Showing posts with label reformism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reformism. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

'Successful' Reforms

 Given the apparent futility of reform campaigning to remove the social problems and economic difficulties capitalism creates, socialists know that a revolutionary change in the basis of society is necessary. However, does this mean that all reforms are doomed to failure and do not really make a difference to workers' lives? Of course not - there are many examples of 'successful' reforms in such fields as education, housing, child employment, conditions of work and social security. Indeed, the Socialist Party does not oppose all reforms as such, only the futile and dangerous attempt to seek power to administer capitalism on the basis of a reform programme - reformism.

 Any socialist elected to Parliament or to local councils would be delegated by the Socialist Party to treat individual reforms that came to their attention on their merits, principally as to whether they would benefit the working class at large, or indeed, the movement for socialism in particular. At all times, however, socialists would refrain from advocating specific reforms of capitalism or supporting organisations wanting to reform this or that aspect of the system.

 This is because while there have been some 'successful' reforms, none of them have ever done more than keep workers and their families in efficient working order and, while reforms have sometimes taken the edge off a problem, they have very rarely managed to remove that problem completely. There have been some marginal improvements, but the social problems that the reformers have set out to deal with have generally not been solved - hence the need for an uncompromising socialist party to pursue revolutionary change.

 Let us take some examples of 'successful' reforms. If we look at education, we can see that despite the 1870 Education Act, the introduction of comprehensive schools and now grant-maintained schools, it is arguable whether the education most children receive is adequate to their needs or conducive to their wellbeing.
  It is mostly designed to prepare them, conveyor-belt fashion, for the job market.

 In housing, successive governments have brought in measures claiming to solve the housing problem and the majority of wage and salary earners are indeed better housed than ever before. Yet official figures show that there are tens of thousands of homeless people, many in 'bed-and-break-fast' accommodation or sleeping rough on the streets, while millions of homes are either unfit to live in or require substantial repairs.

 Concerning the welfare of children, the suffering many underwent in chimneys, mines and factories in the last century was eventually ended by government legislation. Nevertheless, twenty years after the beginning of the 'welfare state' there were still enough children living in deprived conditions to merit the setting up of the Child Poverty Action Group. When it was first formed, its members were so certain that the problem would be solved within the year that they did not even open a bank account. That was in 1965 . . .

 More generally, reform legislation has meant that employers can no longer impose unlimited hours of work on their employees and are officially obliged to provide minimum conditions of safety. It has meant that sick, unemployed and old people no longer generally have to rely on charity to live. Yet for all this, many people are forced to work long hours of over-time to make ends meet, accidents and deaths at work run into many thousands annually, government figures show that more than one in five families live on or below the official poverty line, and many old people die each winter through not being able to afford adequate heating. Increased stress means that one in four workers will suffer mental health problems during their lives.

 The problems remain, then. What we have is an education system to provide better trained and more skilful workers, work regulations to make sure that we are not driven beyond endurance, a health service to patch us up quickly so that we can return to work, and social security schemes to ensure that our working ability does not degenerate too much in periods of unemployment.

 What reformers have to ask themselves is whether it is worthwhile campaigning for reforms when, as we have seen:
  • their campaign, whether directed at a 'right-wing' or a 'left-wing' government, can only hope to succeed if it can be reconciled with the profit-making needs of the system;
  • their campaign, whether directed at a 'right-wing' or a 'left-wing' government, can only hope to succeed if it can be reconciled with the profit-making needs of the system;
  • the measure they have supported, even if implemented, may well have consequences they did not foresee and would not have wanted;
  • any reform can be reversed or eroded later if a government finds it necessary;
  • any number of reforms bearing on a problem rarely, if ever, actually solve that problem.
 How can the increasing number of people involved in reform activity, and clearly concerned with the problems that affect society and their own lives, most usefully direct their energies? The answer lies in a recognition of the uselessness of appealing to governments to bring in benevolent reforms, and of the necessity of democratic political action to get rid of the very need for governments.

 The institution of government does not feel threatened by appeals to it to act on single issues - even if those appeals take the form of mass public protests. On the contrary, government only feels a sense of power and security in the knowledge that the protesters recognise it as the supreme authority to which all appeals must be made. As long as people are only protesting over single issues they are remaining committed to supporting the system as a whole.

 But government will take quite a different view when large numbers of people confront it not to plead from a position of weakness for this or that change or addition to the statute book, but to challenge the whole basis of the way we live - in other words to question the inevitability of buying and selling and production for profit, and to actively work from a position of political strength for its replacement by the socialist alternative.

 In such circumstances, the governments aim will be to buy off the growing socialist consciousness of workers. In other words, reforms will be much more readily granted to a large and growing socialist movement than to reformers campaigning over individual issues within the present system.

 Not of course that the growing movement will be content with the re-forms the system hands out. All the reforms the system is capable of are paltry compared with the worldwide satisfaction of needs and the fully democratic, self-organised activity that a society of common ownership and free access will have to offer.

 True, in some countries living standards have improved over the years for the majority of people. However, the proper comparison is not between conditions now and conditions 50, 100 or 200 years ago, but between the way we have to live today and what life could be like in socialism.

 To those who still say that, while they ultimately want socialism, it is a long way off and we must have reforms in the meantime, we would reply that socialism need not be a long way off and there need not be a meantime. If all the immense dedication and energy that have been channelled into reform activity over the past 200 years had been directed towards achieving socialism, then socialism would have been established long ago and the problems the reformists are still grappling with (income inequality, unemployment, health, housing, education, war. etc.) would all be history.

 To say that we should spend our time on reforms while waiting for socialism is effectively to dismiss the idea of socialism altogether. If everyone followed that line, no one would ever get down to working for socialism. It would never get to being on the agenda. Even the argument that we should strive for both revolution and reform simultaneously is a way of putting off revolution.

