Saturday, July 04, 2020

Understanding what capitalism is

The overwhelming mass of the world’s wealth is owned by only a small proportion of its population. That, like all property societies, capitalism is made up of a small number of owners and a vast majority who own nothing or virtually nothing. Equally important is the fact that this pattern has remained fundamentally unchanged over the years. Working class poverty is an inescapable part of capitalism. As capitalism gets older it gets bigger and more concentrated. As it does so. the worker grows more remote and personally insignificant. This is what Karl Marx, said would happen, over a century ago. Nobody listened much to him then and nobody listens much now.

Whenever they are called upon to vote, our fellow- workers display all the bemused docility which we have long grown accustomed to. They will concentrate on the wrong issues, at the wrong time. They will allow themselves to be misled by the incumbent government’s claim to have been a responsible administration and by the opposition parties that they are the men and women better suited to run capitalism. The election policies of the Tories, the Labour Party and the others always amount to a claim that they are able to control capitalism. As each of capitalism’s crises blows up, there is no lack of political leaders to make speeches which state their solution to it. The workers will not consider the futility of it all and acknowledge the obvious impotence of the political parties to deal a with them.  Nobody seems to notice that some of the schemes are not very different from those which are being blamed for producing the crisis in the first place and that some of the bright ideas contradict others which have been offered before as the solution to our problems. As a whole, they will not even toy with the idea that it might be a good thing to abolish capitalism and to have socialism instead. The working class forgot to ask themselves when capitalism had ever allowed them to live anywhere near as well as some of the people who manage capitalism.

The capitalist class continually train up their experts and economists, but yet still they are caught napping by the vagaries of a market. Capitalism's slumps, like its booms, happen because its wealth is made to be sold. This means that the market is the key to capitalism's fortunes. And the market is a capricious, unpredictable, anarchic thing. It sums up capitalism, that its fortunes should rest in such uncertainty.

The Stock Exchange has spent some time over the past years in trying to improve its public image, which was so badly mauled by the last recession. The Stock Exchange was developed to organise some of capitalism's investments, but even without it there would still have been a capitalist class who would have grown very rich from the work of the rest of us. So when the Stock Exchange pats itself on the back they are making a social virtue out of an anti-social necessity. Socialists want lo live in a free world, which is owned by its people. The Stock Exchange does not help us to live that life: in fact, it does just the opposite. By misleading workers into accepting capitalism as a dynamic, logical, beneficial system it prevents us all from living not just the lives we want but the lives we desperately need.

These are certain essential facts about capitalism upon which we have always based our case against it. However the system may change in small ways, these facts are as relevant today as they always have been.


Friday, July 03, 2020

For the people and for the planet


 We of the WORLD SOCIALIST MOVEMENT (WSM) organise towards electing MPs as socialist delegates to overwhelm parliaments and declare: Annulment of all property and territorial rights whereby all that is on and in the Earth will become the common heritage of the whole humanity.
And for that matter, the necessary objective condition that is productive abundance remains matured since about the beginning of the past century. What's lacking is the other subjective condition that is the class conscious majority. Our task is to mature this condition. In view of that, we hold on to achieve socialism right here and now. We are not reformists.

For over a century the Socialist Party has campaigned tirelessly for the establishment of system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means for producing and distributing wealth. In those 103 years we have not compromised our position once on any issue. We remain the sole true revolutionary organisation in Britain. The WSM remains the sole revolutionary organisation in the world.

How have we faired politically? Just what have we achieved? What can we brag about? Well, socialism certainly seems no nearer than it was in 1904, though it must be said that the technology needed to establish a world of abundance is by far in advance of that familiar to our founders. Moreover, the working class nowadays are far better educated than the men and women the autodidacts of the Socialist Party tried to win over to the socialist cause, yet still we admittedly find it difficult to recruit new members.

