Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Socialist Standard No.1368 August 2018

Due to a security incident, the websites for the World Socialist Movement and the Socialist Party of Great Britain are currently down for extended maintenance. The Socialist Standard published without interruption since 1904, is therefore unable to publish the web version in the usual manner on their website, so this for  the time being, is a version using the Socialism or Your Money Back blog, to deliver backup pages in real time.

       PDF Version

  We will to be back on our own websites very soon. propagating socialism, we have never stopped, with important historical archival material dating from 1904 to the present day.

The Mean Riviera Rich

In Saint-Tropez cries of SOS, reports of boat fires, accidents at sea or persons overboard may take a while to answer. The French Riviera town’s lifeboat is out of action awaiting repairs.  Its volunteer crew accuse rich yacht captains of being too mean to stump up a few euros to pay for a replacement.
The Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer (SNSM) at Saint-Tropez wrote this year to wealthy individuals and companies owning luxury yachts moored at Saint-Tropez, asking them to put their hands in their pockets. The town is a playground of the global super-rich. The appeal sank almost without trace. Tycoons and oligarchs failed to come up with a centime.
Pierre-Yves Barasc, the president of the Saint-Tropez lifeboat station, said  “They said it wasn’t their problem...It’s almost as if it’s their right. It’s great to shower the young ladies with a bottle of €50,000 Cristal champagne, but they could be a little more restrained and help us a little more." Barasc continued “We are run by volunteers and we have to find the money ourselves to run the service from A to Z. It’s not just saving people at sea, we get called to fires, evacuations, and we do training in schools and address pollution issues. We have wasted two years to change the lifeboat because we didn’t have the money and the result is our old boat broke down and is out of action for seven weeks. It’s distressing.” Barsac said: “In France, only 3% of boat owners donate to the lifeboat service, unlike in the UK where I believe it is 85%."

Canada's Capitalists

Canada’s richest 87 families have roughly the same amount of wealth as that held by 12 million of their compatriots, or about a third of the country’s population, according to a new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. 
It found that in 2016 the net worth of the richest was 4,448 times that of the average Canadian
The collective net worth of the country’s richest families is just shy of what is owned by everyone in the east coast provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.
“Canada’s dynastic families have got it all – more wealth, more inheritance, and are as lightly taxed as they were the last time we looked in 2014,” the author of the report, economist David Macdonald, said.
Nine of the 20 wealthiest families also included a top-paid CEO among their ranks. “In other words, not only do these families control vast wealth, but their members are disproportionately likely to be among the highest-paid people in Canada,” said Macdonald.
The report found that Canada’s most affluent families are worth $3bn on average, while the median net worth in Canada sits at just over $295,000.
Inheritance figured prominently in their wealth. In 1999, 46 of the 87 families were nouveau riche, a number that had dropped to 39 by 2016, suggesting that a majority of those on the list today were born into wealth.
The gap between the net worth of these families and everyone else in the country is growing. Between 2012 and 2016, the average net worth of the wealthiest rose by 37%, while the median net worth of Canadians grew by 15%.
. “Canada is the only country in the G7 without an inheritance, estate or gift tax on tremendous family wealth,” said Macdonald, citing countries such as the UK, United States and Japan, where inheritances can be taxed at rates of 40% or more.
What’s more, income from capital gains and dividends is taxed at lower rates than income from wages in Canada, a loophole that often benefits the country’s wealthiest, according to research done previously by Macdonald.  Canada also tolerates what was described as “aggressive” accounting – the use of private corporations and tax havens. “You’d expect Canada’s tax regime would try to counteract this concentration of wealth at the very top, where it’s needed the least, but in fact, federal policies encourage it,” said Macdonald.

Bad News USA

40 percent of Americans don’t have $400 on hand for an emergency

Two-thirds of Americans would have trouble coming up with $1,000 for an emergency.

43 percent of Americans (50 million households) can’t afford to meet their basic monthly expenses.

44 million Americans are struggling with more than $1.5 trillion in student debt. 

Others struggle to pay credit card debt, mortgages, and usurious payday loans.

AN estimated 5.3 million Americans are living in deep poverty like that of the poorest Third World countries.

 There is a recession every 6 to 7 years in the United States. If that cyclical pattern still holds, we are overdue for the next one. 

