Wednesday, September 30, 2020

No. 1394 Socialist Standard October 2020 Contents






US elections: The lesser-evil fallacy

As the American presidential election draws closer, progressives such as Noam Chomsky are making their message to vote Biden very much more vocal, declaring Trump is so demented and deranged that a president already displaying symptoms of senility and dementia is preferable and so working people must ignore Biden’s ignominious past record. Read >

Socialism is not a Dream. It can be Reality. It’s up to You…

Socialism is the great beacon of hope for humanity. The working class, black and white, have put up with endless injustice in capitalism. Socialism will be a huge relief after the long nightmare of capitalist exploitation, inequality, and poverty in the midst of material prosperity. Socialism is not an end, but a beginning, it is the beginning of the real history of humankind, an awakening to a new age of socialist justice. Socialism means the free development of each man and woman, black and white, as the condition of the free development of all men and women. Read >

Enough food for all

Malnutrition is caused by “the lack of access to sufficient, nutritious and safe food” due to poverty’ (UN Food and Agriculture Organisation 2017).

Within the current political system planning ahead on whatever front, the main goal will be in some way or another connected to the financial aspect. Housing, for instance, is a major problem for millions around the world even though it is designated by a UN resolution as a basic human right. In ‘normal’ non-Covid times the UK, with less than one percent and the US, with less than five percent of the global population, both have significant numbers of people living rough on the streets or in hostels whilst more than enough housing remains empty but unavailable to them. Read >

US elections: capitalism or capitalism?

America is at the cusp of deciding the nature of its future, or at least it thinks it is. It has two scarcely distinguishable options, Democrat Joe Biden and incumbent Donald Trump. The Trump presidency has already had an effect on America that will long outlast his second term, should he get one. The wildfires sweeping the West Coast have had fuel thrown upon them by the rapid destruction of what little environmental regulation there was before Trump. Nominal wages have gone up steadily over the last four years, but cost of living has been growing faster, far outstripping the growth in wages. Read>

Capitalism: incompatible with democracy

We continue from Part One, our explanation as to why capitalism is not and cannot be democratic

The ownership of the mass media is merely the start of the problem. Another way of constraining democracy is by limiting what is seen as being suitable for discussion. Liberal Democracy (LD) does not normally limit discussion by outlawing ideas and throwing people who fail to conform into gaol or worse, although this may happen in certain circumstances. Instead it falls more into the category expressed by Marx that the dominant ideas in society are those of the ruling class. Read >

Anti-imperialism is not anti-capitalism

We continue our series on the origins of the mistaken view that workers in the advanced capitalist countries share in the exploitation of those in the so-called ‘underdeveloped’ countries.

In his 1920 Preface to Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism Lenin comments: ‘Capitalism has grown into a world system of colonial oppression and of the financial strangulation of the overwhelming majority of the population of the world by a handful of “advanced” countries’.

 Colonialism is not quite the same thing as imperialism. It entails the annexation of, and direct political control over, other territories by a state which is not necessarily true of imperialism. Read >

Conflicts in Hong Kong

Hong Kong was a small but important part of the British Empire, acquired by military might. Hong Kong Island originally became part of the Empire in 1842, after China was defeated in the First Opium War, as the lucrative opium trade was imposed on China by Britain. After the Second Opium War in 1860, further land was ceded, including Kowloon Peninsula. Then in 1898 the New Territories to the north of Kowloon were leased to Britain for 99 years. Read >


Socialist Standard October 2020

More Discord Talks Online

Dangerous Women – Harriet Tubman - Paddy Shannon

FAQ It’ll never happen… - Paddy Shannon

FAQ How much Marx do we need to know - Paddy Shannon

The Humpty-Dumpty Contest

 "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less."

In politics, twisting language with false facts and fake claims are the norm. Both Trump and Biden were almost equally guilty in their first debate. 

