All the contenders for the Labour Party leadership claim to be "socialist" and their policies somehow representative of "socialism". In her speech to Labour Party members in Manchester, Rebecca Long Bailey, backed by Momentum, managed to mention socialism no less than three times in her speech to rapturous applause. She was never asked what she meant by socialism.
However, none of the would-be contenders for leadership of her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, Starmer, Long Bailey, Nandy and Thornberry, want to abolish capitalism. They are all for capitalism but want capitalism administered by the Labour Party and not the Tories. Instead of "Neo-liberalism" with its privatisation and "un-fettered markets" they want capitalism reformed or regulated to a certain degree. They are all Keynesians not students of Marx. What they all have in common is no interest at all in the abolition of class society.
All that the would-be leaders of the Labour Party can offer to their members and the non-socialist working class on whose votes they depend is capitalism. Capitalism is all about making profit based on the private ownership of the means of production and distribution to the exclusion of the majority. Capitalism means class struggle between capitalists and workers over the intensity and extent of class exploitation. Capitalism means, war, poverty, unemployment and a working class stamped "second best."
It is to placate the membership that the candidates for the leadership have to refer to themselves as "socialist" even though they and the members of the Labour Party have not a clue what socialism means. Socialists they are not.
It is highly unlikely that any Labour member attending the hustings realises that socialism means the absence of buying and selling, and the abolition of the wages system. None of them realises that socialism must be a global system without national frontiers, border guards and barbed wire. None of them accept that socialism is the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society. Socialism is production directly to meet human needs not for profit. And the Labour Party sees nothing wrong with profit making and the capitalist class who make profit from exploiting the workers.
A large proportion of the electorate currently has little or no criticism of capitalism and is politically and socially conservative. They vote for leaders, for the so-called national interest, for maintaining the capitalist class and for their own class exploitation. The workers whose votes Labour need to beat the Tories are patriotic and nationalistic. And they are against immigration even though many are children of immigrants.
The reality is the type of reform politics championed by Momentum will never get the support they need from a sizeable proportion of the capitalist-supporting working class.
Like Corbyn, Momentum and its reformist policies is a luxury the Labour Party cannot afford if wants to become a government. It is clear who the next Labour leader will court - the non-socialist working class, not Momentum. Like the Tories and Liberals, they woo the votes of those who describe themselves as "aspirational" â€“ the home owners, the small businesses, the ambitious.
Socialism depends on the existence of a socialist majority understanding and wanting socialism. There is no insurmountable barrier preventing workers from becoming socialists. However, there are barriers and the Labour Party is one of them. The Labour Party can never be socialist and it can never establish socialism. It does not exist for this purpose. The Labour Party is the Twedledum to the Tory Party's Tweedledee.
Once Socialism is understood by workers, it is clear that the Labour Party can only ever be a capitalist party, one that runs capitalism in the interest of the capitalist class. This is what it has done since its formation in 1906. Even to the point where, in world wars and colonial wars, Labour in coalition or in government sent thousands of conscripted workers to their deaths. And if elected to power it would continue to run capitalism until at such time a socialist majority sends the Labour Party and the other capitalist political parties to the political graveyard. So what to do? Those who are socialists wanting a revolutionary change should be taking democratic and political action in a principled socialist party. They should begin the hard work now of persuading workers to become socialists, stand on their own two feet, and think for themselves politically, without the need for leaders.
Let the Labour Party become "conservative lite" with its leaders and the led. Let the new leader pass the Murdoch test, bow and scrape for his blessing and be no threat to his interests and the interests of his class. If elected, they will do no better or worse than the Tories. They will go to war, support NATO, continue unscrupulous arm sales, experience periodic economic crises and trade depressions, impose pay pauses and wage freezes, use armed forces to break union strikes, and have a leader, who if hardpressed, will push the button unleashing a nuclear war. Better be an honest, principled socialist than an opportunistic member of the Labour Party.
