Monday, April 15, 2024

Turkish Textile and Garment Workers suffer from earthquake and capitalism


 ‘A textile factory in the western Turkish city of İzmir. Turkey is one of the world’s top garment and textile producers, with factories in its south-east amongst those supplying to major European and US brands. But workers in that region were largely left to fend for themselves after devastating February 2023 earthquakes and experienced the widespread violation of their rights, according to a new Clean Clothes Campaign report.’

'Turkey is one of the world’s top countries for garment and textile production, with US$16.2 billion in exports in 2021, according to a Turkish Ministry of Trade report cited in the Clean Clothes Campaign report, mostly to countries in the European Union and the United States. Suppliers in the earthquake-hit provinces played a significant role in the sector, producing goods for prominent global buyers including Benetton, H&M, Primark and Zara as well as large domestic brands such as LC Waikiki.

The provinces affected by the earthquake accounted for 15 per cent of Turkey’s garment and textile industry, with an estimated 350,000 workers at approximately 2,900 companies prior to the disaster.

In the year since the earthquake, employment in the ready-made clothing sector dropped by 40 per cent and production by 50 per cent, according to a press statement sent to Equal Times by the Turkish Clothing Manufacturers Association (TGSD) issued for the anniversary of the disaster. TGSD President Ramazan Kaya said in the statement that recovery has been hampered by a “loss of qualified employment” in the region and difficulties accessing finance and loans. Shortly after the disaster, the Turkish government instituted a temporary ban on layoffs across the stricken region.’

...’Turkey has consistently ranked amongst the world’s ten worst countries for workers’ rights in the  International Trade Union Confederation’s Global Rights Index with the repression of strikes and systematic union busting listed amongst the violations.

With both freedom of association and the right to strike restricted in Turkey, 89 per cent of workers in the earthquake region’s textile and garment industry – even those who are unionised – do not have a collective bargaining agreement, according to the Clean Clothes Campaign report. In this climate, the layoff ban may have actually worsened the situation for some workers, as they would not receive severance or other benefits if they are forced out rather than officially laid off.

A year after the earthquakes, we can see that employment in the region has not yet recovered,” says Haluk Deniz Medet, a spokesperson for the Turkish textile workers union DİSK Tekstil. “There is a serious contraction in exports and European brands, our most important customers, are shifting their orders to Asian countries.”

This kind of opportunism is all too common in the global garment and textile industry, according to Mayisha Begum, a researcher with the London-based Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC). “What we have seen during the Covid-19 pandemic and other crises is that brands can change their purchasing practices very quickly when it benefits them,” says Begum.

Only 4 per cent of textile and garment suppliers in south-eastern Turkey were able to resume production as usual after the earthquakes, according to a separate survey of regional suppliers that Göçer and a colleague carried out in June 2023. Yet only a handful said the brands they supply offered any support in the aftermath of the disaster; 69 per cent of respondents said they received no contact at all from buyers or brands.’

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Gold. a Capitalist delusion.

As Spandau Ballet had it, ‘Gold, you’re indestructible.’ It’s reported that the price of gold has reached an all-time high, moving above $2,400 per ounce.

Spot gold prices rose 2.4% to a record high of $2,431.52 per ounce before pairing some gains. Prices were up 4% for the week and 16% so far this year, exceeding the 13% advance registered for all of 2023.

The positive factors for gold outweigh the negative. The heightened tensions in the Middle East are the main driver for gold’s recent surge,” Chris Gaffney, president of world markets at EverBank, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Investors traditionally turn to gold in times of market uncertainty to hedge risks and as a store of value. For thousands of years, bullion has been seen as a safe haven during periods of economic instability, stock market crises, military conflicts, and pandemics.’

Other precious metals were also on the rise, with silver going up 4% to $29.60 per ounce, its highest price since early 2021. Palladium went up 2.7% to $1,075 and platinum rose above the key psychological level of $1,000 per ounce to its highest in nearly four months.’

From the The Socialist Standard, May 2007, an exposition on when gold was the money-commodity and some interesting suggestions aas to the use of gold in a socialist society:

“Gold prices could pass $850 record” read a headline in the Financial Times(5 April), reporting a forecast by a metals consultancy of what might happen over the next 12 months. As gold is currently selling at around $670-80 an ounce, this would be a huge increase. If something like this had happened a hundred years ago, it would have brought about financial and economic chaos by causing a huge fall in the general price level.

This was because at that time gold was still the money-commodity, as the product of labour having its own value in which the values of all other commodities were expressed. Prices were expressed in units of currency, but these were defined as a given weight of gold. A pound, for instance, was defined as about ¼ oz of gold. This meant that anything taking the same amount of socially necessary labour time to produce as an ounce of gold would have a price of £4.

If the amount of socially necessary labour needed to produce an ounce of gold fell, a rise in the general price level would result since other commodities, containing more value, would exchange for more gold. If, on the other hand, the labour-time cost of producing gold increased, the result was the opposite: a fall in the general price level. Which is why an increase of the order of from $680 to $850 an ounce would have caused chaos a hundred years ago.

The reason it won’t do so today is that gold is no longer the money-commodity. Up to WW1 gold was used to settle international payments. Also, there were gold coins in circulation, along with paper notes that were convertible into gold at a fixed rate. This system collapsed with the outbreak of war in 1914 and, despite attempts to revive it between the wars, never really worked again. Nearly all currencies became “inconvertible”, i.e. no longer exchangeable on demand into a given amount of gold, which has remained the case ever since.

