Sunday, October 31, 2010

Manifesto on the Suez Crisis

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On this day in 1956 the armed forces of Britain and France, following behind those of Israel, were sent to Egypt in order to restore control of the Suex Canal. This contemporary account explains the nature of the conflict and shows why the need for Socialism remains urgent today.

The monster of war has raised its ugly head again, and once more the workers have been called upon to take up arms and risk their lives in their masters' quarrels. Still erecting monuments to dead heroes of past wars the governments mock them by engaging in the preliminaries of what may be another shambles on behalf of capitalist self-interest.

The usual flimsy pretexts were broadcast to cover this most brutal and bloody of all the consequences of the present exploiting system. The victims of the past are forgotten in the fervour of conquest for gain.

The hypocritical blustering of the warmongers is matched by the feeble and contradictory protests of the alleged anti-war and peace committees, the reformists, and other deluded groups, all thrown into confusion when faced with this calamitous product of the workings of international Capital.

The Invasion ol Egypt

At the end of October the British and French Governments, on the hollow pretext of stopping the war resulting from the Israeli invasion of Egypt, launched a massive air attack on the latter country as a prelude to landing tr√łops along the Suez Canal. The real objects of this aggression were transparently clear, It was designed to regain control of the Canal from the Egyptian Government, protect resources of oil and the holdings and profits of the oil companies in the Arab countries as well as to safeguard the French Colonies in North Africa. It was a naked clash of capitalist interests; the Egyptian capitalists, backed by Russian arms, trying to establish their dominance in the Middle East and the British and French imperialists trying to hold on to what they had filched in earlier wars.

The rival slogans of "national sovreignty," "international rights," "restoring peace," etc., only thinly disguised the sordid motives of the different ruling class groups and, failing to get the backing of other governments in the United Nations, the British Tory and the French Labour Premier contemptuously defied the body to whose principles they pay lip-service.

Guilt of the Labourites

This act of aggressron was repudiated as an outrage by the British Labour Party, their spokesmen uttering hysterical denunciations of "power politics"; making tearful pleas for the soldiers thrown into battle against their will; and pleading for the peaceful settlement of international confticts. Their speeches reeked of hypocrisy! It was the Labour Government that imposed conscription for the Tories to make use of, and they who prepared the way by Iaunching the £1,500 million a year rearmament programme, the biggest peacetime massing of weapon of destruction ever known in British history. The Labour Opposition who say that British soldiers should not be used in this war have supported every major war in the lifetime of their party, including the Korean War in which American Capitalism fought against Chinese and Russian state Capitaltsm for control of Korea, and where altogether over a million soldiers and civllians lost their lives.

Hypocritical Communlsts

The Communist Party vied with the Labour Party in condemning the invasion of Egypt while, at the same time, contorting themselves to condone and justify the bloody slaughter in Hungary where invading masses of Russian tanks shot down workers who were trying to improve their miserable conditions and get rid of the ruthless Russian domination. While Russia and the United States condemn Britain and France for invading Egypt, Britain and France condemn Russia for invading Hungary; could hypocrisy and cynicism go further?

Futility of United Nations Organization

The resolutions passed by the United Nations Organisation figure prominently in the battle of words about the invasion, and the Labour Party contrasts the Korean War, which they and the majority of the United Nations endorsed, with the present Anglo-French aggressron, which is condemned, The contrast is completely misconceived as indeed is the whole propaganda which claims that the United Nations is an organ which can prevent war and therefore deserves working-class support.

War is caused by the commercial rivalries that are necessarily engendered by world Capitalism. Each country builds up armed forces to maintain its position in the capitalist world, and no group which believes it has a vital interest at stake will be deterred from using its armed forces by United Nations resolutions. In 1950, when South Korea was invaded the American Government, believing its position in the Pacific to be jeopardised, at once moved its armed forces into action. The decision of U.N.O. to endorse military sanctions against the invaders was taken after the American Government had acted; had the vote gone the other way the U.S.A. would have fought the war just the same. Other exarnples are the Indian Government's military occupation of Kashmir in spite of a U.N. decision that a plebiscite should be held to determine whether that territory should go to India or to Pakistan. Egypt likewise defied the U.N. vote about allowing Israeli ships through the Suez Canal.

The United Nations (like the League of Nations a quarter of a century earlier) was set up because the politicians dared not face their war weary peoples without being able to offer them something that would deceive them into thinking that their sacrifices had not been in vain. The United Nations is a capitalist institution useless to the working class.

The farcical nature of U.N.O. extends also to the British United Nations Association. The Association condemns the British Government's action, but among the prominent men who are its Presidents and Vice-Presidents are Eden and other Tory leaders.

Capitalism the Cause of War

Capitalism is an exploiting system under which the workers - the mass of the population - produce the goods that are sold to provide the profit out of which the owners of the means of production and distribution accumulate their riches. Profit, the surplus left over after the expenses of production and distrtbution have been met, is the mainspring of the system. In order to obtain this profit goods have to be sold at home and abroad. This necessitates markets, trade routes and sources of supply. It is over these that Capitalists quarrel and finally plunge into war. So it is today. The main source of the present crisis concerns oil - the lucrative "black gold" so urgently sought after, protected and fought over on the diplomatic field as well as on the battlefield.

International Working-Class Unity

All this points to the necessity of international working-class action to abolish the cause of war. Unfortunately, the workers are still at loggerheads internationally and are a prey to all sorts of emotlonal upsurges that do not bring them any fundamental relief. They will only unite when they understand the causa of and remedy for war as well as for the other evils they suffer. Only when the workers do understand and unite against Capitalism in all the countries of the world for the purpose of achieving Socialism, the ownership in cornmon of all that is in and on earth, will war vanish from the human horizon.

True to the stand taken by our Party in the wars of 1914-18 and 1939- 45 we repeat from our 1914 War Manifesto words to guide working-class attitude to war arid inspire action to achieve Socialism:

"HAVING NO QUARREL WITH THE WORKING, CLASS OF ANY COUNTRY, WE EXTEND TO OUR FELLOW WORKERS OF, ALL LANDS THE EXPRESSION OF OUR GOOD WILL AND SOCIALIST FRATERNITY, AND PLEDGE OURSELVES TO WORK FOR THE OVERTHROW OF CAPITALISM AND THE TRIUMPH OF SOCIALISM."

Executive Committee,

Socialist Party of Great Britain
52, Clapham High Street,
London, S. W. 4.

November 6th, 1956.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Life Expectancy Disparity between the Rich and the Poor

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Statistics can shed some light on the disparity between the rich and the poor.

According to the data available, people living in poorer areas of Bolton are expected to live till the age of 70-years old. Whereas, residents of Bolton living in richer areas are expected to live till the age of 83-years old and 5 months.

Research has established that the level of difference in the health of people, who are rich and poor, has become even wider in the present time than it was when the recordings had begun. Wealth is a major factor concerning life expectancy. Mortality rates have dropped amongst the rich whilst for the poor, it has gone up.

being really rich

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From the Montreal Gazette

In 1894, John D. Rockefeller was the "Richest Man Imaginable," with a yearly income of $1.25million ($30 million in current dollars). More than 100 years later, Rockefeller wouldn't have even made a top-25 list. By 2009, top yearly incomes in the United States were calculated in the billions of dollars, not mere millions. A single job category, hedge-fund manager, boasted 25 men who collectively made $25.3 billion, or more than $1 billion each on average. Rockefeller in his heyday made 7,000 times the yearly income of the average American worker; the hedge-fund managers made more than 24,000 times as much.

Since 1970, the hourly wage of the average American non-supervisory worker is lower, adjusted for inflation, than it was in 1970. In that same period CEO pay has gone from 30 times the average wage to almost 300 times the typical worker's pay.

Economist Paul Krugman demonstrated the rising inequity of income with a line of 1,000 people arranged from left to right, poor to rich. In Krugman's example, the average height in 1973 was 6-foot. At the left side, in 1973, the lowest income earner was 16 inches tall. The highest income earner, to the far right, was 113 feet tall. Thirty-two years later, 2005, the average height (income) was up to 8 feet. The workers on the left and middle of the line had changed little in height, just few inches each but the guy on the right was 560 feet tall.

In 1970, one in seven children lived in poverty. By 1980 the ratio was one in six; by 1990, one in five.

The Leftist journal Monthly Review reports that in America Social Security has made it possible for the vast majority of workers to enjoy a period of retirement in at least modest comfort without relying on their children for support. The average length of retirement has increased consistently since the program was started in 1937. However, the increase in the normal retirement age from 65 to 67 that is being phased in over the years 2003 to 2022 largely offsets the increase in life expectancy. As a result, workers who work long enough to collect their full benefits will see little gain in the expected length of their retirement over this period.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What’s wrong with religion?