When the next recession hits, working people will pay the steepest price

The Fossil Fuel Subsidies

At a time when we need to transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible, the US federal and state governments are giving the industry tens of billions of dollars to make the production of their dirty, dangerous products more profitable.
A report from Oil Change International (OCI) investigated American energy industry subsidies and found that in 2015–2016, the federal government provided $14.7bn per year to the oil, gas, and coal industries, on top of $5.8bn of state-level incentives (globally, the figure is around $500bn). And the report only accounted for production subsidies, excluding consumption subsidies (support to consumers to lower the cost of fossil fuel use – another $14.5bn annually) as well as the costs of carbon and other fossil fuel pollutants.
The OCI report noted that if we want to meet the Paris target of limiting global warming to less than 2°C, not only does the fossil fuel industry have to stop developing new reserves, but “some already-tapped reserves must be retired early.” This reality is incompatible with continued US government subsidization of fossil fuel industry production, including $2.5bn per year for the exploration of new fossil fuel resources ­– new resources that simply cannot be developed if we’re to meet the Paris climate target.  The OCI notes that permanent tax breaks to the US fossil fuel industry are more than seven times larger than those for renewable energy. And they’re making it profitable for the oil industry to extract resources that would otherwise be left in the ground. At current prices, the production of nearly half of all U.S. oil is not economically viable, except with federal and state subsidies. US federal policy is also propping up the coal industry. Were they forced to meet modern pollution standards, 98% of currently operating coal power plants would be unprofitable compared to an equivalent natural gas plant. Coal power plants only stay open through regulations allowing pollution exemptions, and by forcing taxpayers to pick up the climate change bill.

Work 'til you drop

The number of sick days taken by British workers has fallen to the lowest on record according to official figures, as experts warn that many employees are coming into work when ill because they are fearful for their jobs.

The Office for National Statistics said the average number of sick days taken by UK workers fell to 4.1 days in 2017, a sharp decline from the 7.2 days recorded in 1993 when the data was first collected.
The sickness absence rate is 1.7% in the private sector and 2.6% in the public sector. Sickness rates in the public sector have fallen faster than in the private sector since 2008, and now stand only marginally higher than the 2.3% rate in big private sector companies with 500 or more employees. The lowest rate of sickness is among private sector workers in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector at 1.4%, while public sector health workers had the highest absence rate at 3.3%.
The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “It’s time to ditch the myth that UK workers are always throwing sickies. The reality is that people are more likely to go to work when ill than stay home when well. “If someone is poorly, good employers will encourage them to rest up and get better. UK workers already put in billions of pounds worth of unpaid overtime every year. They shouldn’t have to battle through illness as well.”
Sir Cary Cooper, a professor at Manchester Business School, said presenteeism was the major factor. “Sickness absence is low because presenteeism is high. Given the aftermath of the recession and with Brexit looming people are frightened to be off ill, so they show ‘face time’ when ill or feeling low or job dissatisfied. They do not want high levels of absenteeism on their HR record, which they feel will make them vulnerable.”

'ALLO, 'ALLO, WOT 'AVE WE 'ERE? (weekly poem)

The Police Watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct
are investigating Scotland Yard's anti-corruption department.
(The Metropolitan Police's Directorate of Professional Standards)

‘Allo, ‘allo, wot ‘ave we ‘ere,
Corruption in the Met?
The honest citizens old fear,
(Along with police in riot gear)
A real life Fascist threat.

Who’s there policing the police,
These agents of the State?
Who's job it is to 'keep the peace',
Although this may mean 'no release',
For some left to their fate. (1)

Such power is almost bound to be,
An aphrodisiac;
Enjoyed by some of the top brass,
Employed to pressure and kick arse,
Of those that can't fight back. (2)

And as seen at the Miners Strike,
The police are sometimes used;
To undermine and to out-psych,
Opponents governments dislike,
When power is misused.

We see then 'our democracy',
Is merely just a sham;
And the elite's conspiracy,
Is added to malignancy,
In giving not a damn.

(1) Foreign terrorist suspects imprisoned without
trial in 2004 under the Blair Labour Government.

(2) 23 people died in or after police detention in 2017-18. Of these,
17 had been subjected to force/restraint & of this 17, 8 were black.

© Richard Layton

Filling their pockets

A quarter of S&P 500 companies have disclosed plans to return some tax savings to shareholders and that in the first half of 2018 alone, public companies have announced a record $600 billion in buybacks—which, until 1982, were considered stock market manipulation and thus illegal.

Since the tax cuts were enacted, Oracle Corp. CEO Safra Catz has sold $250 million worth of shares in her company—the largest executive payday this year. Product development head Thomas Kurian sold $85 million. The sales came after the company announced a $12 billion share repurchase.

Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga sold $44.4 million of stock in May, the largest single cash-out by an executive of the company in at least 10 years, months after the company announced a $4 billion buyback of its own stock.

Two days after Eastman Chemical announced it would purchase $2 billion of its own stock, CEO Mark Costa sold 55,000 shares for $5.4 million.

