Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Socialism and work

In the course of the French revolution of 1848 the workers of Paris marched for "The Right to Work." Over 160 years and countless marches later, workers are still demanding and in tragic cases drowning or otherwise being killed/injured for this dubious right. Under capitalism no such right exists, nor could it. This global social system is based on the ownership of the means of production by a minority. The rest have no alternative to sell their ability to work - when they can - to one or other of these employers, And this exploiting class only employ when it is in their profit-seeking interest to do so. Socialists have stated this repeatedly and argued for over a century that workers should free themselves from the shackles of wage slavery and assert The Right to be Lazy!

When Paul Lafargue wrote his well-known pamphIet The Right to be Lazy he chose this title to parody the demand, still current today, for "the right to work", In one sense he was right. The "right" to be employed by a capitalist is not something worth fighting for (quite apart from being unachievable). Given the demeaning and exploitative nature of employment it would indeed be better to demand the right not to work, the right to be lazy. In another sense, however, this title is misleading in that it suggests social life could continue without work, not in the sense of employment but in the sense of productive activity.

The sixties and seventies saw the growth and circulation of the idea of "the abolition of work", of a work-less society in which production would be fully automated leaving human beings free to engage in "play" or "leisure" or "creative activity" as it was variously put. This was reflected not only in the number of books, pamphIets and artides on this theme but also in the extraordinary popularity, mainly on the strength of its title, of Lafargue's pamphIet which went through edition after edition in nearly every West European language.

The spread of the idea of the abolition of work was positive in that it reflected the rejection, in practice also, of the capitalist "work ethic" by an increasing number of people. But it eventually became clear that the idea had not been fully worked out. Was it work as such - the expenditure of human physical and mental energy - that was being objected to, or was not the objection rather to work as employment, to work for an employer, to wage-Iabour? Was it not possible that the exercise of humans physical and mental faculties might even be a basic human need? Was, in any event, a fully-automated society a desirable objective? Would it be compatible with the need to conserve resources and to maintain a sustainable balance between human society and nature?

These reflections led some to conclude that the objection was indeed to wage-Iabour rather than to human productive activity as such and that the aim should not be to automate all productive activity but rather to achieve a society in which productive activity would become enjoyable and "creative". This was in fact the position taken up by Lafargue's contemporary, William Morris. And of course Fourier too had argued that work could and should be made attractive and that this was the answer to the questions, aimed at advocates of a free society, "what will be the incentive to work?" and "why would anybody want to work?".

Some of those who came to this conclusion then went to the opposite extreme and rejected not just the aim of full-scale autornation but all modern technology, suggesting that the solution was to go back to a "simple life" based on handicraft production. But this is to make a fetish of "machines" and "technology", to attribute to them a consciousness and a will which, as inanimate objects, they dori't have. Machines and technology don't and can't do anything on their own. The type of machines that are constructed and the use to which they are put depend on the social context. Machines in a society geared to maximising profits will be used differently (and will tend to be different) than in a society geared to serving human needs, incIuding the need to engage in satisfving, creative activity.

Achieving the goal of turning the necessarv task of production into creative, enjoyable activity does not have to involve rejecting all modern machinery and industrial techniques; it will be attained if production, both its aims and its methods, is brought under full human contro!. This can only be done through the abolition of property (private and state), production for sale and profit, and working for wages. In other words, through the establishment of socialist society, which wiIl not have to abandon industrial production, but adapt it to serving human needs.

A strong case can be made out for seeing satisfying, creative work not just as a desirable aim but as a vital human need. In any event some kind of activity, some physical and mental exercise, is necessary from a purely biological point of view since the chemical energy we acquire in the form of food must be used up in ways other than merely maintaining body temperature. So it is in the nature of humans to expend their physical and mental energies, to exercise their faculties, to work.

There is another reason why humans must expend physical and mental energy and that is to obtain from nature the food, dothing and shelter they need to survive. Since transforrning nature to satisfy needs is the definition of production, this activity is productive activity and is a necessary human activity in any system of society, socialist as well as capitalist.

Etymologically, productive and creative should mean the same: the transformation of materials found in nature into something useful to human life. When something is produced by transforrning nature something new, that didn't exist before, is created. Productive activity and creative activity should therefore be synonyms but it is a measure of the extent to which productive activity has come to be debased that we should be raising the demand that it be converted from the unsatisfying, externaIly-imposed burden that it is for the great majority of people into a satisfying, freely-chosen activity, that productive activity should once again become "creative".

The term "once again" is appropriate in this context since the evidence from the anthropologists is that in the original propertyless, classless - communist - condition of humanity productive activity was creative in the sense of being a satisfving, freely-chosen activity. It only became the unsatisfving, externally-imposed burden it has been for most people throughout history with the corning of propertied, class society where it became forced labour, an activity imposed by ruling dasses to serve their needs.

In the sense that this original situation with regard to productive activity can be regarded as being the natural human condition then satisfying, freely-chosen productive activity ('creative activity'') can be regarded as being just as much a human need which human society ought to satisfv as food, clothing and shelter are - and the various class societies of history, including existing capitaIist society, which denied this need must be regarded as being contrary to human nature and the kind of productive activity they have imposed (slave labour, serf labour, wage-Iabour) as unnatural, alienated labour.

This means that there cannot be any question of distinguishing in sociaIist society between a "realm of necessity" (of externaIly-imposed actrvity) and a "realm of freedom" (of freely-chosen activity), where the aim would be to reduce supposedly externally-imposed productive activity to a minimum in order to have a maximum of "free" time to engage in other activities. All time must be free, otherwise society will not have escaped from the tyranny of having to economise labour-time - which is precisely the economic logic of capitalism and what is meant by the term "externally-irnposed". All productive activity, incIuding the most routine, must become freely-chosen, work in a socialist society must be entirely voluntary.

In a society where humans are free to choose both the pace and the Iength of time they work, not only would the blind pressure to reduce to a minimum the labour-time needed to produce a product no longer exist, but it would become perfectly meaningless to measure the "value" or the "cost" of a product in terms of the labour-time socially necessary to make it. A society based on voluntary work would be free from such considerations. And if productive activity is enjoyable how can it be regarded as a cost?

(Socialist Standard, October 1986)

The Right to be Lazy and other articles by Paul Lafargue

A reprint of Marx's son-in-law's classic text. Makes the clear point that any imaginary right to work under capitalism is just a wage slave's `right' to be exploited. Includes a collection of other important articles written by Lafargue not easily available in print and an introduction by the Socialist Party.

poor kids

The previous blog exposed how capitalism neglects the old , Barnados , the child charity have released some interesting facts .

  • There are currently 3.9 million children living in poverty in the UK, that's almost a third of all children. Families living in poverty have only about £10 per day per person to buy everything they need such as food, heating, toys, clothes, electricity and transport. Two adults and two children needs to have £346 each week in order to be above the poverty line?
  • For those families in the bottom twenty percent of the income distribution, almost 1 in 5 can't afford to have their friends over for tea or a snack once a fortnight.
  • One third of British children are forced to go without at least one of the things they need, such as three meals a day or adequate clothing.
  • Over 90 percent of low income parents say they often go without to ensure their children have enough.
  • Nearly two thirds of families have struggled to find a job which pays enough for their family to live on.
  • By the age of six, a less able child from a rich family is likely to have overtaken an able child born into a poor family.
  • Poor children are only a third as likely to get 5 GCSEs at A* to C than those from richer backgrounds.

Poverty, say Barnados, wrecks lives and children living in poverty are more likely to end up homeless, develop drug addiction or alcoholism or become victims of crime. When these children grow into adulthood they are more likely to suffer ill health, be unemployed, commit offences and themselves get into abusive relationships.

The Government promised they'd half child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it by 2020 , yet one year away from the 2010 target for the last two years the numbers of children living in poverty has gone up, not down

The Socialist Party has always claimed that poverty cannot be eliminated simply by governements waving a magic wand .Back in April 02 the Economist commented that " To cut the number of poor children by around a million would cost as much as £6.1billion. The pledge to reduce child poverty is proving to be an expensive one." , whereupon, the SPGB said- " Socialists would say not just expensive. Because it relies on the uncertainties of the market system and the use of money, the hope of any Labour government ending child poverty is impossible. Labour and Tory governments having been making the same promise for many years and they have all failed."