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Occasionally we get a membership application from someone who has a rough idea of what we stand for. They may have read few Socialist Standards and perhaps been to a meeting or two. They’re fired up and want to get involved so they ask for an application form, fill it in, - and suddenly they’re puzzled. - Why do we ask them their views on religion? (It’s not just religion we ask them about of course but their understanding and agreement with our case generally but it’s often a religious view that proves to be a sticking point).

‘Wasn’t Jesus a socialist’? They may ask. And if they do or if they hold the view that the stars or other mystical forces hold the key to our lives we have to politely ask them to find out a bit more about the Socialist case and then come back and talk to us again.

So why are we opposed to religious beliefs? Well the socialist or materialist opposition to religion differs slightly from the usual atheist position. The non-socialist atheist argues that there is no evidence and thus no rational grounds for believing in supernatural beings or in life after death. While we accept that that argument is fine as far as it goes, from a socialist point of view it just doesn’t go far enough. It’s all very well to point out the lack of logic in religious beliefs but religion is not simply a collection confused and erroneous views.

Our case is based on a materialist view of history. That our consciousness and ideas arise from our material conditions. Religion is the ideological expression of a long gone world. Of ancient social conditions. A world of superstition, limited education and primitive productive forces that were dependent on slave labour. Far from providing an answer to the problems of today religion tells us to put our faith in the supernatural answers of a long gone age. Instead of uniting as a class to face our common class enemy we are to become like little children, meek and mild and to submit (via the Priest, Rabbi or Mullah) to the whims of imaginary gods.

And incidentally, No, Jesus wasn’t a socialist. The material conditions required for socialism simply didn’t exist two thousand years ago. Nor, because of the material conditions that did exist, would he - (even if he existed himself which is doubtful) have been able to envisage a world of common ownership and free access. In spite of God’s supposed benevolence and Jesus’ magic tricks with the loaves and fishes the bible insists that poverty must be accepted as a fact of life. In Deuteronomy we are told ‘For the poor shall never cease out of the land’ and Jesus’ view in Mark’s gospel is that ‘ye have the poor with you always’. This view, although it was the reality of the ancient world, is simply not compatible with today’s world of potential abundance.

Two thousand years on our material conditions present us with new ideas and force new problems onto us to be solved. A materialist understanding of history shows that its not the whims of invisible gods that causes poverty and unnecessary suffering but capitalist class ownership of the means of production. We take the view that our history and problems can only be understood, explained and solved with an understanding of Marx’s materialist ideas. And the solution to today’s problems - widespread and totally unnecessary hunger, poverty and suffering, are not found in faith and prayers but in a clear understanding of our class position, and the action that we as a class must take.
NW

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

poke coke

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Members of Unite at East Kilbride, Sidcup, Bristol, Northampton, Milton Keynes, Wakefield and Edmonton in London, where strikes have been held over threatened job cuts, will hold protests.

Unite’s national officer Jennie Formby said: “We are extremely concerned that a recession-resistant company seems bent on using the economic difficulties to force through attacks on jobs and pay. While the boardroom rewards shareholders, it is callously cutting the jobs of the workers who help make Coke its massive profits."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

SHOWING OFF WEALTH

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India is a nation with 42 percent of the world's underweight children younger than 5, according to Washington's International Food Policy Research Institute. India also boasts 69 billionaires. India also added 42,800 millionaires last year, a 50 percent jump.
According to a local edition of Forbes in November, the wealthiest 100 Indians are collectively worth $276 billion, while their top 100 Chinese counterparts are worth $170 billion. (Put another way, the three wealthiest Indians have more cash than the top 24 Chinese.)

India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, is having a housewarming in Mumbai this week to show folks around his new $1-billion home, seven years in the making, is 400,000 square feet on 27 floors, all for a family of six. The building boasts a 168-space lot. Or avoid Mumbai's nightmarish traffic altogether by landing on one of three helipads. Of course there's a swimming pool and yoga studio. Or, by some accounts, also an ice room to escape the Mumbai heat, infused with man-made snow flurries. Then there's the mini-theater, three balconies with terrace gardens, the health club, spectacular views of the Arabian Sea (and the Mumbai slums).The new building, which reportedly requires 600 staff members to keep Ambani, wife Nita, their three children and Ambani's mother in the style they'll soon become accustomed to. The structure was designed by U.S. architects using principles of Vaastu, Indian traditional geomancy akin to Chinese feng shui, to maximize "positive energy." No two floor plans are alike. Despite their fabulous wealth, Ambani family members are not spendthrifts.Wife Nita said in an interview the couple decided not to stay in the presidential suite at New York's Four Seasons Hotel recently because the rate seemed too steep, opting instead for an executive suite!

Among India's other more ostentatious billionaires is Vijay Mallya, a liquor and airline baron with 250 vintage cars, a yacht once owned by Richard Burton and a penchant for flashy diamond ear studs.

Then there is steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, who threw a six-day, $60 million wedding for his daughter in 2004 in a rented French chateau with performances by Bollywood stars and complimentary airfare for 1,000 guests.

THE CLASS WAR

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There is a class war – the war of the rich on the poor – and the rich are winning. That war has been going on for years. Look at the facts – facts the rich and their false paid prophets do not want people to know. The truth is that in the US have been getting richer and the poor have been getting poorer.

Poor Getting Poorer: Facts

The official US poverty numbers show we now have the highest number of poor people in 51 years.

The official US poverty rate is 14.3 percent or 43.6 million people in poverty.
One in five children in the US is poor; one in ten senior citizens is poor.

One of every six workers, 26.8 million people, is unemployed or underemployed.

This “real” unemployment rate is over 17%. There are 14.8 million people designated as “officially” unemployed by the government, a rate of 9.6 percent.

9.5 million people who are working only part-time while they are seeking full-time work but have had their hours cut back or are so far only able to find work part-time are not counted in the official unemployment numbers.

2.5 million are reported unemployed but not counted because they are classified as discouraged workers in part because they have been out of work for more than 12 months.

Fifty million people in the US lack health insurance.

Women in the US have a greater lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy-related conditions than women in 40 other countries.

3.5 million people, about one-third of which are children, are homeless at some point in the year in the US

49 million people in the US live in households which eat only because they receive food stamps, visit food pantries or soup kitchens for help.

Sixteen million are so poor they have skipped meals or foregone food at some point in the last year. This is the highest level since statistics have been kept.

One or two generations ago it was possible for a middle class family to live on one income. Now it takes two incomes to try to enjoy the same quality of life.

Wages have not kept up with inflation; adjusted for inflation they have lost ground over the past ten years.

The cost of housing, education and health care have all increased at a much higher rate than wages and salaries.

In 1967, the middle 60 percent of households received over 52% of all income. In 1998, it was down to 47%. The share going to the poor has also fallen, with the top 20% seeing their share rise.

A record 2.8 million homes received a foreclosure notice in 2009, higher than both 2008 and 2007. In 2010, the rate is expected to be rise to 3 million homes.

Eleven million homeowners (about one in four homeowners) in the US are “under water” or owe more on their mortgages than their house is worth.

For the first time since the 1940s, the real incomes of "middle-class" families are lower at the end of the business cycle of the 2000s than they were at the beginning. Despite the fact that the American workforce is working harder and smarter than ever, they are sharing less and less in the benefits they are creating.

Rich Getting Richer: Facts

The wealth of the richest 400 people in the US grew by 8% in the last year to $1.37 trillion

The top Hedge Fund Manager of 2009, David Tepper, “earned” $4 billion last year. The rest of the top ten earned: $3.3 billion, $2.5 billion, $2.3 billion, $1.4 billion, $1.3 billion (tie for 6th and 7th place), $900 million (tie for 8th and 9th place), and in last place out of the top ten, $825 million.

Income disparity in the US is now as bad as it was right before the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s.

From 1979 to 2006, the richest 1% more than doubled their share of the total US income, from 10% to 23%.

The richest 1% have an average annual income of more than $1.3 million.

For the last 25 years, over 90% of the total growth in income in the US went to the top 10% earners – leaving 9% of all income to be shared by the bottom 90%.

In 1973, the average US CEO was paid $27 for every $1 paid to a typical worker; by 2007that ratio had grown to $275 to $1.

Rich people live an average of about five years longer than poor people in the US. In 1980, the most well off in the US had a life expectancy of 2.8 years over the least well-off. As the inequality gap widens, so does the life expectancy gap. In 1990, the gap was a little less than 4 years. In 2000, the least well-off could expect to live to age of 74.7 while the most well off had a life expectancy of 79.2 years.

The rich are winning their class war, and it is time for everyone else to fight back.

Stats taken from here

Monday, October 25, 2010

poverty of power

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Barry Commoner is a well known and well respected ecologist from the early days of ecology, who has long spoken out against 'capitalist technologies' as being largely responsible for environmental degradation. Here is something he published in 1976 referring to the path taken post WW2. Now, 30 years on, his case is more pressing than ever.

