Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Blood Sports

Grouse moors make up roughly 20 per cent of all land in Scotland. The ecological impacts of the techniques for managing them, which include regular burning of heather, draining water-storing soils and peats, and medicating the grouse, are subject to renewed focus. The price of a single day’s grouse shooting for one person can apparently reach as high as £10,000 on some estates. By the end of the season, some half a million grouse will have been shot in the UK.
Hundreds of thousands of animals including foxes, weasels and stoats are being legally killed in the UK to protect grouse moors, naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham has claimed. 

Packham was speaking to The Independent following a spate of illegal killings of protected species on grouse moors in Scotland, including a case last week in which a gamekeeper from the Longformacus Estate in Berwickshire pleaded guilty to killing two goshawks, three buzzards, three badgers and an otter. The case was described by a wildlife official as the “biggest cull of protected species” they had ever seen. Other recent cases include the deaths and mysterious disappearances of golden eagles and hen harriers over grouse moors.
Packham and his group Wild Justice have been instrumental in highlighting the forces driving illegal raptor persecution in the UK, the TV presenter has also drawn attention to the extent of largely undocumented legal animal deaths carried out on private estates to maximise numbers of grouse on moors where expensive driven shoots take place.

“Legally they are allowed to get rid of weasels, stoats, foxes, and they do this relentlessly. And we have no idea how many of these animals are killed, but we know that obviously it runs into the hundreds of thousands. “f you abide by certain rules and if you own the land or have the landowner’s permission, then you can trap those species at any time of the year – there’s no closed season. And that’s what they do 365 days a year. They purge those predators,” he said.
Mountain hares are the UK’s only indigenous lagomorph species – brown hare and rabbits are modern introductions by humans. The distinctive species, which turns white in winter, are now rare where they were previously abundant. 
Mountain hares are being “ruthlessly” targeted, Packham said, due to gamekeepers’ belief they spread a tick carrying a virus called “louping ill”, to the grouse.
“As far as I’m aware, there’s no evidence this actually happens,” Packham said. “But because of a fear of it they ruthlessly cull the mountain hare population. In some estates they’ve exterminated them completely. They’ve gone for a complete hare genocide.”
Robbie Marsland, the director of the League Against Cruel Sports, pointed out,  “We do know from government figures that an average of 26,000 mountain hares are killed each year as the estates worry that they spread ticks to the grouse, and a recent report shows that 130,000 animals are killed under government species licences, though not all on grouse moors. On top of this, snares and traps litter the moors targeting foxes, stoats, weasels, crows and other birds. These devices are indiscriminate and commonly kill non-target species such as badgers and hedgehogs. People’s cats and dogs are also caught in snares.”
Bob Elliot, director of One Kind, a Scottish animal rights organization, detailed the slow and painful deaths these animals often endure.
“Animals such as weasels and stoats are caught in spring traps. Crows are caught in cage traps and then must endure stressful confinement until somebody comes to shoot or beat them to death. Foxes are caught in snares and can spend hours struggling before being found and killed, or succumbing to their injuries.” He added: “One of the most shocking issues for me is that there is very little information for the public to scrutinise how many foxes, stoats, weasels, crows are killed on grouse moors each year. It’s a free-for-all with no requirement to have proven other [control] methods have been tried first, nor any real requirement by gamekeepers or land managers to report anything to the authorities or the interested public – most of these species have no real protection in law at all.”

We will change this world because we must

Future society will be a society without bosses. The ways of the men and women of the co-operative commonwealth of the future will not be our ways, nor their thoughts our thoughts. The fact is that the current social system is evil, and the proof that it is, is that everyone suffers from it. All of humanity lives in a state of anxiety. Those who seek to find a blueprint of the future society in Marx search in vain for a document that Marx did not produce.

Just as the capitalists have a coalition against the workers, so must we have an international solidarity of labour. We think that workers should be united, too. This is an age of revolutionary change. New technology is replacing human labour with automation and robots. Millions face two choices – either accept misery or overturn this system. Technology is powerful enough to end hunger, homelessness and all want – but only if it is seized from the exploiters and organised in the interests of those this system has discarded. We call on you to join us to wage war on the capitalist system. We will educate and organise fellow-workers on how society can be reorganised to put an end to poverty and injustice once and for all. The Socialist Party doesn’t claim to have a crystal ball in which the socialist world of the future can be seen like the map of the Underground in every detail. All we claim is that our study of the past can be used as a guide to the future. Without a clear understanding of basic questions we will hesitate and flounder in confusion and the capitalist class will keep the initiative. We want to make sure that on the day of the class struggle boils over into revolution our fellow workers will know what to do. We are fighting for socialist freedom. There’s a big class struggle going on. And the question is, what side are you on?

By capitalism, we mean the system that exists on the basis of unpaid labour. You as a worker produce commodities to be exchanged on the market. You produce not only enough to pay your own wage, but also an added value, a surplus value, over and above the cost of your maintenance. Surplus labour is your unpaid wage. In polite circles it is called “profit. ” As capitalism develops, the bourgeoisie, owning the means of production, constantly strives to increase its profits, resulting in the development and increased impoverishment of the working class, the class that owns no means of production and must sell its labour power to the bourgeoisie. An irreconcilable contradiction develops between the exploiting bourgeoisie and the exploited working class–the social character of production which the bourgeoisie develops contradicts the private ownership of the means of production and demands the social ownership of the means of production.