Barnados is one of those tireless organisations whose members earnestly toil to expose the extent and the effects of deeper deprivation among people, only to spoil it all by suggesting remedies, like increasing state benefits or various other reforms , which have been shown to be ineffective and unrealistic. Socialists argue that all reformist activity is subject to the changing nature of capitalism. To fight the same old welfare reform battles over several decades is demoralising enough, but when previous reforms are put into reverse the case against the system which puts profits before needs is stronger than ever.

Poverty is an inescapable part of capitalist society. It can be abolished, but only when there is a fundamental change in how we organise society. That is way beyond any policies or even concepts of the Labour Party. The means to end poverty are with us now. They have been with us for a hundred years or more. That has, though, gone unnoticed, and the working class have gone on supporting Labour, and thus supporting capitalism. Who, perhaps, could blame them, when the only alternative appeared to be offered by the Leninist left, who offered the same as Labour ? .

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hope I Die Before I Get.....

Die young and leave a beautiful corpse: talking 'bout my generation. Classic 1960s/70s stuff, eh?

My home town has seen a right scandal. Elderly people in nursing homes have been woken up in the night, elderly people with dementia, because it saved money to have the night nurses bathe them, dress them and send them, clothed, to bed. The morning shift nurses are supposed to help the demented with those menial, hygenic practices.

Nurses resigned, local TV highlighted this, members of the Danish parliament and the Danish public were outraged, and such practice is also illegal.

Fine and dandy - how on earth did elderly people get treated like shit in the first place? Oh yes...cut overheads.

How typical of capitalism!

Capitalism is working!

Your eyes are not deceiving you - read on!

The Times (9 March) carried an article by Eamonn Butler, the director of the Adam Smith Institute. Yes, they are still around, even if it might be thought that they would be keeping a low profile these days, given that the pursuit of profit has yet again led to overproduction and a financial and economic crisis, a really big one this time.

Butler began by quoting a speech by an American professor called Boettke at a recent gathering of Mad Marketeers in New York:

“If you bound the arms and legs of gold-medal swimmer Michael Phelps, weighed him down with chains, threw him in a pool and he sank, you wouldn't call it a ‘failure of swimming'. So, when markets have been weighted down by inept and excessive regulation, why call this a ‘failure of capitalism'?”

That depends on what you mean by capitalism. Boettke seems to mean the spontaneous operation of production for profit and the market. But that’s not really capitalism; it’s just a policy that some capitalists (and their paid and unpaid publicists) have favoured at some times.

Capitalism is a system of production for sale on a market with a view to profit. Ideologists such as Butler and Boettke are assuming that there is some irreconcilable conflict between the profit system and government intervention. But there isn’t. Capitalism has never existed without government intervention and never will. For a start, it is based on the exclusion of the majority from the ownership and control of the means of production, which are monopolised by a profit-seeking minority. A state is needed to maintain this exclusion. This has to be paid for, so taxes have to be levied. Capitalists in one country are in competition with capitalists from other countries, and governments have always intervened to help “their” capitalists with tariffs and subsidies and, if need be, by military action.

So, capitalism and the state are not incompatibles. They go together. What is true is that the consensus of capitalist opinion varies at times as to the desirable degree of government intervention. What seems to be annoying the Adam Smith Institute today is that their ideological rivals, the Keynesians, who have no qualms about government intervention in the capitalist economy, are making a come-back because of the present crisis.

“Up to now”, Butler wrote, “the Keynesians have made the running. Greed, they say, has brought down the world economy. Only massive public spending can revive it”. If by “greed” Butler means the pursuit of profits, the Keynesians are not against that, even if they certainly are in favour of trying to spend the way of the crisis. But that’s just an alternative policy for the profit system to the one favoured by the Adam Smith Institute. It’s not a negation of capitalism.

Butler proffers his own explanation for the crisis: “excessive regulation” (of course). This assumes that, without this, the crisis would not have occurred. He rather undermines this approach by concluding his article by saying that “occasional crises are the cost of the prosperity that entrepreneurial capitalism brings”.

So, crises are going to occur anyway, even in his ideal, unregulated capitalist world! And what, without excessive regulation to blame, would they be caused by if not by the pursuit of profits leading to overproduction in some sector in relation to the market, from which the only way out is a crisis to eliminate the lame ducks and the deadwood, as capitalists like to refer to their inefficient colleagues? In this sense, Boettke is right. This and other crises don’t represent the “failure of capitalism”, but capitalism working normally.

(Socialist Standard, April 2009)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The End is Nigh

As a follow up to this earlier post , SOYMB reads that Europe’s leading expert warns of billions of refugees and environmental catastrophe if immediate action is not taken by all nations.
The World is heading for an unparalleled climate catastrophe unless rich and poor nations agree drastic cuts in pollution in just the next few months, the head of the European Environment Agency is warning.
Even if all the current promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions are honoured, the world will still see global temperatures rise by an average of four degrees centigrade by the end of the century, according to Professor Jacqueline McGlade, the EEA executive director. This is hot enough to make most of the world uninhabitable, killing or making refugees of billions of people in Asia, Africa and America. The EEA's prediction offers a vision of Earth where humans have been forced into the most far-flung areas of the world in order to rebuild civilisation, with people living in high-rise cities in areas like Siberia and Antartica which will become the most hospitable parts of the planet.
Even if Scotland, Europe and the US succeed in cutting their emissions by 80%, new coal and oil plants planned by China, India and other Asian countries will still double global carbon dioxide emissions to 16 billion tonnes by 2100. This would push carbon concentrations in the atmosphere well above the danger level. The resulting mega floods, droughts and storms would trigger mass starvation, mass migrations and resource wars, experts say. According to the EEA, this would result in concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increasing to well over 600 parts per million, which is two or three times higher than any levels in the last 650,000 years. This will cause average temperatures to rise by four degrees. It may not sound like much, but the consequences would be dire. It is twice the temperature above which scientists fear that catastrophic "tipping points" could be reached, triggering runaway climate change.The polar icecaps could suddenly start melting faster, the Amazonian rainforest could disappear, and a vast amount of the powerful greenhouse gas, methane, could be released from Siberia. Himalayan glaciers would melt, while the Indian monsoon season and the El Niño effect in the Pacific could be disrupted.These changes could make most of Africa, Asia and America uninhabitable. Many millions of people would migrate north or south, abandoning huge swathes of land around the equator.
Professor McGlade says 2009 is the most important year in the planet's four-billion-year history. If the world doesn't get in right in Copenhagen, there will be "untold decades of civil strife", she warned, and hunger across the globe. "The reality is we do not have enough on the table, globally, to get us anywhere near where we need to be to take carbon emissions out of the atmosphere," she added. "It's not a very pleasant picture."

SOYMB once more asserts that the only feasable alternative is to address the problem and that problem is Capitalism . The destructive nature of modern production has developed as an integral part of capitalism. Because we live in a competitive, profit-motivated system , enterprises come under an irresistible pressure to use the cheapest and most labour efficient methods. There is no choice about this. Companies simply have to go for low cost options and cannot afford to worry about the ecological consequences of this. To choose high cost options would be to commit economic suicide.Under capitalism the production and distribution of goods takes place - and can only take place - according to the economic laws which govern the profitable circulation of capital. These laws are of an absolutely compelling nature. What this means is that production methods cannot be chosen on their merits, as being environmentally friendly.
The Socialist Party holds that only socialism can set up the relationships of cooperation, the freedom and the rational control over our affairs which can get us out of the serious mess we’re in. For all their good intentions, and for all their apparent radicalism, the policies of the environmental experts such as the esteemed professor are impractical because they stand no chance of establishing the kind of world they want to see. The obvious, and only practical, way forward is to get rid of the whole insane capitalist structure.

