Sunday, March 31, 2024

Duffle coats not essential to achieve Socialism

Easter was once the time for putting on your duffle coat, making sure you were wearing the appropriate badges, picking up your banner and going on the march to Aldermaston to protest against nuclear weapons. Fast forward to 2024 and marches of various kinds are still happening to protest against the various iniquities the capitalism imposes upon us all across the world.

Well meaning intentions butter no parsnips as they say.

A suggestion, a worthwhile activity to engage in at Easter or any other time of the year would be to educate yourself about the benefits of real Socialism and how to bring it about. Workers of the World Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

Editorial from the Socialist Standard, March 2008

‘Fifty years ago this Easter CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) was effectively born from demonstrations held outside the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston, Twenty-five years on from Easter 1958, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (and similar movements) had risen again, able to mobilise millions onto the streets of capital cities throughout Western Europe in response to a return to cold war US/USSR rhetoric.

During the 50 years of CND's history some things have changed: Trident has replaced Polaris and Faslane submarine base has replaced Greenham Common cruise missile base as the focus for protest. Meanwhile the global nuclear stockpile is now double what it was in 1958, and the number of nuclear states has also more than doubled.

And it wasn't just the badges with the distinctive CND logo that were recycled from the 60s to the 80s: the same kilogrammes of uranium or plutonium from scrapped and ageing warheads have been thoughtfully reused ten years later in the next generation of killing technology.

Despite the laudable aims then – as embodied in their title – the reality of CND is that it has been a front: a cover for the little-known CPPTSRNP (Campaign for Possible Partial, Temporary and Reversible Slowing of the Rate of Nuclear Proliferation). A bit more accurate, if a little clumsy when put on a banner, and hardly a good rallying cry for supporters of course. But CND has, by whatever measure you wish to use, failed. Not through lack of effort of course – no other issue dominated politics throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s.

The parties of the World Socialist Movement are unique in opposing all war – not just certain types of war or certain situations. This is based on a recognition that the interests of the working women and men who usually make up the cannon-fodder and collateral damage of war can never be aligned with states and governments. We oppose the monopoly that the global owning class have over ownership of the Earth's productive resources that are the usual spoils of armed conflict. We see little value therefore in pleading with our rulers to continue their capitalist battles, but to request that they use only this or that weapon.

In the Socialist Party we were sometimes told by CND supporters that there just wasn't enough time to work for socialism: there were only weeks or months left to stop nuclear annihilation and that objective had to be the priority. Thankfully that prediction proved to not be the case. But it is a common objection to the case for socialism, that there is some immediate more pressing campaign that – with just one final shove – will be won, and only then can we start to look to changing the basis of society.

The history of movements to reform one part or another of capitalism has been a history of failure in the main part. We can choose to tinker at the margins or to get to grips with the problem. We can complain about the symptoms, plead with our rulers, or make the decision to address the cause. The history of CND should give us no confidence that reformism is fit for purpose – certainly not with regard to trying to do away with weapons.

We predict that unless the war machine that is capitalism is politically challenged by a majority – armed with nothing more or less than an understanding of how it works – then in another 50 years we will still have wars raging round the globe, with ever more sophisticated weaponry. And of course, we will still have CND. The choice is between a world to win and a world to lose.’

Saturday, March 30, 2024

We are considerably richer than YOW!

Was the myth of a Greek King named Midas who was granted the ability to turn everything he touched to gold meant as a message to be careful what you wish for? In the myth, once endowed with that ability then food, drink and his daughter were all turned into the yellow metal leading to his own death from starvation.

Socialists do not wish harm upon any individual of any class but when the current social system has developed to the point where the lives of anyone on the planet could be lived free from poverty, hunger and free from the ills inherent in capitalism, then the continuing magnitude increase in wealth of a minority and the power that gives over the lives of everyone is well past the point of acceptability.

Lest anyone, particularly in the ‘land of the free’ believes that such wealth comes from the i efforts of individuals within the ruling class and that they are fully deserving of it, then be aware that the wealth of the capitalist class comes from, and always has, the exploitation of the vast majority who are forced to sell their labour power in order to live.

Diversity, equity and inclusion occupy the thoughts and efforts of many in efforts to promote a fairer society for many considered to have been historically oppressed. These aspirations will only be fully attained with he abolition of global capitalism and its replacement by a Socialist society.

‘The wealthiest Americans got even richer last year and now possess $44.6 trillion in combined assets, thanks to the skyrocketing stock market, CNBC reported, citing new data from the Federal Reserve.

The Federal Reserve defines America’s top 1% as those with personal wealth amounting to more than $11 million. In the fourth quarter of last year, they saw their combined net worth rise by around $2 trillion, according to CNBC.

The rise was largely the result of a stock market rally at the end of the year, as the value of corporate equities and mutual fund shares held by the richest US citizens skyrocketed from $17.65 trillion to $19.7 trillion.

Middle-class Americans also reportedly saw their wealth increase, but Federal Reserve data indicates that the wealthiest 1% are the primary beneficiaries of the stock market rally, since the market gains remain heavily concentrated in the hands of the richest. The top 10% of Americans own 87% of individually held stocks and mutual funds, according to CNBC, while the top 1% hold half of it and account for 30% of the combined wealth.

The quarterly gain adds to a boom that began in 2020 with the Covid-19 pandemic market surge, CNBC says. Since that time, the net worth of the top 1% has risen by around $15 trillion – almost 50%.

Inequality, which was in decline in 2021 and 2022, began growing again in 2023, the media outlet said, noting that the wealth gap returned to pre-pandemic levels.’

