Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Learning the real lesson of Auschwitz

Gordon Brown "gets a lesson in history" but it is the workers who must learn if we are to end capitalist produced horrors such as concentration camps. The article below from the March 1995 Socialist Standard explains why.

Fifty years ago saw the liberation of those who remained the victims of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. Its remembrance is impor­tant, but torturing ourselves with memo ries without learning from them can be next to useless.

The whining tones of the clerics of various unreasoning faiths urge us to remember the inhumanity that is within all of us. Every baby, say those who want to deliver us from "sin", is an embryonic Nazi. We reject such anti-human nonsense. Of course, humans are born with a capacity to behave co-operatively or callously and, depending upon environmental factors, can exhibit both characteristics. But humans are uniquely social aninals, dependent upon one another for survival. To say that inhumane barbarity of the kind practised in the concentration camps is "within us all" is to say no more than that all humans can be driven to defy their social nature.

Stalinist Gulags

The gas chambers of Auschwitz, like the Stalinist gulags and countless other monuments to inhumanity, are not reflections of what humans naturally are,
but of what we can become under certain historical circumstances. The Iesson we must learn is not to repeat those circum stances.

There were no prisons, gas chambers, torture machines or genocidal experiments within the earliest tens of thou­sands of years of human history. We call these people primitives. but they were not Nazis or Stalinists. Faced with any army ready for the murderous task of battle they woufd have looked on with human incomprehension.

For most of human history there were no property relationships. There were no nations or states. Modern mass murder, be it organised warfare or organised ethnic killings, is a product of property society and the resulting ideologies of nationalism, racism and religious tribalism.

German workers supported the Nazis in specific historical conditions which were exclusively connected with the property system of capitalism. Fascistic feelings were not "within them", but were responses to a world which they felt they could not control. Without capitalism there could be no Nazism, just as state capitalism lay the ground for Stalinist thuggery and butchery.

Today we see the same system causing the same effects. From Bosnia to Rwanda to East Timor literally hundreds of thousands of people have been murdered because workers have yet to learn the real lesson of Auschwitz.

If there is to be any hope out of the tragedy of the holocaust it will come when enough of us say not merely "Never Again", but organise consciously to ensure that the soil within which future death camps can be planned is removed from the landscape of our history.

Steve Coleman

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Nuclear near-miss

During the early morning of the 26th April 1986 the world's worst nuclear 'accident' to date took place at the Chernobyl reactor, near the now abandoned city of Prypiat, Ukraine. Thousands of workers died in the clean up operation and the radiation left a legacy of genetic defects and a huge increase in the number of people developing thyroid cancer.

Such 'accidents' do not mean that a Socialist world would abandon nuclear power. But it menaces our life now because we live in a society of class ownership of the means of production, in which wealth is turned out for sale and profit. In this system human interests have a very low priority; if something is profitable then it happens, whatever the risk to people. The Greens attack this as if were a form of madness when by the standards of capitalism it has a deadly sanity and logic. If anyone should doubt this, they might ponder of a certain reaction to the speculation, soon after the explosion at Chernobyl, that a total meltdown was imminent. If that had happened, the consequences for the world would have been incalculably horrific. For everyone, it seemed, this was dreadful news. But not quite everyone. The prospect of the destruction of the Ukraine sent grain and livestock prices soaring in Chicago. When there is extra profit to be made, even out of human misery, the capitalist class are keen to do so.

Further reading:

The State and Chernobyl


Saturday, April 25, 2009

BNP deception

"New Labour is on the side of rich City slickers, speculators and global sweatshop racketeers. It’s on the side of the rich millionaires who not only fund the Labour Party but also make up much of its leadership. Brown has blown away Darling’s smoke and spin - the Budget was a budget for the bankers and the rich and that’s because Labour is THE party of the bankers and the rich."

The above quotation is not taken from a Socialist blog but rather the website of the British National Party. They like us will be standing in the European elections to be held on the 4th June, but their malignant spread includes every region of this country. Their plan is clear, and involves the deception of disaffected voters into thinking that only the BNP, as opposed to all the other parties supporting the status quo, can make capitalism work in their interests. We have a long history of exposing such lies in our journal the Socialist Standard and, more recently, in this blog:

The hundreds of thousands of misinformed workers who fall for the BNP spiel at elections are the products of the demoralising system we know as capitalism, deluded into thinking that neo-nazi solutions to social problems – which they have been led to believe are largely rooted in the colour of a person’s skin – would suddenly improve their miserable lives. In truth, a shortage of council housing and poorly maintained housing estates, low wages and pittance benefits are no more the fault of asylum seekers than, in fact, the mainstream parties who mistakenly believe capitalism can be run in the interests of the workers. At the end of the day the BNP simply put together a better package of lies and, just like the other reformist parties, promise voters little more than extra space at the trough of poverty - and tens of thousands, their minds numbed by the politics of reform fall for the scam.

Visit the Socialist Party's Election Campaign Blog.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Should Capitalism Have a Future?: Debate Report

A debate last night between a defender
of capitalism and the Party was one of

our most successful meetings for years.
Nearly all the seats set out in the Small
Hall at Conway Hall were taken.

Capitalism was represented by John
Meadowcroft, Lecturer in Public Policy at
Kings College, London, who gave a lecture
on the merits of capitalism as he saw it.

His basic argument was that capitalism,
like Churchill said of political democracy,
was the least worst way of organising economic
activity; it had its faults but all the alternative
ways that had been tried had failed.

He said that since it came into being around 1800
the market economy had lifted millions out of
poverty and provided a large proportion of the
world's population with the highest standard of
living ever experienced in human history.

The capitalism he defended was one where prices
were set by the free play of market forces and
where the government's role was restricted to
guaranteeing property rights and issuing the
currency; any attempt to set prices by government
intervention would only lead, and had led, to
the bureaucratisation of society with government
officials deciding what consumers needed rather
than the consumers themselves.

Richard Headicar, for the Party, stuck closely
to the debate topic of
"Should Capitalism Have a Future?"
and refuted the idyllic and almost ethical
way in which he said John Meadowcroft had
described the way the market worked.

The market did not encourage ethical behaviour
but allowed,in fact encouraged, all sorts of
underhand and destructive ways of making money.

His opponent,he said, had spoken of capitalism
as a system of meeting consumer demand, but had
not mentioned profit whereas making more money
for those who already had it was the primarily
objective of capitalism.

It was a system that was based on an inequality
of wealth ownership and income and this resulted
in the wants and whims of the rich, however they
had acquired their wealth, being met while the
needs of the rest of us were not properly catered
forand in the case of the millions in the world
who died from staravation and preventable
disease were not met at all.

It was an unethical system that was a disgrace
to humanityand should be done away with and
replaced by a world societyof common ownership,
democratic control, production for use
and free access for all according to need.

In the discussion from the floor, socialists
pointed out that we did not deny that capitalism
had played a necessary historic role but that this
was now long over; capitalism was now a hindrance
to the continued social progress of humanity which
led to wars and the destruction of the environment.

The supporters of capitalism did not deny that
the market system responded only to paying demand,
but argued that thesolution to poverty was for the
government(!) to guaranteeeveryone a minimum income
so that they could participatein the market.
Someone mentioned that socialism
would be against human nature.

In winding up, Richard Headicar explained that
human behaviour had changed and could change
again; in fact,succesfully convincing people
that it couldn't change wasin the end the
main thing that kept capitalism in being.

Capitalism should not have a future.

In his final speech, John Meadowcroft said
that inequality was necessary as a spur to
progress and that democratic discussion of
what to produce was a boring waste of time.

Capitalism was the only practicable future.

For the record, a precise count showed that
53 persons were present, of only 19
were Party members.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Freedom Socialist Party's road to nowhere

"Rising joblessness, an epidemic of foreclosures, bailouts for the crooks:
what's the way out for poor and working people? The Freedom Socialist
Party puts forth a plan of action and invites discussion."

You can read the FSP's 10-point program for radical reform here and Socialist feedback below.

>Nationalize the banking and insurance industries, under the control of workers!

There are few places in the world more pointless than a bank. There are few compelled to toil more uselessly than bank employees. In every respect, the function of banks is to facilitate a form of exchange in which nothing is produced and much can be lost. A world without banks would be a wholly better place.