At the end of WW2 a new system for settling international payments was established based on the dollar. The exchange rate between other currencies and the dollar (and so between the other currencies) was fixed, but, since the dollar was defined as 1/35 oz of gold, gold still played an indirect role as the money-commodity as a standard of price.

This system, with its repeated devaluations of the different currencies, came to an end in 1971 when the US government abandoned its commitment to pay $35 for an ounce of gold. After that, all currencies floated and, though central banks still retained gold reserves for a while, gold became an ordinary commodity, another precious metal alongside silver and platinum, whose price fluctuations have no effect, either way, on the general price level.

The price of gold is still expressed in dollars but, nowadays, rather than a change in the price of gold leading to a change in the value of the dollar, it’s the other way round. One of the reasons for the expected rise in the price of gold is the current weakness of the dollar. Another is perceived future economic insecurity in that gold, as a product of labour, is still a store of value which, if the fears are realised, is better to be left holding than a mere piece of paper.

When socialism, where of course money will be redundant, has been established, there will be a long-standing proposal as to what to do with gold waiting to be considered. In his book Utopia in 1516 Thomas More proposed it be used for making chamber pots. Some 400 years later Lenin moved an amendment to replace the words “chamber pots” by “urinals”. In the end, we’ll probably just use it for jewellery and other ornaments.'


Saturday, April 13, 2024

FGM in Gambia:

Comment is superfluous.

An attempt to repeal a 2015 ban on female genital cutting in Gambia was sent for further committee discussions by lawmakers on Monday. Gambian activists fear the passage of the bill would overturn years of work to better protect girls and women.

The legislation was referred to a national committee for further debate and could return to a vote in the weeks and months ahead.

Activists in the largely Muslim country had warned that lifting the ban would hurt years of work against a procedure often performed on girls under age five in the mistaken belief that it would control their sexuality.

The procedure, which also has been called female genital mutilation, includes the partial or full removal of external genitalia, often by traditional community practitioners with tools such as razor blades or at times by health workers.

It can cause serious bleeding, death and childbirth complications but remains a widespread practice in parts of Africa.

Jaha Dukureh, the founder of Safe Hands for Girls, a local group that aims to end the practice, told The Associated Press she worried that other laws safeguarding women’s rights could be repealed next.

Dukureh underwent the procedure and watched her sister bleed to death.

“If they succeed with this repeal, we know that they might come after the child marriage law and even the domestic violence law. This is not about religion but the cycle of controlling women and their bodies,” she said.

The United Nations has estimated that more than half of women and girls ages 15 to 49 in Gambia have undergone the procedure.

The bill is backed by religious conservatives in the nation of less than 3 million people.

Its text says that “it seeks to uphold religious purity and safeguard cultural norms and values.”

The country’s top Islamic body has called the practice “one of the virtues of Islam.’


Friday, April 12, 2024

North Macedonian Textile Workers and Capitalism

EqualTimes.Org has a piece about the textile industry, in North Macedonia and capitalists doing what capitalists do.

‘For 70 years, Shtip has been the stronghold of the textile industry in North Macedonia. The sector is in decline, but it still employs nearly 30,000 people, a considerable number in this country of two million inhabitants.

Every morning, thousands of women workers are bussed to the many factories on the outskirts of North Macedonia’s towns and cities.

Ampeva herself worked as a seamstress in one of these factories for nine years. “There was no one to explain your rights or your working conditions, how much you should be paid, how many hours you have to work and how much overtime is paid, or who is supposed to help you if your rights are violated. Nothing was explained to us. That’s why we launched Glasen Tekstilec, to fight for the rights of women textile workers.”

In North Macedonia, hundreds of factories make clothes and shoes for Europe’s big brands. It is no secret how harsh the working conditions are in these factories, but the widespread violations of the labour law have long gone unchallenged.

Since its launch in 2017, Glasen Tekstilec has been collecting revealing testimonies on a daily basis. “The conditions in the factory were disastrous,” says Dimitrinka, in the organisation’s office. Every day, Glasen Tekstilec’s premises, decorated with huge posters depicting seamstresses as superheroes armed with needles and thread, welcome workers who are powerless in the face of their unscrupulous employers. They receive free advice, as well as practical legal help to defend their rights. Working hours not respected, wages paid months in arrears, unpaid overtime, maternity leave not granted, and so on: the members of the organisation take care of writing up their complaints and passing them on to the relevant institutions, such as the labour inspectorate.

Although the textile sector has been in steady decline for many years, it still accounts for over 10 per cent of North Macedonia’s GDP. Almost all of its production is for export, and the factories in the Shtip region work mainly for German, Belgian and Italian brands.

Having factories in south-east Europe is particularly advantageous for these large companies. “You have cheap labour, like in Bangladesh or China, but you’re in the Western Balkans,” explains Ampeva. “In just one day, you can send your production anywhere in Germany, for example. That’s what attracts these companies who have factories in Albania, Serbia, Montenegro and North Macedonia.”

A candidate for accession to the European Union since 2005, North Macedonia has reasonably protective labour legislation on paper, but it is rarely applied on the shop floor. The small country’s institutions remain fragile, and influential employers have little difficulty defending their interests with the decision makers. According to the specialists, the state’s control mechanisms are not working.