Friday, March 29, 2024

Reasons NOT to be cheerful: Number 369: Private Water Companies


On social media when viewers disbelieve what they’re reading the response is to post in reply, of all the things that didn’t happen, this didn’t happen the most.’

Fifty years ago a Tory ex-prime minister described the behaviour of a company as ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism.’ When is capitalism ever acceptable?

Conservativehome, eight years ago expressed faux outrage at the idea that capitalists might take advantage, correction, more advantage, of the rest of us suckers. ‘Capitalism depends on a code of morality. When those who own or run companies enrich themselves with indecent and grotesque eagerness at the expense of their pensioners and employees, trust collapses and the whole system becomes unsustainable.

So, is Thames Water the latest in a long line of unacceptable capitalism?

From The Guardian, 28 March;’ It (Thames Water) has been lobbying the industry regulator Ofwat to increase bills by 40%, pay lower fines for breaches including sewage dumping, and to be allowed to pay out dividends. The watchdog has been examining the supplier’s business plan for 2025-2030, and Thames said Ofwat’s initial assessments made the company “uninvestible” for shareholders.’

The following is an extract from the Socialist Standard, August 2003

‘Will there be calls from the so called ‘Labour’ Party to effect immediate nationalisation? Or does the new, always was, business friendly, we can run capitalism better for you than the Tories, eschew such ‘socialist’ ideas now?

There are still some in the Labour Party and in the various left-wing organisations who claim that vast swathes of British industry should be re-nationalised. This is why many see “New” Labour as a dramatic break with “Old” Labour. Jim Mortimer (an ex-Labour Party general secretary) describes New Labour, in a recent pamphlet The Formation of the Labour Party – Lessons for Today (2000), as apologists for capitalism and the new Clause IV as “a symbolic change to mark the abandonment of Labour’s traditional advocacy of a widening area of social [state] ownership”. However, as socialists, we would prefer to see declining faith in nationalisation and the Labour Party as a positive development. The results of Labour governments are no longer clothed in the misleading garb of collectivism but show what they essentially are—managers of capitalism. Electoral imperatives, present from early in Labour’s existence, have triumphed over reforming rhetoric.'

In a sane society, i.e. a non capitalist one, the supply of free environmentally safe water would be available for the benefit of all, not just for the production of profits and dividends.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Special Needs

The provision of school transport for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) is proving to be an increasingly expensive problem for local authorities. Legally, councils must provide free transport for SEND children unable to walk to school.

At a time when councils generally are struggling financially, with some already, and others well on the way to becoming, bankrupt, the cost of SEND transport continues to rise. In 2018/19 the spending in England was £728. 2023-24 has seen a 95% rise to £1.4bn.

This reflects rapidly rising prices due to inflation along with a 40% increase in demand. The average cost per child in England is up by a third from £6,280 to £8,299. To ease the pressure on budgets, councils are having to consider reducing non-statutory service provision.

The socialist maxim, ‘from each according to ability, to each according to need’ is denied while capitalism persists. The needs of SEND children are undeniable, but as ever it is cost, and its implications, not actual need that is the determinant factor.

Government policy to reduce its own expenditure is to pass laws making local authorities liable, and then reduce funding as has been the case throughout austerity.

SEND children are not charity cases but growing individuals with their own abilities and specific needs. But, everyone has abilities and needs that will be subjected to rationing as long as money remains the determining factor.

Consider the socialist maxim, and what is required to realise a society in which it can be brought about. Then everyone’s needs can be met.


D. A.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Socialist Sonnet No. 141

By Royal (Dis)Appointment


The palace has issued a press release:

There is nothing to concern the nation,

Indeed the general public oblation

Has no need to hesitate, wane or cease.

Hand shaking will continue, walkabouts

Likewise, behind firmly fixed barriers

Of course. Because, no matter what occurs,

Our subjects must not begin to have doubts.

Any uncertainty about the state

Has to be ameliorated,

If fallibility’s demonstrated,

People might want to control their own fate.

Should there be any dissatisfaction,

A royal headline’s a great distraction.


D. A.

AI’s lefty bias?


The alt-right ZeroHedge is having a fit of conniptions about blatant Google bias after its Gemini AI ‘point blank refused’ to ‘generate an image about the evils of communism’, saying that calling communism evil is harmful and misleading.

Apparently alt-right intelligence isn’t advanced enough to grasp the fact that the bias was in the question, not the answer. If you simply ask Gemini to tell you about communism, it makes a fair stab, starting with ‘Communism aims to create a classless society where everyone shares the wealth’, followed by ‘Goods and services are distributed based on need, not on ability to pay’.

Not everything is right, but these AI systems are fed on published content which itself is mostly wrong. Ask us if you want a straight answer.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Want to buy a motor, Ivan? Wink, wink.

Capitalism is nothing if not ingenious. Especially when it comes to convincing the majority that there is not a viable alternative to the current exploitative system. Ingenuity also comes into play when circumventing attempts to interfere with profits.

‘An unprecedented surge in car exports from the UK to Azerbaijan is not related to Russia or sanctions evasion, the British Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has claimed, as cited by Sky News.

The news outlet previously reported that vehicle sales to the South Caucasus nation saw huge growth last year, rising 2,000% compared to the five years prior to 2022. The UK banned imports of cars worth over £42,000 ($53,300) to Russia after Moscow launched its military operation in Ukraine, and has also prohibited sales of “dual use” items to the country.

According to analysis carried out by Sky News, a near-simultaneous rise in car exports from Azerbaijan to Russia has occurred over the same period of time.

A spokesperson for the SMMT explained the surge by insisting that Azerbaijan represents a “flourishing market in its own right,” and that there is no evidence that vehicles being sent to the country are destined for Russia.

