Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Brown does it again!

"Immigrants should be required to do community service as a condition of becoming British citizens, Gordon Brown said yesterday" (Times, 28 February).

This follows his proposal that we should all display a coloured rag on the end of an idiot stick, also known as the Union Jack, on the Monarch's Birthday or some special "National" day he has hinted he would like to introduce (as long as it's not a working day -- the business interests he has catered for as Chancellor of the Exchequer wouldn't like that).

"Britishness" has become something of an obsession with him. Psychologists have suggested that it might have something to do with, being from Scotland, him being unsure of his "Britishness" and so over-compensating in the same sort of what that Hitler, an Austrian, did with "Germanness". More probably, his spin-doctors have detected that voters in England might not be too keen to vote for a party led by a dour Scotsman whose father was a Presbyterian Minister and so have told him to play up his Britishness. In other words, usual political opportunism. Or maybe he wants to steal votes as well as policies from the British National Party.

But it also serves a purpose. The capitalist class rules in the end only with the consent of the ruled class and nationalism is one of the means they use to try to con us that we have a common interest with them as against the inhabitants of other capitalist states. Brown perhaps feels that liberal and cynical attitudes have gone too far and that we need an increased dose of nationalism to keep us ideologically bound to our masters.

Whatever the reason, he has now come up with the outrageous proposal that workers who come to Britain and want to settle here should first have to undergo a spell of forced labour before being entitled to the "privileges" of being a legal subject of the British State. The Labour Party used to pose as a champion of civil liberties and the like. Not any more. They are now an openly authoritarian as well as an openly capitalist party.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

It happened this week...

This week in 1848 a small group of political refugees, mainly German, along with a few other radicals published to a world that hardly noticed it the most famous document in working class history, the Communist Manifesto. For more on this see, for example,
In commemoration of the Communist Manifesto and this gem.

This seminal work remains relevant: "'we are members of the working class and hold, with the writers of the Manifesto, that "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win." We hold further that this world can only be won by the workers prosecuting the class struggle unremittingly, spurning all attempts to seduce them into support of reform programmes, abandoning the worship of leaders and depending upon their own efforts alone".

During this week in 1965 the religious leader and nationalist Malcolm X was assassinated. "According to his autobiography Malcolm X expected to die the hand of a white man...The murdered man moved in a world of violence. His mother, he said, was conceived after a white man had raped his grandmother. His father was also murdered, his skull smashed in and his body flung under the wheels of a street car. It was only after the seemingly inevitable career of crime and drug addiction that Malcolm X became interested in the Black Muslims - an event which, he wrote, gave him "a little feeling of self-respect." He soon became prominent in the movement, attracting a lot of publicity with his teachings that the Negro should be strong, disciplined and ready to answer violence with violence....In many ways, the United States today is a cauldron of savagery and hatred....The Negros are desperate, and in their desperation they have turned to organizations which sometimes are little better than a black Ku-Klux-Klan. They show little interest in the fact that race prejudice is only one part of the monstrous wall of ignorance which shields and supports the oppressive capitalist system..." (Socialist Standard, April 1965)

Just over thirty years ago another event, undoubtedly of less historical note to Socialists but which nevertheless contributed to the growth of a particular youth movement of the late 1970s, was that of the Sex Pistols starting to record Never Mind The Bollocks. an album which was banned and never officially charted 'Number 1'. For the Socialist perspective see Punk rock's silver jubilee

“Oh bondage, up yours!” - Poly Styrene. Indeed.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Suffer the little children (under Blair)

Commencing a letter to Labour Party Prime Minister Harold Wilson on 22nd December 1965, AF Philip, Chairman of the newly formed Child Poverty Action Group wrote:

“There is evidence that at least half a million children in this country are in homes where there is hardship due to poverty.”

He ended his plea on behalf of Britain’s deprived minors thus: “We earnestly beg you to see that steps are taken at the earliest possible moment to help these families.”

So confident that child poverty would be quickly eradicated by the amazing magical wand that Wilson often wielded, Labour suggested the CPAG would be obsolete within a year, the problem it was set up to help sort a thing of the past.

Forty-two years later the CPAG is still in existence and child poverty is still with us, despite 10 years of Labour reforms.

