Monday, February 24, 2020

The Revolution – Why we need it

Capitalist society does and can only exist to the detriment, degradation, and demoralisation of the working-class. The capitalist-class has its representatives in the Government, local and national, and uses the legislative and administrative boards as pliant tools for the protection and promotion of its class interests, for the maintenance and extension of class domination, and for the further robbery and enslavement of the working-class. If, then, this is the economic function and political role of the capitalist class, what have the workers to expect from the present-day rulers of society ?

The basis of a socialist party in any country must, therefore, be a recognition of the fact that the material interests of the working class are in entire opposition to those of the employing class, that is, the recognition of the class war. Any party which declares that no class war exists rules itself, by virtue of that declaration, out of order as a socialist party. It is, necessary, therefore, in forming and organising a socialist party to have a clearly defined class war basis, and in every action of the party to always keep the class-conscious character of the party clearly to the front. Any action tending to obscure this position, any position keeping the class struggle in the background, is a virtual betrayal of socialist principles, serving only to confuse the issues in the minds of the workers and to make it more difficult for them to understand their class position and the reasons for it, and to see the road which must be followed if they are to achieve their emancipation  serving only, in brief, to retard the development of their class consciousness.

Any alliance, either permanent or temporary, with a party which does not recognise the class war is therefore out of the question. For does not every such alliance, whether openly avowed or tacitly understood, make less clear the class opposition which exists between the various political parties? How can we claim to be essentially distinct and, in fact, diametrically opposed to all other political parties, if we can find sufficient common objects to make possible any common ground of working? We think that the teaching of our principles is hindered by every such concession to the anti-class war parties, and is, therefore, opposed to the true interests of socialism.

We have, therefore, to recognise all the time that it is only possible to secure any real benefit for the people when the people themselves become class conscious, when behind the socialists in Parliament and on other bodies there stands a solid phalanx of men and women clear in their knowledge of socialism and clear in their knowledge that the only way to secure the socialist commonwealth of the future is to depend only upon the efforts of themselves and those who have the same class conscious opinions. Therefore we have no palliative programme. The only palliative we shall ever secure is the socialist society of the future gained by fighting uncompromisingly at all times and in every season.

Those who think in directing the attention of the working-class to the political representatives of the master-class for relief from the misery which is crushing them, in holding out to them the prospect or possibility of amelioration through the good grace of the ruling faction, are incurring a serious responsibility. Promising the working-class something that must inevitably fail is the fruitful source of that apathy and indifference in which the workers are sunk to-day; telling the workers they have gained victory when it is only a victory for the capitalist-class, entrenches ignorance and calling upon the capitalist governments to undermine their own position, which must be the case if any measure of material value to the working-class is put into operation, creates that pessimism in the minds of the workers that you so much deplore.

The Socialist Party exists to teach the workers their true position in society, and to create the political weapon whereby alone that position can be altered. The mission of the Socialist Party is to show the workers that capitalism lives on their wretchedness and prostitution, and that, if their emancipation is to be accomplished, they must adopt a political attitude necessarily hostile to all other political parties. Outside the Socialist Party, the party of socialism, the party of the working-class, all other political parties uphold and safeguard the interests of the capitalist-class and the continuance of the wage system which is responsible for not only the unemployed but the other evils that afflict society. 

The Socialist Party is the political expression of the material interests of the working-class for whom there can be only one policy and one programme, that is the control through public ownership of the tools and machinery for producing the necessaries and comforts of life, to be achieved by the political action of the working-class, cognisant of the causes of its suffering and wretchedness and conscious of its material interest and historic mission.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

What will socialism be like?

Socialism will be a society which will work on majority consent, in the interests of the majority. It will have a universal, human unity in its objects and its achievements. Minority class interests will not exist and neither will the mess of deceits and cynicism which they entail. We can change things; as soon as the society of common ownership and free access arrives. Abolish money? That’s impossible.” Is it? Surely all we need to produce wealth are people who are prepared to work and raw materials from nature.

