Sunday, June 30, 2024

As soon as this pub closes...


The below is from the Socialist Standard May 2009. SOYMB doesn’t consider it to be boring. Boring is what occurs in a few days time when capitalism once again demonstrates that not enough of the working class understand, and want, socialism.
An educational dialogue explaining the workings of modern capitalism and rebellion, based on genuine events.

Scene: An alternative bar in North London. Cool movie posters plaster the walls. Electronic music pumps out unusually quiet from speakers – it is a week day evening.

Enter Pik Smeet, wearing broad brimmed hat, trying to look like a Puritan. He approaches the bar, buys a bottle of cider, and sits at his chair of many years usage. After him, come two middle-aged male punks, spikey haired, leather-clad with tattoos and chains strewn around their bodies – back from smoking outside. They sit around the corner of the bar from Comrade Smeet.

Punk 1: …So, my boss says, when you’ve got all the money in, that's it, you can go home.
Punk 2: Gah! Like I need another reason to hate you – easy street.
Punk 1: Yeah, I hate me too. We own market places all over London. Go round, collect the cash, nice little job.
Punk 2: Bet you get a stack of griping from all the stallholders.
Punk 1: That’s why I don’t hang around after I’ve picked up the rent.
Punk 2: Too right. You have many places?
Punk 1: Yeah, Camden, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus. All over the joint. Going to be more now, we’ve just bought out a former Woolworths store, now they’ve collapsed.
Punk 2: Oh, really, what you going to do with that?
Punk 1: Well, unless a big firm comes along and makes us an offer, we’re gonna turn it into small units. You make more money breaking big stores up into units, see. Could get you a place if you fancy one.
Punk 2: Well, I’m only interested as a customer.
Punk 1: Ah, well, then, you’ll like our night clubs. They’re good money too – we have a chain of clubs, you know the ones, one near Farringdon.
Punk 2: Oh, them – the strip places?
Punk 1: Well, call them night clubs, but, basically, well, they’re brothels. Then, that’s where the money is.
Punk 2: Yeah – you should try working in making porn films, I make good money shooting them.
Punk 1: Well, I used to, but I got out because the money isn’t there any more. And, y’know, that’s why you do it, I mean, it’s fun, you get to travel the world, but the bottom line is the money. If you’re not making any, there’s no point doing it.Punk 2: You reckon?
Punk 1: Yeah. You see, America – yer biggest market, y’know, they won’t allow you to import films any more. And you can’t get a visa to enter the states and shoot the films. That’s it, no point being in the game any more.
Punk 2: Well, I still make good money – hand over fist – I think you should have stuck with it, mate, it’s a good game – so long as it’s not the only thing you can do.
Punk 1: That reminds me – one girl, we were driving her round London, showing her some sites, got to Trafalgar square, I said “And that’s Nelson’s column” she said to me “Who?” I mean, totally dumb – nothing else she could do that be in the business.
Punk 2: Was she English?
Punk 1: Perfectly, girl next door. The quality product, not one of your Eastern European girls.
Punk 2: Ooh, the very thing. Mind you, when I was living above the brothel your English birds would last until lunchtime, and when there wasn’t plenty of food forthcoming, they be off out the door. Least the eastern birds have to hang around.
Punk 1: On our shoots we’d have about four hundred quid a week to just send out to Sainsbury’s for food. We were a big crew, so, you know, we’d all need feeding. Twelve hours a day we were doing – a laugh. I know, half hour bursts of work, but we were there for the whole long day. Great fun.
Punk 2: Have you tried flogging your stuff over the internet?
Punk 1: That’s just it – who wants to pay forty quid for hardcore pornography when you can download stacks of it for virtually nothing.
Punk 2: Well, you get to control your own business, from beginning to end – production and distribution – everything except the credit card payments – you need someone else to do that –
Punk 1: Usually from Russia.
Punk 2: You have to be careful with them, but, yes, the Russians can helps you with the financial side of things.
Punk 1: Y’ See, I mean, the technology is out there, anyone can make porn – and it’s the home-made look, with the girl next door, that really draws in the punters.
Punk 2: That’s what we’re good at doing – your punters want realistic-looking sex, and we do home-made look quite well. It’s a skill to achieve that look. That’s what we bring – technology is cheapening the production process, but we still add value through our skills.
Punk 1: Well, the value we add gets less all the time, I reckon I’m better off collecting the rent. Right, next fag.
Punk 1 stands up, on his shirt is sewn a badge with a picture of Karl Marx, over his heart. He pulls on his studded leather jacket, and goes out for a smoke.
Smeet (to himself): Well, that’s punk for you, rebellion within capitalism – non-conformity can be highly profitable. Reckon I’ll go home and write all this down – a little morality play full of symbolic resonances and the like.

