Wednesday, November 30, 2011
It's going to get worse
The government has now told public sector workers and the low paid that they will be the ones to pick up the bill for his attempts to kick-start Britain's stagnant economy, and warned that weaker growth and higher borrowing would force the country to endure a record breaking six years of austerity. The chancellor imposed a fresh public-sector pay freeze and cut financial help to the lowest paid workers by setting a two-year 1% ceiling on public sector pay increases – well below the current inflation rate and by scrapping an increase in child tax credits that will result in an additional 100,000 children dropping below the government's poverty line. He also signalled the end of national pay bargaining within two years, setting different rates of pay for public-sector workers depending on where they live in the country. The Office for Budget Responsibility suggests 710,000 public sector jobs could go within the next five years.
The age at which people qualify for the basic state pension will rise to 67 from 2026, 10 years earlier than planned. The move will affect anyone below the age of 52.
Bob Crow, the general secretary of the RMT union, accused the chancellor of wanting "...the workers to keep taking the hit while the rich get richer. With inflation over 5%, and the increase in pension contributions, that means nurses and the others we rely on will be around 25% worse off after four years of this ConDem government, while top bosses' pay goes up by 12% a year. That's a scandal."
Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison said: "The government's cuts and austerity agenda is hitting women, the young, and making those who are less able to pay plug the deficit. Meanwhile, it is still billions in bonuses for bankers. This is only storing up trouble for the future."
Osbourne as the man in charge of the finances of the capitalist state in Britain, he has to find the money to pay for the government's activities. But because he couldn't find enough, at least not without undermining profit-making, he has had to cut back on government spending. Governments are entirely dependent for their finances on the profit-making sector of the economy. This is the sector where the profit motive reigns supreme. Where unless businesses calculate they stand to make sufficient profits they won't employ workers to produce wealth. As governments are not engaged in producing wealth themselves, the only way they can get money is by taxing or borrowing from this sector. So they have an over-riding financial interest in the health of the profit sector and in doing nothing that would adversely affect the profit-making, and profit-taking, that goes on there. So government spending, coming in the end as it does out of the profits of the profit-making sector, has had to be squeezed. And, as usual, we are the victims. Workers should and will fight back. But the crisis has shifted the balance of forces even more in favour of employers. In the best of circumstances, when production is expanding and there is a labour shortage, unions have to work hard to get wages to go up a bit more than inflation. Now, with falling production and rising unemployment, unions can only try to put a brake on the downward slide, only try to stop things getting worse, .
Whereas, in the past, politics was about politicians telling us how they were going to improve our living standards, today politics is about the pace and duration of the cuts that are going to bite into our lives in the future: the political Right, abetted by the craven Centre, thinks the pain of economic retrenchment should be fully applied now; the Left argues that less pain over an extended period is preferable. The fact is the profit system can never be reformed so as to work in the interest of the majority of the population. It can only work as a profit system, by giving priority to making profits over all other considerations. And governments have no alternative but to dance to this tune.
Why should we have to fight the same battles over and over again? The profit system is not the only possible way of organising the production and distribution of the things we need. There is an alternative. Workers can and should organise to end capitalism which forces them to work for wages to live. We should organise to replace it with a system based on producing the things we need simply because we need them and not to make a profit. Production for use, not production for profit. But we can’t control what is produced unless we also own and control the means of production. In short, we need socialism, the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production.
Your pension is a part of your wage or salary that is deferred until you retire. Political concerns over increasing life expectancy – described sometimes as a "burden" on society – are smoke screens designed to obscure this fact. In reality, lowering pension levels and raising the retirement age are pay cuts.
Pensions are money returned to us from the wealth that we ourselves have collectively created. Yet public sector workers are being told that they must pay more, work longer and get less, that there is a "problem", pensions must be curbed, a claim which demonstrates that the market economy cannot provide for the needs of the people who produce and distribute all of society's wealth.
Fight back is necessary - the gains made by wage and salary workers on pay, pensions and other related issues have not, after all, been granted by benevolent governments or employers – they had to be fought for. And the only way for working people to defend those gains is through democratic and unified action. If governments and employers win on pensions and wages they will try it again with something else.
As important and necessary as trade union actions are, they do not go to the heart of the matter. We strike because we are forced as workers to sell our lives by the week or by the month to our employers. No matter how many workplace battles we fight, we will always have to fight more. So, trade union action like this, even at their best, cannot bring us permanent security or end poverty. Trade unions are necessary but they can't work miracles. They cannot defeat the underlying logic of capitalism.
Austerity and insecurity in a world of potential plenty will always exist for members of the working class while capitalism continues. For a solution, we have to look beyond our immediate situation. Besides trade union action, political action is needed founded on a clear understanding and awareness of our class interests. Without that understanding, militancy can mean little.
It is down to us. Only we, the working class as a whole, can remove, through democratic political action, the system that constantly requires us to fight off attacks upon our livelihood.
We do not, like conventional political parties, ask for your blind support. Nor do we put ourselves forward as leaders. Instead, we ask you to consider the realities of our lives as workers and take action with us not to reform the capitalist system but to remove it entirely. Over the past century we have seen reform movements rise and fall; we have seen slogans fade; we have encountered scores of "solutions" acclaimed by governments and campaigning groups only to be discarded once they have been seen to fail. We have seen them fail, time and time again.