 Promised 50-50 activity always ends up in practice as 100 per cent reformism, as the history of the workers' movement shows.

 It is only when people leave reformism behind altogether that socialism will begin to appear to them not as a vague distant prospect, something for others to achieve, but as a clear, immediate alternative which they themselves can - and indeed must - help to bring about.

Edited from a pamphlet The Market System Must Go 

Monday, January 05, 2015

The Failure of Reformism Admitted

The NHS cannot tackle the health gap between rich and poor by itself and can only provide a "sticking plaster" for such inequalities, according to the convener of Holyrood's Health Committee. MSPs on the Scottish Parliament's Health and Sport Committee found that while there had been "many well-intended initiatives" aimed at reducing the differences in health between affluent communities and those in deprived areas "none has made any significant difference". The committee concluded most causes of health inequalities are "rooted in wider social and income inequalities"

Committee convener Duncan McNeil said: "That your income, your education and where you live contribute to how healthy you are is an issue that as a society should bring us significant shame. Since devolution, successive governments have made this a political priority and invested significant amounts of public money in tackling this complex issue. But sadly none have made any significant difference." He added: "Our NHS can offer a sticking plaster, but without a new approach we will not tackle the root causes of inequality and improve the health outcomes of thousands of people across Scotland."

In their report MSPs said "Despite many well-intended initiatives, none has made any significant difference. Indeed, although health is improving, it is doing so less rapidly than in other European countries and although the latest figures are a little more encouraging, health inequalities remain persistently wide."

Friday, January 02, 2015

Hard Lessons

The EIS teaching union has claimed that cuts in staff are making it harder to deal with bad behaviour in schools. The union blames falling teacher numbers, support staff cuts and falling numbers of educational psychologists. One particular concern is that pupils who might be better suited to special schools are remaining in mainstream schools without appropriate support.

In 2007 the SNP made a manifesto commitment to cut class sizes between Primary 1 and 3 to 18 or less. The average class in Primary 1, 2 and 3 has 23.3 pupils.

The latest government statistics also showed that the number of teachers in Scotland's schools fell in 2014 while the number of pupils increased. Full-time equivalent teacher (FTE) numbers stand at 50,824 which is 254 fewer than 2013 although the number of pupils in Scotland's schools is up 3,425 on the previous year to 676,955.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Real Eco-Socialism or Green Reformism


“It’s blindingly obvious that our economic system is failing us,” said economist Tim Jackson, a professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey in the UK. “It is a travesty of what economy should be. It has absolutely failed to create social well being and has hurt people and communities around the world.”

Jackson and number of ecological economists say the current self-destructive economy must be transformed into one that delivers a shared and lasting prosperity. This kind of Green Economy is far beyond business as usual with some clean technology thrown in. It is what Jackson calls a “fit-for-purpose economy” that is stable, based on equity and provides decent, satisfying livelihoods while treading lightly on the earth. The current growth-worshiping consumption economy is “perverse” and at odds with human nature and our real needs, he said. “Prosperity isn’t just about having more stuff,” he said. “Prosperity is the art of living well on a finite planet.”

With powerful vested interests in the current economy, making this transformation will be difficult but it is already starting to happen at the community level according to Jackson and co-author Peter Victor of Canada’s York University.

Sadly these well-intentioned academics' proposed alternative is another form of capitalism which is not capable of superseding the current system.  Community banks, credit unions and cooperative investment schemes that enhance local communities, creating local currencies and community-owned energy projects simply cannot prevail against the power and dominance of an alliance of corporations and governments. And even if they were to, it would be only a matter of time before in the search for profits to sustain their existence , these enterprises will revert back to the inherent base nature of exploitative capitalism. 

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

From Rags to Riches

Socialists don’t hanker after the “increasing misery” for the working class. We don’t look forward to the attacks on the workers’ standard of living in the hope that we may attract more members.  But what we do is recognise economic facts.

Capitalism is an economic system based on three things: wage labour (working for a wage), private ownership or control of the means of production (things like factories and farms), and production for exchange and profit. Capitalism is based on a simple process – money is invested to generate more money. When money functions like this, it functions as capital. For instance, when a company uses its profits to hire more staff or open new premises, and so make more profit, the money here is functioning as capital. As the amount of capital increases (or in the bigger picture, the economy expands), this is called 'capital accumulation', and it's the driving force of the economy.

The class struggle varies over time and place, depending on social-economic, political conditions and organisation. The nature of the struggle between labor and capital vary in terms of comprehensiveness, intensity, geographic location and class interests. Class struggles involve two basic antagonists. The ruling class struggle “from above”, in which various sectors of capital use their social power, economic control of the state to maximize present and future profits. We the working class, struggle “from below.” The class struggle in its multiple expressions is a ‘constant’ moving force and the organizational form which it takes changes. Trade unions and community-based movements have great variations in make-up and mode of operation. The bulk of the class struggle against exploitation finds expression in movements by the oppressed and dispossessed  who rely mainly on their own resource.

The class struggle is the conflict between those of us who have to work for a wage and our employers and governments. Socialists argue that our lives are more important than our boss's profits, which attacks the very basis of capitalism, where profit is the reason for doing anything.  Nor does the class struggle take place only in the workplace. Class conflict reveals itself in many aspects of life. For example, affordable housing is something that concerns all working class people. However, affordable for us means unprofitable for builder or landlord. Government attempts to reduce spending on health-care by cutting budgets and introducing charges shift the burden of costs onto the working class, whereas we want the best health-care possible in free NHS, or at worse, as little cost as possible. Workers have an interest in fighting to improve their housing, health, education and protection from destitution. There is therefore an inbuilt potential for conflict over welfare provision. The outcome depends on the balance of class forces.

