Saturday, December 30, 2006

The certainty of 2007

Well, we're heading into 2007. Seven years into the new millennium. What has been achieved in the past year? Well let's see.

Hundreds of millions are still starving in a world that could feed us all.

Millions are dying of preventable diseases, in a world that has medicines and the know-how to treat their illnesses

Hundreds off millions of people, whose skills and labour could be benefit society, are idle because it is not profitable to employ them.

Wars rage in 30 countries, with more and bigger wars prophesised for the future – over oil and water and other dimishing resources.

Hundreds of billons of dollars are being spent on ever more ingenious methods of taking life and thousands of the best scientific minds are involved in this "business".

In a world of potential abundance, in a world in which we have the means to provide every human on the planet with a comfortable standard of living, the above takes place. How sad and obscene. How hollow the word "civilisation" sounds in Capitalism.

Homelessness, poverty, unnecessary deaths, war, stress, want, fear and insecurity. All this we can safely predict for 2007. This is a certainty in 2007. For this, regardless of what the apologists for capitalism would have you believe, is the legacy of Capitalism in the 21st century.

The real challenge of the 21st century, however, stil stands before us - to create a society where the happiness and good of one is the condition of the happiness and good of all.

We have the resources, both human and material, to achieve this. What we do not have is the will or understanding.

As a well known thinker once said, the philosophers have merely interpreted the world; the real task is to change it. And may it speed the day.

Comradely good wishes to all our members and sympathisers for 2007.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Iwo Jima remembered

Jack Valenti laments "..that Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers, his masterly recreation of courage and fidelity to duty and country exhibited by young Marines in the bloodiest battle of World War II, has gone largely unattended by the youngsters of this day." Clearly, this worker has learned nothing about the true nature of war since his days a a bomber pilot during World War II. Indeed, how, we might ask, does he rationalize the tragic end of one of the six workers who by raising the flag of American capitalism over the mass, meaningless slaughter that was just one battle during that war achieved a very dubious immortality?

The tragic end of Ira Hayes is noted in the March-April. 1955 edition of The Western Socialist:

"On Jan. 24 Ira Hayes was found dead on the desert of the Gila Indian Reservation of Arizona. According to the medical report he died of overexposure and alcoholism. Hayes, a Prima Indian, gained famed as one of the soldiers caught by a camera in a dramatic raising of the American flag on Mount Surabachi, Iwo Jima during World War II. Brought back home he was feted as a national hero appearing at bond rallies and patriotic affairs. He became immortalized in stamps and bronze. Glorified in war, Hayes found there was no place for him in peace. In his own words - "In Arizona the white race looks down on the Indian and I don't stand a chance anywhere off the reservation unless I come East." Hayes tried to find escape via the bottle in which he came into a series of clashes with the police until death ended his misery. A hero of the hell of war, he couldn't stand the hell of peace."

Surprisingly, Clint Eastwood, shows greater insight that the rheumy-eyed Valeri:

"..The war movies that I grew up watching portrayed a clear picture of who was good and who was evil. However, in life and in war, nothing is that clear. These 2 films are not about who won or who lost. It is about what war does to people, people who would’ve gone on to live their full lives otherwise. From whichever perspective, soldiers who sacrifice their lives in battle are worthy of respect. These 2 films are my way of paying tribute to those fallen soldiers. By telling the stories of these men from both perspectives, it is my hope that the films will illustrate the things in common that both sides shared, and allow us to look at that difficult time in our history with entirely new eyes.”

Another entirely different, revolutionary, perspective is needed however. One which, alas, will not be coming to a cinema near you in the near future (But, meanwhile however...)

"We who are Socialists are all in favour of peace, but at the same time we recognise that so long as men live in societies based on class opposition, in societies in which the modes of producing the material sustenance ..are monopolised by a class, so long will war be rife as a means of satisfying national disputes." (Socialist Standard, January 1905)


Christmas Musings

The Christmas season nowadays starts round about early November, just after we have finished celebrating the barbaric execution of Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators. That’s about the time the seasonal ads start appearing on your TV set, reminding you that within seven weeks you will be obliged to empty what little hard-earned money you have in your savings account and to spend the same on presents, the recipients of which, in 999 out of 1000 cases, never really need.

