Thursday, March 31, 2011

Amadeo Bordiga

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Another person in the Marxist tradition who expressed views similar to Zeitgeist in Marxist terms was Amadeo Bordiga (1889-1970) who was the first leader of the Italian Communist Party but who was later eased out and formed his own group. In his case, it was the "technocratic" conception of socialism, as these extracts from an article about him discuss. Maybe it's not a co-incidence but, like Fresco, he was an engineer by profession.

Perhaps most relevant is the final observation in the extract: that most of those who followed him did not accept his "technocratic" description of socialism. Hopefully Fresco will suffer the same fate.

Scientific Administration of Social Affairs

For Bordiga the abolition of property meant at the same time the abolition of social classes and of the state. With the abolition of property there would no longer be any group of people in a privileged position as a result of controlling land or instruments of production as their 'property', and there would be no need for any social organ of coercion to protect the property of the property holders and to uphold their rule in society. Social classes and the political state would eventually, in the course of a more or less long transition period, give way to 'the rational administration of human activities'. Thus Bordiga was able to write that 'if one wants to give a definition of the socialist economy, it is a stateless economy' . He also wrote that, with the establishment of socialism, social organisation would have changed 'from a social system of constraint on men (which it has been since prehistory) into a unitary and scientifically constructed administration of things and natural forces' .

Bordiga saw the relationship between the party and the working class under capitalism as analogous with that of the brain to the other parts of a biological organism. Similarly, he envisaged the relationship between the scientifically organised central administration and the rest of socialist society in much the same terms. Indeed, Bordiga saw the administrative organ of socialist society as the direct descendant of the party in capitalist society.

Thus the scientifically organised central administration in socialism would be, in a very real sense for Bordiga - who was a firm partisan of the view that human society is best understood as being a kind of organism - the 'social brain', a specialised social organ charged with managing the general affairs of society. Though it would be acting in the interest of the social organism as a whole, it would not be elected by the individual members of socialist society, any more than the human brain is elected by the individual cells of the human body.

Quite apart from accepting this biological metaphor, Bordiga took the view that it would not be appropriate in socialism to have recourse to elections to fill administrative posts, nor to take social decisions by 'the counting of heads'. For him, administrative posts were best filled by those most capable of doing the job, not by the most popular; similarly, what was the best solution to a particular problem was something to be determined scientifically by experts in the field and not a matter of majority opinion to be settled by a vote.

What was important for Bordiga was not so much the personnel who would perform socialist administrative functions as the fact that there would need to be an administrative organ in socialism functioning as a social brain and that this organ would be organised on a 'scientific' rather than a 'democratic' basis.

Bordiga's conception of socialism was 'non-democratic' rather than 'undemocratic'. He was in effect defining socialism as not 'the democratic social control of the means of production by and in the interest of society as a whole', but simply as 'the social control of the means of production in the interest of society as a whole'.

Socialism?

The description of future society given here evidently earns Bordiga a place amongst those advocating a non-market society to replace capitalism, but, in view of the 'non-democratic' character of the administrative structure which he envisaged future society as having, the question of the extent to which it can be regarded as socialist must be seriously faced.

If democracy is simply defined as political democracy, that is, as a form of state, then clearly socialism, as a stateless society, would be non-democratic. But Bordiga was saying much more than this. He was saying that in socialism the mass of the people would not participate at all in the administration of social affairs; there would be no elections, nor would decisions be made by majority vote. On the contrary, all important social decisions would be made by a central administration which would be the direct successor of the vanguard party.

Bordiga does not seem to have realised the extent to which restricting decision-making to a minority within society, even to an elite of well-meaning social and scientific experts, conflicted with his definition of socialism as the abolition of property. For property, as Bordiga well realised, is a social fact, not a legal state; it exists when control over the use of some thing is de facto in the hands of some individual or some group to the exclusion of all other individuals and groups. Clearly, this situation would still apply in Bordiga's socialism, with the elite central administration as the owners (de facto controllers) of all the means of production, since the power to decide how to use them would be exclusively theirs.

If, however, we ignore this aspect of his views, then Bordiga can be said to have given a very clear description of socialist/communist society. In particular, he demonstrated with great clarity:

(a) that it would not be based on state (or nationalised), or even on common (or social), property, but on the complete absence of any exclusive use-controlling rights over the means of production and their products; and

(b) that it would involve the complete disappearance of buying and selling, of money and monetary calculation, of wages and of all other exchange categories, including enterprises as autonomous economic and accounting units.

The technocratic aspects of Bordiga's 'description of communism' were ignored by most of those influenced by him.
Adam Buick

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On Religion

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This posting has been prompted by reaction to What is Morality? Vegan Pastor might come to appreciate why we regard true Christianity and true socialism as incompatible. LB makes a valid point regarding primates and empathy, but has perhaps overlooked the article appeared in the Socialist Standard, of February 1960, long before such research was available. LB might be pleased to see that the Socialist perspective on idealism is stated, but, given his negative & unsubstantiated view of the MCH, probably disapproves of On Religion's thoroughly materialist analysis.


Throughout human history, various religions have evolved as questions have arisen about the nature of human existence. Standing in awe of nature, early humankind wondered at the apparently superior powers of pennanence and survival of other animals and of the natural environment as a whole. Now, thousands of years later, there are numerous different world religions, each with their own rituals, laws and customs.

The major religions such as Christianity or Islam have spread to dominate large parts of the globe, and are united by their belief in a "God". Religion, like everything else, has been subject to evolutionary change, and the fortunes of each religion have depended largely on the growth in the military power ofthe regimes they were associated with. In more recent times, however, the great increase in our ability to produce wealth and to develop natural resources has removed the powerlessness in the face of nature which had been the background to the original emergence of religious thought.

In the course of time, a whole pantheon of deities, each with its separate responsibilities, had become collectivised, fused by human minds into one almighty, omnipotent, omnipresent "power", whether it was called Allah, Jehovah, or whatever. This supposed divine being still holds the respect of millions of people. Throughout the world, "sacred" texts written centuries ago are studied and interpreted on the assumption that they were passed down by this supreme power which is supposed to have created the world; why he should have created it, we are left to guess. Each religion offers its own fantastic, imaginative stories about the same supposed "act" of creation. Favour, special attention and blessings are solicited from the supreme being under various names.

The history of religion itself shows how all of these theories and different suppositions have been nothing but the creative imaginings fashioned by human inventiveness. Each religion has had its own morality, as an attempt to map out an ethical code of human conduct. Such precepts have been enforced by the threat of the most terrible perils if they were transgressed.

The religion which came to dominate large parts of the world, particularly with the advent of early capitalism, was of course Christianity.lts background can be traced in part to the way in which Moses is supposed to have given the emergent property laws of ancient Egypt a holy stamp by declaring that he had received them from "God" at the top of a mountain. The growing class society was formulating class morality to ful fil the need of the social order for obedient "righteousness". As it emerged from its Judaistic antecedents, Christianity proved to be a doctrine of mental subservience, coupled with force and coercion for those who needed convincing of its sublime "truths''.

THE RISE AND FALL OF CHRISTIAN DOMINANCE

In the present period, we see Christianity and religion in general in many parts of the world dwindling from its former stranglehold over people's minds. The times when its officials could order death and maiming to unbelievers are over, at least in Europe and many other parts of the world. The churches do still have influence, but many of today's believers are caught in mental dilemmas over which moral viewpoint to adopt over social issues such as genetic engineering, female clergy, euthanasia and nuclear weapons, in addition to the routine theological niceties of the after-life, the holy trinity and so on. These modem social contradictions are showing up theology for the nonsense it is: such are the problems of being a believer within modem capitalism. The crew of mystics identified as parsons, priests, deacons, reverends, very reverends and popes continually scour through texts to come forward with nice little anecdotes in an effort to solve these dilemmas; they serve up instances from centuries ago, when a certain prophet, angel or disciple acted "correctly''.

"Seek and ye shall find", they advise, but many workers seek for a lifetime to puzzle out the ridiculous riddles, and the priests become desperate in their efforts to stem the growing tide of dissatisfaction, disbelief and uncertainty surrounding the ability of "God" to provide the answers.

On the questions that need answering most urgently, concerning war or starvation, religion has little to offer. Religions and their followers by and large take no serious account of the workings of capitalism. According to their theological outpourings down the ages, the cause of these problems is the "evil, wickedness and sin" contained within the human soul. They ask us to love our neighbour and "turn the other cheek": a hopeless cause in a social system dominated by the vicious drive for profit How can people change without understanding and changing the society which forms us and which we form? Amongst the violence of a place like Northem Ireland, we witness the spectac1e of growing numbers of smiling evangelists, eager to make fresh converts by stressing compassion rather than hell-fire, in an attempt to enhance the appeal of their doctrines.