>Redirect war spending into social services.

Although capitalism cannot provide necessary food and medication for our children, it spends more than $350,000 (œ184,000) every twelve seconds on arms (guns, bombs, jet fighters, aircraft carriers, landmines, etcetera). Socialists do not suggest that the arms budget should be used to feed and care for children and the rest of us. As desirable as such diversion may sound, we know that capitalism must spend that money to protect capitalists from other capitalists, and from the working class. Military spending under capitalism is not optional, it is an absolute necessity. Redirecting the money from war, to help the starving, the homeless, and the sick, is impossible. Something is wrong with this picture: capitalism.

>Tax the rich & make corporations pay.

The Tax Justice Network ( [also] thinks that world poverty can be effectively tackled by reforming the international system of taxing profits so as to eliminate tax havens and tax dodging – “profit laundering” as they aptly call it – by capitalist corporations.

Read why such efforts are futile here.

>Guarantee the right to organize...Eliminate all bars to union organizing and the right to strike.

Necessary as they are under capitalism, the unions are strictly limited in what they can achieve for their members within the capitalist system of society out of which unions arose and within which they operate. Capitalist private companies and state capitalist nationalised industries are both operated for the purpose of making a profit and they cannot long survive without it. Trade unions cannot push wages up to a level that prevents profits being made. When companies are marketing their products profitably a union can hope to win concessions by threatening to halt production and interrupt the flow of profits. But against a firm nearing bankruptcy, or during a depression when firms generally are curtailing production, laying off workers or closing down whole businesses, the strike is a blunted weapon.

>Protect homes.

In fact there is no homeless problem, what we have is a poverty problem. Here is a recent press story that shows that there are plenty of empty houses available if you have the money. "The number of properties in Britain lying empty is set to pass 1 million. New figures will show that Britain is on course for a record number of houses and flats lying empty. Some of the rise has been caused by home owners facing repossession. Other empty homes were bought by property developers who have since struggled to raise the money to renovate and furbish them for occupation." (Daily Telegraph, 10 February) Inside this crazy social system fish are dumped back in to the sea, fruit is allowed to rot on the trees while millions of people starve, so it comes as no surprise to learn that people in Britain go homeless while 1 million homes lie empty.

>Provide universal employment.

This demand is shared by Britain's Socialist Labour Party...The SLP is also committed to the discredited view which Labour once held that the effects of capitalism can be overcome by state intervention, if sufficiently resolute and far-reaching. Hence Scargill’s claim that a "British government" could abolish unemployment "even within a capitalist society". This is a fantastic statement from someone who has on occasions given some evidence of some knowledge of Marxian economics (after all, it was Marx who showed how an "industrial reserve army" made up of fluctuating numbers of unemployed workers was necessary, and so inevitable, under capitalism). It is, however, an accurate statement of what all those who campaign for "the right to work", "full employment", "a 4-day working week with no loss of pay" and the like implicitly believe, even if in the case of the SWP and other trotskyists they are not so honest as Scargill as to say so openly.

>Make quality healthcare...nationalizing the healthcare industry.

Although socialists recognise the benefits the NHS [National Health Service] brings to workers who otherwise would not have access to healthcare, they are far from the ardent uncritical supporters that the membership of the Labour Party tend to be. They see that although the NHS suggests possibilities for how a service free at the point of use and based on needs could be organised, fundamentally, it is not free from the market system and a long way from being the fount of joy Labour supporters proclaim it to be.

>Mandate an environmentally sustainable energy policy.

In any consideration of existing social problems, the question of energy supply is of prime importance. It is self-evident that the task of providing decent conditions of life for the whole human population must include providing an adequate supply of energy. To solve the world's housing problem, including provision for heating, cooking and lighting, to expand world transport services, to increase world food production, to provide a sufficient supply of durable goods for all people, plus the expansion of the means of production which these would require, will arguably involve a greatly increased supply of world energy.

>Improve women's & children's lives.

The reformists, who were always wrong, now stand mute before what is to them an inexplicable breakdown in civilised culture. After all, had they not set up a welfare state, with its ever-ready social workers and free schools for the poor? But the kids can't stand the schools and see no point in going when all they must learn is to become unemployed - sorry, "Job Seekers".

>Uphold civil liberties.

Attacks on basic liberties abound, police stop and search powers are increased, the right to silence is removed, the right to trial by jury is decreased, freedom of movement is restricted. The change of government has made no difference. Increasingly the state is trying to shape and control our lives through bureaucracy or through the police. The only solution open to capitalism now, faced with social decay and chaos, is to criminalise the "surplus population", to lock them up, to take control of them and increase discipline throughout society. Capitalism's only solutions are brutal and barbaric, and in 1997 70 inmates of prisons killed themselves.

Socialism offers to end the social conditions that cause that breakdown and necessitate enforced discipline, offering instead self-worth, and freedom of association in production, a strong inclusive social identity. The prison is not a symbol of capitalism. Capitalism is a prison, and it is imperative for us to try and break out of it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (org. Ulyanav) was born on this day in 1870. At sixteen years of age his eldest brother Alexander was hanged for complicity in a plot to assassinate the Tsar. Soon after, Lenin devoted himself to anti-Tsarist revolutionary activity, was arrested, and spent three years in prison in Siberia. In 1900 Lenin joined Plekhanov in Geneva and the following year he adopted the pseudonym ‘Lenin’. He helped to set up a newspaper,Iskra (The Spark), which would articulate anti-Tsarist opinion and activity. Lenin set out what he saw as the necessary organisational structure for a revolutionary political party under an autocracy in What Is To Be Done?(1902). In 1903 he became the leader of the Bolshevik wing of the Russian Social Democrats.

After the revolution of March 1917 Lenin returned to Petrograd (as St Petersburg was renamed because of its German connotations, which became Leningrad, and has now reverted to St Petersburg) in a sealed train provided by the German army. No doubt they counted on Lenin and the Bolsheviks spreading disaffection amongst the Russian army. But after an abortive coup in July he fled to Finland. Lenin then put to paper his views on the state and the socialist revolution, based on his theory of imperialism and giving special emphasis to his interpretation of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, in State and Revolution (1917). He returned to Petrograd in October and led the Bolsheviks to power with a successful coup.

As head of the new government Lenin was preoccupied with the chaos produced by an external war with Germany and an internal civil war. His response was to re-emphasise ‘democratic centralism’ in which the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ came under the increasingly totalitarian control of the vanguard party. However, since the number of people in any country who wanted socialism was very small (Russia especially), the Bolsheviks had no choice but to develop some form of capitalism. When he died from a stroke in January 1924, most of the main feudal obstacles to capitalist development had been removed, together with all effective political opposition.

With his concepts of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ and the leading role of the vanguard party, and a transitional society of ‘socialism’, Lenin distorted Marxism and thereby severely damaged the development of a socialist movement. Indeed, Leninism continues to pose a real obstacle to the achievement of socialism. (From An A-Z of Marxism).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More doom and gloom

In six years time the number of people affected by climatic crises is projected to rise by 54 per cent to 375 million people, threatening to overwhelm the humanitarian aid system, said international agency Oxfam .
The projected rise is mainly due to a combination of entrenched poverty and people migrating to densely populated slums which are prone to the increasing number of climatic events. This is compounded by the political failure to address these risks and a humanitarian aid system which is not ‘fit for purpose’

"The humanitarian system is a post-code lottery on a global scale. The response is often fickle – too little, too late and not good enough. The system can barely cope with the current levels of disasters and could be overwhelmed by a substantial increase in numbers of people affected. There must be a fundamental reform of the system so that those in need are its first and foremost priority..." said Barbara Stocking, Oxfam’s Chief Executive. "...While there has been a steady increase in climate related events, it is poverty and political indifference that make a storm a disaster"

More people are now living in urban slums often built on land prone to weather shocks. More than 50 per cent of inhabitants of Mumbai, for instance, live in slums, many of them built on reclaimed swamplands. In 2005, widespread flooding in the city caused the deaths of around 900 people, most of them killed by landslips and collapsed buildings. Hunger is on the increase, caused by drought, population density and an increasing demand for meat and dairy products in emerging economies. People are being driven from their homes – it is estimated up to a billion people will be forced from their homes by 2050 due to climate change, environmental degradation, and conflict. And finally more people are losing their jobs due to the global economic crisis.