Christmas is undoubtedly a secular festival these days, all religious claims to it having long been conceded to the master class who use it as a midwinter morale booster for their exhausted workers, and a money- spinner. And how the masses warm to the event, numbing the pain of their alienation in an orgy of over-spending, over-eating and over-drinking!

The truth is the whole dammed thing is an expensive ritual - a wallet-emptying convention devoid of any real and spontaneous show of affection - that many, if asked, would rather do without. Just look how embarrassed people feel upon receiving an unexpected card or gift and having none to give in return – a situation that reinforces one of the basic tenets of capitalism: ‘you get nowt for nowt’. How many people feel uncomfortable about writing out Christmas cards to send/give to people they think they are bound receive one from, people they are acquainted with only on a superficial level, fearing that such an unreciprocated act will signify meanness?

We do not mean to imply that humans are greedy and selfish and uncaring. Far from it! We are a socialists because we think exactly the opposite - that humans are innately good, that they work best when faced with the worst, that they will go to any lengths to alleviate the misery of others and that they have the ability to fashion a world in their own interests. But Christmas is all about giving on cue, about affection on demand, about a “season of goodwill to all men”. And we really do not think humans need to be reminded to give on cue, to have their affection synchronised to the Gregorian calendar, to show goodwill to all people. We have developed the advanced technological society we enjoy now exactly because we give and share and care without being asked to, or being reminded to, or having the open show of affection ritualised – indeed, our very survival as a species has always depended on it.

We believe capitalist society suppresses our emotions, stultifies just what it is to be really human and goes a long way to create a society of atomised individuals, pursuing their own selfish interests. In such an anti-human climate Christmas seems a bloody miracle!

Granted, kids love it – it’s all about magic, about a fat, unshaven, jolly geriatric in a red suit who, with his band of trustee, anal retentive, reindeer, can cover the earth’s surface area of 196,940,400 square miles within 12 hours whilst showering presents on the deserving. And, granted, the heartily religious love it – it’s a time for remembering when, 2,000 years ago, a 13 year old Palestinian lassie had a virgin birth, having been impregnated by a God (nowadays that gets you on the sex offenders register, as does entering the bedrooms of youngsters in a silly red disguise to leave presents).

But do we need Christmas? We can only conclude that until we have abolished capitalists from the earth and gods from the skies the answer has to be yes. If it was not Christmas, then another event which necessitates the suspending of the normal functioning of the rat-race, demanding the proverbial letting down of one’s hair and the partaking in an orgy of consumption, would take its place. It’s sad, but the exploited masses just need that fix. Religion has sod all to do with it. Indeed, the majority of people in Britain have no time for god myths. The Guardian today leads with the headline: “Religion does more harm than good.” The paper reports on the findings of a poll that suggests 82% of the population see religion as being a cause of division and tension. It also revels that two-thirds of the population in Britain have no relgious belief, and that only 13% attend relgious services on a weekly basis.

Where now the case that Christmas is all about the celebaration of the Christ child?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Party Speakers' blasts from the past

Some Speakers Notes from 1950 to 1952 have been found at our Head Office. As the quotes below from the Notes show, capitalism and capitalist politics haven't changed much in the past fifty or so years.

"Reuter's correspondence reported from Georgetown, British Guiana:'Coloured dockers were on strike tonight against the employment of two menthey describe as 'whitelegs'." (News Chronicle, 21 Sept, 1950).

"Seventy-one-year old Miss Florence Harry-Jones has been elected presidentof Chingford (Essex) Young Conservatives" (Evening Standard, October 20,1950).

