Saturday, December 31, 2016

OCH AYE THE NOO, IT’S HOGMANAY!

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OCH AYE THE NOO, IT’S HOGMANAY!
(Or words to that effect!)

With Hogmanay now on its way,
One thing should not be missed;
The sight of Scotchmen spending Groats,
On getting Brahms and Liszt!

Miss Sturgeon will, in the New Year,
Find matters reach the boil;
As Scottish fiscal plans fizz out,
Along with North Sea oil!

Okay, so Murray’s won the prize,
Of ‘Sportsman of the Year’;
But Sturgeon will find other ‘perks’,
Will be a tad too dear. (1)

The ‘Independence’ myth may sag;
When Scots folk sober up;
And ‘feel-good’ factors dissipate,
On being sold a pup.

We get the leaders we deserve,
We get the papers too;
Both are adept at telling lies,
And spouting what’s not true.

The canny Scots need lots more guile,
To see through all the  fibs;
And Sturgeon is an oily fish, (2)
So watch out for ‘Her Nibs’!

(1) Scotland will be forced to scrap perks such as free
university education or "significantly" raise taxes if it
breaks away from the rest of the UK because it has
overestimated its North Sea oil revenues, according
to new research recently carried out. Daily Telegraph.

(2) According to Wikipedia, “Most sturgeons are 

© Richard Layton

Hot air from politicians ignites fuel poverty debate (Again)

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Aspiring politicians like to be seen as supporting families, but the reality is far different. 'Soaring energy bills are forcing one in four mothers to turn off their heating in the depths of winter in order to afford food for their children.

 Fuel poverty is resulting in thousands of families resorting to wearing extra clothes and using blankets in their homes. More than half of families turn off the heating in their houses when the children are out, while 45 per cent of adults keep warm using blankets or duvets during the day, according to a survey. ..... A shocking 23 per cent of families are already having to choose between buying food or using heating, according to a survey by the Energy Bill Revolution campaign' .

 More than 2.3 million families are living in fuel poverty in England – the equivalent of 10% of households, according to government statistics.

 Almost 60,000 households in Birmingham alone cannot afford to heat their homes. The figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show the West Midlands city is worst affected, with Leeds, Cornwall, Manchester and Liverpool also in the top five local authorities where households face “eat or heat” choices in winter.

 However, rural areas of England are proportionally the worst affected, with more than 20% of households on the Isles of Scilly classified as fuel poor. Other badly affected areas include Eden in Cumbria, Richmondshire and Ryedale in North Yorkshire, and West Devon.

 Fuel poverty is calculated by gauging if a household’s income would fall below the official poverty line after spending the actual amount needed to heat the home. The average fuel poverty gap of these households – that is, the amount needed to escape fuel poverty – is £371 a year, the latest figures indicate, with those in privately rented properties hit hardest.
The response from politicians are predictable, Clive Lewis, the shadow business secretary, said the figures showed the Tories had to take action to tackle the tariffs of the big six energy companies.

“Under the Tories’ lack of an energy plan, Britain is facing an energy bill crisis, with over 2 million families who can’t afford their energy bills,” said the Labour MP.

“The government must act now on the monopoly of the big six in the energy market and tackle the scandal of fuel poverty. A Labour government will deliver clean energy and curb energy bill rises for households.”
So Labour promise reform to tackle the un-reformable market.
 This month, the business department said it would publish an energy supplier league table to instantly show consumers where they could save money on fuel bills. Customers should have the ability to access their energy usage data quickly and easily from their energy companies, the government said, to allow them to use price comparison sites to switch tariffs.

Announcing the measures, the business secretary, Greg Clark, said: “Millions of people across Britain continue to pay too much for their energy. The measures announced are a positive step to help more people benefit from increased choice and competition.
..and the conservatives promise more of the same under the illusion of choice.

 Warm shows of affection by politicians won’t heat up your kid's bedroom. A new society of production for use and free access will feed , clothe , shelter and heat us, to enable all of the worlds people to reach their full potential.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Greetings for the Revolution

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It is that time of the year again we hear it over and over again, “Peace on earth, good will to all men.” But there is little peace and a scarcity of goodwill. Never has the alternatives of barbarism or socialism been starker. Yet for all the commercialism and consumerism, Christmas is a festival of giving and what would Christmas be like without the joy of presenting gifts to eachother. It reveals the dormant kindness within the human spirit when people wronged and abused can still make merry and offer good cheer to their fellow-workers. Despite their stress and distress, many will endeavor to be jolly.

Regretfully, Christmas after Christmas has gone by and workers keep forgetting the lesson of standing by one another in unity and solidarity. As soon as the festive holiday has passed we return to our divisive daily lives under capitalism. Christmas was one day of hope. Capitalism is weeks and months and years of deprivation and misery. Christ-mass was a celebration of a birth. Let socialists use its symbolism for the birth of a new society, one based on generalized reciprocity – of personal and individual gift-giving becoming a social and collective act. Socialism could easily be described as a system of gift-giving without the expectation of an immediate return. the voluntarist nature of work in socialism means in a sense that it is a kind of "gift" that we give to society without the expectation of a return (we don’t receive any payment for our work) and in full awareness of the fact that we all depend on each other and benefit from the labour contributions of millions of anonymous others in a world in which production is a globalized and socialised phenomenon.  Voluntary work hangs together with the idea of free access to the collective fruits of our labour. You can’t have one without the other. 

A universal gift economy unites people and cements social relationships while a market economy separates people and places them in position where they confront each other with antagonistic interests as buyers and sellers.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

America's Inequality

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Inequality in America is getting worse. The gap between the “haves” and “have nots” is widening.

The rich are money-making machines. Today, the top mega wealthy — the top 1% — earn an average of $1.3 million a year. It’s more than three times as much as the 1980s, when the rich “only” made $428,000, on average. Today the top 1% take home more than 20% of all U.S. income.

Meanwhile, the bottom 50% of the American population earned an average of $16,000 in pre-tax income in 1980. That hasn’t changed in over three decades. The bottom 50% went from capturing over 20% of national income for much of the 1970s to earning barely 12% today.