Our membership remains small, scattered and, let’s be honest, relatively inactive, and whilst we have had some decent election results in recent years we are yet to win a seat in any local or national election. And it is not uncommon for members to despair at the poor results of their efforts and to resign.

Of course we have faced many obstacles to our growth which we could not foresee back in 1904; not least of which was the 1917 Bolshevik coup and the myriad groupings that sprung from the inspiration of the “Russian Revolution” and which, in truth, have caused untold damaged to the true socialist cause. For many years now, we in the Socialist Party have spent a great deal of time not only trying to rescue the socialist name from the many Leninist and Trotskyist groups who have sullied the image of socialism, but also in exposing the fallacy that socialism was ever established in the former Soviet Union and distancing ourselves from the illusion held by many that socialists advocate violent revolution and that socialism can exist in one country. Though we were in existence a long time before any left wing group in Britain, we find that we have constantly had to compete, for the minds of the workers, with left-wing groups  and a hundred others, all of whom pedal the politics of confusion, offering the workers fast-track routes to the Promised Land, prepared to recruit anyone capable of signing their membership forms, regardless. Little wonder we have had such a difficult time recruiting.

Moreover, we have watched in dismay the ongoing workers’ support for the Labour Party in Britain - workers’ belief in Labour’s claim to be “socialist”, workers’ belief in the empty promises of New Labour and that party’s continued determination to betray those same workers at every opportunity and lead them down the blind alley of reformism.

It’s fair, also, to mention the impact of the thousands of single-issue groups on the political scene and indeed the collective consciousness of the workers. Groups like Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and CND, though well meaning, focus many a worker’s mind on a single issue or reform, as if this is the most pressing matter of the day. If their combined energy had have been spent on attacking capitalism as a system, instead of campaigning against problems the system throws up, distracting millions of workers, then our task would have been halved.

So in honesty a great amount of our work has been taken up in attempts to rectify the damage done by other political organisations to socialist ideas and in challenging the single-issue mentality of thousands of organisations. Make no mistake about it – we have tried.

Let’s not forget that back in 1904 there was no means of mass communication, bar newspapers. Advances in communication technology were undreamed of in 1904. Now many workers have several televisions in their homes, and access to hundreds of channels. They have computers and access to a world wide web of information and all manner of electronic gadgetry that helps lull them into political apathy. And controlling all of this is the big corporations and the advertising industry, turning those same means of communication largely into idiot boxes that numb the minds of the workers.

Since 1904 there have been vast improvements in health, housing and in the way people live generally and which gives workers the impression that capitalism works for them and that the politicians ‘running the show’ have their best interests at heart. Little do the workers realise that any reforms were really the price the master class had to pay for their continued survival, and were certainly not an act of altruism. And all improvements in living were in general relative. Moreover, it was the workers who produced this wealth the politicians have taken the credit for and which the workers have erringly thanked them for on election day.

Of course we have had our successes over the years. Our monthly journal, The Socialist Standard, has been printed without fail since September 1904, producing sound Marxist analysis of current and international events as they have happened. We now have companion parties and members right across the world and hundreds of thousands access our website. We have our own head office, owned by the party and we produce literature and leaflets on a wide variety of subjects. We hold day schools and summer schools and attend as many events as we can to put forward our arguments to the workers. We contest elections every year — with increased returns in some places — and we regularly have members appearing on TV and radio and in the press arguing our case. We have for 100-plus years held lectures and debated with scores of political organisations and notable personalities. Many of the latter now exists on audio cassette and cd and more recently we have begun producing a film documentary to highlight our case. In recent years we have been active at almost every political event in Britain handing out leaflets, putting up speakers and erecting literature stalls; in short, doing our level best with our limited resources to propagate the case for a non violent, democratic transition to socialism.

So let’s be fair – the lack of socialist consciousness and desire for real change is hardly down to us. It is the lack of success of the class of wage and salary workers in general. It's up to them, not us, to establish socialism. But such have been the distractions – some listed above – that we really have had our work cut out for us.

