Thursday, August 31, 2023

Capitalist China


 In his Report of an Investigation into the Peasant Movement in Hunan (1927), Mao admitted that the coming revolution would not be socialist: ‘To overthrow these feudal forces is the real objective of the revolution.’    That same year we stated: '.. Does any intelligent observer believe for one moment that Irish, or Polish, or Indian, or Egyptian, or Chinese capitalists are one whit less brutal in their exploitation of their workers than are British, or German, or American, or any other Imperialist capitalist class?    The Chinese workers will be no better off when they have exchanged British and Japanese for Chinese masters...'.    Four years earlier Sylvia Pankhurst wrote: ‘Socialism means plenty for all. We do not preach a gospel of want and scarcity, but of abundance. Our desire is not to make poor those who today are rich, in order to put the poor in the place where the rich now are. Our desire is not to pull down the present rulers to put other rulers in their places’ (Socialism, Workers’ Dreadnought, 28 July 1923). Does this sound familar? What follows is almost prophetic: ‘…We do not call for limitation of births…’!

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Defending the Realm

 Sir Mark Peter Rowley,  Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, opined recently:

 “there are very few causes policing should be attached to” and said he will not tolerate officers taking the knee, flying rainbow flags or adorning their uniforms with badges that support environmental causes. However, he added that, “wearing a poppy in the autumn is perfectly proper”.

The well paid Knight's role is defending the status quo.   In reply to him and in the absence of a socialist sonnet, this seems appropriate:

The Muted Mockery of Poppy (Cock) Day 

The ribbons arrayed the honours displayed

The medals jingling on parade

Echo of battles long ago

But they’re picking sides for another go. 

The martial air, the vacant stare

The oft-repeated pointless prayer

“Peace oh’ Lord on earth below”

Yet they’re picking sides for another go. 

The clasped hands, the pious stance

The hackneyed phrase “Somewhere in France”

The eyes downcast as bugles blow

Still they’re picking sides for another go. 

Symbol of death the cross-shaped wreath

The sword is restless in the sheath

As children pluck where poppies grow

They’re picking sides for another go. 

Have not the slain but died in vain?

The hoardings point, “Prepare again”

The former friend a future foe?

They’re picking sides for another go. 

I hear Mars laugh at the cenotaph

Says he, as statesmen blow the gaff

“Let the Unknown Warriors flame still glow”

For they’re picking sides for another go. 

A socialist plan the world would span

Then man would live in peace with man

Then wealth to all would freely flow

And want and war we would never know.

(James Boyle, 1971).

Monday, August 28, 2023

Who is the greenest Green of them all?

 Diana Johnstone,  who was press secretary of the Green Group in the European Parliament from 1989 to 1996, is a likely contender for this one sentence paragraph:

'The plain truth is that planned obsolescence has been the dominant policy of the Western elite toward the working class since the neoliberal power seizure of the 1980s.'

D. H. Lawrence was better informed and in one of his poems compared the mosquito and capitalist:

The mosquito knows full well, small as he is

he’s a beast of prey.

but after all

he only takes his bellyful,

he doesn’t put my blood in the bank.

We work, they take and pass on. Some of today’s capitalists have many centuries of legalised theft behind them. The richest families in Florence have been at it for the past 600 years. This fact was confirmed recently by two economists doing useful work for a change. Guglielmo Barone and Sauro Mocetti studied the records of Florentine taxpayers in 1427 with those in 2011 and after comparing the family wealth to those with the same surname today, concluded the richest families in Florence six centuries ago remain the same now.

Capitalism is an obsolete system.  The establishment of socialism means the end of capitalism worldwide and the parasitical 1 percent.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

The BBC on us

 Tiny socialist party amasses £2.6m in reserves.

This is the title of a new article on the BBC NEWS website.   Such occurrences are very rare even during elections in which socialists campaign, leaving us to agree with Oscar Wilde when he stated ‘the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about’. 

You might be wondering how come a socialist party that wants to abolish money seems instead to be amassing it.   You may as well ask why, if we’re so concerned about the depredations of modern capitalist production, we don’t try to help by living in unheated caves and eating grass.

The article is wrong in one detail. Nobody in our Party pays ‘fees’, or any kind of compulsory dues. Members can choose to pay donations, the amount being up to them. Just like with all our tasks and activity, if you don’t want to, you don’t have to.

A bit different from most other organisations you know, we think you’ll agree.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

WSM Meeting Friday 25th August at 19 30 (18 30ut) 0n ZOOM

Tomorrow's evening meeting;

Friday 25th August 19.30 (GMT + 1) Zoom

A general discussion on HUMAN  NATURE

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Religion and the cat's tail

The 22nd August is designated by the United Nations, ‘Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief’.

There are continuing acts of intolerance and violence based on religion or belief against individuals, including against persons belonging to religious communities and religious minorities around the world, and the number and intensity of such incidents, which are often of a criminal nature and may have international characteristics, are increasing’.

