Showing posts with label class struggle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label class struggle. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The world class struggle

Is there a commonality between the Spanish Indigados, the Occupy Movement, hosts of other social protests from Israel to Greece, and now showing itself in Turkey and Brasil?

The current economic and social crisis is certainly a deep one and is driving capitalist states and capitalist companies towards some desperate measures to try and stabilise the system and restore (and where possible) increase real profit levels. But this is not to assume that particular capitalist governments or companies are stuck with only one set of inflexible policies. The problem is that isolated struggles by workers in the context of intense capitalist competition will give the capitalists more abillity to offload any gains made by one sector onto other workers The generalisation of struggle will make that harder for them to achieve this and can potentially push back the austerity measures accross a wider front at least on a temporary basis.

Alexander Berkman, the author of the ABC of Anarchism, put it "Capitalism will continue as long as such an economic system is considered adequate and just".

 Until people see through it capitalism will continue to stagger on from economic crisis to war to ecological crisis. To simply denounce finance capitalism as the main enemy is to side with industrial capital in the struggle between the two over how much each is to get of the wealth produced by the worker class. When we challenge capitalism, we challenge it all or we do not challenge it at all.

Can crisis, in certain circumstances provide an accelerant to the class struggle? And what will motivate the working class to overthrow capitalism if not the crisis of the latter? For decades self-proclaimed "Marxists" (especially Trotskyists) fetishised the word "crisis", and describe every economic downturn and political turn of events as the "crisis of capitalism" or even prophesising the "inevitable" end of capitalism. It’s proposed that in a crisis, the closer we are to revolution. The worse conditions become - the more politicised and inclined to take direct action the populace become. Some communists welcome the economic crisis of capitalism and claim there is no perspective of revolution without it. Some of those "Marxists" say "Bring on the crisis" because for the working class things will not be able to continue as before. It is argued that without some form of crisis there's no reason at all for the proletariat to revolt.

 As long as capitalism can offer us palliatives (or at least the illusions of them) to soothe our exploitation, the system will survive It is argued that crises opens up the possibility of revolution, even if it doesn't guarantee it. But without crisis there is no possibility whatsoever. There unfortunately won't be a perspective of revolution with it, either. Genuine socialists prefer that working class living standards aren't severely cut. How do we agitate workers around this issue? "Cheers for the crisis"!! Most of the vanguard Left seems to be basing all of its activity around either recruiting workers into their particular party, or upon the vague hope that the working class will engage in some kind of spontaneous communist revolution. Wishing the massive impacts of a massive economic crisis/recession upon people's lives just in the hope that their fringe ideas will get picked up and perhaps adhered to by a handful of additional people, the contempt that it shows for humanity is disdainful. It also lays bare the complete and utter impotence of said movements in the first place. This overly optimistic wish fulfilment mixed with its crude utopian determinism does no justice to Marx.

Historically, it hasn't shown crises capable of producing anything that is favourable to the process of implementing a sustainable social and economic system that could both eclipse and be more progressive than the current form of organising society. The track records of crises are such that they have not produced a lasting positive effect on any attempts to eclipse the current method of organising society. We've seen countless crises since the birth of capitalism, all of which the effects of have been disproportionaly visited upon those who can least afford to bear those consequences, and none of which have ended up leaving the position of class struggle or even progressive social democratic politics in an enhanced position after the event, maybe for blips of time, but in the long run, crisis have been kinder to capitalism than they have to us - and those going into a crisis with power will invariably come out of the other end of it in a far better position than those who went into it with less power. Anyone who had a realistic view of the implications of the coming crisis relating to the environment, resources, food and population pressures would not be so gleeful in their wishing those effects upon an already downtrodden working class. Crisis in the main are useful to capitalism. Capitalism needs crisis to continually move onto the next stage and it is odd that those who are supposedly against capitalism wish for things that will help capitalism to reassert itself even wider and deeper than it currently is.

Socialists will not bring consciousness to the working class from the outside but awareness will be developed in the workers' struggles to defend itself against the inevitable intensification of the attacks against it. There's nothing inevitable about this and if the working class cannot rise to the occasion overall, it gets defeated. The economic crisis (like war, etc.) can provide a stimulus for class struggle, but this is not always the case. In some circumstances it can demoralise the class or, even if the class struggles it can be dragged onto bourgeois terrain like the strikers in France in the 30s who supported leftist governments and marched under the national flag. Despite the considerable militancy, the class struggle was contained. What can happen is that the working class could be beat down more than it already has been in the previous decades. The working class is mostly under the sway of bourgeois ideology, is not organised even into class fighting organisations, and therefore is presently unable to threaten the bourgeoisie's power. The Great Depression produced no revolutionary upsurge and the appalling conditions of workers in the 3rd world haven't automatically led to social revolution in those countries either. We can perhaps even expect to see reactionary ideology make a resurgence amongst the working class, in the midst of any coming crisis. If the working class is not already prepared it will be divided and defeated. That is not appealing prospect.