North Macedonia’s textile, leather and footwear industry union (Синдикат на работниците од текстилната, кожарската и чевларската индустрија) STKC, says it is trying to take action. “We react to every single violation of labour rights, through the labour inspectorate, the public ombudsman or legal action,” its president, Ljupco Radovski, tells Equal Times. But it is not always effective. “Complaints lodged by employees are most often ignored by the labour inspectorate and the judicial authorities,” says Branimir Jovanovic, an economist with the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (WIIW) .]

On the strength of the expertise put at the service of women textile workers, Glasen Tekstilec has established itself as an interlocutor in social dialogue. The organisation has, for instance, contributed to a number of increases in the minimum wage, which has risen from €130 ten years ago to €320 today.

At a time when galloping inflation linked to international tensions has exacerbated inequalities and made work even more precarious for private sector employees, the issue of pay is at the heart of workers’ demands.

According to many experts, the textile industry may not survive the current turmoil. “Nearly 10 per cent of workers in North Macedonia live in poverty, one of the highest rates in Europe,” warns economist Jovanovic.

“At the same time, the richest one per cent in the country earn 14 per cent of the total national income, and these economic disparities are most manifest in the textile factories. No one wants to work in this sector when wages are so low, the work is hard, conditions are poor and the workers know that the owners are pocketing all the profits. If things don’t change soon, the textile industry will slowly die out.”

Already hard hit by the 2008 crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic, is the North Macedonian textile industry living out its final days? Working conditions in the sector are driving away young people, who would rather emigrate to Germany. And with the shortage of labour, more and more European companies are moving their businesses to North Africa.

“The sector is collapsing, because nobody is taking responsibility for all these companies that don’t pay their workers’ wages,” protests an indefatigable Ampeva. “Unfortunately, this is a criminal economic sector and our politicians support these criminal practices. It is because of this system that our young people and healthy workers are leaving the country.”’

SPGB MEETING - ZOOM- 7.30 pm (GMT+1)



Event Details

  • Date:  – 

Friday 12 April 19.30

UKRAINE AND POLAND 1918-1947 (Zoom)

Speaker: Mark Zneiderwicz

To connect to a meeting, click

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Just One Life

A recent piece in the i newspaper dealt with a 78-year-old widow, who retired when she was sixty after working for over forty years, but now can barely get by, living on her state pension of £203 a week. Her energy bills in winter are nearly £80 a week.

She cannot afford to go for lunch with her friends, and says that ‘Having two coffees a day is my one luxury.’ She has not had a holiday in decades. She cannot go out as much as she would like, and this damages her mental health. Of course there are many, many others in a similar predicament.

Just one worker’s life, but it says so much.

Zimbabwe: New Currency, Same Old Capitalism

AfricaNews 6 April reports, ‘Zimbabwe has launched a new currency to replace its previous one that in recent months has been battered by depreciation, and in some instances rejection by the population. Authorities hope the new measure will halt a currency crisis underlining the country’s years long economic troubles.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Gov. John Mushayavanhu said the new currency will be called ZiG, and will be anchored on gold reserves and a basket of foreign currencies.

The Zimbabwe dollar has come under sustained pressure in recent weeks, making it one of the world’s worst performing currencies.

Since January, the Zimbabwe dollar lost over 70% of its value on the official market, and was plunging even further on the thriving but illegal black market.

Inflation increased from 26.5% in December last year to 34.8% this January before spiking to 55.3% in March, according to official figures.

Traders were increasingly rejecting lower denominations of the now scrapped currency, with many insisting on payment only in U.S. dollars, which are also legal tender in the southern African country.

We are doing what we are doing to ensure that our local currency does not die. We were already in a situation where almost 85% of the transactions are being conducted in U.S dollars,” Mushayavanhu told reporters in the capital, Harare. People have three weeks to exchange the old notes with the new currency, he said.

The announcement is the latest of a cocktail of currency measures undertaken by the Zimbabwean government since the initial spectacular collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar in 2009.

The period saw the country at one point issuing a 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollar banknote before the government was forced to temporarily scrap its currency and allow the U.S. dollar to be used as legal tender.

The country re-introduced a domestic note in 2016, marking the beginning of another round of currency volatility highlighted by changes to currency policy that included the banning of foreign currencies such as the U.S dollar for domestic transactions in 2019.

This was followed by the unbanning of the greenback a while later after few ordinary people took heed to the U.S dollar ban and the black market thrived, while the local currency quickly depreciated.’

The following is from the Socialist Standard November 1980

A currency unit is always in the end the name for a specific amount of gold (or silver). At one time—when paper currency was convertible on demand into a fixed amount of gold—this was obvious but has now become obscured in the system of “managed currencies’’ which grew up between the wars. In nearly all countries today the currency—the actual medium of circulation—is not gold nor even a paper currency convertible into gold but inconvertible paper notes and coins. Such a currency is said to be “managed” because the amount of it in circulation depends entirely on political decisions.

Before the era of managed currencies the link between a currency and gold was always clear. A 
law defined the meaning of the name of the currency (pound, mark, franc) in terms of a certain amount of gold (or silver, or both). This is no longer the case but the pound and other currencies continue to represent in economic reality a certain amount of gold. Gold is still today the money-commodity, the only real money, even though it has been replaced as the medium of circulation by paper and metallic tokens.