We can also consider ourselves successful in having developed some quite original and distinctive arguments in response to advances within capitalism. We were, for example, perhaps the first political party in the world to contend that the Russian dictatorship, in the wake of the 1917 coup, was “state capitalist” rather than socialist — an argument since adopted by many others. On other occasions, The Socialist Party has developed new distinctive arguments in that we have effectively blended extant strands of political and economic thought into a entirely new mix. This is most notably the case with our views on the “reform or revolution” question, where two seemingly incompatible theories were entwined into a unique new political position.

There are indeed a number of distinctive arguments The Socialist Party has developed since our formation in 1904  and while socialism has not yet been achieved, we have helped make some serious contributions to the development of socialist political and economic theory – weapons for battles now being fought and yet to come.

If anything, our numerous contributions to political and economic theory should reveal that The Socialist Party is no unsuccessful, sterile organisation full of utopian dogmatists. Socialists are not content to sit on the sidelines of history – we are original thinkers and are open to innovation and new ideas – providing, that is, that they are sound. We are willing and able to cooperate with men and women the world over to bring about a better society, and we are proud of the small contribution we have already made to the movement that will one day sweep away capitalism once and for all.

We remain small in size for numerous reasons outside of our control, not least because we refuse to compromise our position and pursue reforms and single issues that the myriad reform groups like the SWP do to the detriment of revolutionary struggle.

Our message to those who can see no future so long as the market economy remains is join us – and help us make history.

Capitalism creates a hundreds of problems and there must be literally a million organisations around the world trying to solve them. In Britain alone, for instance, there are over 180,000 registered charities and who knows how many campaign, protest and self-help groups there are. Many people find the issues they promote worthwhile. They join various groups and many do a lot of good work – Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the like attract workers in their thousands and make hefty donations.

Every organisation has to decide what it is working for, and whether that aim is important. This is not to say that the aforementioned organisation have not got legitimate aims and which are not worth pursuing.

But, when the first of the parties in the World Socialist Movement was founded in 1904, it decided it was going to work for socialism and socialism alone, that it would not be sidelined into pursuing single issues.

We were aware from our inception that an analysis of society reveals that capitalism itself is the underlying cause of most of the problems which the social activists want to solve; that the social activists can only ever attack the symptoms, whilst ignoring the cause; that while social activists work to reform capitalism, socialists work only to eliminate capitalism: the cause of the problems.

If people eliminate the cause of the problems, the problems won't keep cropping up. Instead of trying to fix the symptoms, year in and year out, forever, people can eliminate the cause, once and for all. Then we can all get on with living our lives in a world where solutions actually solve problems, instead of just covering up symptoms.

This approach can be emotionally difficult. It may even mean that someone dies today, who might have been saved by social activism. A simple analogy to explain the socialist perspective:

If a pipe bursts and the water is rising on the floor, one can start bailing the water out while it continues to flow in, or one can turn the water off, and then start bailing. It may take a while to find the tap, and some valuables might be destroyed while searching, but unless the water is turned off, the water will continue to rise and bailing is rather pointless.

Socialists are not immune to the human tragedies which occur daily, by the millions, and which generate thousands of social activist groups trying to stem the tide. Socialists suffer those tragedies as severely as anyone else, but work to encourage people to find the tap, so to speak, and turn it off.

If the reform actions of the social activists saved everyone who might have died today, it would be harder to question their approach. But the fact is they don't even come close. After the Holocaust in the 1940s, people said "Never Again". In the 1990s, genocide was on people's minds again, for a few hours, when the atrocities in Srebrenica, Bosnia hit the front pages and when Hutus and Tutsis massacred each other in Rwanda and Burundi. Genocide didn't stop for 50 years. It continued all along in places such as East Timor, but wasn't, apparently, important enough to make the front pages. The environment promoting genocide didn't go away, and so neither did genocide. In February 2003 almost 2 million people took to the streets of London to protest against the US-British build up for the invasion of Iraq. A month later and the bombing began regardless of world opinion and thousands of demonstrations from London to Sydney.