After-tax income shows that the bottom 50% averaged just $25,000 a person in 2014, according to the latest data. That’s just a touch above the $20,000 someone in the bottom half earned way back in 1974 (after adjusting for inflation).
“Income has boomed at the top: in 1980, top 1% adults earned on average 27 times more than bottom 50% adults, while they earn 81 times more today,” write Piketty, Saez and Zucman.

As if that’s not depressing enough, living the American Dream is also getting harder to do. Millennials, born in the 1980s, only have a 50% likelihood — a coin toss chance — of earning more money than their parents did, according to new research released this month from the Equality of Opportunity Project. “Children’s prospects of achieving the ‘American Dream’ of earning more than their parents have fallen from 90% to 50% over the past half century,” the researchers wrote in their report.



What is a Capitalist?

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One of our pamphlets, 'The Case for Socialism', outlines a capitalist as follows:

“What makes a person a member of the Capitalist class is the fact that he has enough ownership in the form of bonds, stocks and shares to enable him to live without going to work for a wage”.

We suggest, that this traditional definition is inadequate for the following reasons:
1. It is not comprehensive enough as it does not include those members of the capitalist class who, as in Russia, do have to work and do not have large amounts of legal property titles.
2. It implies that capitalists can only own the means of production as individuals through legal property titles in their own names. But this has been proved historically to be only one form of capitalist ownership. In Russia this has largely taken another form: collective ownership by a group which controls the State and its industries. The common content of both is actual control of access to the means of production (plus preferential treatment in the distribution of the products), whether legally recognised or not. This fact is not reflected in the definition.
3. In emphasizing the high income of the capitalists it places their preferential treatment in the distribution of the products above their more basic position with regard to the production of wealth. In fact it makes no reference at all to their function in social production and does not allow for any distinction between the capitalist class and, for instance, a landowning aristocracy whose members also own sufficient wealth so as not to need to work for wages.

Any adequate definition of a capitalist must highlight their function in capitalist production (not production as such, mind you, so we are not looking for a technical function: we wouldn’t find one anyway since, from a technical point of view, production is run from top to bottom by the working class).

The aim of capitalist production is not (contrary to what we sometimes suggest in our necessarily simplified outdoor propaganda) primarily the consumption of the capitalists any more than it is the consumption of the workers: it is the accumu­lation of capital, as Marx showed in Capita, at the expense of consumption. The function of the capitalist class in the social process of capitalist production is, therefore, to hold back consumption so that the maximum amount of capital can be accumulated. Or, to put it another way, to restrict the consumption of the working class to a minimum compatible with productive efficiency so that the maximum amount of the surplus value they produce can be reinvested as capital. Marx spoke of the capitalists as "personifying capital", saying:

"Only as personified capital is the capitalist respectable. As such he shares with the miser the passion for wealth as wealth. But that which in the miser is mere idiosyncrasy, is, in the capitalists, the effect of the social mechanism, of which he is but one of the wheels (emphasis added, Capital, Vol.1, the section on the theory of abstinence).

(Marx went on, incidentally, to state quite clearly that he did not regard the aim of capitalist production as the consumption of the capitalist: "So far, therefore, as his actions are a mere function of capital — endowed as capital is, in his person, with consciousness and a will — his own private consumption is a robbery perpetuated on accumulation. .. ").

Engels, in the often-quoted passage from his ‘Socialism, Utopian and Scientific’ used the same formulation when he described the modern State as ''the ideal personi­fication of the total national capital". The implication being, though Engels does not specifically say so, that capital would be personified under State control of industry by those who controlled the State and the key investment decisions.

This, of course, is another way of putting our case that any party or group which takes on the running of capitalism must come into conflict with the working class because it will have to restrict the consumption of the working class in the interests of capital accumulation (not, as we again mistakenly tend to suggest, the personal consumption of the capitalists).

Not that every group that, for however short a period and however chosen, presides over the accumulation of capital can be described as a capitalist class; a ruling class has to have some preferential treatment in the distribution of pro­ducts. But what we can say is that any group which, through its control of the State, does "personify capital" over a longish period will tend to become a capitalist class, even if it doesn't get the legal right to draw a property income. This is essentially what happened in Russia after 1917.

To sum up, the rise of State capitalism —in Britain as well as Russia —has clearly exposed as inadequate the traditional definition of a Capitalist as a person who has sufficient personal wealth and legal property income not to need to work for wages. It is not so easy, however, to frame an alternative. We offer, for discussion, something along the following lines:

“A capitalist is a member of a stable group which over a longish period...directs the accumulation of capital/runs capitalism/ personifies capital.”


Haringey Branch, 1973 Annual Conference

Unequal Europe

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The concentration of wealth among the euro zone's richest has increased since the bloc's debt crisis began, with poor families suffering the biggest drop in asset values, a survey released by the European Central Bank showed. 

The euro zone's top 5 percent of households owned 37.8 percent of net wealth in 2014, up from 37.2 percent in 2010 while the bottom 5 percent owned only debt, the ECB said, based on a survey of 84,000 households. Ten percent of euro-area households own more than half the region’s wealth.

To reach the top 10 percent, households needed to hold net wealth of 496,000 euros or more, while the lowest 10 percent had 1,000 euros or less.

The median wealth of a euro zone household dropped around 10 percent to 104,100 euros ($108,800) in the four years to 2014, mostly as property prices fell, especially for the poorest fifth of the population, the ECB said. The property price fall hurt the poorest the most - real estate wealth was down by a fifth for the poorest 40 percent, twice the rate of the drop affecting the richest 20 percent, the ECB said


"The shift was particularly substantial in Greece and Cyprus, where the median fell by roughly 40 percent... but it is also large in Italy, Portugal, and Spain, where it declined by more than 15 percent," the ECB said. 

Quote of the Day

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“We are losing the essence of our humanity. I don’t understand how we got there, and how we are letting it happen without much more of a fight…Honestly, if we don’t put ourselves collectively back together we probably will not manage. I am actually running out of words about how we’ve lost part of our common humanity. I don’t know if we’re ever going to be able to bring it back together.”  international president of Medecins Sans Frontieres, (Doctors Without Borders), Dr.Joanne Liu

Friday, December 23, 2016

Property prices

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Black and white - Unite

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Further to this earlier post, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in “Black Reconstruction in America,” that the major failure of those years was that poor whites and poor blacks failed to form an alliance around their mutual economic interests and challenges. Instead, white elites doubled down on their efforts to divide poor people of different races.