S&P 500 companies are on track to repurchase as much as $800 billion in stock this year, a record that would eclipse 2007’s buyback bonanza. Among the biggest buyers are companies like Oracle Corp. , Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
But 57% of the more than 350 companies in the S&P 500 that bought back shares so far this year are trailing the index’s 3.2% increase. That is the highest percentage of companies to fall short of the benchmark’s gain since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of share buyback and performance data from FactSet.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Dialectical Materialism

From the July 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

A correspondent has asked us to define our attitude to Dialectical Materialism. This phrase has become the stock-in-trade of those who try to defend the tortuous policy of that clay-footed giant of the East—Russia—and it has had wished upon it the mystical characteristics of a solvent of all points of view, even the most glaringly contradictory, such as a “socialist’’ country in which wages exist and a privileged few enjoy luxury at the expense of the great majority.

Dialectical Materialism made its appearance in socialist propaganda when Marx borrowed from Hegel the dialectical (evolutionary) method of examining man's history and works, but he reversed Hegel's method of approach to the world. To Hegel the world was a reflection of the thought process in man's head, he was an idealist; to Marx, the thought process was a reflection of an actual world process, he was a materialist. Hegel was building his philosophical system at a time when the old static world of Feudalism was being rent by the birth of Capitalism, and accepted ways and ideas were being hurled into a tormented melting pot. The old world was passing, the new world was problematical and struggling into shape; nothing was settled, all was change. Hegel, a product of the times, was impregnated with this idea of universal change and his philosophy expressed it—even though upside down. The confused, contradictory and changing policy of Soviet Russia bewilders its adherents and drives them back to a bastardised Hegelianism with leadership as the absolute concept. Is there a contradiction between principles and policy? No matter, an understanding of dialectics will show that everything is all right in this best of all possible Russian worlds. If the Russian workers are free to control their own destiny but must obey the dictates of the Stalin oligarchy, if the capitalist class is the enemy and yet Russia concludes alliances of love with them, if imperialism is a capitalist method of fleecing and yet the “workers’ republic” fights for world markets and spheres of influence, don’t worry, dialectics explains and solves these contradictions. The more incomprehensible dialectics appears to the ordinary worker the firmer the bonds of leadership are riveted upon them and the higher its self-appointed interpreters climb.

At the time when Marx was preparing and writing his analyses of history and Capitalism the word evolution was not current as an expression covering the process of world development, because, although many thinkers recognised that certain changes occurred in nature and history they had not yet grasped the fact that the process was universal, complementary, and unified. They used the expression “development hypothesis” to describe the growth of one form into another within one particular species; the change from one species into another had not yet been recognised, and was to become part of a larger outlook—the evolutionary one. It is significant from this point of view that the word evolution does not appear anywhere in the Communist Manifesto, the outlook of which is now recognised as evolutionary. Evolution as the expression covering the comprehensive developmental point of view became current with the appearance of Darwin’s “Origin of Species," in which was proclaimed the theory of organic evolution. This book appeared in 1859, the same year in which Marx’s “Critique of Political Economy" appeared, and by that time Marx had written most of the manuscript that eventually appeared under the title "Capital." In fact, as far as the writer can remember at the moment, the word evolution does not appear in "Capital,” which was published in 1867, apart from a reference in the preface. Thus most of Marx's important works were already either published or in manuscript form before the word evolution had become current as the expression of all that is bound up with the process of universal, progressive, and unending change, including the mechanism that accomplishes the changes.

To the advanced thinkers of Marx’s day, "dialectical’’ signified the science of the process by which change occurred. Since then "dialectical'’ has been replaced by "evolutionary," and the older word is largely forgotten by all except the out-of-date philosophers living among cobwebs, and the advocates of that modern monstrosity, "Russian Communism." An adroit use of dialectics enables the latter to clothe their conflicting policies with a semblance of conformity to Marxism, which is not even the Lenin brand. Under their influence we have witnessed an attempt, that has become stronger as Bolshevik claims and practice have become more contradictory and confusing, to define dialectical materialism as something more comprehensive than evolution.

Attention must be drawn to the fact that each scientist is, and must be, an evolutionist in his own field of research, and is, therefore, to that extent, a materialist. It is only when he leaves this field, particularly when he looks at society and religion, that he is likely to abandon science and enter the realms of phantasy. The reason for this is that in these particular directions the weight of society and tradition is heavier than in others because here a scientific outlook is a danger to the persistence of the existing social arrangements.