“UK vehicle exports to Azerbaijan – as to many countries globally – have increased due to a number of factors, not least a flourishing economy, new model launches and pent-up demand,” the SMMT stated.

Azerbaijan imported another $51 million worth of cars from the UK in the first month of the current year, according to Sky analysis. The South Caucasus nation had not previously been in the top 75 export destinations for British-made cars, data showed.

Azerbaijan is reportedly now ranked the 12th biggest foreign market by value for vehicles from the UK, outpacing countries such as Switzerland, Canada, and Spain. Meanwhile, there are no direct car exports to Russia, according to data from HM Revenue & Customs, as quoted by the news channel.

Similar increases in British exports have reportedly been seen in other former Soviet republics, including Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Georgia. The former saw deliveries of British-made cars increase 800% in 2023, Sky News stated.

“Wherever the UK automotive industry exports, it is committed to compliance with all trade and economic sanctions, and continues to work closely with government and the new Office For Sanctions to ensure the effective implementation of the regulations,” the SMMT spokesperson told the channel.

The lobby group said it had registered no signs of the law being compromised, adding that “it is right to monitor for any potential vulnerabilities in a fast-moving and evolving environment.”’

Characteristic Chinese Socialism?

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a major source of cobalt, vital for battery technology, an industry dominated by Japanese, South Korean and Chinese manufacturers. The actual mining is done by an indigenous workforce whose continuing poverty, and depredated environment, is an exemplar of capitalism at its rawest.

In her article for ‘Black Agenda Report’, Ann Garrison wrote,

‘Huge Chinese corporations so dominate Congolese cobalt mining, processing and battery manufacture that one has to ask why a communist government, however capitalist in fact, doesn’t at least somehow require more responsible sourcing of minerals processed and then advanced along the supply chain within its borders?’

Actually, Ann Garrison answers her own question by her oxymoronic linking communist and capitalist with the Chinese government. Delete ‘communist’ from her statement and she describes precisely how an avowedly capitalist government can be expected to act. It can do no other. Whatever the governing party calls itself. Profit is paramount.


D. A.  

Monday, March 25, 2024

William Morris - A Revolutionary Socialist Reprise

One Hundred and Ninety years on from his birth, 24 March, 1834, we repost this piece from SOYMB of 19 May, 2020.on William Morris - A Revolutionary Socialist.

 At the beginning of his socialist activity William Morris was a strong opponent of socialists involving themselves in election and parliamentary activities. By the end of his life, however, he had become convinced that his earlier attitude was mistaken and that socialists should fight for 'palliatives', or reforms, as well as for political power for socialism. Morris's period of opposition to parliamentary activity corresponds more or less with his membership of the Socialist League from 1884-1890.

Morris's views on the problem of reform and revolution can be gathered from the articles he wrote for the official organ of the Socialist League, Commonweal, from his books and published lectures, from his private letters, from his lecture notes and occasional articles in other journals. The most reliable statements of his views are to be found in his published articles, especially his reply to a correspondent on 'Socialism and Politics', in an official statement on parliamentary activity he drew up for the League in 1888, in the last article he wrote for the Commonweal 'Where are We Now' in 1890 and in an article he wrote in 1894 for the Labour Prophet 'What is our Present Business as Socialists?' A lecture he gave in]uly 1887 on 'The Policy of Abstention' also gives his views. 1

The early socialists in Britain thought that capitalist rule would have to be overthrown by violent insurrection along the lines of the Paris Commune of 1871. They also tended to think that this clash, or Revolution with a capital R, would come quickly. The Paris Commune, a fully democratic regime in which the working class took part, was mercilessly crushed after two months by the forces at the service of the French government at Versailles. From this socialists drew the conclusion, understandable in the circumstances of the time, that the capitalist class would defend their privileges by all means and that their rule could only be overthrown by violent action.

Morris shared this belief that the overthrow would be violent and was not very far off. He argued that the coming uprising would not be successful unless there were present at the time a strong and determined body of socialists. If, by some chance, capitalist rule were to collapse and socialists were to find themselves in possession of political power before they had had time to make adequate preparations and without the full backing of the workers, then the experience of the Paris Commune would be repeated: the counter-revolution would triumph and capitalist rule would be restored. At all costs this had to be avoided.

A strong and determined body of socialists was a prime necessity for the success of the uprising. What the socialists of Britain must do was to devote all their resources to creating such a body of socialists. This is what Morris meant by 'Education for Revolution' . Socialists must prepare for the imminent uprising by 'making socialists'. This basic outlook was shared by all those who left the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) in 1884 to set up the Socialist League. All of them, however, did not go as far as Morris in opposing parliamentary activity.

But the League never did have a reform programme. Until the anarchists took over, it pursued the policy of simply putting over propaganda for socialism, written and spoken.

This assumption that the rule of the capitalist class would have to be overthrown by violence was the basis of Morris's anti-parliamentary arguments. From it he concluded that parliamentary activity would be futile and a waste of time which could better be spent in making socialists. Parliament was an institution whose purpose was to preserve the domination of the capitalist class. This class would never allow it to be used to overthrow their rule. Even if socialists should, by some means, obtain a majority in parliament this might give them the power to make laws but it would not give them the power to enforce them or to end capitalist rule. For in this event the capitalist class, if they had let the socialists get this far in the first place, would resist the will of the parliamentary majority with violence. So that in the end would come the violent clash in which the number and determination of the socialists would be decisive. The time and energy spent in electing members to parliament would have been wasted. Worse, in fact, for the parliamentary majority would have been elected by the votes of non-socialists gathered by various vote-catching devices. Support gained by such means would be useless in any violent clash with the capitalist class and its supporters; the counter-revolution would triumph with little difficulty.