“So long as the Southern white laborers could be induced to prefer poverty to equality with the Negro,” Dubois lamented, “a labor movement in the South [was] impossible.” Though similarly exploited by white elites, economically disenfranchised whites and blacks “never came to see their common interest.”

More than eight decades later, we’re still waiting.

The unemployment rate for black Americans is twice that for the white community across education levels. Similarly, the income gap between black and white households grew to $25,000 as of 2014, a statistic due in no small part to the same wage stagnation, deindustrialization, and de-unionization plaguing many Rust Belt whites. Trends in wealth have mirrored those in income. Where the Great Recession led to a 16 percent loss in wealth for the average white family, it led to a 53 percent loss for the average black family. As of 2014, around of quarter of black and Latino Americans lived in poverty, compared to 10 percent of whites.

“If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded,” Columbia University professor Mark Lilla wrote.

The best way to with the “white working class” is to argue forcefully that the economic concerns of the white working class and people of color are more alike than different. Working white people understandably complain of lower wages and lost jobs. Yet these economic challenges are part and parcel to those confronting communities of color.

Instead of erasing race from the equation, we should take their cue from Du Bois and get to work building what he called a unified “proletariat” of all colors.


Heading for the scrap-heap

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In the 19th century, the industrial revolution meant that highly skilled individuals were not required. The jobs of craftsmen and artisans were replaced by machines.

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has the potential to boost productivity but increase wealth inequality and wipe out millions of jobs, a research report by the White House claimed. 

Researchers across the world have given varying estimates about the size of job losses. One recent estimate by Forrester suggests 6 percent of jobs could be wiped out thanks to AI in the next five years. The White House report cites a 2013 study from Oxford University suggesting 47 percent of U.S. jobs are at risk due to AI, while the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), estimates only 9 percent of jobs are at risk of being completely displaced.

AI, like any new technology, is key to growth because it increases output without requiring increases in labor or capital. "In the last decade, despite technology’s positive push, measured productivity growth has slowed in 30 of the 31 advanced economies, slowing in the United States from an average annual growth rate of 2.5% in the decade after 1995 to only 1.0% growth in the decade after 2005," the report states.

The White House report suggests that lower-skilled and less-educated workers could feel the heat the most.
"This means that automation will continue to put downward pressure on demand for this group, putting downward pressure on wages and upward pressure on inequality. In the longer-run, there may be different or larger effects. One possibility is superstar-biased technological change, where the benefits of technology accrue to an even smaller portion of society than just highly-skilled workers," the report said.
"The winner-take-most nature of information technology markets means that only a few may come to dominate markets. If labor productivity increases do not translate into wage increases, then the large economic gains brought about by AI could accrue to a select few. Instead of broadly shared prosperity for workers and consumers, this might push towards reduced competition and increased wealth inequality."

Robots could take all the jobs no one wants to do, reducing the working day and the working week, leaving more time for leisure and the fulfilment. But left to its own devices, the capitalist economy does not work this way.



What white working class?

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 this article at the Common Dreams website on the so-called “white working class”, a phrase that is being peddled by the media and the political pundits on the right. They provide little definition of what they mean by “white working class.”. Nor do they provide any evidence that the actual work experiences of white and black working people are significantly different no matter how the class is defined. Working people as a whole (defined as the 85 percent of us who are production and non-supervisory employees) have seen their real wages fall since the late 1970s ― all shades, all colors.  Most of the new jobs created are low-wage, part-time service sector jobs ― jobs that often pay poverty wages. As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2015, “More than 40% of the jobs added in just the past year have come in generally lower-paying fields such as food service, retail, and temporary help.” So getting the lion’s share of these jobs is not a pathway to prosperity. Also, finally, rural America is not lily white. Hispanics and African Americans make up a total of 17.5 percent of rural and small town America.
Well worth a read is

We invent the white working class, we whitewash an increasingly diverse manufacturing workforce. Take the workforce at Carrier, which is in the news because of Trump’s effort to prevent its jobs from moving to Mexico. Isn’t it a perfect example of a beleaguered and declining white working class in Indiana, looking to Trump for help? No, the Carrier workforce is 50 percent African-American. Half of the assembly line workers are women. Burmese immigrants make up 10 percent of the employees.

These media reports create an image in our minds of a coherent white working class, hunkered down in the declining manufacturing sector ― white rural workers who have needs and interests different from black and brown urban workers. In doing so, this image feeds into a long history of white working class creationism that divides working people by race.

Class is real and is a unifying force in which the vast majority of us have common interests and experiences. Only consciousness of our shared class interests and a sense of class solidarity can overcome all the divisions the corporate oligarchy can use to divide us. Not talking about it, is class collaboration with the 1%.

In 1911, the U.S. Immigration Commission published its Dictionary of Races or Peoples, that listed 29 separate races. The Southern Italian race, for example, is described as “excitable, impulsive, highly imaginative...having little adaptability to highly organized society.” Race science defined “white” as a narrow category that excluded virtually everyone who didn’t come from northern Europe. By the First World War, U.S. immigration policy was informed by early IQ tests given to immigrants on Ellis Island that supposedly showed that “87% of Russians, 83% of Jews, 80% of Hungarians, and 79% of Italians were feeble-minded.” This “science” provided the rationale for dividing the workforce by ethnic group which had the added virtue of weakening worker solidarity and keeping unions at bay. This became particularly acute after 4 million workers went on strike at the end of WWI. The largest strike involved 350,000 steel workers that finally collapsed after 14 weeks of pitched battles. The rise of American industrial unionism successfully organized “unskilled” immigrant workers, blacks and Hispanics into broad-based unions.


Race is always a social construction, a human invention used to create a hierarchy of power. It is not genetics. It is not biology. And in the case of the “white working class” it’s not even accurate sociology.

Every effort to construct a black or white race through genetics has failed. No one yet has found a gene that signals a separate race. Eighty-five percent of all genetic variation is among people within a population and only 15 percent of the variation among humans is between different populations and continents. This means that any two black people chosen at random will have far more genetic differences from each other than a randomly selected white and a black person.