The World Socialist Party does not believe that socialism can be achieved in a gradual, piecemeal fashion through a series of partial reforms granted by the benevolence of politicians bringing about a new society as a simple legislative acts. Nor are we anarchists who fear being tainted by engaging in the electoral process even if many of our fellow-workers are cynical about it. Elections are opportunities for involvement in debate, discussion and dialogue with our fellow-workers, to expose the limitations of capitalism and gain support for our ideas. Elections are a means to an end.


When the Republicans are in office, movements usually take to the streets to oppose them. However, because of their connections with social and labor activists when the Democrats are in the White House and running Congress, resistance tends to diminish, with the argument that the Democrats are “more” susceptible to influence from within than pressure from without. There is a case that workers will be set back by having a Democrat in power.


Even if Trump was a fascist  which he is not despite the hyperbole of his opponents  task is fundamentally the same as always -  to strive relentlessly for socialism and the political independence of a mass socialist party. Our main work today is building the foundations of such a workers’ movement, by planting the seeds of it for the future, regardless of the prevailing public opinion or “expert” counsel from progressive political commentators. The WSP prepares the ground for bigger and better things. Those myopic leftists who support Biden over Trump only muddy the waters rather than provide clarity on the vital issue of class independence. The provide left cover to another representative of capitalist rule. Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office Big Business runs the show. The U.S. president is, on paper, the most powerful single person in the world--but that doesn't make him the only people with power.


 We urge our readers to vote against Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The "lesser evil" candidate of 2020 has presided over many acts of actual evil done performed a Senator and Vice-President just as the present "greater evil" in the White House has committed.


Whenever the World Socialist Party make its case against lesser and greater evils voting tactics, we're criticized for saying that there's no difference between Democrats and Republicans - or even that we hope the right-wing Republicans win because that will be better for the struggle. Sorry, but were not listening. In advocating support for the lesser evil against the greater evil, many people lose sight of our real goal - acquiring support for socialism. Instead, the lesser evil vote confirms the myth that the U.S. political battle-field is unchangeable. Working people will once again be demoralized by another failure of a “progressive” president and once more the right will be emboldened.


Biden is no friend of workers and merely pays lip-service to them as they form the most important part of the Democratic Party vote. 

Councils can home more child refugees


Local councils have hit back at government claims that the UK cannot accept any more child refugees trapped in squalid EU camps because it is at “breaking point”,  saying they have capacity to take in some of them.

Immigration minister Chris Philp told a parliamentary committee that Britain couldn’t take in any unaccompanied children from refugee camps in Greece and Italy because the numbers were already “so huge” it was a “struggle to find a place for them”,  saying: “Not only are we already playing our part, we are playing our part to breaking point.”

Lord Alf Dubs, a former child refugee himself and the architect of the Dubs Amendment, said the claim that there weren’t anymore places was “not based on fact” and accused the government of conflating the internal transfer of minors arriving in Kent with taking children straight from Europe.

Local authority leaders have refuted his claims, pointing out that they have offered to take in refugee children transferred to the UK via safe and legal routes from EU nations. The charity Safe Passage said at least 25 UK councils had pledged over 1,400 places for child refugees in Europe, so long as the government provides support and a safe and legal route for these children to come.

Councils that have pledged to take in unaccompanied minors pointed out that many local councils across the UK don’t take in any refugee children, so a solution could be to make it mandatory to do so.

Cllr Kevin Bonavia, Lewisham Council’s cabinet member for refugees, explained, “I would treat the government’s claims of ‘breaking point’ with a large dose of scepticism. We are far behind other European countries in accepting refugees – Britain can and should be better than this." The council was currently providing care to 44 unaccompanied asylum seeking children – and that it would be able to do “much more” with government support.

Stephen Cowan, leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, which has pledged to take in 200 unaccompanied minors from Europe, echoed his remarks, saying: "The minister's explanation for turning away desperate refugee children is an assault on British values of compassion, international leadership, and standing up for what's right. Britain's better than that.”