"A year's supply of potatoes for 12 million people -- 26,700,000 bushels-- has been destroyed by the US Deptartment of Agriculture this year,because it could not sell them abroad. The potatoes were bought to protectfarmers against losses. - Reuter" (News Chronicle, 24 Nov, 1950).

"The US Army has announced 'New unconventional methods' to speed uptraining. A division can now be ready for action in nine months instead of15. Said General Mark Clark: 'We'll make them ruthless, rugged killers."(Daily Express, 7th August, 1950).

"Mr. Jim Hammond, Communist president of the Lancashire miners, told aCommunist Party meeting at Bolton yesterday: 'I don't want one Italian working down a British mine. I regard their entry into British mines as a form of escape from paying the wages which will attract British miners'."(Daily Express, 28th February, 1952).

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Whatever happened to Labour's "ethical foreign policy"?

We all know that the Iraq war, and the invasion of Afghanistan before that, was started because the US wanted to control Middle East and Caspian oilfields and to this end sought to replace an unfriendly government in Iraq by a puppet regime favourable to them. We can all recall the lies put out to try to disguise this (and to try to get round the UN Charter): self-defence because Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction. This turned out not to be true. Then they said Saddam was linked to Al Qaeda and since then Bush has denied all knowledge of ever making the claim, even though it is well documented. Then they said the occupation was all about establishing democracy in Iraq. Well, they did manage to organise some sort of elections and a sort of government emerged - which now hides 24/7 within the US fortified Green Zone - but in doing so they have plunged the country into civil war.

Now they are really worried: the predictable (and predicted) instability they have introduced into the region is itself turning out to be a threat to the security of oil supplies. So now they are talking of suing for peace with Iran and Syria, once labelled part of an 'Axis of Evil'.

Then there is Saudi Arabia, probably the most reactionary regime in the world and certainly the financer of a fundamentalist form of Islam that had never existed or had died out in the rest of the Muslim world. No talk of introducing democracy there. Just the opposite, in fact! All public criticism of the regime there by leading British politicians is banned. Blair has even just announced that it is in "the wider public interest" to drop a prosecution of the merchant-of-death company, BAE, for corruption to get a big weapons contract to arm the crooked and hypocritical princes who rule there and who live off the oil rents without having to lift a finger. Saudi Arabia, he said in justification, is Britain's main ally in the area.

Now we can see that spreading democracy in the Middle East was just a lie too -- though, to tell the truth, we knew that from the start. It was all about oil, the routes to get it to the West and strategic points to protect the oilfields and trade routes from rising economic competitors such as China and India

When Labour came to power in 1997, their then foreign secretary Robin Cook made much of his claim for Britain’s new “ethical foreign policy”. Yet within 18 months, Britain had dropped more bombs on foreign workers than the Tories had done in the previous 18 years. Since then new Labour has surpassed every preceding Labour government in its bolstering of and use of the state war machine and indeed in its promotion of the British arms trade. Just to refresh your memory, here is Cook on 12th may 1997:

“Our foreign policy must have an ethical dimension and must support the demands of other peoples for the democratic rights on which we insist on ourselves.”

That statement was utter rubbish. Labour in office have proved themselves to be as much the merchants of war as any other mainstream political party, while pedalling their noxious wares to anyone prepared to buy them.

Go back in time. On 25th January 1966, Dennis Healey said in the House of Commons: “While the government attaches the highest importance to making progress in the field of arms control and disarmament, we must also take what practical steps we can to ensure that thiscountry does not fail to secure its rightful share of this valuable commercial marker.”

Labour’s next step in 1966? To set up the Defence Sales Organisation!

Forty years later and little has changed. Only now a Labour government subverts the law to protect corrupt arms manufacturers and, worse, with the altruistric claim that it is in our interests.

Those not suffering from historical amnesia may well recall Blair’s words in September 1999. Speaking of the government’s Defence Export Sales Organisation, which was then bidding for ?3 billion worth of contracts, he described the DESO as “a force for good in the world.” That same year, the government was spending ?226 million per year promoting arms sales abroad, and only ?2 million per year on its Defence Diversification Agency (set up to look at converting military production to civilian projects).