And that’s what capitalism is all about. Capitalism is the core of all of our problems. Some people try to escape the system. Some try to ignore it and pretend it doesn’t effect them. Or whitewash it. The system won’t escape you. The system won’t ignore you. All branches of capitalism are so interlocked it cannot be divided into good and bad. Sooner or later you’re going to find yourselves in a battle with the system. And you’ll need help and solidarity. When people realise the system has turned against them, they will go through a rapid deep politicisation. A very quick class consciousness raising.

Socialism is not production for profit. It is production for use. It is not production for private ownership and the private ownership of resources. It is common ownership of the wealth. It is not inequality and misery and persecution and discrimination; it is equality and fairness. It is not poverty and want; it is freedom from want. It is freedom from war. It is freedom from ugliness and squalor. It is just the opposite of what exists today and it expresses what people need and want and would dearly love to see. Socialism is a celebration of life. The bourgeoisie is destined to join all the other previous exploiting classes in the shadows of history.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

One answer to the Left

The Socialist Party and our companion parties in the World Socialist Movement claims that socialism will, and must, be a wage-free, money-free, worldwide society of common (not state) ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production and distribution. It claims that socialism will be a sharp break with capitalism with no "transition period" or gradual implementation of socialism (although socialism will be a dynamic, changing society once it is established). We claim that there can be no state in a socialist society. Another Socialist Party claim is that there can be no classes in a socialist society. The Socialist Party promotes only socialism, and as an immediate goal and that only the vast majority, acting consciously in its own interests, for itself, by itself, can create socialism. 

The Socialist Party opposes any vanguardist approach, minority-led movements, and leadership, as inherently undemocratic and instead promotes a peaceful democratic revolution, achieved through force of numbers and understanding. The Socialist Party neither promotes, nor opposes, reforms to capitalism. It claims that there is one working class, worldwide and lays out the fundamentals of what a socialist society must be, but does not presume to tell the future socialist society how to go about its business. Socialists advances an historical materialist approach—real understanding where it considers that religion is a social, not personal, matter and that religion is incompatible with socialist understanding. We seek election to facilitate the elimination of capitalism by the vast majority of socialists, not to govern capitalism. Leninism is a distortion of Marxian analysis. 

The Socialist Party opposes all war and claims that socialism will inherently end war, including the "war" between classes. It noted, in 1918, that the Bolshevik Revolution was not socialist, having earlier, long noted that Russia was not ready for a socialist revolution. It was the first political party to recognise that the former USSR, China, Cuba and other so-called "socialist countries" were not socialist, but instead, state capitalist. The Socialist Party has held a very accurate, consistent analysis since 1904 when first founded. To summarise our position in contrast to other organisations that claim to be socialist: Socialism will be a wageless, money-free, free-access society. Very few agree with this. Most support a market system. Some suggest that a non-capitalist market is possible. These suggestions show a lack of understanding of market economics. While non-capitalist market systems have existed, they are impractical in a modern world. If a "non-capitalist" market system was established it would eventually become a capitalist market system.Leaders are inherently undemocratic; socialists oppose leadership. All support leadership. Socialists shouldn't work for reforms to capitalism, because only a movement for socialism itself can establish socialism. Those which work for reforms hold either that reforms to capitalism will eventually result in socialism, or that supporting reforms is an appropriate way to convince workers to support socialism. Some put forward a reasonable analysis of capitalism, but then work to give capitalism a "human face". Some claim that they want to end capitalism. Their bottom line is, however, just capitalism with reforms. Democratic Socialists of America is a good example of this.

Socialism will be a cooperative, world wide system, and it has clearly not yet been established. Most, perhaps all, of them support nationalism, which is closely akin to racism (which they explicitly claim to oppose), and in any case hinders worldwide working class solidarity. Nationalism is a concept only useful to separate people, and is therefore anti-working class. A scientific approach and understanding by the working class are necessary to establish socialism. Generally support emotionalistic campaigns, in which logic and rational analysis are ignored. Any group which wants people to follow their leadership is unlikely to promote real understanding. What needs to be understood if one is just following the leader and doing what one is told? Democratically capturing the state through parliamentary elections is the safest, surest method for the working class to enable itself to establish socialism. Most seem to support this, parliamentary, approach at some level. But their commitment varies so that some support both parliamentarism and anti-parliamentarism at the same time.

The SPGB was formed in 1904 from a breakaway from the Socialist Democratic Federation. Its founding members were influenced greatly by the Socialist League which had William Morris and Marx's daughter, Eleanor, as members. The main issue that led to the split was one that you touched upon in your video, raising demands for reforms. The SDF had a programme of immediate reforms, as Trotskyists do these days. The SPGB argue that this places the demand for socialism on to the back-burner because those who wished reforms would dominate the party and make reforms the priority which would mean standing for election and becoming the government on a platform of reforms and relegating the socialist objective to the far-off future while running capitalism in the meantime and growing more and more pro-capitalist because of that. 

A look at history seems to prove our case, doesn't it? It was not a matter of leaders betrayal that Trotsky often blames it upon but a consequence of their principles, similar policies to Trotsky's own. The SPGB ideas spread first to Canada and then on to the USA during World War One and the WSPUS formed before any Trotskyist party or a distinct tendency had emerged , they still being part of the general Bolsheviks. The WSPUS did not support the Socialist Labor Party position on industrial unionism but many of their other ideas now over-lap with our own. The Proletarian Party of America was another organisation that agreed much with the WSPUS but differences over the interpretation of the Russian Revolution led to a parting of ways. The SPGB roots go back to a strand of 19th century Marxism, Trotskyism sprung from the events of the 20th century Russian Revolution. 

