Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Magic Money

 Republic First Bancorp was seized by Pennsylvania regulators Friday, following a failed deal earlier this year to infuse the Philadelphia-based regional bank with new funds, amid a decline in deposits and a struggling mortgage lending business.’


From the Socialist Standard, December 2008

‘’One thing that the current banking crisis has done is to explode the myth about banks being able to create credit, i.e. money to lend out at interest, by a mere stroke of the pen. Events have clearly confirmed that banks are financial intermediaries which can only lend out either what has been deposited with them or what they have themselves borrowed or their own reserves. As the US Federal Reserve put it in one of its educational documents:

“Banks borrow funds from their depositors (those with savings) and in turn lend those funds to the banks’ borrowers (those in need of funds). Banks make money by charging borrowers more for a loan (a higher percentage interest rate) than is paid to depositors for use of their money.” (Dead Link. p. 57)

Actually, banks don’t just borrow from individual depositors, or “retail”. They also borrow “wholesale” from the money market. It is in fact the difficulties they have experienced here that has revealed that they cannot create credit out of nothing.

Because some banks had burnt their fingers by buying securities based on sub-prime mortgages in America, other banks were reluctant to lend on the money market for fear that the borrowing bank might turn out to be insolvent. Which meant that one source of money for the banks to re-lend to their customers had shrunk. Or at least had become too expensive as interest rates had risen too high compared with the rate banks could charge their borrowers to allow them to make a profit or enough profit. So, deprived of this source of money, the banks had less to lend out themselves. Which of course wouldn’t have been a problem if they really did have the power to create money to lend out of nothing.

But at least one person was unable to see what should have been obvious. On 15 October the Times printed a letter from a Malcolm Parkin, in which he wrote:

“Only 3 per cent of money exists as cash. Therefore the rest is magic money conjured into existence, and issued as debt by banks, at a ratio of about 33 magic pounds to 1 real pound, by the quite legal means of fractional reserve banking. In a rising market, it follows that anybody able to create such money, at such a ratio, can soon get rich.”

The “fractional reserve” he mentions is the proportion of retail deposits that a bank keeps as cash to handle likely withdrawals. Fifty years ago in Britain it was 8 percent. But, as banks resorted more and more to the wholesale money market to get money to relend, the percentage of cash to loans became almost irrelevant. Parkin’s figure of 3 percent is the percentage of cash banks hold compared to total loans, including those based on money borrowed from the money market (which even on his definition is not “magic money“).

What a “fractional reserve”, or “cash ratio”, of say, 10 percent means, is that if £100 is deposited in a bank that bank has to keep £10 as cash and can lend out £90. Parkin has misunderstood this to mean that a bank can lend out £900 – and charge interest on it. Easy money, as he says, if it were true. But it isn’t.

The theory of “fractional reserve banking” is that an initial deposit of £100 can lead to the whole banking system, but not a single bank, being able to make loans totalling £900. The argument is that the initial £90 will eventually be re-deposited in some bank (not necessarily the bank that made the loan), which can then lend out 90 percent of this, i.e. £81, which in turn will be re-deposited, and so on, until in the end a total of £900 has been loaned out.

This is theoretically the case as one of the key features of capitalism is that money circulates, but what the theorists never emphasise is that this is based on the assumption that the same money is used and re-used to create new deposits. If this does not happen then the process cannot work or continue. So, the banking system has not created any “magic money” out of nothing. It is still dependent on individual banks only being able to lend out what has been deposited with them or what they themselves have borrowed – they cannot magically lend out vast multiples of this, as poor Malcolm Parkin assumed.


Monday, April 29, 2024


The Guardian, 29 April, reports that, ‘Washout winter’ spells price rises for UK shoppers with key crops down by a fifth: Analysts say impact on wheat, barley, oats and oilseed rape harvests means price rises on beer, bread and biscuits and more food imported.


Two historical examples of bread riots, one in France, one in Newbury,UK:

‘Bread was the basic staple of most people’s diets, and variations in the price of bread were keenly felt by the poor, especially by women who most frequently bought bread in the marketplace. Women would sometimes protest against what they thought to be unjust price increases for bread in what were known as "bread riots."... were a collective action designed to force bakers to sell bread at a "just" or "moral" price rather than at whatever price the market would allow.

(17 July 1725)—On Saturday the fourteenth, a baker of the faubourg Saint-Antoine seemingly tried to sell bread for thirty-four sous which that morning had cost thirty. The woman to whom this happened caused an uproar and called her neighbours. The people gathered, furious with bakers in general. Soon their numbers reached eighteen hundred, and they looted all the bakers' houses in the faubourg from top to bottom, throwing dough and flour into the gutter.’


‘The millers and bakers of the town and neighbourhood were the especial offenders, as notwithstanding the price of wheat was not immoderately high, they kept up the price of bread much in excess of what was fair and legitimate. At last the long subdued feeling of discontent found forcible expression. On a certain market day in August, during the time the sack of corn were being pitched for sale, the people broke out into wild riot.

Upsetting the open stalls, they flung themselves upon the scattered provisions, corn, meat, butter, and eggs, wrecked a couple of houses and so alarmed the bakers that they at once lowered the price of bread, and promised a further reduction. But the spirit of the mob was not easily to be managed. They proceeded to break into the mills, and throw the corn into the river; windows were broken, and damage to the extent of £1,000 was done. Several persons were injured in the fray, one of them fatally.


The following is from the Socialist Standard, May 1986.

‘Under capitalism food supplies are manipulated to increase profits regardless of the consequences to health. This is because food, like all other goods, is produced for its exchange-value and, therefore, supplied according to the dictates of the market instead of for social needs.