West Dunbartonshire Council meanwhile said they were “disappointed” that the government was claiming they couldn’t bring unaccompanied minors from Europe due pressures faced by some councils, when the council had pledged to resettle 30 refugee children from Europe via safe and legal routes.

There is currently a shortage of safe and legal routes by which unaccompanied refugee children can reach the UK. The Dubs Amendment, designed to offer sanctuary to vulnerable lone minors, ended in May, while the family reunion route under Dublin is beset with delays and set to end on 31 December when the Brexit transition period ends.

Cllr Gareth Roberts, leader of Richmond upon Thames, urged the UK government not to “abrogate its duty to ensure safe and legal routes for unaccompanied children to seek sanctuary in the UK”. He added: “A failure to provide such routes leaves already vulnerable minors at risk of further exploitation by traffickers and smugglers. If the government is concerned about additional pressures being placed on local councils then they should commit the resources necessary to ensure those pressures are removed. The moral imperative to assist the most vulnerable should not be overridden by spurious concerns that councils would be unable to cope. Councils can cope if government gives them the resources they need.”

Beth Gardiner Smith, chief executive of Safe Passage International, called on the government to “stop ignoring” council leaders and instead engage with them to help offer protection to vulnerable children in Europe through a “well-managed legal process”. She added: “It is wrong for the government to claim that councils don’t have capacity to welcome some of the most vulnerable refugee children in Europe. Local authorities of all political parties have pledged over 1,400 places for these children and when there are unaccompanied children sleeping in burnt out camps in Europe tonight, it is unthinkable that these places remain unfilled. As long as councils are funded and supported adequately by central government, we know they are willing to welcome these children.”

The Right in America are Wrong

According to an international survey by the Pew Research Center, about four in 10 US citizens who are on the right politically would prioritise protecting the environment, even if it caused slower economic growth and some loss of jobs, compared with 87% of those on the left. Only one in five people with right-wing political views said they had a lot of trust in scientists, compared with more than six in 10 people on the left, in the US.

The US is more sharply divided along political lines when it comes to science and environmental issues than in other parts of the world. Globally, people who see themselves on the left side of politics are more likely to be concerned about the environment than those who see themselves as being on the right or in the centre ground. In Europe, Australia, Canada, Brazil and South Korea, the divide was much less marked. Of those on the right in the UK, 68% would prioritise the environment, similar to the numbers in Italy, Sweden, Poland, Spain and France. On the left in the UK, 84% would prioritise environmental protection, similar to the proportion in other European countries.

Overall, there was still a clear majority who supported protecting the environment in the US, at nearly two-thirds (64%) of the population, with a similar number (63%) saying the government was doing too little to address the climate crisis. About half of respondents said climate change was a very serious problem, and that human activity contributed a great deal to climate change.

The Pew results show that people in 20 nations around the world have a strong regard for scientists generally, with about eight in 10 globally saying government investment in scientific research was worthwhile.

Cary Funk, the director of science and society research at Pew, said: “These findings showcase the generally positive views that publics around the world hold for scientists and their work, as well as ideological fault lines in many places over how much to trust scientists.”

The banksters at it again


JP Morgan Chase has agreed to pay more than $920m and admitted to wrongdoing to settle federal US market manipulation investigations into its trading of metals futures and Treasury securities, the US authorities said.

JP Morgan will pay $436.4m in fines, $311.7m in restitution and more than $172m in disgorgement, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said.

Between 2009 and 2016 JPMorgan Treasury’s traders placed orders on one side of the market which they never intended to execute, to create a false impression of buy or sell interest that would raise or depress prices. The manipulative practice designed to create the illusion of demand or a lack of demand is known as “spoofing”.

 Daniel Pinto, co-president of JP Morgan and chief executive of the Corporate & Investment Bank, said, “The conduct of the individuals referenced in today’s resolutions is unacceptable and they are no longer with the firm.” 

Nor are they in jail, the blog might also add.