Circumstances in post 1917 Russia dictated Lenin's policies and directed his actions which led to the implementation of a form of capitalism. It led to the dictatorship of the party substituting for the dictatorship of the proletariat. But the problems were no unforeseen. As Marx explained, you cannot jump from feudalism to socialism. It is to turn Marx upside down by suggesting that Russia assist the more developed West. Marx  specifically described that the only way Russia could possibly miss out the capitalist stage was through the intervention from the industrialised nations. The post First World War world situation was indeed radical…general strikes in America and in Canada and elsewhere. Lenin made a judgement call that there was a genuine revolutionary surge and he saw evidence in many movements of this revolutionary fervour. He was wrong. Simple as that. There existed a strong re-vitalised class struggle by workers but organisations and actions he considered to be the vanguard could not bring over the majority of workers to its side. That was reality. That failure of Lenin reading what was really happening and fully understanding the workers consciousness outside Russia, determined the shifting and changing compromising rhetoric of Comintern and the abandonment of world revolution as an objective to be replaced by an accommodation with the Western Powers. 1923 Treaty of Rapallo with Germany saw the Red Army training and supplying German government troops that were used against a workers uprising in Germany (Stalin was not yet in power so it cannot be laid at his feet.) However, there were other alternatives to choose from which would have strengthened the working class, not weakened it by removing its independent self-organisation. For all its flaws bourgeois democracy would have been more benefit for the small Russian working class and would have avoided or at least minimised the civil war that you correctly describe as turmoil. The Left Mensheviks, perhaps represented the better option for the urban working class and the Left Social Revolutionaries for the peasantry. We are not going to convince you in a brie exchange of posts as this. It is up to yourself to read the links you have been provided, to Julius Martov and other socialist but anti-Bolshevik critics like Anton Pannekoek and Paul Mattick. 

Don't be misled by those apologists who claim that the Kronsdadt of 1921 was different from 1917 in class make-up. Simply not accurate. Historian, Israel Getzler investigated this issue and demonstrated that of those serving in the Baltic fleet on 1st January 1921 at least 75.5% were drafted before 1918. Veteran politicised Red sailor still predominated in Kronstadt at the end of 1920. Of the 2,028 sailors where years of enlistment are known, 93.9% were recruited into the navy before and during the 1917 revolution (the largest group, 1,195, joined in the years 1914–16). Other research confirms Getzler’s work. 
Documents from the Soviet Archives such as a report by Vasilii Sevei, Plenipotentiary of the Special Section of the Cheka, dated March 7th, 1921,stated  that a “large majority” of the sailors of Baltic Fleet “were and still are professional revolutionaries and could well form the basis for a possible third revolution.” 
“In September and October 1920 Bolshevik party lecturer Ieronymus Yasinksky went to Kronstadt to lecture 400 naval recruits and writes “‘in Kronstadt the red sailor still predominates.’ 

Gramsci says that “to tell the truth is a communist and revolutionary act”. Most Trotskyists argue that the suppression of the rebellion was essential to defend the “gains of the revolution.” What exactly were these gains? Not soviet democracy, freedom of speech, assembly and press, trade union freedom and so on as the Kronstadters were crushed for demanding these.

Marx actually said that Socialism/Communism would only come about, when the material conditions existed to make it possible. In the agrarian, feudalistic society, that existed in Russia, whether pre or post revolution, the material conditions for a revolution for and in the interests of the vast majority did not exist. One also has to factor in, the "fact", posited earlier, that Marx  also understood that the Socialist/Communist revolution would, of necessity, be a world wide revolution. To replace Capitalism worldwide, with Socialism/Communism worldwide. Even though I do not have qualifications in 'geography', the last time I looked, Russia did not, nor does, encompass the whole landmass of the planet. We can take from this, one simple fact, the Russian revolution had nothing to do with the idea that Marx had, for a proletarian revolution, it was 'only' the conceptualisation of revolution as envisaged by Lenin and thereafter by his disciples, Trotsky and uncle Joe. That their idea of "revolution" was to be brought about, by "an intellectual elite", a "cadre of professional revolutionaries" is another and indicative pointer, to the fact that these 'people', did not draw their inspiration from Marx but from their own "twisted" interpretation of Marx.

So let us be quite clear, Lenin and his lickspittle sycophants, were not following, in any way shape or form, the ideas, nor tenets of revolution, as espoused by Marx. You want Socialism/Communism, read Marx. You want "State-Capitalism", read Lenin, Totsky, Stalin et al. But do not, in any way, transpose one set of ideas from one to the others. Intellectual redundancy is simply that, whichever way you slice it.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Socialist Co-operative Commonwealth

There is very little in Marx’s writings to be found of a detailed account of the new social system which was to follow capitalism. Marx merely outlined the broad features of the new society and the way in which it would develop. The first essential feature of socialism is that the of production are taken from private ownership and used for the benefit of society as a whole. In socialist society, where production is not for profit but for use, a plan of production is possible. In capitalist society, the capitalists own the means of production and engage in production for the sole purpose of making profits and satisfying their private interests. Therefore, though there may be planned production in a few enterprises, competition is rife and lack of co-ordination prevails among the different enterprises and economic departments as a whole. Adjustment based on a unified plan is completely out of the question and anarchy in all social production is the order of the day. Cyclical economic crises which break out in capitalist society are the inevitable result of anarchy in production. They not only greatly undermine the social productive forces, but also are disastrous for working people.