Of course , Oxfam while recognising the problem fail to appreciate the real cause and the appropriate solution. Oxfam continue with their futile and fruitless appeals for national governments to mend their ways .

How would the consequences of natural disasters be dealt with in a socialist world?
The frequency and severity of such events would be minimised by not damaging the environment in the pursuit of profit and not forcing people to live in areas that are prone to really unavoidable natural disasters. When a hurricane, earthquake or whatever did occur, help would be organised directly and immediately to meet the needs of the victims. No waiting around for funds to be set up, relief costs to be authorised, etc. Just the simple meeting of human need. Is that too complex and unthinkable an idea to understand and act on?

The environment that is pleasant for human beings is being destroyed because of economic factors inherent in capitalism. At best, with the best intentions of everybody, capitalism can only do too little, too late. Government cannot stop the destruction, it can only slow down the worst of it for a while. If environmental protection rules make production less profitable, then production may move out, the economy will take a nose-dive and the environmental rules will be relaxed.
The solution is to change the economic system. In a socialist world, there will be no profit. Production will be democratically decided. The human need for a livable eco-system will be considered as a normal part of all decision making.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Racism - one symptom of a sick social system

On this day in 1971, the United States Supreme Court upheld the use of busing to achieve racial desegregation in schools. Today also sees the start of a UN Conference on racism. The Socialist position is given below.

One can safely assume that most of the issues discussed openly today are not fundamental to working class interests. They are related to the functioning of capitalism; workers are mistakenly deceived into believing that this should be their concern.

In 1954 a ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States decreed that "quality" education should take place in class­rooms that were integrated with children of various ethnic backgrounds and skin colors. The practical application of this decision presented problems because of the segregation of various sections of the population in different neighborhoods.

From this has arisen the question of busing. Workers have be come tremendously concerned on this issue, both in favor and against. Antagonisms have resulted, blacks have been pitted against whites, adults against adults, children against children, and violence has erupted. The police have been kept active, while some members of the legal profession have received welcome business. To the socialist, who refuses to become involved in how best to operate a rotten system, that should be abolished in its totality and not tinkered with, it has been a depressing spectacle of futility. The so-called leaders representing American capital­ism are only too delighted to exploit the issue for what it's worth. The working class, once again diverted from the true cause of their problerns, have be come intrigued and entrapped with an issue that, from a socialist approach, is not worth any of the expenditures of effort that it has generated.

The reason that workers live in particular areas is determined largely by their economic ability to afford the housing that they can buy or rent with their wages. Added to this, there has been an historic discrimination and a cruel anti-social racist philosophy practised against certain minority sections of the population. Chief amongst these unfortunate minorities has been of course black people. Over recent years black people have become absorbed more fully into the capitalist system because the ruling class, through their government, have realized that the system operates more efficiently, and more profitably, without discrimi­nation and with the full participation of all members of the working class, irrespective of the pigmentation of their skin or ethnic backgrounds.

Socialists of course are politically color-blind. We could not care less if a worker's skin is black, white, or yellow. What concerns us are the ideas in a worker's head, not the color of his skin, or for that matter the length of his hair. All this is superficial balderdash that in a supposedly enlightened era does not even warrant discussion. Anyone today that still harbors any form of racial prejudice is tragically and socially so terribly ignorant that we might possibly hesitate before investing time debating with them. Socialists do not see society divided into blacks and whites, Gentiles and Jews, or any other ethnic, religious, or national sections; although we are not denying that these cate­gories exist. But to the socialist the true division in society is a division of economic classes - the working class and the capital­ist class.

Minds should be focused on the real cause of the so-called busing problem. Why do members of the working class live in poor, segregated neighborhoods and slurns? Why is the quality of education, like the quality of most of the commodities that workers can afford under capitalism, inferior? The answers to both questions have an economic cause. Will either a pro or anti-pro busing attitude remove the poverty of the neighborhoods of the working class or the poverty of the quality of the education? Of course not.

The economics of a class system are the cause of the problerns, and the removal of capitalism is the only solution. Socialism will in all ways unite the human race, and true integration will take place in the fullest sense of the term.

Buses as a means of righting a social wrong, or energies expended in supporting or opposing such a superficial technique to adjust the injustices of capitalist society, are a pitiful waste of time that do not warrant one moment's consideration of a class conscious working class.

The system belongs to the capitalists. Let them solve the problem of how best to run their system. Members of the working class should refuse to become diverted from the main issue - the speedy abolition of the system that produces the prevailing miseries.

Whether children go to school by bus, or whether they walk, or whether they are bused to areas further from their homes, when they finally arrive at school the education that they will receive will have as its prime purpose outfitting them for jobs under capitalism; to become wage slaves in peace time, and potential patriots, ready to die for a country they do not own, in times of war. And modern education takes this form all over the world-in some places to a more horrible degree. Recently I saw films on television of Chinese children from ages 8 to 10 being trained as soldiers with guns and bayonets.

Education under capitalism, whether in state capitalist China or state capitalist Russia, or the United States, or anywhere else in the world, is an education that is biased, prejudiced and prostituted, resulting in children maturing with mistaken ideas on history, economics, the system under which they live, leaders, and war. The "quality" of the education is suited to the interests of the capitalist system.

When these kinds of issues and problems arise, as they invariably do in a continuous and unending stream, there is no reason whatsoever for workers to think that they have to be come involved. There is another alternative. Take the position of the socialist and state:-

"We are not interested in reforming capitalism and we will not concern ourselves with its administration. We will reserve our political energies for the single objective - the achievement of socialism."

(One of fifty essays to be found in 'World Without Wages (Money, Poverty & War!)', Samuel Leight, 1980)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Stop supporting capitalism!

"I'm not so sure about COPE," said Vuyo Tsotso, who lives in a metal shack with no water or electricity in a shantytown near Johannesburg and makes about 10 rand ($1.10) a day selling scrap wiring. "I don't think they care about us. I don't think they're going to give us the houses and jobs the ANC will," he said.

Opposition Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said the ANC could turn the country into another failed Afican state. "That's how the closed, crony society for comrades works. It's about making a few people rich and everyone else poor. It's about jobs for pals and deals for political contacts," said Zille, dubbed "Godzille" for her no-nonsense style.

Tsotso and Zille along with millions of others are supporters of the status quo: in post-election South Africa, capitalism will continue - it will be business as usual.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

water wars

Asia may see more conflicts over scarce water resources in the coming years , a report warned
Water problems in Asia are already severe, with one in five people, or 700 million, not having access to safe drinking water and half the region's population lacking access to basic sanitation. While Asia is home to more than half the world's population, it has less fresh water per person than any other populated continent.

The report, "Asia's Next Challenge: Securing the Region's Water Future." said concerning the water disputes between hostile neighbors India and Pakistan and the complex relations governing the vast Mekong River, which is shared by China and its southern neighbors, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam that:
"The potential for conflicts sparked by the direct and indirect impacts of an increasingly volatile water supply should not be underestimated, particularly in the light of rising concerns about climate change...hydropolitics is likely to be a growing force in Asian security,"

However , the report explains that "The majority of Asia's water problems are not attributable to an actual shortage, but rather are the result of poor water governance. They are solvable through more effective governance and better management practices."

SOYMB does not share the reports optimism that such improvement and reform is indeed possible as we are fully aware of capitalist competition between nation states . Under capitalism, the question of inter-nation rivalry for control of natural resources far outweigh environmental concerns or the efficient management of water.
Read also Thirsting for Conflict

An Alternative "Little Red Book"

It is often claimed that 1949 saw the establishment of communism in China. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is just as well to remind ourselves of that given this year marks the 20th anniversary since the brutal suppression of pro-democracy workers at Tiananmen Square, and the 60th anniversary since the foundation of "Red China" under Mao. I can see those news broadcasts already, where socialism/communism will be dragged through the mud again, again.

The SPGB has written about the Chinese revolution in its pamphlet Questions of the Day.

Below is a selection of Mao quotes, pre- and post-1949. Mao's policy was one of state capitalism. (That China is just another capitalist country can be readily seen from an article in the Telegraph.)

