Saturday, March 31, 2007

William Wilberforce was a nasty Tory

If you believe all the eulogies to him recently for pushing through the Act of Parliament 200 years ago banning slave trading in the British Empire you might be surprised that he’s not called Saint William. But for that he’d have to have been a Catholic whereas he was an evangelical Christian of the Anglican persuasion. He was a founder of a “Society for the Suppression of Vice and Encouragement of Religion” which specialised in prosecuting people for enjoying themselves on the Sabbath. He supported “the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate” as the natural order of things and preached to the poor that:

“their more lowly path has been allotted to them by the hand of God; that it is their part faithfully to discharge its duties and contentedly to bear its inconveniences; that the present state of things is very short; that the objects, about which worldly men conflict so eagerly, are not worth the contest”.

In other words, pie in the sky when you die. And

“Remember that we are all fallen creatures, born in sin, and naturally depraved. Christianity recognizes no innocence or goodness of heart” (both quoted by E. P. Thompson in The Making of the English Working Class).

A nasty piece of work, then. But there’s worse. He was a King-and-Country Tory who encouraged mobs to burn effigies of Tom Paine and other “Jacobins”, i.e., sympathisers with the democratic pretensions of the French Revolution. He was also instrumental in the passing of the Combination Acts of 1799 and 1800 under which the Tolpuddle Martyrs were later sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay.

A. L. Morton says of him in A People’s History of England:

“When the industrial discontent was crossed with political Jacobinism the ruling class was terrified into more drastic action, and the result was the Combination Laws of 1799 and 1800. These laws were the work of Pitt and his sanctimonious friend Wilberforce, whose well known sympathy for the negro slave never prevented him from being the foremost apologist and champion of every act of tyranny in England, from the employment of Oliver the Spy or illegal detention of poor prisoners in Cold Bath Fields gaol to the Peterloo massacre and the suspension of habeas corpus”.

Yes, he was opposed to chattel slavery. From a capitalist point of view, this was an outmoded and inefficient method of labour exploitation. They wanted the only form of slavery to be wage slavery. To which Wilberforce had no objection whatsoever.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The shadow of the bigot

Capitalist normality could have come to Northern Ireland forty years ago, but religion and politics combined to put the clock back.

In 1956 the IRA of the time, under pressure from a competitor terrorist group in Ulster, were prematurely pushed into inaugurating a ‘Border’ campaign. The name defined the strategy: volunteers, largely from the south but augmented by others from traditional heartlands of northern republicanism, would confine their campaign to attacks within the general vicinity of the Border. Belfast, especially, was to be avoided lest the touch paper of inter-religious violence should be ignited.

The first IRA operation was a raid for arms on the British army barracks in Armagh. It was well-planned and brilliantly executed and on a Saturday afternoon, while soldiers carried out their duties in a relaxed mood, the IRA moved stealthily among them loading military ordinance onto trucks. Not a sound was heard and certainly not a funeral note, for the raiders were away with their booty before an embarrassed military establishment raised the alarm.

It looked as though this undoubted success had exhausted the strategic genius of the IRA. A similar move against a military barracks in Omagh several weeks later ended in a fire fight in which several of the raiders were captured. After that it was all down-hill and after a while abortive attacks on well-protected police stations gave way to chopping down telegraph poles and issuing grandiose communiquÄs.

It was, from an IRA standpoint, a pathetic period of military attrition that ended in a spectacular statement from them in 1962. The statement was effectively one of surrender to the political realities of the time. The IRA castigated the Catholic nationalists of Northern Ireland for denying them any meaningful support and angrily accused them of ‘selling their heritage for a mess of pottage’ – a reference to the social welfare package introduced by the UK government and, ironically, legislatively imposed on the Unionist government of Northern Ireland.

That event, that statement which should have had extraordinarily significant implications for all the people of the North, and especially so in the light of subsequent events, has been expunged from history by the opposing political interests in Ireland, north and south, because all those interests were complicit in the events that followed. Significantly, the IRA statement did not say it was abandoning the political struggle; it said it was giving up armed struggle and would henceforth pursue a constitutional struggle for the achievement of civil rights and an ending of religious discrimination.