Profits from agriculture are maximised in the following ways: destroying or storing food when there is a surplus that cannot be sold at a profit, regardless of the number of deaths from starvation or malnutrition; cutting back on food production to prevent unsaleable surpluses in subsequent harvests; farming land more intensively by using artificial fertilisers and pesticides; extending the number of processes which food undergoes.

Although about a quarter of a million old people in Britain suffer from malnutrition and there are obscene inequalities of wealth in the rest of the population, generally speaking there is relative affluence compared with underdeveloped countries and the problem for food manufacturers is to try to persuade people to buy more in order that the market can be expanded and profits increased. Normally manufacturers can persuade the public to buy more by the skilful use of advertising, playing on the fears and insecurity of consumers in an aggressively competitive, acquisitive society. But food presents a greater problem because, beyond the level of satiety. people do not eat more as a result of increased wealth. Nevertheless, profits can be increased by extending the number of processes which food undergoes and adulterating it with cheaper additives.

In 1969 a Lancet editorial pointed out that, on average, three pounds of chemical additives a year were consumed in food by each person in this country and that the number of additives exceeded 20,000, but by 1985 this number had increased to 35.000 and the consumption of additives was a staggering 8-11 pounds a year! Indeed, a new term — 'junk-food' has been coined to describe the artificially flavoured, highly processed food that is increasingly consumed today. Additives are used to provide colouring, enhance flavour, inhibit mould, emulsify, sweeten and provide uniformity of ingredients in the products sold.

The extent of the profits that can be made from expanding the processes which food undergoes can be seen in the sale of potato crisps which cost forty or fifty times more than the same weight of potatoes. Fish fingers and chickens are treated with polyphosphates (E450) to absorb more water, while fish and prawns are dipped in water before being frozen to increase their weight. It has been estimated that the public pays nearly five million pounds a year for water! (Walker. C. and Cannon. G. 1985. The Food Scandal, Century Publishing). All of these practices are perfectly legal: the 1984 regulations only require water to be declared in uncooked cured meats if it exceeds ten per cent.

The addition of water alone in frozen fish and prawns has no detrimental effects on health but polyoxyethylene monostearate, an emulsifier used in bread to make flour absorb water, causes cancer in rats. Cancers can be caused by some synthetic food colours. The use of amaranth, a red food dye, is permitted in Britain although in 1970 a Russian study showed that in its pure form it possesses carcinogenic activity. Amaranth was banned in the USA in 1976. Its continued use in Britain is a feature of additives in that there is a complete lack of uniformity of products permitted or banned from one country to another. Commercial considerations determine which additives are permitted, however harmful, while public awareness of the dangers of certain substances and consumer pressure in refusing to purchase certain products restricts or modifies their continued use.

The production of meat involves a number of processes which are potentially injurious to health; milk and meat may become contaminated from the routine doses of antibiotics given to cattle to prevent infectious diseases. The modern methods of rearing cattle cause them to be considerably fatter than wild game; the fat is also higher in saturated fats, which contribute to heart disease. and lower in polyunsaturated fats. But meat products present the greatest threat to health. Profits are boosted by using hide, skin. bone, preservatives and large amounts of fat in sausages. Most processed meats not only contain preservatives and colouring but consist of two or three per cent salt by weight while salami consists of as much as five per cent salt. Processed meats and bacon contain nitrates which interfere with the body's ability to convert carotene into vitamin A and combine with amines, occurring naturally in food, to produce nitrosamines which can cause cancer.

It is estimated that about twenty times more salt (sodium chloride) is ingested in this country than is needed for the maintenance of health and that an excessive intake is, at least in part, a causative factor in the production of high blood pressure. But salt is added to a wide range of products besides processed meats, including cereals, tinned vegetables. soups and bread.

Sodium also occurs in the diet by the wide use of monosodium glutamate, a flavour enhancer which permits smaller amounts of more expensive foods to be used. It was also widely used in baby foods until a study at Washington University in 1969 showed that in large doses it damaged the brain cells of baby mice. As babies have a poorly developed sense of taste its use was clearly directed at the mothers who "tested" the food to ensure that it was suitable. The publicity that resulted from the study led to some manufacturers (but not all) withdrawing monosodium glutamate from their products. The extensive use of monosodium glutamate in Chinese cooking can lead to side-effects such as palpitations, general weakness, gall bladder discomfort and numbness of the arms and the back of the neck and has become known as the "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome".

Table salt, itself, is not free from additives but may contain sodium ferrocyanide and magnesium carbonate to prevent caking. In addition, sodium is consumed in the form of sodium citrate in soft drinks. It is, therefore, not surprising that a study in Scotland in the 45-64 age group found that one-fifth of them suffered from mild hypertension.

Sugar is an invaluable additive to the food manufacturer, it provides bulk cheaply, preserves, thickens and sweetens. Every man. woman and child in Britain consumes an average of two pounds of sugar a week. Tooth decay, obesity, constipation, diverticulitis, gall bladder disease, chronic digestive disorders and diabetes have all been implicated to some degree with the excessive consumption of refined foods in industrialised countries. By contrast. adult-onset diabetes is rare in rural Africa where a diet high in unrefined carbohydrates is eaten.

The food industry is also making more use of dextrose in food: more than 16lbs of glucose (dextrose) a year, on average, is consumed in processed foods. Fructose, a naturally occurring sugar which is twice as sweet as sucrose (white sugar) has been used in the food industry in the USA and could be an improvement in health terms because only half the amount needs to be used. But health needs under capitalism are always secondary to the requirement of profitability and the Common Market placed an import quota on high fructose com syrup to protect sugar beet production.