"GOOD" VERSUS "EVIL"

Religion teaches the farcical notion that there exist "forces" of good and evil, and that these derive from before the world was "created". In this tug ofwar between "God" and "Satan", the prizes are the souls of mortals, the stage is the universe, and the whole of humanity is supposedly torn endlessly between these two moral absolutes. Humankind is seen as a helpless pawn at the command and mercy ofthese two embattled supernatural beings. Today the churches have to try harder to convince us of the validity of their confusing servile dogma, as it is in direct opposition to the continuing rapid growth in scientific and historical knowledge. Computers, space travel and modem surgical techniques throw the dark and superstitious mysteries of religion into perspective as being dangerously irrationaL The philosophical gap between ratio nal and irrational thought grows ever wider, as scientific enquiry and historical research spreads its searchlight deeper into the very heart of religion itself.

One of the most pernicious aspects of religion is that workers should regard their lives as a trial or test to keep the faith, in order to be welcomed "up above"; the material world is also supposed to represent an inferior existence compared with the immortal, spiritual (and non-existent) life hereafter.

THE END OF IDEALlSM

If humans are to reach an understanding of the nature of their existence, which is an integral part of all existence, they must abandon the religious outlook. If
workers are to solve these riddles, we must grasp how the riddle arises, and how and why we are kept fuelled with organized ignorance. To overcome that ignorance we must utilize that part of material reality which is capable of gathering and examining the reflections it receives: the human brain. As a physiological organ which is tangible, fixed and related to the senses via the central nervous system, it can process the palpable impressions it receives.  

The process of thinking is a function of the brain. It digests the sensory experiences it receives from the rest of the environment and, with its ability to think abstractly, it can perform the tasks of reasoning, memory and imagination. It can store and retain previous experiences. It can conceive of all kinds ofthings which do not correspond to any form in objective reality. For example, by mental application of the colour green to small humans, it conceives of "little green men". It could do this even be fore sensory experiences furnished the brain with the imaginative notion that their place of origin might be the planet Mars. It can conceive of tooth-fairies, firebreathing dragons, Santa Claus, infinity, and, through a mistaken conception it can contrive an explanation for the origin of its own existence, together with that of verything else, as being the mysterious work of a "God". But nothing has or ever will be brought in to existence simply by the cerebral act of believing and imagining. If all the believers in the world gathered together to pray for one oftheir Gods' tears to fall on them in pity, you can be sure they would remain frustrated.

Idealism teaches the myth that material phenomena derive ultimately from an "ideal existence" consisting of divine will, morality, justice, law or whatever. But such a world of ideals is itself the product of human thought How else can we explain how the "heaven" or paradise put forward by each religion has so closely reflected the society from which it has emerged? Christians continue to debate incessantly about the precise relationship between the "two worlds" which they suppose to exist (the spiritual and the secular), whereas in fact the "ideal existence" is on ly a product of the consciousness of human beings, a master which we have erected in order to bow down to. As such, it is simply another part of the one material universe we inhabit. Like all other ideas, religious ideas have arisen within the material world which is constantly evolving, and giving rise to fresh ideas. From matter and.motion there emerge problems and contradictions; these will be resolved not by retreating into irrational or religious thought, but by dealing in terms of cause and effect

The cause of the social contradictions we suffer from lies in the social network of material relations, which governs the production and distribution of wealth. Within capitalism, the present form ofthis network, production is carried out for profit, and the chaos which ensues produces a social system wholly unsuited to providing for our needs and collective desires. For these to be met, we must develop a conscious understanding of the present soeial system, in order to organise for its replacement by socialism.

RELIGION AND NORTHERN IRELAND

In Northem Ireland, religion is a weapon used to further the ambitions of contesting sections of the capitalist dass, and to conceal the real reason for social conflict, which is the class struggle. There are many examples of religious intolerance; the effects of the" divine message" have been far from "good", "holy" or "pure". It has become the means to identify a person's possible support for the Unionist or Republican cause.

The political options of being governed from London or Dublin are of no benefit to the working class of Northem Ireand, both protestant and catholic; their interests as a class are never discussed. The political representatives of the capitalist class in Northem Ireland depend for their livelihood on the continued existence of prejudice, both of the religious sort and of the ot the other vote-catcher, patriotism. These attitudes regretably form the basis of the political outlook of many workers in Northem Ireland.

Whenever these capitalistic prejudices are seen to be under threat, many workers are sure to respond, not with religious "compassion" and "love", or with patriotic "goodwill", but with violence. This is so much the case, that political spokesmen of the hostile factions daily parade their confidence in threats of violence and disorder. These mouthpieces are fearless because they know that, if "necessary", some workers will make sacrifices to offer themselves as martyrs to preserve the respective reputations oftheir political gangs. There is no shortage in Northem Ireland of religious demagogues peddling their various "truths" and persuasions, all of the m only too anxious to lead workers to the "land of milk and honey", Similarly, it is their fashion to extol the sanctity of property, along with the "wonderfulness, serenity and beauty" of servility, in that order. Hand in hand, the political orators and the preachers perform their necessary ro le for the capitalist dass, one which attempts to indoctrinate workers in Northem Ireland by the distortion, omission and suppression of thoughts regarding their real emancipation.

They grow financially rich on the money offered from workers' paycheques, derived from holy and sacred wage-slavery. They conspicuously ignore the supposed virtues oftheir professed mentor, such as humility and denial, which are reserved exclusively for the flock. They grow rich egoistically on the miseries and helpless sense of powerlessness which many workers often feel. Socialism to them is a "godless creed", With its prospect of real emancipation, happiness and social equality, it is a victim of their malicious and irrational fictions.

When confronted by capitalism's array of problems and insecurities, and by our defeated desires and discontentment with the lives we are forced to lead, workers often turn down the cul-de-sac of religion for relea se, to ask from our knees that the "Supreme Boss" may assist and help us. When we are forced to seIl ourse1ves to a dass who squeeze us for profits, while being told to swallow large helpings of the ideological filth which lends support to our oppression, we feel a painful lack of real conscious control or of any substantial influence over our role in soeiety. In prayers and rituals, the producers of the world beg of this "Cosmic Good Guy" that the realities of their dass position be lessened to enable them to live their lives without the numerous problems they must daily face.

HUMAN EMANCIPATION

Religion provides no answers, just a sedative, solace and false hope. It is the perfume to mask the stinking realities of modem capitalism. It is a jumbled confusion, lacking any concrete provable basis, beneficial to the parasites and useless to the working class. For those wishing to develop a practical approach towards comprehending the nature of existence and of social change, this is provided by the materialist outlook advocated by socialists. Socialists stand in opposition to idealism and to all religious thought, together with all other notions of workers being unequal, below, or secondary to any class or any "God". Socialism will see the establishment of a confident society with the realization of humans as the supreme beings in consciously shaping our own lives.

Brian Hawkes

(World Socialist No. 6 Winter 1986-7)



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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Marx and Social Credit

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An enquirer describes our piece on Major Douglas as "..at best vacuous and at worst an incompetent write up which damages the progress for reform of the capitalist system. Something you do not want, hence your vacuous write up." Hopefully, most readers will be aware that the Socialist Party is not actually opposed to reforms as such - some may benefit our class in a minor but often temporary way - rather reformism. With regard to Major Douglas, we are uncertain if our enquirer is referring to this essay from 2003 or The Douglas Scheme. Either way, judge for yourselves. We say supporters of social credit have a vacuum to fill as far as evidence is concerned.


Marxian economics constitute a direct refutation of the illusions up on which Social Credit doctrines are premised. Not only did Marx demolish the "credit creation" theories but this was already a hoary fallacy when John Stuart Mill disproved what he described as this "confused notion" in a work written before 1847 and published' in 1872. The notion that an insufficiency of money was the cause of sluggish trade was criticized by Sir Dudley North in 1691 before the development of the modern credit system and this was quoted by Marx.

We challenge anyone to provide the evidence for attributing to Marx the claim that the recurrent cause of real crises is to be found in the alleged defects of the monetary system.

Marx's major works were devoted to a study of the capitalist system of commodity production, to an analysis of the commodity (a thing for sale), the form which the wealth of capitalist society assumes. The common quality that renders commodities commensurable, and therefore exchangeable, is the socially necessary labor time incorporated in them, which determines their value. Marx demonstrated that labor power itself is a commodity. As the producer of all commodities, including itself, it is the sole creator of value. But most significant of all, labor power was shown to possess capacities apparently greater than that of any legendary conjuror, inasmuch as it performs the unique feat of producing values greater than the sum of those it itself contains. Marx revealed that this apparent paradox was achieved by virtue of the fact that what the worker received was not the value of his labor, as had been heretofore supposed, but the value of his labor power, a distinctly different magnitude. The value of his means of subsistence, which is equivalent to his wage, is less than the worker can produce by means of the physical energies expended and which these means renew. The worker produces values equivalent to his wage in only a fraction of the time he has contracted to work for. This excess of working time beyond that necessary to reproduce his labor power, Marx designated as suplus labor time, and the values produced therein as surplus values.

