Friday, May 31, 2019

Socialist Standard No. 1378 June 2019

Why Wait? Why Procrastinate?

Socialism Now
The world's future looks grim. But do not despair, the future is in your hands.

When enough of us join together determined to end inequality and deprivation we can transform elections into a means of doing away with a society of minority rule in favour of real democracy and equality. Our common efforts could feed, clothe and house every man woman and child on Earth without exception but we are held back because the owners of the world demand their cut before they’ll let us use the world’s resources. The iron laws of No Profit, No Production and No Profit, No Employment are a cage for us.
If you agree with the idea of a society of common and democratic ownership where no-one is left behind and where things are produced because they are needed, and not to make profits for some capitalist corporation or to enrich some bloated millionaire, join with us to achieve this.

Capitalism is controlled by the capitalist class. The establishment of socialism is the historic mission of the working class; but socialism can only be established by abolishing capitalism. From this it follows that the interests of the capitalist class are in direct opposition to those of the working class. These two classes, as classes, have no national boundaries—not only because they exist wherever capitalism reigns, but also because both capitalists and workers wander all over the globe, the one in search of profits, the other in search of a living, through the medium of work. To establish socialism the working class have to wrest power from the capitalist class, and therefore the fight for Socialism, and its establishment must be worldwide. Only those who understand the principles of socialism can give strength to the revolutionary movement.

We rarely call upon the workers to do anything but think. We also ask of our fellow-workers that they end their allegiance to all other political parties who have brought them, and can only bring them, strife and misery, and that they turn their attention to the message of the Socialist Party that shows the only means by which present-day evils can be abolished. Having severed this allegiance to other political parties the path to the understanding of socialism will be easy.

The Socialist Party repudiate and oppose the political careerists who treat the working class with contempt. They have never had the interests of the working class at heart; many have been concerned with their own personal individual escape from wage-slavery and all of their political ambitions and efforts have been to that end. We have no more use for their quackery and double-dealing.

Those in the Socialist Party are determined people. We know what we want and we know how to get it, and nothing will stop us. Our record is a clean one. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We do not hide and we can defend all our actions since our Party was formed. We stood alone in two world wars, unflinching in our opposition to them, when other political parties were swept away in the hysteria of patriotism. We alone proclaimed the world-wide solidarity of the working class and extended hands in fraternal greetings to workers in all parts of the world whatever language they might speak and to whatever country they might belong.

We know that our interests are those of the workers all over the world, the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of socialism. In that mission we will willingly and gladly co-operate with them. The day of the social revolution is getting closer. Let every worker, however limited his or her opportunities, strive to gain more knowledge of the science of society - Socialism.

Fellow-workers, we are doing our share. When are you going to do yours?

Chomsky on Trump

Noam Chomsky is credited as being somewhat of a savvy political commentator and in this interview he tries to explain the Trump phenomena and expose much of the fallacies his supporters still hold about him. Despite much of the media's depiction of him as clown Trump could very well be re-elected in 2020 as his approval ratings still appear to show strong support for him.

 Chomsky comments:
...he is a highly skilled politician, with a good sense of how to gain popular approval, even virtual worship in some circles. He certainly has taken control of the GOP, to quite a remarkable extent. He’s been very successful with his two constituencies: the primary one, wealth and corporate power; and the voting base, relatively affluent fairly generally, including a large bloc of Christian evangelicals, rural whites, farmers, workers who have faith in his promises to bring back jobs, and a collection of others, some not too admirable. It’s clear why the primary constituency is mostly delighted. Corporate profits are booming. Wealth continues to be concentrated in very few hands. Trump’s administration is lavishing them with gifts, including the tax bill, the main legislative achievement, across-the-board deregulation, and rapidly increasing fossil fuel production...To keep the rest in line is sometimes easy, among them the Christian right, white supremacists, ultranationalists and xenophobes, and those in terror of “hordes” of immigrants. It is easy to throw them occasional chunks of red meat. But sometimes maintaining their allegiance takes the kind of demagoguery at which he is expert. Thus many who are understandably aggrieved by the economic policies of the neoliberal years still seem to feel that he’s the one person standing up for them by shaking his fist at those they blame for taking away their jobs: immigrants and “the scheming Chinese”...”

