Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Against the Left (part 1)

The SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN has consistently maintained that the 'left-wing', despite their claims to being socialist are, in reality, reformist rather than revolutionary organisations, with no more than a sentimental attachment to the working class. In the first of a series of articles providing a searching analysis of the left, we begin with the historical origins of leftism. Future articles in the series will deal with — Bolshevism, Stalinism and the Communist Party; Trotskyism; Sectarianism and Principles, concluding with a look at the Road Ahead.


Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses . . . this distinctive feature; it has simplified the class anta¬gonism. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat. (Marx, The Communist Manifesto, 1848)

THROUGHOUT RECORDED HISTORY there have been oppressors and oppressed, exploiters and exploited, rulers and ruled. Marx and Engels were not the first to recognise this historic antagonism of interests, nor were they the first to seek a future society based on egalitarianism. Philosophers have sought The Good Society' for as long as there has been human misery. In the middle of the nineteenth century, however, conditions developed which gave rise to the conviction that society based on class division and exploitation could be ended.

The rise of industrial capitalism broke down the complex class relationships of feudalism and created two classes: the capitalists, who own the means of wealth production and distribution and live in comfort by accumulating rent, interest and profit, and the working class who produce the wealth of society in return for wages and salaries that roughly equal the cost of survival. In the course of production workers are exploited by producing a surplus over and above the value of the wages and salaries paid to them. This exploitative system, by using new technological inventions and by forcing workers to expend as much labour as possible for the price paid, created the potential for an abundance of wealth. Such material abundance is a prerequisite for a society based on the satisfaction of human needs. The fruits of this technological progress did not benefit the producers of wealth because, under capitalism, production takes place with a view to profit and not for use.

It was Marx and Engels who, by examining the economic laws of capitalism, were able to see a practical alternative to class society. Their concept of socialism (which was by no means a well developed formulation) was based on the working class winning control of the State machine and abolishing the class ownership of wealth. The new society would be based on 'an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all'. Marxism was essentially different in two important ways from other political philosophies. Firstly, its theory (for Socialism) was inseparable from its practice (political struggle). One can no more be an 'inactive' Marxist than an armchair footballer. Secondly, Marxism has no claim to be 'in the interest of all' — it is the political expression of the interest of the vast majority: the working class.

What was the reaction of the nineteenth century working class to their new-found means of emancipation? The history of the British labour movement in these years was twofold. On the one side was the emergence of the industrial trade union movement for the defence of wages and conditions of employment which has culminated in the well organised trade union movement of today. On the other side was the political movement of the working class from which emerged the Labour party.

In 1824 and 1825 the Combination Acts, which were passed to prevent the organisation of trades unions at the time of the French Revolution, were repealed. By the second quarter of the nineteenth century some workers were beginning to realise that the employed had a common interest to protect and that the defeat of one group of workers could best be averted by the formation of a union of all workers. In 1830, after the defeat of the cotton spinners' strike, John Doherty, an Irish Catholic, founded a General Union, the National Association for the Protection of Labour which claimed a membership of 100,000 by 1831. The NAPL advocated co-operative production (it was a forerunner of modern ideas of Workers' control), but attempts to organise co-operatives by constituent unions, such as the Operative Builders' Union failed when faced with a series of lock-outs. The NAPL collapsed because of divisions which existed between workers, cunningly fostered by employers.

The next attempt to form a General Union was led by the Utopian Socialist, Robert Owen. In 1834 he formed the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union. Its significance has been overstated by labour historians; it claimed a membership of 500,000, but was certainly less than half that. One reason for its collapse was the series of lock-outs of its members in Derby, Leicester and Glasgow. Another was the intensification of State action against the unions, such as the famous case of the Tolpuddle martyrs in 1834. The new Whig government, having supported parliamentary reform in 1832, was anxious to demonstrate its loyalty to the ruling class. Its suppression of workers' combination was a most convincing display of class loyalty. The workers, on the contrary, were lacking in confidence and education. Because of the former they were dependent on middle class leadership and because of the latter they were easily misled, as seen in 1832 when they rioted in the streets to give their employers the vote and in the failure of Chartism in the 1840s. The abortive attempts by workers to form a General Union in the 1830s signified the beginning of working-class consciousness. Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that in the 1830s there were still more cobblers than cotton spinners in Britain and the concentration of workers into vast, impersonal places of employment was yet to be fully experienced.

At this stage in the history of the working-class movement political ideas became most significant. So far the story has essentially been one of workers struggling to improve the price of their labour-power and conditions. Once this struggle came into conflict with the State, as representative of the employing class, a political question presented itself: How far can the working class improve its position within the capitalist system? Looking at it from a bourgeois point of view capitalism had everything going for it. With progressive reform and scientific development it seemed that the luxury of the ruling class and the condition of the working class could improve infinitely. According to Marxism the system contained irreconcilable class antagonisms which were bound to produce increasing misery for the workers. The Left found itself divided between these two analyses. On the one hand they claimed to accept the Marxist critique of capitalism, but on the other they were tempted by the optimism and immediacy of reformism with its promise of making capitalism run in the interest of the workers. Increasingly, trade union leaders were won to the idea that the unions should co-operate with the State. They were soon to be attracted to parliamentary careers in the Liberal party which cynically exploited the working class vote.

There were two organisations at the end of the last century claiming to stand for Socialism: the Social Democratic Federation and the Fabian Society. Both organisations comprised philanthropic leaders who saw the working class as incapable of changing society for themselves. This was in opposition to Marx's 'Provisional Rules' of the First International which stated

That the emancipation of the working class must be conquered by th working class themselves.

Neither the SDF or the Fabian Society stood for Socialism, but for the reform of capitalism. Socialism was accepted as the ideal, but the sincerity of idealism was no substitute for revolutionary principles.

The SDF was set up in 1881 by a group of disillusioned Liberals, led by H. M. Hyndman. Amongst its main leaders were H. H. Champion, Eleanor Marx, Belfort Bax, Tom Mann and John Burns, both leaders of skilled unions, and William Morris, the craftsman, poet and chief financial contributor to the SDF. Within the SDF there were certainly a number of sound Marxists, but, as an organisation, its effect was negligible and its reform programme was in contradiction to its claim to be Socialist.

The Fabian Society was based far more upon popular Christian morality than on any principles of a serious nature. Its motto described its gradualist approach to social change:

For the right moment you must wait, as Fabius did most patiently, when warring against Hannibal, though many censured his delays; but when the time comes you must strike hard, as Fabius did, or your waiting will be in vain, and fruitless.

The SDF and the Fabians failed to win mass working-class support. At the same time the trade unions were becoming increasingly effective, for example in the success of the dockers' strike in 1889. Objectively, the prospects for Socialism seemed quite good. Engels, in a moment of excessive enthusiasm wrote that

The masses are on the move and there is no holding them any more. The longer the stream is dammed up the more powerfully will it break through when the moment comes. (Marx and Engels on Britain p. 523)

Indeed, those who see history as a series of progressions would find it strange that by the dawn of the Twentieth century the stream of working-class consciousness was as dammed up as ever and the moment which Engels predicted showed no signs of coming. History is not simply the record of events occurring when the moment is ripe, but is as much the story of the effect of ideas and movements on material circumstances as that of the environment on men and women.

The first factor in the ascendancy of leftism was the decline of the First International. Marx had worked since 1867 to bring the International Working Men's Association, the international association of trades unions and progressive political organisations, to adopt Socialist principles. At first he had to defeat the followers of Proudhon. From the 1870s until the collapse of the International the anarchist doctrines of Bakunin prevailed and Marxism was rejected. Despite the existence of the International, few British trade unionists were won over to orthodox Marxism. They were more concerned to limit their efforts to the industrial struggle which could never fundamentally alter the cause of their oppression.

More important in the rejection of Marxism was the rise of the Labour Party. The few independent representatives of labour elected to the House of Commons after 1867 were soon seen to be, in the words of Joseph Chamberlain, 'mere fetchers and carriers for the Gladstonian party'. This disillusion led the trades unions to consider forming their own political party to defend their interests. On 13th January 1893, at the Bradford Labour Institute, one hundred and twenty delegates from various branches of the SDF, the Fabian Society, Keir Hardie's Scottish Labour Party and a few trades unions, assembled to consider establishing an independent labour party. The object of its formation was not to unite socialists, but to defend the unions. After the defeat of the engineers' strike in 1898 the TUC received a resolution from the Rail¬way Servants' Union asking it

to devise ways and means for securing the return of an increased number of labour members to the next parliament.

Following the acceptance of this resolution by the 1899 Trade Union Congress a conference took place, on 27th February 1900, at the Memorial Hall in Farringdon Street, which appointed the Labour Representation Committee consisting of two members of the SDF, one member of the Fabian Society, and seven trades unionists. In the election of 1900 the new Independent Labour Party put forward ten candidates of whom two (Keir Hardie and Richard Bell) were elected. In the 1906 election, following the Taff Vale case in which strikers were legally discriminated against, the number of ILP members elected was trebled.