We learn at an early age that money plays an important role in our lives. Even the toddler knows that coins must be handed over the counter before he can have an ice-cream. Later we find that money, or the lack of it, will dictate the standard of our living accommodation and level of education; it will even affect our medical treatment. It is useless to enter the supermarket with an empty purse, though on its shelves are displayed the very items we most urgently need; these have not been primarily produced as useful articles but as commodities to be sold at a profit. Access to them is obtained only by way of the special commodity in which the value of all others is expressed — money.

Money is familiar as a means of payment and exchange, but in capitalist society it is the medium by which the necessities of life are rationed to the great majority of people so that they must retain their position as wage workers. Conversely it is also the medium through which the owning class pockets surplus value.

Money is useful wherever wealth is exchanged. Exchange is a simple word whose meaning should be clear —when things are exchanged one is given in return for the other—but it is commonly confused with distribution. When things are distributed they are not exchanged; they are merely being taken from one place to another. The work involved in this is strictly speaking part of the process of producing wealth. Money, then, does not distribute wealth. Wealth is distributed by men loading and driving lorries or trains or ships or planes.

Perhaps this confusion arises because the word “Distribution” means sharing-out as well as dispersing and so fits in well with the mistaken view that money is a voucher entitling a person to such-and-such a share of the wealth that has been produced.

Historically, the most common kind of exchange has been that of equivalents and this is the only kind that need concern us now. So much wheat would be given in return for so many sheep or so many pots in return for so much cloth. This process of barter is cumbersome and becomes impractical when exchange grows to any extent. At this stage the need is felt for something that can be exchanged for anything else — money, for that is what money is, an item of wealth that can be exchanged for any and every other item of wealth. We can now see why money is itself, and must be, wealth. For, with the exchange of things of equal value, nobody is going to give his wheat or sheep or pots or cloth in return for something that is not worth the same.

Exchange implies something else, too. It implies that the wealth to be exchanged is owned by different people. After all, if one person or one community owned all the wheat as well as all the sheep, the question of exchanging them just would not arise. Exchange presupposes the private ownership of wealth.

This is why the establishment of the common ownership of the means of production and distribution will mean the end of exchange and so the disappearance of money. All the wealth that is produced, as well as the means and instruments for producing and distributing it, will belong to the whole community so that the problem will be simply to distribute it to where it is needed. This is just a question of organisation. When the wealth has reached the stores then people can freely take of it what they need. This — free access — is our alternative to money.

If we are interested in efficiency (as we are) there is something which is of top priority. If we want a society where wealth can move around the world freely, where it can be produced as human beings need it, we must think about a system which excludes money. The capitalist social system hinders distribution and restricts production. Its priority is not efficiency but profit for a minority. It must be swept away and replaced by socialism, the world of free production and access.

How then do we get money?

The privileged minority who owns the means for production and distribution — the land, factories, communications, etc. — get money from rent, interest and profit. They do not need to work.

The vast majority of people, about 90 per cent, possess only their ability to work The members of this working class must sell that ability, their labour power, to obtain money in the form of wages. Their labour is the source of all wealth yet access to the products of that labour is rationed by the size of their pay packets.

Though many look with envy at the better social conditions of higher paid workers the rights of the truly wealthy, the owning class, are seldom questioned.

“And why should they be?” Argues the capitalist. “I supply the machinery and raw materials and provide jobs for workers. The profits are justly mine and they get their share in wages".

But what are wages? Labour power is itself a commodity, bought and sold in the manner of all other commodities, and wages are its price.

Also in common with other commodities the value of labour power is determined by the average socially necessary labour time needed in production. Wages will be generally sufficient to keep a worker, and his family, at a standard demanded by prevailing social conditions. Workers whose labour is expensive to replace and maintain will command higher wages than those paid to the unskilled labourer.

Just as the working class is dependent on wages so the capitalist cannot make a profit without the employment of workers. When the capitalist buys labour power he gets a bargain, for this commodity has the unique capacity to create a value greater than its own.