Chomsky continues his analysis:
...It’s quite true that huge numbers of jobs have fled to China, but who is responsible for that? China? Is China holding a gun to the heads of Apple, GM, IBM, GE … and forcing them to ship jobs to China? One can’t even say that it’s the fault of the managers of the corporations. Their responsibility, in fact legal obligation, is to make profits for shareholders, and that purpose is served by shifting jobs to China, Mexico, Vietnam, Bangladesh. Those who object to these practices should be demanding that such decisions should not be in the hands of management and the board of directors, but rather in the hands of those who actually do the work of the enterprise, as democratic principle might suggest. Perhaps along the lines of a 19th century writer whose initials are K.M. But somehow one doesn’t see this interesting idea explored in mainstream commentary.”

He continues:
...Another charge is that China steals U.S. technology by forcing firms to hand over secrets as a condition on investment (already dealt with) and by violating World Trade Organization rules on intellectual property (TRIPS)... Putting aside the legitimacy of these highly protectionist devices, which raise patent protection far beyond the historical norm, we can ask who gains and who loses if, say, China uses discoveries in U.S. research labs to produce cheaper drugs than the corporations that have gained the patents, or to develop a better alternative to the Windows operating system? American consumers gain, while Big Pharma’s huge profits are somewhat reduced and Bill Gates might decline slightly in the ranks of richest men in the world...”

On the economy Chomsky points out “...The “economic boom” is a continuation of the slow recovery that began under Obama...The tax cut, of course, exploded the deficit, which can now provide a pretext for cutting social spending. The continuing increase in employment has led to a slight increase in wages, with opportunities for those at the lower end of the income scale, but it doesn’t come close to making up what has been lost during the period of stagnation from the early ‘80s....Jobs are growing slightly faster in Trump-supporting rural and exurban counties than in the urban mostly Clinton counties. At the same time, real wages declined slightly in Trump counties and increased slightly in Clinton counties, in both cases a decline from the Obama years...

Full interview at the Truthout website

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Lords Reward

A Labour peer claimed almost £50,000 in attendance and travel expenses covering every single day the House of Lords was sitting last year, despite never speaking or asking any written questions, a Guardian investigation reveals.
Unlike MPs, who receive an annual salary, peers are entitled to a daily allowance of £305. Parliamentary staff note peers’ attendance when they arrive, but no record is kept of how soon after that they depart.

The former trade union general secretary David Brookman was among dozens of other lords and baronesses who never took part in a single debate, while almost a third of the 800 peers barely participated in parliamentary business over a 12-month period
But attendance data alone can be misleading because some peers rarely or never participate in parliamentary business despite attending frequently.

The steel company magnate Swraj Paul attended on 157 days and claimed more than £47,000 of allowances, but only spoke once. Lord Paul said there was no requirement in the rules for lords to participate in order to claim allowances. “I take a lot of interest in the House of Lords, but there is a lot more to be done than making speeches,” he said. Asked for an example, he replied: “Thinking, etc, and giving my point of view to colleagues.”
The median allowance claim by peers was £30,180, though some peers claimed substantially more than that through more frequent attendance or through travel expenses.

Fact of the Day

The US military—with its nearly 1000 bases worldwide and insatiable reliance on fossil fuel to  keep all of its ships, planes, tanks, trucks, and jeeps running—is the single largest source of carbon dioxide emissions (the gases causing climate change) in the world. 

The Pentagon’s carbon footprint is 70% of total US emissions. 

US military uses more oil than 175 smaller countries combined.

For the sake of humanity

"Human beings are not responsible for global warming, as a superficial environmentalism and uncritical science would like to tell us. The responsible are a parasitic and predatory minority, and that minority has a name: neoliberalism." Mexico's newly-appointed environment secretary, Víctor Manuel Toledo Manzur.

Neoliberalism is a term coined by opponents of the policies pursued by many governments since the 1980s of privatisation and deregulation, of allowing market forces to operate with less state interference. “Neo” because it was seen as a revival of the anti-state, laissez-faire philosophy of 19th century liberalism.