With a managed currency a government institution (Ministry of Finance, Central Bank) has to decide how much is put into circulation. The amount of currency needed to maintain a stable price level, however, is fixed by economic factors outside of government control, such as the total amount of buying and selling transactions, debts to be settled, velocity of circulation of the currency. The government is of course free to issue more (or less) than this amount, but if it issues more then the currency will depreciate.

The effect will be the same as if, under the old system, the government had passed a law re-defining the meaning of the word 
pound in terms of a lesser amount of gold—which is equivalent to increasing the prices of all goods expressed in the currency unit. This—overissuing an inconvertible paper currency—is what has caused the inflationary price rises which have gone on continuously in Britain since the beginning of the last world war. Inflation (properly understood as inflating, or overissuing, the currency) means that the currency has come to be defined in terms of lesser and lesser amounts of gold.

A managed currency only has a circulation within the borders of the state which manages it. No state can enforce the use of its paper currency outside its borders, though people there may choose to accept it. Paper currencies, however, can still be exchanged with each other. What determines their rate of exchange?

What we have said about the paper pound being the name for a certain amount of gold applies equally to the other paper currencies. The paper mark and the paper franc are also names for amounts of gold, though different amounts of course. In fact up until the end of 1971 the currencies of the member states of the International Monetary Fund were declared to the Fund in terms of weights of gold. Thus if the French franc was defined as 3gm of gold and the English pound as 39gm, then the rate of exchange between francs and pounds was £1 = 13 francs. The Member states of the IMF were supposed to maintain a more or less fixed rate of exchange between their currencies and those of the other members.

Had it not been for the inflationary policies pursued by all states this would have proved a relatively easy task. But in fact all states inflated their currencies, though not to an equal extent, so that the parities declared to the IMF came to no longer correspond to the economic reality. Those countries which had inflated their currencies more than average were sooner or later compelled to declare to the IMF that their currency should now be officially regarded as representing a lesser amount of gold. This 
devaluation meant that the exchange rate with other currencies had altered: their currency would now exchange for a lesser amount of all other currencies. On the other hand those countries which had a below average inflation were compelled to up-value their currency, known as revaluation, as happened a number of times to the D-mark and the Swiss Franc.

A devaluation then was a recognition on the international level of a currency depreciation that had already occurred internally. This was why Wilson was in a sense right when he declared in his famous 1967 statement that devaluation left unchanged the value of the pounds in our pockets. It did, because the depreciation had already taken place before! (As the Wilson government continued the policy of currency inflation, the pounds in our pockets did in fact continue to shrink, but because of the continuing inflation of the currency rather than because of the devaluation).

At the end of 1971 the IMF system of fixed parities, with periodic devaluations and revaluations as necessary, broke down. Instead countries just let their currencies float. What this means is that an internal depreciation of a currency resulting from its inflation is now immediately reflected in its rate of exchange with other currencies instead of building up towards an eventual devaluation.

Some countries link their currencies to others, agreeing that they will not let their currencies fall or rise above or below a certain margin compared with the other currencies in the system. One such system was the famous “snake” of European currencies, of which Britain was a member for a short while. The European Monetary System (EMS) is another such system.

For such systems to work each of the states involved has to have more or less the same rate of inflation. For if one state had a greater rate of inflation than the others, then its currency would tend to fall below the lower limit and in order to maintain itself in the system it would have to use up its reserves to buy its own currency so as to maintain its price (exchange rate with the others). The EMS does provide for the establishment of a special fund to help states in difficulty but its clear aim is to try to keep inflation rates down to the German level.

The last Labour government, presumably anxious to have a free hand to continue inflating the pound as it wished, refused to give an undertaking to keep inflation down that much and so Britain didn’t join. The present Conservative government has announced its intention to join, but is waiting for the time when (if!) the rate of inflation in Britain is at a more internationally acceptable level.

All these “systems” in the end are just makeshifts since none of them openly recognise that the only real money in the world today remains gold. Capitalists are more realistic—which explains the rise in the price of gold, and why it likely to keep on rising: nobody wants to be left holding worthless paper money as the international monetary system staggers from crisis to crisis.'

Adam Buick

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Socialist Sonnet No. 143

On Benefits


The magistrates of Speenhamland decreed

No one should be too poor to eat, instead

A working wage too deficient for bread

Must be subsidised to meet that need.

Since then, two centuries and more have passed,

Yet pay and prices still remain mismatched,

Requiring governments to have hatched

All manner of benefits, such a vast

Complex web of doles, those magistrates

At the Pelican Inn would look askance

To see how little has been the advance

Of society, how progress abates

For however long workers delay

Rejecting reforms and seizing the day.


D. A.

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Clown World in Ukraine

Coulrophobia is a fear of clowns. Given that there are many clowns in positions of power across the world who are forcing the implementation of actions which, to a sane person are far into the realms of madness, then the fear of clowns, add to that politicians and capitalism itself, is an extremely rational attitude to hold.

It’s reported that Ukrainian circus performers have been designated a special category and are exempt from the meat grinder that is wasting so many lives in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

‘The government in Kiev has designated several circus troupes as enterprises of critical importance, whose employees will be exempt from mobilization.

President Vladimir Zelensky has enacted changes to the draft allowing the army to conscript 25-year-olds and abolishing several categories of exemptions from military service. However, certain state employees can still avoid the draft if their work is considered ‘critical’.