"Since Chinese society is colonial, semi-colonial and semi-feudal, since the principal enemies of the Chinese revolution are imperialism and feudalism, since the tasks of the revolution are to overthrow these two enemies by means of a national and democratic revolution in which the bourgeoisie sometimes takes part, and since the edge of the revolution is directed against imperialism and feudalism and not against capitalism and capitalist private property in general even if the big bourgeoisie betrays the revolution and becomes its enemy -- since all this is true, the character of the Chinese revolution at the present stage is not proletarian-socialist but bourgeois-democratic....

However, it is not at all surprising but entirely to be expected that a capitalist economy will develop to a certain extent within Chinese society with the sweeping away of the obstacles to the development of capitalism after the victory of the revolution, since the purpose of the Chinese revolution at the present stage is to change the existing colonial, semi-colonial and semi-feudal state of society, i.e., to strive for the completion of the new-democratic revolution. A certain degree of capitalist development will be an inevitable result of the victory of the democratic revolution in economically backward

But that will be only one aspect of the outcome of the Chinese revolution and not the whole picture. The whole picture will show the development of socialist as well as capitalist factors. What will the socialist factors be? The increasing relative importance of the proletariat and the Communist Party among the political forces in the country; leadership by the proletariat and the Communist Party which the peasantry, intelligentsia and the urban petty bourgeoisie already accept or are likely to accept; and the state sector of the economy owned by the democratic republic, and the co-operative sector of the economy owned by the working people. All these will be socialist factors. With the addition of a favourable international environment, these factors render it highly probable that China's bourgeois-democratic revolution will ultimately avoid a capitalist future and enjoy a socialist future."

"The policy of adjusting the interests of labour and capital will be adopted under the new-democratic state system. On the one hand, it will protect the interests of the workers, institute an eight- to ten-hour working day according to circumstances, provide suitable unemployment relief and social insurance and safeguard trade union rights; on the other hand, it will guarantee legitimate profits to properly managed state, private and co-operative enterprises--so that both the public and the private sectors and both labour and capital will work together to develop industrial production."

"Precautions should be taken against the mistake of applying in the cities the measures used in rural areas for struggling against landlords and rich peasants and for destroying the feudal forces. A sharp distinction should be made between the feudal exploitation practiced by landlords and rich peasants, which must be abolished, and the industrial and commercial enterprises run by landlords and rich peasants, which must be protected. A sharp distinction should also be made between the correct policy of developing production, promoting economic prosperity, giving consideration to both public and private interests and benefiting both labour and capital, and the one-sided and narrow-minded policy of "relief", which purports to uphold the workers' welfare but in fact damages industry and commerce and impairs the cause of the people's revolution. Education should be conducted among comrades in the trade unions and among the masses of workers to enable them to understand that they should not see merely the immediate and partial interests of the working class while forgetting its broad, long-range interests. Under the local government's leadership, workers and capitalists should be led to organize joint committees for the management of production and to do everything possible to reduce costs, increase output and stimulate sales so as to attain the objectives of giving consideration to both public and private interests, benefiting both labour and capital and supporting the war."

"The present-day capitalist economy in China is a capitalist economy which for the most part is under the control of the People's Government and which is linked with the state-owned socialist economy in various forms and supervised by the workers. It is not an ordinary but a particular kind of capitalist economy, namely, a state-capitalist economy of a new type. It exists not chiefly to make profits for the capitalists but to meet the needs of the people and the state.

True, a share of the profits produced by the workers goes to the capitalists, but that is only a small part, about one quarter, of the total. The remaining three quarters are produced for the workers (in the form of the welfare fund), for the state (in the form of income tax) and for expanding productive capacity (a small part of which produces profits for the capitalists). Therefore, this state-capitalist economy of a new type takes on a socialist character to a very great extent and benefits the workers and the state."

"The transformation of capitalism into socialism is to be accomplished through state capitalism....

With approximately 3,800,000 workers and shop assistants, private industry and commerce are a big asset to the state and play a large part in the nation's economy and the people's livelihood. Not only do they provide the state with goods, but they can also accumulate capital and train cadres for the state.

Some capitalists keep themselves at a great distance from the state and have not changed their profits-before-everything mentality. Some workers are advancing too fast and won't allow the capitalists to make any profit at all. We should try to educate these workers and capitalists and help them gradually (but the sooner the better) adapt themselves to our state policy, namely, to make China's private industry and commerce mainly serve the nation's economy and the people's livelihood and partly earn profits for the capitalists and in this way embark on the path of state capitalism....

One is the leader while the other is the led; one seeks no private profit while the other still seeks a certain amount of private profit, and so on and so forth; that's where the differences lie. But under our present conditions, private industry and commerce in the main serve the nation's economy and the people's livelihood (which as far as the distribution of profits is concerned, take roughly three-fourths of the total). Therefore we can and should persuade the workers in private enterprises to act in the same way as those in state enterprises, namely, to increase production and practice economy emulate one another in labour, raise labour productivity, reduce costs of production and raise both quantity and quality, thus serving the interest of both the state sector and the private sector and that of labour and capital."

"We now have two alliances, one with the peasants and the other with the national bourgeoisie. Both are indispensable to us, and Comrade Chou En-lai has also spoken of this. What advantage is there in our alliance with the bourgeoisie? It enables us to obtain more manufactured goods to exchange for farm produce. This was precisely what Lenin had in mind at one phase after the October Revolution. Since the state had no manufactured goods to exchange, the peasants refused to sell their grain and wouldn't take mere paper money for it. So Lenin intended to have the proletarian state power form an alliance with state capitalism in order to secure more manufactured goods to cope with the spontaneous capitalist forces in the countryside. It is precisely for the purpose of securing more manufactured goods to meet the needs of the peasants and overcome their reluctance to sell their grain and even some of their industrial raw materials that we have entered into an alliance with the bourgeoisie and refrained from confiscating capitalist enterprises for the time being, and have instead adopted a policy of utilizing, restricting and transforming them. This means using our alliance with the
bourgeoisie to overcome the peasants' reluctance to sell their produce. On the other hand we rely on our alliance with the peasants to secure grain and industrial raw materials with which to bring the bourgeoisie under control. The capitalists have no raw materials, whereas the state has. If they want raw materials, they will have to sell manufactured goods to the state and go in for state capitalism. If they refuse to do so, we will deny them raw materials. In either case, they will be held in check. This will block the capitalist road the bourgeoisie wants to follow, namely, the opening of free markets, the free acquisition of raw materials and the free sale of manufactured goods, and will
in addition isolate the bourgeoisie politically. Such is the interaction between these two alliances. Of the two, our alliance with the peasants is principal, basic and primary, while our alliance with the bourgeoisie is temporary and secondary. To an economically backward country like ours both alliances are indispensable at present."

Friday, April 17, 2009

cancer sufferers living in poverty

A leading charity yesterday warned that thousands of cancer sufferers are facing poverty .
"Patients tell us that money worries are second only to physical pain as a cause of stress. More needs to be done to ensure that patients who are already trying to cope with a cancer diagnosis are not worried sick about paying the bills." Elspeth Atkinson, Macmillan Cancer Support's director for Scotland said .

A familiar echo from the same charity back in 2004 which reported at least three quarters of the million Britons with cancer suffer from financial hardship brought on by the disease, including enforced job losses, discrimination and poor benefit allowances.

Nothing much changes , does it ? We are opposed to trying to patch up capitalism and we have always said that such reforms will end in failure that cynical opponents have dubbed us the "we told you so" party. Charities such as Macmillian lobby decision makers to change the policies that keep people poor. They claim that this can work, if enough pressure is brought to bear .Is this true? As socialists, we have to say that the answer is "no". Charities simply desire to redistribute poverty, enabling the abjectly poor to benefit from the guilt of the moderately poor.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

India Votes

Indians have begun voting in the first round of the country's 15th general elections.Voters in 124 constituencies are taking part in the ballot. There are four other phases between round one and the last phase on 13 May.More than 700 million Indians overall are eligible to vote for seats in the lower house of parliament.