1066 And All That Brexit
Socialists have consistently pointed out that the European Union is a capitalist institution and is not in the interest of workers to support. Also, the United Kingdom is a capitalist state and we as socialists argue that workers have no interest in the affairs of the British capitalist class, its politicians and its government. The only fundamental issue for workers to consider is how best to unite and take democratic and political action for the abolition of capitalism and its replacement with socialism - a society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.
Nevertheless, the United Kingdom has now left the European Union. And many workers believe that they will benefit from Brexit and face "a new dawn" and "sunny uplands". With the passing of the EU, parties and wakes were held on Friday January 31st 2020. There were celebrations and dancing in the streets with much Jingoistic flag-waving from the leavers and tears of sorrow from the remainers.
And most of those doing both the celebrating and the weeping were workers. Millions of workers erroneously took sides in the debate over the trading arrangements of the British capitalist class with their European competitors. But have the economic and social circumstances really changed with the coming and passing of 31st January 2020? There is a lesson from history. Some dates are irrelevant, unremarkable and insignificant. And the day the UK left the EU was one of them.
In history lessons, school children used to have to remember dates of kings, battles, and conquest. 1066 always loomed large as a date which had to be remembered. The book they were forced to read was OUR ISLAND STORY (1905) by H. E. Marshall. It was a book praised by David Cameron when he was Prime Minister. In chapter 24, the story is told of the Battle of Hastings with its date of Saturday, October 15th, 1066. Not 1065, not 1067 but 1066. For 1066 was the year that the Norman William defeated Saxon Harold at the battle of Hastings and became King of England and forever remembered as William the Conqueror. The "free Born Englishman", we were told by the Leveller John Lilburne and others in the 17th century, was lost on this day to the "Norman Yoke" as lands were ruthlessly and bloodily passed from the Saxon nobility to the Norman usurpers.
What was the reality? For the serfs living in Anglo Saxon England before the Norman Conquest it was no bed of roses. They were an exploited class tied to the land, the property of the Lord and his manor. Life was hard and relentless. This situation did not change after the Norman Conquest when one ruling class was replaced by another ruling class.
Hard remitting work, day-in and day-out was the lot of the serf. There was no difference being beaten by an Anglo Saxon lord than it was by a Norman one. Having to give tithes to a Saxon Bishop was no different than having to give tithes to a Norman one.
The "Free Born Englishman" is of course a myth; a fairy tale. We are born into a class and a class system in which the means of production are owned and controlled by a capitalist class. The majority, the working class, i.e. most of us, are born into wage slavery. We are born into poverty which forces us as adults and in some cases as children to work for a wage or a salary. We have to sell our labour power as a commodity in exchange for wages. And as a class we are exploited in the productive process. Workers produce "surplus value" which is the unearned income going to the employers as rent, interest and property.
This was the case while British capitalism was still in the European Union just as will be the case after January 31st 2020. The capitalist class own and control the means of production and distribution in or out of the EU, not the workers. Brexit means nothing to the working class and staying in the EU serves no working class interests. Workers do not have an interest in free trade deals, customs and excise, tariffs and all the other commercial arrangements associated with imports and exports.
Production for profit will continue, as will exploitation - and poverty and homelessness. Whichever side of the Channel workers find themselves, whether in France and in the EU, or England and outside it, workers will be struggling to make ends meet on meagre pay or pensions, worrying about job security, housing and health issues etc. Such problems are hardly touched by international trade agreements.
Nationalism - and even overt racism - which fuelled the Brexit campaign, with its divisive rhetoric, has been deeply damaging. The EU, whatever its faults, was an attempt to prevent a recurrence of the nationalism which brought about such horrific European wars in the 20th century and earlier. The ideal was to promote peaceful integration, better understanding of the peoples of the continent. However the ideas of the EU founders came up against the reality of capitalism. "Fortress Europe", the EU's anti immigration policies and its own expansionism has been part of this problem. The Brexit movement's success marked a return to pre-1939 populism and pre-1914 chauvinism. Class solidarity is never reflected in the media's endless Brexit wars.