In 2020 the day was designated, by various ex-Muslim organisations, ‘International Apostasy Day’.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain is calling for people to ‘doodle on religious texts’ and post the results to social media for the purpose of, ‘ defending freedom of expression and the right to apostasy and blasphemy by subverting religious texts’.

They comment, ‘Whilst we might not agree with burning Qurans and books (usually associated with a long history of state and religious censorship against dissent), we nonetheless recognise the right of individuals to express their abhorrence to bad ideas and the persecution and murder of freethinkers and apostates.

On Apostasy Day, join us in celebrating blasphemy and apostasy as rights by subverting and doodling on the Quran, Bible, Torah, the Vedas or any other religious texts to proclaim. It is important to reiterate that burning, murdering, torturing, persecuting human beings are violence and hate, not burning the Quran or religious texts’. Further, ‘Ideas are not sacred, human beings are’.

The Socialist Party’s views on religion are a matter of public record or can be easily ascertained by reference to articles in the Socialist Standard or to Party pamphlets.

How the Gods Were Made by John Keracher

The fundamental idea of religion is a belief in the persistence of life after death. Originally, and in essence throughout, religion is a belief in the existence of supernatural beings, and the observance of rites and ceremonies in order to avert their anger or gain their goodwill. “Corpse worship,” as it has been tersely called, “is the protoplasm of religion.”’. (SaR)

The right to peaceful protest of any kind should be sacrosanct (no pun intended). Unfortunately there are many examples where this is not, and has not been, the case. The actions called for by CEMB does appear to be the equivalent of tying a firecracker to a cat’s tail.

Whilst not decrying the motives, or the right of anyone to participate in this protest, it has to be asked, what will this achieve? It seems highly unlikely that those to whom these texts, rightly or wrongly, holds some value, will feel compelled to renounce their inculcated beliefs because of this.

Is the defacing of religious texts, or of any book, a pointless exercise? Put simply, yes. The obvious solution to religious fanaticism of any kind, can only be the general realisation that religions are a form of dominance over the masses that benefit those pushing the fairy tales as a means of power over the various adherents. And that the social system which continues to encourage the divisions caused between various religious groups and organisations profit the asset-owning class, not the vast majority who give up the possibility of the material gains that come from living in a money-free, class-free society.

When capitalism is replaced by Socialism religion will have had its day.

As Karl Marx wrote, ‘The religious reflex of the real world can, in any case, only then finally vanish, when the practical relations of every-day life offer to man none but perfectly intelligible and reasonable relations with regard to his fellow men and to Nature’. Capital Volume One.

That actions have consequences, and not necessarily the ones intended, is lately demonstrated by the recent events in Sweden which have led to that State instantiating a raise in the level of threats facing the country from ‘high threat’ to ‘heightened threat’.

The Swedish prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson said, ‘“There is no reason to intentionally offend someone else, because it actually risks threatening Sweden. Calm and realising the seriousness of the situation is my message.”

Addressing future planned Qur’an burnings, he said the government was looking at its public order laws, but also cautioned: “Everything that is legal isn’t [necessarily] appropriate”’.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Spain: Food staple becoming unaffordable


It’s reported that, ‘Spanish authorities are sounding the alarm over olive oil prices, which continue to rise and may eventually turn this Mediterranean staple into a “gourmet product,” the newspaper El Mundo reported, citing sources in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Olive oil from Andalusia soared to €8.20 ($8.90) per liter last week, marking the highest price ever recorded for Spanish olive oil, according to data from Mintec, representing a 115% year-on-year increase. Meanwhile, the price surge continues.

“The market takes it for granted that prices will keep rising until at least the end of the year,” the outlet noted, adding that extra virgin prices are expected to reach €10 per bottle by autumn.

Shelf prices for olive oil in a number of Spanish supermarkets have already surged to €8.50 per litre making the product almost unaffordable for middle-class households, the outlet said.

The Spanish olive oil sector is currently grappling with mounting concerns regarding availability in the coming months following the severe drought that Spain has been experiencing since last summer.

In the agricultural year of 2022-2023, olive oil output in Spain more than halved to 675,000 tons, representing a 54.7% slump year-on-year. This made the country's current output volume the worst so far this century, the outlet wrote, citing data from the Agriculture Ministry.

The July report from the Spanish government also revealed a significant reduction in stocks, which declined by approximately 73,000 to 75,000 metric tons last month’.

Sunday, August 20, 2023



The 1973 coup against democratic socialism in Chile still matters – there, in Britain and beyond

This recent article perpetuates a fifty year old myth.   Facts should still matter: the term 'democratic socialism' is a tautological misnomer, and in her book Democracy and Revolution: Latin America and Socialism Today D. L. Raby writes "with a president voted in by only 36 per cent of the electorate and a coalition which only briefly achieved a little more than 50 per cent (in April 1971), there was no real mandate for revolutionary change."

Read more here.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Spain: Food prices on up and up


It's reported that, 'Food prices in Spain soared by 30.8% in July compared to the same month in 2019 before the outbreak of Covid-19, El Mundo reported on Friday, citing the latest data from analytics firm Funcas.