Reforming capitalism is not an answer
The single fact we urge working people to consider is that capitalism generates problems it is incapable of solving. And the remedy – the only remedy – is to consciously put an end to the property system that divides and oppresses us.
If you are interested in discussing the alternative, get in touch with us.
Rallies in Kingston, Maidstone, Hertford, Bristol, Cardiff, Swansea, Cambridge, Canterbury, Norwich, Manchester, Lancaster, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Central London, Brixton, Birmingham, Dover, Brighton, Sheffield, Leeds, Bournemouth, Chelmsford, Luton, Gateshead and the Wirral will all be leafletted by party members today
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
What is it that's keeping some 2.3 million people in prisons and jails across the United States, and thousands more in immigrant detention centres? In large part, it's the timidity of politicians from both parties, who still fear appearing soft on crime or on illegal immigration. Since the 1980s they have lengthened sentences and rolled back parole opportunities, leading to a 700 per cent increase in the US prison population. In the last 15 years, they have also overseen a five-fold increase in the numbers of undocumented immigrants jailed in detention centres.
But some reports argue that the greed and influence of private prison companies, as well as the perfidy of politicians, plays a role in keeping prisons and detention centres teeming. These companies have a vested interest in putting more people in prison and keeping them there longer. By funding state and national campaigns, lobbying legislators and participating in influential conservative political organisations, they appear to have succeeded in shaping policies.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union for-profit companies are responsible for approximately 6 per cent of state prisoners, 16 per cent of federal prisoners. Detention Watch Network, asserts that private prison companies have been especially successful in influencing immigration policies and practices. Some 400,000 immigrants pass through America's immigrant detention centres each year, at a cost of $1.7bn. Nearly half of these immigrants are housed in 30 detention centres run by private companies under contract with the federal government; they are paid an average of $122 per day per resident.
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), has gross revenues in 2010 of $1.69bn. CCA runs 60 prisons for federal, state and local governments, and owns 44 of them. All told they boast a capacity of 85,000 beds in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Between 2003 and 2011, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, CCA hired 199 lobbyists in 32 states," notes the Detention Watch report. On the federal level, according to the report, CCA spent more than $18 million on lobbying between 1999 and 2009, "often employing five or six firms at the same time," and in 2010, CCA spent another $970,000 lobbying the federal government.
CCA also is involved in a network of conservative state political organisations that make up the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), until recently sitting on the board of its criminal justice task force and along with a bail bond organisation, working up model bills aimed at making convicted people serve full time, along with the famous three-strikes legislation. According to the Justice Policy Institute, "Since the 1980s and 1990s, ALEC facilitated the production of model bills focusing on mandatory minimums, three strikes laws (giving 25 years to life in prison for repeat offences), and 'truth-in-sentencing' legislation (requiring people to serve most or all of their time without chance for parole), all of which are significant contributors to the dramatic increase in incarceration in the last 30 years."
The second largest for-profit prison company is the GEO Group (with operations in South Africa, Australia and the UK) and gross revenues of $1.17bn in 2010. It runs 59 facilities with more than 53,000 beds. GEO spent more than $2 million on lobbying between 1999 and 2009.
According to a Justice Policy Institute's report, "Since 2000, the three largest private prison companies - CCA, GEO, and Cornell Companies - have contributed $835,514 to federal candidates, including senators and members of the House of Representatives. Giving to state level politicians during the last five election cycles was... $6,092,331."
Who are the real crooks?
“Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” - Eugene Debs
Back to the soup kitchens
"...now we are seeing poverty affecting people who never dreamed it would hit them, including young people and middle England,” said Mark Ward, Salisbury food bank manager at The Trussell Trust.
People are threatened with disease related to poverty and malnutrition as the number of people who cannot afford to pay for food is on the rise.
“Children are being denied fresh foods because families cannot afford to buy them. By early adolescence they will be affected by premature diabetes and signs of underlying heart disease,” said Professor Philip James, former government advisor on nutrition.
Monday, November 28, 2011
The Immorality of Capitalism
Sunday, November 27, 2011
The Religious Wrong
From Yahoo/Sky news here.
At least six people have died in Britain after being told that they had been healed of HIV, and could stop taking their medication. There is evidence that evangelical churches in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow are claiming to cure HIV through God. We sent three undercover reporters into the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) , which is based in Southwark, south London.
All of them told the pastors that they were HIV positive. All were told that they could be healed. Once a month the church has a prayer line, where people from across Europe come to be cured of all kinds of illness. At registration they have to hand over a doctor's letter as evidence of their condition. They are filmed giving before and after testimonies, which are put on SCOAN's website.
The healing process involves the pastor shouting, over the person being healed, for the devil to come out of their body, and spraying water in their face. One of the pastors, Rachel Holmes, told our reporter, Shatila, who is a genuine HIV sufferer, they had a 100% success rate.
"We have many people that contract HIV. All are healed."
She said if symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhoea persist, it is actually a sign of the virus leaving the body.
"We've had people come back before saying 'Oh I'm not healed. The diarrhoea I had when I had HIV, I've got it again.' I have to stop them and say 'no, please, you are free.'"