Workers sell their mental and physical energies to an employer in return for wages. Then, for specified amounts of time, they work in his factory, operating his machinery on his raw materials. Over a given period the amount realised on the sale of the finished commodities will be greater than the cost of wages even after taking into account the cost of the raw materials and machinery. It is only labour power that can actually expand value. Only part of the workers’ labour time is needed to create a value equivalent to their wages; over the remaining time their unpaid labour is creating surplus value to be appropriated by the employer.

From this surplus value, now in the form of money capital, the capitalist can buy new machinery and expand his labour force so that an increased amount of surplus value can be created. However, expansion in the production of any commodity will only continue while market conditions are favourable. When sales fail to realise sufficient profit there will be a cut back in production, even if the commodity is a food crop and people go hungry.

Modern capitalism is a complex system and every individual capitalist may not always make a profit; but it is through their ownership of the means for production as a class that they are able to appropriate the wealth produced by the working class.

Every worker as an individual does not produce surplus value, it is in fact a social process. Workers co-operate to perform all of the tasks necessary to the running of capitalism, and it is as a class that they produce all wealth.

The capitalist mode of production has played a vital role in man’s social evolution. From it has come the ability to mass produce but paradoxically the profit motive prevents the realisation of production in abundance.

Is capitalism, as many would have it, the best of all possible worlds? Fortunately the answer is an emphatic No! There is a basic contradiction between social production and private ownership of the means for production.

When the working class understands its position in society it can, by way of the ballot box, perform the task of abolishing private property and take control of the means for production on behalf of all mankind. In other words Socialism will be established as soon as the vast majority of people want it.

With the means for production owned in common by the whole community production will be for use, not sale at a profit, with human needs the only criteria as to what is useful. With production geared to human needs the wasteful elements of capitalism such as advertising, built-in obsolescence and machinery for war will disappear.

Men will work in harmony as free individuals to produce all of the goods and services required by society and will partake of them according to their needs.

When all that is on and around the earth is owned in common by all of its inhabitants; when commodity production has given way to the production of articles for their usefulness and buying and selling is no more, the only possible part that money can play will be as a museum relic.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

People, Planet and Prosperity

Everywhere we look, some part of the environment is under threat. For every one of these that the environmental movement tries to address, more arise. The number is growing daily and giving greater cause for concern. Our natural surroundings has always been under attack since the development of the capitalist system of production and distribution. Today’s worries are seemingly fraught with far more potential disasters than those of the past. Chemical waste is poured by the thousands of gallons into rivers daily, stretching to the limit the biosphere’s ability to cope with such problems. Raw and partially treated sewage is pumped into the seas while oil-based chemical fertilisers, with their own production pollution, are used in ever increasing quantities on the land which will result, some say, in the eventual breakdown of the delicate natural structure of arable land. More and more information is coming to light.

The more an environment campaigner studies such problems, the more he or she is convinced of the inevitable long-term result of such seemingly careless attitudes throughout the modern world  catastrophe. So why are such policies and production methods continued?

The Socialist Party answer to this question is that it is the capitalist economic system which gives rise to such policies and production methods. The unfortunate truth in the world today is that it is profitable to pollute.

Many environmentalists seek to slow down growth which they say will lead to a stable sustainable society. Far from being a stable society capitalism fosters competition, waste, alienation, frustration and war.

Capitalism is fuelled by growth and expansion and must strive for larger and larger markets. Listen to the businessmen’s complaints, if GDP growth is only forecast at a small increase. We must have bigger growth rates say the government, the CBI and the trade unions all concurring that what is required is higher productivity.

We call on environmentalists to study the Socialist Party’s case for a society not owned by a small minority who run a society geared to the buying and selling of commodities including our labour power. Until workers, including the environmentalists, use the vote to oust the capitalist system and install socialism, the environmental movement will be another dead end for genuinely concerned individuals to travel. At best the environmental movement can act as a brake, a brake easily released when economic constraints permit. At worst it engages enthusiastic, vigorous individuals in a futile struggle for reforms which even if ‘won’ only lead to further problems.