The Presidential Election Shell Game

 When Margaret Thatcher was asked what she regarded as her greatest achievement she replied, "Tony Blair". The general ever-rightward shift in politics has shifted what is considered radical and realistic rightwards with it. So we have now had the first presidential debate between Trump and Biden. And have their words really swayed you?

 The illusion of change, can act to preserve class power by appearing to answer more radical hopes while not altering the status quo. The rhetoric of change may be seen to be merely sugaring the pill. Biden promises a new kind of America, and delivers merely warmed-up sound-bites and a few fake tears. Biden’s campaign has lied to its most fervent supporters. He has made chumps out of progressives at every turn, yet they still fawn over him as if he is one of their own. The message remains the same, Democrats must move to the “center” which is actually to the right, or else the Republicans will win. Democrats have to prostitute themselves to corporate interests.

The impact of the current crisis on working people in the US is immense.  The American working class is politically uneducated. It believes what is in the capitalist media. It believes that the wage-system is ordained by God. It believer that Trump is a great man, because he can make money. When the Republicans are in power, it believes the promises of the Democrats, and vice versa. In order to make the working class completely subservient to force, they must be kept in ignorance; so the capitalist class has used its wealth and power to buy up, influence, or control all the great mediums of information and instruction, and especially the two great political parties, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. The aim is to cause the working class to fight each other and prevent them from combining into one unified  class-conscious political organization, which would have for its object the capture of government, confiscation of private ownership of productive capital, and the creation of common ownership and democratic operation.

Go on a strike against capitalist political parties. A capitalist political party is one that is controlled by capitalists; that makes laws and administers government in the interest of the capitalist class. A capitalist political party is one that elects its agents to office, who use the federal troops, national guardsmen, state troopers, police, federal judges, and sheriffs,  to protect the capitalist class while they steal the wealth produced by the working class. A leopard may be recognized by its spots, a tiger by its stripes . So with the Republican and Democratic parties. Federal injunctions are issued by Democratic judges and Republican judges. Federal troops are used against the working class by Democratic presidents and Republican presidents. Militia, police, and marshals are used by Democratic and Republican governors, sheriffs, and mayors to protect the capitalist class in possession of the wealth which they have stolen from the working class.

Some are afraid that if they vote the socialist ticket they will throw their votes away. Consequently, they keep on voting the the Republican and Democratic parties or some other reform party. To those weak-hearted voters we say that “you will never get what you want by voting for what you don’t want.” If you vote for what you don’t want, the capitalist political parties will see that you get it, with good measure. If you vote for the cooperative commonwealth, your example will be followed by others, and we will get socialism.

The Wall Street money-sharks are riding high in Washington these days. The masters of America are drunk with power. Their program is a program of madness, and it is doomed to failure. The great majority of the American people do not want to be slaves to the plutocrats and the oligarchs. That is to their credit and we applaud them for it. There is another America, for there are two Americas and millions of the people already distinguish between them.

One is the America of the little clique of capitalists, landlords, and militarists who are threatening and terrifying the world. This is the America the people of the world hate and fear.

Then there is the other America—the America of  working people. They constitute the great majority of the people. They do the work of the country. They respect its history and traditions— a revered record of friendship for the people of other lands, in their struggles against kings and despots and offering generous asylum that once was freely granted to the oppressed. This is the America which must take the power out of the grip of the exploiters and parasites. Throw out the profiteers. Hold out the hand of comradely friendship to the oppressed and hungry people in the world. These people don’t want to fight anybody. They only want to live. They don’t get enough to eat. These people should be helped—not threatened, not driven back into slavery, under the social system that has kept them hungry and in poverty all their lives. America was once the hope of the world. But now America has fallen into the hands of those who are trying to rule the planet—and to set up a police-state at home. Wall Street is not the real America. They the traffickers in human flesh and blood  the slave owners, the worst enemies of the American people. Capitalism offers no future to the people but recessions, wars, violence and perhaps a final plunge into barbarism.