Highly refined foods provide more calories, but less nutrients (unless artificially added) and do not induce satiety as readily as unrefined food, tending to lead to higher consumption with greater profits for the manufacturers. White bread is made by the highly mechanised Chorleywood Bread Process which avoids the hours of fermentation that traditional bread requires. It also contains more air and water than the traditional loaf as a result of using additives that are potentially harmful. Polyoxyethylene monostearate, potassium bromate, propionic acid, ammonium sulphate, chlorine dioxide, nitrosyl chloride, benzoyle peroxide, sodium propionate. L-cysteine hydrochloride and azodicarbonamide are all used in refined bread. Agene was used for bleaching flour for nearly thirty years before it was linked with nervous disorders in humans and in 1968, 600 people in Johannesburg were poisoned by bread containing one per cent potassium bromate (Grant. D., Your Daily Food, Faber and Faber. 1973).

Even when additives are present in food at what are considered to be "safe" levels there is still a risk to health. The American Food and Drug Administration found that two chemicals taken at the same time can enhance the effect of each other; for example. silicone when used with an emulsifier makes the cells of the gut more absorbent and susceptible to poisoning.

There is also considerable contamination in food from the use of insecticides. In 1984 the Association of Public Analysts found that one third of fruit and vegetables were contaminated with DDT (despite being banned), aldrin (a carcinogen), dimethoate and mevinphos.

Although consumer pressure has resulted in a few dangerous substances being withdrawn from food the number of additives used has increased considerably in the last twenty years. Additives will continue to be used while it is profitable to do so. Only a socialist society which puts people first can stop the threat to health which capitalism imposes.’

Carl Pinel


Sunday, April 28, 2024

SPGB and Greater London Assembly Elections 2 May 2024

The Greater London Assembly is composed of 25 members, 11 elected by a party list system and 14 from geographical constituencies. In the elections on 2 May the Socialist Party is contesting 2 of these constituencies — Barnet & Camden in North London and Lambeth & Southwark in South London.

This will give some 870,000 electors the chance to indicate whether they want to replace capitalism with socialism, the profit system with a system where goods and services are provided directly to satisfy people’s needs on the basis of the common ownership and democratic control of the means of living. Those in the other constituencies, and for the election of the Mayor and the party list members, can indicate this by casting a write-in vote for socialism by writing “Socialism” across their ballot paper.

The campaign will take place in April and will consist of street stalls, leafletting door-to-door and at tube and overground stations, contacting the local media, and attending hustings and opponents’ meetings. If you want to help in this, let us know at spgb@worldsocialism.org. If you wish to contribute financially, cheques should be made out to “Socialist Party London Branch” and sent to 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN or by bank transfer to account 53057170 at Santander (sort code 72-06-00).

(Promoted by the Socialist Party of Great Britain on behalf of Bill Martin and Adam Buick, all of 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN)


Text of The Socialist Party Election Leaflet

‘Let's Work For Ourselves Instead’

‘You're being asked to vote in the London elections for an Assembly that will watch a Mayor ask a government to ask the people who own the country for the money to run the region. They will only get that money on terms that will help the owners keep on owning and making profits. Confusing, isn’t it? This is a long way from democracy. In London 200,000 people are unemployed. Half a million work for less than a living wage. Nearly 5 million people spend their lives working on behalf of the owners, making their profits and the money that the politicians try to beg out of them. That is about 9 billion hours of work done in London each year. But we are not benefitting from all that hard work. The rewards go to the employers, the owners, the already wealthy who are first in every queue and whose interests always come before those of the working majority. If instead we owned the world in common, that amount of work could go directly to improving the lives of the people without needing to send leaders to ask for scraps. Let's work for ourselves instead. Democracy would extend into our daily lives and we could have meaningful control of our workplaces and communities. We wouldn’t need leaders. We’d all be decisionmakers. Creating this common ownership depends on the conscious decision of the majority of people to work and co-operate in their own interest. No leader could bring this about for you. Only you, your neighbours and colleagues could make it happen. We are standing candidates in this election, not to become bosses or administrators in the owners’ empire, but to enable you to send a message to your neighbours and colleagues that you want a world of common ownership and democratic control. Our candidates: Barnet & Camden: Bill Martin Lambeth & Southwark: Adam Buick.’

‘(Promoted by the Socialist Party of Great Britain on behalf of Bill Martin and Adam Buick, all of 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN)’


Saturday, April 27, 2024



Event Details

  • Date:  – 

Head Office
52 Clapham High Street
London SW4 7UN

To connect to this meeting, click https://zoom.us/j/7421974305 (or type the address into your browser address field). Then wait to be admitted to the meeting.

As a matter of political principle the Socialist Party holds no secret meetings, all its meetings including those of its executive committee being open to the public. This means that all its internal records (except, understandably, the names and addresses of members which remains confidential) are open to public consultation. In keeping with the tenet that working class emancipation necessarily excludes the role of political leadership, the Socialist Party is a leader-less political party where its executive committee is solely for housekeeping administration duties and cannot determine policy or even submit resolutions to conference (and all the EC minutes are available for public scrutiny with access on the web as proof of our commitment to openness and democracy ). All conference decisions have to be ratified by a referendum of the whole membership. The General Secretary has no position of power or authority over any other member being a dogsbody. Despite some very charismatic writers and speakers in the past, no personality has held undue influence over the the SPGB.

The Socialist Party is the oldest existing socialist party in the UK and is perhaps unique in its democratic structure. The Socialist Party are not the socialist "party" that Marx (or even our Declaration of Principles) envisaged, i.e. the working class as a whole organised politically for socialism. That will come later. At the moment, we can be described as only a socialist propaganda or education organisation and can't be anything else (and nor should try to be, at the moment ). Possibly, we might be the embryo of the future mass "socialist party" but there's no guarantee that we will be (more likelier, just a contributing element). But who cares? As long as such a party does eventually emerges. At some stage, for whatever reason, socialist consciousness will reach a "critical mass", at which point it will just snowball and carry people along with it. It may even come about without people actually giving it the label of socialism.