 Join the Socialist Party the world over to prevent the disastrous future that capitalism represents. Society needs to be changed. Few people doubt that. To the members of the Socialist Party the answer to the problem of capitalism would seem obvious. Food, fuel and clothing, like all other needs should be freely available to all human beings. The revolutionary understands that one single cause creates the social ills which face us and that is the capitalist system. A system called world capitalism is the root cause of the social problems which afflict us and therefore it is world capitalism which must be abolished and replaced by a totally new social system where production is solely for use: socialism. That is the analysis and the objective of the revolutionary socialist.

The Socialist Party is not in the business of reforming capitalism, for to do so is to make repairs to a structure which is only fit for immediate demolition. That is not to say that socialists oppose reforms: we do not. Our opposition is not to reforms, some of which will have a benefit but to reformism — the belief that it is worth bothering to reform capitalism.

The Socialist Party does not advocate reforms. If we did we would be conceding that socialism is not an immediately practical proposition. We say that the socialist way of running society could now solve the global warming problems facing humankind and that no amount of reforms, however long we would have to wait for them, could improve society in the way that socialism could as an immediate change. If we adopted a reform programme as a "meantime" or "minimum" policy there would be two consequences: firstly, all kinds of people who accepted our reform demands but who regarded socialism as being of little or no practical importance, would join us and become a majority, so converting the Socialist Party into yet another "radical" capitalist party; secondly, as soon as we went into the game of competing with other parties to offer reforms it would be a sure thing that the revolutionary aim of socialism would be transformed into a utopian demand for the future, to be brought out on ceremonial occasions to satisfy the minority of revolutionary members. Other parties which started out with socialist intentions have gone that way but the Socialist Party, based in all ways and at all times upon firm revolutionary principles will not be diverted. No environment activist looking for a way out of the mess of the present social disorder can be allowed to waste their hopes and energies on the treadmill of futile reformist politics. That is why The Socialist Party is hostile to reformism — not to reformers as fellow workers, but to reformism which wastes their sincerity and that is why if you are a reformist now is the time to make the great political step forward from struggling to mend capitalism to uniting consciously to end it. The conflict between human needs and the needs of the buying and selling system can be seen throughout society today, together with the universal insanity which it breeds. Technology could be adapted for useful purposes, to satisfy human needs in health, housing and food.

Friday, February 21, 2020

This is Capitalism

Capitalist society is based on exploitation is one in which one class, through its ownership of the means of production, is able to live as a parasite class, not producing, but living on the labour of—that is, exploiting—the other class, or classes, who are obliged to do all the real productive work on which the life of the society as a whole depends. But though all class societies are based on exploitation, the form of the exploitation, and therefore the character of the classes and of the societies themselves, differ. Capitalist exploitation is clearly understood by every worker. We know that while we and our fellow-workers do all the work, it is the small class of capitalists who enjoy the lion’s share of all that he produces. The nature of the exploitation, that is to say how we are exploited, is not however so obvious, because, unlike the slave or the serf from past epochs, the wage worker is not legally forced to work for a master. Yet in fact, like the serfs, we work part of the time for ourselves and part for the employer. Like the slave, what we produce is not ours but the employer’s, who owns the means of production.

In order that production may be carried on in capitalist society it is necessary that there should be, on the one hand, capitalists who have at their disposal sufficient resources to buy or rent factories, to purchase raw materials and to pay wages; and, on the other, workers who will be prepared to work for wages because they have no other means of livelihood. The capitalists then set the workers to work on their raw materials, in their factories; and therefore the goods which the workers produce also belong to the capitalists to dispose of as they wish. Since the goods produced are neither for the personal use of the capitalists to whom they belong, nor of the workers who make them, the capitalists must be able to find someone who will buy them, i.e., find a market for them. Such goods, that is to say goods produced for sale on the market, are known as commodities. Now though a commodity must be wanted by someone (must have use-value) or else nobody would buy it, the decision of the capitalist to produce a given commodity is not determined by the needs of the people, but by the expectation that he will find someone able to pay for it. If more profit can be made from selling television sets to the rich than by selling tables to the workers, more television sets than tables will be produced, however great the shortage of tables. In other words, the motive of capitalist production, the reason why capitalists decide to produce what they do, is not the needs of the people: but the search for profits.