Every state of society admits of certain improvements called reforms. These reforms are either required by the interest of the whole ruling class, or they are only for the benefit of a particular fraction. In the former case they are carried without much agitation; in the latter, that fraction for whose benefit they are to be carried, call themselves reformers; these form a distinct party, and appeal to the oppressed to aid them in their endeavours  by means of placing bait on the hook.

Reform can be viewed as a response of behalf of the ruling class to pressure from below, an attempt to buttress the existing class structure by making minor concessions. Reform is the reply to the threat of revolution. A reform is infinitely better than allowing the pressure of discontent to build up until it explodes with revolutionary force.

 Reforms make the system run more smoothly by helping to foster illusions about the state. Instead of seeing the state’s  real role of protecting capitalist exploitation, it is seen as eliciting rewards from the state and that there will be a the expectation of a better tomorrow. Like the casino, the best publicity for it is the occasional winner even though the house is always ahead in the end. It pays the capitalist state to appear to be generous since this conceals the true nature of its being.

Some reforms are a boost for the capitalist class. Improvements to the educational system can be construed as a victory for the workers. On the other hand, they provide employers with a labour force better qualified able to cope with modern production techniques. Likewise the National Health Service is regarded as a great boon for the working person. But it also helped the employers, who have known for a long time that personnel who are healthy are also more productive.

Any meaningful pro-worker regulations eventually become fetters to capital’s well-being, so it becomes necessary to neutralise or dismantle them - to “save” business from an unnecessary burden of extra expense. Each piece of legislation has a cost. Consequently, it is likely to squeeze profit margins and damage the competitiveness of the economy. The laws of capitalism are designed to facilitate the smooth-running of capitalism within the limits they impose which precludes effective amelioration of conditions. Even when face by a discontent the ruling class may wish to grant reforms but this is not always feasible. Indeed, even those concessions that have already been made can conflict with the system’s ability to meet them. In deteriorating economic conditions, when capitalism no longer can concede reforms, or when workers defend past gains the situation can turn into an intensified class struggle.

This is what we’re experiencing now with government austerity cut. Reformers are spreading illusions that divert energy away from the vital struggle. To be a real socialist is to be a revolutionary socialist – there is no other kind. So the Socialist Party says that it is reformism which is “utopian” and the only “realistic” way out of this mess is to go beyond legislation and regulation. What the Socialist Party insist upon making clear is that we can and we must establish a socialist society now, not in the long distant future. Taking control over the means of production in order to make things we require and share them out  according to need without the mediation of money is not a far off aspiration but a society  we could have right now. Too often the “realistic’, the “practical” activists, insist that we must lower our expectations and aim for achievable reforms. They present capitalism as a “natural” system which happen to possess some flaws that can be remedied.  There is nothing intrinsically socialist or even working class about reformism. These reforms alter nothing in the fundamental system of the existing state of things. The Socialist Party has opposed such reformists. We say to them that they deal with effects and ignore the cause. We can point to history and demonstrate that the reformist programme has failed repeatedly. The reformist message preached has brought disillusionment, apathy and despair.

The present crisis will not end until the capitalist’s expectations of higher profit margins is met. This requires the rate of exploitation to be increased and the main way would be by continuing to lay off workers (or make them part-time, or impose zero-hour contracts) and cut wages. If wages are lowered then obviously what is often described as the social wage, made up of welfare benefits  (paid indirectly by capitalists to particular workers via taxes.) The capitalist class can also do so better when they can shift costs onto others. If companies can cut costs by not protecting the environment, they will.

 The Socialist Party case can explained very clearly - to people whose clothing is in rags we don’t offer to stitch them together: we offer them new ones.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Your Choice - Mending or Ending Capitalism

In America Obamacare, reforms to the health system of that coutry has been called “creeping socialism” by the free-marketeers and the American public has been barraged by propaganda against any form of “socialized medicine”. The problem of medical costs for people in the United States is a severe and often tragic one. In the UK we possess the much acclaimed National Health Service. The NHS is very far from perfect, but it works far better than the health system in the US, where almost all care is bought and sold in the market place. The NHS is the centrepiece of the welfare state. For over 90 percent of the population it provides their only access to health care. It is immensely popular, despite its inadequacies. The well being of workers concerns the ruling class and, for sure,  this is reflected in the priorities of the NHS. Acute medicine for the able bodied of working age is better funded and includes the most prestigious areas of medicine. Those caring for the elderly and the physically and mentally handicapped remain the “Cinderella” services.

The National Health Insurance Scheme started in 1912, it was decided to pay the money to the different health insurance agencies already in existence. Some were cooperative undertakings, some were run by trade unions, and some by insurance companies, so that there arose the anomaly of a national, compulsory insurance scheme being administered through separate, private insurance organizations. The benefits tended to vary. Employed workers were covered by but not their wives, children and other dependents. A sick insured worker had the care of a doctor and free medicine, but none of the ancillary necessities were provided – X-ray, hospitalization, surgery, etc. Low wages and recurring unemployment made even care by a doctor and free medicine a doubtful blessing for the average worker. While the sickness benefit remained fixed by law, some of the wealthier organizations gave additional services, dental care, eyeglasses and so on, while the poorer ones gave only the minimum. There were also local health authorities which were responsible for certain aspects of public health These included clinics, midwifery, maternity and child welfare, water supplies, sewage and refuse disposal, control of epidemics and the provision of domestic help for families unable because of illness to look after themselves. The main difficulty lay in the fact that there were over 400 authorities, many of them too small and too poor to carry out their functions. As a general rule, medical help received by this means was not of a high standard.