That wages, therefore, must necessarily only represent a portion of the goods the workers produce is not due to any supposed defect in the monetary system. Rather, it is the very nature of the wages system that ensures this. Marx's major contribution to political economy was in disclosing that it was this commodity nature of labor which determined that profit and capital is produced by the unpaid labor of the workers.

It is as we shall see, an inadequate conception of the function of money and its relationship to commodities that underline Social Credit proposals. Money was shown by Marx to be, like labor power itself, also a commodity. Gold, or any of the previous materials that assumed the money form, did so, first of all precisely because they are commodities, and hence depositaries of exchange values. One of these commodities by general usage and agreement becomes the money commodity. By virtue of having the attribute common to all other commodities, of being the embodiment of so much labor time, the money commodity thus becomes the general equivalent and measure of value of all the other commodities.

Money emerged and acquired its function of medium of circulation as a product of the historical development of exchange. The primitive inter-tribal direct barter beginnings of exchange was only of an occasibnal and non commodity nature since in primitive society goods were not originally produced for exchange, or sale. But occasional barter between one tribe and another developed into a more sustained form and provided an impetus to the development of the private property institution. Goods became more and more produced for the purpose of exchange, rather than for the personal use of the owners.

The beginnings of commodity production and exchange, the production of goods for sale, demanded the use of one commodity as the universal equivalent which would serve as the translator of the values of all the others.

It will be seen then that exchange did not originate with money but that the converse is true; i.e. that money arose as a medium of circulation only as a
result of the circulation of commodities.

At this point let us allow Marx to speak.

"Although therefore the movement of money is merely an expression of the circulation of commodities it seems as if conversely the circulation of commodities was only an outcome of the movement of money. On the other hand money only has the function of a medium of circulation because it is the objectivized value of commodities. Consequently, its movement as circulating medium, is in actual fact only the movement of commodities under changed forms." (Capital, vol. 1 page 95, Eden and Cedar Paul edition.)

Purchasing power resides in the goods which when produced belong to the capitalists. Gold, which was the actual material medium of circulation in earlier times, was with the rise of banking superceded in that function by the development of tokens and of paper representatives, which were convertible into money. Today banknotes and other paper are no longer convertible into gold. Nevertheless gold remains the money commodity since it still functions as the measure of value and as world money.

The commercial credit which the capitalists engaged in reproduction extend to one another by means of the promises to pay, constituted by bills of exchange and other certificates of indebtedness, is the basis from which the modern credit system developed. Banks are the intermediary agencies which facilitate the exchange of goods between the various owners, whereby one set of ccmmodities is sold for another. They act as middlemen between buyers and sellers who are each both borrowers and lenders in turn, since every seIler must also be a buyer before he can seIl. The seIler on depositing the purchaser's check is in reality ordering the bank to collect the debt; to transfer this amount from his debtor's account to his own. When his own debt to another seller is due his check issued to this creditor is in essence an order on the bank to transfer the stipulated amount from his own account to that of the creditor's.

"These mutual claims of indebtedness represented by bills of exchange or checks are balanced either by the same banker, who merely transcribes the claim from the account of one to another, or by different bankers squaring accounts with each other."

Checks, being orders to pay money are therefore certificates of indebtedness. Banks are institutions for the transference of debts and purchasing power which arise from the sale of goods and services. The issuance of a check is the conversion of commodities into a form of credit money and if cashed, into another form of money, banknotes. Thus we see, contrary to Social Credit dogma that banks cannot create credit from nothing since it is the creation and sale of goods that create credit. Purchasing power derives from the ownership of goods and the consequent command of services and must therefore always be equal to the totality of goods on the market.

The bank too occupies the dual position of being both debtor and creditor since it lends out at a higher interest rate the great part of the deposits it has borrowed at a lower rate. This is generally the source of its profits.

The total product of society (minus that portion necessary for the replacement of used up means of production) can be said to resolve itself into income of wages, profits and rent (including money rent) although value is not determined. by these elements of income. The A plus B theorem of Major Douglas, founder of Social Credit, is supposed to demonstrate that A payments for wages and dividends, plus B payments for raw materials, bank charges etc., comprise the cost of production, while only A gives rise to income. Therefore, says Douglas, B payments must Iead to a shortage of purchasing power.

But this is fantastic nonsense, aside from regarding dividends as a cost as it can readily be seen that the cost of raw materials has already been included when dividends have been disbursed. Also considering category B it will be realized when viewing the process of production in series that the raw materials of one industry is the product of the previous producers and this product produced the distribution of wages and profits. By adding the cost of production twice and thus doubIing it Social Crediters have certainly merited the description of their propaganda as double talk and this is the twaddle that is passed off as economics. The total income of society can never equal its total product since a part of this product, which represents no profit, must be used to replace the constant capital consumed (means of production). But this does not mean that the result is a lack of purchasing power.  

Neither does it cause an inadequate supply of money to circulate the goods produced. This will be realized when we consider the relationship of production between the two great divisions of industry, i.e., class 1 producing means of production, and class 2, producing articles of individual consumption. The revenue (wages and profits) of class 1 are not spent on the consumption of the products of that class but for the consumption goods of class 2.

"On the other hand the product of 1 to the extent that it represents a revenue of class 1, is productively consumed in its natural form by class 2 whose Constant Capital it replaces in its natural form. Finally, the consumed constant portion of the Capital of class 1 is replaced out of the products of this class itself, (which consists of instruments of labor, raw and auxiliary materials,) either by an exchange of the Capitalists of 1 among themselves, or in such away that a portion of these Capitalists can use their own means of production." (Capital, vol. Ill, page 976, Kerr edition. )

In conclusion, as far as Marx's views on crises is concerned, he had the following to say after mentioning the dependence of the reproduction of productive capital on the consuming power of the non producing class.

"The last cause of all crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses as compared to the tendency of capitalist production to develop the productive forces in such away that only the absolute power of consumption of the entirø society would be their limit."

The working class's claim on the wealth it produced is restricted to the limits imposed up on it by the commodity status of labor power not by any supposed insufficiency of medium of circulation.

CARPONIOUS

(This is an abridged and slighty modified version of an essay which first appeared in The Western Socialist of July-August 1953)

Monday, March 28, 2011

getting poorer - workers carrying the can

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The average employee takes home £1,088 a year less than two years ago when the sum is adjusted for inflation, research commissioned by BBC Panorama suggests.

"The sharp drop, in real terms, highlights the effect of stagnant wages and above-target inflation on incomes.The average British worker earned £20,149 at the start of 2011 - a real terms fall of 5% from what they were earning in the middle of the recession."

So, a straight Keynesian policy of allowing inflation to reduce wages in order to restore capitalist profitability is part of the plan, this on top of cuts to public services and the 'social wage'. this is all-out class warfare on the part of the capitalists and their assistants in the state.

Let's be clear, amidst material plenty, capacity for increased productivity and continued (slight) growth, we are all getting poorer. All Labour can propose is to try and grow their way out of the mess, and hope to buy us off with a few trinkets and relief that we aren't being made any more poorer (and the Tories hope the same).

BillM

To The Socialist Party

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Look back, move forward

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Two things are utterly predictable whenever there is a mass protest, or a demonstration of significant size, and the anti-cuts demonstration organised by the TUC on 26 March was no exception. The first is that the police will do their best to turn it into a riot and to intimidate all present with violence. The second is that, regardless of police actions, most people will come away with a new sense of purpose and meaning in their lives – awake and invigorated, full of the collective joy that spontaneously arises when human beings get together to show their strength of feeling or merely their urge for festivity. After many decades of a relatively lonely and boring struggle to survive, a struggle that those in power have faithfully promised us will get worse in the coming years, people will have come home on 26 March at the least relieved that "I'm not alone".

That's the positive side. Unfortunately, with the decline of the traditional left and trade unions in this country and around the world, and the accompanying lack of faith in democracy and political parties, it's hard to know what exactly to do with those feelings – how to transform a feeling of solidarity and commitment to opposition into something that will last, something capable of delivering long-term, lasting change for the better.