The Socialist Party’s Principles possesses what has become known as our  hostility clause,"to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist." Its origin lies in the 19th century social democrat roots of the Socialist Party stemming from the experience of the SDF and the Socialist League. William Morris together with Eleanor Marx, Belfort Bax and others of the SDF, resigned and issued a statement giving their reasons yet they added: "We have therefore set on foot an independent organisation, the Socialist League, with no intention of acting in hostility to the Social Democratic Federation.” Some viewed this intention of not being hostile to the SDF as a flaw so when the Socialist Party was formed, its members made certain that their Declaration of Principles would include a hostility clause against all other parties who advocated palliatives, not socialism. Given the context when it was drawn up that the early members of the Socialist Party envisaged the party developing rapidly into a mass party, not remaining the small educational group that it has done up to the present, the intent of the clause is that when the working class form a socialist party this party is not going to do any election or parliamentary deals with any other political party, either to get elected or to get reforms. Basically, the hostility clause applies to political parties aiming at winning control of political power. In fact, in the eyes of those who drew it up, it was about the attitude that a mass socialist party (such as along the lines of the German Social Democratic Party was then seen to be albeit with its warts and all ) should take towards other political parties. Importantly, the hostility clause doesn't mean that we are hostile to everything. There are a whole range of non-socialist organisations out there, ranging from trade unions to claimants unions to community and tenants associations to which we are not opposed. Nor does Clause 7 mean that if you are not with the Socialist Party, somehow you are automatically anti-socialist. The Socialist Party raised the banner for a single, mass socialist party and proclaimed itself as the basis of such a party. Not only did the working class in general not "muster under its banner" but neither did all socialists. So although with a long history as a political party based on agreed goals, methods and organisational principles we were left as a small propagandist group, but still committed to the tenets set out in our Declaration of Principles. But we have never been so arrogant as to claim that we're the only socialists and that anybody not in the SPGB is not a socialist. There are socialists outside and some of them are organised in different groups. That doesn't mean that we are not opposed to the organisations they have formed, but we are not opposed to them because we think they represent some section of the capitalist class. We are opposed to them because we disagree with what they are proposing the working class should do to get socialism and, of course, the opposite is the case too: they're opposed to what we propose.

Nearly all the others who stand for a classless, stateless, moneyless, wageless society are anti-parliamentary (the nearly defunct Socialist Labor Party being an exception). For our party, using the existing historically-evolved mechanism of political democracy (the ballot box and parliament) is the best and safest way for a socialist-minded working class majority to get to socialism. For them, it's anathema. For the SPGB, some of the alternatives they suggest (insurrection or a general strike) are anathema. Our attitude to them is to try to convince them that the tactics they propose to get socialism is mistaken and to join with us in building up a strong socialist party. Of course, if we think that the tactic they advocate is dangerous to the working-class interest then we say so and oppose them. We are opposed to them because we disagree with what they are proposing the working class should do to get socialism. We agree to disagree as comrades. We cannot see any alternative to the present situation of each of us going our own way, putting forward our respective proposals for working-class action to get socialism and, while criticising each other's proposals, not challenging each other's socialist credentials. In the end, anyway, it's the working class itself who will decide what to do. For the moment, "our sector", the thin red line, is condemned to remain an amorphous current. At a later stage, when more and more people are coming to want socialism, a mass socialist movement will emerge to dwarf all the small groups and grouplets that exist today. If this situation were to arise then unity and fusion would be the order of the day.

In the meantime, the best thing we in the Socialist Party can do, is to carry on campaigning for a world community based on the common ownership and democratic control of the Earth's natural and industrial resources in the interests of all humanity. We in the SPGB will continue to propose that this be established by democratic, majority political action. Other groups will no doubt continue to propose your own way to get there. And , in the end, we'll see which proposal the majority working class takes up. When the socialist idea catches on we'll then have our united movement .
The Socialist Party does not claim that socialist consciousness will come to dominate the working-class outlook simply as a result of the activity of socialists. The movement for socialism must be a working class movement. It must depend upon the working class vitality and intelligence and strength. Until the knowledge and experience of the working class are equal to the task of revolution there can be no emancipation. The Socialist Party's job is to shorten the time, to speed up the process - to act as a catalyst. This contrasts with those who seek to substitute the party for the class or who see the party as a vanguard which must undertake alone the sectarian task of leading the witless masses forward.

Mandating delegates, voting on resolutions and membership referendums are democratic practices for ensuring that the members of an organisation control that organisation – and as such key procedures in any organisation genuinely seeking socialism. Socialism can only be a fully democratic society in which everybody will have an equal say in the ways things are run. This means that it can only come about democratically, both in the sense of being the expressed will of the working class and in the sense of the working class being organised democratically – without leaders, but with mandated delegates – to achieve it. In rejecting these procedures what is being declared is that the working class should not organise itself democratically.

Those who know of the SPGB have noticed that we don't go out of our way to recruit members. Some would in fact say we do just the opposite. At first sight, we seem to have an odd approach to recruitment of any political party in existence - we actually have a test for membership. The Socialist Party will not allow a person to join it until the applicant has convinced the branch applied to that she or he is a conscious socialist. Surely it must put some people off? Well, that may be, but it can't be helped. There would be no point in a socialist organisation giving full democratic rights to those who, in any significant way, disagreed with the socialist case. The outcome of that would be entirely predictable.

This does not mean that the Socialist Party has set itself up as an intellectual elite into which only those well versed in Marxist scholarship may enter. The Socialist Party has good reason to ensure that only conscious socialists enter its ranks, for, once admitted, all members are equal and it would clearly not be in the interest of the Party to offer equality of power to those who are not able to demonstrate equality of basic socialist understanding. Once a member, s/he have the same rights as the oldest member to sit on any committee, vote, speak, and have access to all information. Thanks to the test all members are conscious socialists and there is genuine internal democracy, and of that we are fiercely proud.