To avoid such a fate, the workers of the United States engage in politics on their own account, independent of all capitalist politics. The American working class can open up the way to this new world. They are the majority. They have the power in America. All that is necessary is for the working class to understand it—and to use it. We believe they will do so. We believe the real America—the America of the working people— will help save the world by saving herself. This is America’s manifest destiny.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Having their cake and eating it too

Earlier this year, both Shell and BP announced in almost identical language their "ambition" to be net-zero emissions businesses by 2050. In recent years they have also very publicly quit numerous industry trade groups that fund denial of anthropogenic climate change or that fight legislation or regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, while pledging to be more transparent about their associations with lobby groups.

 Shell and BP remain active members of numerous Big Oil lobby groups fighting against climate legislation and regulation—without disclosing this in their transparency reports.

Shell and BP—the world's second- and fourth-largest oil companies by revenue last year—are members of at least eight industry trade organizations lobbying against climate measures in the United States and Australia.

Both companies support the Alliance of Western Energy Consumers, which boasted that it had "defeated carbon pricing bills" in Oregon, and the Texas Oil & Gas Association, which is fighting regulation of the super-heating greenhouse gas methane in the nation's largest oil-producing state. 

Shell and BP also both back the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, both of which are working to undercut the country's compliance with the Paris climate agreement. 

Shell also remains a member of the Queensland Resources Council, which is backing construction of the world's largest coal mine in the northeastern state. 

The companies say they are trying to reform the lobby groups from the inside.

Last week, a report from Oil Change International stated that none of the plans or pledges from eight leading oil companies including Shell and BP even come close to aligning with the 2015 Paris agreement's goal of limiting global warming this century to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Kelly Trout, a senior research analyst at OCI, likened oil companies to "an arsonist pledging to light a few less fires." 

Robert Brulle, researcher and professor at Brown University's Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, explained,  "This is a standard business practice. They're trying to have it both ways, being socially responsible without changing their actual positions."

The Council for National Policy

 A data analytics compan, Cambridge Analytica,  has harvested information from more than 50 million Facebook users. Cambridge Analytica is partially owned by American businessman Robert Mercer, who is known for backing conservative causes. That data was used to personalize political ads to "change audience behavior" and advance political projects. Trump's former far-right political strategist Stephen Bannon reportedly oversaw one of Cambridge Analytica's programs which created voter profiles based on data garnered from Facebook. He served as the company's vice president and secretary before joining Trump's campaign in 2016. Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who worked alongside Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan to garner the data for Cambridge Analytica, told the Observer

"We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people's profiles. And built models to exploit what we know about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on."

In a documentary 'People You May Know', Charles Kriel, special adviser to the UK Parliament on disinformation, and filmmaker Katharina Gellein traveled across the United States accompanied by a team of journalists and whistleblowers. Their film reveals the political connection between religious fundamentalists, oligarchs and Cambridge Analytica and its shell companies, which have fundamentally shifted the balance of politics in the United States.  Evidence has been revealed about who Cambridge Analytica collaborated with in the United States other than the Trump campaign.

It turned out to be far-right-wing churches, conservative churches in the US. And they've built a platform that targets mentally ill or vulnerable people in order to draw them into church, to monetize them through donations. That's the short-term goal. To help them is the facade for it, but ultimately the aim is to convert them to the politics of the far right. 

A Koch brothers-funded charity commissioned Cambridge Analytica, along with a software company called Gloo, to build a software platform that could be used by churches in order to target vulnerable people. These are people who are suffering from addiction, financial distress, who might be struggling with opioid dependence or they might be dealing with bipolar issues. And all of these options are available in the software that has been deployed to the churches. And once those people are identified, they can target them with social media. And once brought into the church, they can also be recruited into the politics of the far right.