The Poverty of Power (1976)

"In the last thirty years many thousands of production decisions have been made in the United States. They have determined that automobiles shall be large and sufficiently powerful to travel at a rate of 100 mph; that electricity shall be produced by nuclear power plants; that we shall wear synthetic materials instead of cotton and wool, and wash them in detergent rather than soap; that baseball shall be played on plastic rather than grass; that the beneficent energy of sunlight shall go largely unused.

In every case, the decision was made according to the “bottom line” – the expectation of an acceptable profit. More precisely, as we have seen from the behaviour of U.S. oil companies, such decisions are based on the marginal difference between existing rates of profit and hoped-for, larger ones.

It would have been a fantastically improbable statistical accident if most or even a small fraction of these thousands of decisions, made on the basis of a hoped for marginal increase in profit, happened neatly to fit into the pattern of a rational, thermodynamically sound energy system.

Such an energy system is a social need, and it is hopeless to expect to build it on the basis of production decisions that yield commodities rather than the solutions to essential tasks; that produce goods which are maximally profitable rather than maximally useful; that accept as their final test private profit rather than social value.

Thus, the energy crisis and the web of inter-related problems confront us with the need to explore the possibility of creating a production system that is consciously intended to serve social needs and that judges the value of its products by their use, and an economic system that is committed to these purposes. At least in principle, such a system is socialism."

Haiti cholera and poverty

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Haiti, wrecked by a massive earthquake in January, is now struggling with an epidemic of cholera that has spread through camps of earthquake refugees and into the nation's capital of Port-au-Prince.

Cholera is, essentially, the worst food poisoning you can possibly imagine. After you ingest the cholera bacteria, it'll hang out in your gut for a few days before symptoms kick in. Once they do, though, cholera can kill you within hours. How? to be blunt: Massive, constant diarrhea that drains the body of fluids and electrolytes and leaves victims looking like glassy-eyed, hollow-cheeked corpses before they actually are.

Frustrating, because it ought to be relatively simple to treat and prevent infection. We know what to do to help a cholera victim survive. All it takes is access to clean water and the most basic medical supplies. The trouble here isn't science, it's poverty. Today, cholera is all but non-existent in developed countries. Not because we're immune. Not because we have access to a miracle drug. It's simply about money. Money, and the will to build public sanitation systems that treat the poor and the wealthy to an equal level of separation between what we drink and what we excrete.

It is all about the money. What kills you isn't so much the diarrhea, itself, but the loss of fluids and essential salts and minerals. Replace enough of those, soon enough, and people tend to survive. In fact, one of the greatest public health inventions of the 20th century—and, perhaps, the most underrated—is the pre-mixed Oral Rehydration Therapy sachet—little packets containing dried mixtures of mostly sodium and glucose. Pour a packet into clean water, and you have an instant treatment for cholera. This is pretty much all that stands between a bout of cholera meaning a really bad, gross week, and a bout of cholera meaning death. Right now, people are dying in Haiti not because we don't know how to save them, but because of a lack of access, both to clean water and to Oral Rehydration Therapy.

In other words, they are dying not because of a disease, but because of poverty.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bankers, bonuses and “brains”

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While in no way endorsing all their views, SOYMB blog often come across writers who make many insightful observations about capitalist society. Mike Marqusee is one such writer as these extracts from an article published in the Indian newspaper The Hindu makes clear.

"At a fringe meeting at last month’s Conservative party conference, one of the speakers began a defence of British bankers’ bonuses (£7 billion this year) by observing that “When God gave out brains, he didn’t give them all out equally, and so we have to live in an unequal society.” The speaker in question was Stuart Fraser, a multi-millionaire stockbroker and leading light in the City of London Corporation, which governs the “square mile” of the financial district as an autonomous enclave within but separate from the Greater London Authority...

...Back in June 2008, Fraser described the gathering financial storm as a “phoney crisis”. But that’s not the only reason to wonder – if we are to accept Fraser’s coarse terminology – where he was “when God gave out brains”. Can he really believe that the distribution of wealth corresponds to the distribution of intelligence? Does he think that FTSE-100 chief executives – whose average reward last year was £3.2 million – are 741 times more intelligent than people living on a state pension and 277 more intelligent that those living on the minimum wage? Does he think that the richest 45,000 people, the 0.1% of the population who control one third of the country’s liquid assets, also possess one third of its collective intelligence?

Probably not. In the end Fraser’s comment is another illustration of one of the very few constants in human history: the beneficiaries of the social hierarchy always believe they are where they are by right – whether derived from God, heredity, hard work or “brains”. They believe they are entitled to their wealth and power, and that this wealth and power reflects their own superiority. In order to sustain this illusion, to bolster their sense of entitlement, they’ll buy into any theory and disregard any fact.

Fraser, like many others who consider themselves blessed with it, treats human intelligence as a uniform commodity that is “given out” in measurable quantities. But surely it’s clear that this protean capacity has many and varied manifestations and always exists, in any individual, in partial, selective forms. The world is not divided between the “brainy” (or as the Americans say the “smart”) and the “stupid”. There is no “intelligent” person who is not capable of the gravest stupidity.

One result of thirty years of neo-liberalism is the a widespread assumption that if you’re unhappy dominating or exploiting your fellow human beings it must be because you’re stupid or incapable. Since, according to Fraser, we are unequal economically because we are unequal intellectually, it follows that the only reason for failing to make tons of money is intellectual inadequacy...

...Of all those who had a hand in creating the financial crisis, not one has suffered a meaningful fall in his living standard because of it. The same cannot be said for the far greater numbers who neither promoted nor benefited from unregulated speculative accumulation but who have paid for it with jobs, wages and now vast reductions in social support. It’s often argued that those who take the greatest “risk” deserve the greatest reward. But as we’ve seen in recent years, the rich use their wealth and political clout to ensure they do not pay for their mistakes: the burden is shifted on to the wider public.

...It seems that what’s required for success in Fraser’s world is not so much “brains” as indifference to the consequences of one’s actions for other people.

Now the financial institutions whose solvency was propped up by government threaten Britain and other countries with a downgrading of their credit ratings should they fail to implement public spending cuts and privatisations. The result of these policies, should they run their course, will be that the top 20% will acquire control of a larger portion of national wealth while the bottom 50% lose out. I’m sure there will be no shortage of “intelligent” people telling us why this is the natural order of things."

Roots of gay oppression

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Homophobia festers in many parts of the world including Uganda, where, according to a recent article in the Washington Post , a newspaper there has published the name, addresses and photographs of 100 homosexuals along with the murderous call to hang them. Shocking, shameful but not surprising given that only last year a bill making certain homosexual acts a capital offence was introduced. This legislation was drawn up in consultation with 'conservative' Christians from the US....

Homosexuality - sexual relations between, or attraction to, members of the same sex - has existed from the beginning of human history. In Ancient Greece the love of men was "integral both to the concept and the practice of Greek maleness" according to Rosalind Miles in her recent book The Rites of Man. Already in 1917 in his The Origin and Development of the Moral Idea Westermarck had stated that homosexuality probably occurred among every race of mankind.

Although homosexual love was considered commonplace, natural and pleasurable in the ancient world, homosexuals became increasingly ostracised, ridiculed and persecuted in the modem world. The development of Christianity, Judaism and Islam as international powers, able to wield influence over a wide range of human affairs led to homosexuality being outlawed.

An early condemnation of homosexuality occurs in the Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament of the Bible. Homosexuals are condemned to death along with adulterers and those committing bestiality. But Christians have been notorious at changing the rules and deciding which parts of the Bible are to be slavishly followed and which parts are ignored. Usury is condemned in the Bible but, with the rise of capitalism, banking is now a respectable profession. Polygamy was accepted in biblical times but is now stricly illegal in many countries and punishable by imprisonment.

The term "bugger" derives from "bougre" used to describe the supporters of the Bogomil heresy in Bulgaria in the tenth century. The Albingensias in Southern France in 1208 were also known as "bougres" or "bougeron". It was in fact from about the twelfth century onwards that homosexuality came to be perceived as a vice and harsh punishments were meted out. The rich and powerful, however, escaped the prohibition that applied to other homosexuals. Richard I ('The Lionheart') had a passionate affair with King Philip of France which was carried on quite openly.

In Britain an ecclesiastical law of 1290 ordered "sodomites" to be buried alive, but this sentence seems to have never be en carried out. The few who were convicted by the Church courts were hanged by the secular authorities. King Henry VIII introduced hanging as the secular punishment for sodomy in 1533 to remove the power of the Catholic Church that he was in the process of breaking away from. But this move was politically rather than morally motivated and there were few prosecutions for sodomy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Sexual relations between men were considered a commonplace method of getting sexual pleasure. Local authorities were more concerned to prevent the birth of bastards who might well have to be supported by the parish and a blind eye was turned to homosexual behaviour despite its illegality.

Persecution

From about 1700 attitudes to homosexuality hardened again. Homosexuals responded by setting up 'molly houses', back rooms in private houses or taverns where heterosexual relationships were mimicked and mocked. According to R Davenport Hines in his Sex, Death and Punishment, mock marriages and pregnancy rituals were performed with mock lying-ins and the 'pregnant' man being delivered of a doll or a Cheshire cheese.