What Marx and Engels meant by dialectics was made clear in the latter’s book, "Anti-Duhring,’’ written with the assistance of Marx. In this book Engels says, towards the end of the chapter on dialectics, when referring to the negation of the negation: —
   "If I say that all these processes [growth of a grain of barley to a crop-bearing plant, etc.] constitute negation of the negation, I embrace them all under this one law of progress, and leave the distinctive features of each special process without particular notice. The dialectic is, as a matter of fact, nothing but the science of the universal laws of motion, and evolution in nature, human society and thought."
He further says of modem materialism:
   "It is in a special sense no philosophy but a single concept of the universe which has to prove and realise itself not in a science of sciences apart, but in actual science.’’
To understand the process of change in any particular department of knowledge you must discover the laws, the uniformity in the apparently haphazard, and this is just what scientists do; they discover the laws in that particular department by applying the evolutionary concept. Evolution does not merely signify that there is perpetual change; that was an old view dating back to antiquity; but that the changes are an unfolding and further development of forces within that which is changing, the direction of the change being determined by the alignment of internal constituents and the impact of external.

Everything is part of an unending world process, no section of which can be isolated except in thought; and even when isolating anything in thought it must still be studied in its connection with other things. World change consists of a combination, dissolution, and re-combination of elements in an ascending series; that is to say, an ever, more complicated arrangement of elements. Existence is only a temporary equilibrium of opposing elements, always in motion, that at a certain stage bursts apart and forms a new combination when one element becomes present in greater abundance than another, or the relation between internal quantities changes. In analysing these progressive combinations scientists discover the numerous laws that govern such progressive movement enabling them to foretell, with varying degrees of accuracy, future developments. Absolute accuracy is impossible because the knowledge to foretell is limited by the fact that all the items that go to make up the changing world process are so vast that they are outside the capacity of any individual, group, class or nation. Absolute accuracy would demand the sum of the experience of the human race, past and present, as well as the knowledge of things that have not yet swum into the human orbit But the limited accuracy is sufficient to enable humanity to build ships, aeroplanes, factories, rockets and atom bombs, and the rest.

Now let us glance at two or three interpretations of the laws of Dialectical Materialism by two writers who published short books on the subject—David Guest and Edward Conze.

Guest (“Dialectical Materialism," Lawrence & Wishart, 1941; edited by T. A. Jackson) quotes the second law of dialectics as follows, and later quotes Lenin's blessing of the same wording: “The law of unity (interpenetration, identity) of opposites." Note the word “identity." Opposites cannot be identical as long as they are opposites, and to say that one cannot exist without the other is not very illuminating because a thing cannot be opposite to nothing; it must be opposite to something that is opposite to it! Marx did not mix unity with identity. Writing of the two poles of the expression of value in the first chapter of “Capital" he says:—
    “The relative form and the equivalent form are two intimately connected, mutually dependent and inseparable elements of the expression of value; but, at the same time, are mutually exclusive, antagonistic extremes—i.e., poles of the same expression."
That is the essence of the matter; mutually dependent, inseparable, but mutually exclusive. Identity of opposites is just nonsense.

Referring to the inner contradictions and opposite sides in society, Guest makes the following remarks:— 
    “Marx found the basis of the class struggle to lie in a contradiction between the methods of production . . . and the existing social relationships. It is this contradiction which during a certain historic period gets expressed in an external antagonism of classes. When this is so . . . one class . . . represents the forces of production seeking to expand, and another class . . . represents those social relations which are hemming in the productive forces.
    “But the basic contradiction will continue to exist in classless society, and will cause the progressive development of social relationships as the productive forces themselves develop." (Page 54.) 
The reader may perhaps glimpse in the last few lines the creeping paralysis of Russia! The basic contradiction is the contradiction between the method of production and the existing social relationships and, according to Guest, it will continue to exist under Communism. In his breathless pursuit of contradictions he makes the mistake of thinking that they must always be of the same kind and he has missed the basic contradiction which will be solved for good and all; the contradiction between social production and private ownership which originated in primitive society, developed during succeeding centuries and will be finally solved by Socialism. We will consider this at greater length later and in the meantime see what Engels has to say upon Guest’s point; we quote from “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific":—
    “But with the taking over by society of the productive forces, the social character of the means of production and of the products will be utilised by the producers with a perfect understanding of its nature . . .      “Active social forces work exactly like natural forces: blindly, forcibly, destructively, so long as we do not understand, and reckon with them. But when once we grasp their action, their direction, their effects, it depends only upon ourselves to subject them more and more to our own will, and by means of them to reach our own ends. And this holds quite especially of the mighty productive forces of to-day." (Page 78.)
    "The whole sphere of the conditions of life which environ man, and which have hitherto ruled man, now comes under the dominion and control of man, who for the first time becomes the real, conscious lord of nature, because he has now become master of his own social organisation. The laws of his own social action, hitherto standing face to face with man as laws of nature foreign to, and dominating him, will then be used with full understanding, and so mastered by him. Man’s own social organisation, hitherto confronting him as a necessity imposed by nature and history, now becomes the result of his own free action. . . .  It is the ascent of man from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom." (Page 82.)
Thus, according to Engels, the basic contradiction will not have the indefinite life attributed to it by Guest.