If the social activists had solved the myriad of problems, or were even to be able to say that things were steadily improving, that would argue in favour of their approach to social activism.

But that is not the case. The reality is that the reforms which the social activists promote do not work. The social activists are not gaining much, if any, ground, and the same problems continue to appear. It is often one step forward, several steps back.

That is the reality of capitalism. Social activism cannot change that. Or rather what most people call "social activism" can't change it. Socialists are social activists, and suggest that working to eliminate the cause of the problems is the most valuable type of social activism.

Socialists make a choice. We choose to use our time and limited funds to work to eliminate the cause of the problems. One can pick any problem and often one can find that real improvements have taken place, usually after a very long period of agitation. Rarely, if ever, has the problem disappeared, and usually other related problems have cropped up to fill the vacuum of destruction or suffering left by the "solution".

After hundreds of years of social activism, both the problems of war and poverty, which most people consider to be rather important, are still major problems and are nowhere near solution. War didn't stop in 1918 or 1945, it continues every day, somewhere in the world. Moreover, in spite of the huge advances made in technology, in science, in food production and transport in the 20th century, we entered the 21st century with 800 million chronically malnourished, 600 million homeless and 1.1 billion without access to clean water

The anti-poverty movement is now marginal. Eliminating war and poverty are no longer even in the realm of discussion for reformists. The reformists have failed.

Some environmentalists tell us that if the environment is destroyed all the rest won't matter. That is true enough, but there is little indication that the huge, well-funded environmental movement is making much real headway. For example, since the last Earth Summit, the forests of Brazil, sometimes called "the lungs of the planet", are being destroyed faster than before.

Socialists have been saying for over 100 years that reforming capitalism won't solve the problems and we have been proven correct so far. People who say that it is too early to accept that verdict seem willing to wait another 100 years to see what has, by then, transpired.

If socialists are correct, that would mean another 100 years of war, of poverty, of economic crises, of environmental destruction. It means that and more, as the destructive capability of society increases daily. There is not even moderately compelling evidence that socialists are wrong. There is compelling evidence that socialists are right.

The fact that millions are prepared to make an effort says a lot. Tens of millions are prepared to work many hours each week for charitable organisations and for the various lobby and campaign groups. They are well-intentioned people and we do not deny them that. The fact is that if the efforts they had put into their various single-issue causes had instead have been channelled into working for socialism then by now we most probably would have been living in a world of free access, devoid of a thousand social problems that social activists campaign against.

Socialism is what socialists want, so socialism is what they work for, not the reforms of the "social activists".

The Companion Parties of Socialism, in the World Socialist Movement, are socialist parties. They promote socialism because that is all a socialist party can promote.

If you find a "socialist" party promoting "social activism", you'll have found a non-socialist party ignoring socialism and working for reforms, not solutions.

A tiny group of socialists can't solve the world's problems; only a huge, socialist majority can do that. It is up to every individual to create that majority, and to use it to turn off the tap of capitalism, so that the problems can be solved.


Thursday, July 02, 2020

Debate with “International Socialism Group” (1970)


Edinburgh branch have sent us the following report of a debate on “Which Way Socialism — International Socialism or the Socialist Party of Great Britain?” held in the Freegardeners Hall, Edinburgh, on before an audience of 70. (The local IS branch have seen this report and raised no objections to it) 

S. Jeffries opened for the IS by saying that he agreed with the SPGB’s Marxist theory but that there was a failure to link up theory with practice. He went on to quote Engels on the need to build the revolutionary movement within the trade unions. It was stupid to rely on the vote. He preferred the overthrow of the system by non-parliamentary means, and said that Marxists should always be prepared for the revolutionary situation when this overthrow would be possible.