SCOAN told our reporters they would be able to discard their medication after their healing and that they would be free to start a family. Former health secretary Lord Fowler, who led the HIV/Aids awareness drive in the 1980s, says this message is dangerous.
"It is foolish advice and it is tragic advice because the consequences of this kind of advice can only be that people pass on HIV and can only be seriously bad for the individual concerned - including death."
Medical professionals have told Sky News of at least six patients who have died after being told by various churches to stop taking their HIV tablets. Emmanuel came off his medication a year ago, on the instructions of a pastor at his church in North London.
"He told me I'd been healed: 'You've got to stop taking the medicine now. I'll keep praying for you. Once God forgives you then the disease will definitely go.'"
Emmanuel admits he suspects he may have passed his HIV onto his boyfriend.
"Yeah, I think I've passed it on. He got ill. Physically he's lost some bit of weight. He's very small. I think he's worried... Yeah I feel guilty, if I'm the one who passed it onto him I'm feeling guilty. Yeah very much guilty."
The Synagogue Church of All Nations is wealthy. It has branches across the globe and its own TV channel.
On its website it promotes its anointing water, which is used during the healing, and it also makes money from merchandise, such as DVDs, CDs and books. Church members are expected to give regular donations. It is also a registered UK charity. The Charity Commission is looking at our findings. The Department of Health says it is very concerned:
"Our advice is clear that faith and prayer are not a substitute for any form of treatment, especially for HIV treatment."
Sky News asked the church for its response to our investigation. Here is its statement:
"We are not the Healer; God is the Healer. Never a sickness God cannot heal. Never a disease God cannot cure. Never a burden God cannot bear. Never a problem God cannot solve.
"To His power, nothing is impossible. We have not done anything to bring about healing, deliverance or prosperity. If somebody is healed, it is God who heals.
"We must have a genuine desire if we come to God. We are not in position to question anybody's genuine desire. Only God knows if one comes with true desire. Only God can determine this.
"That is why, if anybody comes in the name of God, we pray for them. The outcome of the prayer will determine if they come genuinely or not."
Do we need say more? Religion is the sigh of the oppressed, Marx said. It is also a croc. Now the evidence above would seem it is bad for your health as well as your mind. SOYMB highlighted and italicised the line in this report that is more telling than the rest though and the real reason many 'churches' exist in the first place, despite what they claim: they are good businesses whose main aim is stealing money from the desperate, the fearful, the insecure and the gullible. Charlatans and thieves the lot of them and the quicker a society is established based on scientific materialism, the better mankind will fare.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
1200 Unhappy Feet....
Its next project is the long-delayed ‘Fury Road’ starring Tom Hardy - a reboot of Miller’s ‘Mad Max’ franchise, said to be shooting in Namibia after Australia’s rainfall scuppered their plans of creating an arid wasteland there. IF magazine says that there could be a chance for some staffers to join a new company set up by George Miller and producer Doug Mitchell in the New Year.
Friday, November 25, 2011
We are not in favour of the concept of the united front and reject the need for socialists to undertake joint activity for anything less than socialism itself. What we welcomed about recent developments was the emergence of the view that the global capitalists system, based on the exploitation of people and the planet for the profit of a few, is at the very root of our social and environmental troubles. We fully accept that it is the responsibility of socialists to engage with these workers in a battle of ideas, by talking to, leafleting and discussing with them, so as to encourage them to take the next step: if capitalism is the root cause of social problems, then the intelligent course of action is to concentrate on removing the cause rather than trying to deal with a particular problem as a single issue since as long as the cause remains so, inevitably, will the particular problems.
The one thing necessary is a full recognition by the workers themselves of the hostility of interests between themselves and their masters. Organised on that basis, refusing to be tricked and bluffed by promises or stampeded into violence by threats, they will emergence victorious from the age-long struggle. Win political power! That is the first step. Such political action will, however, be quite futile unless carried on by a class-conscious party with definite aims. Such a party must recognise that in the class-war they are waging there must be no truce.
Workers must organise as a class, not merely industrially, for the capture of supreme power as represented by the political machine. It is useless for the workers either to "trust" leaders or to "change" them. The entire institution of leadership must be swept by the board.
violence and socialists
A classless, wageless, moneyless society envisaged and founded on co-operation instead of competition can not be established by guns, bombs or violence. It can only be established and only maintained by the conscious democratic action of the majority. Such a majority would be the democratic foundation of a free, socialist world.
Our argument is that, if socialists are in a minority, to attempt an armed uprising would be suicidal folly, especially since a minority can't impose socialism on a majority anyway. If, on the other hand, socialists are in the majority (as they must be before socialism can be established) then an armed insurrection is unnecessary as the majority can use the ballot box to send delegates to parliament to take over political control. In any event, as we've always said if people won't vote for socialism, then they'll certainly not fight for it.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
the pay gap
"Unskilled workers are facing a choice between no pay and very low pay...." John Philpott, chief economic adviser to the Chartered Institute of Professional Development warned
The bottom tenth of earners saw their pay creep up just 0.1% between 2010 and 2011 while the top tenth saw their pay grow 18 times faster.
The amount of pay needed to be in the top 10% of full-time earners has increased by 1.9% to £52,643, while the threshold for the bottom 10% of full-time workers increased 0.6%, to £14,905.