In socialism we would not be bound to use the most labour efficient methods of production. We would be free to select our methods in accordance with a wide range of socially desirable criteria, in particular the vital need to protect the environment. It wouldn’t matter if ecologically benign methods of producing energy required more allocations of labour than destructive methods as we wouldn’t be producing commodities which have to compete in price for sales in the market. We’d be free of all that. A “steady-state” , eventual "zero-growth" society is something we should aim at. What it means is that we should construct permanent, durable means of production which you don’t constantly innovate. We would use these to produce durable equipment and machinery and durable consumer goods designed to last for a long time, designed for minimum maintenance and made from materials which if necessary can be re-cycled. In this way we would get a minimum loss of materials; once they’ve been extracted and processed they can be used over and over again. It also means that once you’ve achieved satisfactory levels of consumer goods, you don’t insist on producing more and more. Total social production could even be reduced. You achieve this “steady state” and you don’t go on expanding production. This would be the opposite of cheap, shoddy, “throw-away” goods and built-in obsolescence, which results in a massive loss and destruction of resources.

“The earth can no longer be owned; it must be shared. Its fruits, including those produced by technology and labour, can no longer be expropriated by the few; they must be rendered available to all on the basis of need. Power, no less than material things, must be freed from the control of the elites; it must be redistributed in a form that renders its use participatory.” - Murray Bookchin

Saturday, March 28, 2009

March ...march ...march ...keep right on marching to the end of the road

The SPGB was founded in 1904 and through the decades it has seen marches and demonstrations and protests over a whole range of issues. Rather than just patting to-day's G-20 marchers on the back for turning out to protest , we demand much more from them .

The protesters at the G-20 might think they are united in common cause, but in truth they are only united in supporting capitalism and in their mistaken belief that “bad” capitalism can be legislated out of existence. They are not even anti-capitalist, in the sense that they haven't yet even agreed on a definition of capitalism.
Whilst the G-20 protest may demonstrate great strength of feeling it will also demonstrate a great weakness i.e. 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, that or 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.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dying of Hunger 2

Further to our earlier blog Dying of Hunger , we now read that a coalition from 29 countries of 183 faith, farm, food, hunger, and international development groups have appealed Barack Obama to protect hundreds of millions of people from the global food crisis by preventing price speculation in commodity markets.
In a statement they report that "A significant part of last year's food price fluctuations were the result of excessive speculation in the commodities markets by the very hedge funds and investment banks that helped create the current economic meltdown." And that the 2008 food price volatility "could have been stopped with sensible rules that, if enforced, would have staved off the malnutrition and starvation that was caused by excessive gambling of food prices. Important reforms are needed now to prevent mega-investors from viewing the futures market like a casino where they can gamble on hunger...We cannot allow our basic food needs to be subject to the whims of investors."

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that 200 million additional people in the developing world faced malnutrition because of surging food prices in 2008.

Those well-meaning organisations may beseech President Obama for legislative change and even if he is favourable to such reform , it is nevertheless a forlorn hope that the capitalist system will change its reason for existing - to produce and maximise profit . The idea that this can be achieved within capitalism denies all experience. It substitutes blind optimism for sound analysis and real solutions.Those well-intentioned groups and individuals believe the problem of hunger, in a world of abundance, can be solved by reforming that system and by coaxing the capitalist class into mending their ways. A thousand promises by the defenders of capitalism have proved otherwise, and always will , until we end their system.

The remedy involves abolishing the money system, freeing production from the artificial constraints of profit and establishing a world of free access for the benefit of all . It is only by working with the relationships of common ownership, democratic control and production solely for needs that it would be possible.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

God is no Hope

God will not intervene to prevent humanity from wreaking disastrous damage to the environment, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned. God would not guarantee a "happy ending", he warned
Oh , well , so much for the God of mercy , the sins of the fathers will indeed be passed on to future generations of innocents .

But the arch-bishop is right . The environmental destruction of the world cannot be stopped by supernatural interventions . But it will require more than simple moral platitudes to change matters. It will take political action and economic re-organisation for The World to avoid this impending ecological catastrophe .

We are up against a well-entrenched economic and social system based on class and property and governed by coercive economic laws. Reforms under capitalism, however well meaning can never solve the environmental crisis - the most they can do is to palliate some aspect of it on a temporary basis. They can certainly never turn capitalism into a democratic, ecological society.

The SPGB asserts very clearly that a sustainable relationship with the rest of nature that is in balance and with the capacity of the biosphere to renew itself will only be possible when socialism is established . If human society is to be able to organise its production in an ecologically acceptable way, then it must abolish the capitalist economic mechanism of capital accumulation and gear production instead to the direct satisfaction of needs.
The underlying principle is that the productive system as a whole should be sustainable for the rest of nature. In other words, what humans take from nature, the amount and the rhythm at which they do so, as well as the way they use these materials and dispose of them after use, should all be done in such a way as to leave nature in a position to go on supplying and reabsorbing the required materials for use.
In the long run this implies stable or only slowly rising consumption and production levels . A society in which production, consumption and population levels are stable has been called a "steady-state economy" where production would be geared simply to meeting needs and to replacing and repairing the equipment of the means of production .

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dying of Hunger

Some simple facts from here :-
  • 923 million people go to bed hungry every night.
  • Hunger is a leading cause of death, killing an estimated 9 million people every year - more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
  • A child dies of hunger every 5 seconds
  • More than a quarter of children in developing countries is underweight
Enough food is produced globally to feed the planet .
Most of the world's hungry are not short of food because of a one-off disaster or crop failure but because of chronic, long-term poverty that means they cannot afford the food that is readily available in their local markets.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Serbia - 10years on

A decade on from the Nato bombing campaign, more than 90,000 Serbs are still in danger from unexploded cluster munitions, according to a recent report funded by the Norwegian foreign ministry. The report says they face a daily threat and estimates that there are some 2,500 unexploded devices in 15 areas of Serbia. In the capital, Belgrade, and elsewhere in Serbia you can still see the impact of the bombing.
"The 10th anniversary of the air strikes will lead people to think about the bombing campaign, which they saw as unjust, unfair and illegal action carried out by Nato," says Serbian political analyst Bratislav Grubacic.

Some 2,500 civilians were killed, among them 89 children, while 12,500
were injured.

US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke said that NATO's air attack on former Yugoslavia a decade ago was "the right thing to do" .
Holbrooke when questioned by Charlie Rose during the bombing of Yugoslavia as to why the Serbs didn't agree to the terms of the Rambouillet text, Holbrooke, who delivered the final ultimatum to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, stated that Serbs claimed that signing the Rambouillet text would amount to agreeing to a NATO occupation of their country. Holbrooke told Rose he insisted this 'isn't an occupation.' In fact, an examination of the Rambouillet text shows that it did fundamentally call for an occupation of Yugoslavia.

David N. Gibbs an associate professor of history and political science at the University of Arizona said : "The 1999 Kosovo war is often remembered as the 'good' war which shows that American power can be used in a morally positive way and can alleviate humanitarian emergencies. In fact, the NATO air strikes failed to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo; instead the strikes worsened the atrocities and heightened the scale of human suffering.
The NATO states could have achieved a negotiated settlement of the Kosovo problem and resolved the humanitarian crisis -- without war. However, the Clinton administration blocked a negotiated settlement at the Rambouillet conference, leading directly to the NATO bombing campaign. The U.S. government sought to use the Kosovo war as a means to reaffirm NATO's function in the post-Cold War era. It was this NATO factor -- rather than human rights -- that was the main reason for the war.
The Kosovo war had many features in common with George Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq. In both Kosovo and Iraq, American presidents avoided diplomatic avenues that might have settled the disputes without war, went to war by circumventing the UN Security Council, and engaged in extensive public deception."

What we said 10 years ago was that:-"Faced with this latest manifestation of capitalist barbarity and cynicism we once again place on record our abhorrence of all war and call upon workers everywhere to unite to bring the war-prone capitalist system to a speedy end."

