Socialist Studies Socialist Studies

The Case For Socialism

THE CASE FOR SOCIALISM

At the current time of protests “against” capitalism until recently, in Wall Street, and the City of London, it’s worth considering the positive case for socialism. At a time when the Eurzone politicians are scuttling around trying to out fox each other, the workers of Europe and elsewhere are promised dire hardship unless some deal can be hatched. At a time when church leaders, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, are calling for an extra tax on bankers and seemingly fair minded commentators nod with approval at this not so novel, “Robin Hood” approach to capitalist redistribution, the workers are again threatened with horrendous drops in living standards. At a time when workers in Syria are being killed in the streets, the current dictator there uses his control over the armed forces to try to sustain his grip on political power. At a time when yet another war seems to be looming in the middle east between Israel and Iran, the sabres, (possibly nuclear ones), are being rattled. At a time when some 30,000 children die every day of poverty related issues, mostly in places like Africa, obesity presents itself as a major health risk among the more advanced countries’ workers. Time indeed to consider the case for socialism!

WHAT IS SOCIALISM?

The bare bones of what socialism will be, is quoted in all SPGB literature, as our Object:

A system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interests of the whole community.” What a magnificent concept! A concept yet to be realised, but one very much within our grasp! Wealth is to be produced to satisfy human needs, rather than as a means to profit for a privileged minority and parasite class. There will be no private ownership of the means of production and distribution, therefore no conflicts over ownership. Conflicts of ownership within capitalist society probably account for the most common uses of the police, judiciary, prison systems and the armed forces than any other single item. If there are no conflicts of ownership, there can be no wars! Wars are fought for real things such as Iraq’s, Kuwait’s, or Libya’s oil and gas fields. Wars are never fought for such esoteric motives as “defending democracy”, “protecting civilians”, or “opposing tyranny”, although these, and other high sounding phrases, are often used in the justification presented by the various warring governments, as to why the workers should be willing and able to massacre other workers, or be massacred themselves. Needless to say, all wars are claimed as “defensive”, and God is invariably on the side of every army competing!

So within socialist society, there will be a driving force to satisfy human needs. There will be a willingness to co-operate and help each other. With no private ownership of the means of production and therefore no money relationships, there will be a desperate need and desire to rectify the problems left over by capitalist society. Not least the malnourished, diseased, and poverty stricken victims of capitalism’s so-called “free market”. (If you can’t afford it, go without and possibly you starve! )

One of the consequences of establishing socialism will be the changing nature of the workforce, - yes even socialism requires workers! Humans can’t live without working! The nature of the work will change profoundly. Gone will be the armies of lawyers, bankers, salesmen, insurance brokers, money gamblers of all kinds, police, judiciary, armed forces, and all the other current paraphernalia of society to protect and help distribute wealth among capitalist society. There will a sudden injection of useful human labour into society never before seen in history. And the majority of such a new injection of labour will be willingly doing what was unavailable before. Your derivative dealer may find it more rewarding to use his/her skills in calculating the odds of bad harvests in S.E. Asia, than in betting on the prices of various stock in say 6 months’ time. Such people will have the opportunity for the first time to use their skills for the betterment of their fellow humans, including themselves! Actual productive work! As there will be no employment, therefore there can be no unemployment. A state of capitalism whereby a section of the working class is either lucky enough to be exploited, or unlucky enough to be on the scrapheap of the “industrial reserve army” as Marx put it. Current estimates put the global number of unemployed workers at around 200 million, or more than the whole workforce of Europe, or of the USA! Workers who would be desperate to be producing profits for their masters, but who are denied access to the “free” labour market, the biggest market in the world. And only a market because under capitalism, things, including human labour, have to be bought and sold. But before things can be bought and sold, they first have to be produced! Without human labour, nothing new is produced! No rabbits out of hats, nor a universe in 6 days by an omnipotent God. No, pure hard work produces wealth, nothing else. Get over it economists!

So to put it in a few words, the case FOR socialism is that it will lead to the removal of the major problems presented by capitalism, war, poverty, housing, unemployment, insecurity. Bearing in mind that socialism MUST be established by a willing majority, it will result in a population of workers who want to solve the major problems thrown up by capitalism, so that they in turn can enjoy “the fruits of their labour”. Before the workers can use their votes to dispossess the capitalists, they must first have some understanding of what capitalism is and what socialism will be.