Economic crisis and increasing misery for the working class doesn't necessarily and inevitably lead to revolution. Relying upon the effects of the crisis seems to be the lazy way to try and approach social change, scrap all the groundwork and hope the crisis does it for you. While it is argued that downturns make people angry and more susceptible to revolutionary ideas, the opposite may be true. It may be downturns just lead to despair, fatalism, acceptance of misery and cynicism to things getting better. Upturns in the economy make revolution more likely because it is the human condition never to be satisfied and when you've got the job, house, wages, car and all the mod cons then you want more - security, control over your own life which can only be got by workers ownership and control of our own work, residents ownership of their own homes and individuals control over our lives, all of which can only be got by way of socialist revolution.

When crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That is our basic function: to develop alternatives, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable. The best we can hope for is to use this as an opportunity to re-group, in order to get the working class in a stronger position to start from when the boom returns. All we can do is to try to negotiate the best terms possible and try to resist as effectively as we can the increased downward pressures on wages and working conditions (for which we need collective organisation and action, even within the existing trade unions). As to what revolutionaries can do, at the moment being so small a minority, we can't do much more than keep on arguing that the only way-out is to replace capitalism by a system based on common ownership (instead of class ownership) and production solely for use (instead of production for profit) and to keep on urging workers to self-organise themselves democratically to bring this social revolution about

The whole point of class struggle is about winning gains, making our lives better, getting better conditions at work, at home and in society, things that the bulk of the population can easily measure in terms of the direct affect on their day to day lives. We are not going to get much support for our ideas if we come out with argument like "well your living standards may well have declined, your worse off now than when we started, and we haven't gained anything in terms of changing the incredibly unjust system of organising society, but just look at the enormous gains we've made in terms of the class struggle" - the whole point is to win real tangible gains that in turn can bolster people and show it can be done, thus allowing momentum to build, more people won over to a critical analysis of the society they live in, more ideas developed for such a time that when the crisis does come so that the right ideas are lying around, in sufficient depth and breadth, that they can be picked up and used, and some good made out of a crisis. But until that time comes it's just pissing against the wind. Struggles should be aimed towards achieving real gains for the sake of those gains or delivering 'an increased confidence, autonomy, initiative,participation, solidarity, egalitarian tendencies and the self-activity of the masses', but all of these are a means to and end and that end should be measurable in terms of improvements in our lives. Workers benefit from their struggles in terms of learning how to organise, discovering their collective power, etc.

Like it or not but capitalism did deliver huge increases in the standards of living over various phases, take the post-war golden age of the Welfare State for example. Capitalism in the social democratic era brought about a flourishing of consumer capitalism. The intention of this was not to increase conditions and the general living conditions of the working class, but it was a means to an end for capitalism to accumulate more, and as we know capital will do anything if it means being able to accumulate more, so from that point of view capitalism was happy to, and indeed was required to, deliver a vast increase in living standards and quality of life compared with previous periods of history. In order for it to do this it meant wreaking havoc in other areas and storing up problems for the future, but the bottom line was that the general conditions of the working class have improved under capitalism. You could argue however that conditions have just improved because time has moved on and those improvements would have been seen in any method of organising society, but that would be indulging in what-if's. A substantial amount of the demands of early reformists and the like have actually been delivered. It is it's galling to perhaps admit these things but it does help if you want change, to actually know where you are before embarking on any activity, practical or theoretical, aimed at bringing about that change.

Marx said in the Holy Family:-
"Not in vain does it go through the stern but steeling school of labour. It is not a question of what this or that proletarian, or even the whole proletariat, at the moment regards as its aim. It is a question of what the proletariat is, and what, in accordance with this being, it will historically be compelled to do. Its aim and historical action is visibly and irrevocably foreshadowed in its own life situation as well as in the whole organization of bourgeois society today."

Consciousness is something that workers has to acquire, even if it does not want to.

The liberation of our class will only come about when we, the class ourselves, for ourselves, do the hard work of organising, which needs that we class conscious workers doing the equally hard work of convincing our fellow workers. At the end of the day, as pro-revolutionaries, it is not in our interest to try and save capitalism but rather to destroy it and to encourage current struggles to develop on an independent, self-organised, class basis and extend across national boundaries which may well give rise to an escalation of the social crisis and starts to challenge capitalism as a whole from a position of some class strength. Only the self-organisation of the proletariat contains the potential to defend its own interests both in the short-term economic and the longer term political. A working class that can't defend itself is also a working class that is incapable of making a revolution.

Marx wrote "Philosophers have only tried to understand the world. The point is to change it."
The IWW sang "Don't moan, Organise!"