The earnings of chief executives and directors of "leading organisations" rose 15% to an average of £112,157. Salaries of senior corporate managers also increased substantially – up 7.1% year-on-year to £77,679.
By contrast, the annual pay of waiters and waitresses – who are mostly part-time workers – fell 11.2% year-on-year to £5,660, among the most substantial drop for any group of workers. Hairdressers' salaries fell 4.5% to £9,599, while cleaners' remuneration fell 3.4%.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
It didn't fizzle out and it didn't achieve any reform. But it did do two things. First, it raised consciousness that capitalism does not benefit "the 99 percent". And, second, it provided public places where political debate about this and other issues could take place - and did. Both worthwhile. They were two other pluses. It was a world-wide movement that understood that any solution had to be global. And it tried to organise itself democratically and without leaders.
Alright, there wasn't always clarity as to what exactly was the capitalism they said they were "anti". Some saw the occupations as a protest against "corporate greed" as if the behaviour of those in charge of capitalist corporations is a personal fault or choice rather than something imposed on them by the nature of capitalism as a system of production for sale with a view to profit. Others blamed "the bankers" and all sorts of funny money theories flourished. But that was what the debates they had provided space for were all about. They need to continue.
In the end the police moved in to clear the occupations (though the one in London has been given a stay of execution till after Christmas). Now that the inevitable has happened the Occupy Movement will have to consider its next move. Clearly, the high-profile tactic of occupying public parks and town squares has only a limited shelf-life, since the authorities can always cite concerns over health and sanitation.
The question now is whether activists will go home satisfied that they've made their point, in effect consigning the issues once again to oblivion, or work out new ways to press home their anti-capitalist message. In particular they will need to find ways to counter the predictable Establishment criticisms that they are nothing but a diversion from attempts by practical politicians to find solutions to the global economic crisis and that they have no viable alternative economic system to propose.
Well of course the ruling class would say that, wouldn't they? Their opinions aren't going to change. The criticisms Occupy have to worry about are those coming from the ninety-nine percent, who don't at present believe that capitalism can be abolished or that any alternative would be viable.
So it's a question of getting the message out there, and getting it right. We're doing our bit.
From next month's Socialist Standard
Bosses pay soar
John Varley, the former chief executive of Barclays, earned £4,365,636 – 169 times the average income and a rise of 4899.4% since 1980 when the top wage in Barclays was just 13 times the UK average.
In another example, the chief executive in the now part state-owned Lloyds Bank has seen his pay increase by 3141.6% to £2,572,000 over the same period – 75 times the average Lloyds employee – when in 1980 it was just 13.6 times the average.
Top executive pay in Britain has spiralled out of control with increases over the past 30 years of more than 4000%. The report points out that in 1979 the top 10% took home 28% of the national income. By 2007 they took home 40%. It projects that by 2035 the top 0.1% of British workers will take home 14% of the national income – equivalent to the situation in Victorian times.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The demise of Thatcher
Who the hell cares which political dinosaur will lead the Conservative Party? What possible difference does the conclusion of this thieves' quarrel make to the vast majority of people living in Britain?
The Tories represent the interests of the parasite class which lives on the profits which are legally robbed from the wealth-producing majority. The workers, who are the overwhelming majority, have nothing to be gained by supporting the sordid
ambitions of politicians. The Prime Minister is not the workers' representative, but the chief mouthpiece of the profit-protecting government.
The function of government is to rule over those who are the productive majority. The system in which the majority allows itself to be ruled - governed - oppressed by leaders is not democracy. Democracy means the rule of the people by the people. It means the administration of things, not the government over people. In a democracy there can be no leaders or led, for all people will co-operate to make the decisions which affect the life of the human community.
The irrelevant leadership battle is a sordid fight between defenders of capitalism who think that it is their role to govern and ours to be governed. We are not invited to vote in their election; all we are asked to do is to sit in front of our TV screens and gaze at the cynical tactics of a gang of political tricksters.
The Tory contestants were united by one policy; their complete and unequivocal support for world capitalism. In this they are at one with Kinnock and Ashdown. All of the politicians and parties of the profit system are solid in their rejection of any alternative to the way the world is run now. We live in a society where needs come second to profit and where those who possess do not produce while those who produce all goods and services do not possess the resources of the earth.
The real political contest is not about who will lead the Tory party and draw the prime ministerial salary. It is a battle of ideas about whether the working class majority will support and vote for production for profit or production for use. If workers vote for the profit system, then it matters not a jot which of the con men leads which party of fakers. If workers opt for socialism, as historical necessity demands that we should, then the question of leadership is irrelevant. No socialist would ever follow a leader; no socialist seeks to lead anyone else.
To the Tory tricksters we say "A plague on both your houses!". Socialists have better things to think about than the dirty fighting of those who run this dirty social system.
In 1979 Mrs Thatcher came to power heralded as the saviour of British capitalism. She now quits the stage with British capitalism in economic decline. Far from realising her boast "to bury socialism", her political career has been buried by capitalism.
(Editorial from the Socialist Standard of December 1990)
Why The Left Needs A Thatcher
Monday, November 21, 2011
Going to waste
There would still be dirty work in such a future society, but that which is so closely associated with capitalism will be eliminated.