A dismal scientist writes

Jeffrey Sachs - "probably the most important economist in the world" - is a Professor of the dismal science. True to form, his latest writing fails to shed light on the nature of capitalism. One paragraph of his opinion piece for huffingtonpost.com exemplifies this:

"The great scholars of capitalism, from Adam Smith to John Maynard Keynes, understood full well that a functioning economic system depends not on greed, but on moral sentiments and an acceptable social contract between the rich and the rest of society. The rich can make money, of course, but they must not flaunt it or consume it frivolously. Instead, they must invest their wealth for social benefit, whether in business or in philanthropy, or in both as in the case of history's most celebrated capitalist-philanthropists, from Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. It is only the dangerously arrogant rich or the servants of the rich who believe that morals don't matter in the great matters of finance. "

Well, Smith did make "an important step towards an understanding of what makes capitalism tick" but by comparsion Keynes was clueless. He dismissed Marx's Capital with these smug words:

“How can I accept a doctrine which sets up as its bible, above and beyond criticism, an obsolete text-book which I know to be not only scientifically erroneous but without interest or application for the modern world? How can I adopt a creed which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above bourgeois and the intelligentsia who, whatever their faults, are the quality in life and surely carry the seeds of all human advancement? Even if we need a religion, how can we find it in the turbid rubbish of the red bookshop? It is hard for an educated, decent, intelligent son of Western Europe to find his ideals here, unless he has first suffered some strange and horrid process of conversion which has changed all his values.”

Sachs does not mention the greatest scholar of capitalism, but this is unsurprising given that some textbooks of economics are Marx-free zones. The rich Sachs refers to are the capitalist class, they do not make money, although in times of quantative easing you might be forgiven for thinking so. Marx revealed that they enrich themselves at our expense: we the working class produce all the wealth in society. Furthermore, Marxism reveals, as no other theory can, how capitalism came into being, what its dynamics are, why it must exploit and what it must be replaced with. Morality does not exist in a timeless social and economic vacuum; the current (basically liberal) notions of rights, obligations, justice, etc. misrepresent the exploitative social relations of capitalism and are inappropriate to the struggle for socialism.

Carnegie did indeed assert that "all personal wealth beyond that required to supply the needs of one's family should be regarded as a trust fund to be administered for the benefit of the community," but why should we accept crumbs when the bakery is ours for the taking? With "from each according to ability, to each according to need" applied globally it will not only be possible but achievable in the foreseeable future to eliminate poverty, malnutrition and the other ills inherent in global capitalism. We have nothing to lose but our chains.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Clap Hands , Here Comes Charlie

We read a Chinese director is planning to stage a musical based on the founding text of communism, Karl Marx's Das Kapital. The plot will revolve around a group of office employees who find out they are being exploited by their boss. There will be singing and dancing in this stage version of the classic communist treatise . Those behind the project say this approach will help people understand what many consider a dry, philosophical text. But the producers promise they will not trivialise Marx's central message.

"We will bring Marx's economic theories to life in a trendy, interesting and educational play, which will be fun to watch," said director He Nian .

hat tip to JV for spotting

The Poverty of Charity

Cheers were raised when Comic Relief made a record amount the other day. However

Four of the UK's largest medical charities have been badly hit by the recession and are considering cutting the amount of money they put towards lifesaving research.

Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation (BHF), Leukaemia Research and the Wellcome Trust may reduce funding for research into fatal diseases after the economic downturn wiped billions of pounds off their investments and caused donations to fall.

the Indy

The priorities of capitalism! The materials and research brilliance exist, but it won't be utilised because of the cash nexus.

Why should we put up with this? Shouldn't clean water, food, education and health provision be assured for all, from cradle to grave?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mental Capitalism

The Independent on Sunday reports "Growing wealth inequalities are sparking psychological and physical stress – and now one-third more people are deliberately injuring themselves than five years ago"

According to new research published by the World Health Organisation , the growing gap between rich and poor has led to an increase in mental health problems such as depression and self-harm in countries including the UK and US. People are surrounded by stories about the rich and famous – lifestyles that are unattainable for the majority. These inequalities cause psychological and physical stress which leads to mental and physical health problems, the report concludes. Published earlier this month, Mental Health, Resilience and Inequalities by the WHO and the Mental Health Foundation revealed a strong link between income inequalities and poor mental health. Inequality is now known to be a constant trigger for the "fight or flight" response in human beings. Over time, the perpetual stress is thought to get "under the skin" and lead to permanently raised levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, as well as causing depression, higher blood pressure and other biological changes associated with stress and mental illness.

Dr Peter Byrne, a consultant psychiatrist in A&E and self-harm specialist, said: "It is much harder to be an adolescent these days. Young people are surrounded by an obscenely rich celebrity culture, and kids want to have those things too. Others I come across are excluded from society and cannot imagine living beyond 30. And two-thirds of the young people I see in A&E have been drinking alcohol. Their drinking is angry, morose, avoidant, and when this happens someone is much more likely to self-harm. If you look at the unhappiest populations in the world, it is those with the greatest income inequality."

Lynne Friedli, author of the report, said: "We have to face up to the fact that mental well-being depends on reducing the gap between rich and poor. A large divide leads to a mentally unhealthy society, and many associated social problems. In the UK in particular, we've failed to acknowledge this link, preferring instead to blame people's lifestyle choices."

Dr McCulloch , chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation , said: "We know that the UK has become a much more unequal place in the past few decades and we also know that people's mental health seems to have worsened at the same time. Now we're beginning to understand how these two trends might be linked, and how living with inequality can have very real effects on the mind and body."

Rufus May, a clinical psychologist in Bradford, said: "Demonised by the media, subject to scrutiny and evaluation in terms of their looks and appearance, and a school system that is increasingly prescriptive, young people don't have space to be creative or learn how to express how they feel. Self-harm is a release. It anaesthetises people from the pain of feeling wretched and unworthy. It helps us escape the pain of living in a competitive, self-conscious world where we rarely feel that we are making the grade. It can also be an expression of anger. This is one way to briefly be powerful and take back control. The scars of self-harm are like protest graffiti, and we need to listen to it. The answer is not more therapy. We need to teach young people how to communicate and care for themselves and one another."

SOYMB can only endorse the findings of those health professionals but we would suggest that if capitalism and its ideological trappings cause mental problems for the working class , then , of course , the obvious thing is to eliminate the cause - abolish capitalism and then establish a society that does not exploit .

The basic theme of Erich Fromm’s The Sane Society is that capitalism, because it encourages competition between individuals, pitting them against each other in a rat race for power, privilege and prestige, is a society that is incompatible with human nature. It is an “insane society”, a “sick society”.

Humans are social animals, and we need each other not only practically so as to collectively produce the material things we need to live but also psychologically—we need to feel part of a group, of a community. Any society which does not satisfy this psychological need, or which actively works to prevent it being satisfied, is incompatible with human nature.

Only a society based on co-operation and community is a sane society as one which properly meets the psychological needs of human beings for a sense of belonging; not just a sense of belonging but a state of actually belonging to a real community. That can only be socialism

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A capitalist stooge writes

Earlier this week the Washington Post carried an article titled 'Obama's No Socialist. I should Know'
by Billy Wharton, editor of Socialist magazine. A writer for salon.com, likes what Billy has to say:

"What makes this op-ed particularly good, though, is that Wharton, who certainly has the perspective and credentials to do so, rightly counters the "socialist label," arguing that Obama's beliefs are nothing like his."

But, as we will see, Wharton's Socialist credentials are utterly bogus. He states that Socialists support nationalization, a national health system as well as the immediate removal of all troops. Nay, nay and thrice nay!

Nationalisation is state capitalism and does not differ from private capitalism as far as the exploitation of the workers is concerned. They still need their trade unions, and the strike weapon, to protect themselves from their employers. Nationalisation is not socialism, nor is it a step towards socialism. And history shows that nationalisation is not restricted to capitalist parties of the left or centre: the first Act of Parliament authorising nationalisation was passed in 1844 under Peel's Tory government.

Contrary to popular belief, the National Health Service is not dedicated to satisfying the human need for health care, or the eradication of disease. Medical practice and research in capitalist society is strongly influenced by its role in maintaining a healthy labour force, and in socialising and controlling people in a class-divided society. The NHS keeps us fit for work so we can produce profits for our bosses. It is an integrative mechanism that helps hold class-divided society together. Months after its inception the National Health Service in the UK stated charging for dental and optical services. There is no such thing as an adequate health service within a capitalist system of society and there never can be.