"Climate disruption is upon us, and it is progressing faster than our efforts to address it," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in Vienna at the climate-focused R20 Austrian World Summit. But the scope of the task at hand is huge, explained Guterres, as it necessitates a total transformation of all aspects of society. "What is needed for effective mitigation and improved resilience," he said, "is quite simply a rapid and deep change in how we do business, how we generate power, how we build cities, and how we feed the world." Another key change, said Guterres, is to stop using taxpayer funds to prop up the coal, oil, and gas industries. 
"We need to tax pollution, not people, and to end subsidies for fossil fuels," said Guterres. He also debunked the wrongful assumption by some that fossil fuel subsidies improve people's lives. "There is nothing more wrong than that," he said. "What we are doing is using taxpayers' money—which means our money—to boost hurricanes, to spread droughts, to melt glaciers, to bleach corals. In one word—to destroy the world. "As taxpayers," continued Guterres, "I believe we would like to see our money back rather than to see our money used to destroy the world."

At the two-day summit climate activist Greta Thunberg said that "for too long the people in power... have gotten away with stealing our future and selling it for profit."
"We are not going to let you get away with it anymore."

Their comments came a day after the Pope spoke to a group of financial ministers from around the world and urged them to back the goals of the Paris climate accord. 

"We must achieve what we have agreed upon, for our survival and well-being depend on it." Among the worrisome signs he pointed to are that "Investments in fossil fuels continue to rise, even though scientists tell us that fossil fuels should remain underground." The pontiff referenced the increasingly frequent extreme weather events, which he said "are only a dire premonition of things much worse to come, unless we act and act urgently." Among the tasks the Pope said the financial ministers should take are "to put an end to global dependency on fossil fuels" and "to open a new chapter of clean and safe energy, that utilizes, for example, renewable resources such as wind, sun and water. Time is of the essence," Pope Francis added. "We await your decisive action for the sake of all humanity."

Not a day goes by without the problems of the environment being featured in the media. The Socialist Party holds that only socialism can set up the relationships of cooperation, the freedom and the rational control over our affairs which can get us out of the mess we’re in. Everybody must be aware of the tragic absurdity of the situation. We’ve got the urgent need to eliminate these harmful carbon emissions. We are held back by the economic constraints of the market system. We cannot do it because the profits of a privileged class minority who own and control the means of life come before the needs of the community. There are no sane grounds on which this can be justified. The only way to get out of the mess is to establish socialism which will be based on common ownership, production solely for need and democratic control. With common ownership all means of production and distribution and all resources will be held in common by the whole community. If you want a world of cooperation and responsibility then all these means of life must be brought under the democratic control of the whole community on the basis of common ownership. In socialism we would not be bound to use the most labour efficient methods of production. We would be free to select our methods in accordance with a wide range of socially desirable criteria, in particular the vital need to protect the environment. It wouldn’t matter if ecologically benign methods of producing energy required more allocations of labour than destructive methods as we wouldn’t be producing commodities which have to compete in price for sales in the market. We’d be free of all that.

A “steady-state” society is something we should aim at. What it means is that we should construct permanent, durable means of production which you don’t constantly innovate. We would use these to produce durable equipment and machinery and durable consumer goods designed to last for a long time, designed for minimum maintenance and made from materials which if necessary can be re-cycled. In this way we would get a minimum loss of materials; once they’ve been extracted and processed they can be used over and over again. It also means that once you’ve achieved satisfactory levels of consumer goods, you don’t insist on producing more and more. Total social production could even be reduced. You achieve this “steady state” and you don’t go on expanding production. This would be the opposite of cheap, shoddy, “throw-away” goods and built-in obsolescence, which results in a massive loss and destruction of resources. This is something that socialism could do. The market, however, can only function with a constant pressure to renew its capacity for sales; and if it fails to do this production breaks down, people are out of employment and suffer a reduced income. It is a fundamental flaw and an insoluble contradiction in the Greens argument that they want to retain the market system, which can only be sustained by continuous sales and continuous incomes, and at the same time they want a conservation society with reduced productive activity. These aims are totally incompatible with each other.