In 1942, Sir William Beveridge, a Liberal member of Parliament, proposed a comprehensive health service which would “ensure that for every citizen there is available whatever medical treatment he requires in whatever form he requires it...”
The Labour party steered the necessary legislation through parliament and in November 1946 the National Health Service Act became law and came into effect on July 5, 1948.

The National Health Service is available to every man, woman and child in the country without any qualification. Everyone is free to choose his or her own doctor and the doctor is free to accept or reject a prospective patient.

The NHS was regarded as a charge on national income in the same way as education and the armed services. It is recognized that it is as necessary to spend money on healthy bodies and minds as it is to provide education for the people. Welfare provision is contradictory. On the one hand it benefits workers but on the other it also reflects capital’s interest in the reproduction of labour power. The state represents capital’s interest in maintaining the conditions for the reproduction of labour power, but this imposes a cost on capital. There is a constant tension between the desire for healthy, well trained workers and the costs of such provision. In 1951 the Labour government, introduced legislation imposing charges on dental treatment. The following year the Conservatives added additional charges to the service. Pricing  has been expanded over the decades by both parties but  nevertheless remains largely a “free” service available to all. The priorities of the NHS have no bearing on what patients can pay – only to what they need.

“The National Health Service is the envy of the world.”  said Enoch Powell, minister for health in 1962.
“The National Health Service is safe with us.” said  Margaret Thatcher, prime minister in 1983.

The attack on the NHS today takes two forms. The first is the outright demand for privatisation of the entire health service and a full return to the market where people who can’t afford medical fees don’t get treated.  The other attack pretends to favour the principles of the NHS but then argues for the gradual erosion of those principles by moving towards a two-tier system, a private insurance model for wealthier patients while leaving the NHS the unprofitable areas of care, for the chronically sick, the mentally handicapped and the like.

The NHS is a very good example of a past reform vigorously opposed by conservative forces such as the doctors lobby, the BMA, at the time. It was very much in the interests of the great mass of the people, and especially of working class people. It was also, from the beginning, something of a compromise, but a compromise more in our favour than otherwise. Despite all its faults the principles the NHS incorporates are socialist ones. There will always be some system of priority and how is the NHS rations is on the basis of need. He or she who needs more, gets priority over him or her who needs less. It is not rationing by the size of a person’s wallet or purse.

With the deepening crisis of capitalism it is now the National Health Service is fighting for its life. “Saving” money is seen as important, however, reducing the profit level of the multinational drug companies is no part of plans. The NHS continue to allow brand name drugs to be prescribed when generic prescriptions would lower costs. While pharmaceutical company profits have risen enormously the original conception of the NHS has been quietly abandoned.

 Attacks on the health service are deeply unpopular. One of the easiest ways of dismantling the NHS is to impose strict budgets and  make the working conditions and pay so unattractive and unrewarding that it literally becomes impossible to staff it. Closing a ward here and a ward there, or shutting this or that local hospital and no-one notices that it is gone until it is too late.

As critics of reformism, the Socialist Party are not, of course, opposed to particular reforms. But it has to be understood that no gain is permanently guaranteed so long as the means of production  remain in the hands of the capitalist minority. The never ending struggle to protect the benefits of the National Heath Service is proof of the pudding. To permanently achieve a decent society we must break the power of the capitalist class.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Reform Without the Revolution

Within the Left there has arose a number of misconceptions about the Socialist Party of Great Britain, one being that we oppose reforms that can improve the lot of workers. The economic system don’t operate by immutable “laws” like gravity. Economics is not like physics. Human beings work together and make decisions that shape our economic destiny. No worker gives up the struggle for immediate reforms, and for as many reforms as possible.

If the Socialist Party had nothing to offer to the suffering people but the consolatory hope that socialism will bring help at some future time, while the conditions are nearly unbearable now, this consolation would be pretty poor and we would be little better than preachers. Often enough a future state of bliss has been held out to suffering mankind, in which they would be rewarded for all the wants and sufferings and pains of this world, and most people have lost confidence in such empty promises. They demand amelioration: not words, not promises, but action. They do not want to be resigned to “pie in the sky" that may come after death; they demand a change to their unfortunate situation while living on earth. Workers seek a “terrestrial paradise” without having to wait for it in a “something beyond.” In plain terms, workers want jam today. Workers have always had to fight both for improvements in their living standards and for their most basic democratic rights.

But in order to carry on this struggle successfully, the workers must be organised. Singly and isolated they are powerless; if all would unite for the same purpose, they would be a formidable power which nothing could resist. It is for the whole working class to participate in this struggle, since this war is carried on in the interest of all workers. They cannot sit idly back as indifferent spectators surrendering the task to a political party.

The theory of reformism is a very different matter from the actual struggle for reforms. Reformism is a theory that says repeated success in achieving reforms could, over time, completely transform society, peacefully and without the sharp break represented by revolution, into a quite different kind of society. The idea was that capitalist society could grow gradually into a free socialist society. Yet there is nothing intrinsically socialist or even working class about reformism.

Friday, May 31, 2013

The ILP Poodle

The Independent Labour Party in 1922 returned several MPs, among them James Maxton, David Kirkwood, John Wheatley and John McGovern, who had provided Clydeside with the nick-name “Red Clydeside”. They were sent to Westminster in a wave of left-wing enthusiasm. Some had been imprisoned either, like Maxton, for sedition (interfering with army recruitment in wartime) or for involvement what became known as “The Battle of George’s Square”. They had taken part in some of the most bitter class struggles experienced by Britain in the early20th century and they had garnered a credible working class following.

