a food bank in Scotland, and we'll continue to campaign for systemic change until everyone has enough money coming in to keep pace with the rising cost of essentials like food and housing."

The number of food parcels distributed by The Trussell Trust

The Incas

Capitalism is a buying and selling society in which the human ability to work is bought and sold and results in the capitalist firms that employ them appropriating a surplus from their work, a surplus which takes a monetary form and most of which is re-invested as more capital. A society which exploited the producers but where the surplus extracted from them did not take this form would still be an exploitative class society but not capitalism.

It is possible to have a moneyless class society with a state. The Inca Empire is one such example. Yet they were one of the biggest and most powerful military empire in South America. The Incas were master builders and land planners, capable of extremely sophisticated mountain agriculture - and building cities to match. Incan society was so rich that it could afford to have hundreds of people who specialized in planning the agricultural uses of newly-conquered areas. They built terraced farms on the mountainsides whose crops - from potatoes and maize to peanuts and squash - were carefully chosen to thrive in the average temperatures for different altitudes. They also farmed trees to keep the thin topsoil in good condition. Incan architects were equally talented, designing and raising enormous pyramids, irrigating with sophisticated waterworks such as those found at Tipon, and creating enormous temples like Pachacamac along with mountain retreats like Machu Picchu. In terms of square miles, we're probably talking something like 300,000 sq miles (775,000 sq km),” he said, with a population as high as 12 million people. To support this empire, a system of roads stretched for almost 25,000 miles (roughly 40,000 km), about three times the diameter of the Earth. The road and aqueduct systems the Spanish encountered in the Andes were superior to those in Europe. Inca cities were as large as those of Europe, but more orderly and by all accounts much cleaner and more pleasant places in which to live.

And yet, despite all their productivity, the Incas managed without money or marketplaces.

The Inca Empire did trade with outside cultures to a limited extent, but internally they didn't have any trade and no currency at all. With only a few exceptions found in coastal polities incorporated into the empire, there was no trading class in Inca society, and the development of individual wealth acquired through commerce was not possible . . . A few products deemed essential by the Incas could not be produced locally and had to be imported. In these cases, several strategies were employed, such as establishing colonies in specific production zones for particular commodities and permitting long-distance trade. People "paid" taxes in labor and got "paid" in return with food, clothing, etc. The caste system was not to be questioned; fact was fact – the Incan, an incarnation of the sun was leader and no one could bat an eye at their air-tight rationale. The nobility were at the top of the social totem pole, marked by constantly-enlarged ear holes filled with gold, jewels,

The production, distribution, and use of commodities were centrally controlled by the Inca government. Each citizen of the empire was issued the necessities of life out of the state storehouses, including food, tools, raw materials, and clothing, and needed to purchase nothing. With no shops or markets, there was no need for a standard currency or money, and there was nowhere to spend money or purchase or trade for necessities.

The Incas had a centrally planned economy, perhaps the most successful ever seen. Its success was in the efficient management of labor and the administration of resources they collected as tribute. Collective labor was the base for economic productivity and for the creation of social wealth in the Inca society. By working together people in the ayllu created such wealth that the Spanish were astonished with what they encountered. Every citizen was required to contribute with his labor and refusal or laziness was punishable with the death penalty. Labor was divided according to region, agriculture would be centralized in the most productive regions, ceramic production, road building, textile and other skills according to ayllus. The government collected all the surplus after local needs were met and distributed it where it was needed. In exchange for their work citizens had free clothing, food, health care and education. The Incas did not use money, in fact they did not need it. Their economy was so efficiently planned that every citizen had their basic needs met

The Inca economy was not based on a money system, and it did not have commerce (the buying and selling of goods, especially on a large scale) or free trade. The government made sure that everyone had enough land or goods to survive, and it managed the exchange of goods between faraway regions. There were no merchants acting on their own behalf. The government promised to take care of the old and the sick, using the large supply of surplus goods produced by mit'a labor. In times of famine, the government storehouses were opened to the public so that no one would starve. Instead of money, the Incas invested mit'a labor: They directed terracing and irrigation projects that enabled peasants to grow more food. Once surplus food was stored away, some of the people were able to quit farming and pursue other activities.

The “most unusual aspect of the Inca economy was the lack of a market system and money,” writes McEwan, with only a few exceptions there were no traders in the Inca Empire. “Each citizen of the empire was issued the necessities of life out of the state storehouses, including food, tools, raw materials, and clothing, and needed to purchase nothing.” There were no shops or markets, McEwan notes and, as such, “there was no need for a standard currency or money, and there was nowhere to spend money or purchase or trade for necessities.”