WHAT IS CAPITALISM?

The first Principle of the SPGB’s Declaration of Principles gives a succinct definition of capitalism:

“That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (I.e. land, factories, railways etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.!

In other words it’s the class ownership of the means of production by a minority class, which results in the majority of the population being dependent upon a wage or a salary for a living. Whilst banks, stock markets, bond markets and the like are very much part of the workings of capitalism, they are not all it consists of. Such institutions assist in the circulation of capital, but not in its production. Before things can be bought and sold, they first have to be produced by human labour plus materials. Those people protesting outside St Paul’s Cathedral have “anti-capitalism” banners, but they probably have no clue as to what capitalism is. In fact we know they are on shaky ground when such luminaries as The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan (backwards) Williams, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, ex banker and now an Anglican church Warden, Ken Costa, and a host of other celebrities, mouth their support for the aims of the demonstration. If indeed there are such aims! The main thing that comes out of the demonstration is that the protestors want to see higher rates of tax for certain bankers and the like. Williams wants to see a “Tobin” or Robin Hood tax on high flying city earners. But the mere fact that these high fliers have to turn up for work on a Monday morning, puts them among the peanut sellers of the, would-be, capitalist class. For real wealth, we need to look to someone like Gina Rinehart, currently Australia’s richest person and expected to overtake the world’s No. 2 billionaire, Carlos Slim, and No. 1 Bill Gates. Her wealth is based on the outright ownership of large mining companies in western Australia, and the currently booming demand for the products they yield from places like China and India. She is currently worth about $9 billion, Carlos Slim, about $46 billion, and Bill Gates about $56 billion, but what a meteoric rise! From Wikipedia:

Meanwhile, in 2007 she first appeared on Forbes Asia Australia's 40 Richest, with an estimated wealth of US$1 billion;[20] more than doubling that the next year to US$2.4 billion; and then, in spite of the global financial crisis, by 2011 had more than trebled to US$9 billion.[2] Releasing the results in February 2011, Forbes was the first to name her as Australia's richest person; with BRW conferring the same title in May that year. In June 2011, Citigroup estimated that she is on course to overtake Carlos Slim, the Mexican magnate worth £46 billion (US$74 billion) and Bill Gates, who is worth £35 billion (US$56 billion), mainly because she owns her companies outright. Using a price-to-earnings ratio or 11:1, “It is possible to see Rinehart’s portfolio of coal and iron ore production spinning off annual profits approaching US$10 billion,” giving her a “personal net worth valuation of more than US$100 billion.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gina_Rinehart

No having to buy and sell Greek or Italian Bonds for her. No betting on derivatives or other fictional capital. She’s the real deal! She owns actual stuff, - capital! And she owns her companies outright, - no having to worry about pesky share holders who might bellyache about her management. (Unlike poor Richard Murdoch and his empire!) As far as we know, the Archbishop of Canterbury has not protested to anyone about her meteoric rise, nor her earnings! Presumably she pays the correct amount of Australian tax, so there would be no need to protest her earnings? Would they call an Australian Tobin tax a “Ned Kelly” tax? With his usual precision, and not without wit, Marx nailed the Church of England’s view on private property in the 1st Preface to Capital: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gina_Rinehar “The Church of England would rather give up 38 of its 39 Articles than one 39th of its income”.

How perceptive he was! And how true that the established Church of England is thoroughly wedded to the ideas of capitalism, private property, and its apparent “eternity”. Just like its God in fact! And whilst Archbishop Williams complains about highly paid workers in the city, the Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Flankbein told The SUNDAY TIMES about 2 years ago: “I’m doing God’s work

To explain he went on:

We’re very important,” Blankfein is quoted as saying in The Times of London. “We help companies to grow by helping them to raise capital. Companies that grow create wealth. This, in turn, allows people to have jobs that create more growth and more wealth. It’s a virtuous cycle.”
http://articles.businessinsider.com/2009-11-09/wall_street/30054567_1_blankfein-goldman-sachs-year-end-bonuses

Isn’t it nice and reassuring that the Almighty pays such keen attention to the niceties of capitalism, especially as it’s such a benevolent system of society and works in “virtuous cycles”? The 200 million odd workers in the world without jobs currently, might feel slightly different about it.