The latest government scandal will help prove that Labour’s emblem should not be a rose – it should be a hand grenade. Where there’s profits to be had in promoting war, then regardless of the cost of life and the misery caused, you can guarantee Labour will pursue those profits no end.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Think for a minute

Did you hear the Victoria Derbyshire show (hosted right now by Matt Bannister, as Vic is on maternity leave) on BBC Radio 5 Live the other day? The discussion centred on prostitution due to the horrific events happening in Ipswich.

Some Emailers and callers nigh on busted their spleens in order to say the most hateful and nasty things about "working girls." (That term is revolting itself.) The hookers were dehumanised. The odd fruit claimed they deserved killing.

Is it too far of a leap to say it only needs a deep psychosis before that hatred and dehumanisation of badly positioned women (poor, sexually abused histories, drug addicts) leads to a killing spree, to "Jolly Jack" reborn?

Prostitutes don't do this for fun. Those that scream disgusting noise ought to think why girls sell , are forced in fact, to sell sex for cash.

Those people who wrote and called on 5 Live should hang their heads in shame.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A closer look at Honderich's rant on charity

Yet another Honderich howler! You will recall the Professor stating that the Palestinians have a moral right to terrorism. Well, having shown him the magnitude of his mistake on this issue he has since chosen to berate those who do not give money to Oxfam or the Red Cross.

But, If you are expecting to read a detailed explanation of Honderich's position do not bother clicking on that link: the vast majority of the interview simply reveals the Professor's prejudices and torpid thinking.

Focusing, therefore, on the brief statement:"for Ted Honderich, if you do not give money to Oxfam or the Red Cross, you are killing Africans as surely as you had deliberately stopped a food convoy reaching a refugee camp," where does he err? Another philosopher, Mary Midgley.better known these days for taking Darwin's latter-day bulldog Richard Dawkins to task, could teach Ted a thing or two:

"Historians in the future, if there are any, will of course study our age as we study ages already past, seeing what we ought to have done, and wondering how we came to make the mistakes that we do. As usual, they will find it hard to understand how we missed the clues which will be plain to them - clues which undoubtedly are already staring us in the face. So far this story is a common one - a normal historical predicament."

Taking then a historical perspective, what can be said of charities such as Oxfam? Well, they have been campaigning since 1942, first as the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, and today are one of the hundreds of thousands of charities in the UK alone. Since then Oxfam has been busy trying to raise funds to combat 'problems' such as hunger, disease, exploitation and poverty. They state that "poverty is avoidable" and that their "purpose is to overcome its causes, not simply to alleviate its symptoms" Socialists would not dispute that a small minority worldwide, even in the very 'poorest' countries, do very well for themselves avoiding poverty. We also think it vital to correctly identify cause rather than symptom, and argue that only when the vast majority act to end the system which deprives us of the fruits of our labour, will poverty give place to comfort, (privilege to equality and slavery to freedom: see our Object and Declaration of Principles.

Oxfam's misdiagnosis means that it has failed miserably to deal with these 'problems' for the past sixty-four years. This is also true of the myriad of other well-intentioned charitable campaigns. Consider, for example, the Child Poverty Action Group. When it was first formed, its members were so certain that the problem would be solved within the year that they did not open a bank account. That was in 1965...Later, upon 'celebrating' its 21st anniversary, the group released statistics showing that the number of people dependent on Supplementary Benefit had doubled and that a third of the child population lived at or below the poverty line.

Over one hundred years ago Oscar Wilde made this pertinent observation regarding charities:

[T]heir 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).

Charities through their assorted campaigns foster the dangerous illusion that, either through increased donations or political pressure on governments, the 'problems' which plague so many of us can be solved within capitalism itself. But, history shows otherwise. Indeed, with regard to starvation, Honderich needs to learn that " in every “food crisis” since the Great Starvation in Ireland in the 1840s, the workings of capitalism have produced the obscene spectacle of the export of food from an area where people are starving because, not having money, they don’t constitute a market and so don’t count" Read on here.