Homosexuals were depicted as effeminate, partly in retaliation for the 'molly house' rituals, partly because transvestites were thought to be homosexuals and partly as a result of social labelling and stereotyping.

As early as 1728 men solicited in London for the sole purpose of blackmailing those who responded to their advances. Police spies and agent provocateurs were used in England for the first time to trap homosexuals. Lord Jowitt claimed that at least 95 percent of the blackmail cases which he knew about when Attorney General in 1929-32 involved fears of prosecution for homosexual behaviour.

Oscar Wilde is undoubtedly the best known homosexual to be prosecuted in the late Victorian era. He received two years hard labour in 1895. According to N. Greig in his introduction to Edward Carpenter: Selected Writings "it was the act of treason of taking working-class boys to upperclass clubs which sealed his fate".

In this century the persecution of homosexuals has continued. In 1942 at Abergavenny 18 men received gaol sentences of between 10 months and 12 years. Thirteen of the men received a total of 57 years imprisonment. In 1955, alone, 1065 men were imprisoned for homosexual offences. And in 1951 a campaign against homosexuals in government services started after the homosexual Guy Burgess and the bisexual Donald McLean absconded to Russia after it was revealed that they had spied for the Russian government for years.

From the mid-nineteenth century onwards homosexuality was seen in some quarters as a medical condition and homosexuals were treated with drugs, hypnotism, psychotherapy and aversion therapy. However, the American Psychiatric Association has now voted to delete homosexuality from its official list of pathologies.

Most teenagers seem to be aware of their homosexuality between 12-14 years of age. Yet such is the social pressure to conform that 61 percent of lesbians and a quarter of male homosexuals had their first sexual experience with a member of the opposite sex (J. M. Stafford, Homosexuality and Education, 1988). The London Gay Teenage Group found, from a sample of over 400 homosexual teenagers, that over half had been verbally abused, a fifth had been beaten up, one in ten had been thrown out of home and many others sent to a doctor or psychiatrist. Suicide had been attempted by one-fifth of them because of intolerable social pressure.

Lesbians have been spared legal persecution but have been subjected to the same prejudices and discrimination as male homosexuals. At times lesbianism has been ignored as if it did not exist, or its existence denied. Radclyffe Hall's novel The Well of Loneliness was banned as obscene in 1928 although there is nothing lewd or erotic in the book. Its lesbian theme was considered sufficient reason for it to be outlawed.

In 1967 homosexual relations, between consenting males over 21 years, in private ceased to be a criminal offence in this country. But prejudice cannot be legislated out of existence and hard-won reforms can always be attacked or withdrawn. The 1988 Halsbury clause of the Local Government Act has made it illegal for local authorities to give financial or other assistance to homosexual groups.

Capitalism thrives on scapegoats because they absorb the blame for the poverty, stress and insecurity that the system causes and divert the pressure for change into other channeis.

Socialists hold that sexual activity between consenting adults which gives pleasure to the participants and does not harm anybody should be entirely their own affair. Discrimination is wrong and pressure groups are right to want to change it but we must tackle causes and not effects. Pressure groups fragment the strength of the working class which should be united to bring about the overthrow of the capitalist system. Partial reforms have allowed a resurgence of homophobia to be whipped up over AIDS. And economic stress will make minority groups vulnerable to attack in the future. The overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by socialism is the only way of preventing this from happening.

CARL PINEL

Socialist Standard May 1993

Friday, October 22, 2010

Just When You Thought Fox Couldn't Get Any Worse

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A Texan friend of mine pointed me in the direction of this.

The Capitalist Media, especially Fox, is awful. This bit of bilge wins this socialist's "Totally Effed Up Piece of Reporting 2010" award.

Class war: we’re all in it together

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The details of a long-planned offensive in the class war were finalised and announced by the Chancellor on 20 October. The millionaires who lead the government, backed by the business elite, unsurprisingly decided that the burden of the state debt should not fall onto those most responsible for it, nor those most able to pay it. Instead, it should be used as an excuse for an attack on working-class living standards. If you’re not sure if this means you, let us tell you, it almost certainly does. If you rely on the labour market or state benefits for your living, you’re working class. If you rely on investments for your living, you’re capitalist class. An understanding of this simple fact will cut through no end of political propaganda and put you on the road to the truth.

And the truth is that the capitalist class, represented for now by the coalition government and led by the Tories, has no real interest, despite the rhetoric, in individual freedom or rolling back the state. Despite the cuts, everywhere described as ‘savage’, state spending will actually continue to rise. As Lex points out in the Financial Times, the cuts are “all very radical by the standards of the modern state”, but government spending will still rise by a total of 5 per cent over the next three years. This is because the government is not daft. It knows that real-world capitalism can only prosper with the backing and support of the state. The banks and the capitalist class and the businesses that they own all rely on massive state support to survive. What is not acceptable, to them, is for the working class to rely on similar support. This is an “unaffordable” burden, to be cut out entirely where politically possible, or cut back to the bone where not.

The details of the cuts have been widely reported. They total £81bn, and include a massive £7bn cut in welfare spending, a rise in the retirement age to 66 (French workers at the time of writing are on the street to prevent a raise to 62), and cuts to higher education and council spending. Ruling-class propaganda has been so effective that the government could announce, as if everyone should be pleased and proud of the fact, that the cuts to government departments would not be as severe as expected because it had managed to be especially severe on welfare. Workers who understand their own position and interest will know that there is nothing to be gained from throwing those people who rely on state benefits, even those who really are ‘swinging the lead’, onto the labour market. Although the capitalist media does its best to whip up resentment against benefits claimants – and what a good job it does – those benefits are exactly what we might all one day have to rely on to survive (let alone live). Unless, of course, you have been thrifty, wise and hard-working enough to avoid being born into a working family, and have taken measures to ensure that in the future you will never lose your job, get ill, get injured, get old, or get blown up in one of capitalism’s wars. But even if you have taken these elementary precautions, throwing current benefit claimants onto the labour market will just increase competition for jobs, and act as a downward pressure on wages.

There is not, insists the government, any political choice about any of this: the cuts are just inevitable. To their inevitable facts of life, we must pose our own: resistance and socialist education. They started this particularly nasty and vindictive phase of the class war, and we’re all in it together whether we want to be or not. But ask not what the class war can do for you. Ask what you can do for the class war.

Socialist Standard Editorial for November

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chains link

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So many lies. Once again we are being fed misinformation concerning slavery and in particular the part played by Wilberforce and the US Civil War in bringing about its so-called abolition. You can read more concerning Wilberforce below as well as earlier related posts here.

What do most people associate with the name William Wilberforce? Probably if they have been fed on the usual diet of school history books, it is the abolition of slavery. We are told by one common text, for instance, that "Wilberforce sacrificed the prospect of a great political career to devote his whole life to humanitarian causes" (Modem Britain 1783-1964, D. Richards, J. W. Hunt). In fact, when it came to the majority, the working class also known as the Rabble - Wilberforce's attitude was less than philanthropic. From the close of the eighteenth century until his death in 1833, as the MP for Yorkshire and a prominent politician, he fought a constant crusade to keep the workers in their place. Along with Dr. John Bowdier he founded the Society for the Suppression of Vice and Encouragement of Religion. The message this type of organisation gave to the poor was summarised by Edmund
Burke:

"Patience, labour, sobriety, frugality and religion should be
recommended to them; all the rest is down right fraud" .

Wilberforce was himself a member of the owning class and took the view that a religious worker is a meek and docile profit-creator, acquiescent in poverty. If you could teach them, he thought, to forget about their hardships in life and to look forward to a better state of affairs once they were dead, workers would carry on in poverty producing the wealth and handing it over to the capitalists. Meanwhile the rich people would spend the occasional hour in church intoning hypocrisies and wondering whether they could purchase any sufficiently large needles for camels to pass through. Perhaps he was considering the state of his own mind and the sort of company he kept when he wrote:

"Remernber that we are all fallen creatures, born in sin and naturally depraved. Christianity recognises no innocence or goodness of heart" (A Practical View of Christianity).

Wilberforce's comprehension of human nature (or more accurately human behaviour) was not particularly well informed. When we are bom we have a brain but no mind. We learn a certain language and code of behaviour depending on where and when we enter society. A baby has no innate notions of sin. Sin and all the mental injury and inhibitions that go with it have to be instilled into the child by warning and punishment. In fact some societies today, existing outside the commercial system of wages and capital, have no concept of this sort of superstitious guilt. One such community is the Panare Indian settlement around the Orinoco basin in Venezuela. They organise their production and consumption on the of the principle "from each according . ability, to each according to need" . have no leaders or bosses. They have refused to be employed by anyone. have no inequality of class, sex or age. Ironically they are being evangelised by a civilised horde of American missionaries (The New Tribes Mission) who want to force them, with fear of hellfire, to stop drinking alcohol and enjoying themselves, to work in the local mines for wages and desist from Sin. The trouble was that in Panare language there was no word "sin" or "guilt", The idea was not within their social experience. What were missionaries to do? The method they chose to manufacture guilt among the Panare - upon which repentance and salvation depended - was to re-edit that Middle Eastern book of fables, the Scriptures. so as to implicate the Panare in Christ's death. To avoid divine retribution for this murder the Indians would have to become as mentally lame as the missionaries. Wilberforce's contention that human beings are bom with Sin is contradicted everywhere by simple evidence.