The memorable date of 1066 was sent up in a book called 1066 AND ALL THAT (1930), written by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman and illustrated by John Reynolds. It was a spoof aimed at the way history was taught - as a series of dates, of kings/queens and so on with a minimum of information. Ironically the book ended with the United State becoming the "Top Nation" and history coming to an end.
If 1066 is an unremarkable date for the working class to remember what of January 31st 2020? Is this a "memorable date"? There was no partying by socialists or wearing of dark arm bands. Socialists did not give a toss.
The class position of the Saxon serfs mirrors that of the working class today. Serfs were an exploited class prior to the Norman Conquest, just as they were afterwards. Workers were an exploited class before Britain joined the Common Market, almost 50 years ago, as we are now leaving the EU on the 31st January 2020 and will remain an exploited class afterwards. Workers are still tied to the capitalist class. They still produce more in social wealth than they receive in wages and salaries. They face the same problems of poverty, periodic periods of high unemployment, poor housing and second best health care and other goods and services they and their families need to live on.
The real question facing the working class is not Brexit but: capitalism or socialism? Will our future continue to be one of class ownership, production for profit and the exploitation under the wages system - punctuated by periodic wars? Or a future of hope with common ownership, democratic control, production directly to satisfy people's needs, and distribution on the principle of "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs"? A remarkable date for socialists will be when world socialism is established. And with the abolition of money there will be no celebratory 50 pence pieces. Nor will there be the waving of nationalistic flags. There will be fireworks and dancing in the streets. Hopefully it will be soon.
The Consolidation of Capital and the Communist Manifesto
When Marx and Engels first wrote the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO in 1848 most of Europe was still Feudal. Marx and Engels commented that:
"In...the Middle Ages (we have), feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen apprentices, serfs; in almost all these classes, again subordinate gradations."
(COMMUNIST MANIFESTO (p. 60).
Feudalism was the dominant social system which existed in Europe during the Middle Ages. The feudal mode of production was based on the effective possession of land by the Crown, Lords and the Church. The peasants "owned" some of the means of production within the Manorial system but they were exploited by having either to give away a portion of their produce or work in kind, pay tithes, rent and taxes. Political force and religion were used as means of social control. In the townships there were feudal guilds with masters and journeymen with rigid control through a system of masters, journeymen and apprenticeships. Feudalism gave way to capitalism.
By the end of the eighteenth century half the population of Western Europe were wage workers (Heller, page 15). This meant that working class labour was available to generate surplus value and profits to the capitalist class.
The working out of the new material social conditions, as capitalism emerged from feudalism, caused violent revolutions and political convulsions, such as the English Civil War (1641 - 1651), the Glorious Revolution (1688) and the Reform Act (1832), new ideas and beliefs favouring an emerging capitalist class, and the social transformation of feudal relationships into capitalist ones. Centuries of primitive capital accumulation, social upheavals, mass dispossession of peasants and small farmers and political revolutions were required before the Industrial Revolution could be established and commodity production could be organised and centralised into factories. As Marx and Engels wrote of this consolidation:
Modern Industry has converted the little workshop of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industrial capitalist. Masses of labourers, crowded into the factory, are organised like soldiers. As privates of the industrial army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself. The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering it is.
(COMMUNIST MANIFESTO AND THE LAST HUNDRED YEARS, SPGB, 1948 p. 67).
In fact, Marx and Engels opened up the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO praising the modernising tendencies of capitalism and the capitalist class and it is in the MANIFESTO that we find the insights about capitalism as a world system and the spread of commodity production and exchange for profit throughout the world. The creative destruction that modern capitalist society unleashed, in which "everything that is solid melts into air", is for Marx and Engels a precondition for the development of the productive forces. Under capitalism the productive forces have been developed to the point where there is the potential for abundance and adequate distribution of goods and services to meet the needs of all society: communism.
Capitalism had opened the world for business and this can be seen already in 1848 with the expansion of the market into the Americas, China and East India. Marx and Engels commented on this fact when they wrote: The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians' intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e. to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image. (Communist manifesto, p. 64). Capitalism, though, had its economic and social problems. Commodity production was riven through with contradictions and conflict. Capitalism could not meet the needs of all society.