When you're talking about local churches, I don't think they're aware of what's going on. What they do know is that here's this magical platform called Insights. And they could say, "Well, I'm going to look around in Birmingham, Alabama, and I want to find an area of town where people are suffering from high levels of addiction and divorce." Recovery programs are great when they don't have a second agenda. This is about the exploitation of people who attend church. So any normal Republican, I think, wouldn't be very happy with their data being used for purposes that it wasn't intended for.

At the level of the megachurches, where politics becomes involved, then there's more of an awareness to go in and to monetize off the backs of folks who are suffering, because they have an unfair recruiting tool for bringing those people into recovery programs in the churches. One of the main founders  essentially laid out how it all works. He had an initial presentation for donors, which we've seen. And that lays out pretty clearly that the aim is political because overwhelmingly, people who don't go to church don't vote Republican. So it was a key thing to apply in certain swing states, because, of course, with enough swing states in the US, you can swing the vote.

The person  who commissioned Cambridge Analytica and also put money into Gloo, the software company, is a member of an organization called the Council for National PolicyIts roots are in the Southern Baptist Convention, so racism is part of its DNA. And they came together with a sense of urgency, knowing that by the 2030s, white Protestant males would no longer be in a majority. And this is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization [a type of organization that is tax-exempt in the US], which means they are not meant to conduct politics or support a certain candidate or get involved in public politics really at all. They've existed for about 40 years. Their aim was to rewrite the US Constitution by 2020. Now they're a little late, but if Trump wins another four years, they have a very real chance, because they have systematically, over the course of many years, worked to install a Republican legislature in many states. They have pushed out Democrats and pushed out moderate Republicans.  There's a couple of different ways to try to reengineer the US Constitution. One is you can go state by state, amendment by amendment. That takes forever and nobody gets anywhere that way. Or what you can do instead is call a constitutional convention. And if two-thirds of the US state legislatures call for a constitutional convention, then one is held and there hasn't been one since the Bill of Rights. The convention can revolve around a single issue, but once the convention is in operation, other issues can be introduced and you can effectively rewrite the entire document. As you know, abortion rights are on the table. Marriage equality is on the table, things like federal regulation and the degree to which the central government can control regulation of the states are on the table, states' rights and states' control.

The Council for National Policy was founded in 1981 but they're secretive, so nobody knows who the members are. Nobody knows when they hold their quarterly meetings or where they're going to be holding their quarterly meetings.

Covid-19 and No Compensation

 The meatpacking industry has suffered severe coronavirus outbreaks, in part because production-line workers often work side-by-side for long shifts. The full picture of how the meatpacking industry has handled COVID-related workers’ compensation remains murky.

Saul Sanchez died in April, one of six workers with fatal COVID-19 infections at meatpacker JBS USA’s slaughterhouse in Greeley, Colorado, the site of one of the earliest and deadliest coronavirus outbreaks at a U.S. meatpacking plant. JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, denied the family’s application for workers’ compensation benefits, along with those filed by the families of two other Greeley workers who died of COVID-19. Families of the three other Greeley workers who died also sought compensation, a union representative said. JBS has said the employees’ COVID-19 infections were not work-related in denying the claims.

As more Americans return to workplaces, the experience of JBS employees shows the difficulty of linking infections to employment and getting compensation for medical care and lost wages. Tyson has also denied workers’ compensation claims stemming from a big outbreak in Iowa.

“That is the ultimate question: How can you prove it?” said Nick Fogel, an attorney specializing in workers’ compensation. Workers can challenge companies’ denials in an administrative process that varies by state but typically resembles a court hearing. The burden of proof, however, usually falls on the worker to prove a claim was wrongfully denied.

Under Colorado law, a workers’ compensation death benefit provides about two-thirds of the deceased worker’s salary to the surviving spouse and pays medical expenses not covered by insurance. If JBS had not denied the Sanchez family’s claim, that would have provided his widow a steady income and paid uncovered medical bills totaling about $10,000, according to his daughter, Betty Rangel.

“They don’t care,” she said of JBS. “They are all about the big profits, and they are not going to give any money out.”