In any event, he did have some interest in children. He was in favour of child labour and had small children working for himself. He was a firm opponent of legislation to outlaw such exploitation. His main concern seems to have been that capitalism should be permitted to function without any stroppiness or backchat from those who produce the wealth. In 1797 he expounded the "great law of subordination" and laid down his "articles for the management of the poor" in which he said

"that their more lowly path has been allotted to them by the hand of God; that it is their part faithfully to discharge its duties and contentedly to bear its inconveniences; that the present state of things is very short; that the objects about which worldly men conflict so eagerly are not worth the contest." (A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians)

Even his campaigns against the slave trade were not quite as simple as they are often made out to be. A factor not entirely out of Wilberforce's consideration when opposing the importation of slaves to Britain was the fact that many industrial capitalists were having their goods undercut in the market by goods which had been produced with slave (unpaid) labour owned by capitalists who had easy access (mostly near the ports) to this workforce. The abolition of the slave trade would put rival capitalists on a more equal footing.

Wilberforce was energetically opposed to Trade Unionism in a fashion which would inspire Norman Tebbit, General Jaruzelski and Andropov. He devised the 1799 Workmen's Combination Bill which completely prohibited the formation of any association which was, or could be possibly construed as, a combination of workers. This year is the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of his death. At a commemorative service in Westminster Abbey held in July, Margaret Thatcher read the lesson. Like the sanctimonious Wilberforce, Thatcher had some disapproval for shackle slavery, while advocating that in the servitude of wageslavery the workers are milked for as much as the wage-slave-owning bosses can get. We are tethered to a life of working for the boss or living off the dole; of boring routines and consuming, if we are fortunate, bland, second-rate goods and services; of being screwed up by the dehumanising effects of relating to each other so often on the basis of buying and selling. We are only really tethered to this social system because of the mentality of wage-slavery. The consent of the majority which the minority needs to keep its system going. We must unite to change society. We have nothing to lose ...

GARY JAY

Socialist Standard September 1983

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Do you live in poverty?

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Today is Global Dignity Day when we are encouraged "..to implement globally the universal right of every human being to lead a dignified life This is a paradigm shift in thinking about our global challenges, a new language and a mindset to approach issues of poverty, peace and progress."" and informed that "there is a difference between being broke and being poor.Being broke is a temporary economic condition, but being poor is a state of mind and a depressed condition of one's spirit..." 'What bourgeois, idealistic bilge! You can read more concering the Socialist perspective on 'human rights' here and as for poverty, read on...

POVERTY is an emotive word which must be carefully defined. It cannot be defined by any given quantity or quality, whether of possessions or things freely available. Truly, it can only be defined as a relationship between the actual state of things and the potentiality. The native of a primitive tribal society who is free to help himself to the simple food, clothing and shelter of his environment does not live in poverty. As far as he is concerned he could not be richer because everything that he knows is there to be taken. The moment he becomes poor and dissatisfied is when he develops a greater knowledge of the world and discovers things previously unknown to him. He would develop new needs in response to his changed environment as he found new ways and means to satisfy his physical and social desires. If they were not satisfied he would consider himself deprived and living in poverty.

The above process would occur if our primitive tribesman were suddenly transported to modern-day New York, London or Belgrade. Once he had found an employer (a euphemism for "user") he would now have a vastly greater standard of living but would be living in poverty. He would be denied access to most of the immense mountain of wealth which would be displayed, advertized, and given the hardsell wherever he went. Despite the motorcars, colour TV, holidays abroad, etc., which provide the illusion of increasing social status, the various forms in which these and all other commodities are marketed shatter lthat illusion. They range from the cheap imitations and bare utility models (or futility if you expect them to work) and then gradually upwards to the top-class de-Iuxe models made for jet-set oneupmanship rather than use. This fact shows clearly the poverty that exists in capitalist society. The production lines of capitalism are geared not to producing good quality but to producing the poor quality that workers can afford.

The popular theory of why workers live in poverty (i.e. the capitalists, Tory government, shopkeepers etc., putting up prices). is an indication of support for capitalism rather than opposition to it. It implies that if we only had such things as "fair" prices and "fair" wages we could all live in splendid affluence. Without inflation the working class would still live in poverty as they did before inflation "became" the cause of all our economic woes. The poverty of the working class is caused by the exploitation that takes place at the point of production and not by any robbery at the point of distribution, and Marx's Labour Theory of Value explains clearly how the exploitation occurs.

The legalized, and in that sense perfectly "fair", robbery takes place when the worker, having sold his labour-power (ability to work) to some member or section of the capitalist class, gets to work with the machinery and raw materials already purchased by his employer and produces a new commodity. This new commodity has a greater value than the sum-total of its original components - the raw materials, the machinery, and the labour-power that produced it. This surplus value which is created comes solely from the unique character of labour-power which ereates new value in the course of 'its use by the purchaser, the capitalist. The basis of exploitation lies in the fact that the value of all commodities is determined by the quantity and' quality of labour required in their production.

Surplus value is created because the capitalist does not pay for the workers' labour but for his ability to labour. Once the worker starts to labour, the work that he does no longer belongs to him; the capitalist has already bought his labour-power for a contracted period of time, and everything produced in that time is the capitalist's property. The value of the worker's labour-power is, like all other commodities, determined by the quantity and quality of labour needed for its production. This, simply stated, is the food, clothing, shelter, etc., that allows the worker to keep himself reasonably tit in mind and body for his work and also allows for the raising of children to eventually be fit for this purpose. The result of this is that:

"The worker receives means of subsistence in exchange for his labour power, but the capitalist receives in exchange for his means of subsistence labour, the productive activity of the worker, the creative power whereby the worker not only replaces what he consumes but gives to ... [the capital laid out, on men, machinery, and materials] . . . a greater value than it previously possessed, " (Wage Labour and Capital. 1970 Moscow ed. Page 30).

This means that the working class must always live in poverty. Having no access to any means of production of their own, in order to live they must seIl their ability to work to the owning class and produce a surplus. The increasing of this surplus is the inexorable motive-force of all capitalist production. It determines which sections of the capitalist class will best be able to expand and crush their competitors, and inevitably leads to the constantly increasing rate at which this surplus is extracted from the working dass. No matter how high their living standards may increase, the workers' relative poverty only increases (profits, which give a deceptively low indication of the true rate of exploitation, increased at approximately double the rate of wages during the past year).

To end this exploitation, whereby the working class gets ever poorer and the idle class ever richer, a revolutionary transformation in the whole basis of society is needed. The present class ownership of the means of life and the relations resulting from it must be completely abolished. Everything in the earth and on it must become the common property of the people of the world to be used to satisfy their needs and wants. Only by this can poverty be ended.

The resources, the organizational ability, and the technology to do this exist today. What is lacking is the social organization that could control and utilize the productive forces in the most effective way. In capitalism a large proportion of these forces are used in the negative capacity of maintaining the divisions in society. The money system, which regulates exchange between owners and non-owners, would be totally unnecessary in a society where all the means and instruments of production and distribution would be commonly owned. The police forces, armies, navies, air forces, and all their expensive ironmongery which is used to maintain the ruling class's supremacy at home and abroad, would have no place in a society without classes or borders.

Finally, the profit motive of capitalist production ensures that many of soeiety's productive forces are never even used. All production is geared to what economists call "effective demand" which is not what people want but what they can afford to buy. This is why factories are closed, men made redundant, and automation plans shelved while people are still obviously still in need. In fact, one of the greatest problems of capitalist production is to avoid producing so much that prices will fall to unprofitable levels and warehouses and stores start to fill with unsaleable goods,

The popular conception of Socialism (or Communism) is of sharing-out poverty by retaining the present soeial organization but dividing up the existing wealth equally among everybody. This idea is a moralistic fantasy that would probably end up in more vicious divisions than before. The poverty that exists today can only be ended by a real revolutionary transformation - the establishment of a world-wide community of free men and women lin total control of the productive forces of society. This is what Socialism means, and it can only be established by your active participation in a world Socialist movement that accepts no compromise with poverty.

CON.

Socialist Standard, February 1974

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Who needs money?

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Can You Live Without Money For a Year?
asks Mother Jones in a recent interview with Mark Boyle, author of Moneyless Man: A year of Freeconomic Living. He states "..you need to understand the system first - how it currently works - in order to change it." Indeed. However, the moneyless community he has formed represents one way of surviving under capitalism: the solution to the social problems of poverty and environmental degradation which such communities are set up to mitigate lies with revolution not retreat....