That lack of faith is not just confined to the mass of people who are not ordinarily involved in politics. It is sometimes declared to be a positive thing from those committed to radical change. The thinking is that the traditional political parties and trade unions and so on have held us back – their ideas have been tried and failed and defeated, and their hierarchical structures and outmoded ideas are boring and not fit for purpose. Instead, we are to celebrate spontaneity and freedom – to get together in small groups and do exactly whatever we want.

There is something to the argument, but it has lost its appeal in the face of a major attack from the ruling class and its representatives who control the state machine. An extremely serious economic crisis that started with the banks has changed the game. The rich were rescued by huge state bail-outs. The costs of the crisis were shifted instead to the state – and the state intends to shift the burden to us, by slashing our jobs, pensions, social services, benefits, and so on. The attack is organised and centralised – shouldn't the opposition be too?

There are no easy answers to these questions, and we don't pretend there are. But perhaps it's time to hear once again a voice that has been marginalised for over a century. From the formation of the Labour party in 1906, and then the Russian revolution in 1917, socialism has come to mean either state management of welfare capitalism, or state dictatorship over a centralised economy. But these rightly discredited ideas marginalised a previously existing conception that it might be worth reviving. The word socialism was already beginning to lose its original meaning by 1894, which caused William Morris, one of the Victorian age's greatest polymaths, to say:

"I will say what I mean by being a Socialist, since I am told that the word no longer expresses definitely and with certainty what it did ten years ago. Well, what I mean by Socialism is a condition of society in which there should be neither rich nor poor, neither master nor master's man, neither idle nor overworked, neither brain-sick brain workers, nor heart-sick hand workers, in a word, in which all men would be living in equality of condition, and would manage their affairs unwastefully, and with the full consciousness that harm to one would mean harm to all—the realization at last of the meaning of the word COMMONWEALTH."

The 20th century did its best to let the curtain fall for ever on this vision of socialism, but a small number of dedicated activists have done their best to keep it alive. We in the Socialist Party count ourselves among their number. We say that it is right that people have lost faith in traditional politics – it has proved by its actions what it is all about. But to say that therefore we must give up on a vision of the future, and an organised commitment to attaining it, is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The inspiring struggles for democracy and against austerity we are seeing emerging around the world have a common cause – they are the divided and isolated battles of workers against the relatively united attack of the world's ruling class in its attempt to resolve its economic crisis. We need to follow the ruling-class example – come together and organise in order to resolve the crisis in our way. That is, by organising a political party dedicated to taking state power out of the hands of the ruling class, and to establishing socialism. And given the extremely serious nature of the ecological catastrophe we are all facing, this is not just a nice idea. Increasingly, it's a matter of survival.

StuartW

The Socialist Party

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Is Protest Really Enough? Demand The Impossible!

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Well-meaning people from across Britain have again travelled to London to protest their outrage at the policies of Cameron and the ConDem Coalition.

It was heartening to see so many , united in common voice - it reveals the workers can be mobilised around issues they feel are important.

People power is in evidence everywhere, as we see in the Middle East and elsewhere but from our experience - and we've had over 100 years' experience of observing campaigns and demonstrations and protests around every kind of reform and demand imaginable we can confidently say that the demonstration was just one of hundreds over the years that address the symptoms, not the cause of the problem, and will make no significant difference to the established order, or to the way politicians think.

Demonstrators can at best hope to alleviate a problem, but the respite is only temporary.

The TUC protest may have demonstrated a great strength of feeling but it also demonstrated a great weakness; this is the lack of control of those who take part and their dependence on the decisions and actions of present power structures.

Because of this, protesters can become victims of a seductive but deadly process. The capitalist system constantly throws up issues that demand action amongst those who are concerned and by many people who think of themselves as socialists.

As a result, protest tends to become a demand for an “improved” kind of capitalism which leaves the long-term reasons for protest intact. This has been the history of protest.

In this sense, protest tends to set a stage for further protest and further demonstrations. Though the issues may vary the message stays the same: “We demand that governments do this, or do that or do the other!”

The spectacle of thousands demanding that governments act on their behalf is a most reassuring signal to those in power that their positions of control are secure. In this way, repeated demonstrations do little more than confirm the continuity of the system. The point is to change society, not to appeal to the doubtful better nature of its power structures.

Consider this.

Across the globe there are literally hundreds of thousands of campaigns and protest groups and many more charities, some small, some enormous, all pursuing tens of thousands of issues, and their work involves many millions of sincere workers who care passionately about their individual causes and give their free time to support them unquestioningly. Many will have campaigned on some single issue for years on end with no visible result; others will have celebrated minor victories and then joined another campaign groups, spurred on by that initial success.

Two things stand out: firstly, that many of the problems around us are rooted in the way our society is organised for production, and are problems we have been capable of solving for quite some time, though never within the confines of a profit-driven market system; secondly, that if all of these well meaning people had have directed all their energy - all those tens of billions of human labour hours expended on their myriad single issues - to the task of overthrowing the system that creates a great deal of the problems around us, then none of us would be here today.

Instead we would have established a world without borders, without waste or want or war, in which we would all have free access to the benefits of civilisation with problem solving devoid of the artificial constraints of the profit system.

Every aspect of our lives is subordinated to the requirements of profit - from the moment you brush your teeth in the morning with the toothpaste you saw advertised on TV until you crawl into your bed at night. Pick up a newspaper and try locating any problem reported there outside of our "can't pay - can't have" system. Crime, the health service, poverty, drug abuse, hunger, disease, homelessness, unemployment, war, insecurity - the list is endless.

All attract their campaign groups, all struggling to address these problems, and all of these problems arising because of the inefficient and archaic way we organise our world for production. We were unlike any other group there, out to reform capitalism, who beg governments to be just a little less horrid, who ask our masters to throw us a few more crumbs from the bread we bake. We are not into the politics of compromise and we certainly are not prepared to be satisfied with crumbs. We demand the whole bakery and the wheat-fields too!

We urge you to stop belittling yourself and your class by making the same age-old demands of the master class.

Demand what until now has been considered "the impossible"!

Join us in campaigning for a system of society where there are no leaders, no classes, no states or governments, no borders, no force or coercion; a world where the earth's natural and industrial resources are commonly owned and democratically controlled and where production is freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used to the benefit of all; a world of free access to the necessaries of life.

Wouldn't such a campaign movement not only address the real root of every campaign and protest currently being waged?

The choice is yours - the struggle for world socialism and an end to our real problems or a lifetime attached to the "pick-your-cause" brigade and the certainty you will be retracing your footsteps here today in years to come.

If you lend your support to a political party or organisation that fails to question the real nature of capitalist society, how our world is organised for production and how power is distributed, then you are in effect supporting a system that created this recession—and will produce future depressions.

The Socialist Party


for the future

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The world is now largely under the control of the multi-national corporations who are able to move production to sources of cheaper labour plunder natural resources and corrupt local politicians and officials. The entire organisation and running of factories, offices and services is under the authoritarian control of boards of directors and their managers. These are the hierarchical structures from which the great mass of people are excluded.

Where are the practical ideas for bringing it to an end? .

For years now the TUC and the trade unions in general have languished in a role which provides little scope for action beyond preparing for the next self-repeating battle with employers. They tend to be bogged down in bureaucracy and run by careerists and time-serving officials for whom the future means little more than their pensions. It has to be said that this does present itself as a sterile accommodation with the capitalist system. The time for the trade union movement to break out of its narrow defensive role is long overdue.

The TUC, with its research departments, is well placed to conduct discussions with socialists on how production and the work place could be democratically organised. With common ownership, control of production by boards of directors and their corporate managers would immediately cease. The exploitative operations of the multi-nationals would be brought to an end. This would leave workers with the job of carrying on with the useful parts of production and services and for this they would need to be democratically organised. At this point control of all units engaged in production and distribution, services such as schools and hospitals, and useful parts of the civil service and local administration etc., would switch to management committees or councils elected by the workers running them.

The unions could bring a great deal of experience to bear on the question of how a new society could be organised democratically in the interests of the whole community. Certainly in the developed countries they have organisation in the most important parts of production. They have rulebooks that allow them to be run locally and nationally in a generally democratic manner and they also enjoy fraternal links across the world. All this is already in place. By setting their sights beyond the next wage claim and by becoming part of the socialist movement, once a majority is achieved, they could so easily become part of the democratic administration of industry that would replace the corporate bosses and their managers who now organise production for profit.