At the formation of the Socialist Party we made it quite clear as to our exact aim and object. We are socialists, wishful above all things to advance socialism, and by socialism we mean, as all socialists do, the common ownership of all wealth production on a co-operative basis, and this involves the complete supercession of the capitalist system. We recognise the class war between the propertyless class and the possessing class which can only be resolved by the complete control over all the great means of production and distribution by all of the people, thus abolishing the State and the wages system, and constituting a co-operative commonwealth or a social-democracy. We can only hope for and work for the best. When confronted with the forces of the capitalist State, it is futile to suppose that they will crumble, fall, surrendering their power and possessions to those who are both unorganised and confused in their objectives. We have no reason to suppose that people will be won over to socialism by those unwilling or unable to organise themselves.
Products socially produced by the workers must be owned by those workers and ordinary people. Then there is no barrier to restrict production. Production is no longer guided by profit of the handful of owners but by the requirements of the workers, who now own the means of production, and the other sections of the people around the workers. This is production for use and not for profit. The productive forces are released to serve people's requirements. Economic crisis is abolished because its cause is destroyed. This is the basis for socialism.
Commonly the word “socialism” is used as a political trick. The Labour Party and the left-wing groups are called “socialist”. It is suggested that countries with large welfare programmes are socialist or that nationalised industries are socialist. This has nothing to do with socialism. For ourselves, socialism must be the aim. Socialism as a description of the relations of men and women to production means ownership by the workers of the means of production, the relations of production are no longer an antagonistic fetter on the development of the productive forces. The social producers become the social owners. Socialism proceeds according to the maxim “from each according to ability, to each according to needs.” Along with that, the old coercive state apparatus of the exploiters is ended.

So long as society is divided into classes, in whatever form, the economics and politics as well as the ideas, culture, etc. of society will be dominated by one class or another–they cannot serve all classes, exploiter and exploited, oppressor and oppressed, master and slave, equally–and whichever class can in any period organise society in such a way as to most rationally utilise the productive forces at hand will hold sway for that period. What is needed is the most radical rupture with traditional ideas.

The aim of the World Socialist movement is the abolition of class rule and class conflict, with all their evil consequences, and the development of a society in which the few shall no longer be able to enjoy luxury and comfort at the expense of the toil and insecurity of the majority. This is today a thoroughly practical idea. So greatly have science and technology have advanced and increased our productivity that an abundance of all the good things in life for the whole population could be produced without subjecting any human being to drudgery or exhaustion. The continued existence of poverty is due solely to causes which rational social action can overcome. To assure plenty, leisure, and freedom for all, it is necessary that the existing private property system, the existing forms of economic control and distribution of wealth, be changed. Only by the socialised ownership and democratic control of productive wealth, doing away with exploitation and making the satisfaction of human wants the ruling motive in production, can the ideal of a class-free society be realised. The interest of the wage-working class, in the broadest sense of that term, imperatively demands this change

While it is impossible to prophesy with total certainty whether the change from capitalism to socialism will be a peaceful or a violent one, there are many forces at work which point to a genuine possibility of peaceful change in this country, and the World Socialist Movement should strive with all might to make this possibility an increasing probability as time goes on. In the name of freedom, in the name of civilisation itself, for the good of all those now alive and of generations yet unborn, we call upon the workers of the city and country as a class, upon all men and women, to join us in winning the new world which is within our reach.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Know your Socialist Party

Everywhere one hears various and opposing views of what the term “socialism” means.  Right-wing politicians often accuse their “opponents” of being socialists. While promoters of reforms and palliatives, medicare-for-all, the green new deal, or a better minimum wage also present their programmes as socialistic.

 Our concept of socialism is one of possible future society where the means of production and distribution will be socially controlled and democratically administered, where use not profit is the objective, where the needs of humanity are deemed paramount, with sale for profit eliminated. One must then see this as a social system where the present means for facilitating exchange, money, will become superfluous.

Assuming that you accept the definition of socialism as presented by ourselves, the question arises: Do you think such a system is desirable as well as possible? Or view modern society as a vast complex of insolvable problems. Despite its many protesting dissidents and discontents, do you consider it still to be necessary? An affirmative response to both these questions is important – especially the second – for if one is not convinced of the necessity for social change, further discussion is merely academic and we are not interested in those who view a study of the socialist case as a mere form of intellectual exercise. We ask again: (a) Is a social change desirable or possible; (b) Is it socially necessary?

A higher and better organised social system, a system of “production for use”, in which the instruments of production and distribution will be socially controlled and administered is not only desirable but possible. Thus every person who accepts the concept of a new society being both desirable and possible becomes one who is liable to reject the notion that the present system is either desirable or eternal.

Under capitalism, we find its creation of both great wealth and abysmal poverty; advance technology accompanied with general pollution; its raping of the earth’s resources and its conspicuous waste of human energy; its destructive wars followed by periods of contrived peace; its efforts to establish markets by which act, if successful, it sows the seeds for the possible growth of a competitor. It cannot erase the pollution it has created even with a vast outlay of capital which would offer no return. This would be contrary anyway to capitalism’s nature. It cannot obliterate city slums it has made; it cannot do away with the periodic unemployment its alleged prosperous periods create; and despite its many achievements it cannot produce permanent peace for it is ever faced with the possibility of war and on so huge a scale that such might result in the destruction of humanity itself. It cannot, in short, act contrary to its own inner nature which requires the constant accumulation of capital and the opening of new markets throughout the world. And it cannot avoid that increasing productivity of labour which means more production for less expenditure of labour.

If one can visualise a possible future society then one should be expected to tell something of what that society will be like. And so one should and so one can, but only within certain limits and with many caveats and reservations. Mankind sets itself goals and ideals, striving to reach such goals and achieve such ideals. Not always (indeed very rarely) do we succeed completely. We may at times hit the target but seldom strike the bulls-eye.