Morris also argued that reforms tended to reduce the discontent of the workers and so make them less ready to act against capitalist rule. Indeed the capitalist class would support reforms precisely with this end in view. For socialists to press for reforms in Parliament would be to help the capitalist class prolong their rule by delaying the workers' uprising. Any socialists allowed into Parliament would be used for this purpose. They would allow the capitalist class to assess in what ways the workers were discontented and what should be done to reduce such discontent. Further, they would also be helping to erect a barrier against their own aim since all reforms, including State-capitalism, tended to create a group of better-off workers with a stake in capitalism who would side with the capitalists in any clash with the rest of the workers.

Morris further drew attention to the dangerous effects which a reform programme could have on a socialist party. Contesting elections and working through Parliament necessarily involved compromising socialist principles. At elections the socialist candidate would water down his socialism and use various 'immediate demands' as bait to catch votes and get elected. In Parliament the bargaining needed to get a bill passed would again involve the party in compromise. A socialist party used to compromise would be unable to act in the necessary uncompromising way when the violent clash came.

However, Morris was not opposed to reforms as such. What he was opposed to was the policy of trying to use Parliament to get reforms. This he thought would weaken the socialist movement through compromising its principles. Any improvements that might be possible within capitalism would come more easily as a result of the capitalists' fear of an uncompromising socialist movement outside Parliament. At times, it is true, Morris did give the impression that he was opposed to improvements, whatever the means used to get them, just because they made the workers less discontented.

A further consideration was always present in Morris's arguments. He often made the simple point that at the time there were so few socialists that they could not be effective even as a parliamentary, reform party until they had built up their strength. As he put it, 'The making of Socialists must be a preliminary to the settling of the question: What are Socialists to do?'. So even from the parliamentary point of view the situation demanded a policy of 'making socialists'. Morris still insisted on this after he had himself come to support a policy of using Parliament to get reforms.

There was also an element of irrational prejudice against 'party politics' in Morris's attitude. He once described Parliament as 'that degraded and degrading twaddle-shop'. He hated the intrigue and dishonesty involved in politics; to him it was a dirty game of which he wanted no part. This comes out clearly in his private letters where he says in effect that parliamentary activity may well be necessary but that he for one will have no part of it.

Since Morris did not believe that it was possible to use Parliament to get control of political power, what form did he expect the change-over to take? It is interesting to note that his idea was very similar to that of the French Syndicalists of a later period and of other anti-parliamentarists: The workers combine together into a nation-wide Workers' Federation which the government tries to suppress. Law and order begin to break down so that the workers are forced to take over many of the administrative functions of the State themselves. To do this they form 'workmen's committees'. A General Strike is called leading to a civil war in which most of the regular army go over to the workers. 2

Morris thought that the workers might be able to use Parliament in some way during the course of the Revolution. Not to get political power, of course, since this was not possible nor to get reforms but at least to pass various laws. This would put the onus of rebellion on the privileged classes and so give the workers the additional prestige that comes from legality. The capitalists rather than the workers would be the 'rebels'. Morris also believed that before 'full Socialism' or Communism would be established society would pass through a transitional stage of State capitalism, introduced partly by the capitalists themselves before and partly by the socialists after the capture of political power. Although he regarded this stage as necessary Morris dreaded it and always opposed identifying it with socialism.

After Morris left the Socialist League in 1890 he did some re-thinking. In particular he reconsidered his earlier assumption that the overthrow of capitalist rule could only be violent. He began to argue that it was possible for the working class to win political power through the ballot-box and overcame his objections to socialists using Parliament to get reforms. The most important factors influencing his change of mind on these questions must have been his experience of the growing workers' movement as well as his own experience as a socialist propagandist.

In 1882 there were only a handful of socialists. Ten years later many of the younger and more active trade unionists professed to have socialist ideas. The unskilled workers were organising in the New Unions. Moves were afoot to set up a workers' party independent of both the Liberals and the Conservatives. In other words, the working class was slowly advancing in organisation and in understanding. Morris also, like Marx and Engels had had to do previously, revised his earlier optimistic views as to when the Revolution would take place.

Taken together these changes brought Morris's position nearer to that of Engels (who had criticised his anti-parliamentarism). Morris, like Engels, came to base his estimate of what socialists should do on what the working class was doing.

To Morris it seemed that the working class was choosing the peaceful way to socialism through the ballot-box. He remained opposed to any policy of compromise but no longer believed that for socialists to go into Parliament necessarily involved compromise. Parliament could be used to get political power peaceably. The uncompromising struggle for socialism could go on inside Parliament as well as outside. Reforms could still not be got by compromise, by assuming a community of interest between masters and men, but by a struggle based on the recognition that the workers could only improve their position at the expense of the capitalists. Morris argued that socialists should support such struggles· for objectives less than socialism, not merely because they brought improvements but also because they trained the workers in joint action for a common end and so prepared them to act for socialism.

To make the socialists of Britain more effective, Morris suggested a united socialist party to be formed by a federation of existing 'socialist' bodies like the Fabian Society and the SDF. The test for membership of this party should be professed agreement with the aim of socialism. This party would have a parliamentary reform programme and would support the struggles of the workers. But its main task would be to 'make socialists', to carry on a persistent propaganda for socialism. This scheme never got off the ground except for the issuing in 1893 of the Manifesto of English Socialists.

At the end of his life, then, Morris had reached a position on the problem of reform and revolution-and indeed on socialist tactics generally-very similar to that later elaborated by European Social Democracy ; that the struggle for reforms prepared the working class for the struggle for political power; that the way to get reforms was by means of the class struggle; that a socialist party should have a reform programme.

