Thursday, December 27, 2007

Russia's Afghan Hound

This day in 1979 saw Russia send 75,000 troops into Afghanistan. The Socialist Standard of February 1980 had 'Russia Seizes Afghanistan' on its front page and noted that "Lenin in 1918 proclaimed "No Annexations." What humbug! Soviet policy in 1980 is equally two-faced. The USSR behaves like every capitalist power in the fight for oil, markets and territorial influence. Socialists oppose capitalism whatever its variety, 'western' and 'eastern'." One of the ways the US responded to this threat was to spend billions of dollars supporting and training members of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda who would be fighting against the Russian army for most of the next decade. The article went on to note the wearisome, nauseous hypocrisy coming from all sides and concluded tellingly by stating that the "..invasion of Afghanistan will not improve the world, it will not make humans better fed, more secure. At most it will draw fresh battle lines to mark the the wars yet to come. In the course of capitalism's conflicts Afghanistan has suffered over centuries and there is no reason to believe that its future will be any more peaceful. So we have been here before and we will be here again. It may happen next in a different country with another set of statesman to peddle their lies; or new political analysts to pronounce their instant solutions. And there will be other workers to die and suffer, in spite of the moldering graves of those before them which testify to the futility of it all."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A New Year Threatens

I hope readers of this blog enjoyed the food, the drink and the company of their friends and family over Christmas.

Normally, the Socialist Party gets very cynical at Xmas (like the time we said: "Why Santa Claus Should Get Stuffed"). But let's be different for a change and not rant about the commercial nature of the whole shebbang; or how divorces rise as people try hard to be happy but end up miserable and arguing as the stress becomes too much; and let us not even go into that arch-parasite's insulting message to those she calls her subjects. Nope - we workers need a break from the grind of producing profits for the capitalists, and it is thus with a sincere wish that I hope people did get to relax.

Of course, get ready for yet another year of the same: stress at work, bills to pay, etc.

2007 reviews will look at how England managed to surprise in the Rugby Union World Cup, or how England lost in a deciding football game against Croatia at Wembley. If it isn't the sport, focus will be on, perhaps, the change in New Labour leadership and the election that wasn't and the collapse of Northern Rock.

Attention won't be put on how the capitalist system has stunted and ended lives in 2007, like it did in 2006, 2005, 2004...and how it will do so in 2008.

As 2008 approaches, workers will genuinely hope 2008 will be a happy year. 1 January has obtained a mystical status; it's almost as if life starts on a fresh new page in the diary of human history, to use an alliteration. It's a foolish hope in reality.

Here, the Socialist Party isn't being cynical at all. We are stating a fact, and I guess people recognise that fact all too well.

So we say to fellow workers: why not take out a subscription to the "Socialist Standard", read about socialism, and why not even consider joining the party? There can be no socialism without your help.

And when more and more join the socialist movement, 2009 might actually be a happy new year because we have acted in common to end war, poverty and all the other problems caused by capitalism because we have cast it on the scrapheap of history