This topic is currently being debated on the old WSM Forum. One contributor, Robin, although not a Party member has been batting for Socialism in his exchanges with several supporters of capitalism. Here is an example:
In the UK, some 17 million tonnes of food - 4 million tonnes well within the sell by date - costing £18 billion, is being ploughed into landfill sites every year - all because "it's cheaper and easier for the food industry to dump it than give it to those in need".
In America, the recent recession has seen a collapse in the auto-car business. In ports across the country like the massive Long Beach Port, in California, foreign imports have been piling up while elsewhere maufacturers have been forced to convert hundreds of acres of land into vast open air parking lots jam packed with their gleaming new products that simply cannot find a buyer at the present time. Even if, after months, if not years, some of them do manage to get sold this is not the end of the problem, Being left unattended and exposed to the elements for so long - particularly saltwater spray - means that cars can become subject to what is called "lot rot". The damage may not be so obvious at the time of sale but it can affect a car's brakes, batteries, tyres (which can develop flat spots) and paintwork as well as encouraging rust.
In Spain the crash in property prices after mid 2007, following a period of feverish speculative building, helped to highlight the fact that there are some 3-4 million empty houses. According to government estimates of all houses built over the 2001-2007 period, "no less than 28%" were vacant as of late 2008.
Appalling though this figure is, it pales in comparison with the situation in China where according to one Hong Kong-based real estate analyst, Gillem Tulloch, there are an astonishing 64 million empty apartments . According to Tulloch housing units are priced well above what an average Chinese person can afford and while it might promote GDP it "doesn't add to the betterment of people's lives".
It is not just houses that are empty - there are also empty offices, warehouses and shops. According to data gathered by the British Property Federation between July and December 2009, 12.4% of shops stand empty across Great Britain. In Dubai, 40 per cent of office space remains vacant, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph ("Dubai: 4 in 10 offices empty" 30 Nov 2009) due to the financial difficulties faced by the emirate.
And in China, once again, we find another example of profligate waste in the form of the world's largest shopping mall in terms of gross leasable area - the New South China Mall in Dongguan North of Hong Kong. Amounting to 9.6 million square feet with space enough for more than 1,500 stores, as well as fun fairs, hotels and luxury apartments, it has been 99% vacant since its 2005 opening.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
A Parable by Leo Tolstoy
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
each 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
(From The Futility of Reformism by Samuel Leight)
Saturday, November 19, 2011
of future worlds. One is Anarres and clearly
labelled "anarchist". The other, Urras, is less
clearly described as "propertarian" and
"archist". The plot is briefly but dramatically
outlined in the blurb.
"Shevek, a brilliant physicist...single-
handedly attempts to re-unite two planets cut
off from each other by centuries of distrust.
Anarres, Shevek's homeland, is a bleak moon
settled by an anarchic utopian civilization;
Urras, the mother planet, is a world very
similar to Earth, with its warring nations,
great poverty, and immense wealth. Shevek
risks everything in a courageous visit to
Urras - to learn, to teach, to share. But his
gift becomes a threat... and in the profound
conflict which ensues, Shevek must re-
examine his philosophy of life."
The book's thirteen chapters alternate
between Anarres and Urras.
Invited to dislike
LeGuin tells us much that we seem to be
invited to dislike about Urras, and just a few
things that we are invited to approve
(although, depending on your point of view,
you may have a different ratio of approval to
Urras is an "incredibly complex
society with all its nations, classes, castes,
cults, customs and its magnificent, appalling
and interminable history". It is organized
"hierarchically, from the top down". In
education there is an examination system that
involves "cramming in information and
disgorging it at demand" . "The state
recognizes no coinage but power: and it
issues the coins itself" . 50 there are secret
police. And the state uses force, with police
helicopters and machine guns, to put down
demonstrations that threaten the status quo.
Life on Urras closely resembles, and
somewhat exaggerates, life in the USA in the
1970s, when the author was writing (in two
decades the general picture has changed
little). They burn dirty clothes because new
cheap ones cost less than cleaning. There are
private cars, "splendid machines of bizarre
elegance". Everything is "either useless to
begin with or ornamented so as to disguise its
Rats and asylums
There are three competing mail companies.
Everything comes "inside layers and layers of
wrappings". The basic function of the radio
"was advertising things for sale". Other
delights on Urras included rats, army
barracks, insane asylums, poorhouses,
pawnshops, executions, thieves, tenements,
rent collectors, the unemployed, and "a dead
baby in a ditch".
In the realm of thought and ideas there
is also much to dislike about Urras. There is
religious bigotry ("He's a strict-interpretation
Epiphanist. Recites the Primes every night. A
totally rigid mind.") There are "birdseed papers",
"written by semiliterates for serniliterates"
which manufacture news.
Shevek observes that Urrasti people always
look anxious: "Was it because, no matter how
much money they had, they always had to
worry about making more, lest they die
Now to Anarres, the "anarchist
country". It, too, has a system and has people
doing things and thinking thoughts. Anarres
is "an experiment in nonauthoritarian
communism ... (the people) are not only
socialists, they are anarchists" .
No law, no police
There are no laws, no governments, no
police, no money. Or, to add a bit of positive
qualification, there is "no law but the single
principle of mutual aid between individuals ..