It can be seen in retrospect that independence for the vast majority of the people of India has simply meant the exchange of one set of exploiters for another. As we pointed out in this journal and elsewhere in the years prior to 1947, independence would solve no peasant or working-class problems, only the establishment of Socialism could do that. In the case of the Indian working class the solution to their problems is the same as ours. It does not lie in the substitution of one kind of capitalism for another. It did not lie in the substitution of a native Indian master class in place of the British Raj; their fellow countrymen are among their most ruthless exploiters. When India achieved independence very little changed except the personnel of the State machinery.

What we said in 1947

The ending of British rule in India was to be the opening of a new era. So said the supporters of Indian nationalism. Indeed it is. For long years capitalists and administrators plundered this conquered land in the haphazard way appropriate to the times and conditions. Now the Indian workers and peasants are going to be exploited under home-born instead of alien masters. Their craft skill and muscular energies are going to serve in the modernisation and industrialisation of India and Pakistan, new Powers fighting for the markets of Asia. The workers there could learn much from the European countries and US., if only to avoid the costly mistakes made and still being made by the workers who first suffered from the capitalist industrial revolution that is now sweeping over Asia.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

For the diary

Thursday 23 April, 7.30


Yes: John Meadowcroft (Lecturer in Public Policy)

No: Richard Headicar (Socialist Party)

Brockway Room, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1

Disaster Inc.

Twenty years ago today ninety six people were crushed to death at a football match in the UK. The event is commonly referred to as the Hillsborough disaster. We commented on this tragedy in the Socialist Standard (June 1989), just as we did when the Titanic sank on this day in 1912 with the loss of 1,500 lives. But such figures are dwarfed by capitalism on a daily basis. Millions upon millions of people have died needlessly in a social system which has long since passed its sell by date.

In treating such events as the Hillsborough disaster, a degree of circumspection is called for. Even the Labour Party has been reticent about scoring political points despite the fact that Dennis Howell can quite correctly claim to have warned of the danger of perimeter fencing ever since its introduction. It is equally valid to point out that forgetting or ignoring what happened on that Saturday is not an option for concerned, thinking humans.

Collecting the Cash

The tragedy (for in its inevitability it was a tragedy in the dramatic as well as the popular sense) has united far more than the people of one city as it involved Liverpool, the most succesful British club of recent times. So among the dead and injured were workers from many parts of the country. Those still alive know where they stand in the list of priorities, as every line. of enquiry into the causes of the catastrophe shows that the comfort and safety of the ordinary spectator came plumb last. Among the fans there may be many who understand why comfort is low on the list of priorities; a rudimentary grasp of profit maximisation would tell them that providing high quality facilities for those who pay what they can afford, reqardless of the facilities available, makes bad business sense. What many didn't realise was that the same principle applies to safety. It may seem facile to point it out, but the fact that it is a commonplace should not detract from the relevance of the commercial priority of collecting the cash. The huge gates which were fatally opened at the thirteenth hour contrast starkly with the turnstiles which represent the most cost-effective way of making sure everyone coughs up.

Other priorities were less obvious: the allocation of tickets in open disregard of requirements was done not for the benefit of Nottingham Forest supporters but for that of the police, who did not want the bother of directing groups of people around the stadium. The perimeter fencing had emergency access not for desperate people to get out but primarily for the police and stewards to get in. The medical facilities were more suited to a studio theatre than a massive open-air stadium.

In this disaster, as at Bradford, the authorities are in the uncomfortable position of having no hooligans to blame. Although The Sun in its egregious fashion was pretty quick to make unsubstantiated and irrelevant accusations, the general observation was that crowd violence was not a factor. In fact the hooligan problem and the attempts to deal with it have always been red herrings as far as stadium facilities are concerned. Leaving aside the fact that most "football" violence occurs outside the ground, the idea that it is contained by creating conditions inimical to all but those who are handy in a ruck has always been more absurd than paradoxical. Similarly nobody has explained why they think people who are prepared to indulge in flagrant anti-social behaviour in full view of the police will baulk at using a forged, stolen or borrowed identity card if that scheme comes into operation.

Naked Incompetence

As usual on these occasions the experts and leaders stand naked in their incompetence, highlighted in the aftermath by the contrast with the improvisation of ordinary people. As those in the stand were pulling desperate fellow spectators from the chaos of the terrace the police were driving others back into it. As the authorities were wondering why there weren't enough stretchers the fans were commandeering the advertising hoardings. As the mourning of those who had every right to be very angry went ahead in a touchingly dignified manner, the press were publishing pictures of people in their death agony with scant concern for any offence which might be caused.

Never fear, though, the prima donnas were not slow to get in on the act and show their "concern". Thatcher turned up in Sheffield on Sunday, which was probably a wise move because had she turned up in Liverpool ane doubts even the formidable Merseyside Police could have guaranteed her safety. Charles and Di popped into the hospital for want of something better to do. Liverpool FC donated £100,000 immediately to the relief fund, that sum being approximately one twentieth of what it paid for the exclusive right to make a profit from the footballing skillls of Ian Rush. And, of course, Religion PLC. was there: socialists do not doubt the sincerity of the priests' sympathy, but it is plain that some explanation has to be given as to why the all-loving god let this happen to people who fill the collection plates.

Sane Society

Many socialists would argue that there is no place for competitive sport in a sane society. The present writer does not subscribe to that view, but it is clear that no sane society would in any imaginable circumstances put 50,000 people one by one through what amount to rat traps in order to verify their right to access to an area from which there is no escape in time of crisis, and all for the benefit of a tiny minority with whom they have next to nothing in common.
The late Bill Shankly is reputed to have said "Some people sayIregard football as a matter of life and death. That's nonsense - it's far more important than that". Shankly's obsession with sport is legendary but we must now wonder if, had he witnessed the Hillsborough disaster, he would have rephrased that particular witticism.


sweet charity and sweet fa

We previously reported on the observations upon UK poverty of one charity here , SOYMB now reads yet another charity has chosen to turn more of its attention to the UK poor .

Save the Children usually works in countries like Zimbabwe , Vietnam and Sierra Leone, but the global economic downturn has prompted a change of tack.

"Today, Save the Children is helping distribute money to families right on our doorsteps," says Colette Marshall, head of the charity's British operations. "Families in Britain are at a crisis point,"

Charities simply redistribute poverty, enabling the abjectly poor to benefit from the guilt of the moderately poor. A more cynical view is that this initative by Save the Children is simply letting the poor manage their own poverty which is cheaper than having this done by civil servants . In other words, full-time “charity workers” are in effect cheap state functionaries.

We have never denied that campaigning charities like Save the Children can, and do, help a limited number of people. Our case is that they will never solve the problem they have chosen to concentrate on.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

hooked on capitalism

Nearly half the world’s fishing catch is either thrown back dead or sold without regard to whether the fish stock is endangered, according to a report . Unwanted fish that used to be discarded before returning to port, traditionally referred to as bycatch, are now being taken to market. Traditional fishery management plans focus only on target species, leaving bycatch species heavily exploited and without any scientific control or monitoring.

Species once considered unpalatable are appearing in fishmongers and alternative markets are booming. The use of “trash fish” as animal feeds or in fish farming means that bycatch is increasingly financially attractive to fishers. In 1995 one study showed that 27 million tonnes of fish were being discarded every year but by 2005 another investigation found that the figure had dropped to only 7 million tonnes.

"The amount of bycatch didn’t drop,” said Robin Davis, one of the report’s authors. “The missing 20 million tonnes were being sold, but without control. What hope do we have of achieving sustainability in fisheries if we don’t know what is being caught?”

80 per cent of the world’s fisheries are either fully exploited or over-exploited and an estimated 90 per cent of all large predatory fish are gone. It would benefit marine ecosystems if our intervention in the seas was reduced, allowing species time to repopulate. The mentality encouraged by capitalism is to strive for profits at the expense of long-term consequences. The warnings raised by the environmentalists and scientists are muffled by the demands of economic exploitation.
Following a socialist revolution, the wealth of knowledge and skills held by those who work in the fisheries could be applied to a conservation-based use of sea marine resources. The expertise and technology provided could be acted on, without the constraints of the market.

Read more on the fishing industry and capitalism here

Joining the Party (part 2)

Apropos this piece, Professor Eric Hobsbawm is not likely to join the Socialist Party any time soon either.