 Biologically speaking the old cliché is true: There is only one race ― the human race.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Asian American Inequality

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Asian Americans are about 5 percent to 6 percent of the US population

There are many ways to measure inequality - in this case, the economists compared different wealth thresholds. According to the data, white families in the top 10 percent each had more than $1.26 million in 2010-2013, while white families in the bottom 20 percent each had less than $10,468. In other words, a typical rich white family was about 120 times wealthier than a typical poor white family.

Among Asian Americans, the cutoff to make it into the top 10 percent was actually higher - about $1.44 million. And the families at the bottom end seemed to be worse off - the poorest 20 percent of families were each worth less than $9,319. So a rich Asian household was about 168 times richer than a poor Asian household.

The housing boom and bust explains a lot of the patterns in inequality. Homes tend to be the most expensive asset a family owns, and although the Asian American homeownership rate (about 60 percent) is lower than the white homeownership rate (about 74 percent), Asian Americans also tend to live in coastal metropolises where homes are expensive. In the early 2000s, the Asian Americans who were fortunate enough to own homes had their net worth skyrocket, increasing wealth inequality between Asian American homeowners and Asian American renters, as well as helping Asian Americans catch up to white Americans.

"It appears that the returns that African Americans and Hispanics get on similar assets are lower," said Ray Boshara, director of the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. "So buying a home or pursuing an education does not yield the same amount of wealth."

Compared with whites and Asians, African Americans and Hispanics are much less wealthy, and they don't seem to be making much progress. Data from the same survey shows that both groups have actually been losing ground relative to whites in recent years.

Such disparities are completely invisible according to the usual way we consider racial differences, which focuses on averages, not levels of inequality. Asian American households and white American households in fact have about the same amount of mean wealth - about $680,000, according to CAP's calculations. That creates the illusion that Asians are about as well off as whites. But as the report suggests, the richest Asian Americans are far more affluent than the poorest Asian Americans - so much so that they skew the data and obscure the problems of the people at the bottom.

"The problem is that 'Asian American' doesn't hold together as a category," said Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland. "The group is too diverse. It doesn't really make sense to compare recent Chinese, Korean or Pakistani immigrants who are working in tech and engineering jobs to people who came as refugees in the 1980s and their working-class descendants."

A Marxmas Message

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Time for a rabble-rousing, festive rant. 
The Christmas season nowadays starts round about early November - though I do know of a family a few streets away who have had decorations up since early October - just after we have finished celebrating the barbaric execution of Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators. That’s about the time the seasonal ads start appearing on your TV set, reminding you that within seven weeks you will be obliged to empty what little hard-earned money you have in your savings account and to spend the same on presents, the recipients of which, in 999 out of 1000 cases, never really need.
Christmas is undoubtedly a secular festival these days, all religious claims to it having long been conceded to the master class who use it as a midwinter morale booster for their exhausted workers, and a money- spinner. And how the masses warm to the event, numbing the pain of their alienation in an orgy of over-spending, over-eating and over-drinking!
The truth is the whole damned thing is an expensive ritual - a wallet-emptying convention devoid of any real and spontaneous show of affection - that many if asked, would rather do without. Just look how embarrassed people feel upon receiving an unexpected card or gift and having none to give in return – a situation that reinforces one of the basic tenets of capitalism: ‘you get nowt for nowt’. How many people feel uncomfortable about writing out Christmas cards to send/give them to people they think they are sure to receive one from, people they are acquainted with only on a superficial level, fearing that such an unreciprocated act will signify meanness?
I do not mean to imply that humans are greedy and selfish and uncaring. Far from it! I am a socialist because I think exactly the opposite - that humans are innately good, that they work best when faced with the worst, that they will go to any lengths to alleviate the misery of others and that they have the ability to fashion a world in their own interests. But Christmas is all about giving on cue, about affection on demand, about a “season of goodwill to all men”. And I really do not think humans need to be reminded to give on cue, to have their affection synchronised to the Gregorian calendar, to show goodwill to all people. We have developed the advanced technological society we enjoy now exactly because we give and share and care without being asked to, or being reminded to, or having the open show of affection ritualised – indeed, our very survival as a species has always depended on it.
I believe capitalist society suppresses our emotions, stultifies just what it is to be really human and goes a long way to create a society of atomised individuals, pursuing their own selfish interests. In such an anti-human climate Christmas seems a bloody miracle!
Granted, kids love it – it’s all about magic, about a fat, unshaven, jolly geriatric in a red suit who, with his band of trusty, anal retentive, reindeer, can cover the earth’s surface area of 196,940,400 square miles within 12 hours whilst showering presents on the deserving. And, granted, the heartily religious love it – it’s a time for remembering when, 2,000 years ago, a 13-year-old Palestinian lassie had a virgin birth, having been impregnated by a God (nowadays that gets you on the sex offenders register, as does entering the bedrooms of youngsters in a silly red disguise to leave presents).
Just where the fuck would we be without the advertising industry who continually alert us to needs we never even knew we had and who constantly remind us that our lives are really less satisfactory than we had hitherto imagined? I looked through an electrical store recently and was amazed to find items I honestly never even knew existed. Jeez, where’ve I been this last year? Just how the fuck did our species survive without them? Sheesh! Consider this - according to the Worldwatch Institute, we have used more goods and services since 1960 than in all the rest of human history! Have all of these pleasure-inducing goods contributed to a general human happiness? No, over the same period, 25-year-olds in Britain have become ten times more likely to be afflicted by depression. The WHO recently estimated that by the end of the decade depression will be the second commonest disease in the developed world.
The unrelenting onslaught of advertising exerts constant pressure on parents in particular who, fearful their kids will be labelled, belittled and humiliated if their pressies are not up to scratch when they compare notes in the school yard, are more than ready to satisfy the most outlandish wants and bugger the cost and inconvenience for the next 52 weeks. To hell if that present you’ve just paid £250 for will end up in a cupboard after a few weeks, the novelty having worn off – to be sold for £50 on eBay in a few months time – you just can’t let the neighbours know you're hard up.
And the sad thing is, we all know Christmas marketing is just one big profit-oriented scam, benefiting manufacturers, stores, and huge corporations while driving individuals into debt. We all know it’s a game of winners and losers. You don’t need a degree in ethics to realise that the Chrimbo "wish lists" and "gift exchanges", the giving on cue demeans the real concept of giving. We know this annual orgy of consumption – 40% of what we buy is binned, unused – is detrimental to the environment, filling landfills with useless packaging and discarded gifts. We know Christmas means misery for millions of families, depression for hundreds of thousands – the Samaritans say they receive a 10% increase in calls between Christmas day and New Year. Yet still we tag along with the damned charade, still, we passively acquiesce in the madness.
Seems the workers just need this annual fix, this distraction from the rat race, even if they do know it's all bollocks.
But do we need Christmas? I can only conclude that until we have abolished capitalists from the earth and gods from the skies the answer has to be yes. If it was not Christmas, then another event which necessitates the suspending of the normal functioning of the rat-race, demanding the proverbial letting down of one’s hair and the partaking in an orgy of consumption, would take its place. It’s sad, but the exploited masses just need that fix. Religion has sod all to do with it
John Bissett 