MORRIS'S CONTRIBUTION TO THE REFORM-REVOLUTION DEBATE Morris himself of course was not the originator of all the arguments he employed. Most of them were basically of anarchist origin. The anarchists of the time had as their immediate aim an insurrection against the State. Their attitude to reforms and Parliament followed from this. They opposed electoral and trade union activity because it diverted the workers' attention from the need for an immediate uprising. They opposed reforms because they lessened discontent and so made the workers less prepared to revolt. And, finally, they opposed Parliament as a part of the State they were aiming to destroy.

Morris was not an anarchist; he did not advocate an immediate uprising although, at that time, he could see no way to end capitalist rule except by violence. Where Morris differed from the anarchists was in arguing that no insurrection against capitalist rule could succeed unless workers themselves were prepared to act for socialism. So for Morris the most important task facing socialists was to rouse such a readiness amongst the workers, to make them genuine revolutionary socialists. This was why he opposed the anarchists in the Socialist League who called for an immediate insurrection or at least for immediate acts of defiance of the State. It was precisely this insistence on the necessity of a socialist working class-and for socialists to work to create it-that distinguishes Morris's arguments on reforms and Parliament from those of the anarchists and gives them a peculiar significance of their own. For Morris was opposed to socialists taking part in Parliament and yet was not an anarchist.

If Morris's arguments were similar to those of the anarchists this was because he shared their belief that capitalist rule would have to be overthrown by an insurrection. When Morris came to abandon this belief in the inevitability of insurrection then with it went the larger part of his case against a socialist party having a reform programme. Morris then came to believe that the growing socialist movement (as he thought) would be able to use the ballot box and Parliament to win political power. Naturally a socialist party, in the course of its uncompromising struggle for socialism, should also press for reforms inside Parliament. Morris still recognised that there were dangers in election and Parliamentary activity but expected that the mass of socialist workers outside Parliament would be able to control their delegates inside. For although Morris changed his views on insurrection he never changed those on the necessity of making socialists: socialism could not be set up until the workers wanted it and knew how to run it.

Morris was the first to point out the dangers to a socialist party of trying to get elected to Parliament on a reform programme. People would vote for the reforms rather than for socialism so that the socialist members would have no mandate for socialism and would be forced to compromise. Fighting on a reform programme would lead to 'the error of moving earth and sea to fill the ballot boxes with Socialist votes which will not represent Socialist men'. As socialism is impossible without 'Socialist men', socialists elected to Parliament by such means would be of no use as a force for socialism. They would not be in Parliament as delegates of a socialist working class outside and would be restricted in what they could do by the non-socialist views of those who had voted for them. What was important was to create a desire for socialism amongst the workers. This done, the workers would know what to do to realise their desire. Socialists should be making more socialists by
persistent propaganda rather than trying to get reforms. A socialist party should thus not have a reform programme in addition to its aim of socialism.

This is Morris's main contribution to the reform-revolution discussion in the sense that it was a point, whatever weight is given to it, that had not been made before.

Engels, who had supported those who broke with the SDF in 1884 to set up the Socialist League, was opposed to the anti-parliamentarism which soon became the policy of the League and backed those who wanted it to have a reform programme. In a letter of May 12, 1886 he complained that
'the League is passing more and more into the hands of the Anarchists ... Bax and Morris are strongly under the influence of the Anarchists'.
 The question of parliamentary activity was discussed at the 1887 and 1888 Conferences of the League. After the 1887 Conference Engels wrote in another letter
'As to the League, if it upholds the resolution of the last Conference, I do not see how anyone can remain a member who intends using the present political machinery as a means of propaganda and action' (June 23).
'Of all the various Socialist groups in England, what is now the "opposition" in the League, was the only one with which so far I could thoroughly sympathise' (July 26).'

This 'opposition', which favoured parliamentary action, left the League soon after the 1888 Conference which re-affirmed the League's position on the question.

Engels was still pursuing the aims which he and Marx had set themselves in the International Working Men's Association in the 1860s and 1870's: the formation of independent workers' parties in Britain and elsewhere. With this aim in view Engels felt that the Socialists in Britain should not cut themselves off from any moves in this direction by remaining a mere propagandist group and refusing to have anything to do with reforms or Parliament. He regarded the League's anti-parliamentarism as a case of the 'infantile disorders' he had learnt was a stage all socialist movements went through at the start.

This criticism was to a certain extent valid: much of Morris's early argument against parliamentary activity and for just making socialists was based on an inadequate grasp of the process of social change. This policy did, as Engels expected, cut off the Socialist League from the 'growing movement for a workers' party and led also in the end to its capture by the anarchists.

Nevertheless Morris's early policy of making socialists could be said to have been right but for the wrong reasons. In a sense Engels was correct in arguing that the appearance of a workers' party in Britain would be a step forward as the working class would learn to act on the political field independently of their masters. But this party did not, as he had expected, evolve into a socialist party but remained a Labour Party committed to the administration and reform of capitalism rather than to revolutionary socialism.

This would, as it were, rehabilitate Morris. If he erred, he erred on the right side. For his policy of making socialists can be justified on strict Marxian grounds. All a small socialist party can do is to put over the case for socialism as strongly and as often as possible, to fight confusion and compromise, and to admit only genuine socialists to its ranks in preparation for the time when social development will have made the working class socialist. Such a party should not try to be a reform party at the same time.


Although the task of toning down Morris's socialism for the benefit of his wealthy admirers began almost as soon as he was dead, in Marxian circles his reputation as a 'revolutionary socialist' survived. His 'News From Nowhere' which leaves no doubt as to where he stood on this issue had a very wide circulation. It was quickly translated into German (by the wife of the pioneer German socialist, Wilhelm Liebknecht) and distributed by the Social Democratic Party.