So, by the beginning of the present century trade union representatives were sitting in parliament. Surely, one might think, it was better to elect to parliament people who were at least sentimentally attached to the working class rather than avowed capitalists.

The record of the last seventy years, after six Labour Governments, has proved otherwise. The SPGB argued from its formation (in 1904) that only Socialism can provide a solution to the problems of the working class. Trade union efforts can only provide limited success and reforms can only eliminate aspects of the system and not the system itself. The rise of the Labour party as a political expression of trade unionism has caused inestimable damage to the revolutionary movement for Socialism,

S.C., Socialist Standard August 1978

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Remembering Alexander Berkman


To-day is the anniversary of the death of the anarcho-communist Alexander Berkman , who died this day in 1936 from suicide .

A review of his book ABC of Anarchism can be found here
As a communist-anarchist, Berkman advocates a system without commodity-production or any “price system”, wages or payment of money. “This”, he says, “logically leads to ownership in common and to joint use. Which is a sensible, just, and equitable system, and is known as communism”. And “work will become a pleasure instead of the deadening drudgery it is today”. His views are similar to those of William Morris in as far as, in communism, people will no longer be employed in useless toil, but will be appreciated according to their willingness to be socially useful. People will live in freedom and equality.

Anarcho-communists, as their name suggests, are anarchists who are communists in the sense of standing for a society based on common ownership where people would produce goods and services to be taken and used without buying and selling and in accordance with the principle “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”. In other words, they stood more or less for what we call Socialism.

According to Berkman, “the social revolution can take place only by means of the general strike ...It is most important that we realize that the General Strike is the only possibility of social revolution. In the past the General Strike has been propagated in various countries without sufficient emphasis that its real meaning is revolution, that it is the only practical way to it. It is time for us to learn this, and when we do so the social revolution will cease to be a vague, unknown quantity. It will become an actuality, a definite method and aim, a program whose first step is the taking over of the industries by organized labour.” - The general strike is the revolution.

Unlike Berkman and the anarchist-communists , the SPGB claim that such actions as a general strike by workers would not, and could not, bring about a socialist society. In our view the working class must organise consciously and politically first, for the conquest of the powers of government, before it can convert private property in the means of production into common property. Our reasoning goes like this. We want the useful majority in society (workers of all kinds) to take over and run the means of production in the interest of all. However, at the moment these are in the hands of a minority of the population whose ownership and control of them is backed up and enforced by the State . The State stands as an obstacle between the useful majority and the means of production because it is at present controlled by the minority owning class. They control the state, not by some conspiracy, but with the consent or acquiescence of the majority of the population, a consent which expresses itself in everyday attitudes towards rich people, leaders, nationalism, money and, at election times, in voting for parties which support class ownership. In fact it is such majority support expressed through elections that gives their control of the state legitimacy. In other words, the minority rule with the assent of the majority, which gives them political control. The first step towards taking over the means of production, therefore, must be to take over control of the state, and the easiest way to do this is via elections. But elections are merely a technique, a method. The most important precondition to taking political control out of the hands of the owning class is that the useful majority are no longer prepared to be ruled and exploited by a minority; they must withdraw their consent to capitalism and class rule - they must want and understand a socialist society of common ownership and democratic control. We simply argue that it is quite possible, and highly desirable, for a large majority to establish socialism without bloodshed. The more violence is involved, the more likely the revolution is to fail outright, or be blown sideways into a new minority dictatorship. Far better, if only to minimise the risk of violence, to organise to win a majority in parliament , not to form a government , of course , but to end capitalism and dismantle the State.

This not a dispute between supporters and opponents of socialism but a discussion amongst people who are agreed that the way forward for humanity lies in the establishment of a world of common ownership, democratic participation and production to meet needs and the question is what is the better way to achieve that .

2nd World War WMDs

Top secret War Office papers have revealed a strange and macabre weapons project tested by the Allies during World War II. Lethal clouds of tiny poisoned darts were to be tipped with mustard gas to kill enemy troops without damaging nearby buildings or equipment. Research scientists thought clouds of poison darts, blasted from canisters high above the battlefield, could be even more lethal against enemy troop concentrations than high-explosive shells. Mustard gas compounds in the needles would ensure anyone whose skin was broken would die a swift and horrible death, or at least have terrible injuries. Assessing the effectiveness of the darts one report notes: "If penetrating into the flesh, will cause death if not plucked out within 30 seconds. If plucked out within this time, will cause disablement by collapse. Collapse occurs within one to five minutes, and death within 30 minutes."

Mark Dunton, a contemporary history specialist at the National Archives, said:
"it shows the Allies were prepared to consider anything - no matter how gruesome - to secure a victory."

The file shows the darts were never used because they were a "highly uneconomical weapon" and only a small proportion of people would have been killed.

Back to the primitive?

For about 94,000 of the 100,000 years of human history, people lived and organised themselves as hunter-gatherers without a centralized leadership apparatus. Hunter-gatherers began the transition to early chiefdoms and embryonic states between 3,000 and 6,000 years ago. Only in the previous 100-500 years have there been state-level polities.

The World Socialist Movement doesn't have a leader, and nor do any of the Companion Parties, because leadership is undemocratic. If there are leaders, there must be followers: people who just do what they are told. In the World Socialist Movement, every individual member has an equal say, and nobody tells the rest what to do. Decisions are made democratically by the whole membership, and by representatives or delegates. If the membership doesn't like the decisions of those it elects, those administrators can be removed from office and their decisions overridden.

Only when people have real, democratic control over their own lives will they have the freedom that is socialism.

Further reading:

Never a follower be

In these we trust?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Armed Forces Day


The thinly veiled recruitment drive that is "Armed Forces Day"

Militarism is an inevitable effect of capitalist domination and the struggle for markets and profit, and so long as the workers are ruled by a master class, so long will their masters use them as cannon fodder. The only solution of the question of militarism from the proletarian point of view is the abolition of capitalist exploitation. It is then our duty to concentrate our efforts upon Socialism, upon the triumph of those who labour . It is our bounden duty to do so, for the lives of millions of workers under capitalist rule perpetuate horrors that are just as worse than from any war. All the various problems that affect the working class hinge upon the ownership of the means of life, and yet outside of our ranks practically the whole of the workers' energies are being directed against effects rather than to the removal of the cause of the trouble. The origin of poverty, war and slavery lies in class ownership of the means whereby the people live. The straightest road is the shortest road, and the only way to get rid of the evil of militarism is to get rid of capitalism.

The army has historically been a way out for the poor and powerless. A source of empowerment (or , at least , of feeling that someone somewhere is in control), of belonging and of being part of a corporate body , a story of positive action and values. It is not just all about the so-called positive side of the Armed Forces teaching discipline and how to feel you're doing a great job killing fellow workers you've never seen before and who've done you no harm, but there is its side-effects of living under such conditions . Only recently has there been an admission that life in the Forces can easily make you unfit for life outside.
Studies show soldiers have a very strong revulsion for killing and require the necessary and traditional processes to facilitate the rationalization and acceptance of their killing experiences. The book “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman finds predisposition to killing in only about 2 percent of soldiers. The most startling evidence to many will be that in World War I and II, most soldiers (80-85 percent) did not even fire their guns, because they could not bring themselves to kill even when they were being fired at by the "enemy".The military then developed conditioning techniques, based on the "operant conditioning" pioneered by B.F. Skinner. In the U.S.-Vietnam war, only 5% of US soldiers failed to fire. . The U.S. military incorporates "justice" (the enemy is bad), and control in its conditioning, so that the soldier has a "reason", and must be told to kill.
(Techniques which have been used successfully by the military to bypass the human revulsion for killing are now in widespread use on youth. This conditioning is now the heart of many movies and video games.)

This has left them with a significant rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, manifesting itself as "recurrent and intrusive dreams and recollections", "emotional blunting, social withdrawal, exceptional difficulty or reluctance in initiating or maintaining intimate relationships, and sleep disturbances. These symptoms can in turn lead to alcoholism, divorce and unemployment." Twenty-five percent of homeless men sleeping on the streets of London are ex-servicemen (Times, 3 August 1999). The smelly, aggressive drunk was once a hero! A survey carried out in 1993 concluded that the main cause of homelessness and its consequences is the breakdown of relationships and alcoholism, and these develop during military service. In the Forces you are taught to hide and discipline your feelings and traumas and stresses of what they may have seen or suffered cannot be discussed leading to further isolation or heavy drinking. The latter, the major leisure occupation in the Forces is, at worst, encouraged and at best ignored.
After "serving their country" they may have escaped death or physical mutilation but their experience has left them scarred for life. What made them part of an effective fighting machine has made them incapable of maintaining normal relationships within the family and friends or coping with the different stresses of working under capitalism. In the USA twice as many ex-servicemen committed suicide after the Vietnam war than were killed during it.