He wrote an article for Comment is Free recently. It contains the usual rubbish about what capitalism and socialism are

The 20th century is well behind us, but we have not yet learned to live in the 21st, or at least to think in a way that fits it. That should not be as difficult as it seems, because the basic idea that dominated economics and politics in the last century has patently disappeared down the plughole of history. This was the way of thinking about modern industrial economies, or for that matter any economies, in terms of two mutually exclusive opposites: capitalism or socialism.

We have lived through two practical attempts to realise these in their pure form: the centrally state-planned economies of the Soviet type and the totally unrestricted and uncontrolled free-market capitalist economy. The first broke down in the 1980s, and the European communist political systems with it. The second is breaking down before our eyes in the greatest crisis of global capitalism since the 1930s. In some ways it is a greater crisis than in the 1930s, because the globalisation of the economy was not then as far advanced as it is today, and the crisis did not affect the planned economy of the Soviet Union. We don't yet know how grave and lasting the consequences of the present world crisis will be, but they certainly mark the end of the sort of free-market capitalism that captured the world and its governments in the years since Margaret Thatcher and President Reagan.

Impotence therefore faces both those who believe in what amounts to a pure, stateless, market capitalism, a sort of international bourgeois anarchism, and those who believe in a planned socialism uncontaminated by private profit-seeking. Both are bankrupt. The future, like the present and the past, belongs to mixed economies in which public and private are braided together in one way or another. But how? That is the problem for everybody today, but especially for people on the left.

I suppose we couldn't expect anything else from the Professor. He was a long standing member of the (Stalinist) Communist Party of Great Britain before developing into some sort of Labourite.

Hobsbawm is, strictly speaking, wrong to think the past thirty years of Chicago school economics and associated ideology has meant "bourgeois anarchism". There has always been a mixed economy; it has only been a question of scope with regard to the role the state has played in the economy. There are in fact a number of Libertarian Capitalists who say the present credit crunch and stagnating capitalist economy are proof that the state has been interfering too much! (These Libertarians are the true "bourgeois anarchists".)

Seen in this light, what Hobsbawm (and others, incidentally) is proposing is not new; it is a return to a pre-Thatcherite Labour policy.

It all boils down to that old chestnut: "proper capitalism" has privately owned enterprises whereas "socialism" is state (public) ownership. It illustrates why the Socialist Party insists on asking prospective members what they understand by capitalism and socialism before being accepted into the party.

Hobsbawm is a historian of note; politically, he was a (state) capitalism supporting fool as a young man and a capitalism supporting fool today.

Capitalism - A society of fear

Britain is becoming a more fearful nation, with rising levels of anxiety and depression that are fuelling the economic crisis by undermining confidence, a report says today.More than one third of those questioned in a Mental Health Foundation survey said they felt more frightened than they used to, and more than three quarters said the world was a more frightening place than a decade ago.

Figures showing a 12 per cent rise in the rate of anxiety disorders in the UK between 1993 and 2007, equivalent to 800,000 more sufferers. More than 7 million people are living with anxiety problems.

The financial crisis is increasing levels of fear, with two-thirds of those surveyed reporting greater insecurity as a result. Anxiety UK, the largest anxiety disorders charity, reported a doubling of calls to its helpline in the first two months of the year.The most vulnerable are those who are single, divorced, poor, poorly educated, living in towns, on their own or as lone parents. Four times as many people live alone today than 50 years ago, but too few people seek help, with one in seven people with anxiety and depression receiving treatment.

Life is a treadmill, where worry and stress are an everyday part of existence, symptomatic of a world where we have no control and in which we feel isolated and estranged from a society that functions to make profit. Capitalism is organised from top to bottom by ordinary wage earners, who make all the goods we need to live and operate all the services we depend on. And yet it is the non-productive parasitic owning class who grow wealthy on our labour and live lives freed from material worries. For them luxuries and infinite choice, for us stress and worry. We spend a lifetime struggling to overcome hardships but unselfishly reward the owners with a life of opulence and plenty.

We have been instilled with slanted values, conventions and concepts continuously reinforced by education, religion, entertainment, advertising and the media that all prepare us for a life of class, profit and wage slavery. We accept authority without question and have assimilated a view that society is ‘good’ and ‘fixed’, a frame of mind that makes it very difficult to envisage change and an alternative society. So isn’t it time to break free of the deceptions, to acknowledge the reality and to join the struggle for socialism?

Monday, April 13, 2009

one rule for them , another rule for us

Virgin Media, the indebted cable operator, has angered unions by unveiling plans to award its executives bonuses just months after cutting more than 2,000 jobs.The broadband and pay-television group has approved plans to award executives who meet qualifying criteria up to 100 per cent of their base salary.

Virgin Media’s move comes just months after the cable group announced that it was to sack 2,200 jobs — or 15 per cent of its workforce — to try to save money.The company has also recently raised its prices. It has been writing to its 4.8 million customers to tell them of a rise in tariffs and a penalty charge of £1.25 a month for those who opt to continue receiving a paper bill.

Grace Mitchell, of the Communication Workers Union, said: “At a time when people are losing their jobs and there is a lot of uncertainty, the executives should be taking a lead and looking to forgo these bonuses.”

Neil Berkett, the group’s New Zealand-born chief executive, said: “Clearly we are watching the pennies and keeping the costs low.”

Yes , obviously for us lowly minions but when it comes to the bosses , always the same old story .

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The great betrayal

Thousands of spectators are expected to attend a ceremony outside the GPO in Dublin to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising.President Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Brian Cowen will participate in the 30-minute ceremony.At midday, over 300 members of the Defence Forces, including two military bands, will honour those who fought in the Easter Rising 93 years ago.

Perhaps a different view of this historic event will be gleaned from reading this article .

"...In the Rising of 90 years ago which the political agents of Irish capitalism are commemorating this Easter, some 50 rebels were killed while more than four times that number of civilians died. It was the latter, innocent and, as it happened, uniformly poor, who were the real blood sacrifice and their deaths presaged even worse to come."

The Irish dramatist, Sean O’Casey, who was secretary to the Irish Citizens Army , said Connolly forsook the cause of the international proletariat for the insular romanticism of Irish Nationalism.

In fact, Connolly’s espousal of Irish nationalism could be more properly defined as a betrayal of the worker’s trade-union cause as what he brought the impoverished members of the ICA out to fight for on Easter Monday was the right of a fledgling Irish bourgeoisie to establish legislative independence that would afford it trade protection, in the words of Sinn Fein, “from English and other foreign capitalists”.

Connolly began to talk like the nutcase Patrick Pearse about the need for a blood sacrifice to save the soul of the Irish race, declaring that "no agency less potent than the red tide of war on Irish soil will ever be able to enable the Irish race to recover its self-respect" and that "without the Shedding of Blood there is no Redemption" (Workers Republic, 5 February 1916).
At least he practised what he preached and sacrificed his own blood. After his death he got his "red tide of war on Irish soil" in which thousands of Irish workers were killed to establish an Irish Capitalist state which did absolutely nothing for those who survived.

Joining the Party

Judging by Professor Joesph Stiglitz' s recent replies to a series of questions,we do not expect to send him an application form soon.

Heather Ball in a piece titled Joining the Party wrote "Every member knows that it is not easy to join the Socialist Party. It is not just a matter of filling in an application form and receiving that little red membership card through the post. I know of no other political organisation requiring potential new members to understand their aims and be capable of arguing for them. I mildly resented the twelve questions. I felt the Socialist Party should be grateful to me for wanting to join their ranks. It was rather like sitting an exam. I thought it would be a doddle. It wasn't. But goodness how it focused my mind. I do not think I made a very good job of the twelve questions but my answers must have been satisfactory enough for someone to write back and tell me I could join if I liked. There are times now when I am tempted to ask for those twelve questions again. Next time I may give a better account of myself."

Here are twelve questions which would no doubt tax the winnner of the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Dismal Science:

1. What are the basic features of capitalism?
2. Explain what you understand by the terms capitalist class and working
3. Do you consider that the working class is exploited? If so, briefly
explain how this takes place.
4. What do you understand by the word 'socialism'?
5. Why do socialists say there will be no trade or money in a socialist
society? On what basis will wealth be distributed?
6. Has socialism been established in any part of the world?
7. Why do socialists say socialism cannot exist in any one country alone?
8. Why do socialists maintain that democratic methods such as, in this
country, parliamentary elections, must be used to capture political power
for the achievement of socialism?
9. Why do socialists not take sides or willingly take part in wars?
10. What is your attitude to other political parties? Do any of them stand
for socialism?
11. Why does the Socialist Party not campaign for reforms?
12. Are religious beliefs compatible with socialist understanding?