Consider for a moment what happens when people join other groups which don't have this test.The new applicant has to be approved as being "all right". The individual is therefore judged by the group according to a range of what might be called "credential indicators". Hard work (often, paper selling) and obedience by new members is the main criterion of trustworthiness in the organisation. In these hierarchical, "top-down" groups the leaders strive at all costs to remain as the leadership , and reward only those with proven commitment to the "party line" with preferential treatment, more responsibility and more say. New members who present the wrong indicators remain peripheral to the party structure, and finding themselves unable to influence decision-making at any level, eventually give up and leave, often embittered by the hard work they put in and the hollowness of the party's claims of equality and democracy.

 The Socialist Party is a Marxist-based organisation although some say a William Morris - Peter Kropotkin amalgam might be a better description. It never joined the Social Democrat 2nd International, It never affiliated to the Bolshevik 3rd International, nor has it been part of the Trotskyist 4th International. We were pre-1914 accusing the 2nd International of being non-socialist, and while we were throwing cold water on the 2nd International, the Lenins of the world were still adhering to the mistaken strategies and tactics.

We share in common with the Industrial Workers of the World the view that unions should not be used as a vehicle for political parties. The SPGB have always insisted that there will be a separation and that no political party should, or can successfully use, unions as an economic wing, until a time very much closer to the revolution when there are substantial and sufficient numbers of socialist conscious workers. And thats not in the foreseeable future.

 It is NOT the Socialist Party's task to lead the workers in struggle or to instruct its members on what to do in trade unions, tenants' associations or whatever social activism engaged in, because we believe that class conscious workers and socialists are quite capable of making decisions for themselves. For those on the Left, all activity should be mediated by the Party (union activity, neighbourhood community struggles or whatever), whereas for us, the Party is just one mode of activity available to the working class to use in their struggles.

The Socialist Party reject ALL forms of minority action to attempt to establish socialism, which can only be established by the working class when the immense majority have come to want and understand it. This is why we advocate using parliament. Not to try to reform capitalism but for the single revolutionary purpose of abolishing capitalism. What our capitalist opponents consequently do when the majority prevail will determine our subsequent actions. If they accept defeat, well and good. If they choose not to accept the verdict of the majority which is given through the their own institutions and contest that verdict by force, then the workers will respond in kind, with the legitimacy and the authority of a democratic mandate.

We need to organise politically, into a political party, a socialist party. We don't suffer from delusions of grandeur so we don't necessary claim that we are that party. What we are talking about is not a small educational and propagandist group such as ourselves, but a mass party that has yet to emerge. It is all about understanding limitations and they will be subject to change when conditions change. The main purpose of the SPGB at the moment is to (a) argue for socialism, and (b) put up candidates to measure how many socialist voters there are. The SPGB doesn't go around creating myths of false hopes and false dawns at every walk-out or laying down of tools but will remind workers of the reality of the class struggle and its constraints within capitalism and as a party unfortunately suffers the negative consequence of this political honesty.

Anton Pannekoek, the Dutch writer on Marxism said: "The belief in parties is the main reason for the impotence of the working-class . . . Because a party is an organisation that aims to lead and control the workers". He qualified this statement. "If . . . persons with the same fundamental conceptions (regarding Socialism) unite for the discussion of practical steps and seek clarification through discussion and propagandise their conclusions, such groups might be called parties, but they would be parties in an entirely different sense from those of to-day"

Our position is that it was not parties as such that had failed, but the form all parties (except the SPGB) had taken as groups of persons seeking power above the worker. Because the establishment of socialism depends upon an understanding of the necessary social changes by a majority of the population, these changes cannot be left to parties acting apart from or above the workers. The workers cannot vote for socialism as they do for reformist parties and then go home or go to work and carry on as usual. To put the matter in this way is to show its absurdity. The Socialist Party of Great Britain and its fellow parties therefore reject all comparison with other political parties. We do not ask for power; we help to educate the working-class itself into taking it.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Socialist Sonnet No. 145

Human Relations


All the hot air in parliament inflates

Small boats wallowing over the Channel

Into problems, fetching those who might steal

Low paid jobs from Saint George and his mates,

Foreign fathers and mothers recklessly

Risking drowning their children to evade

Regulations. So, a stand must be made

To staunch this dire influx, especially

If there are votes to be quite cheaply won

By cultivating old prejudices,

Any visceral view that dismisses

Common humanity, once reason’s gone.

Should heated rhetoric be deflated,

Revelation! We are all related.


D. A.



On the 26 April, 1986 the number four reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine exploded.

The following is from the Socialist Standard Editorial, June 1986.

‘Among the more obvious and immediate dangers of Chernobyl one which went unpublicised was the possibility that the disaster will be regarded as in some way exceptional and unique - the result of some human fallibility or secretiveness by the Russian authorities. In fact, there is more to be said about it.

The Green lobby, as might have been expected, seized on the disaster as ammunition for their attack on the policy of building nuclear power stations. This attack is extremely effective, backed up with impressive evidence, but it has one vital defect. It encourages the belief that nuclear power stations, like other threats to the environment, are peculiar acts of blind folly on the part of governments. The conclusion from this is that if we change the governments, or persuade them to change their policies, the problems will disappear. We will still be able to breathe the air. eat vegetables, drink milk, without going some of the way to committing suicide. So the Greens campaign to keep capitalism in being, while hoping to make it alter course in some respects.