In the past week the United Nations has reported that children growing up in the United Kingdom suffer higher deprivation, poorer relationships with their parents and are exposed to more risks from alcohol, drugs and unsafe sex than those in any other wealthy country in the world The report compiled by Unicef says that the UK is bottom of the league of 21 economically advanced countries, trailing the United States which comes second to last.

Over 16% of children now live below the official poverty line. Way to go, Blair. Forty two years after a Labour government promised to eradicate poverty it is as high as ever.

Replying to a letter from the CPAG on 20th January 2006, Tony Blair confidently wrote:” I can promise you that we share your ambition to make child poverty history in our country. It is why we have publicly said we want to halve child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it completely by 2020.”

What is nauseating about this is that Blair is telling the CPAG, who in 1965 complained that there were officially half a million children in poverty, that by 2010 he will halve child poverty – ie. slash the number of impoverished children from 3.4 million to 1.7 million. So 45 years after Labour said they would end child poverty the best they can offer is to set a figure which is thrice the 1965 figure as a bloody victory!!

Rather than distributing wealth and claiming to have as its priority the lifting children out of poverty and improving their education and prospects, Labour in facts redistributes poverty like no other government in the industrialised world. Of course, come election time, Blair and co will continue to depend on working class historical amnesia to carry them through to a fourth victory, confident their lies and betrayals and rampant hypocrisy will be concealed by surfeit of promises for the future and pathetic excuses for past failings.

Incidentally, if you do suffer from political amnesia, try clicking on this remedy: LABOUR SLEAZE

Thursday, February 15, 2007

New Labour's Old Thinking

Climate change due to global warming is perhaps the greatest danger facing humanity as a whole at the moment (though others make out a good case for this being the spread of the ability to make nuclear bombs). Environment minister David Miliband wrote about this in the Times (12 February):

"Climate change is, according to Sir Nicholas Stern, the greatest ever market failure, but the answer is not to replace markets. Instead, we need to price pollution into markets and extend market mechanisms so that they work more effectively".

In other words, the Market has Failed, Long Live the Market! This from somebody billed as New Labour's bright young intellectual, though it does show the extent of Labour's commitment to capitalism.

Socialists take a different view. Miliband of course is no socialist (though his father wrote a couple of books -- "Parliamentary Socialism" and "The State in Capitalist Society" -- of interest to them). We say: the Market has failed, so let's replace it with something better that doesn't produce problems like global overwarming.
The "carbon trading" and "green taxes" favoured by Miliband are just tinkering with the market system, whereas if carbon emissions are to be stabilised and the consequences of global overwarming tackled effectively it is the whole market system of competitive production for profit that must go.

Its replacement would be a world without frontiers where the Earth's natural and industrial resources have become the common heritage of all humanity. Only then will a world body capable of taking the necessary co-ordinated global action exist. Only then can the Earth's resources be used to satisfy people's needs not to make a profit for those who own and exploit them.The buying and selling of the market system would be replaced by giving and taking in accordance with the principle "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs".


The Great Encyclopedia Debate

Encyclopedias are, one would imagine, repositories of knowledge where the non-expert can quickly find and read a factual and concise treatment of a subject by an acknowledge specialist in the field.

Don't bother reading Danish publisher Gyldendal's on-line encyclopedia if you want to learn about Communism.(Mind you, just like the Basement Timewasters they never ask Communists to write about the subject.)

Right-wingers have for roughly five years pressured the publisher to re-write the entry on Communism and finally succeeded. It made front page news in the paper "Information" last Sunday.

Gyldendal's writers and editors had come up with the naive notion that "Communism" should be an article about the ideology. Other subjects such as the atrocities committed by Communist Parties, e.g. during the Stalin era, would have entries under other headings, e.g. Soviet history. The right-wingers were appalled by this and wanted the Gulags, famines et al directly linked to Communism as an idea. Gyldendal finally gave way with its net edition of the encyclopedia, which prompted the Conservative Brian Mikkelsen, Minister for Culture, to rejoice.

This can hardly be called veiled propaganda from the bourgeois lickspittles. Perhaps Mikkelsen ought to reflect on a central message of "1984" before he acts as a Commisar for Culture too.

Confusing workers about Communism suits the ruling class because Communism is the most dangerous idea that band of thieves has ever encountered and they know it. For Communism is nothing other than the political idea that a majority of politically educated workers, organised democratically and using means at hand such as parliaments and the ballot box, aim to abolish class society, buying and selling, exploitation and instead establish common ownership and production for use.