They do not, however, represent a significant hurdle for genuine Socialists seeking membership.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Better under apartheid?

"My life was better during apartheid," says Vincent Ntswayi, 53, who held a steady job in Johannesburg during white rule but has only been intermittently employed since. "Freedom turned out to be just a word. Real freedom, real power, that comes from money — and I haven't got any money."

Let us be clear: Socialists were pleased to see the demise of apartheid in South Africa but warned at the time that capitalism with its attendant 'problems' including bad housing, inadequate health care, cheap schooling, unemployment, poor transport, police brutality, and pollution would continue. But, later this month - some 19 years after the release of Mandela - workers will have the opportunity to vote in South Africa's parliamentary and presidential elections. The result is already known: they won, we lost. Mass murderer Mbeki is no longer seeking to represent the capitalist class and is likely to be replaced in this role by Zuma, whose alleged background in corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering should serve him and those he represents well. The equally odious and corrupt 'Mother of the Nation' Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, is almost certain to be elected too. Thus the rich will stay rich and the poor stay poor in the land of rape and money.

Economists - the dismal soothsayers

Journalists are always wiser after the event . They are the ones calling for the barn doors to be shut after the horse has bolted . We saw this with their belated apologetic excuses when the true story of how they unquestioningly accepted the US/UK version of Iraq WMDs instead of investigating the alternative studies that present a more accurate picture of the situation .
Having accepted Capitalism and its so-called benefits as articles of faith, some journalists are now belatedly re-evaluating their sources . Nick Fraser of The Independent is a good example.

"Economists can seem dogmatic while ceaselessly changing their minds. No wonder that when they are depicted in popular culture, it is as uber-nerds, stuck in their own backrooms and requiring rescuers."

"Economists lent their skills to anticipating the performance of markets, at the price of becoming salesmen. The economist Robert Shiller, who did predict the slump, believes that many pre-slump practitioners in the vicinity suffered from "Groupthink" – a polite way of saying that they were so far in on the game and failed to notice anything was amiss. Dissenters from the prevailing optimism were abused as spoilsports bent on wrecking a good party. As Keating explains, people cease to listen when you write the same memo predicting catastrophe for the fifth time."

"For Robert Skidelsky, author of the biography of John Maynard Keynes, economics consists for the most part of rehashed fads. "A few geniuses aside, economists frame their assumptions to suit existing states of affairs," he says. "They are intellectual butlers, serving the interests of those in power, not vigilant observers of shifting reality. Their systems trap them in orthodoxy.""

"Liaquat Ahamed told me. "Economics doesn't always tell you about what really happens. There are too many theorists, and practitioners concoct them to order. They are a bit like lawyers." For real understanding, Ahamed thinks we have to turn to history."

Ah , yes ...the rest of the article becomes the the now customary homage to Keynes but of Marx - nothing. And of the socialist critique of bourgeois economists - not a whisper , not a whimper . In truth , adding up to nothing more than saying nothing wrong with capitalism , just only its lackeys .

But for the record , what we were saying in 1999:-

"As one millennium closes and another begins the chatter of the economists who have understood little and achieved even less gets more frantic; now they try to rationalise after the event phenomena they neither anticipated nor were able to prevent. Watch them squirm in the broadsheets and the supplements as the millennium draws closer. Socialists, while humble in the knowledge that we have work to do if the revolution we desire is to come to fruition, will be happy to let our record speak for itself."

Economists assume a world full of greedy, aggressive loners, squabbling over "scarce means", they end up with a rag-bag of isolated scenarios and anecdotes. Their world is one of micro events, of isolated phenomena, unrelated to each other. Then, because this does not supply an explanation, many of them move into "econometrics" i.e. algebraic mumbo-jumbo, or computer modelling, GIGO—Garbage In Garbage Out. Since the days of Adam Smith in the 18th century, economists have been trying in vain to find the right combination of knobs, levers, sliders, switches and buttons with which to control the monster reactor of the money and market system. Each would-be economist to the government has to claim that everything is finally figured out. If they admitted that they can't control capitalism, nobody would bother electing these self-styled "market managers" at all.They can't predict what the market will do. And they can't control it anyway.The most enduring thing about capitalism is that its economists , fully recognising what has unfailingly happened in the past, always insist that this time it will be different.

The capitalist system has occupied less than one percent of human existence and it is only by comparing it with other systems—hunter-gatherer, herder, homesteader and possible future societies—that it can be satisfactorily analysed. Bourgeois apologetics usually fight shy of history, of an economic past, since that might imply a (possibly different) future. Comparing our unfree society with autonomous past or future arrangements can permit a better understanding of our present predicament.
There is an alternative to capitalism but no journalists from The Independent are investigating it. Meanwhile millions of words are being ground out by economists in press, radio, television and books, which leave neither them nor us any the wiser.

The real cause of capitalist crises lies in the division of people into producers and consumers: gain for the one is loss for the other, there is no common interest and therefore no community. The disequilibrium that results is at the bottom of all the stop-go, booms and slumps, that characterise the "system" (or lack of one!)

We part company with George Soros, Paul Krugman, and all the other writers and economists who are trying to make sense of what is happening. The mass of facts they produce is not matched by any paradigm or hypothesis to make sense of them, and to guide any action to deal with them.

For the great mass of people we have no choice as long as the market-based system is maintained. The forces driving capitalism do not include wishes. A class-divided society does not have control via feedback, or self-correction, but merely random behaviour like a driverless train, an avalanche, or a rockfall.

Friday, April 10, 2009

American Socialists?

A recent Rasmussen Reports survey states only 53% of Americans think capitalism is better than socialism.

I am not entirely sure what to make of that, not least because: "The question posed by Rasmussen Reports did not define either capitalism or socialism."

At the very least, some of those polled might not think socialism is a dirty word.

(Hat tip SWP blogger Richard Seymour.)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

the June European Elections

Well, we're back again, the go ahead has been given, we're standing a list of candidates in the European Election in June. We'll announce the list shortly, but first, our election address

Keep an eye on Vaux Populi for more news and reactions on the election.

We never said it , they did - 2

Poverty, not food shortages, leads to hunger

"Hunger is a product of lack of income occurring in the absence of family or state safety nets, not of food availability." - Adrian P. Hewitt, Head of the ODI Fellowship Scheme, Overseas Development Institute in a letter to the Financial Times

However , when Hewitt alludes to the safety net of the State he errs in believing that the profit system can be reformed to work in the interest of the majority of the population. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that it can only work as a profit system i.e by giving priority to making profits over all other considerations. And governments have no alternative but to dance to this tune.
There is enough food as Hewit explains , the world today is not short of wealth but , in order, though, to maintain labour discipline, to keep the labour market in existence, capitalism and its a massive welfare system must deny access to the things people need , such as food . By and large people do not go hungry because there is no food, but because they are, from the unalterable perspective of capitalism, unworthy: they cannot afford to eat. They cannot afford to eat because from capitalism’s perspective there is no reason to employ them and pay them. We have developed the material productive forces to such an extent that fewer and fewer workers can produce more and more of the things we need to live. But still, people cannot get the necessities of life.The Welfare Stae safety net that may seem to benefit the majority only happens if they advance capitalist interests, and is dismantled when those interests change.

Socialists, unlike the Leftists and the Reformists , do not support the welfare state and do not see it as a way to socialism, but as an inevitable part of capitalism, of administering poverty.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

world capitalism - food , poverty and war

The British Retail Consortium , which represents most major shop chains, reported a 9 per cent rise in the price of food in the shops in the year to March. Despite a general fall in inflation – the annual rise in the Retail Prices Index hit zero last month – food prices remain stubbornly high, and rising. Because so many food prices are determined globally, home produce prices have also been pushed higher by the fall in the pound, as the price of otherwise comparatively cheap UK produce has been bid up by foreign buyers.