Pik Smeet

A postscript to the article is the following discussion of its content at the recent Autumn Delegate Meeting of the SPGB, and the response by the writer on the Spintcom discussion list:

"Another example of an article was 'Crassness'. Report of dialogue between punks. Apart from anyone else it's boring. (May 2009 Socialist Standard). Makes a lot of assumptions. Moral is the punks are all stupid because they don't understand the Socialist case."

1) It was a genuine report of a real conversation, that I thought illustrated some of the failings of punk rebellion, viz.,

2) It in no way implies stupidity on their part - far from it, it implies that they know how to get on under capitalism, and make a quid or two. I can't see how the implication of stupidity can be read into it, because the text makes no mention of the socialist case, at most the irony of the faux-rebel, who's just spent ten minutes talking about collecting rent, living off prostitution and and pornography, wearing a Karl Marx badge, is mentioned.

3) The point was that the rebellion of punk is in no way anti-capitalist, but in fact ultra capitalist, in that being prepared to go into ways of earning money considered outside "normal" mores they are able to make a fine living.

4) It touched on how even the porn industry is subject to the cheapening of the means of production, and the cold hearted business case at the bottom of the industry.

5)The moral, if there was one, was that punk is rebellion within capitalism, and not a rejection of it.
I'm sorry that [the comrade] it boring, but it was only meant as a light piece, and was submitted with my expressions that I thought it only had an outside chance of seeing print. I should add, though, that boring was part of the point - here were two people in full punk regalier, and large swathes of their conversation - about collecting rent, retail opportunities, etc. could have been heard from any golf club bar room bore in slacks and loafers. That was my chief inspiration to write it down as soon as I ear wigged it.

That said, further incidents in the same pub, which I've blogged about else place, did lead me to thinking about submitting for a regular column of such stories entitle
d "As soon as this pub closes"…

Pik Smeet

Saturday, June 29, 2024



A report taken from the Financial Times article notes that the EU is set to reimpose tariffs on sugar and egg imports from Ukraine to protect the EU bloc’s farmers from a flood of cheap goods Tariffs on Ukrainian exports of sugar and eggs are now likely to have additional costs imposed. Ukrainian oats have already had tariffs reintroduced.

‘The decision to limit Ukrainian imports follows months of protests by farmers. Agricultural workers argue that the EU’s policies are threatening their livelihoods. After the launch of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, Brussels dropped all tariffs and quotas on Kiev’s farming goods for a period of one year to allow its agricultural products to be shipped to global markets.

Farmers in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and other neighbouring countries staged protests, complaining that they simply could not compete with cheap Ukrainian imports that were not subject to the same tariffs and regulations as EU-produced goods.’

The same news agency highlights a further Financial Time piece where someone from ‘ one of the largest global agricultural commodity traders’ opines that ‘The world is facing “food wars” as geopolitical tensions have triggered a rise of protectionism amid concerns about waning supplies.’

They commented that there was ‘ deepening food insecurity in poorer countries and a the cost-of-living crisis.’

Under capitalism food is a commodity and profit remains the name of the game.

The below is taken from the Socialist Standard March 1987.

‘Amid great publicity and jubilation the EEC has slashed more than £1 billion off its farm budget. It has done this by cutting future Common Market milk production by 9.5 per cent and reducing the minimum price guaranteed to beef producers by 13 per cent. "EEC conquers food mountain" was how the Daily Telegraph put it (17 December) and the junior Farm Minister in parliament. John Selwyn Gummer, described the cuts as "a historic step forward".

The mountain at present consists of 1½ million tons of butter, one million tons of skimmed milk powder, 600.000 tons of beef, and 18 million tons of cereals. The British Agriculture Minister responsible for engineering the deal, Michael Jopling, was described as tired but triumphant after the talks. Calling the agreement an epic victory, he stated that the milk cuts alone would constitute "considerably more than the entire production of New Zealand". The ministers of the other countries were just as jubilant and at the end of the talks they all celebrated with champagne.

What did they have to celebrate? Not a reduction in food prices, for it was made clear that the cuts would not make food cheaper. Not an increase in their popularity with the farmers, for despite the provision of compensation for loss of earnings, many will lose money or go out of business. What then? Well, not much, other than managing to agree among themselves. Because what posed as a victory actually represents a capitulation — a capitulation to the market. The market decrees that money and resources shouldn't go into producing goods and services there isn't a buyer for. And when governments — in this case the EEC governments through the Common Agricultural Policy — try to control the market or at least direct it along their own channels, the market will, sooner or later, channel governments back along its own no buyer no production path. This is what's happened here.