Sunday, June 09, 2013

We need the union

You cannot be a union man, 
No matter how you try,
Unless you think in terms of “we”
Instead of terms of “I”

Faced with austerity and wage cuts workers, more than ever, need unions that are prepared to fight to defend living standards. The boss doesn’t give up his profits, interests and dividends or bonuses in a recession.  He only demands that the workers give up their wages so that his profits, interests and dividends will be bigger. This is what is known as everyone sacrificing for the “national interest.” Workers soon learns that if they are by themselves , not in an organisation, they will be utterly helpless victims of capitalist greed. If the employer, especially the more powerful employer in the big industries, is able to deal with each worker separately, he can set almost any wage and working standard he pleases. If each worker offers himself singly on the labor market, he soon finds that other workers, especially when there is a large surplus of unemployed, will “underbid” him in an effort to get the job. To defend themselves from the efforts of the employer to lower wage and working standards, the workers find themselves forced to organize together, to represent themselves to the employers as a group and to bargain collectively. The formation of  unions is therefore the first step naturally taken by the workers to organise themselves as a class.

No one can say with certainty how various sections of the working class in Britain will react to the recession, which is slashing real living standards of those with jobs for the first time for generations, alongside a deep disillusionment with the Labour Party. The possibility of an explosion of anger exists, of which we see flashes of militancy. But political consciousness does not follow as a mechanical process nor does it depend solely on the external circumstances.

 The theory that the workers are not capable of governing themselves is false to the core. Every worker who has participated in trade union life knows that the working class has a tremendous capacity for efficient administration.

In general the employers are much better prepared than the workers in industrial conflicts. The reasons do not lie in any inherent weakness in the working class. Actually the workers are much more powerful than the bosses. The weakness of the workers lies in the failure to recognize the class struggle in its real significance and to prepare the fight accordingly. A union should unite workers instead of divide them; it should be run by workers and not run them; it should fight employers instead of fighting other workers. The most modest victory of the workers in one plant or industry depends upon the organised strength of the workers all over the country, in all the important plants and industries. In other words, the progress of any group of workers depends upon the strength and organisation of their class, upon its ability to combat the capitalists as a class. Those who argue against independent political action by the workers, against a socialist  party, are tied in body and mind to capitalist politics.

The only real answer lies in a world system, a system without classes, an challenge which goes beyond the ‘fair wage’ to challenge the wage system itself. Capital is interested in production for profit, labour in production for use. Capital is based upon a constantly increasing exploitation of labor, in order to maintain its profit; labor constantly resists this exploitation. There is and can be no such thing as a “legitimate profit,” inasmuch as all profit is derived from paying workers less than the value they add to the product. There is and can be no such thing as a “fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” inasmuch as wages are the payment for only one part of the day’s work, the other part of which the worker is compelled to contribute to the employer in the form of surplus-value, or profit. Capital always seeks to increase its profits, which can be done only by exploiting labour; labour always seeks to resist exploitation, which can be done only at the expense of profits. Capital always seeks to intensify the exploitation of labour by reducing wages, increasing the work-day, or speeding-up production, or by all three at once; and labour always seeks to raise its wage and working standards. Capital always seeks to increase its profits, which can be done only by exploiting labour; labour always seeks to resist exploitation, which can be done only at the expense of profits. These are fundamental economic facts. Under capitalism, nothing that all the capitalists, or the whole government, or all the union leaders, or all the workers, or a combination of all these, will ever do, can succeed in wiping out these facts.

 Capitalists hammer into the heads of the workers they are entitled to a profit. They hammer into the heads of the workers that capitalism always did exist and always will. Maybe it can and should be improved a little, patched up here and painted up there , but not eliminated. They hammer into the heads of the workers that there always have been people working for wages and there always will and must be such people; that it is so decreed by “human nature”; and that the best to be hoped for is the rule of a “fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work." They work hard at hammering  these ideas into the heads of the people. If these ideas did not prevail, they could not retain their power for a week.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

A Declaration of Class War

Socialists are always accused of trying to set class against class. We plead guilty but we actually only point out what already exists. We are engaged today in a class war; and why? For the simple reason that in the the capitalist system in which we live, society has been is mainly divided into two economic classes—a small class of capitalists who own the means of producing wealth and a great mass of workers who own nothing and are compelled to seek employment in the services of the owners. Between these two classes there is an irrepressible economic conflict. The capitalist is the economic master and the political ruler in capitalist society. But we also want to get rid of the class struggle. We’re going to do it by getting rid of the profit system which exists only because there is a class of squeezers and a class of the squeezed.