There had not been any significant sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland since 1935. Demand for the implements of war between 1939 and 1946 had brought relative prosperity to shipbuilding, aircraft and engineering produce and largely removed the sore of job discrimination during those years. With growing unemployment religious discrimination was returning but its effects were being mollified to some extent by the new social welfare legislation. The traditional sectarian ghettoes were fraying at the edges as people of different religions moved cautiously into one another’s areas. Bigotry had receded somewhat as a player in politics and now with the gun out of the way there seemed hope that politics would normalise into the usual phoney squabble over the inadequacies of capitalism.

But in offering peace the IRA had thrown a bomb into politics both north and south of the infamous Border. When the republicans inaugurated their political strategy with the unveiling of constitutional Republican Clubs, William Craig, the unstable Unionist Minister of Home Affairs, responded with a banning order. This was open to being used as a justification of new IRA violence, in replacement for the absurd notion that the “right” of armed struggle was bequeathed to the IRA by the results of a questionable election in 1918.

In the north a political lout in a dog collar, energised by inherited bigotry and a bad strain of megalomania, was about to create opportunities for the promotion of violence in protestant heartlands and spawn and motivate the utterly violent Provisional IRA. Ian Paisley was becoming a politician through the back door.

In the south, too, the IRA’s declaration of peace was giving yesterday’s republicans now aboard the establishment gravy train some concerns. It was common knowledge that ‘Communists’ of the Leninist genre had edged their way into the leadership of the IRA and Sinn Fein and it was this influence that had brought closure to the faltering armed struggle. Among church and state leaders, victims of their own fevered ignorance, the comfortable corruption of capitalism could conceivably come under threat. From some remarkable sources, in politics and industry, faith and self-interest combined to conjure up another IRA to counter the influence of the Leninist- dominated one. From the south the help was practical while in the north Paisley and his political ilk were fabricating conditions favourable to the emergence and rapid growth of the new Provisional IRA.

The banned Republican Clubs were not alone in creating the movement for civil rights in Northern Ireland but they probably were the main promotional engine. Labourites, Communists, trade unionists, even unionists as well as people of different religions and none took aboard the methods and the anthem of the American Civil Rights movement to demand the extension of the democratic franchise to all adults in local government elections together with a points system for the allocation of social housing and an end to gerrymandering of electoral boundaries.

Such democratic proposals were anathema to the man who is now the leader of the so-called Democratic Unionist Party and prospective first minister. Paisley articulated the gutter thinking of politico-religious unionism. The Provisionals went into the murder business, responding with gun and bomb to the demagoguery of Paisley and his bigoted cohorts. Catholic-nationalist bigotry was feeding on that of its opposite number and putting flesh on the body of that republican interest that wanted to dish the ‘commies’ of the old IRA and get back to the form of politics they knew best. It was a grim, irrational reciprocity that over the years spread like a political malaise in Northern Ireland and, as we saw from the recent election results, finally affected even those of a less unwholesome political disposition.

Is there a Hegelian irony in these recent election results? Will power and political reward sate the ambitions of those at the forefront of Northern Ireland’s infamous ‘antithesis’? Will the fear-inspired electoral capture of the less bigoted weaken the bigotry of the two extremes? Will the threats, bribery and unmitigated corruption of the British and Irish governments combine with these factors to create an uneasy peaceful synthesis? If so, will it last?

We shall see, but one thing we can predict with absolute confidence: even the peculiar nexus of Sinn Fein and the 'Democratic' Unionist Party combined in a government based on clearly-defined sectarian lines will have less effect on conditions in Northern Ireland than the workings of global capitalism.

Monday, March 26, 2007

the SSP gets a BIG idea

Yep. The Scottish Socialist Party has had a big idea, and when I say big I mean BIG!

Time is ripe to push for free public transport

That was the headline in yesterday's Sunday Herald. The free buses isn't just a policy of the SSP; it is a "flagship"policy, just to remind you of how BIG these pseudo-socialists are thinking these days.

I can see the peasant, soldier and toiler masses getting feverish and storming the Winter Palace because of this one (getting there for free on the bus of course).

Honestly, is that the best vision these "Scottish Socialists" can come up with? In a socialist society all the means of living, not just buses, would be free.