The fact that Gina Rinehart’s companies sell a lot of their minerals, iron and coal to China, doesn’t mean that that particular “communist” country ignores the dictates of the “free market”, and Chinese companies can and do go elsewhere for their raw materials. And as usual, the local workers bear the brunt of rapacious capitalism. The BBC News reports of a Chinese run coal mine at Collum in Zambia, where the workers: “are furious with their Chinese bosses.” Apparently:

At least 11 miners were allegedly shot by two Chinese managers during a protest about poor conditions in October.

The long road leading up to the mine in the southern rural district of Sinazongwe is covered in black coal dust, but otherwise there is not a hint that the 21st Century has reached the area.

And this is what has angered the miners.

They feel that while the Chinese benefit from the mine and live comfortably, they remain in poverty often renting mud-walled huts lacking basic facilities
.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11898960

Welcome to the realities of capitalism! Those so-called “Communist” capitalists will treat you just as badly, if not worse than those “imperialist” capitalists. As something like 6000 plus miners, died in China’s mines in the last year, the African mine is continuing to fly the flag for rampant capitalism! Profit before human need, - at all costs! Incidentally the Chinese mine managers in Africa were probably just workers like those they allegedly shot! Capitalism always gets its workers to do its dirty work. No doubt God looks the other way in the universe? When the government minister Mr Elijah Muchima visited the area he told the Chinese mine director Mr. Xu:

"Your investment is important but our labour is more important….. "If you find that business is not profitable, close it down. Other people will come…. "If it's not profitable, go away. If it's not profitable, you would not have been here for nine years."

Mr Xu responded in apologetic fashion:

The mine director attributed his company's poor pay to problems it faces in marketing its coal.

"Our clients are mainly Zambian copper mines but sometimes they import coal from Zimbabwe," Mr Xu said, speaking through an interpreter.

Collum currently produces an average of 150,000 metric tonnes of coal, which earns the mine up to $6m (£4m) a year
. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11898960

A clear case of the tentacles of capitalism extending even into the most undeveloped areas of the world and causing its trademark problems. The Archbishop of Canterbury has recently expressed his concern about the treatment of homosexuals in Uganda, but to date we await his opinion of the normal functioning of capitalism in Zambia.

Meanwhile back in Britain, the church officials are busily seeking the “spiritual” values of capitalism:

A former senior banker is to lead an initiative aimed at helping the City to reconnect with its moral foundations.

Ken Costa, an Anglican church warden, has been asked by the Bishop of London Richard Chartres to start a dialogue about ethical capitalism
.

Ethical capitalism” indeed! We will certainly need an army of theologians to explain what that expression means! The very essence of capitalism relies upon the exploitation of the workers, - wage slavery! Only a theologian could explain the ethics of “fair” exploitation. We include economists among the general term “theologians”, for their grasp of reality is just as flimsy, even if their particular god, profit, is a different one.

Costa continued:

"We split up the human person and said look you're only a financial person, try and get financial returns, and forgot that there was ethical and a spiritual dimension to humans as well," he said.

"We've seen huge levels of stress. We've seen judgements that have had to be made without much wisdom, and we've seen a departure from the framework that the prime minister told us moral capitalism needed
."
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15619089

To the employer, the worker is only a “financial person”, as indeed is the employee to the employer. This is the reality of class society. Workers are only employed if a profit is anticipated from such employment. No holy ghost, “spiritual dimension” nor transcendent feelings are required. Only hard labour, - or else! It would perhaps be kinder to people like Ken Costa, to say that they represent the guilty conscience of capitalism, rather than to say that they are utopian reformers who stand for the eternal exploitation of the workers, but hope to palliate the inevitable results and problems of capitalism. Either description is valid! It seems that in that most Christian of advanced countries, the USA, that the forces of the state are used to break up the Wall Street protest campers, whose sentiments are echoed by Christians! It brings to mind the fact that the various European and American Christians were happy, nay compelled, to slaughter each other during world war 2, and feel it was the right thing to do! We wonder which way God was looking, - maybe at Hiroshima, or Auschwitz?

