Thursday, November 30, 2023

WSM Meeting Friday 1st December at 19 30 ut on ZOOM

 Tomorrow' evening's meeting will be:

"Have you heard the news?" at 19 30 ut on ZOOM

To join the meeting click

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Socialist Sonnet No. 124

Breaking News


Breaking News! The vast, vast majority

Of eight billion human beings haven’t killed

Anyone today, nor were so ill-willed

As to indulge in an atrocity.

Reports are coming in that people aren’t

Generally being greedy, indeed they live,

As far as possible, cooperatively,

Even while constantly being told they can’t.

Investigations, it appears, have exposed

Allegations that vile dictatorships

Are, or were, socialist, come from the lips

Of capital’s mouthpieces; debate closed.

Facts and details, how and which ones to choose?

That choice is what makes or can break the news.


D. A.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

South Korea: Poetry will get you jailed.


There are many examples across the world, including the United Kingdom, of the truth of the maxim, 'To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise.’ The latest example comes from South Korea.

They have utilised their National Security Act, against a 68 year old citizen and jailed him for fourteen months. He apparently has previously fallen foul of this Act three times previously.

His heinous crime? Writing a poem, Means of Unification, which praised North Korea. Under the Act this is verboten.

The BBC reports that he said that ‘ if the two Korea's were united under Pyongyang's socialist system, people would get free housing, healthcare and education. Everyone would have a job and fewer people would live in debt and commit suicide.

On the surface this would seem to be the use of a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Free expression is permitted but not if you say something we don’t like.

Lee Yoon-seop would appear to be somewhat of an idealist, but a misguided one in this case. North Korea is, nor ever has been, a socialist society. Enough is known about the conditions the working class have to endure in that country and about its ruler to warrant further comment.

If NK were a socialist society, note, despite what Stalin maintained there cannot be socialism in one country alone, then free housing, healthcare and education would certainly be available to everyone. The suicide rate would, hopefully, be dramatically decreased. There would be no debt because socialism is a money free, wage free society where quality goods and services will be produced for use, not profit. Many jobs which are ‘necessary’ under capitalism, or state capitalism, would no longer be needed.

The North Korean authorities must have liked the positive spin of the poem on their society because it won a NK poetry competition in 2016.

It can easily be surmised that NK has much more stringent National Security Acts and the ‘punishment’ for, shall we say criticising that system, or even praising capitalism, would be much worse than the deprivation of liberty for fourteen months.

Note: the original source for this story quoted the Korea Herald but this writer has been unable to find this item on the Herald’s website.

Work! Or Else!


Horatio Nelson hoisted this signal on his flagship, HMS Victory on October 21, 1805 before the battle of Trafalgar began: ‘England expects every man to do his duty.’

It’s not known if the chief secretary to the Treasury, Laura Trott, sees herself cast in the same mould as Nelson. Visual images of her do not demonstrate any shortage of limbs. Unlike Dud she would certainly satisfy Pete’s  criteria for the playing of Tarzan.

Ms Trott, whatever affiliations she may or not believe she possesses along with Nelson is now, however, invoking the famous exhortation although the British seamen wounded were not expected consequently to work from home.

Ms Trott said: ‘Of course there should be support for people to help them into work but ultimately there is a duty on citizens if they are able to go out to work they should. Those who can work and contribute should contribute.’

She’s also quoted as saying, ‘ we’re going to put the right mechanisms around you to help you with that. But ultimately, you have to engage with that, and that is an obligation on you as a citizen to do this. And if you don’t do this, we will look at sanctions.’

It’s not reported yet whether she has used Horatio to “shame” disabled people; look what he could do and he only had one arm and one eye! Don’t hold your breath. It will come.

The message, or should that be threat, is underlined on the official GOV.UK website: ‘Stricter benefit sanctions will also be enforced by the Department for Work and Pensions for people who are able to work but refuse to engage with their Jobcentre or take on work offered to them. Benefit claimants who continue to refuse to engage with the Jobcentre will face having their claim closed. The latest published data shows that there were 300,000 people who had been unemployed for over a year in the three months to July.’

There is of courses no reason at all why people who are are termed ‘disabled’, a very wide ranging term, should not participate in society in whichever way they see fit. Coercion, from whichever direction it comes does not go well with anyone whatever their ‘status’.

Unfortunately, the vast majority have a perception ‘disability’. They cannot see the way to abolish the social system which disables us all in one way or another. Abolish capitalism. Everyone is capable of playing their part in the achieving socialism .

Life on the Dole Socialist Standard March 1992

The first time that I walked into an Unemployment Benefit Office to sign on the dole, I pulled up my collar and glanced around surreptitiously in case anyone I knew should see me going in there. Socialist or no, forty-odd years of capitalist brainwashing can't fail to have some effect.