. no government but the single principle of
free association". While "nominally there' s
no government on Anarres ... obviously
there's administration ... " The network of
administration and management is called
PDC, Production and Distribution
Coordination. They are a coordinating system
for all syndicates, federatives and individuals
who do productive work. They do not govern
persons; they administer production".
Nobody is ever punished for anything
though sometimes "they make you go away
by yourself for a while".
There is no distinction between men's
work and women's work: "A person chooses
work according to interest, talent, strength -
what has sex to do with that?" The "dirty
work" is done by everyone on one day out of
ten on a basis of choice from "rotating lists''.
"People take the dangerous, hard jobs
because they take pride in doing them".
Most of what we learn that is positive about
Anarres is in terms of thoughts, ideas, even
moral precepts. At a personal level, members
of a community were not moved by mass
feeling but "there were as many emotions as
there were people". The status of religion on
Anarres is ambiguous. There is no
established religion in the sense of churches
and creeds, but "you could not seriously
believe that we had no religious capacity?"
Takver "had always known that all lives are
in common, rejoicing in her kinship to the
fish in the tanks of her laboratories, seeking
the experience of existences outside the
human boundary". One character offers a
moralistic judgement: "Having' s wrong,
Sharings right." Shevek is described as
having been brought up "in a culture that
relied deliberately and constantly on human
solidarity, mutual aid".
Anarres has a population of only 20
million compared with a 1,000 million on
Urras. It was given to the Odonians
(theoretical anarchists) as a means of "buying
them off with a world, before they totally
undermined the authority of law and national
sovereignty on Urras". There was trade
between the two worlds, but in practice
Anarres was a mining colony of Urras. For an
anarchist society, Anarres is remarkably
centralized. Abbenay is the capital, "the mind
and center of Anarres ... There had to be a
center. The computers that coordinated the
administration of things, the division of labor
and the distribution of goods, and the central
federatives of most of the work syndicates
were in Abbenay, right from the start".
Despite this the people of Anarres
have to put up with many shortages and
deprivations. Printing had to cover the whole
page because paper was short. The economy would not support the building and upkeep of individual houses and apartments. People had to save up their daily allowances for a party, and had to fetch their letters from the mail depot because there were no postmen. However, the general picture is one of high morale despite the shortages and deprivations.
LeGuin had an aim in writing The
Dispossessed. Fortunately, we have her own
account of this. Responding to a question by
Lynn McCaffery, she says:
" ... The only trouble with an anarchist
country is going to come from its neighbors.
Anarchism is like Christianity - it 's never
really been practised - so you can 't say
it 's a practical proposal. Still, it 's a
necessary idea. We have followed the state far
enough - too far, in fact. The state is leading us to
World War Ill. The whole idea of the state
has got to be rethought from the beginning
and then dismantled. One way to do this is to
propose the most extreme solution
imaginable: you don't proceed little by little;
you go to the extreme and say, "Let 's have no
government, no state at all" Then you try to
figure out what you have without it, which is
essentially what I was trying to do in 'The
Dispossessed'. This kind of thinking is not
idealistic, it 's a practical necessity these
days. We must begin to think in different
terms, because if we just continue to follow
the state, we've had it. So, yes, 'The
Dispossessed' is very much in earnest about
trying to rethink our assumptions about the
relationships between human beings."
(Across the Wounded Galaxies)
Then McCaffery asked LeGuin why
she had set her anarchist utopia in such a
"The way I created Anarres was probably an
unconscious economy of means: these people
are going to be leading a very barren life, so
I gave them a barren landscape. Anarres is a
metaphor for the austere life, but I wasn 't
trying to make a general proposal that a
utopia has to be that way."
For LeGuin what seems to be preventing people
making a better fist of life
on contemporary Earth is not so much
capitalism as government and the state.
It follows that what she believes desirable is
not so much socialism, a system to replace
capitalism, as anarchism, a system to replace
"archism". That last term isn't actually in the
dictionary, not even in a large one. But so
much of what LeGuin writes about Urras is
also a fair description of capitalism that
perhaps we shouldn't be too concerned about
her choice of words for its alternative.
The important difference between
LeGuin's view and the socialist view is
surely about the means of changing from one
type of society to the other. LeGuin is vague
about these means. Like most anarchists, she
doesn't think in terms of democratic political
organization for the overthrow of capitalism
and its replacement by socialism. She is right
to "see the folly of reformism ('you don't
proceed little by little ')". But organization is
important - indeed it is vital. By allowing the
"archists" to be well-organized in a
favourable environment, and the anarchists to
be a minority shipped off to a barren planet,
she is not only giving the devil the best tunes:
she is allowing him to take over the whole
One serious criticism of The
Dispossessed is that we aren't told enough
about the Urras "working c1ass", and what
little we are told is derogatory and
disillusioning. We know they read "birdseed"
papers and get massacred when they revolt,
but that's about all. LeGuin sketches them in
as semiliterates, as a kind of ancient Roman
"bread and circuses" mob. There is something
deeply pessimistic about a scenario that
envisages the intellectual, material and
political degradation of over 90 percent of the
This remarkable book stimulates the
imagination and paints a picture of a future
world that has a good many socialist features
even jf it doesn't deal at all adequately with
the politics of how we can get to that world.