The Travelling Circus of Ukraine and five other troupes have been designated as “critically important enterprises... for the functioning of the economy and ensuring the livelihoods of the population during a special period,” Verkhovna Rada member Yaroslav Zheleznyak wrote on his Telegram channel.

In addition to lowering the mobilization age, Zelensky’s reforms envision creating an electronic database of eligible conscripts. That way, Ukrainians won’t be able to avoid call-up papers, as many have been doing. Another amendment has abolished a range of medical disabilities disqualifying one from military service, requiring certain disease sufferers to face a medical commission again.

Ukraine has had to rely on forced conscription to replenish its frontline units, due to a shortage of volunteers and a high number of battlefield casualties. ‘

A Ukrainian Lord Kitchener wannabe, Land Forces Commander Aleksandr Pavlyuk has warned that,’ Ukrainian citizens must realize that none of them will be able to escape mobilization as Kiev’s military suffers personnel shortages.’

He ‘urged Ukrainians “to put aside their emotions,” and enlist in the Armed Forces, stating that “the army and the people are inseparable” and that “the protection of the state is the constitutional duty of a citizen. It is necessary to understand that no one can sit this out. The face of the country, the fate of our people is at stake.’ He stressed that it is still lacking in manpower.’

What emotions are these that should be ignored? Ones that govern self-preservation and the strong desire, not having suicidal tendences, to avoid the high chances of being killed or wounded in the protection of the state?

The ‘state’ that Pavlyuk refers to is the a capitalist interests one, not one that the working class owe any allegiance to.

‘Previously, the general had said he felt no sympathy for any Ukrainians who had died while trying to avoid being forcibly drafted into military service and suggested that no such feelings should be expressed towards draft dodgers because it undermines mobilization efforts.

That was after reports revealed that dozens of Ukrainian men had drowned while trying to swim across the Tisza River on the border with Romania to escape enlistment. Additionally, the Ukrainian Border guard service released images of officers beating and humiliating dozens of men who were caught during attempts to be smuggled across the Ukrainian border.

The Russian Defence Ministry says Ukraine has lost more than 80,000 troops since January and more than 444,000, including 166,000 killed, seriously wounded, or captured, since the beginning of the conflict.’


Monday, April 08, 2024

Zimbabwe faces famine

Almost forty per cent of Zimbabweans live in extreme poverty.

In capitalist terms two billion dollars is small change compared with the sums given to warring states.

Zimbabwe declared a national disaster on Wednesday as the El Nino weather pattern continues to cause drought across southern Africa.

The declaration follows a similar move by Malawi late last month. Neighbouring Zambia designated the regional drought a national disaster late in February.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said that Zimbabwe needed $2 billion (€1.85 billion) in aid to help millions of people who are going hungry.

"No Zimbabwean must succumb or die from hunger," Mnangagwa told a press conference. "To that end, I do hereby declare a nationwide State of Disaster, due to the El Nino-induced drought."

He said that over 2.7 million people, or around a sixth of the country's population, have not had adequate access to food this year due to low yields produced during the drought.

Mnangagwa appealed to UN agencies, local businesses, and religious charity organizations to contribute to humanitarian assistance.

The World Food Organization (WFO) has already rolled out an assistance program for 2.7 million people in Zimbabwe from January to March.

More than 60% of Zimbabweans live in rural areas. Much of the country's rural population lives off subsistence farming, occasionally selling small surpluses.

Zimbabwe was once a major grain exporter, but has in recent years increasingly relied on aid agencies to avert famine.’

Sunday, April 07, 2024

Don't be a Nationalist: Repost

 From the April 1994  Socialist Standard

The human drama, whether played out in history books or headlines, is often not just a confusing spectacle but a spectacle about confusion. The big question these days is, which political force will prevail, those stitching nations together or those tearing them apart?

All countries are basically social arrangements, accommodations to circumstances. No matter how permanent and even sacred they may seem at any one time, they are all artificial and temporary. Through the ages there has been a trend toward larger units claiming sovereignty and, paradoxically, a gradual diminution of how much true sovereignty any one country actually has. Today fewer than 10 percent of the 186 countries on Earth are culturally or linguistically homogeneous. The rest are multinational states. The main goal driving the process of political expansion and consolidation was conquest. The big absorbed the small, the strong the weak. National might made international right. Such a world is in a more-or-less constant state of preparation for war.

From time to time many thinkers have questioned whether this was a sensible way to run a planet; perhaps national sovereignty was not such a great idea after all. In the 18th century, the Enlightenment gave rise to the idea that all human beings are born equal and should as citizens enjoy certain basic liberties and rights, including that of choosing their leaders. Once this had been achieved, the argument went, it was more reasonable to imagine a treaty regulating nations’ behaviour toward one another. In 1795 Kant was advocating a "peaceful league of democracies".

With the advent of modern technology the world has become smaller than ever, its nations more interdependent and conflicts bloodier. The price of settling international disputes by force was rapidly becoming too high for the victors, not to mention the vanquished.

Once again, people like Gandhi, Toynbee and Camus all favoured giving primacy to interests higher than those of the nation. Each world war inspired the creation of an international organization, the League of Nations in the 1920s and the United Nations in the 1940s.