All government is class government; and that the industrialist and aristocratic thieves hold the reins of political power. The employers know that class exist and they themselves are sufficiently class-conscious to engage in the class- struggle. It is the class struggle of the workers that is to be decried. No political party can serve two masters. No political party can serve the class which owns the wealth and also the one which produces the wealth but does not own it. No political party can serve both the robbers and the robbed at the same time. The Socialist Party is thus solely the political party of the working class. No part of its mission is to reach re-conciliation the capitalist class. We are organised to fight that class.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain is in fundamental opposition to all other parties. It proclaims that the building of socialism, the re-organisation of the economic life of the whole world, is impossible, unless the working class overthrows the capitalist class and becomes the ruling class. The Socialist Party therefore is the enemy of capitalists and capitalist parties. The political power of the capitalist class is exercised through the parliamentary institutions, through its class control of the armed forces, the police force, the law courts, the media and education centres. Having conquered the capitalists and with political power in the hands of the workers, the way to socialism is clear to proceed to socialise the economic life, and, for the first time in history give the working class, i.e., the great majority of the population, control over their daily lives and power to build the future as they themselves deem fit.

Many workers imagine that they must have a leader to look to as a guide to follow. Workers have been brought up with that belief and have been taught that they are dependent upon their betters and that without a leader decisions cannot be made and directions cannot be followed, so, therefore, they instinctively look for a leader. We have depended too much on leaders and not enough on ourselves. The Socialist Party doesn’t want you to follow it but rather acquire self-reliance. As long as you can be led by an individual you will be betrayed by an individual. That does not mean that all leaders are dishonest or corrupt but many of them are deluded themselves, a case of the blind leading the blind. The most dangerous leader is not the corrupt leader, but the honest, ignorant leader. That type of leader is just as dangerous as the one who deliberately sells you out. There are leaders whose good intentions are the paving stones to hell. Daniel DeLeon’s classic phrase, to describe them was “the labor lieutenants of the capitalist class.”

 Far from even fomenting class war too many leaders have been almost too anxious to secure permanent peace between the wage-earners and their employers and forget that under existing conditions the capitalists always have the whip hand. They preach that there is no basic conflict of interests between the bosses and the workers, between the capitalist system and the interests of the working class. Reformers claim that a “promised land” can be brought about only if the capitalists and the working class are “reasonable”, if only we all “work together in the national interests”. With such slogans they paper over the class nature of the system. They cover up the inevitability of class conflict. They are for class collaboration, not class struggle.

The class war is our war and our only war. We have no interest in championing any wars for ruling class conquest and plunder. In all these wars the workers are slaughtered while their masters get fat on the spoils of conquest. The time has come for the workers to cease fighting the battles of their bosses and to fight their own; to cease being slaughtered like cattle for the profit of the ruling class and to line up in the class struggle regardless of race or nationality for the overthrow of class rule and for the emancipation of their class and humanity.

“Your King and Country Need You,
Ye hardy sons of toil.
But will your King and Country need you
When they’re sharing out the spoil?”

Friday, May 24, 2013

Growing Consciousness

Capitalism has become an obsolete oppressive system that ought to be got rid off but the old social order won’t simply disappear of its own accord. Its removal is dependent upon its replacement by socialism. Capitalism itself created the possibility and the necessity of socialism as well as creating the class capable of introducing socialism, the working class. There was no doubt in the minds of pioneers of socialism as to the future. They recognised the slave condition of the workers in capitalism and had faith in the worker’s power and capacity to abolish the slavery and build a new society of free people in a classless society. A relatively small minority recognise this as most people continued trying to satisfy their needs within the system rather than by overthrowing it.
"The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority," Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto.

"Self-conscious" implies that the class itself must understand the full significance of its actions and “independent” implies that the class itself must decide the objectives and methods of its struggle.The working class cannot entrust this task to anyone else. No "saviours from on high" will free it, as our workers’ anthem, The International, proclaims. The class will never achieve its power if it relegates the revolutionary struggle to others or substitutes the party for our class. Mass socialist consciousness and mass participation are essential. Socialism, unlike all previous forms of social organisation, requires the constant, conscious and permanent participation of the great majority.

The Socialist Party is frequently reminded of the decline of socialist ideas which presumably means that at some particular point of time in the past, socialist prospects were better because there were then more socialists about, or, if there were not more of them, then they were of a higher calibre and more committed. This view of the past is taken for granted so we would therefore expect the evidence for it. But ample evidence points the other way. The bulk of the working classes gave more or less active support to a variety of resolutely anti-socialist parties and causes. Divisions on ethnic and religious grounds existed. Jingoism and nationalist politics prevailed. Labour leaders had acquired a large stake in moderate reform within capitalism and possessed a deep fear of militancy. The General Strike of 1926 was a remarkable event but it was unplanned and unwanted by the leaders of the TUC which led to their unconditional surrender and although there was much bitterness among the rank and file, there was no grass-roots rebellion. The concept of “workers’ control” receded and class collaboration took its place.