But what's wrong with market forces reasserting themselves? What's wrong with not producing food for which there obviously isn't a buyer? Well, there is another way of looking at it and it starts to show up if we look at two words that are often used to describe the EEC food stocks — "excess" and “surplus". Are the stocks really in excess of people's needs? Are they surplus to requirements? It's true that if they were put on the market at the same price as already existing food, they wouldn't be bought. But is this because people don't need them? Or isn't it rather because people haven't got the money to buy them? Clearly many of the 30 million people on or below the official poverty line in the EEC don't get all the milk, butter and beef they need — and some get very little indeed. The determining factor isn't their need but the amount of cash they've got in their pockets. Seen in these terms, the EEC ministers' "food coup" is an application of the fundamental economic law of the society we live in — the law that goods and services are produced to be sold to people who have money to buy them, not to satisfy the requirements of people who need them.

A solution to this might seem to be to distribute the "surpluses" free or at lower prices to those who can't afford them. But within the market system this isn't a solution, definitely not a long-term solution, as it would inevitably force the current prices down, cut profits and cause economic chaos with producers, suppliers and retailers going out of business and making their workers unemployed too. As Gummer said in reply to a suggestion in parliament that beef and butter in the EEC stores be given free to pensioners: "Those who usually bought butter would not buy it if it was given away" (Guardian, 19 December 1986).

For just such a reason, this "solution" is not applied in the Third World, where many people do not simply go short of certain things they need through lack of money in their pockets but actually die of starvation and disease for that reason. Food supplied to them "free" from the economically advanced countries would upset the home markets. So it happens only on a very small scale and usually during what are called emergencies. Actually there's no country in the world that couldn't satisfy the food needs of its people if production were not geared to the market and sale at a profit. As it is, much of what is produced in Third World countries (and indeed in others too) goes abroad in search of those who can buy it rather than stay at home for those who need it.

What emerges from this picture of unsatisfied needs among vast "surplus" is that humans have got the knowledge, the techniques and the skills to produce food (and everything else) on an absolutely massive scale but we're not using them in the interests of humanity as a whole. Instead we're channelling them through a system of production and distribution that isn't geared to meeting those interests. It's geared solely to finding buyers on the market with a view to making profit and this means starvation, misery and destitution for many, the bare necessities for others and for most of us in countries like Britain, a life in which, whether we're in or out of work, we just about scrape by.

It seems a daft way to live when all we need to do is get together and organise the resources the earth offers, the technology we've developed and the skills and energies we possess, to produce everything directly for use without the obstacle of the market and the buying and selling system. Not even the rationing regime we choose to live under at present can hide the potential that exists for abundance. We need only look at the EEC food mountains and the surpluses in so many other parts of the world. The step we need to take now is to establish common ownership and control over those resources and technology and free access to the abundance they will be able to produce when we put our energies to work on them voluntarily and co-operatively. That is the real mountain we have to conquer.’

Howard Moss

Friday, June 28, 2024

SPGB Meeting Tonight 1930 (GMT +1) ZOOM



Event Details

  • Date:  – 

Discussion on recent subjects in the news.

To connect to a meeting, click

Thursday, June 27, 2024

SPGB Meeting 28 June 1930 (GMT+1) ZOOM



Event Details

  • Date:  – 

Discussion on recent subjects in the news.

To connect to a meeting, click

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Socialist Sonnet No. 155

Partial Truths


A partial truth when forcefully stated,

By some self-promoted man of destiny,

On his nation’s behalf, can seem to be

A claim he and his people are fated,

Through some divine or secular right,

To seize land others presently hold,

With many a fanciful fable told

Justifying loosing merciless might:

Yet another slaughter set in motion.

While those who publicly claim moral qualms

Eagerly promote their supply of arms

As necessary for peace promotion.

As if an initial atrocity

Redeems acts of bloody reciprocity.


D. A.

WikiLeaks and Assange


‘WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has pleaded and been found guilty in a US court to a single espionage charge. He is now free to return to his native Australia, having already served five years in a British prison.

Assange pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to obtain and disseminate national defence information at the United States District Court for The Northern Mariana Islands in Saipan on Wednesday morning. He was sentenced to the time he had already served in London’s Belmarsh Prison shortly afterwards, meaning he will not see the inside of a jail cell.’

The below is from the Socialist Standard January 2011

‘Once upon a time, if you wanted to keep a secret, you locked it in a drawer and held the only key. When states wanted to keep secrets, they used huge underground warehouses with security locks and armed guards to store the vast quantity of information compiled by their spies, spooks and secret police. Most of this information was useless, and most of it never saw the light of day. Then the information revolution happened.

A very large wired information network looks exactly like a sieve, and that's essentially what it is. Information leaks out of it in any number of ways, on purpose or by accident. When you can hold the personal details of 50,000 people on a pen-drive no larger than a cigarette lighter and when these can fall out of pockets on the tube train home, the potential for leakage is gigantic. Then there is email, which is not secure and which has become the preferred mode of communication for all businesses and public services. Just a few emails brought about 'Climategate' in 2009, in which a few careless phrases by researchers at the University of East Anglia fatally undermined the authority of the Independent Panel on Climate Change.