Now let us take two examples of Conze’s interpretation of Dialectical Materialism (“An Introduction to Dialectical Materialism," Edward Conze, N.C.L.C., 1936). He is also in a jam over the question of opposites and we refer back to what we have already said on the subject Here is his gem:
   “I know no general reason why opposites always must be united. The study of scientific method is not yet advanced enough to give us proof of this kind." (Page 35.)
Conze has evidently walked up the wrong street. The human race, in its wisdom, has decided that when two things turn up in a certain relationship to each other they will be called opposites. As long as the human race sticks to this then we can’t have one opposite on its own. Conze is apparently prepared to concede that all the black door handles that have so far turned up have been black, but he does not rule out the possibility that some day a black door handle may appear that is not black!

On another page Conze, with the backing of Freud, gives us this information:—
   “Freud has shown that we can have no feeling of love towards anyone without simultaneously having a more or lees feeling of hatred of the same person, and vice versa. . . . No hatred can exist without containing some love. Love is the regular companion of hatred, even if the quantity of love is sometimes microscopic." (Page 38.)
This is a peculiar way of looking at the unity of opposites, on the basis of which we can prove anything and get nowhere. Let us see if we can translate it into something more obvious. A wooden stick has two ends; they are the names we give to two opposite parts of the stick, and while the stick exists as a stick the ends exist as separate, antagonistic, mutually dependent parts of it. As long as we remain outside a lunatic asylum the ends will appear to us as two different parts of this piece of wood, and we can’t have even a microscopic bit of one end existing alongside, let alone inside, the other. Of course, we can throw the stick in the fire and put the same end to both, but then this is a different end altogether! Let us use language reasonably and for its purpose. Love and hate are two opposite expressions of a common human emotion; they cannot both exist at the same time for the same object but they can alternate, or they can both dwindle down with the dwindling of emotion. Now let us look at love and hatred from the point of view of the development of these two poles of the expression of emotion, and not their temporary equilibrium in an individual who both loves and hates. Human emotion develops until it becomes differentiated into what we call love and hatred; in its early development the distinction is blurred but in the course of time it becomes clearly defined, and it is love and hatred as such and as opposites that Conze is writing about. Love is love and not hate, and in a given situation they are mutually exclusive. Mixing interpenetration with identity seems to be the cause of the confusion. If we pass our finger along the stick we come to a point where it is neither one end nor the other but we never have our finger on a little bit of one end and a large part of the other. What happens is that one end passes into the other.

There is much dross in both of the books to which we have referred but we have not space to discuss them further.

There is a progressive change in nature and thought; an evolution. What does this mean? It means nothing more than a movement from the simple to the complex; an ever more complicated mixture of a comparatively few elements. An example may make this clearer. A modern piece of highly developed mechanism, such as an aeroplane engine, is a mystifying sight to the uninitiated, and yet it is made up of a multitude of simple movements that, taken by themselves, would mystify nobody. The human mind thrives by learning and contriving and thus craves for an ever more complicated life; it is more satisfying, and therefore progressive, to the majority in the long run.

Let us now complete the picture by an illustration of the operation of the laws Marx borrowed from Hegel and applied in his investigations. We will take an example from the evolution of society, as that is our particular concern.

In prehistoric times man lived in small communities, beset by forces of nature he was not yet able to control or adjust himself to, but the simple means of production were commonly owned. These means of production were barely sufficient to enable each member of the community to sustain life and reproduce his kind. In the course of time man multiplied but the means of production multiplied at a greater rate until what was produced was more than sufficient to supply each with the necessaries of life. When this expansion had reached a certain point the idea was born into the mind of men that it was possible for some to live without working if they could persuade or force others to work for them. In order to accomplish this a portion of the means of production that belonged to the community had to be converted into the private possession of some members of the community. An internal struggle then began that ended in the establishment of private ownership in the means of production. Since then a constant struggle has been carried on during which the whole of the earth has become populated and private property has run a course from the ownership of a few acres of land, a small herd of animals, and a few tools until it has reached dimensions that can no longer he controlled by one individual or a family. Property ownership has undergone a development and transformation until private property in the means of production has reached a point where it has become uncontrollable and threatens society with disaster. But the development of this private ownership also engendered the development of those who used the means of production; this development has now reached a point where the producers monopolise all the positions in the production and distribution of the means of living to the exclusion of the owners; the latter have been relegated to the position of simple consumers of wealth in the production of which they, as a class, take no part. The result of this development is that the idea has grown in the minds of the producers that the owners are no longer a necessary evil; the revolt against the owners has also grown in volume and will soon reach a point where the producers will set about abolishing the private ownership of the means of production and substituting for it common ownership. But this common ownership will not be the small community ownership of primitive society; it will be a common ownership that welds the whole of mankind into one universal society, and each member will be able to live a secure and full life as a consequence of the achievements accomplished since the advent of private property.