Overall prices more than doubled in the EU’s fourth largest economy, surging by 54.4% over the past two decades, figures show. Food prices alone surged by 79.3% over the same period.

Among the products that saw the steepest price rises over the past year were sugar (44.2%), potatoes (38.8%), rice (22%), canned fruits (19.4%) and confectionery (18.2%). Milk rose by 17.6%, pork by 15.8%, eggs by 12.8%, and fresh fruits by 11.6% in the same period, according to the data.

Olive oil jumped by 115% year-on-year, marking the highest price increase ever, according to data from Mintec.

Spanish food inflation was driven by a number of factors, such as soaring energy, fuel, and fertilizer prices, as well as a shrinking supply of certain commodities on the global market, Funcas said.

A prolonged drought, which Spain has been experiencing since last summer, also contributed to the rising food prices. Severe weather conditions are now threatening the global olive oil supply, with prices spiking around the world. 

In the coming months the price surge will continue in Spain, according to El Mundo, with overall inflation expected to reach 5% in December'.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Chinese Capitalist Party


Vijay Prashad is a historian, journalist, and political commentator. He is the author of 40 books, including one reviewed last year in the Socialist Standard.   During an interview for the Harvard Political Review published yesterday, he was asked '... I’m interested in what you make of the state of the left or, more precisely, the state of Marxism today and in the era post the fall of the Soviet Union'  to which VP replied  'I mean, it’s interesting — the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, but the largest political party in the world today is a Marxist party, and that’s the Communist Party of China. It’s got 96 million members. There are more Chinese Communists — that is to say, party members — than the population of Canada. So when people say Marxism died in the rubble of the Soviet Union, I say, well, maybe you’re just talking about Europe and maybe North America.'

In our review of his Struggle Makes Us Human. Learning from Movements for Socialism, we said 'The Bolshevik state... authoritarian and oppressive from its very beginnings, bore no relation to socialism (a democratically organised stateless and leaderless society of free access to all goods and services). In the same way, Cuba, Vietnam, China and Venezuela, all of which the author is a strong supporter of, are essentially ‘top-down’ regimes integrated into the world capitalism system of markets, trade, money and wages, buying and selling. And they are more oppressive than more ‘liberal’ capitalist states in that they keep a closer check on their populations and in some cases don’t even offer them meaningful elections to vote in..'.

​Unmentioned in either the interview or review is the fact that Vijay Prashad is a fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.   Oh, the irony!   Has  this self-described Marxist forgotten that the socialism Marx envisaged involved the ‘abolition of buying and selling, of the bourgeois conditions of production’ (Communist Manifesto)?

Mao stated in 1949 ‘China must utilize all the factors of urban and rural capitalism that are beneficial and not harmful to the national economy and the people’s livelihood, and we must unite with the national bourgeoisie in common struggle. Our present policy is to regulate capitalism, not to destroy it.’

 That wages have increased since Mao's day is not in doubt. The 1% in China and the US, unlike the vast majority of us, are doing very nicely - even during the latest pandemic...
'China's super-wealthy got $1.5trillion richer during pandemic that began in Wuhan, with one analyst saying: 'The world's never seen this much wealth created in one year' (Daily Mail, 20 October 2020).
'Since the onset of Covid-19 in early 2020, the combined wealth of the 650 American billionaires has increased by nearly $1 trillion' (Alternet, 1 December 2020).

'Xi’s government has cracked down on young people who apply Marxist analysis too critically to abuses of labour allowed under China’s system of state capitalism' (Financial Times, 28 June, 2022).   But this should not worry VP as he, unlike Marx ('The existence of the state is inseparable from the existence of slavery'  - Vorwärts, August 1844) and Engels  ('The more it [the state]   proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers — proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is, rather, brought to a head'  - Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, 1880) or us ( 'We are not concerned with State capitalism. We are concerned with Socialism. Socialism is the negation of capitalism. Consequently State capitalism cannot be the ideal of any Socialist. Ergo those who preach State capitalism or collective exploitation are not Socialists’ - Socialist Standard, December, 1906).
is a supporter of the status quo.

Thursday, August 17, 2023


 Tomorrow's evening meeting;

Friday 18th August 19.30 (GMT + 1) Zoom
Speaker: Darren O’Neil

The Executive Committee of the Party deeply regret to announce the death of Comrade Eva Torf Judd, who was a victim of a recent air raid.

Comrade Judd had been a member of the Party since 1935 and was well known to the London membership.

Born in London of Lithuanian immigrants, her early childhood, which she remembered vividly, was spent in the dingy Metropolitan borough which bears the pleasant name of Bethnal Green. Later, Comrade Judd emigrated with her parents to the U.S.A., and it was there that her interest in Socialism was developed.

Before the last war; whilst living in Boston, Mass., she took part in the struggle for Trades Union rights for the garment workers of that city. But it was in San Francisco, during the post-war years, that she first played an active part on the political field by lecturing at the Labour College.