The recent WikiLeaks' exposure of the private lives and opinions of the world's movers and shakers has been so prodigiously covered in the press that the details are scarcely worth covering again, yet from a socialist standpoint the furore deserves to be set within a wider context than the conventional media never discusses. The capitalist class, as indeed all hitherto ruling classes, owes its power not only to its private ownership and control of wealth but also its private ownership and control of information, and inevitably socialists must ask themselves to what extent the overthrow of the latter is likely to lead to the overthrow of the former.

While controlled leaks have always been a tool of government, or internecine feuds within government, it was rare until recently for damaging information ever to escape and when it did, retribution was punitive. When in the 1970s Philip Agee, a CIA agent working in the UK, published an exposé of CIA operations including names of operatives, the US authorities reacted with fury, had him deported and mounted a smear campaign against him involving sex allegations and alcoholism that ran to 18,000 pages (Guardian, 19 December). In 1971 Richard Nixon was tape-recorded speaking thus of Daniel Ellsberg, another Pentagon mole gone public: "Let's get the son of a bitch into jail.... Don't worry about his trial. Try him in the press."

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has made no secret of his involvement in the leaks, so one would be astonished not to see governments trying to fling whatever mud they could at him. And sure enough, he is currently on bail in the UK and facing possible extradition to Sweden to answer sex crime allegations, followed by a possible further rendition to the US to face a lifetime wearing an orange jumpsuit in a certain Cuban seaside resort.

That these allegations are a frame-up is a conclusion that many people have leapt to with a conviction thus far unsupported by the known facts, however it is undeniable that the whole business looks damned fishy. If the UK or Swedish authorities go one step further and allow the Americans to get their hands on him, the affair may well blow up to become the Dreyfus case of the 21st century.

But how do you try a website? WikiLeaks is a game-changer for state security forces and radicals alike, challenging the whole notion of secrecy and calling into question what if anything can be kept secret. The universal state condemnation of WikiLeaks rings increasingly hollow and comical when one looks at the massive public support for it. The vast number of mirroring sites – sites that duplicate WikiLeaks – means that WikiLeaks could not realistically be shut down without shutting down the internet.

It isn't only source websites which pose a problem for state security, it's also destination sites. If you wanted to leak a confidential document in 1950, there would only be a few newspapers or small printing presses to leak it to, most of whom would not risk touching it. Conventional media tend to have a symbiotic, back-scratching relationship with government which ensures that newspapers are self-regulating so direct news bans – D notices – are rarely invoked. Media bosses are capitalists themselves and have no interest in rocking the boat. But the other side of the information equation is publication and distribution, and the internet has created unlimited scope for both.

Thus Wikileaks can sidestep conventional media and leak to anywhere, even to the Socialist Standard if it chose to, which means that the capitalist class has for all practical purposes lost control of the mass media. It cannot hope to strike mutually agreeable deals with every media outlet, especially not those avowedly hostile to it, and any attempt to coerce or threaten such outlets would be likely to blow up in its face and make matters worse.

Aside from the allegations against Julian Assange, Wikileaks itself is not however above criticism. Its foundation in 2006 is shrouded in some mystery. Founders allegedly include Chinese dissidents, mathematicians, technologists and journalists, yet none have been identified. There is supposedly an advisory board of 9 members, yet one 'board member' has said that his involvement is minimal and that the board is merely 'window dressing'. One volunteer told Wired Magazine that Assange considers himself "the heart and soul of this organisation, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organiser, financier, and all the rest". Indeed, WikiLeaks is not even a Wiki anymore because Assange has removed public editing access to it, and has moved away from being a mere whistleblowers' conduit to a full publisher in his own right. Whether or not he set out to do so, Assange does seem to be going for personal glory but in doing so is drawing down all the fire on himself. One-man-bands don't play well when they're playing against the state. One way or another, American and European state agencies are out to get WikiLeaks which is why the obvious move is to go for a decapitation strike against Assange himself.

Even if they succeed in bringing down Assange, there is no stopping what he started. This month a former Wikileaks advisor is set to found a new website called OpenLeaks, which aims to avoid the problems WikiLeaks has encountered, specifically by being governed democratically and by remaining as a conduit for anonymous information rather than empire-building into a publishing enterprise. At heart is the open source philosophy which holds that cooperative and transparent endeavour is more productive and progressive than the secretive and territorial ethos which underpins most capitalist activity: "Our long term goal is to build a strong, transparent platform to support whistleblowers – both in terms of technology and politics – while at the same time encouraging others to start similar projects" Wikipedia, OpenLeaks). There is a parallel here with file-sharing sites, which started as centrally controlled databases (Napster) that were easy to target and kill, before evolving into distributed peer-to-peer systems which had no centre and could never be nailed down and neutralised. There is a further parallel to be made here with democratic models in politics. Socialists oppose leaders and vanguardist leadership-based groups on the left, not only in fact but also in theory, because top-down hierarchy structures are too easy to neutralise. In fact, as a distributed, egalitarian and transparent organisation, we could lay claim to being the original political Open Source movement.