Comrade Vanni replied that revolutionary phrase-mongering did not make a socialist and invited the floor to look at the dismal history of the IS. Using back numbers of the Labour Worker (now Socialist Worker) he drew attention to their lack of socialist understanding giving instances such as IS having urged workers to vote for the Labour Party in the 1964 and 1966 elections instead of fighting the real enemy — capitalism. It was not a Leninist elite that would bring about the revolution but capitalism itself by the contradictions inherent in it. IS far from being a vanguard, were in reality politically backward. They considered the workers too dull to learn from history but instead that they had to be taken through the struggles and learn from strikes. He went into some detail on the bankruptcy of their political theory, such as the permanent arms economy and their belief in the collapse of capitalism. IS did not even understand what Socialism was, as they saw a need for money, banks and the like, saying that instead of being sacked by a boss you would be made redundant by a ‘Workers Council’. In reality it all boiled down to a sophisticated state capitalism.


What will socialism be like

Many say that the present pandemic will change the way we look at society’s problems, especially its environmental challenges. There are lessons to be learned but there are still many questions to be answered.

We live in a world where our life and fate is in the hands of a few ultra-wealthy oligarchs and ultrapowerful plutocrats. They are the 0.01%. They have placed themselves over sovereign elected governments and above global bodies like the United Nations. This elite minority is complicit in the many on-going crises we are confronted by. They are culpable for the current instability within society.

Today the prospects for human civilisation, never mind humanity’s existence in the future, looks bleak. The collapse of civilisation may well be on the cards if we do not change course and avoid the potential tipping points that many scientists now warn us of. In a sane world, if  scientists who normally understate problems start issuing warnings of existential threats then a rational world would take immediate remedial action  to ensure human survival.

Society is controlled through Parliament where power rests. The workers form the vast majority of the population, and it is mainly through their votes that members of Parliament are elected. When the workers accept the socialist outlook they will vote delegates to Parliament to take control on their behalf. The capitalists will have to accept what happens, regardless of their views, because they will have lost the power to resist it. Thus there will be no need for violence.

Once the workers have obtained control of Parliament they will proceed to organise society on a socialist basis. The capitalists will be unable to prevent this. They will have lost both their economic basis and their political control. Therefore they can only do as previous controlling classes had to do; fall in line with the organisation of the new system.

Socialism is international. Therefore the new system will be a world system. There would not be any government or leaders required. There are organisations in existence at present which attend to purely technical matters on an international scale, which can give you an idea of future procedure. Here is a list of a few of them.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) continually reviews the food and agricultural conditions in the world and supplies governments with facts and figures relating to nutrition, agriculture, forestry and fisheries; with appraisals and forecasts in relation to the production, distribution and consumption of agricultural products. It also makes recommendations on the improvement of education and administration relating to the fields in which it works.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has as its object “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health".

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) assists Civil Aviation by encouraging the use of safety measures, uniform regulations for operation, and promotes the use of new technical methods and equipment.

The Universal Postal Union (UPU) aims at assuring the organisation and perfection of the various postal services and promotes, in this field, the development of international collaboration. To this end, the members of the UPU are united in a single postal territory for reciprocal exchange of correspondence. That is why it is so easy to send letters to Los Angeles. Valparaiso, Cape Town, Delhi, Tokyo and Melbourne

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) sets out to promote international co-operation in the field of meteorology and the quick exchange of weather data to establish world-wide networks of meteorological stations and facilitate the publication and standardisation of their observations, to further the application of meteorology to human activities, and to encourage research and training in the field of meteorology. In conjunction with Radio and coastguard stations it gives warning of gales, and enables ships in distress, regardless of nationality, to have assistance sent to them.

These are just some of the purely technical organisations that collect and distribute facts and general information, and there are many others, less known, in other fields. These technical organisations work at present under capitalist conditions, where the profit motive limits to some extent the value of their work. But when socialism comes into operation such organisations will be free to work to the fullness of their powers, without having to bow to the interests of property. In the future there will be nothing to hinder the work of people who are delegated to central bodies in different areas, and to world central bodies, for the purpose of collecting and disseminating information to enable society to produce and distribute what will be required to satisfy the needs of all. There will be only one interest to serve, the interests of the whole of the world’s population.