Despite having sold my labour power to the same employer for thirteen years, when "rationalisation" (what used to be called asset-stripping) strikes, the result is redundancy. It’s cold comfort to know that thousands of other wage slaves are suddenly finding themselves in the same position, through no fault of their own but due to the continuing tendency to recession, depression. over-production, crisis which is inherent in capitalism. Nevertheless, the result of the conditioning and propaganda is what its meant to be—guilt, shame and the feeling that losing your job is your fault. A local newspaper reports that there are 35 people chasing every job vacancy in the West Midlands. Another report tells of a man who is so desperate for work that he is offering to pay a thousand pounds to anyone who will employ him.

The real scroungers

With no previous experience of labour exchanges, and having perceptions of such places defined by Bread or Charlie Drake’s The Worker, it's little wonder that the "no longer gainfully employed” should approach the Unemployment Benefit Office with trepidation. For, in a society where an individual’s worth is measured not by personal qualities, but by their occupation, to lose your job is to lose your status in society and your personal identity. Try renting a television, or applying for credit to buy a car. When replying to the question what is your occupation with the answer “unemployed", the smile on the face of the salesperson will freeze, and you can bet your last ten pence that your application will be refused.

Perhaps they would be more impressed to be told that you are now an industrial reserve army member. More likely, the mistaken working class perception will flit through their mind—dole scrounger. For you have now attained that enviable state which those who still spend their days fighting through ever-worsening traffic chaos, and increasingly, their weekends, in order to spend their days doing boring, alienating jobs yearn for. You can please yourself as to what you do and when you do it. Unfortunately, for those working class members of the "leisured class" there is one small problem. We all still live in a capitalist society where every necessary means of life, from food to shelter to clothing to transport, is only available if you have the money to pay for it.

To belong to the real "leisured class” means being a member of that minority class who own most of the land, factories, shops, banks, transport, etc—those who real scroungers in society because their wealth is produced for them by the majority who have no other means of living but to depend upon having a job, pension or unemployment benefit.

Added to the obvious problems encountered by workers who find themselves in the position of unpaid wage slave, as opposed to paid slave, is the straitjacket imposed by the Unemployment Benefit Office. If you didn’t know it before, you very quickly discover that your sole purpose on this planet it to provide surplus value, i.e. profits and wealth for the minority ruling class.

Wage slavery

If the fact of living in a society where commodities are produced for profit, not need, isn’t sufficient incentive for you to try your hardest to get a job—after all, if you can’t pay for it, you can’t have it— the UBO, run by other wage slaves, will insist that you are "available for and actively seeking work” before it will even entertain your claim. Even when your claim has been initially accepted, there is likely to be a delay before you begin receiving the pittance known as dole money whilst forms are shuttled back and forth between UBOs and your previous exploiter to ensure that you are not trying to defraud the state. Nobody, it’s said, starves any more. If your previous employer decides that you were a troublemaker, they have the power to bring you damned close to it if they provide the UBO with negative answers to its questions.

On every visit to the UBO to sign on, you are required to prove that you have been "actively seeking work”. After a “permitted period” the 1989 Social Security Act restricts your right to refuse jobs because of the low pay offered. Why does the working class, employed, unemployed, pensioners, housewives and children. continue to put up with the economic exploitation and political control exercised by a minority class?

Understanding the social alternative—a wageless, moneyless, classless, leaderless, stateless society where goods are produced for need, not profit—is as simple as ABC’ compared to the minefield of bureaucracy to be traversed when trying to obtain paltry dole money. Despite the promises of Jam Today, forever being made by those lapdogs of the capitalist class, the politicians, most of us are still struggling to obtain bread and dripping.

The time to make capitalism redundant is long past. It’s the working class which runs capitalism from top to bottom for the benefit of the minority. Think what we could do with the opportunities presented to us by a new society— socialism.

Dave Coggan

Saturday, November 25, 2023

I have no country to fight for; my country is the Earth, and I am a citizen of the World

 Marxist Colorado State Rep. Replaces U.S. Flag on His Desk with Palestinian Flag.

We'd do well to remember:

'Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead. When independent-thinking people (and here I do not include the corporate media) begin to rally under flags, when writers, painters, musicians, film makers suspend their judgment and blindly yoke their art to the service of the “Nation,” it’s time for all of us to sit up and worry' (Arundhati Roy, c. 2008).

With regards to Marx, he and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto (1848):

'The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality.   The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got.'

And again, in 1866:

‘…The poor have no country, in all lands, they suffer from the same evils, and they, therefore, realise that the barriers put up by the powers that be the more thoroughly to enslave the people must fall’ (International Working Men’s Association).