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Jesus Christ super myth

Workers must one day learn to believe in themselves. That they can really make a new and better world. And that nobody else can do it for them. Many still believe that Christ will do it for them if they believe hard enough. Well, if it's silly to believe in men who did exist, what price believing in one who didn't?
The Socialist Standard does not normally use up its space on articles about dim religious figures from the murky past and in general readers can find out all they need to know from the "professional" anti-religious papers such as the New Humanist. (There was also, a few years ago, a very convincing article by, of all people, the Tory historian, Hugh Trevor-Roper in, of all papers, the Spectator*..) But briefly, the main arguments against the legend of Christ are as follows.
First and foremost is the total lack of any authentic reference to this alleged individual among all the contemporary writers and historians (and there were quite a number whose works have come down to us from that era of the Roman Empire). Just imagine - here is a chap who had no father - his mum was far too pure to allow any man to do anything so disgusting as copulate with her. (There was a boy friend called Joseph knocking about, it seems, but I suppose he knew it was no use trying - or maybe he just did not fancy her.)
Having made his entry into this vale of tears in such an odd way, clearly there could be no stopping Jesus afterwards. He seems to have been apprenticed to a chippy but we are not told if he was any good at it though in view of what he achieved later, to produce some smashing tables and chairs he would only have had to scratch his left ear.
Be that as it may, he spent his time going around doing odd parlour tricks like walking on water, feeding a multitude with a mere handful of loaves and fishes, making the blind see and the lame to walk and - my next trick is impossible - even raising a bloke called Lazarus from the dead (I don't know if he is still alive or whether he died next time for keeps).
And he caused such a deal of bother in a Roman province called Judea that the governor, name of Pontius Pilate, was actually moved to wash his hands which must have been an unusual thing to do in those dirty days.
Now isn't it puzzling that all this was going on and the contemporary historians never said a dicky bird about it? It is indeed so puzzling that the Christian fathers, long after the events took place (or did not take place) realised they were on a loser if they didn't do something about it. So being first class frauds and villains (just like our own bishops and popes), they solved the problem thus: There was a famous contemporary historian called Josephus who was a baptised Jew living in Rome who wrote a very important book called The History of the Jews. And - hocus pocus! - there appeareth a passage in the book telling us all about Jesus. Only one little problem remained. The passage never appeared in the book while Josephus was alive. He somehow remembered to put it in centuries after his death. In other words, the only evidence in favour of the historicity of Christ is a blatant piece of Christian forgery.
You can add other morsels if you like to bother. For example, why did Jesus himself leave no written material of any kind? We have lots of material from even more ancient societies in the civilised Middle East. Surely daddy must have taught Jesus to write as well as walk on water? Finally, in case anyone says: what about the gospels? Well, what about them? The earliest was written nearly a century after Christ had died (or not died) on the cross - a fate that occurred to lots of people in those days, including others of the numerous messiahs knocking about.
At least far fewer people believe in Christ nowadays so there is some sign of progress. How about stopping believing in the likes of Jesus Wedgwood Benn or the Virgin Mary Thatcher?
(L E Weidburg, Socialist Standard, February 1980)
*Probably "The Creation of Christ." The Spectator, 1971.

See also, for example:

and -

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Series of Talks on Figures in Marxist History

Fellow blogger Darren has been uploading a series of talks from 1982 by a former SPGB member, S.Coleman, which he links to on his own blog.

Worth a listen and downloading. Here.

NB: I thought I should point out that Coleman doesn't present biographies; rather he looks at the ideas the figures held and obviously talks alot about them and the relation they have to the ideas of the SPGB.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

War Against Thy Neighbour

Socialist Party Meeting: Neighbours (1952)

The Socialist Party will be hosting a special screening of the classic 1952 short film, 'Neighbours' by Norman McLaren. The film will be followed by a talk on the socialist attitude to war.

Date: Sunday, 16 December 2007 from 19:00 to 21:00

Speaker: Gwynn Thomas

Location: Socialist Party Head Office

52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN

Nearest tube:
Clapham North

Nearest rail: Clapham High Street

For more information about the Socialist Party:



Saturday, December 08, 2007



John Lennon was murdered on this day 27 years ago. Here is what the Socialist Standard had to say shortly afterwards:

"Newspapers have described the tragic death of John Lennon as the end of an era. We wish they were right. We wish it was the end of a period of human society in which rock singers could accumulate millions of pounds from the sale of records while millions starve for want of a bowl of rice; we wish we could write an obituary to the violent social system of capitalism in which men like Lennon's alleged murderer can easily obtain and use a gun; we wish we could report the end of the wars and malnutrition and the inequality about which Lennon sang so well. But the era of capitalism is still with us and there will be others to grow rich singing about the miseries it causes.

Lennon was a talented musician and lyricist who understood the world he lived in more than most of his musical colleagues. Some of his songs showed definite political perception and what is generally considered to be his greatest post-Beatles record, 'Imagine', showed an understanding of the meaning of socialism which is almost unmatched in the history of rock music. The song urges people to imagine a world without possessions, countries, wars, hunger or religion. When a meeting of our companion party, the Socialist Party of Canada, was shown on Canadian TV, 'Imagine' was selected by the producer as the most appropriate theme song to sum up our views.