In making projections into the future one should understand that we are dealing with the realm of speculation. Where a definiteness of opinion can be allowed is in the realm of the actual:
what is and what has been, for these can be subjected to close inspection, research and analysis. With the future the best we can hope for is to observe trends in the present and the creation and development of potentials, etc. These can be projected as trends into the future scene which may grow to greater potentials and into actualities that may become definite powers, agencies and institutions. We must beware of dogmatism when dealing with the future. 

Science does not deal in certainties but in high probabilities. It does not depend on clairvoyance or astrological forecasts for its findings. Nor does it admit the prognostications of economic determinists, who tell us that this shall be and that shall not be. Yet, notwithstanding what has been stated, one must allow that science, in its ever restless search for greater knowledge, must permit itself flights of imagination, so to speak, for lacking these it would hardly venture on those essential journeys into the future. In much the same way a socialist speaks of “visualising a future social system”. Science does create for itself what are termed “working hypotheses”; that is to say, it presumes certain things to be so, and for the purpose of establishing a point of departure for definite scientific inquiry it takes its hypothesis as established fact. Of course it recognises that this at best is speculation but proceeds to then gather data that may prove, or disprove, such hypothesis. In the same way we permit ourselves certain speculations and in so doing “we visualise a future society which will be organised for public good”. But we must never lose sight of the fact that these are speculations, but like the “working hypotheses” of the scientist can be considered valid to the extent that such speculations arise naturally out of our knowledge of the past and the present – and in the absence of any contrary body of facts.

So how will production and distribution be carried on in a possible future society? Production and distribution will be carried on as they are now but with the exploiter of labour, the master class, removed from the scene. But surely by then society will have gained greater knowledge of more than these points. If we can imagine socialism being established, say, tomorrow, the same agencies (but without the self-perpetuating “bureaucracies”), the same techniques, etc., will carry out the necessary work. But those potentials of which we have made mention will no doubt by the time socialism has been established have been developed to a higher degree, the technology of society so increased yet controlled, that the work could be carried out with a greater efficiency, with waste eliminated, and greater social benefits accruing.

The potentials we now observe also indicate that since production will be for the social good and not for profit wage-labour will disappear and therefore wages (that badge of modern slavery). Goods being distributed on the same basis and not sold for profit
money would become superfluous. “Production for Use” being the objective of social effort, “distribution”, as such, would be carried out unrestricted by any elements of “exchange”. Thus the socially wasteful efforts represented in banking, insurance, brokerage, etc., would perforce be eliminated. Since society would require from its members contributions to the social welfare “according to each individual’s ability”, and return to each “according to his or her needs”, those economic rivalries – the cause of modern war – would have become things of the past. The disappearance of these hostile elements would allow the development of more humane and harmonious relations among people. Poverty, as we know it will have gone; industry – whose technological development has produced world-wide pollution – could be so organised and operated that further pollution could be avoided and the present pollution eliminated. It is safe then at least to predict that war and its horrors would have ceased, poverty done away with, and a really sane world “created” fit for human habitation.

As to the precise character of the apparatus – the necessary agencies, institutions, etc., that will be developed, – that surely will have to be the work of those then present. That is the future, but what to us is the “future” will be to them the “present”. They will
not be living in the realm of speculation, as we are, but dealing from their greater knowledge of what “is”, and what “has been”. It would be sheer presumption for us “of the present” to specify in detail what they “of the future” shall or shall not do and dictate the form their operations should take. I defy the wisest to tell me the precise condition of the world a year hence, or even a month. Did the great conqueror of Europe in the early days of the last century, Napoleon, foresee “Waterloo”? Nor can we afford to be too definite, or dogmatic, about the future. Nor should we. The important thing now is to try to convince others that a new society is desirable, possible, and necessary. When an adequate majority so convinced, and dedicated to the necessary work, is assured then that society which we envisage will become an actuality. The details of that society can be, and should be, left to those then concerned.

Finally, a word of caution. Many protesters and campaigners today, unable to see any redress to their grievances, resort to violence. Noisy demonstrations are staged and politicians, many of whom elected by sizeable majorities, are made the target of their fury. Wicked men are responsible, not the capitalist system. Until they stop chanting slogans long enough to do a little bit of thinking they will only be ploughing the sand. The Socialist Party is in complete opposition to violence in any form. From the standpoint of a minority in society it is self-defeating and can only produce counter violence, a situation often desired. And sometimes contrived by – the “constituted” authorities using agent provocateurs. The only time we could assure ourselves of its effectiveness would be when it is unnecessary. And that would be when a sufficient and intelligent majority insisted on the establishment of socialism.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

How we are Different (4/4)

On how we are different one of the great strengths of the SPGB is our opposition to leadership and our commitment to democratic practices, so, whatever weaknesses or mistaken views we hold or get accused of by others, they cannot be imposed upon others with possible worse consequences. The history of Leninism/Trotskyism blames all on the lack of leadership or the wrong leadership or a traitorous leadership.The SPGB are not going to take the workers to where they neither know where they are going, nor, most likely, want to go. This contrasts with those who seek to substitute the party for the class or who see the party as a vanguard which must undertake alone the task of leading the masses forward. The crucial part of the SPGB case is that understanding is a necessary condition for socialism.

The SPGB’s job is to make a socialist soiciety an immediancy for the working class, not an ultimate far-off ideal. Something of importance and value to people’s lives now, rather than a singular “end”. We have published pamphlet “Socialism as a practical alternative” that endeavours to explain a bit more fully. It was Marx who said we should not write recipes for the cook-shops. The issue is often discussed within our organisation. Many caution against the creation of blueprints. There is no point in drawing up in advance the sort of detailed blueprint of industrial and social organisation. For a small group of socialists , as we are now , to do so would be undemocratic.