Pole Vs. Brit

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People living in the UK are now more likely to be at risk of poverty or social exclusion than those in Poland, IBTimes UK can reveal. 

The latest EU poverty statistics show that in 2015 the proportion of people in Britain either at risk of poverty, severely materially deprived or living in households with very low working hours became greater than that of people in Poland. It is the first time the UK has ranked below Poland on the index since Poland ascended to the EU in 2004. In 2005 the proportion of people at risk of of poverty or social exclusion in Poland was almost double that in Britain: 45:3% vs 24.8%. A decade later only 23.4% of Polish residents are marginalised, compared with 23.5% in Britain, according to the EU's statistical agency Eurostat.

The measure of poverty employed in the statistics is relative to a nation's median income and does not suggest that British residents are poorer than Poles. It may in fact be a better indication of income inequality (after welfare payments) within each country. Regardless, the dramatic reversal in the countries' rankings is remarkable in the wake of the Brexit vote, believed to have been largely motivated by resentment towards economic migrants from Poland and other parts Eastern Europe.

Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said: "Economic conditions have improved considerably in Poland over the past ten years, and this is likely to be one reason why the number of newly arriving Polish migrants is lower than it was in the mid-2000s. That said, there is still a reasonably large gap between standards of living in the UK and Poland. By 2014, for example, Eurostat estimated that the average household's disposable income in the UK was 1.8 times higher than in Poland."

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

“MY HUSBAND AND I” (weekly poem)

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“MY HUSBAND AND I”

Every year workers are glued to their television sets at
3 p.m. on Christmas Day to hear Her Majesty, The
Queen, broadcast her annual message to her subjects!

Now Christmas has come round again,,
Oh gawd I hear you say;
As you slump through the Queen’s Speech on,
The TV, Christmas Day.

“My husband and I pray you all,
Will prosper this New Year;
And hope despite austerity,
That you’ll be of  good cheer”.

“The NHS will be run down,
As will be Social Care;
With Southern Trains still driverless,
And Grayling going spare”! (1)

“The roads, like Tory policy,
Will still be full of holes;
Although one doesn’t feel the bumps,
When one rides in one’s Rolls”!

“The Empire, will start striking back,
Once we’ve left the E.U.;
For the years we exploited them,
Until we said ‘adieu’”.

“So fare-thee-well, my subjects all,
Until this time next year;
When this recorded spiel will have,
You crying in your beer”!

(1) Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, has hinted that
legislation might be enacted to ban strikes on the
railways. Unlike other railway companies, Southern’s
income is paid directly to the Government.

A plan by Boris Johnson, the previous Mayor of London,
for Transport For London to take over suburban rail
services has been objected to by Grayling as it could
give more power to Labour Mayor, Sadiq Khan.

© Richard Layton

Welcome to Socialism (animation video)

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Mexico's migrant "wall"

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Each year, more than 400,000 people – most from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala – cross Mexico, fleeing violence, poverty and threats from criminal gangs. For more than three years, teams from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have been providing them with medical care and humanitarian aid.

What compels so many Central Americans to leave their countries? Widespread violence: killings, kidnappings, disappearances, extortion, threats and forced recruitment by armed militants. Some cities in El Salvador and Honduras have the highest homicide rates in the world. This situation compels a considerable number of people to leave their homes and loved ones to save their own lives. 16% of MSF’s patients say that direct attacks were their main reason for fleeing, while 41% decided to flee after receiving direct threats. Undoubtedly, violence is a determining factor. Combined with poverty, it’s the main factor forcing these people to migrate to Mexico and the US.

Following the lead of so many other nations the Mexican government has implemented its ‘Southern Border Plan’ where security has been toughened up and controls and checkpoints have increased, forcing migrants to take more dangerous routes. People face criminal gangs and all kinds of violence, including sexual violence. They are at risk of being robbed, abused, raped, kidnapped or even killed by criminal organisations. MSF conducted in 2015 along different parts of the migration route, two-thirds of migrants and refugees reported being subjected to some form of violence. The ‘Southern Border Plan’ has also resulted in increased deportations or ‘repatriations’. Official figures from the Migration Policy Unit are striking: in 2015, 88 per cent of migrants under arrest were deported. The systematic deportation of Central Americans who are at risk of violence in their countries of origin calls into question access to protection mechanisms which should be guaranteed in Mexico.


Solidarity Day

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December 20 is International Human Solidarity Day.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Plague on both houses - 3/3

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The IRA's Martin McGuinness and The Queen
Alex Callinicos, one of the SWP leading cadres has left this blog somewhat puzzled about what it is to be an anti-imperialist.

"...Anti-imperialist nationalism is the ideology of an actual or aspirant capitalist class that seeks the way to its own independent state blocked by imperialism and therefore must mobilize the masses to help break down this obstacle..... the logic of such movements is to subordinate the interests of workers and other exploited classes to those of the bourgeois leadership..." and that such movements can tie "...their movement to presently supportive states ...that may well be prepared to use it as a bargaining chip in their pursuit of their own geopolitical interests."
No argument from us about what he said. Nor do we disagree when he points out that:
"...different Islamist tendencies and regimes that may now present themselves as anti-imperialist have a history of collaborating with imperialism ..."
Or when he explains that:
"... It is of the essence of bourgeois nationalists that, when imperialism prevents them for building their own independent capitalist state, they may lead struggles against it, but they are striving to carve out a place for themselves within the existing system, not to overthrow it. This means that, sooner or later, they will come to terms with imperialism..."

