Sunday, December 10, 2023

Looks like a duck

So-called socialist or communist states (actually a contradiction in terms) show the hallmarks of capitalism. State capitalist Venezuela and Guyana are in an uncomradely argument over resources:

'Maduro is a populist nationalist and a dictator, whose country is wracked by poverty. This has contributed to the exodus of more than seven million citizens. Mindful of the fact that presidential elections are due in Venezuela in 2024, Maduro has turned to an issue that he hopes will lead to a rapid turn-around in his popularity.'

 Capitalist hallmarks, such as class society, commodity production, profit motive, exploitation of wage labour, markets, etc., exist in both countries, as they do worldwide.    States compete over natural resources, trade routes and areas of domination.

Saturday, December 09, 2023

The end of American capitalism? No, a benefit for big business.

Nothing would delight us more than a guarantee that in 2024 a global understanding of socialism and the need to replace capitalism before it does even further to the world and everyone who lives in it.

But the eyebrow raising headline ‘the end of U.S. capitalism’ posed more questions than it answered. A seconds reflection caused the immediate question to spring to mind, welcome as that would be what was envisaged to take it’s place? Was the replacement likely to be a form of state capitalism or the imposition of a Orwellian regime? A little further reading provided the elucidation.

Saxo is a Danish investment bank. Apparently they like to make ‘outrageous’ predictions as to what events might occur in the coming twelve months.

American news outlet, CNBC (formerly Consumer News and Business Channel) reports on their results for 2024 from gazing into the crystal ball.

One of their predictions was that the European Union, apparently strapped for cash – when are governments whose main concern is in looking after the interests of capitalists in its particular domain not strapped for cash? - wars are expensive things- might implement a two per cent wealth tax on billionaires. Saxo sagely notes that,’ this would be rendered more likely if the population “realises how little in tax billionaires are actually paying’.

The item in question read: ‘In order to avoid social unrest, Congress may be forced to increase fiscal spending, sending the budget deficit above 10% of GDP and meaning the government must foster demand for U.S. Treasurys urgently.

The attention goes to the stock market, where the ‘Magnificent Seven’ have now become twelve, thanks to a missed downturn and government support programs directed to lenders and homeowners,’ Saxo said. ‘The group currently comprises Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia and Tesla.’

To join the club are Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, JPMorgan Chase, LVMH and ASML. As the ‘Twelve Titans’ multiplies their valuations within a few months, inequality increases between investors and non-investors.” This dramatic move marks the end of capitalism, as money rotates from private corporations to the public, and holding riskier assets becomes more expensive. Counterintuitively, the ‘Twelve Titans’ consolidate their market dominance, as they benefit from long-term lower cost of funding, while the rest of the stock market collapses.”’

https://www.cnbc.com/2023/12/05/eu-wealth-tax-and-end-of-us-capitalism-saxos-outrageous-predictions.html

So big business benefits at the expense of everyone else. The more things change etc.

What’s outrageous is the continuing existence of a social system which exploits the vast majority for the benefit of a small minority.

What’s your New Year’s resolution going to be?

Friday, December 08, 2023

The Poor People’s Campaign Marches On, and on, and on

 The Poor People’s Campaign Marches On

Celebrating the 56th anniversary of MLK’s original event and enduring

vision.

The Poor People's Campaign of 1968 set out demands for nothing less than the eradication of poverty.   Yet 55 years later more than 9 million children in America go hungry, between 500,000 and 600,000 people are homeless alongside over 17 million vacant homes,  eight million workers have two jobs in order to afford basic essentials and sixty-one percent of Americans can't afford to buy a house to raise a family.   

Clearly, what is needed is not a re-launch but rather a rethink. Oscar Wilde explains why: ‘their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease. They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor. But this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of the difficulty. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible’ (The Soul of Man under Socialism, 1891).   

According to Dr. King  “The prescription for the cure rests with an accurate diagnosis of the disease,” yet he focused famously on the ‘Triple Evils’ of poverty, racism and militarism, i.e., symptoms rather than the underlying malaise - which is why Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer winning historian, could say of MLK that ‘all the issues that he raised toward the end of his life are as contemporary now as they were then’ (NY Times, 4 April 2018).