UPDATE -- Typical. The Socialist Party has been very succesful with its spoof London Underground ticket. It looks like the SSP have pinched our idea for their campaign, although a closer look will show the obvious differences, such as the SSP's nationalism.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Marx and PMQs

The latest exchange between Menzies - pronounced "Ming"- Campbell and Tony Blair at Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons was of some interest. First, here is the official Hansard , 21 March 2007 (Column 806), record:

Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD):.... Is the Prime Minister disappointed that after 10 years in government the gap in wealth between the rich and the poor in this country is greater than it was under Margaret Thatcher?

The Prime Minister: That is simply not correct. [ Interruption. ] No, it is not. It is absolutely correct that wealthy people have got wealthier, but it is also correct that the poorest have got wealthier, too. Let me tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman how they have got wealthier. [Hon. Members: “The gap!”] I am sorry, he is absolutely wrong. Those at the bottom end have actually done extremely well over the last 10 years. Let me tell him why— [ Interruption. ] Tories shake their heads, but people have done well because of the minimum wage, which the Tories opposed. They have done well because of the tax credits, which the Tories opposed. They have done well because of extra child benefit, which the Tories opposed. I do not know whether the Lib Dems ever had policy positions on any of those things. Let us be absolutely clear. The average family, particularly with children, has done better under this Government. We have not penalised high earners, but we have helped the lowest earners a great deal.

Sir Menzies Campbell: Will the Prime Minister engage with the argument? How can he possibly be satisfied when the poorest in this country pay a higher proportion of their income in taxation than the richest? How can that possibly be fair?

The Prime Minister: That is simply not correct. [ Interruption. ] No, it is not correct. As a result— [ Interruption. ] Sorry, but as a result of the measures that we have taken, families who are on the lowest incomes do not pay tax until far higher up the income scale than they used to. If we look at how the lowest earners are treated in this country, it is infinitely better than 10 years ago. It now compares very well with other European countries. So as well as the Chancellor having delivered the highest employment rate, the lowest unemployment for 30 years, low interest rates, and the strongest economic growth, he has done a lot for income inequality too.

This is typical, capitalist politician cant. Menzies Campbell is right, although not for the reasons he imagines: the capitalists have grown richer. There is much in the above exchange deserving of socialist comment; don't be shy, post a comment to this blog entry!

I want to draw out one aspect, and that is Tony's comment that the wealthier have grown wealthier and so have the poorest! That is a gem for an end of year "They said it in 2007" review.

The average wage in the UK rose, as shown in this statistic. Compare that with a sample of the rich.

Silly people imagine Marx thought the working class would become paupers and, since they haven't, Marx was wrong. Certainly, the standard of living has grown since the so-called "Robber Baron" Capitalism of the 19th Century; that doesn't disprove Marx's writing on the immiseration of the working class since he was writing about the accumulation of capital and thus the relative position of the working and capitalist classes in the course of capitalism's development. (Marx is easy to understand when you realise he wrote about social relationships.)

Marx made an analogy with buildings: somebody may have a small house compared to his neighbour; then the person gets a bigger house but should the neighbour's domicile become a palace, the person's larger house shrinks to the size of a hut, in a relative sense.


Update Socialist Courier for 27 March looks at child poverty

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sharpville remembered

Forty-seven years ago today 69 demonstrators were killed and 180 injured in Sharpeville, South Africa. More than 10,000 were imprisoned in subsequent protests. Nelson Mandela wrongly saw the solution to problems experienced by the great oppressed majority as more bloodshed.

Socialists do not look at the activities of 'great' men as a way of explaining such events. We are materialists, and as such our perspective on, for example, the Sharpeville massacre (not to mention South Africa, past and present), is very different from assorted orthodox interpretations, as the contemporary quotation below shows.