Callinicos and It would seem that Callincos and ourselves would be in tune with one another....UNTIL Callinicos declares:
"...If Bush attacks Iran tomorrow, which side are you on? I would be on Iran’s ... I would be for an Iranian victory despite his anti-Semitic rantings, despite the regime’s capitalist class base, despite the repression it perpetrates. This is the politics of permanent revolution, which seeks the overthrow of imperialism and of the local bourgeois regimes..."

We are left bemused. Just how does this raise the class of the workers to a point where we desire to free ourselves from the yoke of capitalism and begin the socialist transformation of society? Where from history can Callincios offer examples of this of ever having happening.
In Vietnam where the national liberation war cost the lives of 3 million Vietnamese, Ho Chi Minh’s victory was supposed to have been the defeat of the imperialists, yet today Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have become the centre of cheap labour and sweat-shops owned by Vietnamese millionaires. Is that what freedom promised?  
We can recall the defeats of France and Britain over the years and the Sun setting upon empires Direct rule and political control may have disappeared but the multinationals still maintain their economic stranglehold on the newly-independent nations and every so often sovereign governments call for the assistance of the British or French army.

Even a cursory reading of history shows that the powerful capitalist powers have not been weakened. The USA still stands militarily and economically above all, with the European Union backing it. And when an imperialist country vacates its sphere of influence for whatever reason, does not another step in to take its place and continue the exploitation. Having freed itself from America, did not Cuba chain itself to Russia?

Has anti-imperialism advanced the cause of the proletariat one inch over the decades? Or led it down many a tearful false trail? Rosa Luxemburg did not accept the need for self-determination of nations, and although being Polish herself she chose to participate in the class struggle in Germany instead of advocating a "free" Poland and allying herself with the national bourgeoisie.

The SWP had its roots during the Korean War with the slogan of what was heresy at the time for Trotskyists,  "Neither Washington, Nor Moscow". Now, it's simply "Anybody But Washington".

Callinicos in this interview is quite happy to declare his support for reactionary totalitarian countries with the justification that my enemy's enemy is my friend, under the guise of Permanent Revolution. How does it take us closer to revolutionary consciousness and socialism by strengthening one capitalist against another capitalist? Callinicos will march us up to the top of the hill and he'll march us all down again to protest against American-Anglo wars of expansion, while at the same time urging us to spill our blood and guts in defence of some home-grown native capitalist.

To escape that exploitation, class solidarity needs to take precedence over any national allegiances. We must stand alongside our fellow-workers in London, Washington, Moscow, Tehran, Damascus or Baghdad and not stand alongside the Boss Class of this country or any other country. One deluded worker killing another deluded worker won't bring us any closer towards socialism.

The most telling this about the re-newed “Cold War” between Russia and America and its allies is that it reveals there was nothing ideological about their rivalry, nothing to do with free enterprise or state-owned corporations but merely the expression of national competition for resources and trade routes that have gone on since Napoleonic and Tsarist times.

 The Socialist Party does not decide its case on present day US-Russian relations by deciding "which is the bigger bastard?"

Plague on both houses - 2/3

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The Left has not been interested in any criticism of what has become a dogma in their circles: that socialists are duty-bound to support struggles for "national liberation". The Left simply "trot" out the old anti-imperialism position of supporting the weaker country against imperialist aggression which refuses any real class analysis of war.

Lenin wrote a pamphlet which he entitled ‘Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism and argued that, through a process which had been completed by the turn of the century, capitalism had changed its character. Industrial capital and bank capital had merged into finance capital, and competitive capitalism had given way to monopoly capitalism in which trusts, cartels, and other monopolistic arrangements had come to dominate production. Faced with falling profits from investments at home, these monopolies were under economic pressure to export capital and invest it in the economically backward parts of the world where higher than normal profits could be made. Hence, Lenin went on, the struggle by the most advanced industrial countries to secure colonies where such "super-profits" could be made. When, after 1917, Lenin became the head of the Bolshevik regime in Russia the theory was expanded to argue that the imperialist countries were exploiting the whole population of the backward areas they controlled and that even a section of the working class in the imperialist countries benefited from the super—profits made from the imperialist exploitation of these countries in the form of social reforms and higher wages, Lenin argued that imperialism was in part a conscious strategy to buy off the working classes in the imperialist countries. His evidence consists of one quote from arch-imperialist Cecil Rhodes, and one from Engels to the effect that the workers of England "merrily share the feast" of its colonies.

Lenin's theory of imperialism pits the working class of undeveloped countries against that of the developed ones and led to upholding national interest against class interest. Lenin's position was not a mistake. The “labour aristocracy” theory had the political purpose of enabling the Bolsheviks to argue for the workers in the colonies to form united fronts with their local ruling classes against imperialism. This divided the working class internationally and turning it into cannon fodder for capitalist war. Lenin's expanded theory made the struggle in the world not one between a worldwide working class and a global capitalist class, but between imperialist and anti—imperialist states. The international class struggle which socialism preached was replaced by a doctrine which preached an international struggle between nation-states.

The whole thrust of Marx's own analysis of capitalism was that the workers' movement would first triumph in the economically advanced parts of the world, not in a relatively backward economic area like Russia. Lenin explained away this contradiction by arguing that Marx had been describing the situation in the pre—imperialist stage of capitalism whereas, in the imperialist stage which had evolved after his death, the capitalist state had become so strong that the breakthrough would not take place in an advanced capitalist country but in the weakest imperialist state. Tsarist Russia had been the weakest link in the chain of imperialist countries and this explained why it was there that the first "workers revolution" had taken place. This was tantamount to saying that the Russian revolution was the first "anti—imperialist" revolution, and in a sense it was. Russia was the first country to escape from the domination of the Western capitalist countries and to follow a path of economic development that depended on using the State to accumulate capital internally instead of relying on the export of capital from other countries. In its early days, the Bolshevik regime was faced with a civil war and intervention by the Western capitalist powers. Lenin realised that this was a card he could play to try to save his regime and it meant appealing to the "toiling masses" of Asia not to establish socialism but to carry out their own anti-imperialist revolutions. The 'super-exploited" countries were to be encouraged to seek independence as this would weaken the imperialist states, who were putting pressure on Bolshevik Russia. This strategy was presented to the workers' movement in the West as a way of provoking the socialist revolution in their countries. Deprived of their super-profits, the ruling class in the imperialist countries would no longer be able to bribe their workers with social reforms and higher wages; the workers would, therefore, turn away from reformism and embrace the revolution.