At the end of his life Morris's political position was more or less that of the SDF and it was this organisation which first kept alive his reputation. The Twentieth Century Press which was at the service, if not under the democratic control of the SDF, reprinted a number of Morris's writings: some of the pamphlets he had written for the Socialist League, an article How I became a Socialist. The anarchists too reprinted some of the Socialist League pamphlets. Besides these pamphlets, articles and lectures Morris's books Signs of Change and Socialism: Its Growth and Outcome (written with Belfort Bax) were also available. So that at the turn of the century, when the reform-revolution problem was re-opened, socialists could have had access to a fair number of Morris's socialist works. After the turn of the century yet more of his works became available. In 1903 the Fabian Society published a lecture of his on Communism. In 1907 the Socialist Party of Great Britain, which had broken away from the SDF in 1904, brought out another lecture 'Art under Plutocracy' as a pamphlet entitled Art, Labour and Socialism. In 1913 the Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co. in Chicago which specialised in popular editions of Marxist works reprinted Socialism: Its Growth and Outcome.

In Britain the SDF first became the Social Democratic Party and then the British Socialist Party. After the first world war most of the members of the SDF went into the Communist Party of Great Britain. Here the reputation of Morris was kept up by those who knew, especially R. Page Arnott.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain still survives today and in 1962 reprinted Art, Labour and Socialism. The Socialist Party is interesting in that those who drew up its declaration of principles in 1904 must have had amongst the documents in front of them The Manifesto of the Socialist League which had been partly drafted by Morris. A comparison of the wording of certain passages makes this clear.

In America the Socialist Labour Party there still keeps alive the reputation of William Morris. With regard to America, it is interesting to note that as far back as 1907 R. R. La Monte, then a member of the Socialist Party of America, was surprised to read that Morris was not a 'scientific socialist'. He wrote in a footnote in his book Socialism, Positive and Negative:

'The other day [chanced upon a pamphlet by one Oscar Lovell Triggs of Chicago. It bore the title, "William Morris, Craftsman, Writer and Social Reformer". In turning over its pages I was somewhat startled to read " 'scientific' socialism he never understood or advocated". And again further on my eyes fell on this gem: "it is apparent that Morris's 'socialism' is poetic and not scientific socialism" '.

Well might La Monte be startled-even in 1907.

It has been established that Morris was known as a 'revolutionary socialist' in Marxian circles, but was his contribution to the discussion of the problem of reform and revolution also known? This seems much less likely especially as the sources-articles in Commonweal, unpublished lectures and private letters-would not have been available to socialists at this time. To this must be added the fact that when he died Morris no longer held anti-parliamentary views.

It thus seems reasonable to conclude that when the discussion was re-opened at the turn of the century it was under the influence of Daniel De Leon's views in the Socialist Labor Party of America rather than of Morris's earlier views. Even so some of the terminology, for instance 'palliative', was common to both discussions.

J. Fitzgerald, a founder member of the Socialist Party ofGreat Britain, did refer to Morris in a discussion of socialist tactics at a meeting in March 1905. He was quoted as saying:
'... they had been told by some worthy people, even by a man of the stamp of Morris, that the soldiers would fraternise with the people'.7
However this is probably a reference to a passage at the end of the chapter 'How the Change Came' in News from Nowhere and cannot be taken as evidence that Morris's early views on tactics were still known. Morris in fact left the problem unsolved. He believed that using Parliament necessarily involved fighting for reforms. This was why when he was opposed to parliamentary action he was also opposed to a reform programme and why when later he supported parliamentary action he also supported a reform programme. The solution was in fact proposed by the Socialist Party of Great Britain in 1904 when they pointed out that using the vote and Parliament to get socialism did not entail having a reform programme. A socialist party could contest elections on a straight socialist programme and only seek votes for this programme; in this way could a socialist party avoid the danger, which Morris foresaw, of attracting non-socialist support and being forced into compromise, finally ceasing to be a socialist party altogether.

References are, respectively, Commonweal July 1885, June 9 1888 and
November 15 1890, and Labour Prophet January 1894. The lecture is given in
William Morris, Artist, Writer. Socialist, supplementary volume Il, 1936.
2 This is the picture in chapter XVII of News from Nowhere entitled 'How the
Change Came'.
3 E. P. Thompson argued otherwise in the first (1955) edition of his William
Morris Romantic to Revolutionary: that Morris's position was more or less that
of Lenin; that he favoured a highly disciplined vanguard parry ready to takeover
and lead the workers' struggle. 'Were William Morris alive today', wrote
Thompson in 1955 in an obvious reference to the Communist Party,
 'he would
not look far to find the parry of his choice'. This is highly questionable, to say the
least. Quite apart from the fact that the system in Russia is obviously the State
Socialism (or State capitalism) for which Morris cared so little, Morris rejected
the idea of 'leadership'. In all his socialist writings the emphasis is on the
understanding and determination of the workers rather than on their leaders (or
so-called leaders, as Morris preferred to call them). This was the crux of his case
against Parliamemarism and later what he relied on to prevent 'the personal fads
and vanities of leaders' from standing in 'the way of real business'.
4 Engles to W. Liebknecht, Page Arnot, William Morris, The Man and The
Myth, p. 37.
5 Engels to J. L. Mahon, E. P. Thompson, From Romantic to Revolutionary,
6 R. R. La Monte, Socialism, Positive and Negative, pp. 122-3.
7 Paris Commune meeting, Socialist Standard, April 1905. 