From  a speech given by the Marxist Eugene Debs in Chicago on July 4, 1901:

 '..Arouse, ye slaves! Declare war, not on the capitalist, but on the capitalist system, and if it should be your fate or your fortune to suffer in years to come, that suffering will not be the result of your own deliberate act. I am for the freedom of the working class. Though my heart yearns for the freedom of men, I am powerless. Only the working class itself can achieve its emancipation. The workingman who is not yet awakened, who has not yet realized all his class interests, is a blind tool, the willing instrument of his own degradation, and thousands of them on the 4th of July, when reference is made to the capitalist flag that symbolizes the triumph of capitalism only, thousands of these wage slaves will applaud their own degradation. What is wanted is not a reform of the capitalist system, but its entire abolition...'.  

During the mass capitalist slaughter of World War I he stated:

‘I have no country to fight for; my country is the Earth, and I am a citizen of the World’ (1915).

The Socialist Party, September 1939:

‘.. [no] policy for settling minority problems and international rivalries within the framework of capitalism is capable of bringing peace and democracy to the peoples of the world. Another war would be followed by new treaties forced on the vanquished by the victors, and by preparations for further wars, new dictatorships and terrorism. The Socialist Party… reiterates the call it issued in 1914: “Having no quarrel with the working class of any country, we extend to our fellow workers of all lands the expression of our goodwill and socialist fraternity, and pledge ourselves to work for the overthrow of capitalism and the triumph of Socialism“’.

We are Marxist-Lennonists:
'Imagine there’s no countries; It isn’t hard to do; Nothing to kill or die for; And no religion, too' (Imagine, John Lennon, 1971).

And can agree here with Chomsky:
‘Presupposing that there have to be states is like saying, what kind of feudal system should we have that would be the best one? What kind of slavery would be the best kind?’ (Manufacturing Consent, 1988).

As well as Finkelstein:
'If you ask my personal preference, I would say that I don’t believe in two states; I don’t believe in one state; I happen not to believe in any states'   (2014).

Friday, November 24, 2023


 A meeting on this theme will take place later today at 19.30 (GMT).

Guest speaker: Darren Poynton

To join the meeting click

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Don't Go Down the Mine Mom!


Is it time to revive the 1910 music hall song, ‘Don’t go down the mine Dad!’?

A miner is saved from a pit tragedy by by taking notice of his child’s dream that there will be a disaster there that day.

The song should now be renamed, ‘Don’t go down the mine Mom!’

Reuters reports that due to the shortage of manpower because of the still ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia women are now having their labour power exploited as underground coal mining in a bid to keep the capitalists profit high.

The mine’s owners, ,DTEK, the mine's owner and Ukraine's largest private energy company, says nearly 3,000 of its 20,000 mineworkers are fighting. This mine is somewhere in Eastern Ukraine, but the owners don’t want its name or location divulged, security don’t ya know,

Altogether it is reported that four hundred plus women work underground at this company’s mines. They join there male counterparts in the capitalist process of exploitation.

The mine in question lost a thousand working class men who went of to fight in the capitalist war. One hundred women went to go and work at that location. Because there were no other jobs says a Ukrainian women now engaged there.

History abounds with examples of women doing men’s jobs particularly during various conflicts and wars, including making the armaments to maim and kill sons, husbands and brother’s of other women who belong to the working class. Women in Ukraine have also donned uniforms.

Women’s efforts to oppose capitalism should not be overlooked. They are an essential part of the endeavour to replace capitalism with the only sane alternative, socialism, where killing and injuring humankind will be consigned to the dustbin of history it deserves. Let it not be forgotten that women and children have, and are, victims of capitalist hostilities too.

Capitalism isn’t now, or ever has been, fussed who fights on its behalf or who it exploits.

In a speech in 1868 Karl Marx said, It was not until 1833 that the hours of labour for children were limited to twelve. In consequence of overwork there was no time left whatever for mental culture. They also became physically deteriorated; contagious fevers broke out amongst them, and this induced a portion of the upper class to take the matter up. The first Sir Robert Peel was one of the foremost in calling attention to the crying evil, and Robert Owen was the first mill-owner who limited the hours of labour in his factory. The ten hours’ bill was the first law which limited the hours of labour to ten and a half per day for women and children, but it applied only to certain factories.’

The Socialist Party’s Declaration of Principles includes the following:

That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind, without distinction of race or sex.’


Wednesday, November 22, 2023

The Great Minimum Wage Swindle


O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” 

The Guardian reports that the ‘National Living Wage’ will increase by a pound an hour: ‘Nearly 3 million low-paid workers will receive a pay increase of almost 10% next spring after the chancellor announced an increase in the national living wage to £11.44 an hour. Jeremy Hunt said the earnings of full-time workers would rise by £1,800 a year as a result of a move that the Low Pay Commission (LPC) said met the 2019 Conservative pledge to end poverty pay in the UK. The increase from £10.42 to £11.44 comes against a backdrop of a cost of living crisis in which inflation peaked at 11.1% – the highest in 40 years. Eligibility for the national living wage (NLW) will also be extended by reducing the age threshold from 23 to 21.’