Despite this, during most of our century, large areas of the world have been in a continual state of warfare. Many of these conflicts had taken place since the end of the Second World War. Most of the nations directly or indirectly involved in all of these wars were members of the "United Nations" which was set up as an instrument to prevent wars, especially between its members.

The very designation "united", when applied to nations, is a contradiction in terms, because a union among rival states is not practical and only possible in the instance of the temporary alliance of one group to wage war on another, whether military or trade warfare.

Despite the globalization of capitalism there are still plenty of emergent nationalist forces which are busily inventing histories in order to justify their own petty territorial claims. The romance of an idealized national story of the past is the stuff which gets people to enter the killing fields. The bullets follow the flag-waving rituals and they in return follow the legendary histories which inspired a false consciousness of pride in their state.

In the powerful nations history becomes a means of winning popular emotions to the cause of stability. An influential and well-funded nostalgia industry has long been used in these nations to persuade workers that there is something great about being the Nation’s subjects.

Many of the 'national liberation" movements have been mere pawns in the hands of rival imperialisms even before they have won. Where they have won, independence has benefitted neither the colonial peoples nor the workers of the former colony-holding countries. For it is not the workers who are liberated but only a minority who impose their rule and take over from the foreign governments the role of exploiters. Once in power this minority finds sooner or later that its independence too is illusory; it is forced to compromise with one or other of the imperialist powers, even the one they fought against.

What is a nation anyway? Is it an area in which resides a population with a common so-called racial or ethnical background? Is it an area in which resides a population with a common language?
Common religion? Common economic interest? It is none of these.

The only valid definition of a modern nation is a geographical and political area in which goods and services are produced for the sale on the market with a view to profit and with a general class division of ruling and ruled. And the fact that the majority of the population owns little but its ability to work is evidence that the working class has no common interest with the minority capitalist or ruling class. Furthermore, the fact that nations are, in effect, businesses and engaged in the normal business transactions of buying and selling in competition with one another in the markets of the world, certainly prevents such a thing as a genuine "league of nations’. It has always been apparent with the member-states of the "United Nations" that sovereign national interests come first.

Modern warfare is inextricably bound up with the capitalist mode of production — the production of goods and services for sale on market with a view to profit. Regardless of artificially-created hostility among the varied ethnic and religious groupings, war breaks out only when governments representing rival ruling classes wish it to break out.

The causes of war are found not in animosities between different groups, or in so-called aggressive instincts of humans, but in the quest by ruling classes for markets, sources of raw materials and strategic military bases to protect trade.

Remove capitalism from the world and you remove the cause of the conflicts between nation states that lead to wars.

In a socialist society there will be no attempt to impose uniformity, but so-called nationalist movements under capitalism are both a menace and an illusion. They are a menace because they enable an interested ruling class to use them to provoke antagonism towards other groups and thus provide fertile ground for capitalist interests to work up support for war.

Separatist nationalism is an illusion because, while capitalism lasts, the powers, great and small, dare not allow themselves to be weakened by giving real freedom of action to any group of citizens. Governments, in defending capitalist interests, are all opposed to the development of internationalism among the working class of the world, and equally opposed to so-called national minorities which resist conforming to centralized rule and conscription for the armed forces.

There are in fact no purely nationalist movements. Invariably the nationalist sentiment is mixed with economic factors and made use of by the class that has an interest to serve by achieving independence; and independence means not the emancipation of the exploited section of the population but a mere change of masters.
Michael Ghebre

Saturday, April 06, 2024

American Capitalism Cries Unfair to Chinese Capitalism


The American Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is in China. She is not happy that Chinese capitalism is bullying American capitalism by not playing fair.

It isn’t known if she has threatened to take her ball in a la Violet Elizabeth Bott.

She is reported as telling (warning?) the Chinese, not a communist state, that they should reduce ‘excess industrial capacity that is pressuring other economies.’ (Yahoo!Finance 5 April)

She thinks that China is producing more commodities than it can sell in its home market and that this is more than ‘the global market can bear.’

Yellen said that commodities like electric vehicles (EVs), batteries and solar energy products, were undercutting competing workers and business in the U.S., Mexico and India.

Someone should give Yellen a copy of Karl Marx’s Capital to read.

For someone holding her position she seems remarkably unenlightened as to the purpose of capitalism and how capitalism functions.

The Socialist Party would be happy to further Janet Yellen’s education and explain also that the solution to these ‘problems’ and many more is Socialism.

Friday, April 05, 2024

The Cost of Capitalism

UK government figures for 2023 show 12 million people suffering food insecurity and being unable to heat their homes. A report by Which? magazine shows a sharp increase in households defaulting on ‘essential payments’ and one in six skipping meals.

Although millions do keep their heads above water, living reasonably comfortable lives, this is usually at the cost of working hard for a lifetime, never being free of financial insecurity.

We cannot trust the anarchic, irrational market system to fulfil the most basic human needs such as decent housing and food for everyone. Dedicated to producing profit for the tiny minority, it is not designed to cater for the needs of the majority, let alone for the most deprived members of that majority.

SPGB Event Tonight - Zoom - 7.30pm (GMT +1)



Event Details

  • Date:  – 

Friday 5 April 19.30 (GMT +  1)


Discussion on recent subjects in the news

Host: Doug McLellan

To connect to a meeting, click

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Socialism and the Environment

The Guardian, 4 April, carries a piece on the continuing loss of rainforests.