There is a momentum of workers' disgust at capitalism at the moment, at least in the western countries, starting with the sub-prime collapse which exposed nonsensical business logic, then massive bail-outs and bankers bonuses, together with squalid parliamentary expense fiddles, followed by the most savage cuts in living memory and attacks on the poor and those on benefits. Anyone who thought 'the yoof of today' could never be motivated by politics is having to eat their words as students pour onto the streets, camcorders in hand to record and upload police cavalry charges onto YouTube just as the police attempt to deny them. Meanwhile 'hacktivists' attack banks with massive Denial of Service offensives and the spontaneously organised UK-Uncut group occupy and picket the stores and offices of banks, mobile phone companies and high street stores accused of large scale tax avoidance. Though one could always quibble with these activists' grasp of the bigger picture over tax, or their tactics in singling out individual companies when, after all, they're all at it, you've got to admire how the digital native generation are mobilising their opposition in ways that the ruling class has not anticipated and is ill-prepared for.

The grubby game that is capitalism is being exposed as never before in its history, and more people are getting to know about it every day. The genie is out of the bottle, and there's no putting it back in. These are interesting times for socialists.’

Paddy Shannon

Monday, June 24, 2024

IMF still forcing austerity on Africans


It’s reported that, ‘Police in Kenya have clashed with protesters rallying against a controversial finance bill that the East African country’s government is pushing through parliament. One person has been shot dead and at least 105 others have been arrested across the country, a coalition of rights groups said.

Protests broke out in Kenya in response to the government’s 2024 Finance Bill, which passed the second stage of reading.

A parliamentary committee recommended that the government withdraw some new taxes proposed in the bill, including an annual 2.5% tax on car ownership and a 16% tax on bread, following a public outcry.

The government has justified the tax measures as necessary to reduce the country’s budget deficit, but protesters argue that they will be harmful to the economy and escalate the already high cost of living.

The finance bill is in response to the International Monetary Fund’s recommendation that Nairobi make a “sizable and upfront” fiscal adjustment in its 2024/25 budget to reduce state borrowing.’

The below from SOYMB 21 April 2022

‘The conditions of nearly 90% of the International Monetary Fund's pandemic-related loans are forcing developing nations suffering some of the world's worst humanitarian crises to implement austerity measures that fuel further impoverishment and inequality, an analysis published by Oxfam International revealed. 13 out of the 15 IMF loan programs negotiated during the second year of the pandemic require new austerity measures such as taxes on food and fuel or spending cuts that could put vital public services at risk.This stands in stark contrast with IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva's advice to the European Union last year that the wealthy bloc should not endanger its economic recovery with "the suffocating force of austerity."

"This epitomizes the IMF's double standard," Oxfam International senior policy adviser Nabil Abdo said in a statement. "It is warning rich countries against austerity while forcing poorer ones into it."

The IMF has reverted to its highly controversial practice of requiring nations to

 impose the type of austerity measures that have exacerbated poverty and

 inequality, stymied countries' efforts to meet climate goals, fuelled global unrest,

 and even played a key role in sparking revolutions. For example, the conditions

 of a 2021 loan of $2.3 billion to Kenya compelled the country to freeze public

 sector pay for three years while mandating higher taxes on food and cooking

 gas. More than three million Kenyans are facing acute hunger as the driest

 conditions in decades spread a devastating drought across the country. Oxfam

 notes, "Nearly half of all households in Kenya are having to borrow food or buy

 it on credit."

Meanwhile, Sudan has had to end fuel subsidies, a policy that has disproportionately affected the nearly 50% of the population that is impoverished. Over 14 million people need humanitarian assistance (almost one in every three people) and 9.8 million are food insecure in Sudan, which imports 87% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

Nine nations including Cameroon, Senegal, and Surinam must introduce or increase the collection of value-added taxes (VAT), which often apply to everyday products like food and clothing, and fall disproportionately on people living in poverty; and

Ten countries including Kenya and Namibia are likely to freeze or cut public sector wages and jobs, which could mean lower quality of education and fewer nurses and doctors in countries already short of healthcare staff. Namibia had fewer than six doctors per 10,000 people when Covid-19 struck’.