Socialists do not call for call for the immediate removal of all troops. We are, of course, 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 based upon 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 satisying national disputes." (Socialist Standard, January 1905)

Obama and Wharton support capitalism, they just disagree as to how it should be run.

Friday, March 20, 2009

World socialists

"People on the left might welcome world socialism, but when it comes to people coming from other countries and taking their jobs they are not so keen," said Dr Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute. He does not believe xenophobia is the prerogative of the right.
Lets make it perfectly clear . We are one organisation that stands for world socialism that unequivocally declares that workers have no borders . The idea of “we” as in the people who live on this island called Britain, are collectively joined and looked after by our rulers is false. To say “this is our country” implies that we all own it collectively, where we most definitely do not. The working class waste their energy fighting amongst themselves, believing their interests and the interests of their nation's rulers are linked.

Those who are in possession of little are easily frightened by the threat of some other coming to take it away . That workers are afraid is an effect of the systemic threat of poverty through unemployment capitalism needs in order to function.

All those people seeking migration, whether legal or illegal, are simply obeying the imperative that they must try to find a place to work; and no amount of government restrictions will change that fact. Immigrant workers have always been used to correct a disequilibrium in the labour market. Labour shortage causes wages to rise and thus puts workers in a comparatively stronger bargaining position . Naturally, our masters will always seek to counteract such a situation by importing (often cheaper, more compliant) workers, which in turn intensifies competition among workers, potentially fermenting xenophobia and racism. Needless to say, when demand for labour slackens off as it is in the present recession , the capitalists play the infamous 'immigration card' in order to keep the working class divided. Many workers may be misled by certain trade union leaders about needing to take action to defend British jobs, and of Labour politicians bleating about defending Britain from being swamped by foreign scroungers; but those workers will be no better off for siding with British capital against their fellow workers . The truth is that it is not fellow workers from abroad who cause unemployment, but capitalism and its unyielding drive for profits.When it suits , the capitalists will , without the slightest hesitation , pull out their money and send it elsewhere to make better profits , without the slightest regard for the "oh , so loyal " local workers .

No ruling class is ever completely unanimous; no two capitalists have interests which are exactly the same. Some property owners want to establish the principle that when a particular industry or trade is short of workers, its owners have the right to bring in workers from any other country, and thus help to counteract the danger of having to raise wages and salaries.
Other members of the capitalist class feel it would be a mistake to let in too many workers from other countries, who have not been conditioned for years by British patriotic propaganda, and which therefore might not be one hundred percent devoted to the British ruling class. The arrival of people from other countries, who have not been brainwashed from birth with notions that the British are clearly superior to all other peoples may make it harder for chauvinists to whip up anti-foreign feeling .

So from this point of view, immigration might count as a plus for the British working class and perhaps for the establishment of socialism by jettisoning the false consciousness of nationalism .

Thursday, March 19, 2009

History and its lessons

Karl Marx stated an obvious truth when he said that while people make their own history they do so with the tradition of the dead generations weighing on them; That is a view disregarded by the Belfast Telegraph columnist, Eric Waugh (17th March) when he comments on those he accuses (correctly, as it so happens) of refusing to learn from history and yet himself displays considerable historical amnesia.

He was right about the Easter Rebellion of 1916; it still has a most baneful effect in Ireland. So, too, does the events of 1912 and the marshalling of naked religious bigotry by the political agents of local capitalism. Here treason and the threat of violence was Unionism’s weapon against the governing British authority (itself ultimately based to armed coercion) if it ceded to Sinn Fein’s demand for legislative power in Ireland to institute trade protection for a nascent southern capitalism.

Where does the wrong begin? With Pope Adrian IV when he gifted Ireland to King Henry II of England because the Irish hierarchy favoured a stricter imposition of a foreign feudalism in Ireland where the culture and economic practices of the old Gaelic tribes conflicted with the theological imperialism of the Roman church and its self-interested doctrine of the ‘divine right of kings’?

Should England have deliberately created and institutionalised religious sectarianism in the early 17th century and later induced division within future economic development by the device of Ulster Custom?

Should a fledgling Presbyterian bourgeoisie not have allied itself to the concept of armed struggle for an all-Ireland republic in the late 18th century when its class brethren in England was deemed to be discriminating against Irish trade?

Should the Irish Catholic hierarchy not have abided by their Church’s promulgated practice of abiding by its temporal powers when the northern state was established in 1921?

More immediately pertinent perhaps, in 1962 when the IRA virtually surrendered and admitted its lack of support from Irish nationalists for armed struggle, should the Stormont regime have denied republicans, as it did, the right to pursue their struggle by peaceful means?

The dynamic in history is economics, the process of wealth production from which the modern wage or salary earner – the producers of all real wealth – are as remote as the slave or the serf of old. The ruling class and its political agents make the rules and draw up the battle lines in their own interests, The selective presentation of history is part of that process.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Workers of the world a snapshot

Workers of the world: a snapshot

UK unemployment has risen above two million for the first time since 1997, official figures have shown.

During the three months to January, the number of people unemployed totalled 2.03 million, up by 165,000, said the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Gordon Brown’s speech to the Labour Party conference, 2004: “No longer the boom-bust economy”.

Gordon Brown’s speech to the Labour Party conference, 2005: “Why has it been that at every point since 1997 faced with the Asian crisis, the IT collapse, a stock exchange crash, an American recession, last year a house price bubble, this year rising world oil prices, why has it been that at every point since 1997 Britain uniquely has continued to grow? In any other decade, a house price bubble would have pushed Britain from boom to bust.” So if that would have happened “in any other decade”, Brown was again making the point that it wasn’t only “Tory boom and bust”.
Read article >


Ali Nejati, Feridoun Nikoufard, Mohammed Heydari Mehr, Ghorban Alipour and Jalil Ahmadi are leaders of the trade union of workers at the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Plantation and Industry Company in Shush, an affiliate of the IUF.

The 5,000 workers at Haft Tapeh have had to resort to repeated strike action over the past two years over failure to pay wages and in support of basic workplace rights. They have been ceaselessly harassed and victimized, with suspected militants subject to frequent arrests and public whippings.

On 20 December last year, the five leaders were charged with "acting against national security" as a result of their trade union activity. They face potentially lengthy prison sentences.

France :

Mr Foucher, Sony’s head of human resources, and two local plant officials were held in a meeting room in a videotape factory at Pontonx-sur-l’Adour, in the Landes region of southwest France.

The plant’s 311 employees were notified in December that they would lose their jobs when the factory closes on April 17th. Mr Foucher dropped by to say a last farewell on Thursday afternoon, and was detained by workers objecting to the severance package they’d been offered. They blocked access to the plant with branches and tree trunks, and 20 gendarmes surrounded the site.

Patrick Hachaguer, the local representative of the CGT trade union, said the atmosphere inside the plant was “good-natured”, though the Sony executives may have thought differently.

“He won’t listen to us. We had no other solution,” Mr Hachaguer added.

This latest incident of “bossknapping” ended at 10.30am when the Sony executives walked out of the plant, accompanied by trade union representatives.

Employees lined both sides of the pathway, and watched the men leave in silence. The executives got into a minivan and were driven to the sous-préfecture in nearby Dax, where negotiations continued yesterday afternoon.Read >


High Tech Misery in ChinaThe Dehumanization of Young Workers Producing Our Computer Keyboard.