Rock critics regarded Lennon's message with predictable hypocrisy. While claiming that Lennon was a great musician and that they were in tune with what he was trying to say, they have disparaged such songs as 'Imagine'as an "idealistic vision". (Robin Denselow, the Guardian, 12.12.80.) They prefer to stress Lennon's more easily categorised leftist lyrics, such as those on 'Some Time In New York City' in which he expressed his support for the divisive nationalism of the IRA. Like many people, John Lennon vaguely perceived important socialist ideas, but these became confused with the pragmatic radicalism for which he will be remembered by the trendy sloganisers of the Left. For genuine world socialists the vision of a society of which Lennon sings in 'Imagine' is worth more than any of the sterile aggression of modern punk rock. The man may be dead, but the vision of a world of peace, equality and freedom lives on within the socialist movement which neither Lennon nor his supporters have had the wisdom to join. At the risk of being labelled a Marxist-Lennonist, this writer echoes the words of 'Imagine'

You may say I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one

I hope one day you'll join me

And the world will live as one.

(Socialist Standard, January 1981)

Readers might also like to click on this link for a more detailed piece concerning John Lennon from a socialist perspective:

  • 'Imagine' by John Lennon
  • But before the world will live as one, there are many obstacles to be overcome:

  • Is John Lennon’s imagine a trick?
  • Clearly, Mark Deshaw is far from alone in his woeful ignorance of historical reality.


    Saturday, December 01, 2007

    Workers Have No Country


    Editorial from the December 2007 issue of the Socialist Standard

    Whether Polish plumbers, Portuguese hop-pickers or Chinese cockle-pickers, migrant labour in the UK is undoubtedly higher profile now than it has been for many decades. The focus groups and private polling used by the major parties are confirming immigration as the No 1 issue for voters at the moment.

    In some parts of the UK the influx may well have resulted in increased unemployment for existing workers and appears to be putting a downward pressure on wages in some sectors.

    It's worth noting that there has been an enormous effort made to vilify, criminalise and erase racist language and ideas over the last few decades. World socialists have not opposed these developments but we have argued that racism – like other the so-called "hate" crimes – is usually fuelled and ignited by poverty and fear, and therefore cannot be removed until the cause is.

    For workers fighting over crumbs in lower wage unskilled jobs, the temptation to blame your unemployment or wage level on foreign labour may be strong. But nevertheless such views are false. The blame lies elsewhere. In order to stay profitable, UK employers are demanding cheap labour. It makes good business sense to welcome cheap labour from overseas – you didn't have to pay for its education, and after you have exploited it for a lifetime, you still won't have to pay its pension.

    In many ways the government is only repeating at the national level what has been happening at employer level for many years with out-sourcing of staffing costs.

    And while the free movement of labour is restricted, capital is of course expected to roam the globe looking out for ever better rates of exploitation, sniffing around the sweatshops for signs of harsher working conditions or longer hours. But if these chickens come home to roost – if little pockets of the third world's poor actually have the gumption or bravery to start popping up on our doorstep – then our local administrators of capitalism start to get a bit edgy.

    As with so many issues, politicians are slowly realising that governments must simply accommodate to capitalism with regard to migration and accept it. They can only try to control it but if they are to have any hope of effectively securing borders and finding those who slip through they must expend vast sums as on ID cards and the like.

    The World Socialist Movement didn't get its name for nothing. Unique amongst all political parties left and right we have no national axe to grind. We side with no particular state, no government, no currency. We have no time for nationalisation or privatisation, for border controls or for migration incentives. The world over, workers must do what they can individually and collectively to survive and resist capitalism. In many parts of the world that means escaping the tyranny of political terror or economic poverty. Politically however, workers should try and resist taking sides in the battles of the economic blocs who just happen to be named on the front of your passport. You must not blame another worker for your poverty. Instead we would argue that workers should recognise that – whether migrant or not, whether illegal or legal.