The job of the armed forces is to do the State's dirty work, that is to plunder land, wealth and raw materials, as well as secure routes for international trade, or to prevent another state from doing same. This definition of any army's role does not preclude murder within the ranks. Granted, killing your own chaps doesn't sound like an efficient way to run an army, but the legally-sanctioned execution of comrades-in-arms during World War One was not only efficient, it was absolutely necessary. It would have done no good to tell a dissenter that he was a naughty boy and to sit in the corner for the rest of the day; nor would there have been any point in threatening to send him to prison for life. After all, he would still have his life. No, the only way to ensure that insanity prevailed was to offer a Hobson's Choice: either go over the top and face almost certain death, or refuse and face certain death.
Today, Britain has a professional volunteer army, and technical advances mean that modern warfare is a much more scientific affair. Now there are no poorly trained conscripts, and no need for battalions of troops to go "over the top", and so there is no need for summary executions to enforce discipline.

If you were from Mars you might want to ask is why are millions of men, men of no property and no financial interests, men who had never met those they are now told are their enemies and with whom they do not share a language that would allow them to curse at one another, why are they killing? Why are they dying?The answer is that they were fighting over markets and the political and economic appurtenances of trade; that war was, and is, simply a logical extension of a brutally competitive system of social organisation predicted on profit and ongoing expansion; a system that dominated their lives, took away their human dignity and reduced them to the status of wage slaves and cannon fodder. So the question must be avoided at all costs; capitalism's apologists, its politicians, its beholden clergy and media hacks will change the script: Tell the fools how brave they were and how proud they should be; that'll keep them happy to the next time. "Give a benediction, bless them with a prayer, And tell them how the son of God was longing to be there!"

The Socialist Party calls upon the workers the world over to understand that mere opposition and pious moralising against the war is not enough, and that it lies within their hands to make the necessary changes.The Socialist Party has always stood against war – asserting the urgency with which the workers must combat and stop any immediate instance of the ongoing global war, and the need to struggle against the system of exploitation and poverty which causes all these wars. We have asserted that war and organised violence are not the means by which a civilised society can be achieved. Where all other parties utter their sanctimonious opposition to war: "Of course, no right minded person wants war," they say, but then turn around and produce their plans for just that. Plans for achieving their policy ends by cold-blooded murder. Consistently, the Socialist Party has counter-posed to war and violence the working class methods of co-operation, and rational application of our minds and imaginations. We have refused to fight, choosing, rather, to point the way to real peace. As the slaughter forever continues , we take this opportunity to avow our solidarity with the workers, of all nations, and their mutual cause. Further, we call upon the workers to organise consciously and politically to use the power at their disposal to bring the bloodshed to a standstill; and secure the space we need in order to build the co-operative world socialist commonwealth.

"I have no country to fight for; my country is the Earth, and I am a citizen of the World." - Eugene V. Debs

Friday, June 26, 2009

food issues - feeding the hungry

Ready-To-Use-Foods have become the cornerstone of humanitarian aid projects around the world. They contain a high-energy food crammed with high-protein peanut, milk, sugar, oils and fortified with extra vitamins and minerals.The sachets have revolutionised emergency feeding in humanitarian emergencies because they can be eaten directly from the packet, do not require refrigeration or mixing with clean water - often in short supply - and can be stored for years.
Unicef, which buys three quarters of the world's supply, bought 10,000 tonnes of these sachets last year, more than triple the volume bought in 2007. Two or three packets a day for about three months can help a malnourished child recover, according to Unicef. Medecins Sans Frontieres and the former US president's Clinton Foundation are major buyers too.

Valid Nutrition has become one of a growing band of companies paying Nutriset a royalty to use its recipe. Norwegian manufacturer Compact for Life, began manufacturing in India two weeks ago and plans to expand to countries where Nutriset has not patented Plumpy'nut.

MSF criticised the company recently :-
“For reasons that are obvious, the intellectual property pertaining to nutritional products of a humanitarian nature must be handled differently from that pertaining to commercial products. As you know, we believe that, in the humanitarian field of nutrition, patents should be filed only on an exceptional basis, and when they exist, licencing agreements should be offered to third parties on flexible terms and conditions, so as to ensure the widest possible availability of nutritional products of a humanitarian nature... MSF, as well as other agencies working in the battle against malnutrition, can no longer continue to depend on a single source of supply for ready-to-use products. The current position of Nutriset in this regard is a source of concern to some of these agencies, as it is to MSF. We therefore encourage Nutriset to play a key and innovative role in the management of its intellectual property by offering humanitarian licencing agreements for the production and export of ready-to-use products.”
(Granted , one reason for the control of patent rights is to head off those multi national agro-businesses who might want in on the action.)

It is those same Big Business food companies which are now also being targeted by campaigners demanding they now fortify with extra vitamins and minerals.
everyday foods that can be sold to consumers. Many eat enough calories to live, by consuming staples such as rice or bread. But far fewer can afford foods containing crucial nutrients provided by meat, legumes or vegetables. Each year, this type of malnutrition kills 3.5 million under-fives and damages 178 million others. Children malnourished in the first 1,000 days of life suffer irreversible damage to their bodies and brains.

Few large companies fortify foods as standard. There is no market pressure and few companies see public health as a business imperative according to Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition . Decisions by business not to produce such foods cost lives.

Born in a Prison

The Government should stop building prisons and invest in treatment for addicts and effective health and social care, campaigners have said.

On June 12 , the prison population in England and Wales was 83,001 - a 38% increase since the Government came to power in 1997, and that at the end of April, 82 out of the 140 prisons in England and Wales were officially overcrowded.On arrival in local prisons, 70-80% of prisoners test positive for Class A drugs.In almost half of violent crimes (48%) the victim believed the offender or offenders to be under the influence of alcohol. A survey by the Ministry of Justice found that more than a quarter of newly sentenced prisoners reported a long-standing physical disorder or disability.More than half of all elderly prisoners suffered from a mental disorder.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Trust, said: "it is cruel and inhumane to imprison people who are mentally ill or suffer from profound learning disabilities, so why are ministers still hell bent on pouring public money into prison building when they should be investing in treatment for addicts and effective health and social care instead? Ever-growing numbers of sick people recycled around a bleak prison system is not the way to do it. It's time to stop mindless prison building and cut crime by sensibly improving public health."

SOYMB goes further , it is time to stop crime by removing the cause of crime - the private property system needs abolishing !

For all the 200 years of reform, prisons, like the poor, are still with us. Prison is an indictment of the capitalist system. Prison means punishment, generally punishment for the infraction of property laws. In the more exceptional cases of punishment for personal crimes, it results in the further alienation of already psychologically damaged individuals, who need treatment not punishment. Socialism means the abolition, not just of nasty jails, but of all places of punishment.

Attempts to explain the increase in the prison population are soon confronted with the fact that the property rights of capitalism make for a huge cobweb of repression and denial of access to human resources.

Prisons were originally conceived as places of "reform" and rehabilitation--in America they are often still referred to as "correctional" facilities--but for political and economic reasons the ethos rapidly changed to one of punishment and segregation. If, on the other hand, prisons are intended to rehabilitate offenders and reduce the incidence of crime, evidence shows they clearly do not work. Firstly, statistics reveal that once sent to prison, a person is far more likely to re-offend; and secondly, despite more people being imprisoned than ever before, the crime problem shows no signs of diminishing.

What, then, does the convict learn from the experience of imprisonment? For many the harsh lesson is that society is prepared to pay thousands of pounds to punish you, but not even a small fraction of that amount is forthcoming to prevent you turning to crime in the first place; in other words, punishing the poor for nothing more than their shortage of money. It is unlikely that many prisoners emerge from the experience with a more positive attitude to the iniquitous socio-economic system which first condemns them to a life of poverty, and then, when temptation gets the better of them, condemns them again to be punished. It's no wonder that prison does little to discourage crime.

Conspicuous inequality is what leads the poor to try to obtain a little more by any means available. If politicians wanted to reduce crime within capitalism, they would establish a system to counsel, aid and attempt to rehabilitate offenders--alas, not politically popular and not many votes in it. If they were serious about eradicating crime, they would identify and attempt to remove the causes of crime. This, however, would raise questions about why we need private property, money, privilege, etc.--not likely to be tackled by most politicians, as the one thing they agree on is the continuance and support of a social system in which a minority owns most of the wealth and exploits the rest of us to maintain it.