 We also recognise that there may not be one single way of doing things, and precise details and ways of doing things more than likely vary from one part of the world to another, even between neighbouring communities. Nor can we determine what the conditions will be when socialism is established. As the socialist majority grows, when socialism is within the grasp of the working class, that will then be the proper time for making such important decisions. It is imprudent for today’s socialist minority to be telling people how to administer a socialist society. When a majority of people understand what socialism means, the suggestions for socialist administration will solidify into an appropriate plan. It will be based upon the conditions existing at that time, not today. At this point some will no doubt say “cop-out” but no. We can reach some generalised conclusions based on basic premises and can outline broad principles or options that could be applied. We do not have to draw up a detailed plan for socialism, but simply and broadly demonstrate that it is possible and therefore refute the label of “Utopian”. Never forget that socialist society is not starting from a blank sheet and we are inheriting an already existing production system. Workers with all their skills and experience of co-operating to run capitalism in the interests of the capitalists could begin to run society in their own interest.

The question of the military and membership of the Party is one that we have not taken lightly, considering the fact that the Party has had to face two world wars with members being forced by law into the army. None as far as i know were expelled, but resigned voluntarily but many members refused to don the uniform and applied to be conscientous objectors and ended up in jail or labour camps. Our opposition to conscription in 1938. We are influenced by Rosa Luxemburg’s anti-militarism with her scathing re-phrase of Marx/Engels: “Workers of all lands, unite in peace and cut one another’s throats in war!”You indeed present part of the party case for the capture of the state machine when you state “workers in uniform with their knowledge and skills would be needed to help oppose the violent reaction by the ruling class and their hirelings.” Membership of the military and membership of the SPGB is viewed as incompatable. We do not send workers off to battle with party cards to kill other workers with party cards.The SPGB case is that the military have much the same attitudes as other workers since they are conditioned by the same economical, social and historical forces operating in society. Eventually, the world’s workers, will respond to capitalism’s inhumanities to the extent that they understand and desire the socialist alternative. Then socialist ideas will be just as prevalent in the minds of soldiers.They will be for the revolution, not against it. When socialist ideas begin to spread among the working class it is most unlikely that those in uniform will remain unaffected. When a majority of workers generally are socialists, so will most of their fellow workers in the police and armed forces be too.

We also have a proscription against those holding religious beliefs from joining the SPGB. We do not deny that they may be socialists but that the SPGB is an organisation for Marxist materialists. 

How we are Different (3/4)

The SPGB argues that it is about engaging people with the vision of socialism. There is nothing automatic about social change, it has to be struggled for. The Left relies upon a notion of the inherently revolutionary nature of the working class and that through the class struggle this inherently revolutionary character will show itself. Although, it hasn’t. It's also flawed because it shows no reason why, due to the failure of reform, the workers should turn to socialism. Why, since it was people calling themselves socialists who advocated that reform, don’t they turn against it, or even to fascism? Under the model of revolution presented by the Trotskyists the only way the working class could come to socialist consciousness is through a revolution is made by the minority with themselves as its leaders.This, then, explains their insistance about needing to “be” where the mass of the working class is. It is the reason why a supposedly revolutionary party should change its mind to be with the masses, rather than trying to get the masses to change their minds and be with it. They do not want workers to change their minds, merely to become followers. Their efforts are not geared towards changing minds, or raising revolutionary class consciousness.

To repeat, we see little wrong with people campaigning for reforms that bring essential improvements and enhance the quality of their lives, and some reforms do indeed make a difference to the lives of millions and can be viewed as “successful”. There are examples of this in such fields as education, housing, child employment, work conditions and social security. Socialists have to acknowledge that the “welfare” state, the NHS and so on, made living standards for some sections of the working class better than they had been under rampant capitalism and its early ideology of laissez faire, although these ends should never be confused with socialism. However, in this regard we also recognise that such “successes” have in reality done little more than to keep workers and their families in efficient working order and, while it has taken the edge of the problem, it has rarely managed to remove the problem completely. Socialists do not oppose reformism because it is against improvements in workers’ lives lest they dampen their revolutionary ardour; nor, because it thinks that decadent capitalism simply cannot deliver on any reforms; but because our continued existence as propertyless wage slaves undermines whatever attempts we make to control and better our lives through reforms. Our objection to reformism is that by ignoring the essence of class, it throws blood, sweat and tears into battles that will be undermined by the workings of the wages system. All that effort, skill, energy, all those tools could be turned against class society, to create a society of common interest where we can make changes for our common mutual benefit. So long as class exists, any gains will be partial and fleeting, subject to the ongoing struggle. What we are opposed to is the whole culture of reformism, the idea that capitalism can be tamed and made palatable with the right reforms.

If the view remains that the struggle for reforms is worthwhile then imagine just how many palliatives and ameliorations will be offered and conceded by a besieged capitalist class in a desperate attempt to retain ownership rights if the working class were demanding the maximum socialist programme of full and complete appropriation and nothing less. Reforms now derided as utopian will become two-a-penny in an attempt to fob off the workers. Perhaps, even, capitalism will provide a batch of free services, on the understanding that this is “the beginning” of a free society, but,of course real socialists will not be taken in.