Unlike boards of directors and corporate managers, works committees would not be responding to the economic signals of the market. They will be responding directly to the needs of the community. In this way, the links connecting production units and services in socialism will be far more extensive than the buying and selling that connects capitalist units with their suppliers and market outlets. One immediate difference would be that access to information throughout the world structure of production would be unlimited. There will be no industrial secrecy, copyright or patent protection. Discussion about design, materials or technique will be universally open and the results of research will be universally available. As well as having access to world information systems, production units will operate in line with social policy decisions about priorities of action. This would indicate the ways in which particular industrial and manufacturing units would need to adapt or possibly expand their operations. This would require some units to take on more staff and this again could be administered by elected management committees

As well as sorting out the environment and energy supply we can anticipate now that possibly the biggest job in socialism would be to provide housing together with essential services like water and electricity plus furniture and equipment for all people. No doubt the most urgent task will be to stop people dying of hunger but the supply of comfortable housing will require a vastly greater allocation of labour than any necessary increase in food production. This means that a great surge of required materials and equipment will flow through the units producing building supplies. A structure of housing production that is generally adjusted to the market for housing under capitalism, which is what people in socialism would inherit, will in no way be able to cope with a demand for housing based on need. So, within the wider context of a democratically decided housing policy, in which questions of planning and the environment would have been taken into account, the job of implementing housing decisions would eventually pass to the committees or works councils throughout the construction industry. What we would see in these arrangements is not just the replacement of corporate management with democratic control, we would also see the liberation of the community’s powers of organisation and production from the shackles of the profit motive. We are not presenting the socialist alternative of a world without wages as a utopian dream for the century after next. This is practical now. Socialism is the sensible next step for humankind to take, away from a social system that wastes our energies, abuses or skills and stunts or creativity.

However, the working class gets the unions, and the leadership, it deserves. Just as, according to Marx, a king is only a king because he is obeyed, so too are union leaders only union leaders because they are followed. To imagine they lead is to imbue them with mystical powers within themselves, and set up a phantasm of leadership that exactly mirror images the same phantasm as our masters believe. So long as the workers themselves are content to deal with such a union system, and its leaders, then such a union system and its leaders will remain, and will have to react to the expectations of the members. The unions will always reflect the nature of their memberships, and until their membership change, they will not change. So long as workers accept unions as another form of business, giving them insurance, then unions will have to behave like a business offering insurance, competing for members. Unions are neither inherently reactionary, nor inherently revolutionary; they are simply a means to an end for their membership.

The only way to change unions is not through seizing or pressurising the leadership, but through making sure that they have a committed membership, a socialist membership. And that is where the Socialist Party can come in, through making socialists, through that and that alone—making people committed heart and soul to working class interests, democracy and the establishment of socialism. Anything else is just abstractions and formalisms. When people have a strong emotional and practical commitment, they can make grass roots democracy work. It's up to us to encourage that commitment.

The Socialist Party


getting less

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Families are £11 a week worse off than they were last year as the cost of living increases at twice the pace of wage growth, research has indicated.

A typical family had only £169 a week left over after meeting all essential costs during February, down from £180 in the same month of 2010. It was the 14th consecutive month during which people suffered a year-on-year fall in their disposable income.

Pay before tax rose by just 2.2% in January, the latest month for which figures are available, but Consumer Prices Index inflation was double this at 4.4% in February.

Charles Davis, managing economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said: "The rising cost of essential goods such as petrol and food stuffs continues to place pressure on households across the country, compounded by weak earnings growth and concerns about job security. The labour market recovery is still not yet convincing. Public sector job losses this year, which appear to be occurring at a faster rate than the Government initially expected, are likely to lead to a significant squeeze on the incomes of many households. Public sector workers still in employment will be affected by a two-year freeze for those earning above £21,000, coming into effect from April."

The Socialist Party


Fight Back?

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Copy of the leaflet which will be distributed today at the TUC protest march can be read here

For many, the recession has been about exclusion.

Regarded simply as surplus to requirements, the unemployed, the homeless and the youngsters who have no future, are on the move demanding the right to decent housing, jobs and the full participation in society.

Those with jobs are also marching, to defend jobs and conditions. With workers rights and pay under constant attack, demonstrations like today are inevitable.

If we fight, it is because we are being attacked.

Must we be under attack all the time?

Is it the case that the best we can do is simply fight a defensive battle?

The Socialist Party says NO.

We are worth more than this!

Stuff the profit system and its miserable wages.

We make everything, run the world from top to bottom........ so let's run it for our benefit for a change.

The Socialist Party


Friday, March 25, 2011

Protest !!

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World socialists aren't much bothered which activities of capitalists actually comply with its own laws or not, except perhaps to draw attention to the inconsistencies of the system and to show how it doesn't even live up to its own ideology: the “free” market just doesn't do what it says on the tin. World socialists don't want the "free" market system. But neither do we have any confidence in a supposedly regulated market system. There will never be enough anti-trust legislation to police capitalism. Instead a cosmetic pretence is maintained that the market system is dynamic and competitive. A veneer of fairness is maintained to encourage us all to carry on participating in the game, on the basis that there is some sort of level playing field in capitalism. Businesses never voluntarily take into account the interest of the capitalist class as a whole, let alone that of society in general. They have always acted on the basis that, as Thatcher put it, there is no such thing as society. Businesses leave it to governments to represent the overall capitalist interest but, even here, they are reluctant to let governments interfere with their freedom to make profits in the way they want.

In any event, free market capitalism without any state regulation has only ever existed on paper. Capitalism and the state are not opposites or incompatibles. They have always co-existed and in fact capitalism could not have come into existence or survived without the support of the state. It was the state that helped dispossess peasants of their land so that they became factory fodder for the capitalist factory owners. It is the state that creates and enforces private property rights, without which the capitalist class would not be able to monopolise the means of production and extract surplus value from the wage-labour of their employees. There is, then, no such thing as capitalism without the state. That said, there are still degrees of state regulation at different times and in different countries. The state is supposed to represent the general capitalist interest, but in practice is subject to all sorts of lobbying and pressures from special interest groups who want it to make laws and regulations in their interest, to which it often gives in. Whenever capitalists are given a free hand to do what they want, they exaggerate and go for short-term benefits, even at the expense of their long-term interest so that eventually the state has to intervene to restrain them in their own interest. This seems to be the situation that has been reached today after twenty or more years of deregulation of financial markets. The banks and other financial institutions are now widely seen by other sections of the capitalist class as having abused their freedom and thus landed the world capitalist system in the crisis it now finds itself in. The cry is now going up for the re-introduction of a stricter state regulation of financial institutions and dealings. The aim for many on Saturdays TUC protest seems to be to bring pressure to introduce reforms and to change policy so as to tame the banks and the multi-national corporations and a return to state interventionism. Anti-capitalists should be campaigning for socialism not changes of policy.

Capitalism runs on the basis of firms seeking to maximise profits which are then accumulated as further capital invested in further profit-making. As Marx put it, “Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets!“ This has nothing to do with personal greed on the part of individual capitalists. It’s something that is built-in to the system which those having to take decisions about economic matters have to abide by or risk the business they own or manage going under.Capitalism is not sustainable by its very nature. It is predicated on infinitely expanding markets, faster consumption and bigger production in a finite planet. The only possible capitalism is the one we’ve got: a profit-maximising one.

Given the dire condition clapped-out capitalism is now in, and that we’re heading for a prolonged period of additional working class suffering and misery, mainstream party politicians will be trying harder than ever to dupe people into believing that they have the answer to alleviating and solving capitalism-caused problems. They’ll want people submissively accepting worsening state-funded services. They’ll want those without jobs submissively accepting any low-paid work they are offered. They’ll want those with jobs submissively accepting pay restraint and cuts. They’ll want people turning against supposedly less-deserving recipients of welfare benefits. We need to get people to completely reject this bogus capitalist agenda is in our best interests. It isn’t.

The politicians' and reformists' logic—the urge to "do something"—must be resisted. Doing something is no good, we need to do the right thing. We need to campaign for socialism.

The Socialist Party

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Dispossessed

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In 1975, the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia, after years of fighting and US bombing. One of their first acts was to evacuate the entire population of Phnom Penh. Forced into the countryside, this was the beginning of the horror of the Killing Fields. Around 20 per cent of the country's population died in that carnage, while the Khmer Rouge also abolished private property, destroying land titles and records. In 1979, Vietnam invaded Cambodia. Many Cambodians fled to neighbouring Thailand, with conflict then continuing into the 1990s. This left an enormous displaced population. In 2001, the Cambodian government issued a new land law recognising the problem of land title. If you could show you had lived in a place for five years continuously, and there were no challenges, you could apply for a title.

As Cambodia's economy booms, land is becoming more valuable, particularly in the capital, Phnom Penh.
"Cambodia has so much land available for concessions," says Ngnon Meng, the director-general of the Cambodian chamber of commerce. "The government is very willing to do things for foreign investors too … when they come in they don't want to leave."