The facts are not encouraging to their case. There is nothing exceptional or surprising about states acting in ways which are known to have perils for human life. Every state, for example, has its armed forces whose object is to destroy things and kill people. Every state is responsible for assaults of pollution on the environment killing off forests. lakes and seas, creating dust-bowls, wrecking scenic peace with dams, power stations, motorways and the like. Governments press on with these crimes in spite of the apparent cogency of the environmentalist case against them.

This is how it has been with nuclear power stations. These are not confined to the big industrial powers, there are nearly 400 of them in operation around the world, including Brazil, Argentina, South Korea and India, and more are planned. Their existence is justified by the governments concerned on the grounds that there is no real choice. France gets 65 per cent of its energy from nuclear power. Japan 26 per cent; in both cases the official line is that the lack of any other resources makes reliance on nuclear plants unavoidable. Russia draws 11 per cent of its power from atomic energy and plans another 34 nuclear stations as part of a drive to build up the economy into a stronger competitor - a policy spurred on because of doubts about the extent of Russian oil resources. So the questions are: why do governments argue that there is no alternative to nuclear power stations and what is nuclear power essential for?

Some answers to these questions are provided, in the case of Britain, by extracts from the diary of Tony Benn. published in the Guardian on 3 May. Benn was, of course, once Minister of Technology and then of Power in a Labour government, which made him not only a supporter of nuclear power plants but also gave him an insight into the motivation behind them. (On this, as on other issues, he has recently undergone a somewhat tardy change of mind). In December 1969, worried about the safety of the Magnox reactors, particularly the one at Bradwell in Essex where there had been some ominous problems. Benn called two officials from the Atomic Energy Authority and the Central Electricity Generating Board to his office. Both men were reassuring about the safety of the plant, where there had been corrosion of bolts holding the core restraint, caused by high operating temperatures. This was no minor problem for, according to Benn, it threatened an incident (it could hardly have been called an accident) which " . . . would kill many thousands of people in the area of Bradwell and would send a radioactive cloud that might kill people in London". That risk did not prevent Bradwell station raising its operating temperature, and so increasing the danger - a gamble which was taken "In view of the problem of the fuel situation this winter and the fear of a strike and cold weather . . . " But there was more to it than a concern to supply cheap power to British industry and forestall a strike: "The thing that worried them was the possibility that this might do damage to our nuclear exports . . . "

This concern for profits before people is perfectly acceptable, indeed necessary, under capitalism. That is why there was such a determined effort to suppress news of failures in British stations and to issue soothing reassurances about their safety. A letter in The Times of 5 May reveals:

In my 25 years at, first, Windscale (now Sellafield) as a research and development officer, then Harwell as a senior principal scientific officer. it was more than anyone's career was worth to talk to the Press or write a letter about what went on inside the nuclear establishments. Radioactive spills and leaks did happen at times, but they were hushed up. Every scientific paper declared for publication had to be submitted to a most rigorous declassification rigmarole.

That is why even now. with the mounting evidence from Chernobyl that nuclear reactors are desperately dangerous, things which no social system with any concern for human welfare would contemplate, the spokespeople for the industry and the government continue to insist that they are really good for us.

Nuclear power could be safe. It menaces our life now because we live in a society of class ownership of the means of production, in which wealth is turned out for sale and profit. In this system human interests have a very low priority; if something is profitable then it happens, whatever the risk to people. The Greens attack this as if it were a form of madness when by the standards of capitalism it has a deadly sanity and logic. If anyone should doubt this, they might ponder on a certain reaction to the speculation, soon after the explosion at Chernobyl, that a total meltdown was imminent. If that had happened, the consequences for the world would have been incalculably horrific. For everyone, it seemed, this was dreadful news. But not quite everyone. The prospect of the destruction of the Ukraine sent grain and livestock prices soaring in Chicago. When there is extra profit to be made, even out of human misery, the capitalist class are keen to do so.

If Chernobyl illuminated one thing it is that human society is at present organised in the interests of a small minority and that, short of dealing with that basic condition any efforts, however sincere or thoughtful, are futile. Anyone who has been frightened by nuclear "accidents" or who is concerned for what is happening to our environment can now have no reason for standing aside from the case for the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by a social system where people are the priority,’


SPGB Annual Conference Saturday 27 April Zoom



Event Details

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Thursday, April 25, 2024

No more slaves

The news that Tory MP Richard Drax is set to make £3 million  by selling his family’s former slave plantation will raise righteous wrath among Barbadians and many others who think today’s heirs should not benefit from their ancestors’ barbarity.

But look around you. Little of the world’s wealth belongs to you, because by a whole series of acts of barbarity, the ancestors of today’s rich grabbed control of the land all around the world, leaving your ancestors starving and desperate. Desperate enough to become factory fodder, wage slaves, whose sole job was to make the rich richer. And now you are part of the new generation of wage slaves, while inequality has gone stratospheric.

Let’s abolish the barbarity of capitalism!


Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Munich 1972


In July and August the Summer Olympic and Para Olympic games will take place in Paris. We shall be returning to this subject nearer to the time.

At the 1972 Munich Olympics the Palestinian Black September group accessed the Olympic Village and took members of the Israeli Olympic team hostages. Two Israelis were killed and in the failed rescue attempt nine hostages also died. Since then there have been many instances were innocent bystanders at public events have also lost their lives. This has also been the case with airline hijackings.

These insane murders, whether political or religious, are to be condemned no matter what “vindication” the perpetrators use as justification for their heinous actions.

It is to be sincerely desired that no such iniquitous monstrosity's happen in Paris.