For the last five years of his life, King was subject to scrutiny by the FBI. J Edgar Hoover was concerned about ‘communist’ infiltration of civil rights groups and unions but proof proved elusive. Baptist minister King had apparently read some of Marx’s writings and did not like his materialism, but such influences can be seen here: ‘the profit motive, when it is the sole basis of an economic system, encourages a cutthroat competition and selfish ambition that inspires men to be making a living than making a life.’ He even stated ‘the fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor – both black and white, both here and abroad,’ yet rather than seeking to replace capitalism with socialism he campaigned for reforms to restructure it – e.g. he strived for a universal basic income as well as end to ‘overpopulation’. Days after his death Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, which prohibited discrimination in housing basis of race, religion, or national origin. Decades later, Obama’s ‘change’ meant business as usual.   Today, racism is waxing not waning, 140 million Americans live in poverty, the top 1 percent has more wealth than the bottom 90 percent, and ‘just 1 in 10 black Americans believe civil rights movement’s goals have been achieved in the 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr was killed’ (The Independent, 31 March, 2018).





Thursday, December 07, 2023

IS A MONEYLESS SOCIETY POSSIBLE?

 Tomorrow's evening meeting will be:

Friday 8 December 19.30 GMT (Zoom)
IS A MONEYLESS SOCIETY POSSIBLE?
Speaker: Richard Field

To join the meeting click https://zoom.us/j/7421974305

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Thatcherism

From the May 1989 Socialist Standard.

It is now ten years since Margaret Thatcher, the grocer’s daughter from Grantham, became Prime Minister. Since then she has earned her place in the Guinness Book of Records. First woman Prime Minister, longest-serving Prime Minister, only Prime Minister to win three successive general elections. She has also earned a reputation for being heartless and indifferent to the lot of ordinary people and concerned only about helping the rich. No wonder she is so intensely disliked by so many people.

She has indeed been the head of an openly pro-capitalist government that has deliberately set out to attack the working class. Her government has legislated against the unions — the only effective weapon workers have to defend themselves under capitalism — and reduced the payments the State pays to workers not in employment. It has ended subsidised housing and made workers pay for a whole range of services which in the past were available on a free basis (the latest being eye tests). It has reintroduced the Victorian distinction between the deserving and the undeserving poor and again made submission to a Means Test a condition for access to most State benefits.

It would, however, be a mistake to attribute the sufferings workers have had to endure over the past ten years to the actions of one particular capitalist politician, however ill-intentioned, class-prejudiced and domineering she might be. There is no such thing as Thatcherism as something different and

worse than ordinary capitalism. What Thatcher has done is to have presided over the operation of capitalism during the worst part of the slump phase of its economic cycle. During such a period redundancies and unemployment reach a maximum and governments are forced to slash social benefits as a way of lowering the tax burden on the reduced profits of capitalist enterprises.

When Thatcher endlessly repeated “There Is No Alternative” she was in fact displaying a clearer understanding of how capitalism works than did the Labour and other opposition politicians. There really was no alternative (apart from socialism, of course). Any government of capitalism during the worst part of a slump would have had to behave in essentially the same way. In short, it was capitalism not Thatcher that has been responsible.

What has distinguished Thatcher has been style rather than content. Whereas other politicians, even Tory ones, would have apologised for having to take the measures capitalism was imposing on them, not Mrs Thatcher. She applied them enthusiastically, seeing them as steps in the cultural revolution from “dependency culture” to “enterprise culture” she believes it her mission to carry out. She has openly proclaimed her aim to be the complete eradication of “State Socialism”, by which she means the theory and practice of the Labour Party — nationalisation, government intervention, redistribution of wealth from rich to poor by means of improved State benefits, subsidised housing, transport and other services — what should more properly be called state capitalism. What she wants is “to roll back the frontiers of the State” and allow the freest possible operation of the forces of the market. In this respect she is more of a Free Trade Liberal than a Tory.

The Labour Party in power has indeed been a failure — the Labour governments of the sixties and seventies not only failed to improve working class living standards as promised, but worsened them for many workers while at the same time mismanaging the finances of the capitalist State by massively inflating the currency — but this has not been the failure of Socialism. It has been the failure of reformism and state capitalism to which we in the Socialist Party have always been opposed.