Two thousand workers, mostly young women, produce computer equipment including keyboards and printer cases for Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo, Microsoft and IBM.
Management instructs the workers to “love the company like your home,” “continuously strive for perfection” and to spy on and “actively monitor each other.”
Workers are prohibited from talking, listening to music, raising their heads, putting their hands in their pockets. Workers are fined for being one minute late, for not trimming their fingernails—which could impede the work, and for stepping on the grass. Workers are searched on the way in and out of the factory. Workers who hand out flyers or discuss factory conditions with outsiders are fired.
The young workers sit on hard wooden stools twelve hours a day, seven days a week as 500 computer keyboards an hour move down the assembly line or one every 7.2 seconds. Workers are allowed just 1.1 seconds to snap each key into place, repeating the same operation 3,250 times an hour, 35,750 times a day, 250,250 times a week and over one million times a month.
The workers are paid 1/50th of a cent for each operation. Read Report (PDF)


No workers paradise

Leftist fantasies exposed. The scene is typical: the dog-end of a trade union branch meeting; members are tired after discussing complex pay and discipline issues; tired from listening to the hyper-activists glorying in the sound of their own voices; desperate to escape. Item 9 on the agenda of the hour-long meeting is expenses for a delegate to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign meeting. Exhausted hands fly up to approve the monies, without debate, voting as much for escape as for sanction. Cuba has become a cause celebre amongst many on the left. Read >

Trade Unions Pamphlet Read (PDF)

Don't recycle capitalism yet again, consider how you may get rid of it.Read >

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ten benefits of not having money 10

Ten benefits of not having money 10

Continued from post here
We continue describing how things could be like in a socialist society, where there would be no need for money.

Socialist society will have no need for money. This will profoundly affect all aspects of life.

Quality of Life

In a world of money “quality” is equated with cost. A quality item costs more than a shoddy or mass produced one, e.g. Rolls Royce v a standard Ford. “Quality” chocolate costs the consumer more but doesn't give more to the grower. Quality is a term used to convey superiority and status, something better than the rest, better than the others. Unfortunately when coupled with time most families have little of it and the cost can be great. Quality of life is talked about as something desirable, to be aspired to and implies a certain level of income but, in fact, everyone has a quality of life, a comparative quality which could be measured against many different yardsticks. Most people would admit they are looking for ways to improve their own.

In order to achieve the positive changes to be gained by the disappearance of money, power has to be taken away from the elites and placed firmly in the hands of the people. None of the proposals posed in this series could become reality without the will of the majority – but what is the will of the majority, the popular perception of the “system” today? Active consent for the system is generally lacking and people have allowed themselves to become resigned to it instead of opposing it, believing that there is no alternative. Surely it is within the capacity of this miracle of evolution to reason its way back from the headlong rush to condemn billions of its own to degradation and misery, whilst destroying its own habitat with the philosophy that money can solve all problems? With money gone the generally accepted meaning of “quality of life” can become a reality for all to contemplate and world citizens will be free to aspire to achieving goals worthy of humankind.


Monday, March 16, 2009

A Parable By Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy is of course known worldwide as a novelist, but his name is mentioned rarely in debate on the World Socialist Movement Discussion Forum.

This is not to say that Socialists regard his works as devoid of meaningful social comment. Indeed, one of Tolstoy's parables forms part of the introduction to 'The Futility of Reformism' by the late Samuel Leight:

I see mankind as a herd of cattle inside a fenced enclosure. Outside the fence are green pastures and plenty for the cattle to eat, while inside the fence there is not quite grass enough for the cattle. Consequently, the cattle are tramping underfoot what little grass there is and goring each other to death in their struggle for existence.

I saw the owner of the herd come to them, and when he saw their pitiful condition he was filled with compassion for them and thought of all he could do to improve their condition.

So he called his friends together and asked them to assist him in cutting grass from outside the fence and throwing it over the fence to the cattle. And that they called Charity.

Then, because the calves were dying off and not growing up into serviceable cattle, he arranged that they should each have a pint of milk every morning for breakfast.

Because they were dying off in the cold nights, he put up beautiful well-drained and well-ventilated cowsheds for the cattle.

Because they were goring each other in the struggle for existence, he put corks on the horns of the cattle, so that the wounds they gave cach other might not be so serious. Then he reserved a part of the enclosure for the old bulls and the old cows over 70 years of age.

In fact, he did everything he could think of to improve the condition of the cattle, and when I asked him why he did not do the one obvious thing, break down the fence, and let the cattle out, he answered: "If I let the cattle out, I should no longer be able to milk thern."

Samuel Leight was a member of the World Socialist Party (US) and also wrote 'World Without Wages', companion volume to 'The Futility of Reformism'.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

work kills

Much of Karl Marx's Capital describes the detrimental effects of the factory system upon the health and well being of its workers in the 19C .

We read that the Danish government has begun paying compensation to women who have developed breast cancer after long spells working nights. It follows a ruling by a United Nations agency that night shifts probably increase the risk of developing cancer.

For years there has been growing evidence that night shifts are bad for you. Among the symptoms: disturbed sleep, fatigue, digestive problems and a greater risk of accidents at work.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer , an arm of the UN's World Health Organisation studies and ranks cancer risks.
Category One risks are known carcinogens such as asbestos. Night working now sits just one rung below that: a probable cause of cancer.

The hypothesis is that alterations in sleep patterns could suppress the production of melatonin in the body. "Melatonin has some beneficial effects on preventing some of the steps leading to cancer," Dr Vincent Cogliano of the IARC said. "The level of evidence is really no different than it might be for an industrial chemical."

Here in the UK, unions estimate about 20% of the national workforce is involved in night shifts .

Professor Andrew Watterson, an occupational health specialist at Stirling University said we are far behind Scandinavia in recognising the dangers.
"I think we can say there is a big public health problem here," he said. "The evidence has been good over a long period of time about cardiovascular disease and night work, gastro-intestinal problems and nights. Work indicating there may be risks in terms of low birth-weight babies and longer pregnancies for women... The damage is there but we don't see it and we don't count it."

We cannot expect capitalism to address these health problems when so much profit depends upon 24 hour working . In many ways , not much has changed from Marx's time . Workers welfare still remains secondary to company profits .

Ten benefits of not having money 9

Ten benefits of not having money 9

Continued from post here
We continue describing how things could be like in a socialist society, where there would be no need for money.

Socialist society will have no need for money. This will profoundly affect all aspects of life.


In its broadest sense education is just that – individual personal development. The most fulfilled individuals are those who can reach the end of their lives knowing they have spent their time exploring to the limits the areas that most interest and motivate them. These individuals are not satisfied by or limited to an eight-hour day, they continue willingly for extended hours because they enjoy and are motivated by what it is they are doing. Conversely, of the various officially recognised systems of education available in the world today none come close to encouraging youngsters to pursue their own individually chosen path in life. Institutional education is about fitting young children to become compliant teenage students who can then be steered in one of the very limited directions on offer. This is called choice. The best time to learn anything is when the individual is motivated to do so at whatever age. The best way to learn is usually by doing – a combination of observation and practice. Sitting at a desk in a room with 20, 30, 50 or so others for several hours a day is not conducive to good learning and not conducive to producing free thinking adults, but it is a good preconditioning for adult life in a money-oriented world which requires both a compliant workforce and passive unemployed.

To hear a nine-year old's response when asked what he would like to do when he leaves school, “Well, I'll go and get my Giro” is a shocking indictment of a system which by its very nature excludes many people. Whether in the examination system or later in the work situation, a certain percentage every year must be expected to fail. How humiliating and degrading is that? But that is how this system works; there is only room for so many to achieve.

When the work situation changes so that all are contributing regularly to the common good by the work they perform and all are freely taking their daily needs from the common store youngsters will experience a totally different example from today's. Education will be embraced as offering ongoing opportunities for all to succeed in their chosen areas in societies which value all members regardless of their so-called IQ.

Reformist failure

The Independent On Sunday carry a story that once again reveals the failure of palliative political action through reforms to solve social problems .

The health gap between the nation's rich and poor has widened over the past decade, despite millions of pounds of public money spent on tackling health inequalities, according to a parliamentary committee. Britons from lower social classes die younger, smoke more, are more likely to be obese and have higher rates of infant mortality than people from the highest social classes, according to official figures. These health inequalities have widened despite the Government's target to reduce the gap by 10 per cent by 2010. The gap between rich and poor has increased by 11 per cent among women and 4 per cent in men since 1998.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Red Nose Day

This Friday past was the annual Comic Relief day, where people don red noses and do all sorts of funny things to raise cash for the needy. One figure I have seen says the total raised so far is close to £58 million; this Comic Relief might very well go on to be a record breaker.

There are some things worth considering:

- Comic Relief has run since 1988, raising some £600 million

- In November, there will be Children in Need: this has raised some £500 million since 1980.