We live in a society where almost everything is bought and sold. That which you need in order to live is a commodity; you must buy it from someone who will make a profit out of selling it to you. Our minds are dominated by money. It is our passport to existence. No money, no access to what we need. Too little money, no comfort. Money drives people crazy: contrary to the words of the song, money does not make the world go round - money makes the world go mad.

It turns the white-coated scientist into the unprincipled servant of commerce. It converts the caring doctor into the grasping private practitioner. Money makes pathetic liars out of salesmen and robotic paper counters out of bank clerks. Money leads young men to beat up old women. Money is the source of the poor rnan's scheme to have a fat wallet which ends too often in a cold prison cell. Money is the rich man's god. Children beg for money. Not a day passes when we do not think about it. Have I enough money for...If only this cost less...I must now pay my money for...Bills, tokens, threatening reminders, final demands, security locks, bank queues, exchange rates, newsreaders announcing the pound has fallen, as if the sun has fallen out of the sky. It is a vast, mentally corrupting, emotionally destructive money madness.  

Why Money?

Money is the universally accepted means of exchange. It is a universal equivalent. Instead of me giving you three toasters for your armchair, I pay in an accepted, legal currency. Sounds sensible. Who wants to return to the awkward system of bartering goods? It seems sensible as long as we have a property-based system of society where wealth is owned by some and sold to others.

The two main uses of money by most people are for tood and housing. You need money to buy food from the corner store or, more probably, the supermarket. In effect, you are paying the owners of food production for the right to have access to what they possess. These millionaire food maufacturers did not produce the food. But you must buy it from them so they may profit. You pay money for housing to the landlord or the building society. They own the land that you live on and they own the means of producing the buildings in which you dwell. Directors of building societies are not to be found on building sites making houses. They are too busy getting drunk in their clubs or playing golf.

Now, imagine that all these things that you need were owned and controlled in common. By everyone. All of us - you included. There is no body to buy food from - it is common property. There are no rents or mortgages to pay because land and buildings belong to us all. There is no need to buy anything from any other person because society has done away with the absurd division between the owning minority (the capitalists) and the non-owning majority (the workers). You would not need money. In a society of common ownership money would have no role. It would be like the tramlines in a city which has done away with trams. No longer would money exist.

The money test I

"But we need money - couldn't live without it". That is what most well-conditioned readers will say. In our society people learn to turn money into a fetish. In primitive societies certain objects were invested with magical powers. For example, in Ancient Egypt cats were regarded as sacred animals which had to be treated with great respect or they would turn the world upside-down. Modern people are taught to believe that money contains intrinsic powers. Where would we be without it? Beware of dethroning the money-god. Let us put this to the test.

Take a pile of money. Three fivers and a couple of pound coins. Leave them in a dark room and see what happens. Will they dig coal? Will factories be built or homes furnished? Well, at least they could cook you a good dinner: you can get good food for seventeen quid. Nothing will happen. Humans make money powerful. Left to itself it is just a pile of tokens of no worth. Even the picture of the Queen is ugly.

The money test II

But is money that important to you? Perhaps it is less intrusive in your daily life than has been suggested. Try one more test.

Stop selling yourself for money for three months. That is what you do every time you go out to work in return for a wage or salary. You put yourself on the shelf along with the baked beans and the canned tuna fish and you say 'Buy me!'. The wages system, which turns the vast majority of people into exploited workers, is a process of selling your mental and physical energies in return for some money. For most of us, if we do not sell ourselves we will have little or no access to what we need in order to live. We devote most of our waking lives to trying to obtain money. Our work is devalued by money: if we enjoy working, the pleasure is diminished by the knowledge that we are only really engaging in a sordid transaction - and how many workers hate the miserable work that they are forced to do in order to get money?

Give it a try: stop selling your labour power for money. You will give up on the test long before three months - or three weeks - or even three days. Most wage slaves are too petrified of losing their jobs - their chance to be bought for money -to even contemplate such an exercise. And rightly so, for under the wages system we are lost if we do not sell ourselves for money.

Abolish money

Socialists stand for a world without money. All wealth will be commonly owned, so there will be nobody to buy what you need from. The right to live, and to be comfortable and happy, will not depend upon your pocket-book. Freedom will not be costed by accountants who will only give you liberty if you can pay for it.

In a socialist society people will work according to their abilities and take according to their needs. Who will decide what their needs are? Not their bosses or the state or a cunning advertising industry-none of these will exist. People will decide for themselves. Who but humans ourselves are able to decide what we need?

There will be no "socialist market'. Contrary to the economic babble of certain "theorists'" on the Left, it is quite obvious that the market, which is a mechanism for buying and selling commodities and realising a profit for the sellers, will have absolutely no function in a community where nobody is buying or selling or making profits. In a society where production is solely for use people will have free and equal access to take what they need from the cornmon store.

Are people capable of living in a society of free access without making a mess of it? Will they take too much? Will they all refuse ever to work? Will they go to sleep for a thousand years and refuse to move a muscle? These are the fears about the nature of human beings that we in this money-mad society are urged to have. Socialists do not share such fears. We know just how co-operative and sharing and intelligent workers are capable of being. After all, we are a party of workers.

Given a society of moneyless, free access men, women and children will co-operate together to make and to take what they commonly need and desire. They will do so democratically. And we could do so tomorrow if the vision of a moneyless society grabs hold of enough imaginations and penetrates the consciousness of enough of those millions of workers who are currently crying out, openly or quietly to themselves, under the strain of the enormous and often unbearable pressures of the money system. Without money, humans will be free to relate in ways which we have forgotten or only half-remember. The banks can close down, the cash machines put in museums and the children who cry because their parents have too little money to pay for them to grow up can stop.

STEVE COLEMAN

Socialist Standard November 1990

Monday, October 18, 2010

Which way to a classless society ?

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The Spending Cuts and the Alternative

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In anticipation of the approaching announcement of those Con-Dem cut-backs SOYMB posts the following article. In preparation for the cuts to be announced on 20 October the Treasury issued a “Spending Challenge” on its website for members of the public to suggest savings. Here’s the reply one socialist sent.

The capitalist system has become clapped out and is in decline. It cannot maintain sufficient genuine growth to prevent enough of the world's population from experiencing worsening deprivation and misery. This includes Britain, where we face decades of deteriorating living standards as the rich capitalist minority require governments to keep cracking down on the working class majority so that their pig troughs are kept as full as possible. The incomes of the many will keep being squeezed by whichever government is in office so that the incomes of the few on top can be protected and increased. There will be no end to these cut backs and reforms because capitalism is never going to return to the growth levels seen in its heyday. Politicians will tell us all that is needed is better money management, and no doubt, some members of the public will fall for this, and go along with monetary cuts directed against others in their own (working) class.

In reality, what is needed is something that will strike most people as being bizarre and scary when they first here it. A complete end to money, and the outdated capitalist system that requires it! Here's a surprising fact. We, the working class majority, do NOT need money to produce all the goods and services that a modern society requires. Only capitalists need money to carry out their exploitation of those able to work and everyone else.

If we reject capitalism and money, and choose a new system ("moneyless real socialism"), how would the jobs that need doing get done? Well, when we are all the direct collective owners of the means of production and distribution (factories, farmland, power stations, rail systems, sources of raw materials etc) we will also collectively own everything that is produced and provided. The food produced in factories and on farms will be ours. The electricity from the power stations will be ours. The trains will be ours. Iron ore and all the other minerals mined from the planet will be ours. You do not have to buy what's already your property, and therefore, everything that we have to pay for today will be freely available. Obviously, the work will still have to be done, but by doing so, everyone will have the right to a home of their own, the right to take whatever they need from shops (this will not result in blind greed because taking more than is needed will then be daft and pointless), everyone will be entitled to free travel, free medical care and education of the highest standard possible, and much more.

Won't we have to work far harder? Absolutely not. The opposite, in fact. In Britain alone, there are millions of people doing fundamentally useless money-related jobs only necessary under capitalism (making money, manufacturing cash machines, sales, insurance, welfare benefits, banking, accountancy, debt recovery etc). When capitalism and money are dumped, all these millions of people will then become available to contribute something of real benefit to society. Furthermore, without money-related problems, arguments and crimes, many more people involved in policing, prison work, social work, solicitors, courts etc will also be freed up to contribute. All these millions of extra people, added to the millions of unemployed not wanted by capitalist employers, will mean that the average working week will be considerably shorter than it is now.

Money is not the answer. It, and the outdated system that requires it, is the problem. We need a new economic system, and moneyless real socialism is the only option. The feudal economic system declined and was abandoned and replaced (by capitalism) when it became clapped out. Now, capitalism is also obsolete and in decline and will cause years and years of misery (for the vast majority) until we dump and replace it.
MAX HESS

Reformism—or socialism?