87% of IMF Loans Forcing Austerity on Crisis-Ravaged Nations: Analysis (

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Tweedledee and Tweedledum


From the June 1955 issue of the Socialist Standard

        ‘Another Election has come and gone.
The tumult’s ended, the shouting’s done.
Tweedledum’s lost, and Tweedledee’s won.
Loud sing cuckoo!
Lib., Lab., Con.,—and C.P. too,
Made up a right reformist crew,
Dispensing the usual vote-catching brew.
Loud sing cuckoo!
Liberal and Tory, C.P. and Lab.,
All full of promises, all full of gab.
Labour with ’Erbie, Tories with Rab,
Loud sing cuckoo!
Sugar and soft soap again the rule.
Kissing the babies, playing the fool,
Nice glossy photos to make the girls drool.
Loud sing cuckoo!
Candidates handsome, candidates plain,
Candidates pleasing with might and main,
All to keep capitalism running again.
Loud sing cuckoo!
All the old catchcries out once more,
Canvassers knocking at every front door,
First they’d been seen since the barney before,
Loud sing cuckoo!
Street-comer meetings, things of the past,
Democracy’s symbol’s a radio mast.
Now its the “ telly ’’—with all star cast.
Loud sing cuckoo!
Millions of workers put down their crosses,
Applauded the “gains,” regretted the “losses,”
Fine difference it made, they still work for bosses,
Loud sing cuckoo!
So the farcical game goes on.
Tweedledum’s lost and Tweedledee’s won.
Another Election has come and gone,
Loud sing cuckoo!’

Stan Hampson

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Snap, Crackle, Pop! (1987)


From the Socialist Standard, June 1987

‘Those who are experienced in such matters tell us that all brands of cornflakes taste the same. It has also been said that they all conform to a standard of nutrition which results in the package having more food value than the flakes. It is rather like this in the political field. The parties which are likely to get into power in this election all offer the same low level of social nutrition and politically they all have the same flavour. Their only difference is in their presentation - their packaging - and this is where they are in competition, their programmes and their leaders dressed, decorated, obscured so as to bear little relation to their true character.

This is the work — indeed, the preoccupation — of a band of manipulators known as public relations personnel. The first example of their work to spring in mind is Margaret Thatcher. Her transformation is now part of history. Her image-makers saw her hair and said it was all wrong; that is why some hapless hairdresser now labours daily to maintain that famous blonde, forehead-revealing sweep. Her voice, they found, displeased their ears; so she had to be induced to tone it with a soft huskiness. That neck-straining angle at which she holds her head when she is being interviewed for TV is not something she was born with; it was taught to her by those public relations people.

When they had finished they looked on their work and thought it was good. Then it was the turn of the experts in political presentation. The Labour government of 1974/79 had been notable for its confusion and vacillation; Thatcher would adopt the contrasting image of the prime minister who. through thick and thin, stuck to her guns because she had firm convictions. This was the stance she adopted during the Falklands war. while British and Argentinian workers were doing the actual fighting and dying. It should have cost her a lot of votes, among people who think it preferable to have peace in the world. Instead it did a lot to help her to victory in 1983.

Among her recent triumphs was her visit to Moscow, to talk weaponry with Gorbachev who, had he been a Tory election agent could hardly have done more to help Thatcher back to power. Thatcher argued that the talks would never have taken place but for Gorbachev's respect for the nuclear arms of British capitalism; therefore people should not vote Labour who are in theory pledged to cut back on those weapons. Cleverly stage managed, the tour was a veritable banquet for the media, who seemed to overlook the fact that Thatcher and Gorbachev had done little more than catalogue each other’s arsenals of mass destruction. There is still no hope that the world is safe from the great powers' capacity to destroy it many times over. The triumphant achievement of the visit was to provide Thatcher with a Gorbachev factor to help her win this election, as the Falklands factor did in 1983.

While Thatcher was strutting in Moscow, Neil Kinnock was blundering through a brief, disastrous meeting with Reagan in Washington. (Reagan has never made any secret about being an election agent for Thatcher). Labour's public relations workers are desperate to change their image but the Washington trip turned out to be another of their recent debacles.

But the work goes on; the transformation of the Labour Party cannot be allowed to rest. Their political packaging experts have decided that their historic bondage to the Red Flag was a vote loser so they have substituted a pink rose. They symbolised the new era by changing the party's campaign colour from red to a restful blue, grey and red. They prohibited Neil Kinnock to any longer thatch his hair across his baldness; Labour's Mister Nice Guy, they said, must appear frank and unashamed of such things.

Under this packaging lie the same policies which have failed in the past: basically. Labour presents the same remedies for the ailments of British capitalism as it did in 1974 . . . 1964 . . . 1945 . . . Now they are able to use this tactic that unemployment, poverty, bad housing, war and other such problems have been caused by Tory rule — as if these things did not exist before Thatcher came to power in 1979.

This election will be won by the party which comes off best in the political packaging contest. Millions of votes will be cast for what the capitalist parties appear to be — what they encourage us to think they are — and not for what they actually are. Discerning workers, asking themselves how they should vote to change society in an effective way. will peel back this packaging. They will find that these parties all taste the same, that they offer an unvarying, unnutritious deception. And that — if they will forgive the phrase —- will be the crunch.’