From the October 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Labour Party's support for the concept of a minimum 
wage is not based on its concern for low-paid workers, in fact, Labour's real aim is to cut the expenditure, in the form of 
benefits, of the capitalist state it hopes to inherit.

The Labour Party went into the 1992 general election committed to introducing a legally enforced national minimum wage which, they said, would eventually amount to two-thirds of the level below which half all wage and salary earners fall (or the “median wage”, as the statisticians call it):

Labour will introduce a national legal minimum hourly wage, starting at a level of 50 per cent of the mid-point of men's earnings (the median) . . . Four million people will benefit form this minimum wage. Over time, Labour will increase the minimum wage as a proportion of earnings to a point where no-one is paid less than two-thirds of the median male hourly rate ” (Looking to the Future, 1990, p. 37).

In today’s money this would give an hourly rate of about £5.50, or a minimum wage for a 39-hour week of £214.50, or over £ 11,000 a year. Of course there was never any chance that this was going to happen. You can’t legislate into being wage increases of this order, amounting in some cases to over 50 percent. Capitalism just does not work that way. Its economic mechanism responds not to government decrees but the realities of profit-making in competitive markets. The government could indeed pass a law aimed at ordering employers to pay a minimum wage at this level but, as this would cut into profits, the result in an economy based on the economic law of “no profit, no production” would be an economic downturn and a growth in unemployment.

Shrinking figures

The Labour leaders—who are nothing these days if not economic “realists”— were well aware of this. Which was why they proposed to reach the goal of two-thirds of the median only gradually, starting by introducing a law to fix the minimum wage at half it. This is the £4.15 or so to which Bill Morris and the T & G and other unions are still committed. But even this is pie-in-the-sky which will never come about, and wouldn’t have come about even if Neil Kinnock had entered Number Ten in May 1992. The economic mechanism of capitalism just won't wear it.

Since Kinnock went, Labour, first under Smith and then under Blair, has backtracked even further. It is still committed to the concept of a national minimum wage but not to any specific amount. This, they now say, is to be fixed by a commission made up of employers, unions and others and, we predict, would amount to about the same as the old Wages Councils, abolished by the Tories in 1993, used to come up with: about £3 or so an hour (in today’s money).

In other words, the most Labour would do would be to restore the pre-1993 situation, extending it to all industries and services so as to be able to call it a “national” minimum. This latter will only be window-dressing since most industries pay their workers above this hourly rate, otherwise they would have been covered by a Wages Council.

But why does Labour—now under arch-realist Blair—want to keep to the idea of a minimum wage, especially as it is going to earn them a lot of stick from the Tories? Since they now take the support of active trade unionists for granted, it can’t be a sop for their benefit. The reason lies elsewhere: it is part of their plan to reduce spending on welfare benefits as their contribution to trying to solve the fiscal crisis of the capitalist state.

A bit of theory

The basis of capitalism is the wages system, under which the work of production is done by people selling their particular ability to work to an employer in return for a wage or salary. Wages for particular types of skill are fixed by market forces at the amount of money workers require to buy the things needed to maintain their particular skill, plus an element to cover the cost of raising a family to replenish the labour force when they retire.

In the long run workers must get paid this amount, otherwise they won’t be able to maintain their skill, and their employer will begin to suffer in terms of absenteeism, increasing labour turnover, shoddy work and lower productivity.

So, in a sense, market forces—aided by pressure from unions—already tend to ensure that wages don’t fall below a minimum level: that below which the workers wouldn’t have enough money to maintain their skill adequately. However, there have always been some kinds of work—those requiring little training or experience and performed for a mass of small employers—where, because supply permanently exceeds demand, and because trade union organisation is difficult, market forces bring about a wage that is below this level.

What this means is that, in the terminology of Marxian economics, these workers get paid less than the value of their labour-power. They don’t get paid a “fair” wage even by capitalism’s standard of fairness, i.e. the full value of what they are selling.

This creates problems both for their immediate employers and for the employing class as a whole which has to foot the bill for the increasing ill-health and destitution that result from paying workers over a long period less than the value of their labour-power.

The problem for their immediate employers is that, even if they wanted to be a “good” employer and pay their workers the value of their labour-power as a means of getting their money’s worth in terms of work done and profits made, they can’t because of competition from other employers. None of them dares make the first move for fear of losing business, indeed of going out of business.

The solution that has been adopted in Britain has been two-fold. First, to introduce minimum wages in the trades concerned and, second, to introduce Family Allowances.

It was the Liberal government in 1909 that took the initiative and set up trade boards, later called Wages Councils, in the “sweated trades”, such as the retail trade, hotels and catering, and the rag trade, where workers tended to be persistently paid a wage below subsistence level. Under this system the employers, the unions and government officials met to fix a minimum hourly rate for the particular trade. It was an offence for an employer to pay below this rate. There was no national minimum wage, only different minimum wages for the different trades.