However, they were dominated by ideas of the reform of capitalism rather than by the determination to destroy capitalism. We need not accept Engels overly enthusiastic optimism of the founding of the ILP that it was “the very party which the old members of the International desired to see formed” (Workmans Times, 25 March 1893)

The I.L.P. may have used the language of radicals but instead of calling workers to revolutionary indignation, it frequently appealed to the good sense and kindness of the ruling class. Lacking as it did any real position of principle, the ILP could accommodate practically any demand. Socialism was, of course, variously interpreted, but to most it meant state control and planning in varying proportions with import and export boards, investment committees, public corporations and the rest. The I.L.P. M.P.s. rarely missed an opportunity to try and “reason” with the capitalists, showing them the “folly” of their ways. Maxton and McGovern and their friends were wasting their time. The ruling class understood the position better than they did. It should not be the work of the socialist to warn the capitalists about the inadvisability of their actions but to prepare the workers.

David Kirkwood, explained:
“We were going to do big things. The people believed that. We believed that. At our onslaught, the grinding poverty which existed in the midst of plenty was to be wiped out. We were going to scare away the grim spectre of unemployment ... Alas, that we were able to do so little!”

Unlike the Clydeside Reds of the ILP, whose ghosts still haunt the Scottish Left-wing, the Socialist Party are not reformers but revolutionaries. We do not propose to change forms. We care little for forms. We want a fundamental change of society. The Post Office is the “public" property of the people (at least for the moment), and yet the workers in that industry are mere wage slaves. In itself, the question of ownership affects only external forms. The socialist fights for the abolition of the system of wage slavery under which the proletariat is working. We are not duped by those who demand nationalisation. We seek the emancipation of the working class and the abolition of all exploitation.

The overthrow of capitalism, that is our DEMAND. Reforms are non-demands and are legion in their number and variety. A political party with a list of “immediate demands” blurs its goal and it is goals that determine methods. The presence of these palliatives invites compromise and concession, collaboration and corruption. It is for our trade unions to improved conditions and seek amelioration but the political party should strive not for temporary respite but permanent solutions. While many one-issue reform organisations and philanthropic charity organisations possess within their programmes the highest humanitarian hopes socialism alone supplies the basis for any permanent improvement in the condition of humanity. Socialism is not the establishment of environmental regulation, not the abolition of sweat-shop labour, nor the enforcement minimum wage laws. None of these, nor all of them together, is socialism. They might all be done by the government tomorrow, and still we would not have socialism. They are merely reforms of the present system.

The one demand of the Socialist Party is socialism. While not opposing any reforms or improvements which may be secured under capitalism, the Socialist Party steadfastly sets itself against taking time away from its main battle, for revolution, in order to carry on the struggle for reform. It refuses to be maneuvered into abandoning its main demand with campaigns for palliatives.

No matter how you clip and trim a poodle it always stays a poodle and regardless of how much you re-shape and re-fashion capitalism, it remains capitalism.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Reformism - On the right track?

The immediate goal of reformists is legislative palliatives . The immediate goal of the Socialist Party is the social revolution. We rebel against capitalist society not in the name of abstract principles of justice or equality but for the effective emancipation of humanity where workers will take possession of the means of life without paying tribute and without serving anyone. We believe that the organisation of society should be from the bottom up and that workers must organise it themselves. The workers have no need of chiefs and are quite capable of delegating one of their own with a particular task.

Reformism is the politics of here and now, of concessions and compromise, of collaboration and accommodation. As the politics of here and now, reformism shapes those who pursue it, it shapes their organisations, and shapes their relations with the working class. People place their hope in their representatives in Parliament. They believe that hoped-for successes require only their representatives to make use of the appropriate means. Those good people who earnestly wish to remove the inconveniences and injustices of our present social state, also wish even a little more earnestly to preserve the cause of these inconveniences

Our criticism of reformism is quite simple. No worker gives up the struggle for immediate reforms, and for as many reforms to be gained as possible. But reformists substitute reforms for revolution. Reforms, whatever their number, never lead to a transformation of the system. For if a reform threatens the basis of the system, the ruling class would put forward such resistance to it, that a revolution is unavoidable.

Often the promised fruits of reforms will not be realised and that, even if realised, they frequently improve the lot of one category of workers at the expense of the others. What will be gained by some will be lost by others. A redistribution of poverty.

There are also reforms and there are reforms. Those which the ruling class bring about in order to improve and make more efficient the running of the capitalist system. The capitalists, if they are clear-sighted, consent to better the lot of the workers in order to keep them under control and in subjection. And those the proletariat extort through struggle, by the power of organisation and the effectiveness of action. Workers, although demanding amelioration of their prison-like conditions, ought above all to strive to force the doors of the capitalist prison. In any case, one has no right, for the sake of one or two palliatives to make the proletariat forget its captivity.

To reformists “constructive” parliamentary work is of supreme importance as it constitutes in their eyes the gradual introduction of socialism. A reform here and a reform there, and the prospect of “socialism” has become nearer than it was. They do not perceive that the reforms have not challenged the basic interests of capitalists, and even as palliatives their value, in comparison with the needs, are frequently often insignificant .

We are no longer in an era of positive achievements of social reforms but a period of economic crisis. Reformists fail to recognise that the yielding attitude of the ruling classes is itself an elastic thing which develops a power of resistance proportionate to the pressure brought upon it; the more you squeeze out of the bourgeoisie, the more restive it becomes, and when the pressure reaches a certain limit it throws you back with a terrific force. What has been gained, suddenly is lost.