Friday, June 21, 2024

TUSC Candidate Schooled About Socialism


In the Southgate and Wood Green constituency in London, candidates are standing from the Parties of Labour, Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, Greens, Reform, Workers Party of Britain and the ‘Trade Union and Socialist Coalition’.

A socialist elector in Southgate and Wood Green has replied to an election communication from the TUSC candidate there.

Dear Karl Vidol.

I am writing in response to your Election communication.

It says “VOTE SOCIALIST”, but nowhere is that term, or socialism, defined (see below). It seems to be treated as a word to describe a political flavouring, rather than a revolutionary concept. The term socialism has, unfortunately, has had many associations, most of them unpleasant, although the left usually haven't shied away from them. You would think that if you were seeking a “socialist” vote you would offer the voters a concise definition to focus on, rather than the usual cat’s-lick-and-a-promise presented by capitalist parties.

You appear rather coy in referring to the working class, but use “working-class people” instead. The gap between rich (capitalist) class and the rest increasing is predicated on the accumulation of wealth by the capitalist class, so there’s nothing new there. The rich get richer because we—the working class—allow them to do so, not because they keep us in physical chains or deny us the vote.

Most political parties vie with each other to administer capitalism. Some, like the left, claim they are doing it in working-class interests, some are blatantly capitalist. The result is the same, unless a complete change is contemplated, capitalism will continue to roll on as usual. Of course, there may be good times, but capitalism offers no certainty. Meanwhile we are cursed with war, poverty, and worse, destitution, environmental degradation, dictatorships, and we know some of the latter the left supported in the past.

If you want to rid the world of the evils that capitalism visits upon it, then offering the working class reforms that may or may not improve their situation, and could be taken away is not the answer.

Why have you picked on Gaza for your outrage, when there are many other conflicts happening round the world?

I have never been let down by the governing parties, recognizing that their role is to run capitalism for the benefit of those who own most of the world—the capitalist class. Governments may try to persuade you that they run the country in the interests of all, but that is not their function. That doesn’t mean that some politicians may believe that they are serving the interests of all. All it means is that they have absorbed the capitalist ideology (false consciousness) that only lets you see the world as it seems, not as it is.

You say, “…a new way of running the economy to benefit the majority, not just the billionaires.” So, billionaires will still exist in your “socialist” society? This seems to be the fact, because you talk about “For real workers’ rights”, implying that the capitalist class will still be around. You also talk in national terms, but socialism can only be achieved on a worldwide basis, a world of common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, without state control. A society introduced by a majority vote of the working class, not imposed upon them by an all-knowing elite.

The only way for “every possible improvement for working-class people” is to introduce a society where the term working class would have no meaning.

If the system can’t afford that, we need to change the system.” What change?

Julian Vein (Wood Green)’

Reproduced with the permission of the writer.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Tax the Rich?

Proposing to tax the rich is a popular trope of left leaning politics. Cue the Green Party General Election manifesto. A pledge to spend £50 billion per year on health and social care by 2030. Money to be raised by a 1% tax on assets worth £10 million or more, 2% on £1 billion+ assets. This to raise £15bn a year, but only affect 1% of households. These funds would be for the NHS.

The Henley Private Migration Report points to a net loss of 9,500 wealthy individuals from Britain in 2024, over double the 4,200 who left in 2023. Between 2017 and 2023 around 16,500 millionaires migrated from Britain. In part a reaction to Brexit, a demonstration of the fluidity of capital assets, moving away from actual or perceived threats.

What price the Green Party pledge faced with a huge financial outflow. For an indication of market reaction and the political consequences, consider the ousting of Liz Truss, a Conservative prime minister. Proposals alone are enough to crash an economy if they seem likely to be enacted to the detriment of financial assets.

Such is democracy under capitalism.

The Green Party can relax, however, as they know they can promise anything they like as they won’t be anywhere close to acting on such promises.


SPGB Meeting Friday 21 June 1930 (GMT +1) ZOOM



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Speaker: Andy Thomas

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Say no to capitalism


You might remember a Simpsons episode where both presidential candidates are actually alien lizards. When the successful candidate subsequently starts oppressing everyone, Homer says “Don’t blame me, I voted for the other lizard.”

The candidates in next month’s UK General Election are not lizards, but they do stand for capitalist inequality, so you’ll get the same result whoever wins. If you’re in the constituencies where we are standing, take the advice of Eugene Debs who said “It’s better to vote for what you want and not get it, than to vote for what you don’t want, and get it.”

Otherwise, write “WORLD SOCIALISM” across your ballot paper. Capitalism may win, but it doesn’t have to be with your approval.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Socialist Sonnet No. 154

Time to Change


Capitalism was once the young blood,

Overturning thrones, dispossessing lords.

It manufactured this world that accords

With its own ways and means, where common good

Is held to be the untrammelled pursuit

Of private wealth, even if that should be

At the expense of public poverty,

With a reserved freedom to profit and pollute.