This strategy of building up an "anti-imperialist" front against the West was continued because it taught that all the people in colonial dominated countries had a common interest in obtaining independence, i.e. a state of their own, which was very attractive to nationalist politicians in these countries. They called on all the inhabitants of the country they sought to rule to unite behind them in a common struggle to achieve independence. As a result, in these countries "socialism" became associated with nationalism rather than with the working-class internationalism it had originally been. The political struggle there came to be seen as a struggle, not between the working class and the capitalist class, but as a struggle of all patriotic elements— workers, peasants, and capitalists together—against traitorous, unpatriotic elements who had sold out to foreign imperialists.

Marx and Engels had little to say on the subject of imperialism. Their remarks on colonialism and foreign trade, particularly the section on counter-tendencies to the tendency of the Falling Rate of Profit, have been used to give authority to other theories are blown up out of proportion. Three pages in Capital Volume 3 is used to justify anti-imperialism, but all they basically say is that a national capital tries to avoid the crisis caused by the Falling Rate of Profit, which in turn is caused by the increase in the ratio of constant to variable capital, of machinery to workers, by investing in foreign countries. Briefly, The Falling Rate of Profit is explained by the fact that capitalists are forced by competition to produce cheaper goods by increasing the ratio of machinery to workers. Because labour is the only source of value, the rate of profit is given by dividing the proportion of living labour in the product by the proportion of dead labour, or machinery. This rate must fall as the proportion of machinery rises. Capital invested "at home", in production for foreign trade, can also yield a higher rate of profit "because it competes with commodities produced by other countries with less developed production facilities, so that the more advanced country sells its goods above their value". This enables the more advanced country to dominate the less advanced, by making more profit. Capital invested directly in production in the colonies also produces more profit: "the reason why this can yield higher rates of profit is that the profit rate is generally higher there on account of the lower degree of development, and so too is the exploitation of labour, through the use of slaves and coolies, etc." 
What this passage means is that a higher rate of profit is obtainable in countries where exploitation is less developed, where more variable capital (labour) is required to turn out a given quantum of value from a given unit of constant capital (machinery).

Marx doesn't make too much of this counter-tendency to the Falling Rate of Profit. He adds that though the more advanced country "receives more labour in exchange for less", it is all "pocketed by a particular class, just as in the exchange between labour and capital in general". Both foreign trade and capital export are just particular examples of capitalism in general. They are not qualitatively different from what capital does within its "home" country. The "super-profits" of anti-imperialist theory are, in other words, simply larger quantities of ordinary profits. Taking over competitors with less developed production facilities by destroying them by selling cheaper goods, and taking advantage of these less developed facilities to make more profit, is part of capital's daily life. Moralistic protest about the unfairness of imperialism, as opposed to ordinary capitalism, is an attempt to confuse us about the nature of the beast. (The enslavement of Africans was qualitatively worse than the forced deportations of the English, Scots and Irish poor, but if a capitalist power is more savage and parasitic abroad than it is at home, that is only because the class struggle at home has restrained it. If "First World" workers have been "bribed", that is because they have forced the bosses to bribe them.)

Marxian economics does not measure the level of exploitation by how high or low wages are but by reference to the amount of surplus value produced as compared with the amount of wages paid, whether high or low. By this measure the workers of the advanced countries were more exploited than those of the colonies, despite their higher wages, because they produced more profits per worker. Lenin failed to understand why different rates of wages prevail in different countries. According to him, wages are higher in imperialist countries because the capitalists there bribe their workers out of the superprofits which they earn from exploiting the subjugated countries. Marx's explanation as to why wages were higher in these countries. Both productivity and the rate of exploitation (ratio of paid to unpaid labour) were higher there:
"The more productive one country is relative to another in the world market, the higher will be its wages compared with the other. In England, not only nominal wages but (also) real wages are higher than on the continent. The worker eats more meat, he satisfies more needs. This, however, only applies to the industrial worker and not the agricultural labourer. But in proportion to the productivity of the English workers their wages are not higher (than the wages paid in other countries)" (Theories of Surplus Value).

A lower rate of wages does not make any one country any less capitalist than another: The ruling class in all countries pay workers as much as they think they have to, calculated from:
a) The need for workers to stay alive and, to a greater or lesser degree, healthy,
b) The shortage or otherwise of workers capable of doing the job, and
c) The class struggle
(Where does a wage rise gained by struggle end and a bribe begin? Lenin's position implies that British workers should deduce what proportion of their pay are the proceeds of the exploitation of the colonies, and hand that proportion back to their employers, declaring their refusal to be bribed.)

"The different states of the different civilised countries, in spite of their motley diversity of form, all have this in common, they are based on modern bourgeois society, only one more or less capitalistically developed" (Critique of the Gotha Programme).

A country may be highly industrialised or a developed agricultural one or the chief supplier of raw materials for industry or whatever. This happens due to the division of labour amongst the various capitalist countries.

Nikolai Bukharin presented a different theory of imperialism which paid lip-service to the labour aristocracy position but placed more emphasis on the necessity for revolution. The reasoning behind Bukharin's theory was if it could be shown that capitalism was inevitably divided into war-mongering states, that hence the horrors of the First World War were going to be repeated until capitalism was overthrown, this would constitute a convincing case for revolution. Bukharin tried to show a contradiction between nation states and international capitalism. Capitalism has created the world economy, the material basis of communism, but "national economies" and "state capitalist trusts" contradict this, leading to imperialism and war. Nation states were the "forms" which helped develop the "forces of production", but now they are "fetters" on their further development. His book Imperialism and World Economy was intended to show that imperialism is an inevitable stage of capitalism, in order to refute the possibility of a peaceful solution to the First World War. This was in turn necessary in order to oppose the "centrists" among social democracy, who were trying to sit on the fence on the question of the necessity of a proletarian revolution to end the war.