Subsidising employers

Family Allowances (now called Child Benefit) were introduced by the wartime coalition government in 1945. But, as the pamphlets Beveridge Reorganises Poverty and Family Allowances: A Socialist Analysis which we in the Socialist Party brought out at the time explained, this was not at all what it appeared to be: a money payment by the capitalist state which would leave all those with two or more dependent children better off by that amount.

Under capitalism and its wages system any regular payment received by workers in employment is going to have an effect on wage levels. This is because, as explained, wages tend to be fixed at a level which provides workers with enough money to buy what they need to maintain their particular skill in working order and also to bring up a family to take their place in the labour force when they are too old to work. If the state makes a contribution towards these costs, this means the workers’ immediate employer doesn’t have to.

The effect of any generalised state payment to workers in employment will be to depress, not necessarily the standard of living, but the wages paid by employers. This was why, in fact, Family Allowances were for a long time opposed by the trade unions. As we pointed out at the time:

"The real issue is not that certain unscrupulous employers may seek to save out of wages amounts paid in Family Allowances, but that once it is established that the children (or some of the children) of the workers have been ‘provided for' by other means, the tendency will be for wage levels to sink to new standards which will not include the cost of maintaining such children ” (Family Allowances, pp. 11-12).

In 1971 the then Tory government of Edward Heath breached a hitherto sacrosanct principle of the welfare state that no means-tested benefits should be paid to any worker in employment. They introduced a new benefit called Family Income Supplement (now called Family Credit), in effect a means-tested Family Allowance, payable to workers in employment whose income was below the poverty line, i.e. more or less what they would have got had they been on what is now called Income Support.

The logic behind this was to provide an incentive for people to take a job, however miserably paid. The result has been unsatisfactory from the point-of-view of the capitalist class as a whole. The cost of all state benefits payable to workers in employment (housing benefit, council tax benefit as well as Family Credit) has spiralled to over £2 billion a year.

Some employers—those in the modern sweated trades—have benefited. Knowing that the state will bring workers with children up to the poverty line they have been enabled to pay these workers below-the-poverty-lines wages. As Labour's deputy leader John Prescott has put it:

Family Credit is now part of wage negotiations, with employers offering £1 an hour and saying: ‘I know you can‘t live on that, but if you nip down to Social Security, they’ll make up the difference (Observer, 28 August 1994).

Family Credit and other in-work benefits have, in other words, acted as a subsidy to these employers. This has caused resentment amongst other sections of the employing class who have to pay this subsidy out of taxes that, in the end, fall on their profits. This is where the Labour Party has come in with a proposal to help.

Labour to the Rescue

In their July 1995 campaign pack Low Pay. A Tory Failure, the Labour Party repeats again and again that their minimum wage is designed to reduce state benefits paid to workers in employment:

A minimum wage will not only act as a floor for pay. It will also ensure that in-work benefits do not act as a subsidy for low-paying and poor employers. ”
"Taxpayers would benefit because a floor under wages would reduce the need for tax handouts to low paying employers. Today employers have an incentive to lower wages at the taxpayers' expense."
"Every taxpayer is now paying £100 a year for in-work benefits for people in low-paid work. People who have no protection against exploitative pay rates are forced into dependency on the benefits system whether they like it or not. And employers have no incentives to raise wages because they know the benefits system will subsidise the poor wages that they pay by what is, in effect, a tax handout to employers. ”

What Labour is proposing (and are rumoured to want to do over maternity pay) is what the Tories did over Sickness Benefit: to cut back on state payments by shifting a part of the cost on to employers in the form of statutory sick pay. Labour’s aim is to shift some of the burden of maintaining workers on low pay at the subsistence level on to the employers who have been benefiting from the present system.

But what about the workers? The low-paid workers existing on the poverty line. It’s not going to make much difference to them since the argument is about who is going to pay their subsistence income and in what proportions not about its level.

As far as the low paid are concerned what will happen is that what the right hand gives away in the form of a slightly higher minimum wage for some the left hand will take away in the form of reduced Family Credit. People on Family Credit get their benefit reduced by 70p for each £1 by which their income increases. So if their hourly wage was increased from, say, £2.50 to £3 they would only be 15p an hour better off not 50p. And if the increase lifted their income above the qualifying level for Family Credit they would find themselves worse off through losing the accompanying entitlement to housing benefit and free prescriptions and dental treatment.

Labour’s national minimum wage is not a genuine reform in the sense of a measure to bring about some improvement in working class conditions. It’s an economy measure designed to save the capitalist state money. They don’t fool us. Let’s hope that they don’t succeed in deceiving too many of the low paid either.