The economy grew by 5.5 per cent last year, according to government figures, with last year seeing a new law allowing foreign ownership of property. It also saw another new law allowing the government to expropriate land for developments it deems to be in the public interest. The Cambodian ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries says that the government granted more than 1.38 million hectares of land in concessions to 142 different private companies between 1993 and June 2010.

20,000 people who have been evicted from their homes either on or around the historic, 90-hectare Boueng Kak Lake during the last few months. According to Surya P Subedi, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, what is happening is "representative of the problems of this nature that exist in the country. Land grabbing by the rich and powerful is a major problem in Cambodia today".
Cambodian rights group Adhoc says that last year alone, 12,389 families in the country became the victims of forced evictions. Another rights group, housing advocates STT, estimates that around 10 per cent of the population of Phnom Penh has faced eviction in the last decade.


The Cambodian Human Rights Foundation director Naly Pilorge says that in their survey of half the country's provinces "between 2005 and 2009 some 250,000 people were evicted. Last year alone we dealt with 94 new cases of land grabbing involving approximately 49,280 people. And the problem is escalating," she adds.

The Socialist Party

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

World socialism - the only way to end war

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The Parties within the World Socialist Movement stand uniquely against capitalism. We reject that system utterly and completely in whatever guise it appears: State capitalism, run by "communists", "mixed-economy" capitalism, run by "socialists", social-democrats or centrists; or the more openly vicious variety of unfettered "free" capitalism run by the less pretentious political gangsters.

We reject capitalism utterly precisely because there are no solutions to its abundant miseries, like war and unemployment. War, like poverty, slums, unemployment, crime and the rest are not really problems of capitalism; they are integral parts of that system; they exist everywhere the system exists and for as long as the system has existed. They will continue to last as long as capitalism itself lasts.

CAPITALlSM

Capitalism divides the human family into two parts: one, a small minority, monopolises all the resources of the earth and that monopoly is effectively written into the laws and protected by the armed forces of the various states into which the world is divided including state capitalist Russia and China. The other class in our society, the working class, form the overwhelming majority of the population in the developed states of capitalism. By and large, the members of the latter class own nothing but their ability to work, their mental or physical labour-power and this they are obliged to offer on the labour market for a wage or salary in order to buy the necessities of life.

All wealth is produced by the labour-power of the working class applied to the materials provided by nature. The capitalists own and control not only these materials out,' also, the accumulated wealth that constitutes the machinery of production and distribution.

When workers seil their labour power to an employer-an individual capitalist, a limited company or the state-they are concerned with the price they get for the commodity they seil and the conditions attending the sale. The capitalists, on the other hand, or their agents, who employ workers are interested solely in the maximum amount of profit that can be extracted out of the commodity they buy, the worker's labour-power.

So the motive force behind the production of wealth in capitalist society is, and must be, profit and the priorities of that motive must take precedence over human considerations.

SCRAMBLE FOR PROFITS

In order to realise profit, those commodities produced by the workers have to be sold on the market. They have to find buyers who are not only in need of the commodities but who have, as well, the money to buy them. As long as market conditions can absorb commodities, production expands and manufacturers actively compete with each other to produee and seil still more products and improve their market share.

Given the nature of capitalism and its insatiable need for more and more profit, there is a compulsion for ever greater levels of production; new investment is attracted into areas of the market that promise a good return; new factories are built, new jobs created. Capitalism is in an expansive phase and its possessors are in a mad, unplanned and unplannable, scramble to reap maximum profits.

Even if the capitalists, as a national group within a given nation, tried to plan their system of commodity production to conform with the economic demands of the market, they could not succeed. Capitalism is a world system with an intricate and complex means of marketing and competition involving the importation and exporting of commodities, the transfer of capital and the multi-national interests of the capitalist class.

Within the national economy, capitalist enterprises compete vigorously and, sometimes, viciously, against one another. The rules of the game - wholly unconnected with the social needs of the community - are to achieve the most dominant position in the market. The drill is to knock out the competition and, especially as market conditions become more difficult in face of an increasing volume of commodities, there is no lamenting the casualties. The factory that closes because its owners cannot achieve sufficient return on investment, the workers who are dumped into misery, even, it must be said, the shareholders who may lose their unearned incomes, are a source of triumph for the competitor or competitors whose activities have contributed to the shut-down.

WAR

It is this inevitable competition for markets, this necessary built-in compulsion of each capitalist enterprise to improve its profitability by enlarging its market share, that creates the material conditions for friction between the nations of capitalism.

Within the nation state conflict is resolved by legal proeess and, while the friction created by competitive interests are frequently vicious, it would not, for obvious reasons, suit the national capitalist interest if naked force became the arbiter in disputes between individual capitalist enterprises.

On the international scene the situation is different. Some attempts are made to create institutions, like the old League of Nations and the present United Nations, to resolve conflicts of interest between nations. But such institutions themselves necessarily reflect the conflieting economic interests of their members and, anyway, it is impossible to resolve amicably conflicts between national interests when the sense of "justice" of the parties involved are conditioned by the requirements of economic gain and, sometimes, even econornic survival.

So each nation state must maintain its own armed forces to protect the wealth of its national capitalist class from the predatory aspirations of its trade rivais. Sources of raw materials, markets, trade routes and strategic areas for their protection or acquisition have got to be defended by force of arms if necessary or to be gained by force of arms. They represent the vital life's blood of capitalism and no price in human lives or materials can be too high to achieve them or to keep them.

Within the national state this means the creation of conditions that make capitalism acceptable to the great majority of the people it exploits. This requires a system of education that underpins the "reasonableness" and inevitability of capitalism and the promotion of "moral" concepts by benign propaganda; it requires a press, radio and television that may be allowed the "democratic right" of criticism but ultimately promotes the notion that, while things might be done better, the capitalist way-of-life is as natural as the seasons. The needs of the capitalist class are nurtured and protected and the fiction created that there is a common "national interest" which is, above all, good and which must be preserved and protected - if necessary by the public power of coereion.

Outside the state, the competing interests of the various national groups of capitalists are promoted by diplomacy and, ultimately, by the capacity of their armed forces to inflict death and destruction on the peoples of any other national state that threatens their economic interest.

The whole, obscene set-up, with its appalling waste, is even more dangerous because it not on ly threatens devastating wars and arms build-ups over the marketing needs of capitalism, but creates hatreds and divisions which acquire and independent propensity for violence and war.

LASTING SOlUTION

Only in socialism is a lasting solution to war to be found. Socialism is a form of social organisation wherein the sole criterion governing the production of all wealth will be the satisfaction of human needs.

All the resources of the earth, including the tools of production and the means of distribution, will be the property of humanity as a whole and people will apply their skills and energies to these resources in order to produce the things needed by the whole of society.

Under such circumstances, an abundance of all the things we need could be produced and it will not be necessary to find markets in which goods can be sold. As all will have freely co-operated in the work of production, so all will be free to take from the abundant wealth available.

Money, a measurement of wealth and means of exchanging commodities within capitalism, will, thus, be rendered superfluous in a socialist society; hence, the humiliation of the wages system will disappear with all the other ugly features of class slavery and the simple principle of "From each in accordance with ability; to each in accordance with need" will universally obtain.

It will be readily seen that in such a society there could be no problem of unemployment. The humanfamily will produce more than sufficient to satisfy the needs of its every member and the fact that too much of a particular thing was being produced would simply mean that we would re-direct our activities or enjoy more leisure.

ORGANISED WASTE

Is such a society economically possible? Of course it is! When you consider the organised waste that the ending of the money system alone will bring you begin to appreciate the great possibilities that lie before us.

Think of all the useless functions and functionaries connected with capitalism and essential to that system: there are the capitalists themselves, and their lackeys and flunkeys ... armies of salesmen, advertising touts, tickmen and agents of all descriptions ... brokers, bankers, cierks ... policemen, jailers, judges and criminals and all the rest who are connected with giving point to the observance of capitalism's commandments ... soldiers, sailors and airmen to fight capitalism's wars-and, of course, the vast array of civilian brains and brawn required to sustain and equip these forces. The list of those required purely to keep capitalism operating is endless.

With socialism, all these utterly useless functions will come to an end. Think of the material equivalent for humanity of the estimated $1531 billion spent in 2009 alone on armaments. All the people connected with these useless functions can, in socialism, begin to make a real contribution to the happiness of themselves and all humankind.

HOW WILL IT BE ACHIEVED?

There can be no doubt that, freed from the restrictions and organised waste of capitalism, the people of the world have it within their power to produce their needs, thus opening the door to a full and happy life for everyone. The question remains, how can the change to socialism be accomplished?