One can only imagine the Rama scream that would have arisen had Free-Market or Keynesian, interventionist Capitalism been directly linked with World Wars, mass starvation, global poverty, etc, etc.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

South Africa - 17 years after Mandela's release

Exactly seventeen years ago today Nelson Mandela was released from prison. This was (and is) a cause of celebration for those in the anti-apartheid movement and others championing 'human rights' (see also 'Might is Right' ) By way of contrast, Socialist comment was more cautious:

"Like all decent-minded people, Socialists are pleased at the coming demise of the obscene system of institutionalised race discrimination of apartheid. Although the coming of a non-racial regime in South Africa will allow the "non-whites" there a dignity and respect as equal human beings which they have been denied up to now, the ending of apartheid will not amount to "liberation" for the working class in South Africa. Capitalism without apartheid - which is all even the ANC wants, despite its talk of "socialism" (in reality, nationalisation, or state capitalism) - will remain capitalism and so exploitation for profit, bad housing, inadequate health care, cheap schooling, unemployment, poor transport, police brutality, pollution and all the the other problems workers have to endure under capitalism will continue as well." (After apartheid what? Socialist Standard, March 1990)

Will, then, Socialists be joining others to "honour this giant of a man"? No: the poor in South Africa are as poor as they were under apartheid, the wealthy just as rich, and H.I.V./Aids just as rampant. The inequalities, even with so-called black leadership, are just as pernicious and just as debilitating to those who neither own, nor control the country they inhabit. The poor have exchanged one master for another and they both conform to the stereotypes of capitalism. We own; you do not. We control; you do not. We live in luxury; you live in poverty. Nothing changes; everything stays the same. Mandela notwithstanding.Posted by Picasa


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Free Software and Socialism

The law treats physical property and intellectual property (IP), much the same despite the fact that IP requires practically no labour to reproduce and does not spoil or wear out. The primary purpose of laws preventing people from copying music, software, literature, and other information, then, is to effect an artificial scarcity which helps secure profits for IP owners.

Independent software developers, angry with the restrictions imposed by commercial IP owners, began to voluntarily license their software copyrights under terms which guaranteed that the software would always be free for others to use, study, copy, and modify. Since most new software is created by refining and combining existing pieces of software, this licensing scheme essentially returned control of the means of production of software to the community.

The Free Software licensing scheme has since been popularised and adapted to other forms of IP, most notably artwork and literature. A case in point is Wikipedia, a large online encyclopaedia which is collaboratively edited by thousands of volunteers from all over the world. The facts that editors contribute voluntarily and without compensation, and that the project operates in a largely democratic fashion without a government, serve to refute the common anti-socialist argument that people will not work and cooperate without coercion. Though Wikipedia and other free content projects are not socialism, they are illustrative of how certain aspects of socialism could operate. If the artificial scarcity capitalism imposes on physical resources were abolished, as free licensing has done with certain informational resources, then what would be left to stop us from running the whole world through voluntary labour and free access? Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 09, 2007

Those responses to the BNP considered

Posted by PicasaIn both the local and the national press of late, the BNP have come in for a hard time as they gear up for May’s local elections. In recent weeks their policies have rightly drawn the disgust of readers in the letters pages of provincial newspapers - i.e the Shields Gazette carried many letters from angry readers after BNP leader Nick Griffin visited the town - whilst nationally the press has reported the hypocritical condemnation of the mainstream parties who have lost seat after council seat to the BNP in recent years The grievances of "Joe Public" we can sympathise with – many workers can see through the thin veil of respect the BNP cloaks itself in and harbour no racist sentiments. What we find nauseating is the moralistic pontificating from the Blair and Cameron camps

Considering the views of the Labour and Conservative parties on asylum and the former’s part in so overtly upsetting the Islamic world in recent years, their concern for the apparent rising support for the BNP does seem a mite misplaced. Labour and the Tories may well abhor the policies of the BNP, but have been unsuccessful in confronting them where they have made significant political gains because to do so would mean acknowledging the shortcomings of a system they champion and which gives rise to the politics of race and hate.