Let us apply the dialectical materialism of Marx to the development we have described. First, the statement that an increase in quantity beyond a certain point results in a change in quality. The increase in the means of production and the product changed the social form from communist society to private property society and will change the latter into a higher form of communist society. Communist society was negated by private property society and this will, in turn, be negated by a higher form of communist society—-the negation of the negation. The entire process is accomplished by the growth of antagonism and the solving of antagonism; the elements that have changed the form of society were contained within the original communal communities. The unity in the whole progress is social man; the contradictions are the contrary outlooks arising out of the growth of the means of production; the solution is the reduction of these outlooks to one common outlook.

What we have described is the evolution of society, but only in a broad sweep. Social science describes this process in detail, but only a few of the social scientists are free from the influence of private property ideas upon thought, and consequently the nearer they come to the present the less scientific are their conclusions. It is one thing to learn the laws of scientific thinking but quite another to apply those laws to social life. One of these fundamental laws is that there is nothing absolute, static; all is relative, changing. But in the course of these changes the relation of one thing to another is a state of temporary equilibrium. The capitalist and the worker are a unity as portions of mankind and portions of human society; they are in contradiction as opposing elements in the capitalist system of wealth production. This contradiction will only be solved by the abolition of capitalist society. But this abolition can only lead to harmony by the substitution of a higher form of society for capitalism. This, in turn, can only be achieved by the working class waging the class struggle single-mindedly and relentlessly until they obtain the victory. In other words, the international capitalist class is always the enemy until Socialism has been achieved.

Thus the answer to the question we have been asked is that as the dialectical materialism of Marx is simply “the science of the universal laws of motion, and evolution in nature, human society and thought,” we accept it, but we do not accept the distortion of this view by supporters of Russian “Communism” or others who misuse the means to serve their particular ends.



Recently, the topic of refugees has dominated political debate and has almost entirely eclipsed other issues, such as the environment and global warming. Both subjects are entwined. Climate change is already influencing global migration patterns today and will increasingly do so in the future.

It is clear that people would abandon their homes to save their families and their own lives from war and violence. Others are forced to migrate by poverty and a lack of prospects. Or even by environmental disasters and a creeping deterioration of the environment, which robs communities of their livelihoods, driving them into poverty.
Climate change makes this vicious cycle even worse, leading to more heat waves, more droughts, floods and extreme weather, especially in developing countries.  According to a University of Hamburg study, 25 million people a year on average are driven from their homes by natural disasters. The consequences of climate change in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and South Asia may cause over 140 million people to lose their homes, or be forced to relocate due to droughts, crop failures, storm surges and rising sea waters by 2050, according to a World Bank study. The Hamburg University study references climate simulations which show parts of the Middle East and Northern Africa becoming uninhabitable thanks to prolonged heat waves and desert storms – with temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) on summer nights and daytime temperatures over 46 degrees (115 degrees Fahrenheit).
The vast majority of migration movements occur within the homeland or to neighboring countries, with only a small subset willing to following the uncertain and dangerous road to Europe. These families carry the hope of one day being able to return home when living conditions have improved. Take Tanzania for example. Climate change and its effects – long-lasting droughts, floods and soil erosion – have long been a reality. Crops rot or dry up because there are incessant problems maintaining the water and energy supply.
Anyone who thinks climate change will affect those of us living in Europe, at best, in the distant future, is fooling themselves. Climate change is already affecting our countries.

The Golden State is not so golden

California’s is home to scores of billionaires, yet almost 4 in every 10 residents are living at or near the poverty line.

Researchers from PPIC and Stanford University, who believe federal poverty guidelines fail to capture true hardship in the state, adjusted their criteria to include things like the cost of living. When they did two counties stood out: Los Angeles and Santa Cruz, each with a roughly 24% poverty rate. Santa Barbara County isn’t far behind, nor is San Francisco.

And no group of Californians suffers more from the effects of poverty than Latinos. Though they are only 39% of the state’s population, Latino men, women and children constitute almost 53% of California’s poor.  Almost 46% of California’s children were at or near the threshold of poverty in 2016. Los Angeles and Santa Cruz counties also had the highest percentages of needy children. 

The research team calculated poverty statistics for the state’s 120 legislative districts and 53 congressional districts. Assembly districts, the smallest of the jurisdictions, almost all had poverty rates above 16% of the population except for some affluent suburbs and elite coastal communities. Congressional districts from the edges of Silicon Valley down to Southern California have poverty rates above 20%. And in each of three state Senate districts drawn through the heart of Los Angeles, roughly one-third of residents live in poverty, with some families of four struggling to survive on less than $28,000 a year.