To-day, we possess, sufficient means of production to satisfy all reasonable needs, i.e., to provide well-being to all. There will no longer be any need , as is the case today, for men and women to be condemned to long days of drudgery, to stupefying fatigue. Work is life and also the bond that unites people in society. Solidarity cannot be decreed by a law, only by public opinion. There will be a simple relation of reciprocity.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Reforms and the Labour Party

Capitalism only continues to exist because people put up with it. Most people don’t see any alternative to working for wages, producing for profit and using money. They believe that it is capitalists, not workers by hand and by brain, who create wealth and that capitalists are doing us a favour by providing us with jobs. They believe that the world has always been divided into rich and poor, leaders and followers, rulers and ruled and that it always will be. These attitudes both reflect and sustain capitalism. And every time people get a chance to vote, most people support politicians who are committed to maintaining the capitalist system. So capitalism continues.
The ruling class are not a monolithic entity, all having exactly the same opinions. They do not all have the same ideas as to the best way of running the system from day to day, or year to year. All capitalists want to get the most out of their workers, obviously. But what is the best way of doing that? Some think they should rule largely by fear. Toe the line, accept long hours, low wages, and poor conditions, they say to their workers, or out you go. Alongside this “treat-’em-rough” school is the “pretend-to-be-nice” school who think that more humane methods are more profitable in the long run. Less primitive conditions in the workplace, a bit better treatment of families, somewhat less harsh handling of the unemployed, will all pay dividends, they think: be nice to your workers, and they will be nice to you.

Some reforms benefit workers. For instance, the 1948 NHS Act introduced free medical treatment. However, no reform is secure under capitalism. Since the end of the post-war boom, it has been downhill all the way. Successive governments, Labour as well as Tory, have cut back on their spending so as to leave more money for capitalist corporations to retain as profits. Things were by no means perfect pre-1970s but there were a lot more services provided, especially at local level, than there are today.

There was a time in the distant past when some in the Labour Party saw the introduction of free public services run by national or local government on a non-profit basis as stepping stones to socialism. Its 1945 manifesto declared that the Labour Party “is a Socialist Party, and proud of it. Its ultimate purpose at home is the establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain."  Hardly language which Labour’s leaders would use today. Though those Old Labourites were wrong in their belief that socialism can emerge gradually from a series of piecemeal reforms enacted under capitalism, they were right on one thing. In a socialist society education, housing, telecommunications, water, gas and electricity supply will be run as free public services on a non-profit basis, but as genuine services to people.

Now, the Labour Party has no vision beyond that of capitalism. Like every other Government it merely tries its hand at running capitalism. Their record of supporting wars, freezing wages, breaking strikes, and forming coalitions, with Tories and Liberals, should have been enough to finish them with the working class for keeps but the tragedy is that it didn’t and won’t.

Although from time to time a few members in the Labour “left-wing" still pay lip-service to an alternative society nothing they have ever said or done has advanced the workers cause one inch. While certain of their reforms might have helped the workers condition, in staving off unrest and discontent, they have also had the desired effect of giving the boss class a new lease of life. Socialists have no feeling whatever of gratitude toward the exploiters when they concede this or that reform. They usually take away with the left hand what they offer with the right that neutralises whatever good there may have been. Individual reforms may be to the advantage or disadvantage of the working class but capitalism reformed is still capitalism. No matter how beneficial or otherwise as is now usually the case individual reforms might be, the interest of the working class lies in overthrowing capitalism, not altering its workings. The fact is that, while workers can obtain some improvements, capitalism itself cannot be permanently reformed.
The working class’s support is needed for the ongoing existence of capitalism. Once we understand our real interest and begin to consciously organise to get it, no leader or deceiver in the Labour party is going to be able to deflect us from our course. Workers must first learn to distinguish between words and action. Until then the workers get the leaders and representatives they deserve and the system they choose.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

There is enough food

Almost one billion children will be trapped in poverty by hunger and malnutrition by 2025 unless action is taken, a new campaign has warned.

 Kathy Galloway, a spokeswoman for the campaign, said: "In a world where there is enough food for everyone, the fact that not everyone has enough to eat is nothing short of a scandal.

 Actor John Michie, is supporting the campaign. He said: "We need to solve the underlying issues which create global hunger once and for all. People are denied access to land that could produce food. Parents work tirelessly, but still can't afford to feed their children. It's unfair, it's unjust and the truth is it's totally preventable. If we get enough Scots behind this campaign we can make world leaders listen."

Did the politicians listen in 2005 when hundreds of thousands of charities churches and celebrities marched in Edinburgh to "make poverty history"? Did they listen when tens of thousands besieged Bush, Blair and the G-8 at Gleneagles?

Socialist Courier over the years has witnessed numerous campaigns and pleas from well-intentioned folk and organisations but they have always fallen short in identifying the real cause of poverty and  hunger - the capitalist system and because of that failure they mis-direct their policies and solutions to symptoms and not the root of the problem. They repeat red herrings and political baloney. Reformers have wait for crumbs to fall from the overflowing plates of world capital.

  IF a socialist world came about we would be able to stop people dying from hunger immediately and rapidly increase world food production to reach a point where every person on the planet would have free access to sufficient good quality food to maintain good health. It is not a utopian fantasy – but a practical, revolutionary proposition. Let’s campaign for the abolition of capitalism and not misdirect our energies in pleading to politicians.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

reforms fail to reform

On the 40th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act figures have been released to show that women in Scotland will have to wait another 33 years before they are paid the same as men. Male managers earned on average £9,841 more than female colleagues.Even at junior management level, the pay gap still existed, with men being paid £797 more than female executives in Scotland.

Concerning the UK stats generally a spokesman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: "Forty years after the Equal Pay Act, women can still expect to earn less than 85 pence for every £1their male colleagues earn. In some sectors the pay gap is far worse."

Socialist Courier can only comment that it once more demonstrates the failure of those that advocate reformism.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

40 years of Shelter

Shelter , the campaign organisation which was formed to combat homelessness commemerates its 40th anniversary . 40 years on and still they concede that homelessness is a problem thats not been solved by reforms and legislation .

"I think it would be fair to say this: there was a housing crisis in 1966-1968 when Shelter Scotland was founded and we have today, sadly, a housing crisis of a different nature, but one which impacts on people's lives in really quite harmful ways...." Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland conceded .