What is at stake here is not a question of tactics or strategy but principle. We believe, to paraphrase Lenin’s words but reverse their meaning, that workers, exclusively by their own efforts, are capable of a socialist consciousness. Workers are human beings and individuals in themselves; they are not dumb masses to be tricked, led, deceived, and lied to, for the greater good. That’s why, actually, we are not sectarian and the Left are. We join workers struggles as workers. We take part in the democratic process as equals with our fellows. We do not join for purposes of our own; we have no programme of demands hidden up our sleeves to be produced at a later date, nor a one-party dictatorship to produce as a nasty surprise at an even later date. That’s why, when we join workers struggles as individuals and not as a leadership party, and reject the Left, we are not being sectarian — quite the opposite. We are being principled socialists.

What genuinely puzzles Socialist Party members is why the Left cannot (or refuses to) comprehend our position. We understand theirs perfectly well, one in which workers generally will not become socialists all by themselves, but will, at times, engage in struggle to protect their own interests. Therefore, socialists should organise into political parties that also engage in these struggles with the view of leading the workers to victory, in the first instance, and into support for the party in the second. As the party builds up such support, it will then be in a position to seize power on behalf of the working class and put in place ‘socialist’ (actually, state capitalist) measures. Now, as a broad brush and short statement, is this true or false?

A similarly simple and broad brush statement of our position is that fellow-workers do not need any advice or leadership from socialists when it comes to struggling to defend their own interests within capitalism. They do it all by themselves all the time. However, such struggles have their limits within capitalism: they cannot go beyond the law of value, and the combined forces of the capitalists and the state can almost always defeat them if they put their mind to it. Workers who realise this tend to become socialists. As they become socialists, they see the necessity for going beyond such day to day struggles (these unavoidable and incessant guerilla battles, as Marx put it) and the need for a political party aimed solely for socialism. This political party must not advocate reforms, not because it is against reforms (how on earth could a working class party be against reforms in the working class interest?), but because it wants to build support for socialism, and not for reforms. Simple, isn't it?

We are not and nor are the working class fooled by rhetoric of a re-hash of transitional programme. Nor are we taken in by the claims of party democracy, one that is based upon Leninist “democratic centralist” lines in which the executive committee are the policy-making leadership, upon a hierarchy where each layer of leadership has power over the levels below it, with the party’s national leadership – the members of its central committee – at the top. Power in the hands of the leaders and in practice reduces the rank-and-file members to a mere consultative role. The welfare state – most particularly its health service component – originally represented an advance for many workers, though it was certainly not introduced with benevolence in mind. We have never said that all reforms are doomed to failure and do not really make a difference to workers’ lives? There are many examples of ‘successful’ reforms in such fields as education, housing, child employment, conditions of work and social security. The Socialist Party does not oppose all reforms as such, only the futile and dangerous attempt to seek power to administer capitalism on the basis of a reform programme – reformism.

It seems unlikely that the working class and its organisations are strong enough to stop austerity measures being imposed, let alone imposing their own demands. But we must start from where we are. Boris Johnson and the new government will be expecting that we'll just take whatever’s coming to us. We must try to prove them wrong. Where socialists have their most vital contribution to make – a clear idea about alternatives is not mere utopianism, but an important ingredient in inspiring successful struggle. An upturn in class war is the only basis on which socialism can begin to make sense and seem like a credible and possible alternative to capitalism for the working class as a whole.

We welcome any upsurge in the militancy and resistance and organisation of our class. But we also know, from bitter experience, that work of an altogether quieter, patient, more political kind is also needed. The skirmishes in the class war must be fought if we are not to be reduced to beasts of burden. But as human animals capable of rational thought and long-term planning, we must also seek to stop the skirmishes by winning the class war, and thereby ending it. As revolutionaries, we do not advocate reforms, that is, changes in the way capitalism runs, such as alterations to the tax system. Reforms, no matter how‘radical’, can never make capitalism run in the interests of the workers. Nor should supporting reforms be some kind of tactic pursued by socialists to gain support from workers, for workers who joined a socialist party because they admired its reformist tactics would turn it into a reformist organisation pure and simple. To attract support on the basis of reformist policies but really aim at revolution would be quite dishonest to get workers’ support on the basis of saying one thing while really wanting something quite different. History showed us the fate of the social democratic parties, which despite a formal commitment to socialism as an “ultimate goal”, admitted the non-socialist to their ranks and sought non-socialist support for a reform programme of capitalism rather than a socialist platform. In order to maintain their non-socialist support, they were themselves forced to drop all talk of socialism and become even more openly reformist. Today the social democratic parties are firmly wedded to capitalism in theory and in practice. We say that this was the inevitable result of the admission of non-socialists and advocating reforms of capitalism. That is why we have always advocated socialism and never called for the reform of capitalism. We are not saying that all reforms are anti–working class, but as a socialist party advocating reforms, it would be its first step towards its transformation into a reformist party. Regardless of why or how the reforms are advocated, the result is the same: confusion in the minds of the working class instead of growth of socialist consciousness. 

The institution of government does not feel threatened by appeals to it to act on single issues – even if those appeals take the form of mass public protests. On the contrary, government only feels a sense of power and security in the knowledge that the protesters recognise it as the supreme authority to which all appeals must be made. As long as people are only protesting over single issues they are remaining committed to supporting the system as a whole. But government will take quite a different view when large numbers of people confront it not to plead from a position of weakness for this or that change or addition to the statute book, but to challenge the whole basis of the way we live – in other words to question the inevitability of buying and selling and production for profit, and to actively work from a position of political strength for its replacement by the socialist alternative. In such circumstances, the governments aim will be to buy off the growing socialist consciousness of workers. In other words, reforms will be much more readily granted to a large and growing socialist movement than to reformers campaigning over individual issues within the present system. Not of course that the growing movement will be content with the reforms the old system hands out. To those who still say that, while they ultimately want socialism, it is a long way off and we must have reforms in the meantime, we would reply that socialism need not be a long way off and there need not be a meantime. If all the immense dedication and energy that have been channelled into reform activity over the past 200 years had been directed towards achieving socialism, then socialism would have been established long ago and the problems the reformists are still grappling with (income inequality, unemployment, health, housing, education, war. etc.) would all be history. It is only when people leave reformism behind altogether that socialism will begin to appear to them not as a vague distant prospect, something for others to achieve, but as a clear, immediate alternative which they themselves can – and must – help to bring about.