A worker who knows that capitalism is the true enemy, yet cannot find time for the struggle to replace it because he or she is “too busy” in the trade union movement or with involvement in campaigns for reforms has not yet grasped the fundamentals. Socialism is not about the relief of poverty by social reform or a belief in nationalisation and co-ops to improve administrative efficiency, all of which have been proved possible within a capitalist framework, but about the abolition of capitalism as an economic and social system. It is not about the improvement in the condition of the working class, but about the abolition of that class. It is not about the creation of a “people’s capitalism”.

Nor is there the slightest relation between Marx’s vision of the future socialist society and the system that once reigned in the old Soviet Union. For all its cosmetic veneer of Marxist terminology, Soviet reality was everything both Marx and Engels abhorred and criticised all their lives. And it is indeed difficult to believe they would not have fought against it if they had been alive. We can debate the intricacies of whether Russia was state-capitalist or simply just a slave-state but there is no question of it being a workers’s state or a step closer towards socialism. Surely, there isn’t anybody who would contend that the workers had any power in the so-called Soviet Union. In Russia the state owns the means of production, but who owns the state? Certainly not the workers!There was no “dictatorship of the proletariat”, rather there was the dictatorship of the Party. The “union” of “soviets” was a fiction within days and months of the Bolshevik October Revolution. It is a fraud to assert that there was a qualitative difference in the Russia of Lenin and that of Stalin. The Leninist “insurrectionary” road to socialism demands centralised decision making and communication, which is not a favourable environment for the growth of democracy. The revolution as we saw was strangled and developed into a dictatorship.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ye are many-- they are few

We were sold a dream of a fictitious caring, sharing Welfare State. We were told that if we studied and worked hard we would be promised a well-paid job which would be enough to pay for a comfortable home to raise a family. Workers have been finding out that this was all a lie. The question now is what happens next.

We have had all the failed palliatives meant to patch up the flaws and faults of the system. We have had New Deals, Old Deals and Raw Deals in abundance. But although things could get worse, we shouldn’t completely despair. Social change is happening. The stories of the poor and the nearly poor, and the hardships they endure, are now being told. The anti-austerity and Occupy protests have introduced (or more accurately re-introduced) resistance, challenging the centres of power and calling for the re-building of society. Trade unions are once again discovering their back-bone and asserting their industrial muscle. Everything is in motion and we ourselves are that movement.
Class struggle means refusing to succumb to fear and refusing to surrender. It means saying no more compromise or no more concessions. Enough is enough. Hope and history are companions: one looks forward and one looks back. If we look forward, we’ll see where we have to go. We look backward to grasp clearly what we are moving forward from, and to understand the paths others have made so we can map our own road forward.

Hopelessness often comes from amnesia of our past, forgetting that everything is in flux, everything changes. There’s the people’s counter-history that we don’t learn in school and don’t see on the TV: the history of the battles we’ve won, of the rights we’ve gained, of the differences between then and now. We forget that we fought for the vote, the eight-hour day, for workplace health and safety and for free access to education and health-care. If we forget how we won them, then we can lose them again. Even in our defeats and set-backs the seeds for future more successful struggles were sown.

Things change and people have the power to make that happen when they come together and act as one and not alone.

"Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew,
Which in sleep had fallen on you--
Ye are many-- they are few."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Understanding class

There are two classes in society - the one possessing wealth and owning the means of its production, the other making the wealth by using those tools and technology but only with the permission and only for the benefit of the possessors. These two classes are necessarily in opposition to one another. We have before us today, in capitalist society, masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited but to put it more bluntly, robbers and the robbed. Two economic forces whose interests ceaselessly clash, are pitted against each other. These two classes can never be reconciled and it is this that we call the class struggle. Workers, be they “white” or “blue” collar, skilled or unskilled, because they are workers, cannot survive except by selling their labouring power. Yet were it not for the working class, the whole social fabric would collapse in an instant. It is they who do the useful work. It is they who produce the wealth.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Real Union Question

Have no illusions about the role of governments, the police or the law - the defence of capitalism and exploitation is the main function of the capitalist state.

Both Marx and Engels advised the workers to unite in trade unions and fight for improved wages and shorter hours. In these struggles, victories would be won. The workers could wring concessions out of the capitalists. “Now and then”, the Communist Manifesto explained “the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever-expanding union of the workers.”

The hand-to-mouth existence of the workers has never made it easy to strike for higher wages and better working conditions. The employers can recuperate lost profits, the workers’ lost wages cannot. As long as the capitalist system exists, the bosses will always try to take back what they have been forced to concede. They will continually try to step up the exploitation of the working class in order to boost their profits.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Transcending the trade union struggle

The working class are as our Chartist forefathers were not afraid to call it, a class of wages slaves. Yet today we are less preoccupied with the abolition of the wages system than ever. Reformists attempt to mollify inhuman social relations whilst preserving them intact. The old cry for a fair day’s pay echoes repeatedly time and time again. The essence of working-class enslavement is not impoverishment. Whether a worker’s wages be high or low his existence is imposed. It is necessary to abolish the basic condition of modern exploitation, wage slavery.