Unfortunately, this has been seen as the failure of Socialism and has allowed the intellectual defenders of capitalism to seize the initiative. The Free Marketeers re-emerged from the dustbins of history to preach laissez-faire, the survival of the fittest (the profitable) and death to lame ducks and other weaklings and to proclaim that capitalism, profits, inequality, the market were no longer dirty words. Indeed their views can almost be said to have become the official State ideology under Thatcher. Faced with this intellectual offensive, the leaders of the Labour Party have conceded defeat and now promise to run the market economy better than the Tories. Few believe them and most of their activists remain nostalgic for state capitalism, but in any event capitalism whether private or state can only run in one way: as a profit-making system in the interest of a profit-taking class.

So workers should not be taken in by the so-called Thatcherite Revolution which is essentially only window-dressing, one of a number of possible ideological justifications for what any government of capitalism would have been forced to do under the same circumstances. Indeed, the Labour governments in Australia and New Zealand have pursued the same policies, not excluding the denationalisation measures particularly associated with Thatcher.

It is for this reason that we say that Thatcherism is a myth and refuse to fall for calls for the return of a Labour government or some anti-Thatcher coalition. Capitalism without Thatcher would remain capitalism, and it is capitalism and not Mrs Thatcher that is the cause of the problems facing wage and salary workers.'

https://socialiststandardmyspace.blogspot.com/2018/11/thatcheritis-1989.html




Labour Tory, Same Old Story

 One day Starmer praises Thatcher “plan for entrepreneurialism”.   The next he says that “anyone who expects an incoming Labour government to quickly turn on the spending taps is going to be disappointed”.

Since “entreoreneurialism” (an economic system “characterized by the taking of financial risks in the hope of profit”) is a fancy word for capitalism, it is clear that Starmer, who thinks that capitalism is the only game in town but also understands that it has to be played according to its rules of profits first,  openly stands for capitalism and is prepared to run it on its terms by giving priority to business investment for profit over meeting people’s needs. He doesn’t even attempt to deny it.

We don’t need to wait to see that a Labour government will be no different from a Tory one. They are openly telling us that it won’t be — not that it could be anyway, as all government, whatever their political colour, are forced to give priority to profits over people’s needs. The problem is not the Labour or the Tories. It’s capitalism.


Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Socialist Sonnet No. 125

COP Out (28)

 

There is far too much carbon in the sky

Where, self-important leaders, with a dearth

Of ideas, jet from all around the earth

To vent hot air, enjoy banquets and try

 Looking as if they’re serious about

Rapidly melting glaciers and ice caps,

Forest fires, flooding, droughts destroying crops,

Drilling for oil, letting more carbon out.

They’ll propose taking radical measures,

Whatever’s required to reverse the trend,

Just as long, they’ll say, at conference’s end

They don’t impinge on capital’s treasures.

But then, of course, there’s the question of war,

Missiles and shells make carbon levels soar.

 

D. A.

Surprise, surprise! British grocery sector 'grreedflation'.

The Competitions and Markets Authority has found that within the groceries sector of capitalist sector of British capitalism, ‘Some branded suppliers have pushed up prices by more than their costs increased.’

Across the food and groceries sector, the CMA found that high inflation has been driven largely by rising input costs, particularly for energy and key agricultural inputs like fertiliser. But the evidence collected by the CMA indicates that, over the last 2 years, around three-quarters of branded suppliers in products such as infant formula, baked beans, mayonnaise, and pet food have increased their unit profitability and, in doing so, have contributed to higher food price inflation.’

Surprise, surprise as Cilla used to say.

However, own label products often provide cheaper alternatives with suppliers of these products earning lower profit margins and competing to win and retain contracts from retailers. In all but one of the relevant product categories the CMA looked at, as food prices have risen, many consumers have switched away from brands towards own label alternatives, or reduced their consumption, leading to a decline in brands’ market shares and profits. This switching is positive for competition and allows those able to switch, to lessen the impact of high food price inflation. ‘

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cma-sets-out-autumn-update-in-review-of-competition-in-groceries-sector

Howzabout a system of society where where free goods and services are produced for use not profit and the only competition would between producers trying their hardest to improve the quality of their goods and services for all of society.

Surprise. British working class worse off.


From the Resolution Foundation comes a report on stagflation Britain.

This they say has resulted in:

Real wages grew by 33 per cent a decade from 1970 to 2007, but have flatlined since, costing the average worker £10,700 per year in lost wage growth.

Income inequality in the UK is higher than any other large European country.