- the military budget for the UK alone was close to $60 billion (2006 figures).

- 3.8 million children in Britain live in relative poverty (2007 figures).

The departed

On this day in 1883 , at the age of 65 , Karl Marx died .

A guide to his ideas can be read here

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ten benefits of not having money 8

Ten benefits of not having money 8

Continued from post here

We continue describing how things could be like in a socialist society, where there would be no need for money.

Socialist society will have no need for money. This will profoundly affect all aspects of life.

Media and Advertising

Media without money? In today's system we buy newspapers and magazines, a licence to watch television plus payments to a provider for umpteen other channels and subscribe to internet providers for access to the world wide web. If something arrives at your house for free, it has been paid for by advertising and advertising gets its money from services provided to businesses, and businesses get their money from customers buying the products and services.

Without the profit motive it would be possible to watch a film or interesting documentary uninterrupted by advertisements that always intrude at a higher level of decibels. Junk mail would be redundant; another positive for the environment. Ugly advertising hoardings crowding town spaces and roadsides would give way to more thoughtful and aesthetically pleasing additions to our visual surroundings.

Many talented artists would be freed up to turn their expertise in more socially acceptable and useful directions. Media, in general, could become what the people want, not what they're told they want. Real choice, real variety, true information and not warped by an individual proprietor's view. This could be such an exciting area with much more community involvement from planning to production.

Released from wage slavery and with the intellect free from worry about unemployment, housing, health care etc. etc. the capacity for individual personal development will expand considerably.

Read more about advertising and communications.
Read about the lying game.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Rich List

Oh , how our hearts bleed for them !!
We read that the world's richest people have failed to escape the ravages of recession with billionaires seeing their wealth shrink by almost a quarter in the last year according to the business magazine Forbes with Britons are among the biggest losers on the list .

Britain boasts 25 billionaires - down from last year's 35.

Duke of Westminster, Gerald Grosvenor, again led the way for the UK. His £8 billion - down from £10.2 billion last year - saw him placed 29th in the list of the world's richest billionaires.
Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson came in at 261, with his fortune shrinking from £3.2 billion to £1.8 billion during the year.
Retailer Sir Philip Green also had a painful financial year. He lost £2.6 billion, with his wealth now estimated at £3.5 billion.
Newcastle FC owner Michael Ashley saw his fortune tumble by £1 billion over the last year to £800 million .
The loss was dwarfed by fellow football boss Roman Abramovich. The Chelsea owner lost a staggering £10.9 billion during the year, seeing his personal fortune drop to £6.2 billion. Mr Abramovich is one of 28 billionaires living in London, according to the Forbes list.
Harry Potter writer J K Rowling remained on the billionaires' list. Her £725 million - unchanged from last year - saw her come in at 701.

Worldwide , In 2008 there were 1,125 billionaires. This year, the number of uber-rich had shrunk to 793 - a drop of almost a third .

Bill Gates has regained his position as the world's richest man, with a personal fortune of £29 billion. Despite losing 18 billion dollars during the year, the Microsoft founder leapfrogged Warren Buffett who took a £18 billion hit over the same period. Mr Buffett dropped to second place with a not-so-meagre £26.8 billion.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the only person in the top 20 to see his wealth increase. His net worth went up by £3.3 billion following a re-evaluation of his financial data company.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Northern Ireland: A return to violence?

Two British soldiers have been shot dead at Masserene Barracks in Northern Ireland, and a policeman has been shot dead in Craigavon, by dissident republicans who want to re-draw the present political frontiers. Instead of dividing the six counties from the rest of Ireland, the frontier (they demand) should be moved and instead divide Ireland from the somewhat larger island to the east, containing the capitalist entity known as Great Britain. But Socialists do not want to re-draw any frontiers: they want to abolish frontiers. Frontiers are entirely artificial boundaries, whether by land or sea. All a frontier does is to mark out one bit of the Earth’s surface where one ruling class has power from the next bit of the Earth’s surface where another ruling class has power. Since Socialism would put an end to the ruling class of every state, frontiers would cease to have any meaning, and would therefore cease to exist.

No violence, no death or injury, will bring socialism any closer. Socialism will be brought about when the great majority of the world’s people want it to be brought about. We want to change people’s ideas. Violence will not make people into socialists. Bringing a cudgel down on someone’s head is not going to alter the ideas inside that head, at least in any worthwhile way. Rational discussion will finally make socialists. We believe that by considered argument we can show how co-operation and mutual assistance will achieve what we all want to achieve – a peaceful, harmonious, and contented existence. Violence we leave to others.

People who support a capitalist state, people who support a capitalist party, are led remorselessly into supporting violence. But it is interesting how often politicians and journalists who steadfastly support violence when it comes from what they think is “their own” side, nevertheless quickly explode with anger when it comes from someone else. One columnist, David Aaronovitch on the Times, for example, champions Israel against the Palestinians; he therefore has had to write torrents of words trying to show that the deaths of well over a thousand men women and children in Gaza, killed by Israeli bullets and bombs, are excusable, because it is only in retaliation for the Israeli civilians killed the rockets fired by Palestinian militias. He also supported the invasion of Iraq by the Americans and the British. So he has had to write more floods of words defending the deaths of some hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, as well as many British and American soldiers, because all that was merely a by-product of getting rid of Saddam Hussein, a dictator who was hostile to the United States. (Let’s not mention all those dictators friendly to the US, who American governments have propped up.)

It’s hard to say how many Iraqis have died, of course. As the American general who led the attack on Iraq said about Iraqi casualties, “We don’t do body counts” (though American casualties were reported with great care). But the lowest figure that the most dedicated warmonger has come up with is 100,000. Other people have said the true figure of violent deaths since the invasion is 600,000 – some contend that the true figure is a million. And that is not counting all the other hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who have been injured, but have survived, all the maimed and the handicapped, all those who will never walk again, all those who will never see again. The boy whose whole family was killed, and both of whose arms were blown off by a bomb, was still alive, so did not himself add to the total of deaths. Never mind! If you support one capitalist state against the other capitalist states, supporting violence is what you have to do: and that is what this columnist has had to do.

After writing reams of comment justifying the deaths, the injuries, and the destruction in Gaza and in Iraq, and no doubt having felt very uncomfortable having been forced, by his political beliefs, to do it, Aaronvitch has leapt with avidity on the deaths of the two British soldiers in Northern Ireland. (He wrote his column before the death of the Craigavon policeman.) Now, at last, he obviously feels, he can be on the side of the angels (Times, 10 March). The two deaths are “terrorism”, and a return to “the ‘armed struggle’ ” which is only “a euphemism for strolling up behind someone and blasting their brains out all over their children”. He poured scorn on the idea that any “grievance” that “springs from real social and political conditions” can ever justify such “an act of terror”. The suggestion that the shooting might be revenge for the recent re-introduction into Northern Ireland of “army intelligence” operators, or perhaps “spies” as some might call them, led to an eruption of anger on the columnist’s part. “Rubbish. Really, absolute rubbish.” This action merely shows that “violent republicanism is back in a new, potent, death-dealing guise”, a “return to killing in Ulster”. This is merely “the first atrocity in a desired new cycle of attacks, arrests, martyrdoms . . . and crying children”. Those supporting the killing are merely “unattractive men with bald heads and pallid skin”, who “imagine themselves to be Wolfe Tone or James Connolly reborn”, or else “middle-aged matrons, brought up in the purple of Republicanism, but now with roots showing through the dye”. Any supposed “grievance comes second. The desire to hate and kill comes first, and then grubs around in the shit for its excuse.” Strange to think that in 1798 Wolfe Tone, and in 1916 James Connolly, would have been the target for similar attacks by writers in the respectable newspapers, though perhaps this writer has broken new ground with his scatological language, and his fevered imaginings about the supposed physical unattractiveness of his opponents.