"The recent events in South Africa have made starkly clear the real real nature of the conflict there. The entire capitalist world, Governments and press, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, has denounced the measures taken by the ruling class in South Africa to bolster its position....After the Sharpeville massacre it was announced that the pass laws would not be enforced for the time being. This was an astonishing concession for the ruling landowners' class to make to the capitalists. It showed how much the landowners had been shaken, for the pass laws are the cornerstone of the society built by landed interests. The aim of these laws is to keep Africans in the country, where they must work on the white men's farms in order to live, and prevent them from coming to the towns, where they could obtain higher pay in the capitalists' factories. If despite the pass laws they come to the towns, they are arrested - in numbers running into hundreds of thousands each year - and sent back in convict gangs to labour on the farms for a mere pittance. The news that the pass laws had been suspended was a tonic to the South African capitalist class: the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, which had slumped at the news from Sharpeville, recovered some of its losses. Then came the announcement that the pass laws would be reimposed: again share prices fell. And the South African Federated Chamber of Industries was reported to be seeking a meeting with Dr. Verwoerd to urge some modification in his policies. The question now in South Africa is this: how long will the growing capitalist class allow the landed interests to continue ruling their country." (Socialist Standard, May 1960)

The question today is how long will it be before the great oppressed there (but everywhere really) come to realise that swapping one ruling class for another, regardless of their skin colour, does not end exploitation.? Only then will we be able to forget the crazy artificiality of the divisions imposed on us by the necessities of private property. Only then will we discard the bogies of nationality and race, and remember what we really are - one race, the human.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Red Nose Day

Here we go again. Another Red Nose Day is with us.
2007 and there are tens of thousands of charities in this country alone. What does this say about this so-called civilisation we are told we live in?
With the productive capacity of Capitalism, the above should be unnecessary. However, we live in a world where the means of life are owned by a tiny minority, and access to life is on the basis of, "can't pay, then can't have".
It is a "Red Face Day", for all of those who tell us how great Capitalism is. And a vindication for people like myself, who argue for a change of society and the relationships involved. Who argue for a society, where the means of producing the things we need to live are owned by us all, collectively.
Be ashamed, be very ashamed.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

The real "Herald of Free Enterprise".

Just over 20 years ago, on March 6th 1987; just before 7pm GMT, the ro-ro ferry (roll on, roll off) the Herald of Free Enterprise, belonging to the Townsend Thorensen company and sailing from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Dover, with 650 people on board turned on it's side.

The resulting disaster caused the deaths of 193 people. It left port in calm weather, but with it's bow doors open. Over the next few minutes, water flooded the car deck, resulting in what was later termed the 'free water effect'. As water flooded the car deck, it affected the stability of the ship, resulting in the ship, as mentioned, turning on it's side.

The ferry had no internal bulkheads to prevent the spread of water. Bulkheads, would have reduced the amount of cars and lorries the ferry could carry. It would also have the result of reducing the money made from each trip. Not only this but with bulkheads in place, the 'turnaround time' would also been reduced. All of which are primary concerns within Capitalism.
As was stated at the time, these ferries were, "constructed with large unrestricted car decks for maximum capacity and to allow them to load and unload quickly". What stands out with stark clarity is capitalism's concern with cost. In every sphere of Capitalism, whether it be shipping, air travel, or as been brought to the forefront in recent years via the environment, capitalism and the corporations that infest it's environs, cost is of paramount concern.

Measures to safeguard travel, whether by air, sea or land, or measures to decrease pollution etc. are expensive. In the competitive global economy that is capitalism, it is often the case that the cost imperative (reduced profit and competitiveness) will supersede considerations of safety, whether to individuals or the planet. Capitalism cannot work any other way.

The only solution, is a world where the primacy is not "the profit margin", or indeed profit at all - which in any case only benefits the tiny minority, "the capitalist class", who own the world, the ability to produce the things we need to live and the natural resources from which many of these 'things' are produced.

The alternative is the continuance of present day society, Capitalism, in which the Herald of Free Enterprise, is really, "The Herald of Free Enterprise", with everything that goes with it.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007