"Although around 60 per cent of food consumed in the UK is sourced domestically, the grocery industry is a global market place and hence exchange rate fluctuations affect the price of produce and production. The farm gate price of UK-produced foodstuffs has increased markedly as sterling has depreciated, to maintain parity in the price of similar goods sourced in other currencies in the global market place."

Those households where food prices and utility bills (which are rising even faster) represent a big proportion of the budget are seeing little benefit from the much-heralded onset of deflation. The Institute for Fiscal Studies recently found that the richest fifth of households had an average inflation rate of minus 1 per cent; the poorest fifth had an average inflation rate of 5.3 per cent. The least-well off pensioner households, usually with no mortgage and no benefit from the cut in Bank rate, are still coping with inflation at 6.9 per cent.

A report prepared for the forthcoming get-together of G8 agriculture ministers in Italy – the first "food summit" of its kind – hints at the possibility of food wars in the future, or, as the report phrases it, "serious consequences not merely on business relations but equally on social and international relations, which in turn will impact directly on the security and stability of world politics".

Food today is bad for consumers in a number of ways, all connected with the market system. Common ownership would give all communities immediate access to land. In the short term, people in the areas of greatest need could concentrate their local efforts using the best means available. At the same time the regions most able to do so could assist with increased supplies. There can be no doubt that throughout the world, within a season, the plight of the seriously undernourished would be greatly improved. In the longer term, communities in socialism would be able to look beyond the immediate priorities of desperate need and begin to sort out the appalling state of world agriculture that is a consequence of the exploitation and destructive methods of capitalist agribusiness. It not only exploits farm workers of all lands, it exploits anything in nature it can get its hands on. The work of providing for the needs of all people begins with the work of organising for world socialism.

The price of a life

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence acts as a kind of budgetary police, advising which medical treatments are a good buy; its recommendations are almost always adopted by the government.

NICE's criteria on how much should be paid per each added year of a patient's survival is a general threshold for not spending more than 30,000 pounds ($44,235) per year of life. NICE has sometimes approved treatments costing up to 48,000 pounds ($70,775) per year of life added.

NICE chairman Michael Rawlins puts it: "We have a finite pot of money."

Rawlins said that the government wouldn't be able to afford such expensive medicines if they were for more common conditions like breast cancer or heart disease, since the cost would be astronomical.

"We do need a rationing system because in a lot of cases, there just isn't the money." said Dr. Karl Sikora, medical director of Cancer Partners UK.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society said "For us, cost-effectiveness doesn't enter into the discussion. Maybe it should."

Britain spends about 76 pounds ($112) per person on cancer care each year. In comparison, both France and Germany spend more than 120 pounds ($177) per person. In the U.S., direct medical costs for cancer care are about 200 pounds ($295) per person, according to the National Institutes of Health — almost three times what Britain spends.

oxfam's poverty

Oxfam says life for the fifth of the UK's population living in poverty is set to worsen because of the recession. In a report, Close to Home - UK Poverty and the Economic Downturn, it calls on the government to help the poor. 13.2 million people in the UK live in poverty, 22% of the population.

The government identifies "the poor" as those living below 60 percent of average income. But, crucially, from the standpoint of the dominant ideology, this still retains the assumption that the poor constitute only a minority and, consequently, that the majority have reason to be grateful for not being included amongst their number.

But, in truth, that majority is impoverished. It is impoverished insofar as it has no other option than to sell its working abilities to those who monopolise the means of living and whose conspicuous wealth must irresistibly provide the very yardstick by which that poverty will be starkly exposed.

This may not be the poverty of material destitution. But if the measure of a human being consists in the accumulation of material possessions to which he or she may claim the, by that token, we are demeaned. And, ultimately, it is in this devaluation of our human worth—not simply in the fact of material inequality but in the meaning this society attaches to it—that we may glimpse the very essence of this poverty.

" A house may be large or small; as long as the neighboring houses are likewise small, it satisfies all social requirement for a residence. But let there arise next to the little house a palace, and the little house shrinks to a hut. The little house now makes it clear that its inmate has no social position at all to maintain, or but a very insignificant one; and however high it may shoot up in the course of civilization, if the neighboring palace rises in equal of even in greater measure, the occupant of the relatively little house will always find himself more uncomfortable, more dissatisfied, more cramped within his four walls." - Marx - Wage , Labour and Capital

A cruel and criminal society

The tragic story that emerged from Doncaster this week has brought back the memory of what happened to James Bulger ( or the Mary Bell case or Damiola Taylor ) . In Doncaster a pair of young brothers , aged 10 and 11 , have been charged with the attempted murder of another two children , aged 9 and 11.

What we said in 1994:-

"...An alienated world of non-community turns others into strangers and strangers into enemies. People turn in on themselves and draw lines like stone fortress walls around their lives, their emotions. And within the darkness of these enclosed lives horrible, unthinkable abuses occur. People like to speak about "the freedom of the individual", as if being atomised, isolated and excluded from social cooperation were somehow a form of liberation. It is not; it feels horrible inside those fragile, impoverishing, life limited walls of the alienated human's existence. And this is where awful nightmare's come to life. Yesterday's unthinkable becomes today's headline and, perhaps, tomorrow's routine...

...This capitalist system under which we all live—even if we many deny that they do, and most do not even know that they do—has committed against us the greatest of crimes. It has denied us our freedom to be innocent...

...We are born neither good nor bad. To imagine otherwise is as sensible as to imagine that we are born with a preference for Pepsi rather than Coke, a genetic inclination to rape rather than pass the parcel. We are born to be within the world as it is. And the world as it is right now is not a happy place in which to be born.
Millions and millions of children are born into conditions of such material constraint that it is amazing they grow up fit for anything. Some do not emerge fit for anything. The wounds suffered as a result of authoritarian parenting, of sexual and violent abuse (both misuses of power) and of squalid and ignorant upbringings are injuries which were once unthinkable—or at least, unthought about. Perhaps, if capitalism had been removed long ago, these effects would have been of a lesser magnitude and we could go in greater innocence towards creating our futures.
As this century comes to an end the hard, unpalatable fact (perhaps even for many socialists) is that the psychological pain caused by the artificial way of organising life under capitalism has led to a loss of innocence for most of us. Put plainly, we have all been much more hurt by this system than it is easy to admit. And that is why there will be more horror stories to fill the gutter press. More and worse, until we get rid of this system...

...Socialists do not indulge in piety. That can be left to those who prefer to respond on their knees with their eyes shut. We leave moral self-righteousness as their monopoly as well. No sugary sentiments of love for little children will be heard from us. It is only under a system where the material stimulus to love and care is lacking that "loving thy neighbour" is promoted as some great virtue. No proposals here for teaching children what is right and wrong; not under a system which would have willingly taken those sane children only five years further into their lives and taught them to kill strangers as paid members of the British army.
Occasional sadness is a sign that we have not been wholly brutalised. Just as the fact that the overwhelming majority of children do not adjust willingly to the competitive, vicious and violent norms of the capitalist ethos is proof that this system has not and will not de-sensitise us all. To punish the de-humanised for what an inhumane world has taught them to become is as wise as to lock a dog in a kennel and then beat it for barking. The fact is that the kennel door is unlocked. It does not have to be like this..."

Capitalism is a sick society and we do not hesitate to say so.

When community relationships break down, when individuals treat one another as stepping stones to social advancement rather than as equals, and when drugs to numb the pain of the daily rat race become the norm, then society is in serious trouble. Indeed, as it eats away at the fabric of its own existence, capitalism is in especially deep trouble because it knows no other way out of this problem other than more of the same. The dispossessed youth of the inner cities and sink council housing estates are right to think there is no hope within the present system, but wrong to sit back and wallow in its excesses. Socialists say that society can be better than it is.

But to change things people have got to organise and organise with a purpose–to overturn the relationships and values that capitalism so ruthlessly and cynically promotes.In other words we need to create a society where a real community exists once again that is truly fit for humans to live in. That can only mean a society of equality, built upon participation and mutual respect. And we contend that in turn that can only mean socialism, where a real community of interests based upon common ownership and democratic control can be established to eradicate most crime and anti-social activity at root, to be established with agreed rules and regulations necessary for resolving any hangovers from the de-stabilising and de-humanising days of capitalism.