The shootings at Masserene Barracks and at Craigavon were indefensible, the deaths were indefensible, the motive (the redrawing of capitalism’s frontiers) was indefensible. But how a man can write many pages justifying the deaths of half a million or more, and then work himself up into a rage of furious indignation over the deaths of two, defies any rational explanation. People who oppose all violence, all killing, are at least being consistent: but people who support capitalism, who support this or that capitalist state, will find that they are defending violence, and defending killing, whether they want to or not. So they cannot help sounding hypocritical when they then jump over the fence and try to denounce violence.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ten benefits of not having money 7

Ten benefits of not having money 7

Continued from post here
We continue describing how things could be like in a socialist society, where there would be no need for money.

Socialist society will have no need for money. This will profoundly affect all aspects of life.

War and Conflict

Envisaging this newly emerging moneyless world, it is apparent that cooperation rather than competition will be the driving force to its development and the glue that will bind communities. Having removed the profit incentive and made access to resources free, production will be for use only. There are no losers in this scenario, all are to benefit from the new world order. It's just that a tiny minority might have difficulty in coming round to see it that way. As a consequence of this totally different emphasis – freedom of access and no monetary element – it isn't difficult to accept that military forces will become redundant.

Wars have always been about control of territory for resources and are usually promoted in the name of democracy, expansion abroad or protection of the domestic population from threat of real or manufactured enemies but which always utilise armies recruited from the mass of the population and sacrifice workers in the service of the capitalist cause. Internal conflicts involving government backed forces against “insurgents”/“freedom fighters”, breakaway independence groups/terrorists – when looked at rationally are (a) about lack of rights for certain sections of the community, groups deprived of their own self-determination; tensions deliberately fostered betweens sections of society so the elites can keep control (divide and rule) and (b) only temporarily dealt with (if at all) through force. If the causes aren't dealt with the effects are sure to reappear. Dealing with the causes, injustices, lack of access, etc. needs the pawns in the game to recognise that that is what they are and to join forces against those controlling them, putting the power of decision making into the hands of the majority and ending the reasons for future conflict.

No need for ownership or use of war material will render a massive service to the environment, saving resources on a huge scale and stopping pollution of the planet from the harmful waste created in both their production and deployment besides avoiding millions of deaths. Saving lives could become the new unarmed forces raison d’être. Bodies of fit, well-trained, well-resourced, motivated men and women available to deal with the effects of natural disasters and unexpected calamities would be one of a number of ways to deploy the willing volunteers, a civil action force for true humanitarian intervention.

Capitalism can't cope

One in 50 children is homeless in the United States every year, according to a report by the National Center on Family Homelessness.
"These numbers will grow as home foreclosures continue to rise," president of the center said.

Homeless children have poor health, emotional problems and low graduation rates .
42 percent of homeless children are younger than 6.
African-American and Native American children are disproportionately represented.
More than 1 in 7 homeless children have moderate to severe health conditions, such as asthma
Approximately 1.16 million of homeless children today will not graduate from high school.

All the trillions given to the banks to bail them out , all the billions to finance wars in Iraq and Afghanistan yet the USA cannot provide shelter for children .

Some 600 million of our fellow humans are homeless, many sleeping rough on the streets of the world’s cities, yet there is no shortage of vacant buildings – countless millions of acres of empty living space in the major cities of the world – and certainly no shortage of building materials or skilled builders and craftsmen presently out of work. The market dictates who does and does not sleep comfortably.

The Socialist Party has frequently written about homelessness but in this article posted here two members of the party apply their own individual knowledge and experience to the matter of providing homes .

What is a Free Tibet ?

The BBC carries a report the Dalai Lama's demand for "legitimate and meaningful autonomy" for Tibet in a message on the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He accuses China of having killed "hundreds of thousands of his people" and that Tibet's religion, culture, language and identity were "nearing extinction" and that Chinese development was devastating the Tibetan environment and way of life.

China counters by claiming its troops freed Tibetans from slavery in a feudal society and is planning to mark 28 March - the day in 1959 on which the Communist Party dissolved the existing local government in Tibet - as Serfs' Emancipation Day.

We can expect much sympathetic reporting of the plight of the Tibetan people and the glorification of the saintly Dalai Lama . But actual in depth reporting we should not expect .

The Socialist Standard has carried an article that endeavours to dispel some of the myths concerning Tibet .

The Dalai Lama has in the past proposed that Tibet “should become the planet's largest natural, reserve”, and that the country “could return to the simple life of its ancestors”. However , the article held out no such hope . Tibet is now wholly an integral component of the world market, capitalist, system. There can be no turning back to the “simple life” of feudalism.

Nor should the darker side of the the Dalai Lama be forgotten . In 1996 he announced a ban on the worship of a Buddhist deity called Dorje Shugden, declaring somewhat vaguely that he had discovered Shugden to be a "Chinese" spirit who was somehow physically threatening both his own life and the future of Tibet. He declared this ban not only in his capacity as a "spiritual leader", but as head of a government-in-exile. Those refusing to accept the ban on Shugden have accordingly been labelled as enemies of the state and Chinese agents . actions taken against those refusing to comply with the deity ban have included the dismissal of all such dissidents from government employment and the report that the residents of at least one monastery were "persuaded" to sign forms in support of the ban by the presence of Indian state police. Some 300 cases of house arrest, destruction of personal property, and harassment by Dalai Lama supporters have been reported, including one case of a family being forced from their home by a large crowd, which petrol bombed and ransacked their house. In addition posters denouncing religious dissidents have become commonplace in Tibetan exile communities. These notices generally include the name, address and photo of the particular "enemy of the state" and the schools their children attend. It is little wonder that many of the exiles have become refugees all over again. Al Jazeera asked one of the Tibetan government in exile members of parliament whether there had been any parliamentary debate about Dorje Shugden. He replied that there had been no debate simply because there was no opposition, adding "We do not have any doubt about Dalai Lama's decisions. We do not think he is a human being. He's a supreme human being and he is god." Theocratic democracy in action !! Any criticism of the Dalai Lama is immediately labelled as being pro-China, which effectively makes the dissenter an outcast in Tibetan society.

We should also take with a big pinch of salt the Dalai Lama's apparent attraction to Marxism but some truths exists within his pronouncements .

Q: You have often stated that you would like to achieve a synthesis between Buddhism and Marxism. What is the appeal of Marxism for you?

A: Of all the modern economic theories, the economic system of Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability. Marxism is concerned with the distribution of wealth on an equal basis and the equitable utilization of the means of production. It is also concerned with the fate of the working classes--that is, the majority--as well as with the fate of those who are underprivileged and in need, and Marxism cares about the victims of minority-imposed exploitation. For those reasons the system appeals to me, and it seems fair. I just recently read an article in a paper where His Holiness the Pope also pointed out some positive aspects of Marxism.

As for the failure of the Marxist regimes, first of all I do not consider the former USSR, or China, or even Vietnam, to have been true Marxist regimes, for they were far more concerned with their narrow national interests than with the Workers' International; this is why there were conflicts, for example, between China and the USSR, or between China and Vietnam. If those three regimes had truly been based upon Marxist principles, those conflicts would never have occurred.

I think the major flaw of the Marxist regimes is that they have placed too much emphasis on the need to destroy the ruling class, on class struggle, and this causes them to encourage hatred and to neglect compassion. Although their initial aim might have been to serve the cause of the majority, when they try to implement it all their energy is deflected into destructive activities. Once the revolution is over and the ruling class is destroyed, there is not much left to offer the people; at this point the entire country is impoverished and unfortunately it is almost as if the initial aim were to become poor. I think that this is due to the lack of human solidarity and compassion. The principal disadvantage of such a regime is the insistence placed on hatred to the detriment of compassion.

The failure of the regime in the former Soviet Union was, for me, not the failure of Marxism but the failure of totalitarianism. For this reason I still think of myself as half-Marxist, half-Buddhist.The Dali Lama is quoted as saying

Elsewhere he reveals his misunderstanding of Marxism , confusing it with some form of state capitalism

“I am a Marxist monk, a Buddhist Marxist,” said the Dalai Lama while delivering a lecture on ‘Ethics and Business’ at the Indian Institute of Management here on Friday. Addressing the audience, consisting mostly of management students, he added: “I belong to the Marxist camp,” he said, “because unlike capitalism, Marxism is more ethical. Marxism, as an ideology, takes care of the welfare of its employees and believes in distribution of wealth among the people of the state.”