"While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." - Eugene Debs

We're born in a prison
Raised in a prison
Sent to a prison called school
We cry in a prison
We love in a prison
We dream in a prison like fools
We workin' a prison
And hate in a prison
And die in a prison as a rule
We live in a prison
Among judges and wardens
And wait for no reason for you
We laugh in a prison
Go through all four seasons
And die with no vision of truth
John Lennon

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The guilty , the SPGB accuse


"Foreign Secretary David Miliband Foreign Secretary David Miliband has conceded that the Iraq war inquiry would be able to apportion blame for what happened "

How very generous of him , indeed !!

But regardless of the findings of this inquiry , the Socialist Party know full well where the blame for the war should be directed - the capitalist system itself and its inherent and vicious competition for profits . Capitalism is a war-prone society in that built into it is perpetual conflict between rival states over markets, raw material sources, trade routes and investment outlets, for the profit-seeking capitalist corporations they exist to protect. You can't have capitalism without wars, the threat of war and preparations for war. Capitalism means war and that therefore to get rid of wars and the threat of wars you have got to get rid of capitalism. War is not a freak of history, nor an accident of policy. Rather it is the continuation of business competition by other means. It is plain that the invasion of Iraq was essentially caused by Western capitalism's desire to control that country's oil supplies.

Under the UN Charter, states have to find a legal pretext before going to war. The pretext that the governments of America and Britain, acting on behalf of their capitalist class, found for going to war against Iraq last year was that the Iraqi state possessed “weapons of mass destruction” that were an immediate threat to America and Britain’s allies and military bases in the Middle East.It has now turned out that this was a bad choice of pretext as recent official reports in both countries are admitting that the intelligence reports about this were wrong: Iraq did not possess such weapons. We hold no brief for the “intelligence” services but it does seem a little unfair to blame them for telling their political masters what they wanted to hear.

Bush and Blair could be charged with war crimes for going to war without a proper legal basis as well as for murdering and torturing Iraqi prisoners of war. But that’s not going to happen, of course. The various enquiries into the events leading up to the Iraq war keep showing up more of the dubious ways the government tried to get voters' support for a war which was launched in defiance of their own international law and the United Nations. But however much Blair's back is to the wall, he can (and does) always make the excuse that even if the actions of Britain and America are not justified in any other way, the regime of Saddam Hussein was so terrible that no one can be sorry that Bush and Blair sent their armies in and threw him out. Almost all wars can be justified by pointing out how bad the other side is. All capitalist governments do unpleasant things: that is the inescapable nature of capitalism. So whenever two capitalist powers go to war, each can make a strong case against the other, by alleging how shocked they are about all the repulsive things the enemy has done.

Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf: “This broad mass of a nation . . . will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one.” Blair and Bush are fully aware of the power of the big lie, so little wonder they thought they could get away with it. Moreover they are fully aware their support base swallows lies every living moment of the day. For the workers' part they are lied to from the cradle to the grave: at school with distortions of history and the myth about a God up above; in the workplace, as producers, lied to by their bosses and at home as consumers bombarded with the myths perpetuated by the advertising industry. To be sure, the entire capitalist edifice depends for its continued survival on the promotion of lies, half truths and the distortion of facts. So powerful is the capitalist distortion machine that it takes all our powers of concentration, memory recall and skills of research just to separate the simplest of lies from fantasy.

Blair let the British media put it about that Iraq had missiles that could be filled with lethal germs and sent to rain down on British troops in Cyprus . It turned out that this claim about missiles was untrue yet whether or not Blair and his ministers knew it was untrue , or whether or not Blair “took Britain into war” on the basis of false or falsified information , is all a side-show. It was not missiles of mass destruction that was at issue in the war, but oil. In fact, all the fuss about the (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction was a diversion from the real reason why America and Britain attacked Iraq. Lord Hutton never even mentioned the word “oil” once.
In this sense it is irrelevant whether the information supplied and given out about weapons of mass destruction was accurate or not. This was just the reason invoked to be seen to be complying with the UN Charter. It was not the real reason for the war. Of course when you don’t tell the truth there’s always a strong risk that you’ll be found out. Blair has been caught out .

The lesson of all this is that wars are fought today over economic matters such as sources of raw materials, trade routes, markets and investment outlets, and strategic points to protect these. Since competition over these is built into capitalism, so is war. But, in order to get popular support for a war, governments have to come up, these days, with plausible “humanitarian” and “democratic” reasons. Socialists say: don’t be taken in by such propaganda. As long as capitalism lasts there will be wars, threats of war and preparations for war as well as government lies about the reasons for going to war. The fact is that the foreign policy of capitalist States isn’t, and can’t be, based on “ethical” considerations. It is based on what the old 19th imperialist Lord Palmerston called “interests” and what his counterparts on the Continent, Metternich and Bismarck, called “Realpolitik”. The UN Charter is just a scrap of paper. All it has done is forced governments to be even more dishonest about the reasons they go to war.

Wars and preparations for war mean destruction and waste in a world that is capable of providing enough to provide every man, woman and child on the planet with decent food, clothing, housing, health care, education and all the other amenities of life. But this is not going to happen within the framework of capitalism, with its class ownership and production for profit. It is only going to be possible within the framework of world socialism, where the Earth’s resources will have become the common heritage of all humanity, to be used, under democratic control, to provide for the needs of all.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

the Iranian Election 2009

What is happening in Iran? That extremely important question is hard to answer given the crackdown on reliable information coming from the country and reflected by the various claims and counter-claims appearing on the Internet.

Socialists have no hesitation in opposing Ahmadinejad and the Iranian regime. Some of the hapless left-wing have, partly inspired by Lenin's historically bankrupt theory of Imperialism, seen something progressive about Ahmadinejad because of the Iranian stance towards the USA. They are hereby complicit in supporting one of the foulest dictatorships in modern times and deserve utter scorn. It was quite common pre-12 June to hear the Left say the Iranian regime should not be criticised because it would strengthen the interests of American Imperialism, as if the brutal repression of the Iranian working class (be they e.g. gays or trade unionists) mattered not one jot or opposing the interests of Capital and supporting workers gaining greater trade union and democratic rights couldn't be done simultaneously!

Nor do socialists hesitate in opposing Mousavi. His talk of dirty tricks in the election is a bit rich, coming as it does from a man who has been very much a part of that same brutal regime.

It is to be hoped that the protests will become bigger than Mousavi and the present Iranian regime, that they have grown beyond a question of vote rigging and a movement of the urban working class Iranian (who are, inaccurately, being described as "middle class" more often than not). It is quite possible this can happen as the distressing image of Neda's death gains greater circulation.

Monday, June 22, 2009

NHS - health rationing

The State-capitalists and reformers dream comes to an end ? The National Health Service is trumpeted as the finest achievement of the Labour Party throughout its entire history. For years Labour supporters when tackled on the non-socialist and pro-capitalist nature of the Labour Party would reply with the one riposte, ‘Ahh , but what about the NHS?’ Its chief architect , Aneurin Bevan , was very sure of his aims, it was to be an institution which would take care of all the medical needs of the working class for evermore without charge. No matter how expensive the treatment might be , medical attention would be obtained for all. For free!

"Faced with limited budgets, the NHS cannot indefinitely continue to afford to fund free care for all." the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh conference , "Rationing, Charity and Private Support: How Much Longer Can We Afford the NHS?" , will hear.

Dr Rodger, a kidney specialist based in Glasgow, said the NHS faced growing expenses in a number of areas, including the new generation of increasingly expensive drug treatments coming on to the market, on top of growing population needs."It is clear this situation is not sustainable financially, particularly when taking into account the anticipated impact of the recession on the NHS, and that something will have to give if the NHS is to survive," he said.
Dr Rodger said doctors wanted clinical decisions to be based on need, not money, but a debate was required.

The ugly realities of capitalist economics has always reared its head throughout the history of the NHS . No reform is secure under capitalism. In fact, the workings of capitalism continually undermine any reform that has been introduced. We pointed out in 1991
"All services within the NHS are being priced and sold within an internal market: GPs must buy services from hospitals, hospital departments specialising in one area from those specialising in another, and so on. These new contracts for services can only be entered into if the buyer has the money in the budget. No money to buy, no contract; no contract, no provision of service. The original aim of the NHS was ostensibly to provide free health care paid out of state funds; now each sector of the NHS must rely on its own budget and constantly think in terms of the market. This is just making explicit what was already implicit in the financing of the health service."
In 2006 a new rule was introduced into the NHS requiring GPs when recommending elective surgery to provide at least four choices of hospital, one of which must be a private institution (with the operation to be paid for out of NHS funds). GPs themselves are supposed to operate as semi-independent companies, with competition within the NHS being provided by the Primary Care Trusts (PCT). The need to control their budget and to meet their targets is meant to promote a pseudo-market within the NHS and improve efficiency.

The NHS has to be paid for, and the money has to come from the capitalist class. Ever since its inception the history of the NHS has been a story of trying to provide adequate funding. Every government has looked for ways to find the money and cut the costs, and every government has failed. The original set-up has been modified, tinkered with or altered repeatedly, all, we are told in the interests of efficiency. And every government produces a fresh plan with a fanfare of trumpets that promises to solve all problems.