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David Beckmann, an economist, former executive at the World Bank, a Lutheran minister and president of Bread for the World, a religious lobbying group, makes some interesting observations.

In America, more than a million children were hungry in 2008, a 56 percent jump from the year before, according to numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (New hunger numbers are due out in November; analysts expect them to rise again.) Nearly one in four children had experienced “food insecurity,” which means, in the vernacular, “sometimes not having enough to eat.” According to new data from the U.S. Census, 14.3 percent of Americans are poor, up from 13.2 percent the year earlier—an increase of nearly 4 million people and the second-highest jump since 1960.

Hunger is related to poverty and poverty to unemployment. So it’s no surprise that, with unemployment hovering at about 10 percent, U.S. poverty is going up. What particularly infuriates Beckmann, and this he expresses in the mildest way, is that despite all the midterm talk about “the next generation” and “our future,” neither party has made poverty an election-year priority. “There has been no sustained effort to reduce poverty since Nixon,” he says. “No recent president has made reducing poverty one of his top three issues. Even the Democrats hide it. It’s sort of like they’re concerned, but don’t want anyone to know.”

Charities have proliferated in America, especially since 1980, Beckmann says, but “we have seen no progress against hunger and poverty in our country. A thousand points of light is not enough light.” Beckmann believes real change comes through politics, not soup kitchens.

Needless to say, it is what type of change and what sort of politics that the WSM and Beckmann has a parting of ways. Whilst he believes that government action will ameriorate the degree of poverty , and that certain government policies will act as palliatives, WSM understands that legislation is a dead end in the struggle to solve the problem of poverty. The reforms of capitalism change only its surface features, not its basic substance. It is impossible, within the framework of the capitalist system to solve the grave problems of poverty.

The idea that capitalism can be humanised and changed by a series of reforms is almost as old as the capitalist system itself. But reforms are implemented by political parties that seek and get a mandate to run capitalism. The motives for reforms may include anxiety to relieve suffering and keenness to promote well-being, but the measures have the effect of serving the system rather than meeting the needs of individuals or groups. Poverty is re-organised, not abolished.

A personal reminiscence

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In recent days there has been a number of mining accidents such as the one in Equador, Columbia, China. Many without the coverage nor with the happy outcome of the Chilean incident . SOYMB received this article from a socialist who worked in the mines as a Bevin Boy in the 1940s which recalls conditions there and the fear miners have of rockfalls.

In a coalmine, the roof is held up – when the coal is extracted from beneath it – by posts made out of H-section steel. In the mine where I worked, Penallta Colliery in the Rhymney valley, near Ystrad Mynach in South Wales, most of the coal seams were something under five foot, so most of the posts were about 4ft 6in. They were expensive, and so were the flatter pieces of steel which went across the top of two of these posts. My lonely job was to go round and see that all these steel supports were retrieved as the coalface went forward, not merely left behind and lost. (Only about one employee in six in a coalmine is actually digging out the coal – they are called colliers; all the others are getting the coal back to the pit shaft, repairing the tunnels, moving the conveyor belts forward, building stone packs behind the conveyor belts to stop the roof at the coalface collapsing too quickly, looking after all the machinery, and doing all the other ancillary jobs.) I went most days into the “N” district (which was about two miles from the pit shaft) down the No.3 road, or tunnel. The tunnel roof was getting very unstable, as well as very low. With half a mile of rock and earth above it, the roof of each tunnel gradually sinks, until it is “repaired”, that is hacked out again to a reasonable height. In the old days, when the tubs of coal were pulled out along the rail tracks by horses (and they were horses, though they were always called pit ponies), the tunnels had to be repaired as soon as they got below about seven feet, because horses won’t crawl on their knees. You could explain how necessary it was to maintain profitability, but a horse pretends not to understand. Men, however, will crawl if necessary, so as to keep their jobs. I’m not sure what that tells you about the comparative intelligence of horses and men.

Now in due course horses were replaced by engines. Every so often along each tunnel they would build an engine, which pulls a long thick steel cable (winding it round a rotating drum like a barrel), fastened to the front of a train of tubs; when the train arrives at the engine, the cable is unhitched, and another cable, running along to the next engine, is fastened to the front tub instead; and the train resumes its progress to the pit-head. (In South Wales the tub is called a tram or dram, and the train is called a journey.) But when horses were abandoned, you didn’t have to repair the road (or tunnel) so often; it could go down to about four foot high, or just high enough to let the tubs, loaded with coal, pass underneath. Men, naturally, are prepared to walk long distances bent over almost double. Human beings who have been brainwashed, or forced by economic necessity, into spending their working lives half a mile underground, accept worse than that without complaining.

If a road is not repaired in time, the great pressure (from both above and below) to squeeze it flat will take over, and the tunnel collapses. Every time I made my solitary trek along the No.3 road, the roof was more and more unstable. Little bits would fall out of the roof as you passed, and you wondered if your steel-capped boots were going to create enough disturbance to make the whole thing cave in on top of you. When a roof is on the point of collapse, any little agitation might be enough to bring it down. As you went along, bent down to get under the low roof, you would squint sideways to try and see what was happening. Shakespeare says that cowards die many times before their deaths: that was me, all right, every time I went down the No.3 road. One day I made my usual fearful way along this tunnel, and I could see it couldn’t hold up much longer. Little runs of dust or small stones were falling from the cracks. But luck was on my side, and I got through the bad bit of the road, perhaps a couple of hundred yards, to the next engine. At an engine, of course, you were safe. If an engine is destroyed it costs money to replace, while if a man dies you just get another one free of charge; so when a roof over an engine got a bit dodgy, it was made secure immediately. (An ordinary bit of tunnel is allowed to get worse and worse before the mine management finally has to take men from other work in order to repair it; you might lose money doing that too soon.) This particular day, as soon as I got to the engine, and sank trembling on the bench to wipe the nervous sweat from my brow, a great roar came from behind me, an overwhelming noise. A huge cloud of dust billowed past. I felt a great sense of relief: I almost laughed. It had missed me! Now they would have to repair the road, to allow the miners to get in and the coal to get out. I would never have to walk under that rotten roof again. Almost certainly, my progress along the tunnel, with boots kicking against the rocks and the rails that made up the tunnel floor, had been enough to tip the crumbling roof over the edge.

When the noise subsided, I took a few tentative steps back along the tunnel, and stared up at the great hole in the roof which had been opened up by the fall. Then I resumed my walk towards the coalface. Not far along, I met one of the No.3 district firemen (the name in South Wales for foremen – besides their electric head-lamps they had a little Davy lamp, with an open flame, to test for gas) coming back to see what the noise was. I showed him, so he said, “Well we’re cut off. There’s been a fall in the face between the No.3 and No.2 roads.” This sounds much worse than it was. The colliers in the face were already working to clear the fall there, and a couple of hours later you could get along the face and out of the district that way. It took them longer to clear the fall on the No.3 road, and when it was repaired, it became (comparatively) almost a pleasure to walk along it – if you can fancy strolling along a hole eight hundred metres deep in the earth, where only your cap-lamp stands between you and absolute, total, blackness.

Alwyn Edgar

Sunday, October 17, 2010

AL CAPONE

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On this day in 1931 Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion. He was later transferred to Alcatraz before being released in 1939 for good behavior. He died in 1947 at age 48, an event which was noted in The Western Socialist of March that year.

As death caught up with Al Capone in Florida, a host of the nation's editorial viewers-with-alarm sharpened their quills and gave forth with a great spate of pious hypocrisy such as only bourgeois journalism's venal hacks can compose.

Pegging their highly moral platitudes on the hackneyed charges of Capone's traffic in beer, brothels and bullets, they labelled his death as marking the end of an era in American history - the Roaring Twenties - the decade when anything could go, and frequently did. The one-way ride, the Sicilian union, the St. Valentine's Day massacre - it was grist for the mill.

The press, in fact, was outdone in sheer hypocrisy only by that past master of the art, the Roman Catholic Church. This usually all-condoning organization (where lucre is concerned) allowed the carcass to be lowered into six feet of "sanctified" earth but couldn't quite see its way clear to perform the sacrament of a requiem mass for the repose of the soul of this man, who, according to the solemn pronouncement of the bishop who read the committal service,had "Sinned." This might well be an indication that Capone died broke.

It should be quite obvious that the capitalist class owes to the memory of Al Capone a debt of gratitude which it might well have paid through the agency of the hireling press, its obedient medium. Aside from the patent fact that the Capone business methods were consistent with those commonly in use today by his fellow capitalists, and in fact Capone might be considered a mentor insofar as his dealings with some of his competitors as well as with his prospective customers are concerned, the bourgeoisie owes to the late "public enemy number one" thanks for others of his activities, if one is to take credence in the words of the master class itself.

We are constantly being told that the capitalists, through their benevolence in employing wage workers, are the benefactors of all mankind, that the more their wage slaves produce, the better off "everyone" is. By those tokens, Capone was supreme among the benefactors of "everyone" of his time. In fact, and not without justification, his name has been mentioned in that respect alongside that of the late utilities magnate, Samuel Insull.