Although not agreeing entirely with the I.W.W., Comrade Judd gave lectures on Socialism for that organisation in San Francisco and Seattle. Also she addressed many meeting in other cities in the U.S.A.

Returning to London after a sojourn of nearly 25 years in the U.S.A., our late comrade made contact with the Socialist Party, whose members welcomed her valuable assistance in the work of spreading Socialist knowledge. During her residence in London she addressed many successful outdoor meetings for the Party and was a shrewd and lively contributor at Party Conferences.

From 1938 until the time of her death she was active in the Party’s cause in Southampton, in which town she met her tragic end.

About two years ago the MSS. of her autobiography was completed, and, in the opinion of those who have read it, it deserves a niche in the records of working-class literature.

To her husband in Southampton, England, and her daughter Judith in Los Angeles, Calif., the Executive Committee, on behalf of her comrades and many friends in the Socialist Party, express their deepest sympathy. Comrade Judd was another good comrade we are sorry to lose.

H. G. Holt

ANIMAL FARM: Workers and animals of the world arise!

George Orwell's ANIMAL FARM was first published in England on 17th August, 1945.

(9) Animal Farm (HD Remastered) English - YouTube

 George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’. This is a good and amusing satire on the process that has taken place in Russia since 1917 up to the time of writing, 1945. Orwell portrays the 1917 Revolution by a rebellion of the animals on a farm in which they turn out the human owner and take over the farm themselves. The pigs take on the leadership of the new order and the old boar, Comrade Napoleon, by astute manoeuvring called “tactics” becomes the great chief. The process of hoodwinking the working animals whilst steering the rebellion away from its original course until the animals are dumbfounded to find that they are working harder and are poorer fed than in pre-rebellion days and that in all other respects the system is the same as ever, is well described.

“Comrade Napoleon” is, of course, a caricature of Stalin, whilst ex-comrade Snowball, represents Trotsky. Other characters are easily identified. There is the horse, Boxer, who has a cure for all problems by working harder and whose motto is “Comrade Napoleon is always right.” He finally works himself to a weak and useless condition, and the pigs send him off to the knacker’s yard.

In the space of a couple of hours reading, George Orwell has described by his satire what other writers have failed to describe as adequately in hundreds of stodgy pages. His animal characters are often wise but funny, instance the donkey, Benjamin, who has lived for many years and who, when told that God had given him his tail to whisk away the flies, replied that he could well do without the tail and the flies. Good for the holiday, both of them. Just as good if you have had the holiday or even if you do not get one.

W. Waters

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

American UPS workers gain a few more crumbs


Any improvement in workers standards of living is a positive. Lenin’s scorn that the working class are only capable of achieving a trade union level of conscientiousness and that they need a vanguard party to lead them, like a sheepdog shepherding the sheep, is wrong. The struggle to achieve a level playing playing field will only be over when workers realise that that their best interests are attained through real socialism.

‘The Teamsters and UPS (have) reached a tentative five-year contract agreement that union negotiators hailed as a "historic" victory, likely averting what would have been the largest single-employer strike in U.S. history.

In a statement, Teamsters president Sean O'Brien said that "we demanded the best contract in the history of UPS, and we got it."

"UPS has put $30 billion in new money on the table as a direct result of these negotiations," said O'Brien. "We've changed the game, battling it out day and night to make sure our members won an agreement that pays strong wages, rewards their labor, and doesn't require a single concession. This contract sets a new standard in the labor movement and raises the bar for all workers."

According to the union, which represents roughly 340,000 workers, the tentative contract includes "historic wage increases" for full- and part-time UPS Teamsters, new health and safety protections such as in-cab air conditioning for larger delivery vehicles, an end to forced overtime on scheduled days off, and the creation of 7,500 new union jobs.

Under the new agreement, full- and part-time UPS workers would receive a $2.75-per-hour wage boost this year and a $7.50-per-hour raise over the course of the contract.

UPS CEO Carol Tomé described the contract agreement as "a win-win-win."

Rank-and-file union members still must approve the deal. If they don't, there will be a strike following the voting period, Teamsters leaders said.

Voting is set to begin on August 3 and end on August 22.

"UPS came dangerously close to putting itself on strike, but we kept firm on our demands," said Teamsters general secretary-Treasurer Fred Zuckerman. "In my more than 40 years in Louisville representing members at Worldport—the largest UPS hub in the country—I have never seen a national contract that levels the playing field for workers so dramatically as this one."

"The agreement puts more money in our members' pockets and establishes a full range of new protections for them on the job," Zuckerman added. "We stayed focused on our members and fought like hell to get everything that full-time and part-time UPS Teamsters deserve."

The tentative bargaining agreement was reached less than a week before the current contract was set to expire’.

Last month, 97% of UPS workers represented by the Teamsters voted to authorize a strike if there was no acceptable deal with management by the end of July.

Sen Bernie Sanders. (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, applauded the Teamsters for "negotiating a strong pro-worker contract with UPS."

"This is what progressive, grass-roots union leadership is all about," the senator wrote. "This is a major victory for the American working class. Let's keep going."