Contrary to popular belief, the NHS is not dedicated to satisfying the human need for health care, or the eradication of disease. Medical practice and research in capitalist society is strongly influenced by its role in maintaining a healthy labour force, and in socialising and controlling people in a class-divided society. The NHS keeps us fit for work so we can produce profits for our bosses. It is an integrative mechanism that helps hold class-divided society together.The need of individual bosses to make as much profit as they can from us has to give way, to a certain extent, to the long-term needs of capitalist society as a whole.
One cannot understand the NHS by looking at a snapshot of it at one point in time, but by looking at how it came into being, the social context within which it operates, in whose interests it operates, and so on. Hospitals don't fall from the sky.
In Marxist terms, medical care is important for the reproduction of the forces and relations of production. The reproduction of labour power is provided for through the payment of wages - which enables us to feed, clothe and house ourselves at a historically and culturally specific level - but also through the state, which has, to an extent, taken responsibility for the collective reproduction of labour power by providing education, social security, and other welfare services. The development of the NHS was in part a recognition that a shift away from unskilled manual work to other forms of employment would require a healthier workforce and a more stable and qualitatively superior one. To put it more plainly, the NHS helps keep us fit for work so that we are forced to keep on selling the only thing of real value we own - our creative abilities - to our employers.

To some extent , socialists have to acknowledge that NHS made the living standards for some sections of the working class better than they had been under rampant capitalism and its early ideology of laissez faire ( although these ends should never be confused with socialism ). But Socialists also argue that all reformist activity is subject to the changing nature of capitalism. To fight the same old welfare reform battles over several decades is demoralising enough, but when previous reforms are put into reverse the case against the system which puts profits before needs is stronger than ever. The NHS decline would support the argument that capitalism cannot sustain meaningful reform.

bank robbers Versus family carers


And you thought the bankers bonus scam was all over when the government intervened !!

Royal Bank of Scotland is expected to approve a pay package worth up to £9.6m for its chief executive Stephen Hester. The package is made up of £1.2m in pay, up to £2m in non-cash bonuses and up to £6.4m in long-term incentives.

The remuneration deal was agreed on Friday by RBS chairman Sir Philip Hampton and its leading shareholders. One of the groups represented was UK Financial Investments, which manages the 70% stake in RBS held by taxpayers.

Yet elsewhere we read grandparents caring for their grandchildren and their own elderly parents are increasingly being caught in a poverty trap .A third of grandparents in the UK aged under-55 are struggling financially. There are 1.5 million grandparents under the age of 50

Grandparents Plus report "challenges the cosy image we have of the retired grandparent,"

The report, the Poor Relation?, describes an "invisible generation" caught between the demands of their children, their children's children and their own parents. In these four and five-generation families, single, working-class grandmothers in particular can find themselves in a cycle of living on a low income while acting as unpaid carers.
"They get no help with the challenge of combining work and care. As a result we see them taking low-paid, part-time work or dropping out of the labour market altogether"

Is the news being "managed".

That was the main story in yesterdays Observer.In less than 24 hours its sister paper,The Guardian had toned it down a little to,

Iraq inquiry likely to be public as Gordon Brown prepares for U-turn

• Prime minister 'ready to accept Tory proposal'

The government has given its strongest indication yet that it may back down over plans to hold the forthcoming Iraq inquiry in secret.

Ministerial sources indicated that Gordon Brown is preparing to accept parts of a Conservative motion to be debated on Wednesday that the inquiry "should be wherever possible be held in public".

Meanwhile on the BBC,that impartial bastion of professional impartial journalism, the main story is still the election of the Speaker to the House of Commons.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Poverty of thought

"The Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." And when it comes to meaningful change, most philosphers do not have a clue. Take, for example, Esther Duffo. She is lauded by some as France's most feted thinker, and perhaps the world's greatest expert on the effectivness or otherwise of anti-poverty programmes. Biting at her heels in this field is Peter Singer, a Princeton philosopher with a 'practical plan to help eradicate world poverty'. Both are in fact good examples of the poverty of philosophy. Both seek change within the context of capitalism. Duflo expouses a "third way", making anti-poverty programmes work better, whereas Singer wants us all to dig deep in our pockets, find a few more crumbs and give them to those who have even less and who are ever-hungry for more. Both fail to recognize, despite the wealth of evidence to the contrary, that poverty - much like so many other 'problems' endemic to capitalism - cannot be reformed away.

By contrast, Socialists see poverty as the economic, social, and living conditions endured by the working class compared to those of the capitalist class. Poverty is shopping in the super-market and buying food not of top quality because you are operating within the limitations of a wage packet. Poverty is buying clothes and living in dwellings, again of inferior quality, because you cannot afford to go beyond your budget. Poverty is going on vacation and putting up with second rate mass transportation, accommodations, and food, because these commodities are produced for the specific con­sumption of wage workers. Poverty is having to save for a so called rainy day-the rich don't save - they accumulate - there is a vast difference. Poverty is having to spend a lifetime scrimping to get by, as glorified scavengers ever-seeking cheap, inferior merchandise in order to survive.

Philosophers such as Duflo and Singer seek reform rather revolution, and for poverty to be made more endurable rather than eradicated. Marx was right to dismiss the inadquacies of such thought: "Philosophy stands in the same relation to the study of the actual world as masturbation to sexual love."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Capitalism is working as normal


Capitalism is working as normal

1.02 billion people hungry

One sixth of humanity undernourished - more than ever before

The faces behind the numbers.

19 June 2009, Rome - World hunger is projected to reach a historic high in 2009 with 1 020 million people going hungry every day, according to new estimates published by FAO today.The most recent increase in hunger is not the consequence of poor global harvests but is caused by the world economic crisis that has resulted in lower incomes and increased unemployment. This has reduced access to food by the poor, the UN agency said."A dangerous mix of the global economic slowdown combined with stubbornly high food prices in many countries has pushed some 100 million more people than last year into chronic hunger and poverty," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. "The silent hunger crisis — affecting one sixth of all of humanity — poses a serious risk for world peace and security. We urgently need to forge a broad consensus on the total and rapid eradication of hunger in the world and to take the necessary actions.""The present situation of world food insecurity cannot leave us indifferent," he added.Poor countries, Diouf stressed, "must be given the development, economic and policy tools required to boost their agricultural production and productivity. Investment in agriculture must be increased because for the majority of poor countries a healthy agricultural sector is essential to overcome poverty and hunger and is a pre-requisite for overall economic growth."
Full report below.
Capitalism is working as normal.Let us work to get rid of this foul system and establish a free access society of socialism/communism.Production for use based upon, voluntary labour, access to its produce based upon, self determined need.
A democratic society without nation states ,elites,leaders,markets and their corolary, buying and selling.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Here Come the Robots



We Are All Socialists Now


A few years from now, strange as it may sound, we might all find that we are hungry for more capitalism, not less.

Such lies are not, alas, only to be found in the world of Newsweek's newspeak

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A pair of 44s

Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows the police to stop and search anyone in a specific area. Before Section 44, the police could only stop and search individuals if they had 'reasonable grounds' and certain criteria were met. That is no longer necessary, and we have seen Section 44 powers used against anti-war, anti-weapons and anti-capitalist protestors. The power to stop and search under anti-terrorism powers should only be used when there is evidence of a specific terrorist threat. It should not be simply an addition to the day to day powers of officers policing protests.

Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of the UK's anti– terrorist laws, said police were stopping people against whom they had no evidence to provide "racial balance" to their figures. White people are being stopped by police to prevent accusations of racial bias because of the higher number of Asian people being detained under terrorism laws . White people may be being stopped more often to balance the proportionately larger number of Asians stopped because they fit intelligence profiles of possible terror suspects.
Officers in England and Wales used the powers to search more than 124,000 people last year, three times the level of 40,000 in 2007. Around 1 per cent of searches led to an arrest ( but not necessarily for a terrorist offence) .It is used across London on a continuous basis, resulting in up to 10,000 stops a month in the city.
A Home Office spokesman defended use of the powers, saying: "As part of a structured anti-terrorist strategy, the powers help to deter terrorist activity by creating a hostile environment for would-be terrorists to operate in." [ random stop and searches of people of Asian origin ]

The power of the state is justified by the claim that the law is applied equally to every citizen even if they have to cook the books .

Section 44 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 permits a judge satisfied that if there is "evidence of a real and present danger that jury tampering would take place", and "notwithstanding any steps (including the provision of police protection) which might reasonably be taken to prevent jury tampering, the likelihood that it would take place would be so substantial as to make it necessary in the interests of justice for the trial to be conducted without a jury"may also be conducted without a jury.