(Socialist Standard, May 1994)
Friday, November 18, 2011
No right to work
ANYONE ON THE DOLE will probably not take long to come across the Right to Work Campaign which, during the past year or so, has been particularly vociferous in its condemnation of unemployment. Under the guidance of the National Rank-and-File Organizing Committee marches, public meetings and petitions against unemployment have been arranged by this campaign. Back in March there was a special protest walk between Manchester and London. In September many of the leftists who support the campaign marched down to Brighton to picket the TUC.
The obvious feature of these demonstrations is that they are dominated by organizations such as International Socialists, the Workers' Revolutionary Party
and the Communist Party, together with groups of members from the Labour Party and trade unions. Like the women's liberation groups, CND, Shelter, the squatting campaigns and the "Troops Out of Northern Ireland" movement, the Right to Work Campaign is not concerned with fundamental social change. A survey of their demands as printed in their literature and stated in speeches at their public meetings reveals that this campaign is concerned with trying to secure the creation of jobs. Along with this, the campaign makes reformist demands which might be expected:
equal rights for women, a thirtv-five-hour week, stopping cuts in government expenditure, etc.
Methods advocated include the nationalization of private industries, the occupation of factories, and overtime bans. All these methods have been tried before. A "Right to Work" campaign is nothing new, nor are ideas of direct action by workers to try to
preserve jobs. Similar campaigns have be en launched in the past in various countries. In Italy shortly after the end of World War One workers by the
thousand occupied factories in an attempt to keep their jobs secure; and, of course, in Britain during the nineteen-thirties there were marches 'and demonstrations against unemployment and the creation of the National Unemployed Workers' Movement. The fact is that whenever capitalism is in a depression the "left" seeks to increase its following by urging workers to resist unemployment.
The record of these movements is not only that they have achieved nothing, but the capitalist class has ignored them. In several cases instead of the
condition of the working class being improved, more authoritarian governments have emerged. In 1921-22 in Italy, the efforts of workers to overcome unemployment by occupying factories were rapidly succeeded by Mussolini's right-wing government which established fascism. More recently, in France attempts at
syndicalism in the spring of 1968 were followed by the French electorate giving a stronger mandate to the Gaullist government. The earliest "Right to Work" campaign took place during an economic recession in France in 1848. Groups of workers in Paris
were encouraged to take more militant and violent action. Troops were sent against them and a "government of order" was eventually established under Louis
Under the capitalist system the right to employment does not and cannot exist. Those who have sympathy with the Right to Work Campaign should ask themselves whose duty it is to provide this work. Production under capitalism does not take place to
satisfy people's needs but to produce goods to be sold at a profit. The nature of a trade recession is that for the time being goods cannot be sold as they are
in boom periods: production therefore has to slow down or cease. The Right-to-Work campaigners do not say how a right to - produce and distribute unmarketable commodities can be given effect. The situation is underlined by unemployment figures from all over the world, both in the past and at present.
But that's not all! Not only is the Right to Work Campaign by its very existence dooming its supporters to disillusionment. If a quick recovery from the depression gave the appearance that it had partly succeeded, this would only confirm the working class in an acceptance of capitalism. After all, what is so wonderful about employment - being exploited? No, hasten the day when the majority of workers will
reject syndicalism and reformism in all their guises including campaigns like this. Hasten the day when the majority will realize that the only way out from a world of unemployment and generally meaningless employment under capitalism is by democratically abolishing that system and establishing Socialism. In such a system unemployment would not only be a feature of the past, but there would be an abundance of purposeful and interesting work.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
A Child's Future: The Price of Football
Charlie Jackson was first spotted by Old Trafford scouts two years ago, but the club had to wait until he turned five to invite him down to train at the Red Devils' development centre.
But such is Charlie's devotion to Manchester City that the lad from Denton, Greater Manchester, initially refused to play with United's up-and-coming stars.
"His idols are Joe Hart and Mario Balotelli and at first he was mortified at training with United," explains Charlie's Dad, Andy.
"He didn't want to go. Eventually I had to tell him, 'Look, we'll let United train you up. Then when you're really good, you can go to City'.
"Now he trains with United every Wednesday. He started school in September, but when he plays football it's like the ball is stuck to his foot."
Charlie's sublime skills have stunned those who have seen him in action, with his natural dribbling ability shining through despite the fact that at United he is invariably training with players who are a year or two older than him.
"He loves training with the club now. Everywhere we go people just stand and watch," said Andy. "They can't believe he's only five."
United will not be able to put Charlie on their books officially until he turns nine, however - and the family are still hoping that he may yet end up on the sky blue side of Manchester.
"There's no pressure, but it would be nice if he plays for City one day," added Andy.
Edited and adapted from Yahoo News here.
This is the shameless face of football today. No longer a sport but a fully functioning corporate business concerned only with profit, even if that means exploiting the future of five year old children. This isn't about talent and nurturing natural abilities, this isn't even about playing the game: this is pure greed and about making business based decisions that will hopefully end in profitability for the club at a later date. This poor child's future is being looked at, not with care and support , but as a financial investment - a shocking indictment of how low capitalism will go in the drive for profit.