Adam Buick

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Summer School



University of Worcester, St John’s Campus, Henwick Grove, St John’s, Worcester, WR2 6AJ

Our understanding of the kind of society we’re living in is shaped by our circumstances: our home, our work, our finances, our communities.

Recognising our own place in the economy, politics and history is part of developing a wider awareness of how capitalist society functions.

Alongside an understanding of the mechanics of capitalism, political consciousness also involves our attitude towards it. Seeing through the ideologies which promote accepting our current social system requires us to question and judge what we experience.

Realising that capitalism doesn’t benefit the vast majority of people naturally leads on to considering what alternative society could run for the benefit of everyone.

The Socialist Party’s weekend of talks and discussion explores what political consciousness is, how it arises and what we, as a class and as individuals, can do with it.

Our venue is the University of Worcester, St John’s Campus, Henwick Grove, St John’s, Worcester, WR2 6AJ.

Full residential cost (including accommodation and meals Friday evening to Sunday afternoon) is £150. The concessionary rate is £80.

Or, you can make a booking by sending a cheque (payable to the Socialist Party of Great Britain) with your contact details to Summer School, The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN.

Day visitors are welcome, £20 with meals, voluntary contributions without, but please e-mail for details in advance. Send enquiries to

Bronze Age Utopia?

An article in Psychology Today 16 March, about the Bronze Age Harrappa civilisation is titled, The Indus Valley Civilization: An Ancient Utopia?

The piece infers some interesting suppositions.

In the Bronze Age, Harappans had nothing to kill or die for and no religion.

First, they did not have palaces or monuments to monarchs. Indeed, this is one reason we know relatively little about the IVC: unlike in Egypt, there are no rich burials like Tutankhamun.

The Harappans did have citadels but no standing army. The primary purpose of the citadels was to divert or withstand flood waters. Although the standardization of bricks, road widths, and weights and measures over such an extensive area speaks of a strong central government and efficient bureaucracy, the lack of a monarch and standing army argues against the idea of a conquering empire.

Finally, they did not have temples, and so, it is inferred, no organized religion.

Could this utopia have been the first secular, egalitarian state or confederation?’

The following is from the September 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

It may be hard to imagine a society totally without exchange, but nevertheless for the vast majority of human history, around 15.000 years, this was exactly the way things were organised in a stage of human history called primitive communism.

At this time humanity lived a tribal existence with each member of the tribe as important as another: the men as hunters, the women as gatherers of fruit and roots. The young, as the future of the tribe, the old as the wisdom of the tribe, who knew the migratory patterns of animals, where the best roots could be found and much more besides. When the men and women returned with food it was not (as portrayed in some of the more pathetic films such as One Million Years BC) a mad rush for food and the strongest getting the most but a fair and equitable share-out, as the tribe realised the importance of each member of their society.

Examples can still be found today of such tribal societies: the Kalahari Bushmen and Pinaro Indians to name but two who, when first confronted by colonialists and asked about greed and property and who owned what, could not even find words in their language for such concepts and would end up laughing and looking bemused.

Socialist society

The Socialist Party however is not advocating a return to primitive communism. Far from it. but we can learn from history. Socialism must be on a world-wide scale, to replace worldwide capitalism — no individual countries, just one world. Also, it can only be established when the majority understand and want it. There will be no leaders and it can only be brought about democratically, by the ballot box, through conscious political action.

Socialism is only viable when the means of producing and distributing wealth are sufficient to provide for everyone's needs. Even the most conservative estimates of food production conclude that with farming methods now available we could feed six times the present population of the world — a total of five billion people.

Money is only necessary today because, living in capitalism, the means of producing and distributing wealth are in the hands of a tiny minority of the population. A person's position in society is determined by their relationship to these means of production. If someone is lucky enough to be one of the owning minority then they are members of a capitalist class whose ownership of the means of producing wealth means that they do not have to work but are able to live off rent, interest and profit. If however you are one of the vast majority of people who do not own factories, banks, shipping lines or whatever, then you are a member of the working class. You must make a living by selling the only thing of any value you own; this is your labour power — your ability to work — for which you receive a wage or salary.

Some people say that even workers do not have to work. They could live on social security, but anyone who has tried to manage on this pittance realises how hollow this argument is and that, if a worker is able to get a "decent" wage, he or she is forced by necessity to take it.

Workers, even though they and their class produce everything in society and run it from top to bottom, are only able to gain access to the fruits of their labour through money. A worker who helps to produce, for example, £50.000 worth of cars a week will only receive a small fraction of this in wages; the rest is the surplus value (unpaid labour) extracted from all workers, which yields the rent, interest and profit from which capitalists derive their wealth.

In socialism however things will be very different. Once a majority of people want and understand socialism and how to get it, then they will take control of the various state machines and implement it. When socialism is established the land, factories, transport — all the things we need to live — will be taken into common ownership and democratic control. No one will own anything (apart, of course, from personal items). This is not to be confused with nationalisation, which is merely state controlled capitalism as exists in countries such as Russia. China and Cuba.

Production for Use

How will things be produced? Who will produce them? They will be produced as they are now. by the people who produce them now. The important difference will be that instead of the rationing of a wage or salary, there will be free access to all wealth for everyone. Everything produced will go into a common store from which everyone will take what they need. Everyone will have free access to the common store because you cannot buy what already belongs to you and everyone else. People will not be left out because they are too old, young or sick to contribute to production as happens now. These people will be looked after to the best of society's ability. Things will be produced directly for human use, not for sale with a view to profit as now. when, if there is no profit there is no production and if you are unable to pay then you are not able to consume.

Human Nature

One of the arguments socialists often encounter is that all the greedy and selfish people will take more than they need. How correct is this argument?