‘A Socialist Standard article from September 1984 with the apposite title 'Billion-dollar games' concerns the Olympics. The athlete Carl Lewis who won four gold medals said that "the Olympics are about money and not much else". US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher disagrees: for him they"..represent the noblest elements of humanity.. a beacon of light shining upon mankind's higher aspirations.."This is so much global warming, as is his call for the United States to boycott the Beijing Olympics. Perhaps there will be a boycott, and like reformism in general, it will serve to distract workers from their true interests. No, the Olympics are"..a further example of the way capitalist rivalries and priorities pollute and distort every aspect of life under the present social system."

Such rivalries often lead to workers murdering others in their masters' interests, and this was true at the Munich Olympics on this day in 1972. The Socialist Standard of October that year carried the following comment.

"Since it has never happened before, the killing of the Israeli Olympic athletes helped foster the idea that we are living in times of special cruelty and disarray, and that guerilla tactics are something of an innovation. It needs only a little effort to recall many examples of similar tactics, sometimes by small bands of killers and sometimes by larger, more organised groups. If the Arabs showed great courage in their raid, it was not the first time that bravery has been used to murderous ends. Capitalist States are always organising the courage of their peoples in a massive effort of destruction. At such times they use any weapon they can, including that of the ultimatum. The famous demand for unconditional surrender in the last war was no more that a threat to murder and destroy on a savage scale, if the other side did not give way - and it was a threat the Allies carried out. The men who plan and implement such ultimata are not called terrorists and murderers but there is nothing to choose between them and those who did the killing at Munich, or indeed the Israeli nationalists who waged so ruthless a guerilla campaign against the British occupation in the years after the war. Capitalism is a mass of conflict, springing from the competing economic interests of many rival groups both national and international. In one way or another, force is always applied in these conflicts and capitalism continually conditions its people to accept the use of force, often on a terrifying scale and intensity. The Arabs at Munich acted as they have been conditioned to. The outcome of violence is never pleasant, whether it is eleven dead bodies at Munich or a hundred thousand at Hiroshima. But if the working class are not clear on the issue, if their ideas on it are confused by the illogicalities and the violence of nationalism, they can have no hope of ending a victory of which bloodshed is so integral a part."’



Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Cry havoc


Shouldn’t someone check out little Rishi and little Volodymyr for a Napolean complex?

‘RISHI Sunak has given a chilling warning that Putin will not stop at the Poland border should the despot defeat Ukraine in the war.

As the West heads for a nuclear showdown (this isn’t showdown at the OK corrall) gunboats, lethal missiles and armoured vehicles will be sent to repel Vlad under Britain’s largest-ever tranche of military aid for Ukraine.

The Prime Minister is set to announce the power package along with an extra £500million for President Zelensky’s war effort.

The immediate funding is to support "the highest priority capabilities", a Downing Street spokesperson said.

Including further ammunition, air defence and drones, the cash boost will take the UK’s support for Kyiv to £3billion this financial year.

Mr Sunak is then heading to Poland and Germanyfor urgent security talks where he will warn Russia will invade NATO f it is not stopped.

Poland already gave the green light as they're ready to host nuclear weapons on their borders if needed.

Ahead of his two-day trip, Rishi Sunak said last night: “Defending Ukraine against Russia’s brutal ambitions is vital for our security and for all of Europe.

“If Putin is allowed to succeed in this war of aggression, he will not stop at the Polish border.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said that the PM spoke this morning to President Zelensky to assure him of the UK’s steadfast support for Ukraine’s defence against "Russia’s brutal and expansionist ambitions".

Meanwhile, Polish President Andrzej Duda said his country will take up nuclear arms if they are asked to by NATO as they look for somewhere to deploy weapons and respond to Putin’s latest chilling threats.


They’re straining at their leashes aren’t they?

‘Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter'd with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.’

Julius Caesar William Shakespeare

Monday, April 22, 2024

Some Russian's birthday


The Socialist Party, formed in 1904, has, from its inception eschewed leaders. This date, 22 April, marks the birthday of an individual who is, understandably, loathed by many but who still carries a fascination for more amongst whom are those who would like to recreate the USSR past.

From the January 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

When Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov was sixteen his brother was hanged for complicity in a plot to assassinate the Tsar. Later, he himself got involved in anti-Tsarist revolutionary activity, was arrested and spent three years in prison in Siberia. In 1900 he was exiled, eventually settling in Switzerland and adopting the pseudonym “Lenin”. He founded and was the leader of the Bolshevik wing of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1903. After the revolution of February 1917 Lenin returned to Russia and in October he led the Bolsheviks to power in a coup. When he died in January 1924, most of the main feudal obstacles to capitalist development had been removed, together with all effective political opposition.

The socialist analysis of Lenin and his legacy is different from the Cold War propaganda which can still be found in books such as Orlando Figes' A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924, published in 1996, which depicts Lenin and the Bolsheviks as forerunners of Hitler and the Nazis. The socialist argument against Lenin is based on the evidence that he distorted what Marx claimed and thereby damaged socialist theory, pursued political action that was against the interests of the working class and dragged the name of socialism through the mud.

Starting with What Is To Be Done? (1902) Lenin said: “the history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own efforts, is able to develop only trade union consciousness.” Lenin argued that socialist consciousness had to be brought to the working class by professional revolutionaries rather than a parliamentary party, drawn mainly from the petty-bourgeoisie, and organised as a vanguard party. But in 1879 Marx and Engels issued a circular in which they declared the opposite:

When the International was formed we expressly formulated the battle cry: The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves. We cannot, therefore, co-operate with people who openly state that the workers are too uneducated to emancipate themselves and must be freed from above by philanthropic big bourgeois and petty bourgeois”

It must be noted however that Lenin's elitism was consistent with the outlook of the Second International. As Hal Draper has written: “The fact is that Lenin had just read this theory in the most prestigious theoretical organ of Marxism of the whole international socialist movement, the Neue Zeit. It had been put forward in an important article by the leading Marxist authority of the International, Karl Kautsky.” (The Myth of Lenin's Concept of The Party, The difference between Kautsky and Lenin here was over who was to lead the workers beyond “trade-union consciousness”, though historically Lenin's interpretation that this should be a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries has been more influential. By contrast, when the Socialist Party of Great Britain was formed in 1904 it repudiated leadership as a political principle and insisted that the emancipation of the working class really had to be the work of the working class itself.