Low growth and high inequality means typical households in Britain are 9 per cent poorer than their French counterparts, while our low-income families are 27 per cent poorer.

9 million young workers have never worked in an economy with sustained average wage rises, and millennials are half as likely to own a home, and twice as likely to rent privately, as their parents’ generation.

Half of shift workers in Britain receive less than a week’s notice of their working hours or schedules.

UK companies have invested 20 per cent less than those in the US, France and Germany since 2005, placing Britain in the bottom 10 per cent of OECD countries, and costing the economy 4 per cent of GDP.

Having averaged 33 per cent of GDP in the first two decades of this century, the tax take is now on course to rise over 4 percentage points by 2027-28: equivalent to £4,200 per household.

The Resolution Foundation offers this Fabian solution:

Britain must build on its strengths as the second biggest services exporter in the world, behind only the US, while protecting the place of its high value manufacturing in European supply chains.

Our cities should be centres for Britain’s thriving high-value service industries. But instead, all England’s biggest cities outside London have productivity levels below the national average.

Public investment in the average OECD country is nearly 50 per cent higher than in the UK. Tackling this legacy, alongside the net zero transition, requires public investment to rise to 3 per cent of GDP.

British managers too rarely invest for the long-term. Pressure for change should come from more engaged owners – a smaller number of far larger pensions funds – and from workers on boards.

Hospitality represents a higher share of consumption in the UK than anywhere else in Europe, because it is relatively cheap. Better pay for low earners in hospitality, paid for by higher prices that most affect better off households, will create a more equal UK.

Benefit levels have not kept pace with prices: cuts since 2010 have reduced the incomes of the poor by almost £3,000 a year. Shared prosperity means benefits rising with wages.

A rising tax burden should not just fall on earnings, but should be shouldered by other sources of income and wealth. Wealth has risen from three to over seven times national income since the 1980s.

Higher growth and higher taxes are needed to raise investment, rescue public services, and repair public finances. Higher investment should be funded by higher savings at home, not borrowing from abroad.

https://economy2030.resolutionfoundation.org/reports/ending-stagnation/

There’s no reason to doubt that the people at Resolution Foundation are well-meaning intelligent folk. However, how have they not realised that sticking plaster solutions on the open wounds of capitalism are not the answer to the ills of the British, and global, working class? It’s simple. It’s Socialism.

December 2023 SOCIALIST STANDARD now available

 




https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2020s/2023/no-1432-december-2023/

Monday, December 04, 2023

When the Labour Party was formed in 1906

 When the Labour Party was formed in 1900, it was composed of the ILP, the SDF, and the trade unions. It was the beginning of a real mass workers’ party.    Within twelve months, however, the SDF had resigned after failing to get a resolution passed committing the party to common ownership of the means of production and class war. The Labour Party soon fell under the influence of reformism.   Communist Party of Britain.   The SDF evolved in the years that followed and – in 1911 – became the British Socialist Party (BSP). In 1916, the party had ousted the pro-war faction around Hyndman, who then resigned. By this time, the BSP had affiliated to the Labour Party.   In 1917, radicalised by the imperialist war, the BSP were deeply supportive of the Bolshevik Revolution. Many of their members took part in the ‘Hands Off Russia’ Committee.

The evolution of the Labour Party over 117 (not 123!) years from Keir I to Keir II is a practical confirmation of the theoretical case against reformism. The Labour Party, instead of gradually transforming capitalism in the interests of the workers, has itself been gradually transformed from a trade union pressure group into an instrument of capitalist rule.    

Labour has supported all major wars, including WWI, initiated the British atomic bomb, sent troops to smash strikes, established the vicious Special Patrol Group, passed racist immigration laws, imposed ‘monetarist’ expenditure cuts leading to the closure of hospitals and other vitally needed services… In the light of such evidence, how can anyone claim that Labour is anything other than a Party seeking to reform capitalism rather than end it through majoritarian social revolution?

And the Bolshevik revolution was in no way socialist. We said so in 1918, mere months into Lenin’s coup d’├ętat, but our voice was, then as now, either not heard or ignored.    The one good thing he did was to withdraw Russian troops from the mass murder of WWI.    First as tragedy, then as farce: the ‘Hands Off Russia’ Committee has been replaced  by  Anti*Capitalist [sic} Resistance, a group which claims to be Marxist yet supports Labour and proclaims Hands Off Ukraine!