From the Socialist Standard, April 1981

‘The unions are a necessary weapon that they help to prevent employers from keeping wages down too much but, because of the nature of capitalism, they are strictly limited in what they can achieve for their members. Their proper sphere of activity is that of defending workers’ conditions and standards of living, not in helping the capitalist class to administer their system. However, there is little point in leftists bewailing “betrayal” by the union leaders, for the unions can only be as good (as active, as militant, as democratic) as their members. In the absence of a class-conscious working class, trade unionists have the unions they deserve’.

Paul Bennett

Socialist Sonnet No. 110

Capitalism, Your Name is Misery


Inflation is officially falling

As unemployment rises in its place,

Each is misery, with a different face,

But both aspects are equally galling.

All pay increases will be quickly lost,

And are, at best, a temporary mask.

Yet, the most pertinent question to ask

Is surely, why should living have a cost?

After all, there’s wealth enough to go round,

Created by workers for such a small

Allowance as wages, instead of it all:

So, reasons for radical change abound.

Abolish money and inflation’s gone,

Once the battle for socialism’s won.


D. A.

UK: Misery continues


It’s reported that ,’The unemployment rate in Britain has reached its highest level in nearly two years, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported on Tuesday, adding that the spike was mainly driven by an increase in the number of people unemployed for up to six months.

According to the ONS, the number out of work increased to 4.2% compared to 4% recorded in the three months to the end of May, as the amount of job vacancies dropped by 66,000 to 1.02 million.

Meanwhile, wages have risen, with private-sector wage growth increasing to 8.2%, more than a key measure of inflation. Average weekly earnings, excluding bonuses, hit an annual growth rate of 7.8%, reaching record highs.

However, the growth was outpaced by the rate of price rises in Britain, meaning an effective pay cut for its working population.

The country remains in the grips of a severe cost-of-living crisis, with a higher inflation rate than other major European countries. Annual inflation in the UK currently stands at 7.9%, the highest among G7 nations’.

France: Misery continues


It’s reported that: ‘Prices for food and beverages sold in French supermarkets soared 13.1% in July on an annualized basis, according to the latest data published by the national statistics bureau INSEE.

In particular, prices of meat and drinks rose by 11.3% and 10.1% respectively, while other food products saw price increases of up to 15%. Meanwhile, the cost to French consumers of cleaning and personal care products increased by 9.4%.

The annual inflation rate in France stood at 4.3% last month, down from a record 4.5% increase marked in June, remaining in line with preliminary estimates and marking the lowest since February 2022. Inflation reportedly eased due to declines in energy prices and to more moderate increases in the prices of food and manufactured products.

Last month, the French government sent a 2024 spending plan to parliament that calls for a €4.2 billion ($4.7 billion) cut in outlays, marking the first reduction in nearly ten years. Paris is planning to spend €428.8 billion in 2024 as the nation is targeting a budget deficit of 4.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) for 2024, down from a goal of 4.9% this year.

The aim is to bring that below 3%, the limit set under European Union rules, by the end of the second term of President Emmanuel Macron in 2027.

The spending cut comes on top of an urgent need to reduce the sovereign debt, which reached 111.6% of the nation’s GDP. The austerity measures are expected to ensure the reduction of public debt to 108.3% of the economy by 2027’.

Peterloo: We are many...

Lest we forget - Peterloo

200 years ago, working people in Manchester and surrounding towns were becoming increasingly vocal in their demands for political reform. They were angry about the fact that most of the population could not vote, that corruption was rife, and that urban areas were grossly under-represented in Parliament.

50-60,000 people arrived at St Peter's Fields on 16 August 1819 to hear radical Henry Hunt campaign for parliamentary reform. When Hunt began to speak the Manchester Yeomanry were sent in try to arrest him, and attacked anybody who got in its way. The sabre-wielding cavalrymen charged into the crowd. At least 11 people were killed and 400 injured. Estimates of the final death toll vary widely and the true number will never be known.

The events were dubbed Peterloo, an ironic reference to the Battle of Waterloo that had taken place four years previously was one of many brutal battles in capitalism’s ongoing class war. Peterloo is an event which deserves to remembered — especially by those who claim that the British working class has no ‘revolutionary’ tradition.

William Hulton was the magistrate who gave the order for troops to violently disperse the peaceful, pro-democracy protest. Hulton was born into a family of wealthy landowners. 

Seven years before Peterloo, as a justice of the peace, Hulton had already sentenced four Luddites to death for setting fire to a weaving mill in Westhoughton, near Bolton. One of those hanged was just 12-year-old.

Eleven of the leaders were arrested by the troops. They were charged with conspiracy and illegal assembly. Hunt was sentenced to two and half years in prison, Middleton weaver, Samuel Bamford, and others to one year.

 In an atmosphere of government repression and provocation stretching back a quarter of a century, there can be no doubt that the massacre fitted in with the strategy of the ruling class. The use of state power against those who were unprepared simply to accept their lot continued.