The old conceptions in the labour movement have become faulty and inadequate and working class organisations offer indecision and confusion, and are reduced to impotence.

Karl Marx counseled the working class many years ago that “they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘abolition of the wages system.’ ”

When we fight for a demand like a wage increase, we are merely fighting against the effects of capitalism. Not merely that. We are demanding it from the capitalists. In other words, we envisage the continuation of the capitalist system. What trade union struggles really do is to fight to improve the conditions of the working class within the framework of the capitalist system. They do not challenge capitalism itself. That is why they degenerate to pure and simple reformism and, in the end, bolster up capitalism.

Every wage increase that is won by the workers is eventually offset by the employers by more intensive work. So, usually, the workers are back to from where they started.

What all workers should understand is that their misery is due to exploitation carried on by the capitalist class. Trade unionism merely restricts their struggle to attempts at lessening this exploitation. It does not fight to end exploitation i.e. to end the capitalist system and replace it by socialism. This is the limitation of trade union struggles. However, we should not oppose trade union struggles. It is essential to organise workers and help them to realise the value of their labour power in the fight for their day to day demands. And it is also in the course of these fights, that the workers can learn about the system of capitalist exploitation and the need to abolish it. They will not only discover how to fight for wage increases but also how to abolish the wage system itself.
The objective of the Socialist Party is nothing less than the socialist reconstruction of society, the abolition of the wages system. We press the workers to transform the economic struggle into a political struggle for the seizure of power by the working class. Otherwise we will sink into the morass of never-ending reformism.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

The Socialists' Message

The word “socialism” is commonly used as a political trick. Various Labour Parties are called “socialist” and it is suggested that countries with large welfare state systems are socialist and that nationalised industries are socialist. There has been a persistent tendency to define the idea of socialism to as a mere legal alteration of the property system and the introduction of some sort of planned economy.

When production is for the requirements of the community and when production is for use and not for profit of a minority, this is the basis of socialism. This socialist commonwealth liberates the individual from all economic, political and social oppression and provides for real liberty and for the full and harmonious development of the personality, giving full scope for the growth of the creative faculties of the mind. Based on the common ownership of the means of production and distribution it dissolves the hostile classes into a community of free and equal producers striving not for sectional interests, but for the common good.

Capitalism is a social system that stands condemned. Its usefulness of the past is now long over. If it is allowed to continue, the world will only plunge deeper into suffering, degradation, destruction. Revolution does not mean that we would “demand” that a government do this or that. It means that we, the working class, make the decisions ourselves.

Friday, May 03, 2013

We are the Power

The capitalists are the upper class-because they are always on our backs; if they were not on our backs they would not be above us. In capitalist society the worker is not a person or an individual at all. He or she is simply merchandise, a commodity. The very terminology of the capitalist system proves it. Go to any factory or office and there will exist a department called “human resources”.

Capitalism is a society divided into two economic classes: a relatively small class of capitalists who own the machinery they did not make and cannot use, and the vast numbers of workers who did make the tools and machines and who do use them, (and whose very lives depend upon using them), yet who do not own them. Every cog in every wheel that revolves everywhere has been made by the working class, and is kept in operation by the working class; and if the working class can make and operate this marvelous wealth-producing machinery. These millions of wage-workers, producers of wealth, are forced into the labour market, in competition with each other, selling their labour power to the capitalist class, in return for just enough of what they produce to keep them in working order.

You are as much subject to the command of the capitalist as if you were his property under the law. You have got to go to his factory because you have got to work; he is the master of your job, and you cannot work without his consent, and he only gives this on condition that you surrender to him all you produce except what is necessary to keep you in working order. The machine you work with has to be oiled; you have to be fed; the wage is your lubricant, it keeps you in working order, and so you toil until you pass away. That is your lot in the capitalist system.

You do everything and he has everything. We do not need the capitalist. He could not exist without you but we can live without him. Workers are the only class essential to society; all others can be spared, but without you society would perish. Why should you be dependent upon a capitalist? Today the capitalist is far removed from the scene of production, and workers generate wealth more autonomously. All you have to do is to unite, think together, act together, strike together, vote together, never for an instant forgetting that you are one, and then the world is yours. You only need but to stretch out and take possession.

In the struggle of the working class to free itself from wage slavery it cannot be repeated too often that everything depends upon the working class itself. The simple question is, can the workers fit themselves, by education, organization, co-operation and self-imposed discipline, to take control of the productive forces and manage industry in the interest of the people and for the benefit of society? That is all there is to it. All the workers have to do is to recognise their own power. This seems simple enough and so it is, yet simple as it is it involves the greatest struggle in history.