Capitalism could not exist without the willingess and co-operation of the great majority of people-people whose role in capitalism is that of wage-slaves. Even more so will socialism require the willing participation of its people but, the very nature of socialism requires that support and participation must be conscious. Only the unqualified and conscious support and participation of the majority of the world's workers can bring about socialism.

The achievement of socialism will mean freedom, freedom of the sort that human beings have never before experienced; hence, it demands of those who achieve it a full knowledge of what it is and how it will function. Accordingly, the political task of each and all the Parties within the World Socialist Movement is to use all the means at our disposal to bring about a general understand ing of the nature of socialism, what it means for humanity and how it will be achieved ..

Simply stated, socialism will come about when the majority of the workers of the world real ise that they are the people who run capitalism from top to bottom for the capitalists and that, by the exercise of their democratic right, they can carry out the revolutionary act of changing the economic foundations of society.

They can establish a classless, wageless, moneyless society where everyone will be free to avail themselves of the material basis of a full and happy life. A world where definitions of "unemployment" and "war" will have to be sought for in history books.

R. Montague

(The original version of this article is to be found in the World Socialist No.1 April 1984)

The Socialist Party

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Class war declaration

2 comments
Hans-Jörg Rudloff, the head of the Management Board of investment bank Barclays Capital knows how to solve the debt crisis and bring "competitiveness" back to the European Union.

Half of the social benefits have to go. People have to work more, doing longer hours for longer years.

He explained that "Europe is carrying a social rucksack, which makes us uncompetitive in this world. We have provided living standards for our populations which are unheard of, which no one ever thought would be possible, for the last 50 years. People do not want to give up these living standards. Populations are not ready to voluntarily discipline themselves in more work, less rewards, and less security. And it's only natural that the population would react like this and here, its a question of democratic leadership and a question of whether indeed we are able to reinvigorate ourselves and to state public ally in this world that that we want to be competitive."

Yet Barclay Capital traders told a reporter from the Mirror: "Even if a guy is really lazy and has done s*** all year, he’ll still get a £600,000 bonus."

Libya: brutality and hypocrisy

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When the popular movements against long-standing despots in the Arab world spread from Tunisia and Egypt to Libya the Western powers thought that something they had long wanted – regime-change in Libya – was about to be handed them on a plate. But they didn’t have the same control over the Gaddafi and his henchmen as they did over Moubarak and Ben Ali and theirs. Gaddafi choose to brutally repress the movement and, thanks to the support of mercenaries and some sections of the population and to superior military power, was looking as if he might succeed.

Faced with this prospect, the Western capitalist powers have decided to play the military card too and have launched a series of bombing and missiles raids against the armed forces loyal to Gaddafi. Since, under the UN charter, wars not authorised by the UN are “illegal”, they have had to present their action as being to protect the civilian population against the exactions of the Gaddafi regime. Even so, when claiming that the military intervention is motivated by humanitarian concerns, British Prime Minister Cameron has always added that it was also in the “national interest”.

The “national interest” is in fact that the interest of the capitalist class of a country, not of its population. Their interest in this case is, as in Iraq 8 years ago, to have a friendly and reliable regime in an important oil-producing country. That’s what the bombings are really about.

As Socialists, we naturally sympathise with workers anywhere struggling to get the added elbow-room to wage the class struggle that political democracy represents, but we denounce the hypocrisy and cynicism of the ruling classes of the Western powers in invoking humanitarianism to once again resort to killing and destruction in pursuit of their sordid “national” interests.

ALB
The Socialist Party

Monday, March 21, 2011

Livestock liberation

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Believe it or not, Dennis the Menace will be celebrating his 60th birthday soon and Barack Obama plans to join him... in the pages of The Beano. Rest assured, SOYMB considers this 'event' to be of no interest whatsoever. Indeed, we are certain that Dennis' Abyssinian wire-haired tripehound Gnasher is by far a more stimulating conversationalist than BO! Doubtful? Well, consider the following scene: Dennis asks "will we ever see animal liberation?", to which Gnasher replies "not without social revolution!"* Socialists have been making the same point since early last century! “Cruelty to animals will go the way of all forms of cruelty, when a real civilised existence becomes a possibility to everyone” (Socialist Standard, February 1926). This position has been repeated through the decades since then. Here, by way of a more detailed example, is a related essay from the June 1979 edition of our Journal.

WERE SOCIALISTS AN endangered species, a society for our protection would soon emerge, for there is no shortage of people ready to deplore the exploitation of, and cruelty to, the four-legged and feathered in our rnidst. Recently, a group of animal welfare and protection societies combined into the General Election Co-ordinating Committee for Animal Protection (GECCAP). Now is the time, they claim, to "put animals into politics". They asked those interested in animal welfare to seek an assurance from all General Election candidates that they would support action on animal welfare, and to ensure that all MPs returned in the new Parliament were aware of the strength of the animal welfare lobby.

"The next government must accept its responsibility for animal welfare. We hope that MPs of all parties will press the next government to set up an independent Council for Animal Welfare - there is urgent need for legislative reform in all our areas of concern."

But successive legislation on maltreatment of animals has not contained the problem, which spreads and takes on new forrns, is global in extent, and ranges from deliberate cruelty and exploitation to indifference and ignorance. Is it surprising that in a society whose basis is the exploitation of one section of humanity by another, that the same attitudes reveal themselves in the treatment of animals? Just as mernbers of the working class are regarded primarily as mere productive and service units -
"factory hands", "staff' , "labourers", "machinists", "assemblers", "typists", "domestics", so animals are primarily commodities produced for buying and selling, and the fact that they are able to suffer discomfort and pain becomes secondary to the realisation of profit.

CAGES FOR ANIMALS - BOXES FOR WORKERS

Modern farming has little in common with the cosy image derived from our nursery rhyme books. Capitalism draws all forms of production into its orbit, underrnining and destroying traditional methods. Stock rearing has produced the factory farm. Battery hens are kept four or more in a cage 15in x 19in, where they spend day and night on steeply sloping wire floors, unable to stretch their wings and legs. Veal calves are kept in individual cubicles or multiple calf pens where movement is severely restricted. They are maintained on slatted floors and fed exclusively on milk substitute liquid (although their ruminant stomachs crave roughage) so that their flesh will not lose its pale colour. Pigs stand on concrete floors, in total or serni-darkness day and night, and pregnant sows are kept permanently in cubicles unable even to turn around. To prevent epidemics, animals incarcerated in such conditions require routine doses of drugs which can be transmitted to the consumer.

The same callous treatment occurs in the transport of animals for slaughter or further fattening. Cattle sent to mainland Europe or North Africa are crammed into open transporters, exposed to extrernes of temperature, for long journeys by road and sea; sometimes left unwatered, unfed. Members of the working class who endure rush hour travel in buses, trains, and underground, will know the feeling.

But bad living conditions are not suffered by animals only. Look around the world and see the shanty towns, tenements, back-to-back slurns, tower blocks, and jerry built council and private housing estates. The majority of the working class live and die in. cramped, overcrowded, unhealthy conditions, lacking privacy or quiet, and often in an environment of depressing ugliness. There are sorne workers who can negotiate a level of wages that enables them to live in some degree of comfort, rather as the race-horse or pedigree breeding animal may be housed in special quarters. More than a century of agitation and legislation have not however eradicated cramped and inadequate living conditions for the majority of humans.

Yet it would seem a simple matter to provide comfortable living conditions for people - and for animals. The arguments against doing so are couched in accountant's jargon - altemative methods are dismissed as "uneconomic", "too labour intensive", "not viable", "unprofitable". Members of the working class hardly need reminding that resistance to higher wages is the first principle in the code of every employer. Economic self-interest and competition override all finer feelings.

WHOSE BEST FRIEND?

The single largest industry in the world today is the killing industry and enormous quantities of raw materials and human energy are poured into the manufacture of weapons of destruction. In a civilisation where people can be persuaded to don uniforms and fight and kill each other - and where such action is justified and glorified - is it any wonder that there are people who justify killing animals for fun?

Practices involving the needless slaughter of animals include the hunting of threatened species for the luxury fur trade so that Madam can parade in rare pelts. Experiments on animals to assess testing cosmetics and other non-medical products. Some of the experiments in the realms of Behavioural Research are so bizarre one must question whether the scientists concemed require behavioural investigation. Many psychological experiments involve subjecting the animal to severe deprivation, abject terror, or inescapable pain. A "will to live" experiment forced animals to swim non-stop until they gave up and allowed themselves to drown. How relevant is this work to humans?