The Class Struggle
Socialists continuously refer to "the capitalist system," "the
capitalist class," and "the working class." We are living in a
class society and to use a euphemism, we call the shots as we see
them - and as they are. Is it not curious, and somewhat mystifying, the comparative rarity with which these terms are used by any of the media, or the politicians representing and defendingthe capitalist system? We are not surprised, because a lifetime under this system has taught us that the order of the day is always
camouflage and deception. As for the term" class struggle," very
rarely will it be used in bourgeois, political language, much less
acknowledged in reality. But the class struggle most certainly
does exist - it permeates the lives of the working class in every
aspect, whether they realize it or not.
In a society wherein the vast majority are non-owners of the
instruments of wealth production and distribution and a minority
are the owners, a conflict of interests must exist. It is a conflict
that arises from an economic division in society which creates
two completely antagonistic positions between the non-owners
who work, produce, and receive wages, and the owners who pay
wages, receive profits, and are non-productive. Each group has
opposing interests with a different economic status. The socialist
does not conjure this situation from his imagination - we merely
analyze the system, drawing attention to the obvious.
It is in the interests of the working class to work for as short a
time as possible, for as high wages as possible. Conversely, it is in
the interests of the capitalist class to increase the labor time as
much as is practical, without affecting the productivity Of the
labor power employed, assuming of course that there will be a
market for the commodities produced; and to keep the wage level
as low as possible, as long as this also does not impair the
productivity of the workers. From this basis a class struggle
Now we ask, is this true or is it not? The next question would
be - is it desirable? And the follow-up on this would be - is it
We find it most terribly undesirable to live in a society where
there is unending conflict between sections of the population
which give rise to a variety of social evils. We state that it most
certainly is not necessary because there is an alternative. In a
socialist society there will be no classes whatsoever - the c1ass
struggle will have been relegated to the history books.
Trade Unions are positive proof of the class struggle. Trade
Unions are groups of men and women of the working class
organized in the economic field to maintain and improve the
standard of living of their members. The standard of living would
include wages paid, employment time, conditions of work,
pensions, vacation and sick leave plans, and so on.
We acknowledge the absolute necessity of Trade Unions
under capitalism, and we support the active participation of
workers within the Trade Union movement in their attempts to
safeguard, and improve, their wage levels and working
conditions. At the same time we also fully realize the limitations of the
Trade Union. They serve the working class only on the economic
field whereas the emancipation of the working c1ass can only be
achieved with political action through an international socialist
movement. Furthermore, the internal operation of the Trade
Union will always reflect the knowledge and attitudes of the
membership. To the extent that the workers look to leaders to
solve their problems, relying solely on their interpretations of
given situations, they be come willing to sacrifice proper
democratic procedures, and the Trade Union becomes a fertile field for
demagogues leading a gullible membership. In addition, the
Trade Union can be used for purposes not related to their true
function and not in the interests of the membership.
All disputes and negotiations over wages are evidence of the
class struggle. All negotiations concerning conditions of work are
evidence of the class struggle. All disputes regarding labor time,
vacations, retirement and so-called social security payments are
evidence of the class struggle. And when the disagreements
between the employers and the employees reach an impasse, with
the workers deciding to withhold their labor power by calling a
strike, this becomes a classic manifestation of the existence of a
class struggle. Strikes are a devastating, perpetual occurrence
under this system. Their history has been written in the economic
anguish and suffering of the working class; and in addition with
blood and violence when thugs have be en employed by owners as
strike breakers. The hardships, brutality, imprisonment, and
punishment that has been endured by striking workers is your
evidence, beyond dispute, of a class struggle that is being waged
endlessly and with vigor. The socialist has not invented the class
struggle - it operates as an independent social phenomena be-
cause of the economic basis of a class divided society. Workers,
for generations, have been duped into believing that there exists
under capitalism a family of interests, when in reality the
complete opposite is the case.
Class society not only produces antagonisms between the
classes, but it also produces conflicts within the classes them-
selves. Workers find themselves competing with each other for
jobs, capitalists with each other in the market place.
Is it reasonable to tolerate a system that produces conflict and
competition when there is an alternative both practical and
possible-one that will encourage mutual aid and co-operation?
The socialist case is both simple and dramatic - we just want to
be co-owners of the world in which we live. We do not wish to
remain in a subject and slave position for the rest of our lives. The
planet we live on should be owned and controlled by the whole of
the human race - not by just a part of the human race. Does this
sound unreasonable? We think not.
If it can be proved that the re is a class struggle and that this
class struggle results in suffering, insecurity, and poverty, and
that it need not be tolerated for one second longer than it takes the
working class to become socialist, why not do something about
We are the sole advocates of the highest expression of the class
struggle on the political fie1d - the demand for the abolition of
class society, together with the class struggle, through the
establishment of socialism.
Why should the human race be involved in an internal struggle
of a social and economic origin, when the solution for the
permanent eradication of that struggle exists, only awaiting
awareness and acceptance? To indulge in an unnecessary and
futile struggle between sections of society over material issues,
when such a struggle should have long age been eliminated, with
the introduction of socialism, is to retard unreasonably the
development and progress of mankind.
(This essay first appeared in World Without Wages by Samuel Leight)