 Depicting Peterloo as an aberration, out of character with British values, obscures the reality that this was business as usual, at home and abroad, then and now.

 Peterloo was just one particularly brutal battle in the class war of capitalism — which still persists today. And there should be few workers with any doubts as to which side they should be fighting on.

Reposted from SOYMB, 16 August, 2019

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

India: New Boss, Same Old.


Fifty years of "independence" (1997)

From the October 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

In August Indians celebrated fifty years of independence from Britain, or at least some of them did. Socialists in India didn't, as Binay Sarkar of the World Socialist Party (India) explains

There were festivities down to the village level with flying colours displaying the logo to rekindle nationalism as “a people's event”. Fifty years previously, our class-elders had paid a high bloody price for the "Independence" that couldn't end their dependence.

National independence is a capitalist business. Feuding factions of the selfsame class that win and control territories for profit, their politicians, media chiefs and paid hacks—Indian, Pakistani as well as "the imperialist" British, and maybe their global compatriots—got the show in motion on Friday 15 August 1997 to celebrate the occasion that occurred on a Friday fifty years ago.

In the middle of the present millennium the search for markets, sources of raw materials, cheap labour power and most profitable locations for business gave rise to "colonialism", having transcontinental ramifications into all pre-capitalist formations. This indicated capitalism’s global dimensions right from the beginning. It was British merchant capital which navigated Job Charnock. who on 24 August 1690 arrived at the village of Sutanuti that later developed into the capitalist city of Calcutta, the first capital of British India.

Capitalism in India began to spread with the building of harbours, roads, railways, mills factories and banks—no matter what race, religion, language and territory capitalists and workers originated from. For capital is not a personal but a social force. Its movement in India accorded to its intrinsic alienating, uneven and competitive laws of motion. Battles, mutinies, marches and proclamations have well recorded this course in India as elsewhere.

Two centuries later in an atmosphere of great unrest due to poverty, famine and oppression, a populist platform became necessary to channel people’s wrath. Indian capitalists, intellectuals and their associations were encouraged by some British officials. Hume, Wedderburn and others with support from The Statesmen’s founder-editor Robert Knight in inaugurating the annual gathering of the nationalist movement called the Indian National Congress on 28 December 1885. The British government required it to work as a safety-valve, because by then a more confident and secure British capitalist class were learning to rule more with words than with swords.

In the 1906 Congress a group led by Tilak which favoured self-government secured a majority. Meanwhile on 30 December 1906 the Muslim League was founded by a group of well-to-do Indians claiming to represent the Indian Muslims with their "Pakistan" plan for separate states.

By 1920 the Communist Party of India was formed in Tashkent. On 15 May 1922 it launched its organ The Vanguard of Indian Independence, later changed to The Masses of India, on I January 1925. Right from its inception the CPI clearly accepted Lenin’s fatal reversal of the class position of Marx and Engels—that the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself, and that proletarians have no country—to the ideology that workers are to be led by a minority vanguard party, that workers are the true patriots, and that "socialism" secures nation-states, and further that the struggle in the world is not between workers and capitalists but between imperialist and anti-imperialist states. However, "No party can serve two masters,” as the saying goes: a party serves the interests of one class or another.

Strikes and riots
Two lak [200,000] Bombay workers went into the first Indian general strike on 2 January 1919. Later the Great Depression caused strikes in industrial India—in Bombay textile mills (16 April to 5 October 1928), Tata Iron and Steel. South India Railways, Lillooah Railway workshops, Bengal Jute Mills. Calcutta Scavengers, etc. The Calcutta scavengers’ strike (April 1928) showed that the nationalist City Council could be as repressive an exploiter as the British nationalists. The lesson of the Tata Strike (January 1928) was that leaders would do anything to end strikes on terms to their own gains. Subhas Bose, the nationalist leader, assumed chairmanship of one union and then betrayed workers by accepting the very terms which he had described impossible in an opening speech. This leader once declared “Give me blood: I promise you freedom."

In the Burma Oil Works in Bombay on 5 December 1928 a strike began and kept going with mass pickets. The owners began bringing in Pathans (backward peasants and hillmen) as strike-breakers. Bitter and bloody conflict eventually led as many as 100.000 workers to come out in a massive demonstration on Bombay streets. Meantime efforts where made to rouse antagonism between Muslims and Hindus. Whenever there was a strike capitalists’ agents started quarrels between Hindus and Muslims so as to turn struggles between classes—workers and owners—into strife between religious crowds, the old rulers' policy of "Divide and Rule".

In 1930 Peshawar was in the hands of the people for 10 days.Two platoons of a Hindu regiment refused to fire on the Muslim crowd and fraternised with the people. In May 1930 Sholapur town was in the hands of the people for a week and in July Bombay witnessed large demonstrations. But all were to fall, under the sway of nationalist illusions. At the same time the Bombay Mill-owners’ Association and the Chamber of Commerce (British and Indian businessmen) demanded “self- government" for India.