Friday, December 08, 2006

How futile can you get?

As a political organization we are used to receiving email canvassing our support for some urgent campaign or other.

Here is one that arrived today apparently from Brazil:

The Brazilian congress is now voting on a project that will reduce the Amazon forest to 50% of its size....The area to be deforested is 4 times the size of Portugal and would be mainly used for agriculture and pastures for livestock. All the wood is to be sold to international markets in the form of wood chips, by large multinational companies.

A very serious state of affairs no doubt – if it were true. But as far as we can gather the project complained of was terminated by the Brazilian government in May 2000.

The truth is that the soil in the Amazon forest is useless without the forest itself. Its quality is very acidic and the region is prone to constant floods. At this time more than 160,000 square kilometres deforested with the same purpose are abandoned and in the process of becoming deserts, meaning that this proposal is in the short-term interests of a few, and in the long term interests of none.

Having identified one result of capitalisms insatiable pursuit of profit we could have understood appeals to write to MPs, suggestions that we boycott this or that, request that we join some demo or other. But what are we in fact asked to do?

Please copy the text into a ‘new e-mail’ put your complete name in the list below, and send to everyone you know.

Now this message must rank pretty near the top in the list of 100 Futile Things you can do to Save the Planet.

Want to change the world? No need for political action -- just email your friends.

Well really…

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Are you inside or outside the fence?

Capitalism is a social system in which the things that are needed to make and distribute the things we all need in order to live (food, clothing, shelter etc) are owned and controlled by a small minority of the world’s population. They are on the inside.

The richest 1% of adults in the world own 40% of the planet's wealth, according to the largest study yet of wealth distribution according to The Guardian [6th December].

The vast majority of us own very littllehalf the world's adult population own barely 1% of global wealth according to this report—and as a consequence we have to seek out an employer and work for the wage or salary they pay us.

Apart from charity, begging and theft this is our only means of access to the wealth that is produced socially. We are on the outside.

This is our situation whether our wages or salaries are high or low. We all have to sell our ability to work for the best price we can get. And we cannot do this without selling our body of course and we are therefore in the same situation as the street prostitute.

But as Socialists we don’t plead for this situation to be eased. We don’t campaign for adjustments (small or large) to the way things currently are. We don’t bleat that this situation is “unfair”.

We do not make moralistic appeals that the system that robs us be run a little less brutally. The motive behind most such reforms is to make the system of exploitation a little more effective in its robbery.

The approach of the Socialist Party is to appeal to the material interests of the non-owning majority. There are so many more of us. We produce and distribute all the wealth of the world. We run the system from top to bottom.

Running it for our own benefit and not for the benefit of a privileged minority is long overdue.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Penal Profits

Since 1997, the Labour government has passed over 120,000 pages of legislation. ‘Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime,’ has become a favourite Blairite battlecry

The vast bulk of this legislation comes via the Home Office, which has fashioned a total of 59 bills since 1997. Not content with the fact that 10 years in office has led Labour to introduce over 3,000 new offences, The recent Queen’s Speech informed us that the Home Office believes there is not enough legislation. Five more bills were announced.

Where the hell is all of this leading?

The answer comes from this morning’s Guardian. At the moment British prisons are full like never before – the highest in Europe in fact – 80,000 this week and rising! Some 8,000 new prison places are needed we are told. Will the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, cough up the requisite sum needed to incarcerate these scallywags? Not on your nelly! He obstinately refuses.

To the rescue comes the Home Office with a brilliant idea. ‘Let’s offer the public shares in prisons’, they say. ‘Get the public to invest in a company that can build jails and then rent them out!’

As the Guardian reports:

‘One incentive for small investors is that the government's punitive penal policy has seen prison numbers rise relentlessly over the past 10 years and would appear to guarantee a steady stream of rental income with no apparent shortage of prison "tenants".’

Who says crime doesn’t pay?