There can be no justification, on any grounds whatsoever, for wanting to retain an exploitative system which robs workers of the products of their labour, which puts privileged class interests and profit before the needs of the community, which robs the soil of its fertility, plunders nature of its resources and destroys the natural systems on which all our lives depend. The only alternative is socialism. We must concentrate all our efforts on the work of building up a majority of socialists. It might seem a big job because our numbers are small, but we wouldn’t need many more for us to become a strong voice in the community and every new socialist makes the work easier.

Stop tinkering with capitalism - Get rid of it completely

Can a leopard change its spots. Some believe so in that investors will altruistically sacrifice short-term self-enrichment for the future of the planet and its people. It makes for good PR, but the truth is more complicated.

Exxon Mobil Corp shareholders on Wednesday rejected a proposal that would have forced the company's board to create a special committee on climate change.
Shareholders also defeated measures requiring the company to report the risks of climate change at chemical plants on the Gulf Coast in the United States and to report political contributions and lobbying.

Under CEO Darren Woods, Exxon has launched major expansion programs to find and produce new reserves of oil and natural gas, as well as to expand the company's refining and chemical footprint. Exxon has projected shale production of 1 million barrels per day at the Permian Basin around western Texas, the top US shale field, as early as 2024.

Shareholders in recent years have pressed Exxon - the largest publicly traded oil producer - to define a path toward meeting the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming. But the company has yet to commit to any targets.

Chevron Corp's shareholders overwhelmingly rejected three environmental resolutions: proposals to create the company's own board committee on climate change, to report on reducing carbon footprint, and to report on the human right to water. 

Ethical funds are just a fraction of the £4.5tn investment industry.
An example is that the world’s five major tobacco companies are thriving, profitable and increasing sales. With divestment, someone with a lot less scruples, a lot less concern over long-term impact becomes the principal investor.

The fossil fuel divestment campaign makes demands that no corporate executive could ever meet. They must: stop searching for new hydrocarbons, stop lobbying for special breaks from government, and commit to leaving their existing reserves in the ground. The consequences to share price from announcing such policies is greater than the threat posed by green investors taking out their money.

All over the world capitalism plunders and wastes the Earth’s non-renewable mineral and energy sources. All over the world it pollutes the sea, the air, the soil, forests, rivers and lakes. All over the world it upsets natural balance. Clearly this destruction and waste cannot continue indefinitely, but it need not; it should not and must not.

It is quite possible to meet the needs of every man, woman and child on this planet without destroying the natural systems on which we depend and of which we are a part. The methods that would have to be adopted to achieve this are well enough known:
The practice of types of farming that preserve and enhance the natural fertility of the soil;
The systematic recycling of materials (such as metals and glass) obtained from non-renewable mineral sources;
The prudent use of non-renewable energy sources (such as coal, oil and gas) while developing alternative sources based on natural processes that continually renew themselves (such as solar energy, wind power and hydroelectricity);
The employment of industrial processes which avoid the release of poisonous chemicals or radioactivity into the biosphere;
The manufacture of solid goods made to last, not to be thrown away after use or deliberately to break down after a calculated period of time.

So what stands in the way? Why isn’t this done? The simple answer is that, under the present economic system, production is not geared to meeting human needs but rather to the accumulation of monetary wealth out of profits. As a result, not only are basic needs far from satisfied but much of what is produced is pure waste from this point of view—for example all the resources involved in commerce and finance, the mere buying and selling of things and those poured into armaments.

A sustainable economic system, one that respects the laws of ecology, can only be instituted if production for the market is completely abolished through the establishment of the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and replaced by production solely for use. The relations between productive units — and between local communities — then cease to be commercial ones and become simple relations between suppliers and users of useful products without the intervention of money, buying and selling, trade or barter. Activists in Extinction Rebellion who want a radical transformation of the world can stick to their principles but come to realise, as the Socialist Party has done, that a sustainable society can only be achieved within the context of a world in which all the Earth’s resources, natural and industrial, have become the common heritage, under democratic control at local, regional and world level, of all humanity.