Lenin was not the first to describe socialism as a transitional society, but through his followers, he turned out to be the most influential. In Lenin's Political Thought 1981), Neil Harding claims that in 1917 Lenin made “no clear delineation” between socialism and communism. But in fact Lenin did write in State and Revolution (1917) of a “scientific distinction” between socialism and communism:

What is usually called socialism was termed by Marx the 'first', or lower, phase of communist society. Insofar as the means of production become common property, the word 'communism' is also applicable here, providing we do not forget that this is not complete communism”

The first sentence of this quote is simply untrue and Lenin must have known this. Marx and Engels used the terms socialism and communism interchangeably to refer to the post-revolutionary society of common ownership of the means of production. It is true that in his Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875) Marx wrote of a transition between a lower phase of communism and a higher phase of communism. Marx held that, because of the low level of economic development (in 1875), individual consumption would have to be rationed, possibly by the use of labour-time vouchers (similar to those advocated by Robert Owen). But in the higher phase of communism, when the forces of production had developed sufficiently, consumption would be according to need. It is important to realise, however, that in both phases of socialism/communism there would be no state or money economy. Lenin, on the other hand, said that socialism (or the first phase of communism) is a transitional society between capitalism and full communism, in which there is both a state and money economy. According to Lenin:

It follows that under communism there remains for a time not only bourgeois right, but even the bourgeois state, without the bourgeoisie!… For the state to wither away completely, complete communism is necessary.”

But Lenin failed to see what this would involve. In effect, the theory of “socialism” as a transitional society was to become an apology for state capitalism.

In terms of its impact on world politics, Lenin's State and Revolution was probably his most important work. This was derived from the theoretical analysis contained in his earlier work Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916). Lenin's theory of imperialism demonstrated to his satisfaction that the whole administrative structure of “socialism” had been developed during the epoch of finance or monopoly capitalism. Under the impact of the First World War, so the argument ran, capitalism had been transformed into state-monopoly capitalism. On that basis, Lenin claimed, the democratisation of state-monopoly capitalism was socialism. As Lenin pointed out in The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It (1917):

For socialism is merely the next step forward from state-capitalist monopoly. Or, in other words, socialism is merely state-capitalist monopoly which is made to serve the interests of the whole people and has to that extent ceased to be capitalist monopoly” (original emphasis).

In State and Revolution Lenin claimed that according to Marx work and wages would be guided by the “socialist principle” (though in fact it comes from the Christian saint, Paul): “He who does not work shall not eat.” This was eventually adopted in the USSR Constitution of 1936 and amended to read: “to each according to his work.” as a “principle of socialism.” Marx and Engels used no such “principle” and they made no such distinction concerning socialism. Lenin in fact did not “re-establish what Marx really taught on the subject of the state”, as he claimed, but substantially distorted it to suit the situation in which the Bolsheviks found themselves. When Stalin announced the doctrine of “socialism in one country” in 1936 (i.e. the establishment of state capitalism in Russia) he was drawing on an idea implicit in Lenin's writings.

In State and Revolution, Lenin gave special emphasis to the concept of the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. This phrase was sometimes used by Marx and Engels and meant working class conquest of power, which (unlike Lenin) they did not confuse with a socialist society. Engels had cited the Paris Commune of 1871 as an example of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Commune impressed Marx and Engels for its ultra-democratic features, which involved a non-hierarchical structure and the use of revocable delegates. Lenin, on the other hand, tended to identify the term with a state ruled by a vanguard party. When the Bolsheviks actually gained power they centralised political power more and more in the hands of the Communist Party. Modern-day Leninists claim that the rise of Stalin was due to the ravages of civil war and Russian isolation, but the fact remains that “democratic centralism” can allow dictators to rise to power and all openly pro-capitalist political parties have a similar structure which can allow the leadership to act undemocratically.

Lenin's short article The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism (1913) is a concise explanation of the basics of Marxism . But by 1918 the dictatorship of the proletariat had become for Lenin “the very essence of Marx's teaching” (The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, 1918, It is noticeable however that Lenin's Three Sources article contained no mention of the phrase or Lenin's particular conception of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Harding alleges that Lenin was the most “doctrinaire” of all Marxists at this time, but here again we see that Lenin was only too willing to distort Marx's arguments in order to fit into the reality of Russia's capitalist revolution. That is, the further development of wage labour, capital, commodity production and the state, which resulted in the exploitation of the working class by the party bureaucracy as the exploiting class.

Lenin's greatest positive achievement was getting Russia out of the bloody futility of World War One, something that the SPGB acknowledged at the time. The SPGB was the only British organisation to publish the Bolsheviks' anti-war declaration during the war. The trouble really started when claims about the “socialist” nature of Russia began to be aired, first within Russia then in the Communist parties being formed around the world. The false claims about Russian “socialism” are largely derived from Lenin's opportunism as he distorted Marxism – working class socialist theory. In this country, The Socialist Party always denied that socialism existed in Russia (or anywhere else) or that Russia was on a transition towards socialism.

For its anti-democratic elitism and its advocacy of an irrelevant transitional society misnamed “socialism”, in theory and in practice, Leninism today deserves the hostility of workers everywhere. Lenin seriously distorted Marxism and thereby severely damaged the development of the socialist movement. Indeed, Leninism still continues to pose a real obstacle to the achievement of socialism.’

Lew Higgins