Most humans feel an affmity to creatures that live and breathe as ourselves, and many humans take a delight in animal companionship. But even in the treatment of pets, where the motive is not profit and exploitation, we flnd many aspects of the neurosis and sickness of capitalist society. The novelty of a pet wears off and unwanted cats and dogs are callously abandoned. Some pets are used as a status symbol with the docking of talls, the clipping and dyeing of coats, to suit the owner's vanity or whim. Selective breeding takes place, especially of dogs, in order to emphasise some feature which appeals to the eye of the breeder but is biologically damaging to the animal. Guy the gorilla - a social animal - died in 1978 after thirty years in a cage in London Zoo. Was his confmement consistent with a regard for animals?

PUT SOCIALISM INTO POLITICS

Can there be an explanation, a solution? Capitalism is a society where the ownership of wealth production is concentrated in the hands of a minority, and where the ethos of competition and self interest permeates all social relations. Change that foundation to one where production is determined by the needs of society, where economic competition ceases to exist, where the means of production are commonly owned and democratically controlled and people will live in harmony and co-operation - with each other as well as with other species.

There the analogy between the treatment of the working cass and animals ends, for while the latter must rely on the goodwill of human society, members of the working class can and must look to themselves to solve their problems by organising politically.

The human race and society are not superior to, or apart from, nature but a product of the universal process of evolution. As the only living creatures on this planet capable of consciously changing the environment and with an insight in to the laws of nature we have a special interest in protecting and conserving the earth which is our means of life. Such an outlook will permeate socialist society - a true respect for our environment and fellow living creatures.

ALICE KERR.

Footnote: The details of animal cruelty in this article are taken from the accounts published by the Joint Consultative Bodies who form GECCAP.

*To be clear, this appears not in the Beano, but as part of an old advertising poster for an '@narchist pure vegetarian greasy spoon cafe'.

The Socialist Party

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What is Morality?

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Cameron, in time honoured fashion, invokes morality to justify capitalism's latest war: "Libya action is necessary, legal and right." This raises the question, what is morality?

MORALITY is not, as High Court Judges and Humanists would have us believe, a firm base of fixed, immutable rules of behaviour, by which all decent men should lead tbeir lives. Ratber it is a quicksand of changing shape, colour and size. Yesterday's moral precept becomes today's flouted rule, and yesterday's music-hall joke can become today's unwritten law. To look upon moral and ethical rules as constants is to ignore social change, which itself changes the content, and sometimes the form, of these rules.

The doctrine " Thou shalt not kil]," for instance, is not an eternal ideal thought up by sorne good holy man. It is the application of a common sense rule of behaviour made necessary by man's very social existence. Even then it is a rule which is subject to numerous qualifications, and in time of war it is almost wholly ignored. Even so, it is an ethic which arises from man's collaboration for social production, and in the absence of this and similar rules, social organisation would be impossible.

To understand why morality and ethics change, we must look at the social organisation which forrns their background. For instance, in primitive societies where simple agriculture forms the basis of production and where there is no competition with other tribes for the means of subsistence, one is likely to find that murder and the slaughter of war are almost unknown. On the other hand, in hunting commnunities where there was population pressure on the hunting grounds available, it was usual to find warlike tendencies in evidence, and also to find that the ability to kill members of rival tribes was a highly respected attribute.

Morality then, is no more than a set of rules, established during the course of time and designed to protect and preserve the productive relationships in operation at any one period. Under capitalism, with its class ownership of the produetive forces, one finds a corresponding class morality, with its sacred Ark, private property.

Christians will object that the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount provide ethics that are timeless, and which existed long before capitalism. The fact is, however, that these Christian principles do not represent the current moral standards, and as Bernard Shaw pointed out, the literal following of such principles would lead to the collapse of capitalism. What use does a competitive society have for the injunction "Love thy neighbour"? The practical ethics of capitalism are" get on," "keep up with the Joneses " or " may the best man win." Where would capitalism be if people followed Jesus's injunction to share their worldly goods? In actual fact, of course, such ethics have no practical application in modem society at all, and have no chance of becoming generally held in a property society.

Modern society, with its morality, prevents human nature from fulfilment, in the sense that it chains the mind and body with economic and mental fetters. The practical ethics of the modem world are the real fetters, and not the professed morality of the Christian or the traditional " good man."

Take a look at the way in which these practical ethics depart from the so-called fixed moral codes. Tbe prohibition against taking life, as already mentioned, is important in the prevention of civil disobedience and the maintenance of capitalist law and order, but does not extend far enough to prevent the execution of certain classes of murderers, or the slaughter of the troops and civilians of an enemy state. "Thau shalt not steal " is perhaps the most important of the ideal ethics and the one with which the powers of the law are most concerned. The meaning of this one is distorted so as to prevent people taking property from the ruling dass (who have the only property worth stealing), but on the other hand, allows the exploitation in the factory and office by whieh the ruling class acquires its property. It also sanctioned the annexation of land and property from the Colonial native populations. by which the great Christian British Empire was created.

If, then, the form and content of morality is twisted and distorted to fit the social pattern of a particular society, why should its form remain at all? To answer this, one has to look into the basis and origin of morality itself.

Co-operation

Morality is as old as human social organisation. Its origin is in co-operation. The members of a tribe who depended upon each other for their survival, obeyed the social injunction to defend the tribe and to perform their social tasks. The imperative "protect your kin" arose out of the necessity of the situation, and certainly not from idealism or abstract thought. In a situation such as this. members of a tribe recognised their dependence on each other. Thus to perform one's social tasks promptly and efficiently had merit, and to fail to perform them was bad, because it threatened the tribe. In time, injunctions such as these formed the basis of an organised morality.

So society passed from primitive tribal culture with its primitive ethics, througb the Judaic tribes and the elaborate rules and doctrines of the Talmud, down to Christianity with its slave ethics of humility and love of one's neighbour. Then, after 1500 years of Christianity, industrial society appeared, and made nonsense of Christian doctrine. Society became a jungle, where the fiercest survived and the weaker perished. Thus terms like " blessed are the meek " were mocked by the reality of the situation. Efforts of well-meaning people to stem the tide were akin to the traveller who tries to placate a tiger by reading biblical texts to it. However, the Churches themselves didn't try too hard to alter the pattern of capitalisrn, for they were practical people, and they knew that to compromise was the only way to survive.

The Catholic Church, for example, which was the original Christian church, has a mass of impressive dogma which urges the holy to be good, kind, peaceable and so on. Nevertheless, the Church itself was not so foolish as to take these injunctions too literally, and followed the same practical morality as the world outside. This is the explanation of the apparent contradictions between Christian teaching and the Inquisition, and between the ten commandments and the " holy " wars.

Basically, it is the division of mankind in to classes which today creates the split between the kind of morality which most people would consider desirable, and the day-to-day activities of a competitive world. After all, morality is only the form of expected behaviour within the frarnework of a particular social system. Therefore, morality has relevence only to the practical possibilities of a social situation, and not to ideals. Where the possibilities are, as today, limited by economic circumstances, it is inevitable that morality also becomes limited and one-sided.

In other words, because there is a ruling class, today's morality is of a kind dictated by, and in favour of, that ruling class. This does not mean that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. Tt merely means that today's morality favours the privileged, and is designed to preserve that privilege. Some examples of this one-sided morality have been given. Another example is that of the tax-dodgers, bilkers, people who avoid paying their fare and so on. This is something that government spokesmen say is undesirable, and yet is, to a considerable extent, regarded as fair game. The man who pays five pence for a sevenpenny fare feels be is gaining a victory at the expense of a vast impersonal organisation, but his gain is hardly worth the trouble involved. On the other hand, practically all business-men conduct a ceaseless war with the Inspector of Taxes, in order to avoid payment of tax, and a vast complicated machinery of Inspectors, Collectors, Commissioners, Accountants, clerks and so on, exists because of this. As everyone else does this, the business-man does not feel that he is doing anything immoral, although it is impossible to reconcile his behaviour with those moral principles that be probably believes in.

Thus, although mankind is neither " naturally " good or evil, the prevailing social circumstances determine to a large extent the way in which they will conduct their lives. It is because man is organised in a social way and because his survival depends on co-operation with others, that most people recognise perfectly well what is the right course in a particularsituation and what is the wrong course. Tbe trouble is that the practical circumstances of modem society make it almost impossible for people to behave in away that is to the common good.

In other words, a truly human morality cannot exist in a world where people's bodies and minds are imprisoned by the amoral " morality " of a sick society. Neither can the social circumstances be made more favourable by trying to convert people to a selfless and more human morality, for this is like trying to uproot a tree while resting in the top branches.

First, man must free himself from economic domination. Then, and only then, will he be able to take the tremendous strides in morality necessary for him to achieve full stature as truly human man.

A.W.I.

(Socialist Standard, February 1960)

The Socialist Party