In 1943 The Great Bengal Famine took "some two to four million lives" (FAO calculation). However, the per capita availability (rice and wheat) index for 1943 was higher by about nine percent than that for 1941. Bengal was producing its largest rice crop in history in 1943. The biggest section of those killed in the famine were landless agricultural labourers. They produced the food, but couldn’t buy it back to consume, for they had no money to buy it with, because they only worked, but didn’t own.

Transfer of power
The Viceroy signed the "Indian Independence Order and International Arrangements” on 14 August 1947 dividing "British India” into two: the Dominion of India with Mountbatten as Governor-general and Nehru as Prime Minister; and the Dominion of Pakistan with Jinnah as Governor-general and Liaquat Ali Khan as Prime Minister. At a special midnight session the Constituent Assembly passed the Oath resolution promising "common prosperity". Rajendra Prased, President of the Indian Constituent Assembly pledged an endeavour "to end poverty . . . hunger and disease, to abolish distinctions and exploitation, and to ensure decent conditions of living”. Nehru said. "When the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new.”

But "the new" had no problem now with "the old", as Nehru expressed "grateful thanks" and assured the continuation of the "closest co-operation" with the British government in reply to Attlee's "greetings and good wishes to the Government and people of India".

Festivities followed: "volunteer rallies”, “route marches”, “flag hoisting", "gun-salutes", while Gandhi and Suhrawardy went to fast and pray after their joint peace mission in Beliaghate. Calcutta.

"The mass of India” got "lndependence’’.The public of Calcutta were ordered to enjoy “freedom” under curfew "due to disturbed conditions". And The Statesman (15 August 1947) headlined: "Political Freedom For One-Fifth of Human Race"—"Joyful scenes in Calcutta". Comment would be superfluous.

Pakistan was created comprising separate territories in NW and NE India on the notion of religious homogeneity. Yet India and Pakistan went to war in 1965 on the "Kashmir question" and in December 1971 on the "Bangladesh" issue. East Pakistan became "independent" Bangladesh in 1972 on the notion of linguistic homogeneity. Both were in ill accord with social reality. Then Bangladesh gave workers a famine in 1974.

The propaganda that "freedom" gave us the vote in 1948 is untrue. Workers had to achieve it.

In India the process started under working-class pressure with the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909. In 1935 the British government passed the Government of India Act—called the New Constitution—enacting the right to vote for more than 30 million people (about 12 percent of the population). Provincial elections were held in 1937. It was thus that arrived the ballot. But democracy for revolutionaries isn’t just the ballot, but the participatory democracy, revocable—delegated—socialist democracy based on a world co-operative commonwealth.

From “Go back” to “come back” 
In 1942 Indian leaders shouted: "Quit India"—"Go back.” Today they invite: "Catch India"—"Come back”. Of course, not to rule, but to invest, in Indo-British, Indo-Japanese, Indo-American "joint ventures."

Again there are round table talks. But this time to talk "international interdependence" and not “national independence". Talk they must; they are talkers, because they are owners. They needn’t work, but talk—to tell us not to talk, but to work.Theirs is "talk-culture", and they are true to their ideology. But when they make a showpiece with profit-hungry gangsters who say they gear international investments around concern for our children’s upbringing and "decent conditions of living”, we observe that they are being deceptive and fear the truth.

“Now the youth must be the focus of the drive”—goes the central celebration call. The leftists asked youngsters to fight for "the right to work", just a "right" to be exploited!

Socialists cannot encourage the youth to ask for "rights". Instead we urge them to forget the crumbs from the dishes of their masters’ feast, but instead organise to take the whole feast for themselves by replacing the capitalist logo: "One Nation—One State" with the socialist one: "One World—One People". The obstacle only lies in our minds—the "fear of freedom". Remove fear. Be free to be one to the Movement. Don’t feel you need to be led.

Binay Sarkar

India: Nationalism 1932

 From the October 1932 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Flimsy Bond of Nationalism

Some of the supporters of the movement for Indian independence cherish the illusion that the brutal treatment meted out to them by the British authorities is peculiar to British rule over subject countries, and that such brutality will disappear when Indians govern in India. A wider knowledge would teach them that brutality marks the actions of every ruling class defending its privileges against uprisings from below.

Some of the Irish Nationalists used to talk in similar strain when the Irish movement was being suppressed by the British Government. In their minds the brutalities of the Black and Tans and other British forces were regarded as characteristics of alien rule. In due course, however, the Irish movement split into the Free State Party (the Government) and the Republicans. It was then found that the methods of the Black and Tans were fairly faithfully copied by the Irish in their treatment of each other. When an Indian ruling class gets hold of the reins of government, the Indian workers will find that there is little to choose between the brutality of Indian and English authorities.

A Nationalist publication, the India Bulletin, gives publicity to accounts of the harsh treatment of Indian political prisoners in Indian jails. Quite unintentionally these accounts support our argument and show what the Indian workers may expect at the hands of these wealthy Indians who finance and lead the Nationalist movement.