Our own organisation, on a very small scale, is an example of the kind of thing that will come into operation. We depute members to do various jobs, including an Executive Committee to carry out the Party’s instructions. No one would gain by failing to do the job deputed to him. and the better he does it the better for all the members, including himself. That is the spirit which will actuate all those in a socialist society, but a spirit that, in general cannot operate unhindered in a class society where some can gain by wielding domination over their fellows. And, incidentally, in socialist society the better a man does a job the more he will be appreciated by his fellows, but he will have no power of any kind, nor will he be treated as a ’leader”.

The technical organisations we have mentioned are manned by members of the working class who will become socialists in the same way as other members of the working class, by acquiring socialist knowledge. When we are on the brink of socialism they will know what will be required of them and act accordingly—gather and impart the information necessary to enable the change over from capitalism to socialism to be accomplished as smoothly as possible. Obviously it will take a little time for the new society to get properly on its feet and settle down, but this will only be a question of solving technical difficulties. The working class that inaugurates socialism will be quite aware of this, but the multitude of problems that afflict a class society will no longer exist.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Stand in Solidarity

We live in a capitalist society that shapes institutions in ways that serve to reproduce capitalism. The left-wing theory that revolutionaries cause revolutions confuses cause with effect. To de-romanticise this idea is very much necessary. 
Mass unemployment will bring the United States closer to less-developed economies. Very large regions of the poor will surround small enclaves of the rich. Narrow bands of “middle-income professionals,”  will separate rich from poor. Ever-more rigid social divisions enforced by strong police and military apparatuses are becoming the norm. Their outlines are already visible across the United States. Only if workers understand and mobilize to fight the class war can these trends be slowed, stopped or reversed. In the 1930s working people fought the class war against the capitalists and companies. Millions participated. 
Today class war has once again been intensified and as billionaire Warren Buffet says, his side is winning. Many more workers need to be convinced that the class war is underway and become committed to fighting it. Unions have been severely weakened. Fewer workers belong to unions. Many, if not most, have not experienced their pay packages keeping up with increases in the cost of living even if their level of productivity—the amount of work they accomplish in the work day–has increased. Many union leaders add to the weakness of unions by being secretive and operating in a top down manner. This harms their effectiveness because when members make decisions that determine goals and strategies, they own them, and are more likely to fight for them. Our hope is that our fellow-workers become politically active and engage in work to change society.
 Many working people supported Bernie Sanders because they believed he promised a political revolution against the Democratic and Republican status quo, yet he is now recommending  people get behind the very Establishment who you thought he was launching a revolution against. Sanders has stated his inspiration was Eugene Debs, a five-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America. Debs admonished workers for voting for non-socialist candidates.

Socialism must be established by the workers before they can enjoy the fruits of their labour. The madness of excessive competition built up on the commodity character of labour-power and production for profit, can only cease when production is carried on for use. Capitalist anarchy grows with the growth of capitalism. The system fails utterly to give a full life to the class that produces all wealth. Capitalism is over-ripe. Men and women are needed to awaken the workers to a realisation of their slavery, to expose confusionists, and impart a knowledge of socialism to those who suffer under the system, that they may organise and work for their emancipation.

Socialism will eliminate hunger, house the homeless, give a dignified life to everyone, save the lives of those who die for lack of proper medical attention, and generalise free access to the social wealth of the world. 

None of these are utopian even if working people are willing as yet to build it. The political integrity of the Socialist Party is of first importance. All the votes acquired during elections would do us no good if we ceased to be a revolutionary party, or if we compromised more and more to the pressure to modify the principles and policy of the party for the sake of increasing the vote. The left drops whatever may give offence to our fellowworkers sensibilities to broaden the appeal and attraction of their parties but these votes do not express a will for socialism and in the next ensuing election are quite as easily swing towards another populist organisation or leader. 