As William Morris once wrote "The palliatives over which many worthy people are busying themselves now are useless because they are but unorganised partial revolts against a vast, wide-spreading, grasping organisation which will, with the unconscious instinct of a plant, meet every attempt at bettering the conditions of the people with an attack on a fresh side."

According to the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which said 11,054 homes were taken in the three months to the end of June, compared with 6,476 during the same period of 2007. A total of 312,000 people were in mortgage arrears at the end of the second quarter , a 16 per cent jump on the same period of 2007.

H0me repossession cases have doubled in Scotland since the start of the credit crunch says the Scotland on Sunday

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

yet another reform failure

The gender pay gap is still growing despite more than 30 years of equal pay and sex discrimination legislation, a Scottish Government report has found.

Men in full-time employment are now paid 15% more than their female equivalents and 34% more than women in part-time work according to the annual report into the Gender Equality Scheme.The report also found wide variations between the gender pay gap in different sectors. The gap ranges from 2% in sales and customer service occupations to as high as 28.1% for managers and senior officials.

Chris Benson, a solicitor who works with the UK-wide Support Equal Pay campaign group, said of the findings: "It is really disappointing that, despite government efforts, the pay gap is still growing..."

Monday, March 31, 2008


Fewer pupils from deprived backgrounds are going to university in Scotland despite a raft of initiatives to widen participation, according to a new report.

In 2006-07, just 14% of school-leavers from secondaries in the lowest participation areas for higher education went to university compared to 19% in 2002-03. Over the same period, the proportion of pupils from the schools which enjoy the highest rates of progression to higher education has fallen only slightly, from 31% to 29%.

One of the aspirations of the government expansion of higher education in the mid-1980s, and then again in 1992, was to allow wider participation, but the main beneficiaries have been the "middle" classes.

John McClelland, chairman of the Scottish Funding Council said more should be done to address inequalities of opportunity.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "It is unacceptable that an educational gap between advantaged and disadvantaged people opens up early in a child's life and continues throughout."

Yet another failure of well-meaning palliatives .

Socialist Courier also wonders if the UK will follow the growing trend in the American student loan market where banks including HSBC, have pulled out . In the US, many undergraduates take out a federal guaranteed loan and top up their financial needs with a private loan from lenders such as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citi-group. In the academic year 2005-06, $17 billion in private student loans was used to finance higher education. Banks have become reluctant to offer private student loans because worsening credit conditions have meant that they cannot package up the loans and sell them on. The brightest students who win places at America’s rich Ivy League universities will be affected less because of generous bursaries - which do not have to be repaid – less able students applying to other institutions are expected to face difficulty in securing private loans to fund their study. At one end of the field is Harvard University, with $34 billion of endowments, and at the other are many community colleges and low-tier universities with limited resources.
"...those students with poor credit scores or without the rich uncle co-signers [loan guarantor] may have real problems funding themselves.” The Consumer Bankers’ Association, said

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The working poor

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says 1.4 million children in Britain live in poverty despite having at least one working parent.

Government efforts to tackle child poverty have "forgotten" to help poor parents who work.

Kate Stanley, head of social policy at the IPPR, said the challenge now was "to ensure that work really is a route out of poverty...Tax credits and the minimum wage have 'made work pay' relative to being on benefits, but these don't yet go far enough to ensure more children are lifted out of poverty. More action is needed to combine financial support and measures to boost parental employment with action to deliver fairness on pay and opportunities for progression at work."

Socialist Courier has news for this highly prestigious research institute - the slogan 'a fair days work for a fair days pay' is as old as the hills and for the working class it is a demand that is never fulfilled .

Poverty will end when the wages system itself ends .

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Bankrupt Solutions

Scotland's poorest and most vulnerable debtors were yesterday offered their cheapest escape from creditors.
The Scottish Government said it would allow so-called "Ninas" - people with no income and no assets - to declare themselves bankrupt for a fee of just £100.
The new "cheapie" bankruptcy will be available only to people who earn less than £220 a week, the equivalent of 40 hours on the minimum wage, and have less than £1000 in assets.

A capital(ist) solution to the problem of poverty !!

Meanwhile the Independent reports the accountancy firm Grant Thornton predicts the total number of personal insolvencies nationally will jump to at least 120,000 this year, almost triple the equivalent figure in 2004. As many as one third of bankruptcies in the first three months of the year will be caused by "excessive Christmas spending".

Steady increases in the cost of living are expected to tighten the screw. In only 12 months, the cost of filling up a vehicle with unleaded petrol had increased by 16 per cent, which meant the public was having to find an extra £155 a year to fill up the car.
Mr Gerrard , head of Grant Thornton's personal insolvency practice , said: "Coupled with rapidly increasing gas and electricity prices, which are forecast to jump by more than 10 per cent early this year, it's easy to see how those already struggling to pay off credit, particularly those servicing mortgages, are caving in to the pressure." He warned: "I believe personal insolvency numbers will move forward at a much faster pace than anticipated."

Howard Archer, the chief UK economist at Global Insight, suggested that in general people would have to be more frugal this year. "Household purchasing power is likely to be dented by higher energy and food prices over the coming months, while many home owners face having to re-fix their mortgages at significantly higher rates."

But there is always a silver lining inside capitalism since also according to the Independent , the debt collection industry grew sharply last year .There are now estimated to be 5,200 enforcement agents in England and Wales, including 600 county court bailiffs and more than 1,000 unregistered debt collection companies. Since 2003 the size of the industry has almost trebled, growing from £8.6bn of debt sold on to professional collection agencies to £22.7bn by the end of last year. It is forecast to grow to £24.1bn by the end of this year.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Poverty Reported

The Government's strategy for tackling poverty will be heavily criticised in two separate reports .