WHAT SOCIALISM ISN’T

“Socialism” appears to be one of those words which means all things to all people. Certainly it appears to have some sort of connection with the “common man”. It also seems to have some sort of connection with state interference or ownership of industries. It also appears to be able to ignore its international origins and become entirely patriotic, as and when conditions require. Even Hitler claimed to be a national “socialist”. Then we get the strange phenomenon of various “socialist” countries going to war with each other as in the case of “socialist” Israel and “socialist” Egypt. Or border clashes between “socialist” Russia and “socialist” China. In Britain no longer do we have Labour governments claiming to be “socialist”, but they certainly used to. When the coal mines were nationalised after WW2 some deluded miners felt that the mines now belonged to them! Of course they still had to turn up for their shifts, work for wages and endure the “normal” problems of capitalism as they had before the government had taken over ownership. In other words, capitalism carried on normally, but with the government as the employer! The miners certainly weren’t any better off. We wonder how Gina Rinehart’s miners are faring? Probably better than the British miners fared after nationalisation, and certainly better than the Zambian miners under “communist” control! Other misconceptions include the odd idea that Barack Obama is a “Marxist”, and the ex president George Bush, together with Hank Paulson (US Treasury Secretary and ex CEO of Goldman Sachs), were “socialists” in arranging government aid to AIG, the ailing insurance company. Yes even in the so-called, “free market” USA, the government can and DOES intervene in the economy. As and when it sees fit of course. So if that is “socialism”, we want no part of it. Of course it has nothing to do with socialism, as it has been defined above, and in line with the original meaning. State interference or ownership of industry has NOTHING to do with socialism. The workers are still exploited whether by private or public capital.

In keeping with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sentiment of opposing excess profit taking, can we look to the Bible for inspiration? There we have Jesus faced with a question about whether a person should pay his taxes or not. (Riding around on donkeys with a sword and bodyguard was probably the most efficient system of tax collection at the time). Jesus, in all His profound deity, proclaims “render unto Caesar that which is his”! The Roman Empire was not capitalist based, but it was based upon slavery, whereupon all the useful work, mostly agricultural, was performed by slaves, supporting the luxurious lifestyle of a privileged class. No wonder Marx admired the slave rebel Spartacus! Unlike the modern “free” worker, the slave was literally the property of his/her owner, to do with as s/he wished, including physical harm and if necessary death. So here we have the, in theory, creator of the universe in 6 days, no less, being asked whether or not to pay taxes to a slave emperor! And he says YES! Jesus condones slavery!

Of course some argue that Jesus was the first socialist because he said words to the effect of “give your possessions away and follow me“. But what has that got to do with socialism? Absolutely nothing! Giving away stuff only means that someone else is now the owner. Private property hasn’t been done away with. And anyway how did these desert prophets hope to feed, clothe and house themselves, unless it was at someone else’s expense? Giving stuff away is NOT socialism! Probably Bill Gates gives more “stuff” away than anyone else in the world. Does that make him a “socialist”? Hardly! As to whether Bill Gates is a Christian, well he‘s reported as saying:

The specific elements of Christianity are not something I'm a huge believer in.
http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Believer's%20Corner/meet_a_few_atheists.htm

Here is the currently biggest capitalist in the world denying Jesus! Well although he gives lots of stuff away, he’s certainly no socialist. But maybe we can persuade him to become one? Even the richest man in the world can only eat one meal at a time, be in one place at a time, and only do one thing at a time. For all his wealth, Bill Gates is just a human, - just like the rest of us. Maybe he could get fed-up with living in a fortress; having body guards around; constantly worrying if his kids will be kidnapped; constant fear for his own assassination; inability to go to the local pub for a pint or walk down the street, etc. Even minor capitalists like David Beckham face these problems! And he still, has to pretend to play football, and she, Victoria, still has to pretend to sing!

So socialism is not about ex Russian USSR “communists” arguing in the high court about who gave what to whom, as in the Beresovsky v Abramovich case, where Beresovsky is suing Abramovich for £3 billion. Come on comrades, - hardly in the spirit of international co-operation, now is it? One of their former confederates and previously Russia’s richest man Khordovosky is still in jail in Russia, basically for trying to interfere in Russia’s political process. He got too rich, too quick! Send for the Sherriff of Nottingham! Yes even “free market” Russia, still has the political power to send people to jail for crimes against ownership! In the Abramovich case the name of Oleg Deripaska has cropped up. Another mysterious Russian billionaire, whose presence was only detected after Gorbachev left office! Could this by any chance be the same person on whose yacht Peter Mandelson met various other “influential” people whilst he was Labour Government representative? Yes indeed! How strange! The Guardian 7th November 2011 had this to say about the case:

Abramovich v Berezovsky: what have we learned so far?