If anything the BNP are the product of the total failure of all the reformist parties to make capitalism a fit society to live in. And this is not realy the fault of the mainstream parties, for they are controlled by the system and not vice versa, despite their claims and promises. When capitalism fails to deliver, when despondency and shattered hopes arise from the stench of the failed promises and expectations that litter the political landscape, is it any wonder that workers fall for the scapegoating rubbish of fascists and the quick fix they offer?

The hundreds of thousands of misinformed workers who fall for the BNP spiel at elections are the products of the demoralising system we know as capitalism, deluded into thinking that neo-nazi solutions to social problems – which they have been led to believe are largely rooted in the colour of a person’s skin – would suddenly improve their miserable lives. In truth, a shortage of council housing and poorly maintained housing estates, low wages and pittance benefits are no more the fault of asylum seekers than, in fact, the mainstream parties who mistakenly believe capitalism can be run in the interests of the workers. At the end of the day the BNP simply put together a better package of lies and, just like the other reformist parties, promise voters little more than extra space at the trough of poverty - and tens of thousands, their minds numbed by the politics of reform fall for the scam.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

The CIA, Iraq and Danish Connexion

Nizar al-Khizraji was one of Saddam Hussein's Generals until he left Iraq in 1996. He eventually sought asylum in Denmark, although that was refused and he was kept under house arrest and forbidden exit from the country. He "vanished" in 2003, apparantly aided by the CIA.

He is under the spotlight for crimes against humanity - the crime is the infamous gassing in 1988 of Kurds in Northern Iraq

Recently, the Danish newspaper "Information" revealed, on the basis of documents left behind by the General, that the CIA and al-Khizraji were in close contact. The General outlined a plan to topple Hussein. He was thus, at one time, a prime CIA candidate to replace Saddam.

How does it go? "He might be a bastard but he is OUR bastard."

Further reading (Danish).

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Is Ian Paisley a socialist?


It is not often that the business pages of the capitalist press refer to socialism. Past experience suggests that when they do they make fools of themselves. A recent article in The Times (29 January) by Tim Haines confirmed this. “Northern Ireland”, he wrote, “is in danger of replacing sectarianism with socialism”.

If only this were true. Unfortunately socialism (common ownership, democratic control, production for use not profit, distribution according to needs) is not on the agenda there and in any event couldn’t be since socialism cannot be established just in one country let alone one province. But this is not what Hames had in mind. After pointing out that state spending represents 60 percent of all spending in Northern Ireland, he went on:

“The Rev Paisley and Mr McGuiness will find little difficulty making common cause in asking for ever larger public spending to be showered, equitably, on their constituencies”.

While it is true that politics in Northern Ireland is characterised by what on the continent of Europe is known as “clientelism” – where different politicians appeal to a different group of identified “clients” on the basis of getting material benefits for them in particular – Hames is wrong in thinking government spending and subsidies on and for the poorer sections of society is socialism. If it did then the Reverend Inane Paisley, with his client basis of poor Protestants, would indeed be a socialist. An absurd conclusion which is proof that the original proposition is wrong in accordance with the principle of logic the Ancient Romans used to call reductio ad absurdum.

Government spending on measures to help the poor has nothing to do with socialism. That’s reformism not socialism. At most Paisley is a reformist, even a “leftwing” reformist compared with the UK Labour Party which used to take up this position (now it cuts back on benefits for the poor).

But if Paisley isn’t a socialist, what about Martin McGuiness? He actually claims to be some sort of a socialist. At the special Sinn Fein conference to discuss policing in Northern Ireland on 28 January Gerry Adams proclaimed that his party’s ultimate aim was “to bring about a 32 county democratic socialist republic.” But this is just rhetoric. It means no more than the utopia of an all-Ireland Irish capitalist state reformed so as to work in the interest of workers in Ireland. But capitalism doesn’t, and can’t be made to, work that way. It’s a profit-making system that can only work in the interests of the profit-takers not those who work for a wage or a salary.

In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein is the mirror image of Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party – it is the party of politicians who see the Catholic minority there as their “clients”. McGuiness is no more a socialist than Paisley. He, too, only wants reforms to help his clients, the poor Catholics. Which is why Hames is right that the two of them should be able to get along quite well together in any devolved administration of capitalism in Northern Ireland that might emerge after the elections there next month. Not that either of them will be able to deliver on their promises, though both will be able to use the same alibi: that the British State didn’t give them enough money.


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