The Court of Appeal has ruled that a criminal trial can take place at Crown Court without a jury for the first time in England and Wales. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, made legal history by agreeing to allow the trial to be heard by a judge alone The case concerns four men accused of an armed robbery at Heathrow Airport in 2004. The trial of the defendants, who cannot be identified, "will take place without a jury in due course"

From a state of civil war in Northern Ireland when jury trials because of terrorist threat were suspended but now to robbery crimes in England , legal civil liberties are dissolved …

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Quote of the Day

Government is not about good guys and bad guys. It is about power, state and political power – they are not the same – and unless those wanly smiling riot police move across to the opposition, the weapons of the Islamic Republic remain in the hands of Ahmadinejad's administration and his spiritual protectors. As, no doubt, we shall soon see.

Robert Fisk in the Independent

The Real Pirates ?


Caught red handed as he prepared to launch attacks into the Gulf of Aden from the port of Berbera Farrah Ismail is devoid of the usual need for evasion. His account of how and why he came to the northern breakaway state is startlingly direct.

"I came here to kidnap commercial ships from the waters off Berbera."

Somalia boasts some of the richest fishing grounds in the world, a fact that was not lost on foreign predators in the wake of the collapse of central government in 1991. Somali fishermen were already selling to the Gulf States and to Italian companies and the marine bounty was known. Fishing vessels started to appear from nearby Kenya and Egypt but also from as far afield as China.
“The first point that compelled us to be sea pirates was the fishermen. These boats that came, trawlers came and destroyed everything even the small fish from our area.”
Ismail lost his shark nets in clashes with trawlers, others lost boats or lives.
The operations of the foreign ships were felt in three ways according to Ismail: “Big fishing trawlers entered our waters, destroyed our facilites, collided with our boats and even killed people. Some dumped toxic waste in our waters.”

“Why don't you give consideration about the destruction they did to us?”

“We need people to listen to us, to create employment for these fishing communities. To bring facilities that is the way we can stop these problems.”

Wikipedia confirms his claims about the cause of the piracy "there was no coast guard to protect against trawlers from other countries illegally fishing in Somali waters. This led to the erosion of the fish stock. Local fishermen started to band together to protect the resource. Soon they discovered that piracy was an easier way to make money. illegal trawlers began fishing Somalia's seas with an estimated $300 million of tuna, shrimp, and lobster being taken each year depleting stocks previously available to local fishermen. Through interception with speedboats, Somali fishermen tried to either dissuade the dumpers and trawlers or levy a "tax" on them as compensation. In an interview, Sugule Ali, one of the pirate leaders explained "We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits to be those who illegally fish and dump in our seas."

According to Nick Nuttall of the United Nations Environmental Programme, "Somalia has been used as a dumping ground for hazardous waste starting in the early 1990s, and continuing through the civil war there," and "European companies found it to be very cheap to get rid of the waste, costing as little as $2.50 a tonne, where waste disposal costs in Europe are something like $1000 a tonne." "

The Execution of Imre Nagy

Imre Nagy, a former Hungarian premier and symbol of the nation's 1956 uprising against Soviet rule, was hanged for treason by the country's state capitalist authorities on this day in 1958. This essay offers a contemporary Socialist perspective.

SINCE THE ANNOUNCEMENT on June 17th of the execution of Imre Nagy and his associates, various notables outside the Soviet bloc have hastened to express their opinions on these latest Communist murders. Lord Lansdowne in the House of Lords on the 19th June, speaking on behalf of the Conservative Government, welcomed "The opportunity to place on record the horror and indignation which this latest shameful act has aroused." Although these sentiments are, undoubtedly, true, they border on the hypocritical coming from the Tories after tbeir support of two World Wars and many smaller ones; and that the death of four men should induce a feeling of revulsion in tbe ex-general Eisenhower appears somewhat surprising. Nevertheless, tbeir one-sided wrath at the duplicity of the Communists has aroused members of the working class to demonstrate. Hungarian emigres and Nationals have attacked Soviet Embassies in Germany and Denmark, while Russians have retaliated, in Moscow, at this affront to their "national honour."

Imre Nagy, tbe central figure, is lamented in the West for bis actions during the Hungarian Revolt of 1956. For those workers who consider tbat his memory 'is worthy of demonstration or enshrining as a hero in the struggle for emancipation, let us take a closer look at his life and the aims of the 1956 Rebellion.

Bom in 1896, Nagy was an apprentice locksmith until his conscription into the Austro-Hungarian army during the First World War. He fought on the Italian and Russian fronts, where he was taken prisoner and sent to Siberia. When the 1917 Revolution began in Russia be fought for the Bolsheviks and took Soviet citizenship in 1918. Returning to Hungary the following year, he was given a minor post in the Bela Kun communist regime. When this was superseded by the Horthy Regency in 1921, Nagy fled to France. He was ordered back soon after and was subsequently arrested. On his release he went to Russia and studied agricultural reform. During the Second World War he was employed on the propaganda Kossuth Radio in Moscow, and when Hungary exchanged the joys of German Capitalism for the delights of the Soviet variety in 1944, Nagy was appointed Minister of Agriculture. "He took an important part in planning and enforcing Communist agrarian reform" (Times, 25/;8/56). This "reform" entailed the forcible collectivisation of farms and the elimination of any opposition in the usual callous Soviet method.

The year 1953 saw cracks appear in the colonial empire of Russia, culminating in the Berlin Uprising of June. In order to preserve their domination, the Communists began instituting "lenient" policies throughout Eastem Europe. Nagy, who enjoyed the mysterious reputation of a "moderate." became Premier in July to implement the policy in Hungary. This position he retained until April, 1955, when he was made a scapegoat for the failure of this policy to satisfy the demands of the Hungarian population and the Soviet war-machine, The ups and downs of Communist political manoeuvring led to his "rehabilitation" in August, 1956, and his formal re-acceptance into the Party on October 14th.

Ten days later, following the outbreak of the Rebellion, he was reinstated as Prime Minister on the demands of sources within the Party in an attempt to placate the insurgents. Nagy's conduct throughout the fighting altered from determined opposition to final support even to the extent of the dissolution of the one-party system, as he was out-manoeuvred by events. His first action on being confirmed in office was to speak over Budapest radio demanding the cessation of the revolt: "Many misguided workers have turned against the state. I am calling on all Hungarians to be firm against these provocateurs," quoted the Manchester Guardian of the 25th October, 1956. The report goes on: "Therefore we have decided that all who surrender their arms and stop fighting will not be affected by martial law." The next day this paper commented on a later speech: "The announcement by Mr. Nagy, that Soviet troops would withdraw from the fighting as soon as peace and order were restored, implies a determination to rely on the Russians to the very end."

By the 28th the rebels appeared to be winning and a cease-fire order was given to Government troops. It was also announced that Russian troops were withdrawing. The rebels demanded the following terms from the Nagy Government:-

(1) The establishment of a democracy of the Western type.
(2) The free formation of parties of all types.
(3) Free elections.
(4) An armistice for the insurgents and complete withdrawal of all Soviet forces.

Nagy, still hoping to retain some vestiges of the Communist dictatorship, side-stepped the first three demands and attempted to placate the Nationalist sentiment of the insurrectionists with his counter-proposals:-

(1) An armistice for all who took part in the fighting.
(2) The creation of a new police force based on the Army and workers' and youth groups.
(3) Dissolution of the Secret Police.
(4) The reinstatement of the Kossuth coat-of-arms in place of the Communist insignia.
(5) The restoration of the 15th March as a national holiday.

This date is the anniversary of the Kossuth rebellion of 1848, which was put down by the then Russian Czar.

Sudden developments once again forced Nagy to adopt a different stand, so that on the 30th October, he announced the abolition of the one party system and formed a Government, including Agrarians and Social Democrats. Nagy had thus appeared to have overcome a difficult situation while still retaining the Premiership.

On the 31st October, 1956, Britain and France attacked Suez, forfeiting their "holier than thou" advantage over the Russians. Regrouping its forces the Soviet Union recommenced the occupation of Hungary the following day. By the 4th November the revolt "bad been ruthlessly crushed and Russian domination was firmly reimposed. Nagy foolishly left the Yugoslav Embassy, where he had taken refuge, after promise of safe-conduct and was imprisoned until his recent execution. (From his long experience, he should have known better than to trust fellow Communists.)

Much speculation has been forthcoming on the identity of the person who requested Russian aid, as he gave them the scant "legality" they required to "justify" their intervention and consequently helped make certain the failure of the rebellion. This call was made on October 24th - the day of Nagy's investiture as Premier. Subsequently it was stated that they were not summoned by Nagy, but by Hegedus, the then Prime Minister, and Geroe, the Party Secretary. Victor Zorgan in the Manchester Guardian, of the 31st October, does not appear convinced of the truth of the statement and hints at another reason for its publication. "This, if the population believes it - as it is quite likely to - will greatly enhance Mr. Nagy's shaken prestige and will help him to remain at the head of the government." Whether Nagy enlisted Soviet help or not, as has been shown he was willing to condone its employment.