‘The destruction of the world’s most pristine rainforests continued at a relentless rate in 2023, despite dramatic falls in forest loss in the Brazilian and Colombian Amazon, new figures show.’

More at link.

For the Socialist perspective read An Inconvenient Question. Socialism and the Environment

‘In this pamphlet we begin with a brief review of the development of Earth and of humankind’s progress on it so far. We then examine the mounting evidence that the planet is now under threat of a worsening, dangerous environment for human and other forms of life. The motor of capitalism is profit for the minority capitalist class to add to their capital, or capital accumulation. Environmental concerns, if considered at all, always come a poor second. The waste of human and other resources used in the market system is prodigious, adding to the problems and standing in the way of their solution.

Earth Summits over the last few decades show a consistent record of failure - unjustifiably high hopes and pitifully poor results sum them up. The Green Party and other environmental bodies propose reforms of capitalism that haven’t worked or have made very little real difference in the past. Socialists can see no reason why it should be any different in the future. Finally we discuss the need, with respect to the ecology of the planet, for a revolution that is both based on socialist principles of common ownership and production solely for needs, and environmental principles of conserving - not destroying - the wealth and amenities of the planet.’

An Inconvenient Question. Socialism and the Environment

In recent years the environment has become a major political issue. And rightly so, because a serious environmental crisis really does exist. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat have all become contaminated to a greater or lesser extent. Ecology - the branch of biology that studies the relationships of living organisms to their environment - is important, as it is concerned with explaining exactly what has been happening and what is likely to happen if present trends continue.

Since the publication of our Ecology and Socialism pamphlet n 1990 environmental problems facing the planet have got much worse. We said then that attempts to solve those problems within capitalism would meet with failure, and that is precisely what has happened. Recent research on increasing environmental degradation has painted an alarming picture of the likely future if the profit system continues to hold sway. Voices claiming that the proper use of market forces will solve the problem can still be heard, but as time goes on the emerging facts of what is happening serve only to contradict those voices.

In this pamphlet we begin with a brief review of the development of Earth and of humankind’s progress on it so far. We then examine the mounting evidence that the planet is now under threat of a worsening, dangerous environment for human and other forms of life. The motor of capitalism is profit for the minority capitalist class to add to their capital, or capital accumulation. Environmental concerns, if considered at all, always come a poor second. The waste of human and other resources used in the market system is prodigious, adding to the problems and standing in the way of their solution.

Earth Summits over the last few decades show a consistent record of failure - unjustifiably high hopes and pitifully poor results sum them up. The Green Party and other environmental bodies propose reforms of capitalism that haven’t worked or have made very little real difference in the past. Socialists can see no reason why it should be any different in the future. Finally we discuss the need, with respect to the ecology of the planet, for a revolution that is both based on socialist principles of common ownership and production solely for needs, and environmental principles of conserving - not destroying - the wealth and amenities of the planet.

What is ecology?
Earth under threat
Profit wins, the environment also ran
The waste of capitalism
Earth Summits - a record of failure
Green reformism
Socialism - an inconvenient question?

To buy online go to

To get a copy by post send a cheque or postal order for £4 (made out to “The Socialist Party of Great Britain”) to: The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN.

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Living Longer? Capitalism says do it on your own dime, not ours!


‘We are all getting older and we will be older for longer. People living longer sounds good. But not for capitalism.’

‘Larry Fink, the head of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm, has warned that demographics will inevitably strain pension systems and that longer lives are projected to force workers to retire later.

In his annual letter to chief executives and investors, the billionaire investor called on governments to take urgent steps to tackle the “retirement crisis” by helping people save more for when they get old. Fink expressed concern that not enough is being done to ensure people have enough money to safeguard their retirement.

“No one should have to work longer than they want to,” he said. “But I do think it’s a bit crazy that our anchor idea for the right retirement age – 65 years old – originates from the time of the Ottoman Empire.”

“What should the average retirement age be?” Fink wondered, emphasizing that nowadays people are regularly living past 90.

The founder of BlackRock also urged corporate leaders and lawmakers to “start having the conversation” about the issue as changing demographics around the world lead to rapidly ageing populations, while retirement benefits are decreasing. Fink cited the Netherlands as a good example of rethinking retirement policies.

The Dutch government started to gradually raise the retirement age more than ten years ago to keep state pension affordable, he said, adding that it automatically adjusts as the country’s life expectancy changes.

The ageing of the global population means an increase in the proportion of older people – a trend that has been tracked nearly everywhere in the world. According to a UN outlook on global life expectancy, one in six people will be over 65 years old by 2050, up from one in 11 in 2019.’

The following is from the Socialist Standard, February 2023.

‘We are all getting older and we will be older for longer. People living longer sounds good. But not for capitalism.

Improvements in healthcare have brought extended longevity and longer lifespans mean there are more older people. The population aged 65 and older is growing faster than all other age groups, especially as the global birth and fertility rates have been dropping. Over the past 50 years, the median age of the world’s population has increased by 10 years, i.e, from 20 years in 1970 to 30 years in 2020. Many countries have attained median ages well above 35 years, such as France at 41 years, South Korea at 43 years, Italy at 46 years and Japan at 48 years. The median ages of the world’s populations are expected to continue to rise, reaching 40 years by 2070. In 1970 China’s population had a median age of 18 years, i.e, half of their population were children. By 2070 the median age of China’s population is projected to triple to 55 with the proportion of children declining to 12. By 2070 the world’s average life expectancy at age 65 will be 21 more years with many developed countries having life expectancies at age 65 of 25 years or more, i.e, people surviving on average to age 90. There is less need for paediatricians and gynaecologists and much more requirement for specialists in geriatrics and care-working. There are not enough nursing home beds to cater for elderly people who need long-stay residential care.