But now this history lesson’s been learned,

That which loosed bonds becomes a binding force,

While the class presently bound is now the source

Whereby a new, better way is discerned.

Progress must transcend anachronism,

It is time for change, for socialism.


D. A.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Reflections on Elections (2017)

From the Socialist Standard October 2017

‘Whenever there is an election, like last year or currently in Germany, the person in the street — the so-called ordinary voter — suddenly becomes very popular. Any number of political parties are anxious to please them and make them all manner of tempting promises, if they in their turn will agree to vote for their party's candidate. Election time, in other words, is the time when there is an enormous hunt for Votes.

The bait which is used in this hunt is largely made up by promises. All other parties offer this bait, and the generosity of their promises is usually in inverse proportion to the likelihood of their getting power. The Labour and Conservative Parties cannot be too extravagant; the Liberals can be a little more wild; the Greens and the far Left can promise almost anything. And so on.

Most of the promises in an election are about things like modernisation, housing, education, pensions, wages and prices, war and peace. To read the literature of these other parties, it seems that all that has to be done to solve overnight all the problems connected with these issues is to vote for their candidate. They will all, it seems, bring British industry up to date, build affordable housing, give everyone a fair chance of the best education, keep prices stable while wages increase, protect the environment, banish war from the earth.

These promises sound very fine and in one election after another millions of working people vote for them. And presumably, when they do so, they think that they are contributing to the solution of our problems.

But stop and think about it.

Firstly, it is obvious that election promises are not a new thing. Political parties have been making them for as long as anyone can remember – and always about the same sorts of problems.

Now what has been the result of all this?

The housing problem remains with us despite repeated promises to deal with it. The sort of education we get is governed by the financial standing of our parents. There are still millions of old age pensioners living on the tightrope of destitution — and it only needs something like a severe winter for many of them to loosen their precarious hold on life.

Prices are rising. Wages are still stagnating. Whatever the respective level of prices and wages, we always find that our wage packet only just covers our food, clothing, entertainment and whatever else goes to keep us ticking over.

War is just as much a universal problem as ever. There are always minor wars going on somewhere, punctuated by more serious clashes such as North Korea and Syria. Over it all hangs the threat of a war fought out with nuclear weapons.

It is not accidental that the politicians make so many promises and that they have so little effect upon the ailments they are supposed to cure. The world is full of chronic problems, but this is not because political parties have notthought up reforms which are supposed to deal with them nor because their leaders are not clever or knowledgeable enough.

The fact is that the problems persist whichever party is in power — and this suggests that their roots go deep into the very nature of modern society.

We live today in a social system which is called capitalism. The basis of this system is the ownership by a section of the population of the means of producing and distributing wealth — of factories, transport, communications and so on. It follows from this that all the wealth which we produce today is turned out with the intention of realising a profit for the owning class. It is from this basis that the problems of modern society spring.

The class which does not own the means of wealth production – the working class – are condemned to a life of rationed dependence upon their wage or salary. This expresses itself in inferior housing, clothes, education, and the like.

The basis of capitalism throws up the continual battle over wages and working conditions with attendant employment disputes. It gives rise, with its international economic rivalries, to the wars which have disfigured recent history.

Every other party stands for capitalism, whatever they may call themselves. And whatever their protestations, they stand for a world of poverty, hunger, unrest and war. They stand for a world in which no human being is secure.

The way-out is a world in which everything which goes to make and distribute wealth is owned by the people of the world. Because socialism is the direct opposite of capitalism, it follows that when it is established the basic problems of capitalism will disappear. There will be no more war, no more poverty. People will live a full, abundant life; we shall be free.

But socialism cannot be brought about by promises. It needs a knowledgeable working class who understand and desire it. They alone can establish the new world system we need.

When we contest elections our candidates from the Socialist Party do not make any promises; they do not try to convince voters that they will do anything for them. What they offer is the case for a new social system. We are seeking to spread knowledge and understanding of socialism and to give as many people as possible the opportunity of voting for a world of abundance, peace and freedom.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Election Communication Clapham and Brixton Hill



At every UK election brainless lefties have advised workers to “vote Labour, but rely on your own struggles” or some such drivel. No surprise then that the Weekly Worker now tells us “Vote left where you can (and that includes the few left Labourites who are being allowed to stand), vote Labour where you must (ie, mainstream Labour)”.

That means urging most workers to vote for the Party of Business, in other words, to collude in their subjugation to the capitalist system.

So what should you do if you live outside the two constituencies with an SPGB candidate? If you want socialism, the only way you can express your view is by writing “WORLD SOCIALISM” across your ballot paper.

Friday, June 14, 2024

SPGB Meeting TONIGHT 1930 (GMT +1) ZOOM



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The SPGB was founded on 12 June 1904.
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