First of all, in a socialist society people would have to be very greedy and foolish to consume so much as to cause any kind of problem. However, apart from that the notion of greedy people is quite wrong.

"Human nature" does not exist. Human behaviour, which is its proper title, is not fixed but is the result of the society people are conditioned to live in. At present we all live in a "dog eat dog" society of competition; a vicious society where the weak are fair game. Yet even now anyone can point to examples where people forget about the greedy nature of this society to help others. They co-operate even though there is no economic reward; think of voluntary workers, or blood donors for example. There is no reason why our rational desire for comfort and human welfare should not allow us to co-operate even further in a sane society based on cooperation.

So-called human nature is no barrier to a concept of “from each according to ability, to each according to need". Human beings are not naturally greedy, selfish, aggressive, or naturally anything else; human behaviour is determined by the kind of society people are conditioned to live in. There is only one barrier to socialism: a lack of understanding by people and therefore a lack of desire for it — in other words, a lack of socialists.

The Socialist Party does not have or need leaders; the party is only used by politically conscious socialists as a vehicle to get socialism; when socialism is established the need for the Socialist Party will disappear. Its job done, it will go out of existence.

Steve Colborn 

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Wealth Inequality in India

Thomas Piketty et al have analysed wealth inequality in India. Their findings add a little bit more meat to the information bone of global wealth inequality but are, in the context of capitalism, not that surprising.

India’s richest 1% of the population earned 22% of the country’s income and held 40% of its wealth during the last financial year, a new study published has suggested. These levels are “historically high” for India and even above those of developed economies such as the US, the paper notes.

The research paper, co-authored by economists Kumar Bharti, Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, and Anmol Somanchi, claims that wealth in India, the fastest-growing large economy globally, is largely concentrated among the richest 1% of the population, whom they refer to as India’s modern bourgeoisie. They claim that the wealth distribution in the country is now more unequal than during British colonial rule.

“In 2022-23, 22.6% of national income went to just the top 1%, the highest level recorded in our series since 1922, higher than even during the inter-war colonial period. The top 1% wealth share stood at 40.1% in 2022-23, also at its highest level since 1961 when our wealth series begins,” the study says.

Citing data from the Forbes billionaire rankings, the paper said the number of Indians with net wealth exceeding $1 billion increased from one in 1991 to 162 in 2022. Over this period, the total net wealth of these individuals as a share of India’s net national income surged from under 1% in 1991 to a whopping 25% in 2022.

At present, India’s richest person, Mukesh Ambani, who is also the richest in Asia, has a net worth of $114 billion. He was recently in the news for hosting a lavish wedding for his son that was attended by dozens of international celebrities, including Bill Gates, Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, Blackrock co-founder Larry Fink, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Ivanka Trump, and others.

Despite the reported disparities in income, the Indian economy is growing robustly and is poised to become the third largest in the world within the next three years. The country’s GDP grew 8.4% between October and December 2023, the fastest pace of increase in six quarters.

The country’s central bank, in its latest bulletin, noted that India can maintain its 8% GDP growth given the favourable macroeconomic environment.’

Friday, March 22, 2024

The “Economic Calculation” controversy:

The “Economic Calculation” controversy: unravelling of a myth by Robin Cox (2005)

From issue 3 of the Common Voice journal
The economic calculation argument (ECA) has to do with the claim that, in the absence of market prices, a socialist economy would be unable to make rational choices concerning the allocation of resources and that this would make socialism an impracticable proposition. Tracing the historical development of this argument, this article goes on to consider some of its basic assumptions about how the price mechanism actually works in practice; in so doing, it attempts to demonstrate that the argument is based upon fundamentally shaky foundations. A rational approach to the allocation of resources in a socialist economy is then sketched out. Such an approach is predicated on a particular view of socialism as entailing a largely decentralised — or polycentric — structure of decision-making in contrast to the view typically held by proponents of the ECA that socialism would entail central — or society-wide — planning. Applying a decentralised model of socialist decision-making, this article identifies a number of key components of such a model and goes on to show how, through the interactions of these key components, the objections to socialism raised by the ECA are decisively overcome.

A long read but a worthwhile one. 

Continued at link: 

SPGB Event Tonight - Zoom- 1930 GMT

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Speaker: Tim Kilgallon

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Then wait to be admitted to the meeting.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

UK Absolute Poverty Rise

From the BBC website, 21 March

Absolute poverty: UK sees biggest rise for 30 years

The energy price crisis caused the sharpest increase in UK absolute poverty in 30 years, new figures show.

Steep prices rises, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, meant hundreds of thousands more people fell into absolute poverty.

The figure jumped to 12 million in 2022-2023, a rise of 600,000 - or 0.78 percentage points.

Absolute poverty is the measure used by the PM when describing the government's record.

Even more families would have fallen into absolute poverty had it not been for government support like the Cost of Living payments.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride - whose department compiled the figures - pointed to the government's "biggest cost of living package in Europe, worth an average of £3,800 per household".

The government says that without these measure the increase would have been three times worse.

Mr Stride said the government's "unprecedented support prevented 1.3 million people from falling into poverty in 2022-23".

The figures were collected before the 10% rise in benefits and pensions that took effect in April 2023.

Labour said the statistics were "horrifying".

"The Conservative government crashed the economy and unleashed a cost of living crisis, pushing families across the country into poverty and a million children into destitution", said shadow employment and social security minister Alison McGovern.

The figures were a "wake-up call moment", according to the Liberal Democrats.

"This is a devastating rise and behind these numbers will be stories of children going hungry and families unable to heat their homes," said the party's Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney.

Now advertise the solution, go on, we dare you.