Governments have concerns about the prospect of their populations possessing more grandparents than grandchildren and the burden on pension and healthcare budgets of their ageing populations. An ageing society is viewed as damaging to a state’s economy since it decreases the workforce numbers and increases the costs on social services and health. The need for pensions arises from the fact that as workers get older, they become surplus to requirements for the capitalists. State pensions take up a vast proportion of public spending. The capitalist class has to pay to keep workers alive upon retirement and it is one of the non-productive activities that the State has to undertake.

Within the next few decades, working-age adults will need to support a higher number of elderly people than they do now, putting pressure on welfare systems and taking up much of the future economic growth and output unless offset by increased technology delivering gains in productivity. There is also a need for greater immigration to boost the labour supply to alleviate the adverse effects of an ageing population as new migrants lower the average age of the host nation’s population. The changes in the demographic structure of various societies and the need to replenish the workforce will not be addressed by more older workers (as the evidence is that chronic ill-health is higher with advancing years) and will require a rethink on immigration policies encouraging newcomers from other regions of the world such as Africa.

Government options are to reduce benefits, increase tax revenue or raise the retirement age. Pensions are essentially a tax on the profits of the capitalists, even if ultimately these profits come from what workers produce, and increasing taxes will not be welcomed by businesses. Meanwhile cutting state benefits would only worsen the already existing poverty of old age. So the preferred choice is to make people work for longer by postponing the official retirement age and the payment of state pensions. Similarly, due to mounting costs, employers are currently scaling back their own occupational pension schemes. Pensions and the retirement age are under assault. It has happened in the UK and is taking place nearly everywhere else, despite widespread opposition from working people

Under capitalism the elderly and frail are seen as superfluous, and of little use to employers. Possessing money as consumers in our capitalist society is the only way to maintain any status in one’s old age because money has power no matter what age you are. We are seeing an increasingly unequal society with the elderly among those bearing the brunt. Capitalism leaves its senior citizens unwanted, isolated and invisible.

Growing old is inevitable but the way we get old is not. Although we are living far longer, a significant and increasing proportion of people are managing multiple health conditions and mobility problems from mid-life onwards. Current rates of chronic illness, mental health conditions, disability and frailty could be greatly reduced. The extra golden years of longer life are a gift to enjoy. Socialism will bring forth more social and community networks to build creative relationships, enhancing the quality of life for everyone, both young and old. The contributions of older persons to society are invaluable and cannot be measured in mere material terms. They offer care-sharing and the passing on of knowledge to new generations. The progress of civilisation from our increased lifespan is being squandered by capitalism.

Gulliver’s Travels features the Struldbruggs, a people who appear normal in all respects except one – they don’t die. But their immortality, instead of being a blessing, is a curse because they continue to age:

‘At 90, they lose their teeth and hair; they have at that age no distinction of taste, but eat and drink whatever they can get, without relish or appetite. The diseases they were subject to still continue…’

Socialism will not bestow immortality nor eternal youth but it will permit us all to age with dignity.'


Socialist Sonnet No. 142

Mistake is Mistaken


The clichéd own goal, that’s a real mistake,

As is trusting a sunny day without

A rain coat, and glibly suspending doubt

While listening to a politician’s take

On almost any issue. Alongside

Lottery tickets being the route to wealth,

That inebriation’s concealed by stealth

Arriving home late at night. Try to hide,

Though, with apologies and thin regrets,

The deliberate launching of missiles

At an aid convoy, must defy the wiles

Of those who’re in command and sent the jets.

A claim to mere error is to forsake

Any real meaning of the word, mistake.


D. A.

Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Change of Government – Then What?

On ‘The Westminster Hour’ (Radio 4, 31st March 2024) it was reported that extensive polling indicated the forthcoming general election could well be a Labour landslide. The Conservative Party might well be reduced to fewer than 100 MPs.

Dramatic changes of government are nothing new. 1979 saw the emergence of the Thatcher regime and all the misery that entailed. The Conservatives clung onto power, via the Major government until 1997. The emergence of New Labour was hailed as, ‘…things can only get better’.

The economic problems of 2007/8 saw the Blair/Brown governments blamed for what was another instalment of capitalisms periodic crises. 2010 brought the general election and the Tory led coalition and austerity.

That phase of administration, with its various changes of Conservative leadership seems likely to end at some point this year. Labour will again assume office promising all manner of improvements. Yet, capitalism will once more continue its profit greedy way unhindered, while services are curtailed, food banks seems to open more branches than actual banks.

The common theme since before and after 1979 is that the needs of capitalism will prevail at the expense of the electorate for as long as their Xs are placed in favour of candidates representing parties who will not, and cannot, make capitalism benefit the wider community.

Even if candidates are genuine in wishing to make their constituents better off they cannot do so. That would require a shift in wealth capitalism can’t not tolerate.

Only when the electorate collectively decide to use their votes as part of the wider process of abolishing capitalism and establishing socialism can things change.

Otherwise it will be more of the same whichever of the parties hold the majority of seats.


D. A.