The biggest private litigation case in the world has opened up the secret world of the oligarchs

It is Britain's most colourful legal battle. On one side is Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea FC. On the other is Boris Berezovsky, the former Kremlin insider turned political exile who is now Moscow's biggest headache. Over the past month the two oligarchs have been slugging it out in London's high court.

Berezovsky says Abramovich, his former friend, cheated him out of more than $5bn. Abramovich denies this. Both men have faced hours of gruelling cross-examination, and accusations that they have lied about – or conveniently forgotten – what happened when they made their fortunes in the murky Russia of the mid-1990s. Abramovich is likely to finish his stint in the witness box on Tuesday. The case will continue for several more weeks.

The legal drama has opened a tantalising window into the secretive world of Russia's mega-rich. It's a place of off-shore bank accounts, luxury cruises in the Caribbean and business deals done in five-star London hotels. Its cast is equalling fascinating: the best QCs money can buy, bodyguards in dark shades who silently patrol the corridors like silent trolls, blonde Russian women, journalists who have flown in from Moscow and PR consultants
.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/07/abramovich-berezovsky

It seems that Abramovich is claiming that he no longer had to pay Beresovsky “krysha”, or what basically amounts to bribes and protection money once Beresovsky had fallen out of favour with Putin’s Moscow administration, and come to live in London! Even so $5 billion is a quite impressive amount of money! Abramovich’s barrister’s fee is estimated at between £3 million and £10 million, and he has put off becoming a judge to take on Abramovich’s case! Who can blame him?

Capitalists of the world Unite! Tighten those chains! You have a world to lose!

And that is exactly what they do. The capitalists are the most unpatriotic, most pragmatic and the least xenophobic people on the planet! The international appeal of amassing capital and profit transcends national, philosophical, religious and racial boundaries. The law of value applies itself throughout the world and is no respecter of individuals. True democracy rules among the holders of capital!

WHAT CAPITALISM ISN’T

It isn’t the highest stage of human history. It isn’t eternal, nor God given. It isn’t a society that benefits the majority of its people. It isn’t the so-called “free market”, nor does its “freedom” mean much to the workers. The “freedom” to choose one employer over another!. The “freedom” to vote for capitalist representing clone parties! The freedom to live and die in poverty, whether absolute or relative. The “freedom” to contest $5 billion court cases. The “freedom” spend a working lifetime paying off a mortgage, if you are lucky enough! The “freedom” to enter the lottery, and if you win enough, become a member of the fourth division capitalist class. The “freedom” to buy a house wherever you want, - as long as you have the money! The “freedom” to be unemployed and “independent” of the capitalist class. As ex Cardinal Murphy- O’Connor put it (in a different context. He was referring to non-believers.), the freedom to be “less than fully human”! In other words the “freedom” to be wage-slaves.

Nor is capitalism beneficial to its workers. Nor does it give them a safe and secure environment. With numerous wars, conflicts and disputes since the war to end all wars in 1914 -1918. Nor does it provide them with a vision of a better society, only ever threatening them with, ( and providing), harder times ahead. Nor does capitalism present a level playing field when it comes to the dissemination of ideas. Its media, of all kinds, are heavily weighed to support the prevailing ideas of the ruling class. The Greek, Italian, Spanish and now French government debt problems are presented as being of some vital interest to the workers, whereas, they are in fact only of interest to those who have loaned capital for government bonds.

The problems of capitalism are presented as being all about government or corporate debt, whereas the basic problems of the workers are ignored. Berlusconi can sing his way into the sunset, but he will remain a very rich and influential capitalist. The Italian workers will not be any better off because he’s gone.

Of course the real answer to the problems of capitalism is to abolish it and establish socialism as defined earlier. Whilst socialism itself will have its problems, the main case for socialism must be that it will do away with the major problems of capitalism. Poverty, war, class struggle, unemployment, insecurity and everything else that a society based upon inequality throws at the workers.

The way for the workers to do that is to educate themselves about socialism and capitalism. Take the necessary democratic political action to dispossess the capitalist class through using the Parliamentary method and then establish a society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution. A society, where for the first time, the majority will act on its own behalf. All will be social equals, and the overriding desire of society will be to solve the horrendous problems left behind by capitalism.

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