The whole system of production, from the methods employed to the choice of what to produce, is distorted by the imperative drive to pursue economic growth for its own sake and to give priority to seeking profits to fuel this growth without consideration for the longer term factors that ecology teaches are vitally important. The result is an economic system governed by blind economic laws which oblige decision-makers, however selected and whatever their personal views or sentiments, to plunder, pollute and waste. This growth-oriented and profit-motivated capitalist system exists all over the world. If needs are to be met while at the same time respecting the laws of nature, then the capitalist system must go. If we are to meet our needs in an ecologically acceptable way we must first be able to control production—or, put another way, able to consciously regulate our interaction with the rest of nature—and the only basis on which this can be done is the common ownership of the means of production.By common ownership we don’t mean state property. We mean simply that the Earth and its natural and industrial resources should no longer belong to anyone—not to individuals, not to corporations, not to the state. No person or group should have exclusive controlling rights over their use; instead how they are used and under what conditions should be decided democratically by the community as a whole. Under these conditions the whole concept of legal property rights, whether private or state, over the means of production disappears and is replaced by democratically decided rules and procedures governing their use.

It is possible to envisage, for instance, the local community being the basic unit of this structure. In this case people would elect a local council to co-ordinate and administer those local affairs that could not be dealt with by a general meeting of the whole community. This council would in its turn send delegates to a regional council for matters concerning a wider area and so on up to a world council responsible for matters that could best be dealt with on a world scale (such as the supply of certain key minerals and fuels, the protection of the biosphere, the mining and farming of the oceans, and space research). Any attempt on the part of a government to impose other priorities than profit-making risks either provoking an economic crisis or the government ending up administering the system in the only way it can be — as a profit-oriented system in which profit-making has to be given priority over meeting needs or respecting the balance of nature. This is not to say that measures to palliate the bad effects of the present economic system on nature should not be taken but these should be seen for what they are: mere palliatives and not steps towards an ecological society.

The only effective strategy for achieving a free democratic society in harmony with nature is to build up a movement which has the achievement of such a society as its sole aim.

Bernie Sanders and Workers Control

The idea of "workers' control" or "industrial democracy" is now being  discussed in American political circles. Even some of the more far-sighted employers now support the idea of "workers' participation” or “worker directors”. Bernie Sanders, the progressive presidential hopeful, is set to introduces plan that encourage employee-owner businesses and would require corporations to reserve a seat at the boardroom table for employees to extend work-place democracy ensure that the work-place have a say in decisions that affect their day-to-day lives. Of course this is not a particularly new proposal. The highly conservative British Civil Service incorporated employee consultation as far back as 1919 when it introduce what is called the Whitley system of management.

It is not the job of socialists to protect the profit advantage of any individual company but to support improvements in the conditions of the workers as a whole and to bring an end to the private profit system altogether. 

Workers control is only meaningful in terms of a socialist economy democratically determined and administered by not just work-places but local communities and larger society otherwise workers’ control means workers are deprived of all effective social control. This entails that ownership of industry cannot remain in the hands of the capitalists. Only common ownership would guarantee workers' management and workers' control in the individual plants. If by “workers’ control” it is meant control of the ownership and distribution of the wealth the workers produce, it obviously cannot be under capitalism. Capitalism is a system based on private ownership; so long as capitalists own, they control.

However, Bernie Sanders is engaged in the re-invention of the wheel, resurrecting ideas from the history of the labour movement and presenting those past ideas as something new. If Sanders wishes to be seen as a genuine socialist he should not be supporting capitalism regardless on how a nice a face has been put on it but rather he should be calling for the abolition of capitalism. Worker-owned enterprises and cooperatives are perfectly compatible with capitalism and operate like any other business or institution which extracts surplus value and produces for exchange. As nice as Sanders make it sound at the end of the day they remain capitalist enterprises, and as socialists it is vital that we recognize this fact, because if we don't go after the heart of capitalist production then all we end up with is a capitalism-without-capitalists. Operating in a competitive market economy, workers have to exploit themselves as if they were exploited by capitalists. While this may be more palatable, it does change the fact of their subordination to economic processes beyond their control. Profit production and capital accumulation control behaviour and perpetuate the misery and insecurity bound up with it. While there cannot be socialism without workers’ control, neither can there be real workers’ control without socialism. 