Socialists are the very last to underestimate the magnitude of this Herculean task. We offer no so-called “great men” to do something for the workers. We are not offering ourselves as the vanguard party which will lead you. The workers must organise their own emancipation to achieve it and to control its almost limitless opportunities and possibilities.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The class struggle

The strike has long been labour's most powerful weapon. Strikes put pressure on the employer - which needs the employees' labour to run the business - to agree to employees' demands for fair wages and working conditions. Strikes are also a public form of expression. Seeing picket lines in front of a workplace sends a message to the employer, to the public and to the workers themselves. It says that the workers stand together to fight for decent working conditions and that their dispute with the employer is so important that they are willing to lose pay to fight for a fair workplace. It tells the public and other workers that they might not want to patronise, or work for, the employer unless changes are made. Strikes build solidarity among the workers and help them maintain their resolve under the severe pressure of losing income while on strike. Strikes are also an expression of control by the workers, who may feel that the employer treats them as if they were nothing more than a live form of raw materials - human resource.

But against the power of capitalism, strikes by the trades unions are no longer the potent weapon they once were and the political futility of the Labour Party is obvious to all. It could not act (and cannot act) otherwise as a representative of capitalism. The result is that during the last decades the condition of workers has grown steadily worse.

Monday, April 01, 2013

A re-newed class struggle

The capitalist logic says, “The economy is in a recession and the figures are all down this year. We’re all in it together and we all must tighten our belts” But the majority knows that this shared sacrifice is nonsense even if we don’t have the statistics. The company directors’ have been awarding themselves massive pay rises, the gap between rich and poor is getting wider and the tax evasion of the wealthy is becoming only too well-known. There is a general climate of anger and a feeling that we should take action.

Too often the left propose all sorts of ineffective options mostly on the basis that “the workers aren’t up for it” or “everyone is scared,” or even “we aren’t sure we can win.” But when people don’t seem up for it, it’s because they aren’t stupid and they aren’t up for ineffective action. Workers need to understand their union and their fight. Unions must present the truth. If it’ll take a six-month struggle to win, unions have to say so. Don’t patronizse; educate. Don’t become like the enemy. Solidarity is vital. This means other unions and other workers from different sectors and places supporting one another.

The working class face expanding global corporate power, massive inequality, a rapidly shifting and changing economy, less pay and more insecurity. We need a straight-forward trade unionism, which speaks to the experience of people which is based on the daily lives and culture of people to rebuild a union way of life. It is important to build industrial and international organisation, as opposed to sectional and national organisations. Even though many in the union movement are conservative with the small c , stuck in ideas and traditions of the past and stuck in the rut in in their structure, direction, culture and efficiency, some in the unions are, nevertheless, attempting change in their own way, independently of, and without reliance on political parties without adherence to any notions of a “party line” or generic “one-size-fits-all” class struggle. In recent years, ideas of the full democratic participation in all decision processes have become integrally part of the theory and practice of many workers’ movements.

Yet the basic social relationship of capitalism remains the same and the working class mission remains the same, to build a new form of society. It’s time for a radical, futuristic approach. The Socialist Party of Great Britain has come to understand that the people themselves can organise to provide for their needs and wants. Every revolution is impossible before it happens; afterwards it feels inevitable.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

class war in India

India factory workers in revolt and kill company president. Workers at the Regency Ceramics factory in India raided the home of their boss, and beat him senseless with lead pipes after a wage dispute turned ugly. The workers were enraged enough to kill Regency’s president K. C. Chandrashekhar after their union leader, M. Murali Mohan, was killed by baton-wielding riot police. Once news of Murali’s death spread, the factory workers destroyed 50 company cars, buses and trucks and lit them on fire. They ransacked the factory.

The workers had been calling for higher pay and reinstatement of previously laid off workers since October. India’s factory workers are the lowest paid within the big four emerging markets. Per capita income in India is under $4,000 a year, making it the poorest country in the BRICs despite its relatively booming economy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

workers defy management

Workers at Scottish Water have rejected a pay freeze. The GMB union said there were fears the ground was being laid for a wage freeze which could last for five years.

“Members resent the fact that five directors will share a bonus pot of £90,000 each while they are being asked to accept a pay freeze.” Richard Leonard, the GMB organiser for Scottish Water said.

The union's membership had rejected the pay freeze offer, which came with a one-off payment of £250 for employees earning less than £21,000, by a margin of 62 to 38 per cent. Strike action could see key employees such as emergency call-out staff and water sewage treatments workers staying away from work during the winter.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cameron threatens the unions

In his first television interview of the year, Cameron, facing a possible spring of discontent as unions consider co-ordinating strikes against public-sector cuts, sent a tough message against any militant action. "Striking is not going to achieve anything and the trade unions need to know they are not going to be able to push anyone around by holding this strike or that strike or even a whole lot of strikes together – they can forget it,he declared.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union countered: “If David Cameron thinks he can batter working people into the dirt through his undiluted brand of fiscal fascism, then he’s got another think coming.” He added: “Millionaire public schoolboys, who are insulated from the lives of working people taking the daily hit of VAT increases and spending cuts, are in no position to tell the unions what we should and should not be doing to defend our members.”