Adam Buick

Socialist Sonnet No. 123

Lifestyle Choice


Urban camping’s highly recommended,

With prime sites in every city and town,

Alfresco pavements, or dark alleys down

Which you’re quite likely to be befriended.

Or there’s the glamping option for those days

Of winter so fresh and crisp they’re chosen

By those who prefer life to be frozen,

Their deluxe sleeping bags in shop doorways.

Meanwhile in Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk,

Campers can look forwards to amusing

Themselves by going Channel cruising,

And a warm welcome waiting as a perk.

With people’s needs so readily addressed

They can freely choose which lifestyle suits best.


D. A.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023


The campaign of genocide which is the current military policy of the State of Israel is a tragic reflection of the real face of nationalism. The mythical image of Zionism as a movement of pioneering, progressive, pious, peace-loving nation-building has been more than exposed by the ruthless attempt to liquidate Gaza “for reasons of national security”.

On 13 October, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency  commissioner Philippe Lazzarini said, "The scale and speed of the unfolding humanitarian crisis is bone-chilling".   To date, 13,000+ people have been killed, over 30,000 wounded and some 6,000 are considered missing.   Images of families which have lost fathers, mothers and children—victims of a senseless struggle of national ambition - abound. On 3 November, the Gaza health ministry stated that Israel struck an ambulance convoy directly in front of Al-Shifa Hospital, killing at least 15 people and injuring 60 more.   The horror of capitalist war in the Ukraine has been overshadowed  by this massacre on the Med.

As ever, when there is killing to be done, God’s rep on earth is to be found sanctifying it. Just as God’s Anglicans were blessing the British killers as they set off for the Falklands, so the British Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis told (1/11)  the Mayor of London his plan for a truce would only act as a “stepping stone to yet more Hamas terrorist brutality”.     One might ask God’s spokesman precisely how a soldier carrying a gun or a pilot dropping a bomb can be engaging in self-defence as opposed to terrorist brutality against unarmed children, but then, one might as well engage in such a seminar with the fairies at the bottom of the garden.

The curse of nationalism is not new. Let it be clear that unlike certain anti-Zionists, socialists do not oppose the tunnel-vision mentality of nationalism only when it is Jewish. To us, the flag-waving, trigger-happy Zionists are no more ignorant and abhorrent than those who have swallowed the diversionary, nationalist message of Hamas. Socialists do not take sides in national conflicts because it is not our aim to support one or other of the competing capitalist or would-be capitalist factions, each of which seeks its own territories and exploitable populations. No socialist will ever fight to defend a border—we want to do away with the divisiveness of countries and states.

But there is a bitter irony about Zionist nationalism. In Dachau, the site of the old Nazi murder camp, a permanent exhibition stands as testimony to the atrocities committed in modern times against millions of Jews. That the survivors of such persecution sought refuge in a nation of their own—a country which would never persecute or exterminate anyone and would be free of the perverse national chauvinism on which Nazism was based—is not difficult to understand. In Israel, and here in Britain, not a few Zionists are now beginning to ask themselves the question: “How can it be that the country created by the holocaust is now inflicting similar misery on people who are just as defenceless as the Jews in Europe had been?” Some of them are blaming Netanyahu. Others say that Hamas has pushed the Israeli government to such measures. The truth is that those who saw a solution in Zionist nationalism—in having their own laws, prisons, borders, army and weapons of destruction—were naive. Their form of nationalism is no less aggressive or bigoted than is ever the case under a system of society where the laws of the jungle are presented as being the rules of civilised conduct. Every nation’s flag is dripping with the blood of its enemies; every ruling class pays for its power in other people’s lives.

Nationalism can never be a solution to the problems of oppression: it was not for the Jews; it would not be for the Palestinians. The problem is class, not national, racial, or religious origins. As a class, workers have no country. The British do not own Britain, the majority of Israelis have no significant economic stake in Israel, the impoverished Arabs do not share their exploiters’ national wealth. There are two classes in society: those who possess without producing and those who produce without possessing. Wars are fought over the interests of the capitalists and would-be capitalists. In the 1940s an aspirant Israeli ruling class, represented by such vicious thugs as the Stern gang (Menachem Begin, the sixth Prime Minister of Israel, was a key organizer of the 1946 Irgun terrorist attack on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem which killed 91 people, including 28 from these shores) used terrorist tactics to secure their goal. Having obtained power violently, who could have expected the Israeli ruling class to have maintained power except by the continued use of violence? Israeli workers identify with the aims of their rulers—they see their national identity as more important than their class identity with Arab and other workers. In this they are dangerously mistaken.

The socialist solution to the Middle East conflict is not a piecemeal policy. We do not advocate re-drawing the border or political deals or the exchange of one (American-backed) ruling class for another (Iranian/Russian-backed) one. These amount to mere rearrangements of the capitalist furniture. Only when Israeli and Arab workers join the worldwide movement for a society without class ownership, nations or armies will the war finally cease.