The Socialist Party advises it is better that they do not cast votes for the Socialist Party, if their political position disagrees with our own ideas. Socialism can never be achieved by what amounts to a fictitious vote for it. In our campaigns and promotions we  state our principles clearly to convince and win others to our cause through an intelligent understanding of the socialist case. No possible good can come from any kind of a political alliance, express or implied, with any who are opposed to socialism. we want the support only of those who believe in socialism and are ready to vote and work with us for the overthrow of capitalism. To kowtow to non-socialists to secure political favours can only result in bringing disaster. 

Socialism can be built only when the working class has taken political power out of the hands of the capitalist class: that is, when there has been a revolution and the socialist revolution can only be accomplished by socialists. Easy short cuts to socialism must be exposed as illusory.

Socialist Standard No. 1391 July 2020

No. 1391 July 2020

index link

Socialist Standard No. 1391 July 2020 PDF


Click on image for Contents page .

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Non-manual labour

Letters to the Editors from the June 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Editors,

I am writing in the hope that you can enlighten me on a point concerning non-manual labour. Unless I have completely misunderstood the dynamics of capitalism, the exploitation of the workers rests on the extraction of surplus value, and the wages system is the mechanism by which this robbery takes place. This is easily observable in, say, mining or steel production. Physical wealth is produced, expropriated and sold. However with unproductive work such as, for example, a typist or a bank clerk, what wealth is being produced? How can someone who is producing no wealth be exploited through the extraction of surplus value? What wealth is being expropriated?

I understand that much non-manual labour is an essential part of production (nursing, planning etc) and that this labour, indirectly, produces wealth. However, doesn't this suggest perhaps the existence of two different types of exploitation? (1) the ‘real’ economy—physical wealth production on which we all depend, and (2) non-manual labour, some of which (like the occupations mentioned above) is essential and some of which (bank clerks, etc) is completely wasted labour. The exploitation of someone in the 'real' economy is easily analysed—the owner's outlay (wages, rent, repairs, etc) can be said to cost x, commodities are sold for y. the difference between x and y being profits.

Can the exploitation of a typist be quantified in this way? A miner pays his own wages, he has produced wealth over and above the value of his wages, does a typist do the same? Who pays for a bank clerk's wages if they don't actually produce any wealth? Is it enough to say that employers are happy to pay unproductive workers because within the context of the money system they do serve a purpose? Are unproductive workers a sort of subsidised workforce, paid for with wealth accumulated through physical wealth production? If so, doesn't that imply a rather more sophisticated understanding of the system amongst employers than blind obedience to the God of profit—if they are prepared to forsake immediate gain by employing workers whom they can’t actually physically exploit for profit, or is it a situation that developed naturally?
T.M.
Glasgow.


Reply:
Production is the transformation of materials that originally came from nature into something that serves some human purpose. This necessarily involves both physical (manual) and mental (non-manual) work. Mining is not just a question of digging. It also involves surveying, planning how to extract the mineral and how bring it to the surface, and the like. This work is just as necessary to production as the physical side. Originally the same person would have done both but, as the division of labour has grown, the manual and mental aspects have come to be performed by different groups of workers. All of them are equally engaged in productive labour, including, we might add. the typists who type out the plans.

Under capitalism it is not just use-values that are produced but commodities, or items produced for sale. This means that a whole series of other operations become necessary which wouldn't exist if production were carried on simply for use: buying, selling, accounting, banking, insurance. Necessary though these activities are under capitalism, they are not productive as they do not enhance the usefulness of the product. This does not mean that the workers involved in them are not exploited. As Marx explained in Chapter 6 of Volume 2 of Capital on "The Costs of Circulation", such workers, just as much as productive workers, are paid less in terms of labour-time than the time they actually work and so perform unpaid labour for their employer. It is this unpaid labour which transfers a part of the surplus value produced in the productive sector to their employer. So an employer of unproductive labour has not abandoned the pursuit of profit. Quite the contrary.
Editors

The Necessity of Revolution

We are not progressives, not liberals but revolutionists. We declare our aims, our perspective, and our attitude. We take this opportunity to restate our aims.