Like all national movements, the Indian nationalists make use of the cant that the idea of independence is one which binds all Indians in a close fraternity against the foreign tyrant. Yet one of the most persistent notes in the complaints of the political prisoners is that the wicked British authorities actually compel them to associate with their own fellow countrymen, the criminals. One lady writes as follows (Bulletin, June, 1932): —
  The fundamental fault lies with the (jail) system, and with a Government which can fling hundreds upon hundreds of well-bred ladies into the class assigned to the lowest criminals of the land.
It is no doubt unpleasant for “well-bred ladies" to have to mix with their less fortunate Indian sisters. But there is nothing to prevent these Nationalists, with their boasted sympathy for the victims of British rule from demanding better treatment for the non-politicals as well as for themselves. But no; the letters in the Bulletin betray not the slightest hint of fellow feeling for the victims of the social system, many of whom have no prospect before them except the choice between harsh treatment in prison and treatment hardly less harsh outside. Gandhi and the other nationalist leaders are as vigorous as the British ruling class in upholding private ownership of the means of life, so the political prisoners make the claim for special treatment as befits the members of a privileged class. They resent having their precious bodies brought into proximity with the victims of the social system from which their privilege is derived, and of which they are defenders.

The Indian workers will discover this when the Indian capitalists enter into unrestricted or less restricted control. The capitalist ladies and their men-folk who have no sympathy for non-political prisoners will not find it difficult to adopt towards the workers the brutality inseparable from the suppression of one class by another. By that time they will have finished using the Indian workers as tools in the campaign against the British Government, and the mask will be taken off.

What the non-political prisoners think of the well-bred inhumanity of the arrogant ladies we do not know.
P. S.
Reposted  from SOYMB.   7 July 2018

Monday, August 14, 2023

Low Income Families Still Suffering


The cost of some basic food items such as cheese, butter and bread has soared by more than 30% in the last two years, forcing poorer households to “make desperate choices between keeping up with their bill payments or putting food on the table,” campaigners have said.

Food price inflation has slowed in recent months, but costs remain much higher than they were two years ago, disproportionally affecting low-income households, according to research by consumer body Which? shared exclusively with the Guardian.

The annual pace of grocery price growth cooled to 14.9% over the four weeks to 9 July, down from 16.5% a month earlier, according to the latest analysis by retail industry data provider Kantar.

Despite the slowdown, Which? figures showed that food prices have risen significantly over the past two years, and some products have gone up more than 30% since 2021.

The food products with the highest rates of inflation are milk (36.4%), cheese (35.2%), butters and spreads (32.2%), cakes and cookies (31.2%), and bakery items (30.3%).

Vegetable prices are up 19.1% since May-July 2021, meat prices are up 23.6% and savoury pies and pastries and quiches are up 26.2%. Biscuit prices have increased by 27% and juice drinks and smoothies are up 28.6%.

The consumer rights group is urging supermarkets to stock their cheapest products in their convenience store branches as well as larger outlets, as charities warned that families were struggling to cope with food inflation.

Richard Lane, director of external affairs at debt charity StepChange, said: “The rising cost of living is forcing households to reassess their budgets and cut back to make ends meet. Food inflation remains high and has pushed the price of basics up significantly.

These rises are hitting the poorest the hardest, as it creates a poverty premium where those on tighter budgets are unable to save by buying in bulk and end up spending Lmore money on food and essentials, as they shop little and often.”

He added: “As food costs continue to rise, the knock-on effects can be felt elsewhere, with people having to make desperate choices between keeping up their bills or putting food on the table.”

StepChange research found one in seven people had recently skipped meals or gone without a healthy diet in order to keep up with credit repayments – rising to nearly one in three for those on universal credit.

Helen Barnard, director of policy, research and impact at the Trussell Trust, the food bank network, said: “Inflation is hitting those on the lowest incomes hardest, with the cost of essentials like food and energy – which account for far more of their budget than is the case for people on higher incomes – rising especially steeply.”

She added that last year, the food banks in its network experienced higher levels of need than ever before, distributing almost 3m parcels to people who could not afford essentials.

Donations also increased, reflecting the public’s great generosity even at a time of increased financial pressure for many, but rising need outpaced donations. This led to food banks having to purchase 124% more food than they did the previous year, at a time when prices are higher than ever, putting a significant strain on their operating costs.”

Which? has called on grocers to make affordable and healthy basic food ranges available across all their stores, to ensure that offers and promotions are used to support those who are struggling and are targeted at healthy foods, and to make sure their pricing is clear, so that shoppers can easily work out what offers the best value.

It welcomed an announcement by Tesco on Friday that the retailer would be introducing cheaper own-brand range items in its convenience stores, but said more needed to be done, pointing out that own-brand items were still more expensive than budget ranges. For example, Tesco’s own-brand penne pasta is 75p for 500g, but its budget version is 41p.

Sue Davies, head of food policy at Which?, said: “Despite well-advertised price cuts, Which?’s tracker shows that the cost of essentials like milk and butter is still very high and piling huge pressure on millions, which is why access to budget ranges is more important than ever to help people save money”’.

Guardian 10th August 2023