 The overall poverty number would be worse — perhaps another 8% of the state’s population — if not for a handful of social safety net programs. The report highlights two as most effective: food stamps, which are distributed as part of the CalFresh program, and the earned income tax credits offered by the state and federal governments. Without those kinds of programs, the researchers concluded, poverty would rise sharply. Poverty in the state is everywhere and is hardly going away.


Summer School - 3/5 August - Birmingham

Summer School - 3/5 August - Birmingham
It's just two weeks to go until the SPGB's 'Gender And Power' Summer School in Birmingham. We are happy to be able to confirm all the sessions and times, listed below.

The event will also include two exclusive publications, an exhibition and a bookstall.
Please let us know if you would like any further details (or if you have any special requirements: ground floor room, special diet etc).

Contact: spgbschool@yahoo.co.uk
Details of how to get to the venue can be found here:

Friday 3rd August

Arrival from 17.00
18.30 – 19.00 Dinner
'Inside The Matrix'
This talk will argue against the premise that oppression is simply the product of class struggle and that feminism can be dismissed as identity politics which distract from the real issue. Feminism and socialism are not either / or, positions. An understanding of class, patriarchy and intersectionality is crucial to the challenge of establishing a world based on socialist principles.
Lorna Stevens and Paddy Shannon
21.30 Social

Saturday 4th August

7.30 – 8.45 Breakfast
'Equal Work For Equal Value?'
This talk will look at the relevance of value, and the labour theory of value to discussions around the gender pay gap in the workplace. It will look at value as a story told to lay claim to the output of society, and will relate that to Utopian visions of women and womanhood. It will argue that that value is not a value-free idea, but in fact a deliberate move in the class struggle to enforce the power of the capitalist class. Along the way, this talk will take in how the working class is exploited, and how this exploitation contains within itself the end of capitalist values. Finally, it will suggest that the struggle over equal wages contains within itself the drive toward the abolition of the wages system itself.
Bill Martin
12.30 – 13.15 Lunch
'Dangerous Women: How History And The Establishment Hide Female Militancy'
From the militant 18th Century female trade unionists who dunked strike-breakers under water pumps, to the matchwomen, suffragettes and the true founder the Me Too movement, many of history’s most inspiring women have been designated the ‘wrong kind of heroines’ and their stories suppressed or minimised.
Guest speaker Dr Louise Raw has spent 20 years uncovering them, and will introduce or enlarge upon the histories of women of colour, of the working-class and with disabilities, who have much to teach us even today.
18.30 – 19.00 Dinner
Film showing: 'Did Gender Egalitarianism Make Us Human?' by Camilla Power (Senior lecturer in Anthropology at the University of East London)
Introduced by Carla Dee and Richard Field, with discussion afterwards
22.00 Social

Sunday 5th August

7.30 – 8.45 Breakfast
'Sex And Power'
The sex industry makes up a significant, if partly-hidden, sector of the economy. Prostitution and pornography represent extremes of exploitation, lucrative to those with the power and damaging to those pushed into selling themselves. This talk will examine the differing impacts which the sex industry has on both women and men, and what this tells us about capitalism as a whole.
Mike Foster
12.30 – 13.15 Lunch

Sunday, July 29, 2018

People Trafficking

UNICEF showed that about 28 percent of victims of human trafficking are under 18. In sub-Saharan Africa the number jumps to 64 percent, and in Central America and the Caribbean it is not much lower at 62 percent.

"Human trafficking is a real threat to millions of children worldwide, especially for children who have to leave their homes and are without protection," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in Cologne, Germany, ahead of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons.

The situation is especially dire for refugees, who may "feel threatened by the traffickers, or who may not trust the police or public institutions." They may also fear being "stigmatized" by their community or being returned home. Children are also more likely to be unaware of their rights.

Pope Francis used the occasion to say it was everyone's responsibility to stand against the buying and selling of people, especially children.

"This scourge," he said in Rome, "reduces many men, women and children to slavery."
Shame he does not condemn wage-slavery.