This is not a pious hope for the future. Workers are dying in Gaza and there is every sign that more will be killed. What is now a local war could turn into something rather bigger. Who will stop the killing once and for all—Biden, Netanyahu,  Sinwar? To expect this to happen is like hoping for Putin  and Zelensky to shake hands, make up and disarm. We leave such dreams to the Utopians who are fond of calling themselves Realists. For socialists, it is clear that if there is ever to be peace it is those who are the sitting targets of war who must actively pursue it.

(This article is a slightly modified and updated version of HOLOCAUST 2, which appeared in the September 1982 edition of our Journal, and as such reflects the low level of working class conscioness 
then and today, over forty years later).

Monday, November 20, 2023

Rising Energy Costs: Frost inside windows?


If everything is relative then perhaps many parts of the world might wish that worrying about how to be able to pay increasing energy bills, or coping with a rising cost of living, were the least of everyday worries as opposed to wondering about how to daily survive the deadly effects of war and conflicts.

But, in the UK, the former, for many - the elderly, those with disabilities, and those whose are living on the edge of, or in, poverty,- capitalism’s raison d’etre of exploitation and profits, profits, profits, are of real and anxiety causing concern.

SOYMB recently posted the latest Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on destitution with the UK. Now comes news that the choice between eating or heating is going to become even harder.

Numerous readers, of a certain age and above, will recall that within living memory households were dependent upon open coal fires and hot water bottles for their heating needs. The news report below notes that there has been a reduction already in the use by households of gas and electricity.

There will, no doubt, be numerous charities offering advice to the ‘vulnerable’ as to how to keep warm, avoid hyperthermia, and save on energy costs.

There will not be mainstream explanations of the reason for the potentially life threatening cause of the difficult choices which a hard cold winter creates, which is capitalism,. Neither will there be explanations as to how to abolish this iniquitous social system and replace it with one of benefit to everyone - socialism.

The Guardian reports, ‘Household energy bills could climb to an average of almost £1,900 a year in the coldest months of the year under the UK government’s energy price cap, according to a leading forecaster.

The energy price cap is expected to climb from the £1,834-a-year level for a typical home set to take effect from Sunday to £1,898 when the cap is next updated for the months from January to March, say analysts at Cornwall Insight, adding to the burden of the cost of living crisis.

The energy price cap sets the maximum price that suppliers can charge based on the average gas and electricity bill, meaning a cold winter could push bills higher if households need to keep the heating on for longer. The cap remains more than 50% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

The £1,834-a-year cap covering October to December is based on new Ofgem calculations that assume households now use 7% less electricity and 4% less gas, having cut back consumption in the cost of living crisis. When it was announced last month the regulator gave a headline figure of £1,923 a year, using the old methodology to help comparisons with previous quarters. However, in future only the new system will be used.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

A leader on leadership

 Starmer’s reaction to 8 members of his shadow government of capitalism resigning and a quarter of his MPs voting, against his advice, for a ceasefire (he wants the killings and destruction to continue) was;

“Leadership is about doing the right thing. That is the least the public deserves. And the least that leadership demands.”

But what on Earth does that mean? It has a certain rhetorical flourish but has sinister implications.

Everybody, not just leaders, should of course do the “right thing”. But who decides what is the right thing? Starmer, as a Leader, naturally thinks that a leader should and that this is what the public “deserves”. In other words, he considers that “the public” are incapable of deciding this but only leaders are; that they require leaders to tell them what is right. What arrogance!

It might be slightly less bad if he personally didn’t change his mind so often about what is the “right thing”. At one time he thought Corbyn was and that certain leftwing reform such as ending charity status for private schools were. Now he doesn’t. Even on Gaza he has changed his mind. Initially he thought it was the right thing that Israel should cut off water, fuel and electricity to Gaza. Then he said (but probably doesn’t believe) that it was the wrong thing.

The lesson of all this? We don’t need leaders to tell us what is right. In fact we don’t need leaders at all. Don’t follow them, just tell them to get lost. It’s the least leaders deserve and the least the public should demand.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Opting Out? Government says NO!


In September 2023 SOYMB posted ‘Huddled Masses Opting Out.’

In a supplication reminiscent of the entreaty at the base of the statue of liberty in New York harbour, the UK Work and Pensions Secretary appeals to those of the working class who, through no fault of their own, are unable to offer themselves up to full-time, long-term exploitation, to help reduce the financial burden of running this particular capitalist entity.

The MailOnline reports: ‘One million people on sickness benefits could be forced to start looking for jobs including thousands with mobility and anxiety problems as the Government gets set to slash billions from its welfare budget.

More: ‘Up to a million sickness and disability benefit claimants are to be ordered to seek work. Unveiled by Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride the blitz is aimed at slashing the £26billion welfare budget’.