More "New Labour" welfare reforms were announced on Mon 5th Feb. Given the fact, that these reforms will be dealing with some of the most disadvantaged in society, one would expect that the author of this report would be an expert on poverty.
Perhaps someone from one of the multitude of charities operating in this field? (That Capitalism is claimed to be working for us all), one wonders why there are so many?
Perhaps someone who has an intimate knowledge of poverty and the problems engendered by the same.
In what can only be described as a, "Freudian slip", none of the above were involved.
So who did some of the poorest in Capitalism get to "help them"? Well, would you believe a Financial Times correspondent? A person who is also a Senior Banker with UBS AG and also the Great Grandson of Sigmund Freud.
One wonders what David Freud would know about poverty? and seeing as though the main group under scrutiny are single parents, (mostly mothers) the same question applies.
This group will be required to seek employment when their children reach 11 years of age. As opposed to the present ceiling of 16. An "element of compulsion" will be thrown in for good measure.
A recent survey on the workforce recently claimed, that single mothers had the worst deal of any group in the employment market. Being heavily discriminated against.
Work and Pensions Secretary, ( he can type?) John Hutton was at pains to stress his desire to get these people back to work. Obviously he has never undergone the rigours of the "work" involved in raising the next generation of "wage slaves".
He was not talking however, about work but about employment. A relationship whereby a tiny minority use the vast majority to labour for them and get wealthy by accruing the surplus value they create.
This at least, is something David Freud knows something about. Growing wealthy during the Thatcher years, "working" (another Freudian slip) in the City.
Grown wealthy off the sweat of others, he must be drooling at the chance to get even more of the working class making his class richer.
The most worrying thing about these proposals however, is that other members of the working class are generally in favour of these measures.
In five local newspapers that I have read, straw polls have shown a majority in favour of these draconian measures.
Not only do U.K. Capitalisms Board of Directors feel comfortable enough to introduce these measures, but once again they have the backing of their "slaves".
What the above shows is, that it is more important than ever to spread the message of the alternative to the obscenity that is Capitalism. An alternative to a society wherein a tiny minority live in obscene luxury, whilst the vast majority live in varying degrees of poverty, want, stress and insecurity. Relying on "selling themselves" to these parasites to live.
That we as a class have the power, (the vote) to abolish this state of affairs and bring about a society where the good and well being of all is the prime prerequisite, is beyond question.
What is lacking is the understanding and thus the will to achieve this goal.
Knowledge is power. With Knowledge of our own interests as a class , combined with the vote, we can change the world so that the odium that are "welfare reforms", will be resigned to the dustbin of history. Along with its pregenitor, Capitalism.


Capitalism in the Land of the Free

Recent news items, should show up Capitalism in the U.S. for what it is.

Geoff Landes was gravely injured in Iraq, whilst serving with U.S. forces. Multiple shrapnel wounds and injuries to his head, which resulted in surgeons being forced to remove part of his skull to relieve the pressure. As you will no doubt have guessed, he is no longer in the military. Having given his health for his "country"! what is his reward? He cannot gain access to the rehabilative care he urgently needs. His mother has had to give up her job, so that she can help him in his attempts at rehabilitation. This is the reward U.S. Capitalism gives to those who help protect the interests of the American rich.

On U.S. news, carried on the B.B.C. 24 hour news channel, it was reported that there are 750,000 homeless people in America.The newsreader, one Charles Gibson stated that homelessness was a "notoriously difficult problem to solve". We would beg to differ. It is only a problem in Capitalism. However, in a society where things are produced for direct human use, not for sale with a view to profit, HOMELESSNESS as with lack of access to health care, as shown in the case of Geoff Landes and the myriad of other problems created by Capitalism’s very existence, would simply not exist.

"59 million U.S. citizens have no paid sick leave at all", reported by Charles Gibson,A.B.C. news, 23rd Feb.

This is alongside the fact that tens of millions of U.S. citizens cannot afford even primary health care. This means that American workers often turn up at their places ofemployment in less than good health. It is not a choice, but a necessity for them. Forget the fact that ill workers are less productive - which in the end is all Capitalists are really concerned about. But imagine if a worse case scenario were to occur; an outbreak of bird flu, or worse. Seriously ill workers, because of circumstances, would be compelled to go to their places of employment. Thus, adding to an already serioussituation. We are sure that if this were to occur, reconsideration would be considered. To late, however, to stop a possibly fatal outbreak. As with everything else about Capitalism, it would be reactive rather than proactive. But in a society that says, "cant pay, then cant have" what else do you expect? The bottom line is "PROFIT" and the devil take the hindmost. Accurately summing up Capitalism.