The Courts versus Blacks

The justice system is disproportionately handing out harsher sentences to black children convicted of homicide compared with their white peers, an investigation by The Independent has revealed.
Analysis of figures for 2009-17 shows one in four black teenage boys guilty of manslaughter were given maximum jail terms, while white children found guilty of the same crime were sentenced to no more than 10 years, with the majority getting less than four.
The new analysis shows that black teenagers guilty of homicide – of which there were 73 between 2009 and 2017 – were considerably more likely than their white counterparts to be convicted of murder, which always led to a life sentence.
The majority (52 per cent) of white teenagers in this cohort – of which there were 102 – were convicted of manslaughter, which usually led to a shorter jail term, while this applied to just 30 per cent of black children.
There were further discrepancies among the children convicted of manslaughter, with 23 per cent of those who were black sentenced to more than 10 years or life, while no white teenager was sentenced to more than a decade.
Five per cent of black children got less than four years, compared with more than half (51 per cent) of their white peers.
It will fuel concerns over racial bias in the justice system after a major review by David Lammy last year found that black people were four times more likely to be in prison in England and Wales than their proportion of the population would suggest. The Lammy Review revealed a lack of ethnic diversity in the justice system, with 7 per cent of the judiciary from BAME background and just 6 per cent police and prison service, compared with 14 per cent of the general population.
Zubaida Haque, deputy director at the Runnymede Trust, said,  “Black teenagers are facing discrimination the moment they have contact with the police, and it continues when they’re in front of judges and juries. The gang affiliations, the assumptions – black boys are more likely to be considered suspects,” she said. “It’s difficult to say where there is most discrimination, but we can say that small decisions have big impacts. It is cumulative. We know there are real racial inequalities in stop and search, and young black people are nine times more likely to be locked up.”

British Justice Takes Second Place

 The Home Secretary Sajid Javid is to give precedence to the US in putting on trial two British citizens alleged to be Isis members, who belonged to the notorious “Beatles” group in Syria that specialised in torturing and beheading their captives. The British authorities are encouraging the Syrian Kurds holding El Shafee Elsheik and Alexanda Kotey to extradite them to the US rather than Britain. 

Javid’s actions is one of weakness and incapacity. First, he made the baffling and unexplained decision to drop the usual British condition that the UK would provide evidence and intelligence for a trial only if the death penalty was ruled out. Moreover, he not only abandoned the long-held British principle of opposing state executions but did so in secret, suggesting the government knew all too well the significance of its change of policy.

After 9/11 when US judicial credibility was damaged beyond repair in the eyes of the world by rendition, waterboarding, imprisonment without trial at Guantanamo and ritualised mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

An alternative solution would be to hand over the two accused men to the International Criminal Court in the Hague for committing war crimes but the objection to this being that the USA refuses to recognise the court.

Quote of the Day

"I am a capitalist. Come on. I believe in markets. What I don't believe in is theft, what I don't believe in is cheating. That's where the difference is. I love what markets can do, I love what functioning economies can do. They are what make us rich, they are what create opportunity. But only fair markets, markets with rules. Markets without rules is about the rich take it all, it's about the powerful get all of it. And that's what's gone wrong in America." Elizabeth Warren

“I am a capitalist to my bones,” Sen. Warren tells New England Council, one of several instances this morning where she’s highlighted her belief in capitalism and markets while talking bankruptcy policy

“I love markets—I believe in markets!” -Elizabeth Warren to The Atlantic

What makes religions?

If we know enough about a population, can we predict how quickly it will adopt a certain idea? An interdisciplinary team of researchers from around the globe have weighed in on a discussion over whether Christianity grew as a result of top-to-bottom or bottom-to-top cultural forces. From small beginnings as an offshoot sect of Judaism more than 2,000 years ago, Christianity has come to be the world's most popular religion with more than 2 billion adherentsExactly what fuels its growth has been the subject of a great deal of debate. Is it the enforcement of political systems, or grass roots activism? Does social inequality have much to do with it? Does population size matter? The study is far from the final word on how major cultural systems like religions compete and convert one community over another. But it does help provide evidence describing the important factors at work.

A study led by Joseph Watts from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History analysed several centuries of well detailed historical records from a database of Austronesian cultures. These communities consist of diverse pockets of a distantly related people descended from a Taiwanese population, spreading as far west as Madagascar and as far east as Rapa Nui. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, Christianity was adopted as a central faith by these disparate cultures under the influence of travelling European missionaries, with most converting within a narrow window of just three decades.
Surprisingly, social inequality had little to do with conversion, in spite of the religion's origins among social underdogs. Christianity seemed to spread fastest under the influence of strong leaders holding sway over small clusters of loyal subjects.
"We note that the two cultures that took the longest to convert in this study – Ifuagao and Iban – lacked any form of political organisation," the researchers wrote in their report.
The research paints a picture of missionaries learning to win favour with key figures in close-knit communities, providing them with material goods and trade opportunities. Of course, this was also a solid survival strategy as much as a missionary goal – it pays to have powerful friends if you're new in town. But those robust political structures helped carry Christianity further and faster than missionary boats. Smaller groups of people were also more likely to notice changes in their neighbours' behaviours, a feature described as frequency-dependent cultural transmission.
A recent study by anthropologists and health scientists from the University of Bristol in the UK and the University of Tennessee in the US has challenged earlier conclusions that those in poverty tend to turn more to religion. Rather, they found a decline in religiosity is typically followed by a rise in prosperity, suggesting the relationship between social divides and belief systems might be more complicated than we've assumed.