For workers the conclusion is obvious. Although winning the syrnpathy of the Western Powers, who will support anything against Soviet interests, Nagy is not worthy of working class commiseration. He was a lifelong Communist and was as thoroughly steeped in blood and misery as those who have invariably toed the Party line. While the 1956 Uprising in its widest form would have made no fundamental difference to the workers, its object being to leave the Hungarian capitalist class to exploit them unfettered by the demands of their Soviet counterparts. Their sole gain would have been the ability to cry their grievances unchallenged, but without Socialist knowledge this concession is useless. And the conditions which give rise to dictatorship would still remain.



Monday, June 15, 2009

Iranian oil


The Israeli ambassador , Ron Proser , perhaps lets the cat out of the bag concerning the real reason for the apparent antipathy towards the present Iranian regime by the US and UK.

"Iran is a serious threat, not just to Israel, .....it's sitting on the strategic oil reserves of western democracies"

( in the final minute of the interview )

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Population and Socialism

The world's population is projected to grow to 9.1 billion by mid-century. Continued population growth raises serious questions about access to food, water, energy and land and the related issues of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions - with the projected impacts that will have on global climate - and loss of habitat, species and biodiversity.

The issue is certainly one that socialists cannot ignore.

An article in the June edition of Scientific American discusses population

Mostly ignored in the environmental debates about population and consumption is that nearly all the world’s nations agreed to an altogether different approach to the problem of growth 15 years ago, one that bases positive demographic outcomes on decisions individuals make in their own self-interest. (If only something comparable could be imagined to shrink consumption.) The strategy that 179 nations signed onto at a U.N. conference in Cairo in 1994 was: forget population control and instead help every woman bear a child in good health when she wants one.

That approach, which powerfully supports reproductive liberty, might sound counterintuitive for shrinking population growth, like handing a teenager the keys to the family car without so much as a lecture. But the evidence suggests that what women want—and have always wanted—is not so much to have more children as to have more for a smaller number of children they can reliably raise to healthy adulthood. Women left to their own devices, contraceptive or otherwise, would collectively “control” population while acting on their own intentions.

This aspect of the issue is an interesting one. Firstly, Socialism will entail the end of the State, so there is no question of some sort of central authority controlling family size, such as in China. Secondly, as we argue in our principles: "That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind, without distinction of race or sex."

The article notes that better family planning services, access to contraception, sexual equality and (female) education all play an important role in reducing birth rates. Religions, with their superstitions and "laws", have a baneful influence - e.g. Catholicism and its views on contraception (which also acts against the prevention of HIV/AIDS).

It would appear that eliminating poverty is a way to achieve a stable world population. Needless to say, there are many wrinkles and complexities in the population, resources and environment issue. Our case is that Socialism is the best framework for abolishing that poverty and liberating women.

Further reading
Population and Resources SPGB educational document
What Causes Famines? and How Many Die of Famine? Socialist Standard 1985 (.pdf)
Enough For All Socialist Standard 2005
Malthus' Essay on Population at Age 200. A Marxian View by John Bellamy Foster
How the Other Half Die by Susan George

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rosa Luxemburg and the Collapse of Capitalism

"Whether it's the banking crisis or the Gaza situation, it's clear we need new alternatives," one 23-year-old woman told the Irish Times. "Luxemburg is more relevant than ever."

Over ninety years ago on 6th January 1919 began the hopeless Spartakist rising against the Social Democrat government of Germany. It led to the brutal murder of Karl Liebkoecht and Rosa Luxemburg, two well-known and courageous opponents of the first world slaughter, Luxemburg, as an opponent of both reformism and Bolshevism who understood the worldwide and democratic nature of socialism, had views on many subjects near to those of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. However, there were certain basic differences between our vlews and hers. The following articIe discusses one of them: the collapse of capitalism.

Rosa Luxemburg was murdered on January 15, 1919. Her head was first smashed in with the butt of a soldier's rifle and she was then dumped in the Landwehr Canal. With her death the uprising of the Sartakus Bund in Berlin collapsed - as it had been doomed to do all along. In fact, the real tragedy of this affair was not its brutality but the waste of it all. Why had Luxemburg allowed herself to become involved in such a useless adventure in the first place?

The only adequate explanation seerns to lie in her conviction that capitalism had been driven to an impasse, that its internal contradictions had brought it to the point of breaking down. Speaking to the founding congress of the Communist Party of Germany on 30th December, 1918, she bad outiined her analysis of the current situation:

"I need hardly say that no serious thinker bas ever been inclined to fix upon a definite date for the collapse of capitalism; but after the failures of 1848, the day for that collapse seemed to lie in the distant future . . . We are now in a position to east up the account, and we are able to see that the time has really been short in comparison with that occupied by tbe sequence of dass struggles throughout history ... what has the war left of bourgeois society beyond a gigantic rubbish heap? Formally, of course, all the means of production and most of the instruments of power, practically all the decisive instruments of power, are still in the hands of the dominant classes, We are under no illusions here. But what our rulers will be able to achieve with tbe powers they possess, over and above frantic attempts to re-establish their system of spoliation through blood and slaughter, will be nothing more than chaos. Matters have reached such a pitch that today rnankind is faced with two alternatives: it may perish am id chaos, or it may find salvation in socialism ... Socialism is inevitable, not merely because the proletarians are no longer willing to live under tbe conditions imposed by the capitalist dass, but, furtber, because if the proletariat fail to fulfil its duties as a dass, if it fails to realise socialism, we shall crash down together to a common doom."

This was not a new idea which Rosa 'Luxemburg had suddenly come up with in 1918. The implication that at some time capitalism would almost mechanically collapse had run like a thread through her writings over the previous twenty years. At the time of the revisionist controversy she had used this as one of her main weapons against Bernstein and his supporters, Bernstein had written in Neue Zeit that "with the growing development of society a complete and almost general collapse of the present system of production becomes more and more improbable, because capitalist developrnent increases on the one hand the capacity of adaptation and, on the other-that is at the same time - the differentiation of industry." The development of the credit system, of employers' organisations, improved means of communication and information services were all tending to stabilise capitalism, suggested Bernstein. Quite apart from his other heresies, Luxemburg was especially indignant about this because it seemed to her that the revisionists were undermining one of the "fundamental supports of scientific soclalism". Hitting back in her Reform or Revolution (1899), she put what she took to be the orthodox position:

"Socialist theory up to now declared that the point of departure for a transforrnation to socialism would be a general and catastrophic crisis...The fundamental idea consists of the affirmation that capitalism, as a result of its own inner contradictions, moves toward a point when it will be unbalanced, when it will simply becarne impossible...Bernstein began his revision of the Social-Dernocracy by abandoning the theory of capitalist collapse. The latter, however, is the corner-stone of scientific socialism. Rejecting it, Bernstein also rejects the whole doctrine of socialism . . . Witbout the collapse of capitalism the expropriation of the capitalist dass is impossible."

It ought to be mentioned that Luxemburg is here overstating her case, since Bernstein was not disputing the theory that the capitaIist system could collapse but merely suggesting that in practice this possibility had been eliminated by the modifications which capitalism had undergone, However, the failure of a major crisis to develop during the years before the first world war served to make the left-wing of the German Social Dernocratic Party (SPD) more adarnant than ever that capitalism's breakdown was on the way. This was one of the main points which Luexemburg set out to demonstrate in her principal theoretical work - the Accumulation of Capital -written in 1912. Here she argued that capital was undermining its own ability to accumulate by its inevitable tendency to elirninate the peasantry in the advanced countries and by also destroying the pre-capitalist economies of the colonies. Capital is ruthless in its drive to achieve this end, says Luxemburg, but at the same time it is producing an 'econornic impasse', since capitalism is "the first mode of economy which is unable to exist by itself, which needs other economic system as a medium and soil."

"Although it strives to become universal, and, indeed, on account of this its tendency, it mus t break down-because it is immanently incapable a universal form of production, In its liv ing history it is a contradiction in itself, and its movement of accumulation provides a solution to the confiict and aggravates it at the same time. At a certain stage of development there will be no other way out than the application of socialist principles."

In stressing Luxernburg's emphasis on 'collapse' we must be careful not to attribute too crude a theory to her. Of course, she also pointed out that the working class had a positive role to play in this process and even suggested that the workers might be able to sieze power before the actual breakdown stage had been reached. But, while recognising this, it is even more important not to underestimate the grip which this idea had on her. Luxemburg was a wornan of immense experience in the German and Polish social-democratic movements and was also one of the foremost marxist scholars of her day. Her intransigence had even won her the admiration of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.* She was altogether superior to the romantic and volatile Liebknecht and yet, when it came to the crunch, she was as confused as him in her estimate of the situation. A week before her death she was writing: "The masses are ready to support any revolutionary action, to go through fire and water for Socialism." This, of course, was patent nonsense. The working class in Germany had no clear idea of what Socialism was or how it could be achieved. Not only was there no chance of overthrowing capitalism, but even the limited aim of unseating the government was hopeless - as J. P. Nettl in his sympathetic biography records.