We do not require lectures on political unity from those on the Left who are well-deserved of the title 57 Varieties, having mostly been made up out of splits of splits of splits. Why should we join a host of other political non-starters that have come and gone in the past.

We have no objection to workers and socialists gettting involved in fights for partial demands but don’t believe the party should do that. We regard the strategy of transitional demands as elitist and manipulative, as well as just downright silly. The party’s task is NOT to “lead the workers in struggle” or even to instruct its members on what to do in trade unions, tenants’ associations or whatever, because we believe that socialists and class-conscious workers have the capacity of making decisions for themselves. If this sounds difficult to understand, it’s because you haven’t risen beyond a Leninist level of consciousness. To the question of a united class we hold that within trade unions for practical reasons for unions, in order to be effective, must recruit all workers in a particular industry or trade regardless of political or philosophical views. A union, regardless of type, to be effective today must depend primarily on numbers rather than understanding. We dismissed the chances of large numbers of workers, pragmatic proletarians, resigning from established unions for small radical organisations that can show no evidence of power, which is an immediate question for them. We were castigated for such a position by the so-called radicals of the syndicalist movement who liked to call us the sectarians. As the current recession within capitalism continues, squeezing and stamping down upon the working class ever more relentlessly, alongside the growing realisation of the failure of all forms of running the system; then there is definitely a growing POTENTIAL for the escalation of struggle towards the overthrow of the system. However, how many times has the potential been there in past moments of escalated struggle and capitalist crisis only to disappear or to be channelled into reformist, pro-capitalist directions? Discontent over wages or conditions can be a catalyst for socialist understanding but so can many other things such as concern about the environment or war or the threat of war or bad housing or the just the general culture of capitalism. The SPGB does not minimise the necessity or importance of the workers keeping up the struggle to maintain wage-levels and resisting cuts, etc. If they always yielded to the demands of their exploiters without resistance they would not be worth their salt, nor be fit for waging the class struggle to put an end to exploitation. Successes through such actions as striking and protests may well encourage other workers to stand up for their rights more but the reality remains that the workers’ strength is determined by their position within the capitalist economy, and their victories will always be partial ones within the market system. Only by looking to the political situation, the reality of class ownership and power within capitalism, and organising to make themselves a party to the political battle in the name of common ownership for their mutual needs, will a general gain come to workers, and an end to these sectional battles. Otherwise, the ultimate result of the strikes will be the need to strike or demonstrate again in the future.The never-ending treadmill of the class struggle. Workers can never win the class struggle while it is confined simply to the level of trade union militancy. It requires to be transformed into socialist consciousness. I see little evidence of the Left engaging with worker on the question of socialism but find ample proof that leftists feeds the working class with false illusions. Our general position is well known; we oppose all restrictions imposed by decaying and outmoded capitalism. We oppose passports, we oppose the attempt to restrict the free movement of labour, the capitalists idea of “Fortress Europe” etc. But truth is concrete and on this issue we have to take account of the different levels of consciousness of the proletariat. We cannot put forward, in the manner of the sects, the bald slogan of “open borders” or of “no to immigration controls” or a variant of this, things to all people thats supposed to be a principled position.

 Our Party rules are openly published for all to see. Thinking is not and never has been a violation of socialist discipline. Marx believed that, as the workers gained more experience of the class struggle and the workings of capitalism, it would become more consciously socialist and democratically organised by the workers themselves. The emergence of socialist understanding out of the experience of the workers could thus be said to be ‘spontaneous’ in the sense that it would require no intervention by people outside the working class to bring it about. Socialist propaganda and agitation would indeed be necessary, but would come to be carried out by workers themselves, whose socialist ideas would have been derived from an interpretation of their class experience of capitalism. The end result would be an independent movement of the socialist-minded and democratically organised working class aimed at winning control of political power in order to abolish capitalism. As Marx and Engels put it in the Communist manifesto, “The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.” This is not the same analysis advocated by Lenin or Trotsky. The Left put forward a whole raft of reformist demands that on paper might seem to be appealing. The only problem is that there is no plan to actually achieve these demands – they are “pretend” demands. Trotsky himself called these kind of demands “transitional demands” – the idea being to look at everybody else’s demands and make bigger demands so they sound great.

Occasionally, they might achieve a demand which will make them seem sincere, however the idea isn’t to achieve these demands – it is to not achieve them! This is the Troskyists’ grand master plan to make workers dissatisfied, so the latter will become revolutionary and flock behind their political leadership. In other words, the workers are to be the infantry led by the Trotskyist generals. The Left have real aims quite different to the reform programme they peddle. In this they are being as dishonest as any other politician, from the left or right. The ultimate result of this is disillusionment with the possibility of radical change. Genuine socialists get tarred with the same brush. When someone comes across the Socialist Party for the first time, a common reaction is to consider us as just another left-wing political organisation. The Left use similar terminology to us, talking of socialism, class struggle, exploitation, etc, and invoking Karl Marx. But digging a little deeper will show that our political position is very different from that of the Left. The Socialist Party is not on the Left. There is so much manipulation, dishonesty, and downright erroneous thinking connected with the Left that we would not wish to be associated with them in any way.