To assert that gradual increase of workers’ control in capitalism is an actual possibility merely plays into the hands of the ruling class to disguise their class-rule by false social reforms.

A Message for the Anti-Trumpists

Wednesday, May 29, 2019


According to a new analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), despite lofty promises from President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that went into effect last year have done little—if anything—to raise workers' wages, boost economic growth, or spur business investment.

While the Republican tax law has not done much for workers or the overall economy, it has sparked a wave of stock buybacks, which primarily benefit rich executives.

"There is no indication of a surge in wages in 2018 either compared to history or relative to GDP growth," the congressional research arm found, a conclusion that is consistent with recent survey data showing Americans have not seen a paycheck boost from the Trump tax cuts.

The CRS report  suggested that worker bonus announcements by major corporations immediately following the passage of the GOP tax bill in 2017 may have been little more than "a public relations move."

Our future means understanding capitalism

If any have any doubts about the strength of the economic tide the world environmental movement is attempting to swim against, the environmental movement themselves best illustrate the quagmire in which capitalism leaves them. The Extinction Rebellion arguments and their policies are based on the assumption that under capitalism political parties in government can do what they like, and make a positive difference for the whole of society. The motivation is good, but unfortunately, the assumption is false. Capitalism is not open to manipulation so that it benefits the majority; it’s a system that is very tightly structured to benefit only the wealthy few. Support for the environmentalists means not only ignoring market forces but also ignoring an obvious contradiction in their argument. The contradiction is this: with market forces essentially causing and creating a sick society how can you realistically expect those self-same forces to solve it by proposing a form of eco-capitalism? The greens have chosen to ignore this and continually assert that they can make the market system a nicer kind of capitalism. But capitalism will still be capitalism, with no fundamental change in how we live and how we could live as it will be business as usual.

The main obstacle to reducing global warming is capitalism, where production is geared to profit, and production costs have to be kept to a minimum. Measures to curb emissions may increase the latter and place firms at a competitive disadvantage. Also, in many cases, it is more cost effective to import materials from abroad, which requires the burning of fossil fuel in transporting them. Nation states and trading blocs also seek to compete with each other on the best possible terms, and in some cases endeavour to protect their profitable extractive industries. Attempts to tackle climate change in the context of a world market economy will, at best, achieve only limited results.

Capitalism is the cause of a range of environmental issues the world is facing, but can a socialist alternative resolve these issues? Would a socialist alternative have to curtail growth or could it administer an environmentally sustainable version of growth? In socialism, where production can be rationally organised according to human need, we’ll have the best chance of successfully curtailing global warming. Removing poverty and deprivation requires growth, yet most XRs would argue that any growth is unsustainable. Many seek degrowth’ – in order to save the planet. This may or may not be necessary in the long run but in the short run, to eliminate world hunger, ill-health and shanty towns, the production of necessities will surely need to be increased.

The Socialist Party puts the argument that it is impossible to tackle environmental problems without effective global planning and cooperation, a prerequisite for which is eliminating the conflicts that result from scarcity. The Socialist Party contends that the growth needed to remove scarcity can be green and sustainable, but only if organised in the context of a democratically planned socialist economy. One where production and distribution is based on human need and not markets and profits, where buying and selling is abolished and with them consumerism and all its associated waste, where any economic growth can be constantly assessed for the impact it will have on nature and society.

The Socialist Party further argue that not only is pollution and environmental destruction caused by the profit system but also that it is the science of ecology that explains the processes by which pollution and environmental destruction resulted from releasing waste substances into the rest of nature at a rate and in amounts that it cannot cope with; that science and technology, far from causing the problem, provide the knowledge and techniques that can be used to solve it given the right social and economic framework; and, last but not least, that this framework is a less centralised society that produces to meet human needs not for profit, which could only be done in a state-free, money-free, socialist society. The only way to green the planet is to first make it the common heritage of all of us. Then we will be freed from the tyranny of market forces and money and in a position to consciously regulate our relationship with the rest of nature in an ecologically acceptable way.