Lenin and Bukharin both claimed that Kautsky had completely abandoned Marxism, and now believed that capitalism could reform itself, eliminating its nasty bits, and evolve into a peaceful new world order. Kautsky actually said "What Marx said of capitalism can also be applied to imperialism: monopoly creates competition and competition monopoly. The frantic competition of giant firms, giant banks and multi-millionaires obliged the great financial groups, who were absorbing the small ones, to think up the notion of the cartel. In the same way, the result of the World War between the great imperialist powers may be a federation of the strongest, who renounce their arms race. Hence from the purely economic standpoint it is not impossible that capitalism may still live through another phase, the translation of cartelisation into foreign policy: a phase of ultra-imperialism, which of course we must struggle against as energetically as we do against imperialism."

Of the two theories, imperialism and Kautsky's concept of ultra-imperialism which has best stood the test of time? Capitalism has proved itself more flexible than many of its critics realised. Is there any reason why single capitalist firms should be tied to one state? It is possible for capitalism to dissolve particular national states and replace them with larger entities, such as the European Community?

Rosa Luxemburg's contribution to the debate on imperialism was her opposition to the idea that imperialism could be opposed by supporting national liberation struggles. Luxemburg's arguments, based on the experience of the Polish working class in its struggle against "its" poor oppressed national bourgeoisie, have been largely forgotten yet a significant section of the Bolsheviks supported her views against Lenin's "right of nations to self-determination". Rosa Luxemburg accused Lenin as having "thrown the greatest confusion into the ranks of socialism," and goes on to state: "The Bolsheviks have supplied the ideology which has masked the campaign of counter-revolution; they have strengthened the position of the bourgeoisie and weakened that of the proletariat ... With the phrase about the self-determination of nations, the Bolsheviks furnished water for the mills of counter-revolution and thus furnished an ideology not only for the strangling of the Russian Revolution itself, but for the planned counter-revolutionary liquidation of the entire World War." She describes how during the course of the Russian Revolution "Contrary to what the Bolsheviks expected, one after another the liberated "nations" took advantage of the freshly granted freedom to take a position of deadly enmity to the Russian Revolution, combining against it with German Imperialism... of course it is not the 'nations' by whom that reactionary policy is carried on, but only the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois classes ... who have converted the national right of self-determination into an instrument of their counterrevolutionary class policy."

Lenin's views won the day, and the Communist 3rd International supported national liberation movements and thus the defeat of the working class in China. The most obvious reason for the success of Lenin's views was the power of the Bolshevik state. It had both the means and very good reasons for supporting national liberation struggles. The self-determination of countries national policy of Lenin did not prove fatal to Bolshevik rule although it was true that large areas remained separate from Russia and become reactionary States, but the power of the Bolshevik state proved stronger than ever. Bolshevik Russia existed not as what it was at the beginning, not as the starting point of the world revolution, but as a bulwark against it. Lenin's theory of imperialism had contained the seeds of such a shameful outcome from the start as it made the most significant struggle at world level not the class struggle but the struggle between states, between so-called anti-imperialist and progressive states and so-called imperialist and reactionary states. This was a dangerous diversion from the class struggle and led to workers supporting the killing in wars of other workers in the interest of one or other state and its ruling class.

Anti-imperialism is the slogan of local elites. Anti-imperialism is a doctrine long used by capitalists in relatively weak countries to try and pursue their own ends. The Socialist Party regards nationalism as anti-working class because it has always tied the proletariat to its class enemy and divided it amongst itself. We have always insisted that workers have no country. Anti-imperialist nationalism is the ideology of an actual or aspiring capitalist class that seeks the way to its own independent state blocked by stronger colonial powers and therefore must mobilise the masses to help break down this obstacle. The logic of such movements is to subordinate the interests of workers to those of the capitalist leadership and that such movements can tie their movement to presently supportive states that may well be prepared to use it as a bargaining chip in their pursuit of their own geopolitical interests. Different regimes that may now present themselves as anti-imperialist have a history of collaborating with imperialism. It is of the essence of bourgeois nationalists that, when imperialism prevents them for building their own independent capitalist state, they may lead struggles against it, but they are simply striving to carve out a place for themselves within the existing system, not to overthrow it. This means that, sooner or later, they come to terms with imperialism. Successful anti-imperialism then becomes imperialistic. This is well illustrated by the example of Germany. The 3rd International actually offered some support to the rising Nazi movement in the early twenties on the grounds that they were part of a national liberation struggle, occupied, oppressed  and looted by the French and British. Comintern supported the Nazis, militarily and politically. A decade later, this anti-imperialist movement had become German Imperialism. Israel was founded in a national struggle against the British Empire and resulted in the forced removal of Palestinians and the occupation of the Palestine. Indonesia does not remotely correspond to any precolonial domain, and possesses an enormous variety of peoples, cultures, languages and religions. The people at one end have far more in common with their neighbours across the national frontier than with their fellow "Indonesians", its shape was determined by the last Dutch conquests. We witnessed the result in the Indonesian invasion of East Timor.

All this analysis poses the question "What is the Marxist position to national liberation wars?" Since the conflicting parties are all capitalists should take no interest in who wins. Marx and Engels did support certain nationalist movements and some wars - TO BRING CAPITALISM TO FEUDAL STATES, to usher the capitalist class into political power so they could create the pre-requisites of socialism; an actual working class within an industrialised society. Prussia against the Slavs. Britain and France against Tsarist Russia. Even Prussia against France so as to strengthen unification of Germany. But can anyone seriously think that such a policy is required in to-day’s world where capitalism is now the predominant system and its the working class that’s the decisive class not the capitalists. What may have been right in the 19th Century for Marx and Engels is not now the right choice under changed circumstances and different situation.


Almost every country is more powerful than another and tries to dominate. The tendency of nations to dominate others leads to the view that they are all imperialist which renders the term anti-imperialism meaningless.