Not only was Capone for many years one of the largest employers of a variety of wage laborers, skilled and unskilled, in Chicago, with an estimated gross business of some $200 million, he was in many instances the very essence of the "paternal" type of boss, in that he not only paid his workers higher than the prevailing wage scale, he also took care of incidental expenses, notably funerals. He may even well be considered as instrumental in saving the system as it tottered on the brink of revolt, for through his free soup kitchens thousands upon thousands of bowls of nourishing soup were served to the depression's destitute workers.

But, withal, Capone did commit the greatest transgression of all. He broke the 11th Commandment:
"Thou shalt not get caught."

Al did get caught...caught doing what every business firm in the country tries to do annually at this time of year...beat the income tax. He may well be considered, if not one of the pioneers of that great sport, at least by not too great a stretch of the imagination, a martyr to that cause.

For here, mind you, was a poor immigrant lad from Brooklyn, a worthy model for Horatio Alger, who through his own business acumen, foresightedness, and the
exercise of the divers civic virtues promulgated and highly regarded by such groups as Rotary International, the Lions' Club, and Kiwanis, pulled himself up by his own boot straps to be the head of a vast sprawling network of transient hotels, entertainment palaces, beverage manufacturies, and a most singular transportation system.

Here was a youth who, though scorners have cast doubts on the story, was scarred for life on the field of battle while serving his country. Here was a man who not only made, but took the most solicitous care of widows and orphans, be they of friend or foe. Here, finally, was a power in politics, a maker of statesmen, a man to whom the law enforcement agencies of the nation's second largest city turned for material support.

While Life magazine editorialized down its nose that Capone executives invented the "handshake" murder whereby the victim surrenders the use of his gun arm to a friend while the latter's companion plugs him, it described his death with the utmost inaccuracy, as being the "end" of an era which this nation does not want 'to see repeated.

Hurling the lie at Life, for one obnoxious example, is the Pan American Airways, which distributes to business firms a thin pamphlet entitled "How to Win Friends and Influence People in Latin America." In this easily read brochure, the budding executive of the postwar era is advised about doing business with his neighbors below the border. He is told to learn a few words of the language and some of the customs so he can butter up to the prospect, put his arm around him, and especially hug his wife and family - before needling him to buy that shipload of celluloid frying pans. As we see it, that marks no new era. That is strictly Capone-style a cacciatore.

To quote the deceased on the very subject in words which should ring down through history:

"They talk about me not being on the legitimate, Nobody's on the legit."

FRANK ALLEN

Robbing Who?

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On Saturday, members of Edinburgh branch attended and leafleted a meeting of the Edinburgh World Justice Festival . The following is one of the leaflets that they distributed.

ROBBING WHO?

People are right to protest against the deal capitalism is meting out to the poor in the underdeveloped parts of the world, but the Robin Hood Tax - a tax on financial transactions-is not going to help them.

The idea originates from Keynes who suggested a national tax on internal financial speculation as one of his reforms to get out of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The idea was to encourage money-capital to be invested productively instead of being used for unproductive speculation. Essentially, speculation is the use of money-capital, not to invest in the production of new wealth and new surplus value, but unproductively to try and swindle other capitalists' out of their past profits. It's a zero-sum game in which the total amount of profits remains the same but merely gets redistributed differently amongst capitalists depending on their speculative skills. Even if speculation was made less profitable by, for instance, the imposition of a Robin Hood Tax this would not increase productive investment. To do that you would have to increase the rate of profit or expand markets, but that's not something that can be done by any tax. Capitalists have been speculating rather than investing productively, not because the gains to be had from speculation are too high but because the gains to be had from productive investment are too low.

NGOs such as Oxfam or Christain Aid want to retain the world market economy but to try to control it for the benefit of humanity, to humanise it. Their hearts may be in the right place but this is to display a lack of vision as well as an appalling ignorance of the way capitalism works. Like all reformers, they limit themselves to attacking features which they do not like and fail to realise that those features are integral to capitalism. What they are for is a more regulated capitalism. They merely want governments to intervene to try to control capitalism, to suppress its worst excesses. Not only does such a reformist approach lead to compromise with capitalism but the reforms proposed are piddling compared with what is needed to end world poverty, protect the biosphere and stop the waste of armaments.

Capitalism operates according to the rules of "no profit, no production" and "can't pay, can't have" and, as the world market system, is what is responsible for the desperate plight of most of the world's population. Before anything lasting and constructive can be done about this, capitalism has to go. The productive resources of the Earth have to become the common heritage of all humanity, so that production can be directed to meeting people's needs instead of to making profits. It is this profit system that stands in the way of satisfying human needs.

Eliminating poverty is not impossible and the millions of people who go to bed hungry every night or who lack clean water or who have no health care or education should not be happy with their lot in life . They should be bloody angry about it and get together with the rest of us to work for a better world, here and now. It is not a question of dreaming up a "perfect" or an "ideal" world.

What is at issue is establishing a better world, where those problems that people face because of the way society is currently organised can be tackled with some hope of success. This is the practical solution to the practical problems facing humanity. It is no utopian fantasy – but a practical, revolutionary proposition – to suggest we can live in a world in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation. We have the science, the technology and the know-how. All that is missing is the will and the desire for change that can to make ourselves masters of our own destiny and re-fashion the world in our own interests.

Friday, October 15, 2010

poverty in UK

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A fifth of British seven-year-olds live in "severe poverty" with both parents together earning less than half the average national income, a major report reveals. The government-sponsored Millennium Cohort Study has tracked 14,000 children born at the start of the century to build a picture of how family circumstances determine a young person's education, health and happiness in Britain. The latest findings are from two years ago, when the children were seven years old.

The London University's Institute of Education researchers found that despite governments having spent billions to eliminate child poverty since 1999:

• Almost one-fifth of seven-year-olds live in severe poverty – homes where the total income, including benefits, is less than £254 a week. The UK average income for a family with one child is a £563 a week, say researchers.

• Almost three-quarters of children whose parents are of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin live in poverty – homes where the total income for a family with one child is under £330 a week. This is largely because of high unemployment rates for mothers and fathers, the researchers say.

• Just over half (51%) of black seven-year-olds and just over a quarter of white seven-year-olds live in poverty, with three-fifths from these groups in single-parent families.

• Seven-year-olds are most likely to live in poverty in the north-east (40%) and least likely in the south-west (22%). The figure for London was 36%.

• Just under 7% of seven-year-olds living in poverty do not have two pairs of all-weather shoes, according to parents. Just under 50% do not get pocket money.

Also The number of families and pensioners struggling to stay warm and keep the lights on has more than doubled in five years, according to official figures published today. The amount of households in fuel poverty leapt from two million to 4.5 million between 2003 and 2008.

Dave Timms, Friends of the Earth's climate campaigner, said: "It's a national disgrace that over four million people are still living in fuel poverty in the 21st century, as a result huge numbers of vulnerable families, pensioners and children are suffering from ill health and high energy bills."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

death sentence

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The 10th of October was World Day against the Death Penalty.

More than 1,200 men and women have been put to death in the USA since executions resumed in 1977 after a decade without them. Three jurisdictions – Texas, Virginia, and Oklahoma – account for more than half of the country's executions.

Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International explained "The death penalty is cruel, degrading, ineffective and entirely incompatible with any concept of human dignity. Its use in the USA is marked by arbitrariness, discrimination and error." More than 130 prisoners have been released from death rows around the USA since 1976 after being found innocent – nine were freed in 2009 alone. Others have been put to death despite serious doubts over their guilt. Studies have shown that race plays a part in who receives the death penalty in the USA, with murders involving white victims more likely to result in death sentences than those involving black victims.

"Race, geography, electoral politics, local finances, jury composition, and the quality of legal representation are all problematic factors in capital cases in the USA. Being tried for a capital crime is like taking part in a lethal lottery, and it should have no place in any justice system," said Widney Brown.

There is no proof that the death penalty deters violent crime more effectively than imprisonment.

Commonwealth is home to 64% malnourished kids

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India may rank second in the Commonwealth Games medal league but India leads Commonwealth tally in underweight children. Bangladesh and Pakistan with malnutrition rate of 41 percent and 31 percent respectively.

About 43% of India's children are underweight, and 7 million under fives are severely malnourished, says a new report "Commonwealth or Common Hunger", released by Save the Children.

The report reveals that 64% of the world's underweight children live in 54 Commonwealth countries, and India has both the highest number and the highest proportion of underweight children. More than two-thirds of stunted children (88.5 million or 68.6%) and nearly half of those who are underweight (95 million or 48.7%) live in just seven Commonwealth countries.

The critical period when malnutrition can have the most irrevocable impact is during the 33 months from conception to a child's second birthday, says the report. After this period, it is much harder to reverse the effects of chronic malnutrition, and the effects are life-long or life-threatening.