The capitalist class owns and controls the means of production, distribution and communication. The working class owns none of these, and therefore workers must sell their labour power to the capitalist for wages in order to live. The worker creates a product of value, part of which is returned to him as wage, and the rest of which is taken from him by the capitalists as profit. Thus is created the basic antagonistic contradiction between worker and capitalist, since the interest of one is, and has to be, directly opposed to the interest of the other. This most fundamental of contradictions will not end until capitalism with its private or state ownership is itself ended, and replaced with socialism, where all means of production will be common property. There will be no classes and no class struggle. The consequences of class divided society – racism, national chauvinism, male supremacy, the monogamous family based on property, etc. – will all have disappeared. There will be no wars, no armies, and no need for weapons of war, which will become historical curiosities. There will be no distinction between mental and manual work. Socialism will be a life of material and cultural abundance. Contradictions between people will remain, but these will not be antagonistic and will be resolved by mutual cooperation.

The capitalists have attacked you with every weapon at their command. They have battered down your wages to starvation levels. They have cast you on the scrap-heap of unemployment. They have gagged your every protest, bludgeoned you when you assembled to demonstrate your misery, and laid by the heels in prison all those bold enough for voice your claims and your indignation. To hell with their capitalist politics! We want an end of class tyranny and oppression. Vote down every capitalist candidate. Their labels mean nothing to us. Conservative or Labour or Nationalist, they are all the same. They all stand upon the backs of the workers, and differ on only over their share of the plunder. We must stand together against them.

The only struggle for us is the struggle of the workers against their exploiters. Wherever one looks, we see  more of the rubble that wars have piled up. Thousands of people can’t get a job to live and are hungry. Misery, undernourishment and a huge increase in sickness and the number of the people’s children dying every day. The social misery and poverty continuously grow begging, prostitution and the number of criminals whom the prisons cannot hold any more. A clique of financiers is gambling on the backs of the people. A class of bankers, industrialists, big merchants, big landlords and arms dealers, after accumulating easy riches and taking advantage of every commercial or political abnormalities in order to profiteer on the needs of the population, now holds in its hands huge concentrated economic forces (stock-market capital, land, factories, transport, construction etc), that is, it holds in its hands almost completely the lives of the people. The sharks of bank capital, the big industrialists and big merchants, speculators and the upstart newly rich of the wars; on the other hand, out in the rural areas, the big landlords and money lenders hold the lives of the people in their hands, and with more or less “legal” methods they usurp, they steal, the labour of the vast majority of the people, comprising of workers, poor peasants or landless ones, clerks, small-holders and dispossessed refugees.

The plutocratic oligarchy exploited the labour of the people. Underneath a thousand lies and prejudices and customs this great evil was hidden. Only then the poor popular masses began to realise that these drones constituted a class on their own, with its own separate interests, and that the poor workers of cities and villages are another class with its own separate interests, opposing those of the exploiters class’. And then they began to understand well, that they must wage a social struggle, to fight that exploiting class with their own forces and not wait passively for its charity. That they had to organise themselves.

Political exploitation and tyranny. They tell us that “the people is sovereign” and decide on their own on their fortunes with elections. They send their own representatives to the parliament and they take decisions with their interests in mind. Especially now, with Democracy, the sovereignty of the people, they say, will become even greater, since only they will be able to elect the Head of State, the President of the Democracy. But we know well that the great majority of the poor people, whether they want it or not, remain still illiterate and cannot know about the various issues concerning the country. They don’t have the chance to educate, because they are condemned to work only.