"It was clear probably by the evening of the 6th (January 1919) certainly by the morning of the 7th, that there was no chance of overturning the government, and troops were known to be moving steadily into Berlin."

Luxemburg, then, had mistaken the economic dislocation following Gerrnany's defeat for the 'collapse' of the capitalist system and, since to her the choice seerned one of a desperate gamble for Socialism or else "crashing down to a cornmon doom", she staked her life on the former.

What distinguished Rosa Luxemburg from the other leaders of the Second International was not her emphasis on the theory that capitalism would 'collapse' but, rather, her exceptional courage which caused her to pursue her ideas at whatever the risk to herself. In fact, over the years, most prominent leaders of the social-democratic parties had at various times expounded the view that capitalism would crash down in some form of immense economic crisis.

Kautsky, as the principal theoretician of the German Social Democratic Party, deserves special attention in this respect. When the SPD congress adopted a new programme at Erfurt in 1891 this was taken as 'a model for the other parties of the Second International and Kautsky's cornrnentary on, and elaboration of, tnis document in Das Erfurter Program (1892) was accepted as one of the classic texts of social democracy. Here he predicted a very grim and uncertain future for world capitalism. The general tendencies he saw, or thought he saw, were a steady rise in the reserve army of the unernployed, a "constant increase in chronic over-production", and a virtually complete saturation of the markets. He conceded the point which Bernstein was later to make, that the credit system is a means of developing capitalist production but rernarked that it also causes the capitalists stand to "vibrate ever more strongly". His conclusion was that:

"...in short, the moment seems to be near, when the market for European industry not only becornes incapable of expansion but begins to contract. But that would spell the bankruptcy of the entire capitalist society."#

By and large, Kautsky stuck to this position - and the revisionist controversy forced himn to go even further. For example, in his Krisentheorien (Neut Zeit, 1901-2), he rejected the suggestions of Bernstein and Tugan-Barnovsky that capitalism's periods of depression were becorning milder and maintained instead that they were becoming sharper and more prolonged. Again he predicted that a period of chronic stagnation was approaching. Only much later was he to put forward a more sophisticated view. In The High Cost of Living (Kerr edition, 1914) he admitted that his earlier predictions of chronic overproduction had been wrong. Here he puts far greater stress on the role of the working class in the overthrowing of capitalism, although he still thinks that the business cycle is of vital irnportance. During boom periods, says Kautsky, the working dass is best able to organise itself, but high wages and full employrnent make it less revolutionary, The subsequent crisis and slump increase the misery of the workers and this gives rise to an upsurge in class consciousness. This alternation of boom and slump would alternately organise and revolutionise the workers, each time leaving thern better equipped to establish Socialism, and in the end the working class would be "cornpelled to cause the overthrow of the capitalist system on pain of its own destruction."

A particularly crude variant of the 'collapse' theory is that based on the idea of underconsumption - that is, the concept that since the workers' wages are insufficient to buy up all the commodities which they alone produce, this will eventually cause capitalist production to sieze up. Although this train of thought suffers from the obvious weakness of completely overlooking the role of the capitalist class as consumers, it was widely accepted among the parties of the Second International. Bogdanov the principal econornist in the Russian social-dernocratic parties, referred in his Short Course of Economic Science to the "relative shrinking of the market for articles of consumption" which would set in motion "the conditions which lea d to the destruction of the whole system of capitalist production" and Ernest Untermann of the 'Socialist' Party of America in his Marxian Economics makes the same point:

"...the keeping of wages at the lowest level of subsistence threatens periodically to wreck the entire capitalist system, because the working people are the principal consumers, and they cannot begin to absorb the immense quantity of goods made by them..."

Hyndman of the Social Dernocratic Federation was another leader who continually exaggerated the impact of crises. Echoing Kautsky, he predicted that they would "follow one another at ever-shortening distances" and that they would "last longer each time that they come". He also shared the general belief in their magical properties, maintaining that if the workers failed to take conscious action to substitute "organised co-operation for anarchical competition" then, this would be achieved anyway ("unconsciously and forcibly") by the commercial crisis and its aftermath.

One could go on indefinitely quoting such examples, but perhaps it is more important to spotlight those who criticised the theory of 'collapse'. Louis Boudin, in his Theoretical System of Karl Marx more than once pointed out that the "cataclysmic conception of the breakdown of capitalisrn is not part of the Maxian theory" and that the "theory of a final catastorphe which has been much exploited by Marx-critics is the result of their woeful ignorance of the Marxian philosophy". But, despite this, there are references to capitalism breaking down elsewhere in Boudin's book and presurnably inconsistencies are due to the fact that he wrote it as a series of articles for the International Socialist Review over a relatively long period. Apart from Boudin, however there were two distinct tendencies which consistently opposed the 'collapse' theory.

Revisionists such as Bernstein, Otto Bauer and Hilferding did so because, in this way, they sought to justify and strengthen the reformist tendencies within the social-democratic parties. This accounts for the gusto with which Bauer and Hilferding (and Pannekoek - but 'for different reasons) attempted to refute the arguments in Luxemburg's Accumulation of Capital. To them it seemed that if it could be demonstrated that capitalism would not break down, then this would be ample justification for abandoning revolution altogether and, for simply concentrating on modifying the harsher injustices of capitalist society. Of course, they did not put it as blatantly as this and still clung to the face-saving formula that gradually the expropriators would 'be expropriated. But, arguing theoretically, they were quite prepared to suggest t.hat capitalism could maintain itself indefinitely by adopting what today we would call a state-capitalist form. Thus Otto Bauer wrote 'in his Finanee Capital (Der Kampf, June 1910):

"The entire capitalistic society would be consciously controlled by a single tribunal, by which the extent of production in all departrnents would be determined, and by which, by means of a scale of prices, the product of labour would be divided between the kartell magnates, on the one hand, and the whole mass of the other members of society, on the other. The 'anarchy of production at present prevailing would thus be brought to an end; we should have a consciously regulated society in an antagonistic form."

The most coherent opposition to the theory of capitalist "collapse', however, came from the Socialist Party of Great Britain. This is not to imply that in the period before the first world war our early members disregarded the importance of the crises in capitalist production altogether. On the contrary, they were naturally influenced by social-democratic ideas and, as a result, tended to exaggerate the repercussions of the crisis more than we would today. But, despite this, the Socialist Party was clearly distinguished from all shades of social democrats by its emphasis on socialist understanding as the critical factor in any potentially revolutionary situation. Certainly some statements appearing in the SOCIALIST STANDARD had mechanistic undertones:

"The 'revolutionary forces at work within capitalist society ,must eventually evolve to the point of upheaval. The result will be the downfall of capitalism and the consequent exhaustion of the forces which have destroyed it. Having accomplisbed its mission, revolution disappears and the new system 'starts to 'grow, not from a revolutionary base, but from an evolutionary base." (June 1 1907).

and these provoked one correspondent into writing that "the whole of your teaching may, in fact be summed up as 'Preach econornic consideration as the sole factor in social development, and wait until the crash comes!'" - But the editorial committee made our position quite clear in its reply to this critics:

"It is inevitable that economic development will bring things to a crisis, but whether from out of this crisis will arise the Socialist Commonwealth depends upon whether sufficient of the working-class have been made Socialists, and have been class consciously organised. Obviously, then, to 'wait until the crash cornes" may be the policy of reform pedlars, but is decidedly not the policy of THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN. "(emphasis in original).

In other words, even conceding that a crisis might be the most opportune moment for stripping the capitalist class of its wealth and instituting Socialism, the Socialist Party hammered home the simple point which it has since never failed to stress - that there can be no Socialism without a majority of the working class understanding what needs to be done and prepared to take decisive action to establish the new society.



*The SOCIALIST STANDARD for January 5th, 1907 carried a report of Rosa Luxemburg's trial at Weimar and commented:

"Well done 'red Rosa'; you have grandly expressed the sentiments of the class-conscious workers of the world and may you live to see the Social Revolution accornplished."

# Wilhelm Liebknecht came to much the same conclusion in his On the Erfurt Programme (1894: "We see that the present society bas created conditions that will destroy themselves; we see that present society with iron logic pushes forward to a catastrophe, into its own judgement day."

Further reading:

Rosa Luxemburg and the National Question
The Rebuilding of the International
Germany, November 1918
"World Revolution": another confused group
Marxian theories of economic crises