Grahame Smith, the STUC general secretary Cameron was deliberately raising the political temperature with an anti-union sentiment, which, he argued, was “extremely unhelpful" and explained that "If union members want to take industrial action, they do so not against the Government but against their employer. Any industrial action will not be politically inspired,”

Friday, July 25, 2008

ethical exploitation

The "ethical" fish restaurant group, Loch Fyne, pays staff salaries below the minimum wage . Loch Fyne champions marine conservation, and proclaims a corporate philosophy of "an enterprise with respect for animals, people and ecology." according to the BBC
It relies on customer tips to boost total pay to a lawful level . Staff at Loch Fyne Restaurants say they are on a salary of £5.05 an hour, compared with the legal minimum wage of £5.52. The Unite union called the company's behaviour "appalling", and said all restaurant staff should be on a minimum wage salary, as well as getting a fair share of tips. Restaurants are legally allowed to include tips in the calculation of employees earnings, but the practice has been criticised as unethical.
The BBC also revealed that salaries at the Hard Rock Cafe in London were less than half the minimum wage, with waiters on £2.06 an hour

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The police and the class war

Scotland's rank and file police are to call for the right to strike, currently denied them by law.
Members of the Scottish Police Federation , representing ranks up to chief constable, will debate the issue at their annual conference.

Police are prohibited by law from striking. The nearest they came to industrial action was a demonstration last year when 22,000 off-duty officers south of the Border protested over the pay deal they had been given. Many officers believe not being able to strike means they enter pay negotiations at a disadvantage and there is an increasing feeling within the federation that pay levels have been slipping.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Charity doesn't begin at home

Staff at Shelter Scotland went on strike yesterday for the first time in the homeless charity's history in protest over pay and conditions. Offices around the country were closed as more than 100 workers and their supporters gathered at a rally in Glasgow to voice their opposition to new employment contracts.

The union Unite said that a proposed extension of staff hours would see employees working an extra three weeks a year without pay.Workers are also opposed to plans to downgrade 40 posts across Shelter's UK services, including four at Shelter Scotland, and to make up to five staff redundant. Unite said the walkout, following the breakdown of earlier talks, would be repeated on Monday unless management was prepared to negotiate a new offer. The prospect of a resolution looked unlikely, however, as Shelter's UK head warned that if the current offer was refused, up to 200 of its 850 staff UK-wide could lose their jobs.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Scotland's Slaves

Some migrant workers in Scotland are being treated like "modern day slaves", according to campaigners being reported by the BBC . Promises of good accommodation and pay quickly disappear when they arrive in Scotland.

Two Polish workers told BBC Scotland that after two weeks of labour they actually owed the farmer money.

The Prague Post reports that the life many migrant workers find in Scotland is not what they had envisioned. They are frequently abused and coerced into accepting illegal working conditions, said Beth Herzfeld of Anti-Slavery International.

The most common form of abuse is debt-bondage. This is the illegal practice of paying an employer up-front for work, rent and food . Sometimes said, it takes workers six weeks to repay these debts, and then they are fired. This is a common “trick” employers use to leech money from vulnerable workers explains Paul Millar , the Czech honorary consul in Scotland .

According to Herzfeld, debt-bondage is one of the tactics used to traffic people. Trafficking is when someone is taken to, or freely goes, from one place to another by means of deception, coercion or violence. Often, as in the case of many Czech workers in Scotland, their passports are confiscated, they have a debt to repay and, being unsure of their legal right to work, they are controlled by threats.

Dangerous housing and miserable pay are often the hallmarks of foreign workers’ lives in Scotland, according to Ian Tusker, assistant secretary of the Scottish Trade Union Congress .
“You could work all day for a pittance, basically... " Tusker said.

See a related article , Borders Crossed , in this month's Socialist Standard

Friday, July 27, 2007

Deaths increase at work

The number of people killed at work has risen to its highest level in five years, according to official figures released today by the Health and Safety Commission .
The figures show that 241 people died in the United Kingdom in the last financial year compared to 217 the previous year.
The largest number of fatalities was on building sites where 77 people were killed - up 31%.

Other high-fatality jobs are in agriculture, waste and recycling where there are large numbers of non-unionised, vulnerable labour, including many migrant workers.

Health and Safety Commission staff and inspectors have been cut by 1,000 .

Brendan Barber, the general secretary of the TUC, said:
"...ministers have refused to place a specific legal duty for health and safety on company directors, and, with less money than ever at its disposal, the HSE has had to cut its staff, including the number of its safety inspectors."