The New Policy Institute, an independent think tank, said moves to tackle poverty and social exclusion which have been pursued since the late 1990s had lost momentum . The most serious setback in the anti-poverty campaign had been an increase of 200,000 children living in poverty during 2005/2006, its report claimed. It added that this brought the total number of children living in poverty to 3.8 million for that year, and meant there had been no sustained progress on the issue in three years. since the Government first made its pledge to end child poverty in 1999, it was still 500,000 short of the target it should have reached in 2004/2005.

Half of all children living in poverty were part of a working family, a similar level to a decade ago, suggesting low wages continued to be an issue.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, found that out of 50 indicators of poverty and social exclusion, nine had worsened in the past year, mainly in key areas of income and work. "Progress on child poverty has stalled at a level that is only halfway to the target set for two years ago. Tax credits may be working, but they are not enough on their own. Yet the Government's budgetary and legislative programme set out this autumn contains no substantial new ideas about what should be done."

A separate Treasury select committee report, MPs said that the Government's commitment to halving child poverty by 2010 could be in doubt because it has not explained how the target will be met. The report expressed concern "that the Government may have drawn back from a whole-hearted commitment" to meeting its target. It warned that any backtracking would represent a "conscious decision to leave hundreds of thousands of children in poverty for longer than is necessary".

Socialist Courier has repeatedly counselled that Government cannot legislate away poverty through a policy of reforms . The idea that capitalism can be humanised and changed by a series of reforms is almost as old as the capitalist system itself. But reforms are implemented by political parties that seek and get a mandate to run capitalism. The motives for reforms may include a genuine motive to relieve suffering and to promote well-being, but the measures have the effect of serving the system rather than meeting the needs of individuals or groups. The simple truth of the matter is that systems of social welfare do not change the exploitative character of capitalism or even touch the surface of its symptoms. Poverty has not been reformed away and poor housing, unemployment, job insecurity and related ill-health remain very real concerns for the working class.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Reforming Child Poverty

Child poverty in Scotland once again is in the news .

A charity has launched a campaign aimed at eradicating child poverty in Scotland. Save the Children said almost one in every 10 children in Scotland was living in "severe poverty" and that the problem was a "national disgrace "

Save the Children classes the worst deprivation as that which forces families to live on £19 a day, after paying housing costs. Previous research by Save the Children revealed that 90,000 children in Scotland live in severe poverty.

"Parents are being forced to make impossible decisions between such basic provisions as providing an adequate meal or putting on the heating..." said Save the Children's programme director for Scotland .

Yet , as always and as before , the solutions offered by the charity are aimed at only alleviating child poverty through tinkering with the system - more government money (£4 billion) , helping parents back to work, and a new scheme to give poorer families seasonal grants of £100 for each child in summer and winter - remedies that Socialist Courier place no hope in .

"The palliatives over which many worthy people are busying themselves now are useless because they are but unorganised partial revolts against a vast, wide-spreading, grasping organisation which will, with the unconscious instinct of a plant, meet every attempt at bettering the conditions of the people with an attack on a fresh side. " - William Morris .

We have seen many times how after all of the reforms obtained by "worthy" reformers who sought welfare aid for workers, the system simply creates new dimensions of poverty which undermine whatever apparent progress the reformers made. Capitalism as a social system cannot be humanised by reforms .

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Prison Blues

In a recent Scotsman article it is estimated that the Scottish prison population will reach American-type proportions . Prof Coyle, head of prison studies at Kings College in London, said Britain was "ten to 15 years behind the US", which he said was already using prisons as a quasi-welfare state. America has a prisoner rate of 738 per 100,000 head of population, nearly six times more than Scotland's rate of 139 per 100,000.

Presently standing at around 7,200 people prison service estimates that the number could hit 10,000 within the next decade but Professor Andrew Coyle, a former governor of Peterhead and Shotts prisons, yesterday said that if courts keep sending mentally ill people, along with offenders whose crimes arise from drug and alcohol addictions, to prison, Scotland could end up with a prison population as high as 35,000.

He notes that seven out of ten prisoners in Scotland have mental health problems, with seven per cent displaying "psychotic elements" and eighty per cent suffering drug addiction problems .
Prof Coyle said that, instead of being used as a "punishment of last resort" for serious criminals, prisons were increasingly being forced to cope with mentally ill people and other problematic cases, such as drug addicts, who should be diverted into the health service rather than the criminal justice system.

Prof Coyle said a lack of adequate facilities for people with mental health problems was fuelling the growth in the prison population.

"I'm talking about the 'too difficult' groups, the mentally disturbed, the drug addicts. People with these health issues are not being given the help they need through the health system. They then appear in the 'system' for committing crimes. That system simply isn't equipped for dealing with people with health and addiction problems."
And what has Scotland got to look forward to if it follows the American incarceration trend .

The USA has the most prisoners in the world .

A U.S. Justice Department report released on November 30 showed that a record 7 million people -- or one in every 32 American adults -- were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year. Of the total, 2.2 million were in prison or jail.

China ranks second with 1.5 million prisoners

Followed by Russia with 870,000.

The United States has 5 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population

Ryan King, a policy analyst at The Sentencing Project, a group advocating sentencing reform, said the United States has a more punitive criminal justice system than other countries. King said various social programs, including those dealing with education, poverty, urban development, health care and child care, have failed.

"There are a number of social programs we have failed to deliver. There are systemic failures going on . A lot of these people then end up in the criminal justice system."
The easy fix of "lock em up and throw away the keys" isn't working . And the remedy of patching up and reforming the system don't change things either .

There requires to be a more profound and revolutionary approach to the causes of crime and all the many other social ills . Socialists cannot see prisons simply as the dumping grounds for the discarded and the despised .

Eugene Debs once said :-
" Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free. "