Profit is the difference between the cost of production of a commodity and the price for which it sells on the market. It is sometimes argued, therefore, that it is the result of cheating, of selling commodities above their value. But, if this were so, the profit made by one capitalist would simply cancel out the loss made by another. We must therefore be able to explain profit on the assumption that commodities are bought and sold (are exchanged through the medium of money) at their value.

If commodities exchange at their value, there must be some property common to them all by which their values can be compared. It is not their “use value,” referred to above, or otherwise the necessities of life as would sell (that is exchange for) more than the luxuries. But there is another factor, and only one other, that is common to all commodities; and that is that they are produced by human labour. Thus the exchange value (or simply “the value”) of a commodity is determined by the amount of labour (i.e., the labour-time) that goes into its production. More accurately, it is determined by the “average socially necessary labour-time,” since the amount of labour-time required at any particular time for producing commodities of that sort will depend on the technical methods available at that time.

But since commodities exchange at their value, how does this explain profit? We can only answer this if we can find a commodity which actually creates value in the course of being used. This Marx was the first to do by discovering the difference between labour and labour-power.

When a capitalist employs a worker, he is not buying the worker’s labour. He could only buy that in the form of the finished article after the worker has made it. What he does buy is the worker’s ability to work, his or her labour power; and the value of this is determined like that of any other commodity, by the amount of average labour-time necessary to produce it. This means, in the case of labour-power, the time required to produce the food, clothes and other necessities that are needed, in a given country, at a given time, to keep the worker and his family alive and able to work. (The more skilled a worker is the more training required, and therefore the greater the value of his or her labour-power.) And it is this value which determines the general level of wages paid to the worker by the capitalist.

But, with the technical methods available in modern society, it only takes the worker part of the working day to create, and embody in what he or she is producing, the equivalent of his or her keep ( wages). In four hours, say, a workers creates sufficient value to pay the wages. But since what he or she has sold to the capitalist is labour-power, the ability to work for, say, eight hours, the surplus value created in this further four hours also belongs to the capitalist, though the capitalist pays nothing for it. It is out of this surplus value that the capitalist makes his profit; and, since it has not been paid for, it is clear that the capitalist is therefore exploiting the worker.

So far we have been considering how value is determined—the value of labour-power or of any other community. It must, however, be borne in mind that the actual price of commodities may in practice, and usually does, vary from the value at any time as a result of competition between the capitalists or of the working of supply and demand—the fact, that is to say, that there is sometimes an excess, sometimes a scarcity, of a given commodity on the market. In the same way, the price of labour-power (i.e., wages) will vary from its value as a result of trade union action.

It follows that the economic interests of the capitalists and those of the workers are diametrically opposed: for the more the capitalist can exploit the worker the greater will be his profit. This he can do in two ways. He can lengthen the working day, which means that, since the amount of labour-time necessary to create the value of the worker’s wages remains the same, the additional hours are devoted to creating more surplus value. This is called increasing absolute surplus value. Or, on the other hand, he can increase the relative surplus value, which is achieved in the following way: As improvements in technique increase the productivity of labour, less labour is required to produce the means of subsistence of the worker. As a result of this a smaller part of the working day is devoted to producing the value of the workers’ subsistence (of the wages, that is to say), and a larger part is available for creating surplus value. In both cases the exploitation of the worker is therefore increased.

Inevitably the workers resist these attempts of the capitalists by fighting for higher wages and shorter hours; and, since they soon discover that their individual efforts are ineffective, they organise themselves in trade unions for the purpose. This is the first form that the class struggle takes. But trade union action alone can only modify the exploitation of the workers, can only effect reforms within the capitalist system. 

Once, however, the workers begin to understand the real nature of capitalist exploitation—the fact that the capitalists are appropriating for themselves the unpaid labour of the workers—they see the necessity for political action; that is to say, for putting an end to the capitalist system and building socialism in its place.