Moving on to November, now comes the big stick.

BRITS on benefits who refuse to look for work risk losing their right to free NHS prescriptions, dental care and help with energy bills.

The move, set to be announced in next week's ,Autumn Statement forms part of Jeremy Hunt's major plan to crackdown on economic inactivity.’

Around nine million Brits of working age are currently unemployed.

On Wednesday Mr Hunt will unveil a £2.5bn “back to work plan in an effort to bring the figure down. Fresh funds will help up to 1.1 million people find work. Under the scheme benefit recipients who don't look for jobs risk losing access to free NHS prescriptions, dental care, legal aid and energy bill support. And sick notes will be approved by civil servants instead of doctors in a trial where patients will be treated by therapists working for DWP.’ The Sun 17 November

To anyone who thought the Labour Party represented the British working class:

Millions of out-of-work Brits are a “horrible, painful toll” on the public purse and are “dragging” down the economy, a top Starmer ally declared last night. (speaking at Labour Party Conference).

Whose economy?

Shadow Cabinet Minister Peter Kyle said: “There are 2.5million people that are just unknown to the economy for reasons that we don’t understand, and there’s no exercise to go find them.There are 700,000 young people who are not in education, training or work. And that figure has been growing, not diminishing.”

The shadow science and tech secretary hit out: “All of these things are personal tragedies, but they’re also taking a horrible, painful toll on our economy.

It is dragging our economy down. So we need to get cracking on it.” ‘

The Sun 8 October

The Guardian has; 'Speaking on Thursday afternoon, Hunt said the government wanted to address the “rise in people who aren’t looking for work” to help grow the economy.

These changes mean there’s help and support for everyone – but for those who refuse it, there are consequences too. Anyone choosing to coast on the hard work of taxpayers will lose their benefits.”

Confirming the plans for a benefits crackdown, the Treasury said it would be taking steps to strengthen the current universal credit sanctions regime to incentivise claimants to comply with their work-search requirements and move into a job.

Under the current system, claimants can be subjected to open-ended sanctions if certain requirements are not met, such as attending a meeting with a work coach. These sanctions can result in benefit deductions until a claimant re-complies.’

From the Socialist Standard, April 2014; ‘The Times (15 January) reported that George Osborne was to tell a conference organised by the think tank Open Europe that ‘Europe will face further economic woes if it fails to cut welfare spending’:

As Angela Merkel has pointed out, Europe accounts for just over 7 per cent of the world’s population, 25 per cent of its economy and 50 per cent of global social welfare spending. We can’t go on like this.’

He didn’t explain why not, but the implication must be that, to compete on world markets against the products made in countries which spend less on welfare, Europe has to reduce its welfare spending towards their levels. In other words, a race to the bottom.

One dictionary definition of ‘welfare’ is:

1. good health, happiness, and prosperity. 2. the maintenance of persons in such a condition; money given for this purpose.’ (Oxford Reference Dictionary)

On this definition, Osborne was in effect saying that, due to competition on the world market, all countries are forced to reduce the ‘good health, happiness and prosperity’ of their population. What an indictment of capitalism! And what a confirmation of the futility of reformists’ attempts to make capitalism serve human welfare.

But is it true? One thing Osborne ignores is that ‘welfare spending’ is not motivated by a desire to improve human welfare but by a desire to improve the productivity of the workforce – a better educated, more healthy workforce feeling less insecure can produce more profits. This was in fact the capitalist rationale behind the introduction of the so-called Welfare State and why the drastic reduction of such spending to the levels in China or India which Osborne and Merkel seem to be proposing could prove to be counter-productive.

Osborne probably knows this and doesn’t regard such spending as an unnecessary burden that has to come out of taxes that ultimately fall on profits any more than he does military spending which also comes from this. For him, both will be part of the necessary costs of running capitalism. What he will be against is welfare for those who can’t or don’t work and so are useless from a profit-making point of view – the sick, the disabled, the mentally ill, the old, the unemployed and the unemployable. In short, the most vulnerable members of capitalist society.

The fact that welfare has become a dirty word for capitalism shows that it is not a system geared to improving human welfare. If it was, then as productivity increased (as it does slowly from year to year) more resources would be devoted to services and amenities that enhance the welfare of everyone. But this is not what happens. Far from it. The pressure is downwards not upwards.

The fact is that capitalism is a system geared to making profits and accumulating them as more and more profit-seeking capital. That’s the logic which is imposed on all countries through competition on the world market. In this sense Osborne and Merkel are right, but that’s a convincing reason to get rid of capitalism and to replace it with a system in which the welfare of all can and will be the priority. Which is only possible on the basis of the common ownership and democratic control of productive resources and the end of production for the market with a view to profit.’

The Sun is part of Murdoch’s News Corporation.

The United Kingdom is the world’s sixth largest economy.