The productive forces became too powerful for the narrow constraint of profit-making of capitalist relations of production. Capitalism became a barrier on the further development of the forces of production, including co-operative and social labour. The productive forces increasingly became "fettered", creating disorder, economic crises and class struggle. As Marx and Engels noted:
The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society, has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.
(COMMUNIST MANIFESTO p. 60).
Without the intervention of craftsman and workers the capitalist class by itself could not have overthrown feudalism and established capitalism. In all the battles with the Feudal order, the capitalist class had been:
"...compelled to appeal to the proletariat, to ask for its help, and thus drag it into the political arena."
(THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, 69).
Capitalism dragged the working class into the political arena. It forced the working class to think and act politically. It taught workers that it had its own class interests distinct from the employing class.
It was not until the 1800s that the centralised factory system in cities and towns allowed capitalism to begin to realise its full exploitive potential. The first steam loom factory was built in Manchester in 1806. In 1835 there were 116,800 power looms in Great Britain, all but six per cent in the cotton industry.
"The Manchester capitalist from his mountain, like Moses on Pisgah, beheld the promised land."
(Eric Williams, CAPITALISM AND SLAVERY p. 128).
And the primary motor force driving this historical process was the class struggle. Increasingly, with the development of the factory system capitalism left two great classes directly facing each other: "Bourgeoisie and Proletariat" (COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, p 61). From an "incoherent mass" workers, over time, grew in strength and were able to form trade unions and later political organisations establishing socialist ideas and revolutionary socialist aims.
Wage-labour in Britain was becoming increasingly common. Over half the households in 16th-century England were at least partly dependent on wage labour (James Fulcher CAPITALISM 2004, pp 22). As industrial capitalism developed, conflict over wages became increasingly organised. The spinners in the Mills, for example, defended themselves against wage reductions through their unions, first locally then regionally and nationally.
According to James Fulcher:
In 1810, 1818 and 1830 there were increasingly organised strikes, but these were defeated by the employers, with the assistance of the state, which arrested strikers and imprisoned union leaders. The employers had created their own associations, so that they could 'black-list' union militants, answer strikes with 'lock-outs', and provide mutual financial support. (pp6)
All previous class systems were systems of exploitation and class struggle. Capitalism is no exception. And, under the right social and political circumstances, there will be or could be a further social system: socialism - a classless society of free men and women in which:
In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and antagonisms, we shall see an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. (COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, p. 81).
Once capitalism had been consolidated as a world-wide social system in its own right, the French economist, Louis Auguste Blanqui wrote that Britain had undergone an 'industrial revolution' HISTOIRE DE L'ECONOMIE POLITIQUE, 1837). The term also appeared in THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING CLASS IN ENGLAND by Frederich Engels, which was published in 1845. By 1884 the term "industrial revolution" was in common usage after the publication, four years earlier, of an article "Lectures on the Industrial Revolution" (1884) by Arnold Toynbee. There had been a revolution, but the historical circumstances of its birth, when "capital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt" (CAPITAL, vol. 1, Marx p. 926), had been largely forgotten.
With every new circuit of capital, from investment, circulation and back again, capitalism has become nothing more than a world-wide social system of class exploitation. The capitalist class pays for its luxury, its fine and sophisticated living and its expanding wealth and privilege in "a currency of blood and wretchedness", as the academic, Terry Eagleton once put it (Marxism as a Theodicy, York University, 14 May 2010). There is an alternative: a "Communistic revolution".
"The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win."
(COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, p. 92).
The Failure of Keynesian Policies
In the depression of the thirties, with unemployment rising to peak levels and governments toppling because of their inability to do anything about it, most economists and many political parties were overjoyed to adopt the theories of J. M. Keynes, which held out to them the guarantee that capitalism's principal troubles were over. This is not surprising since Keynes promised continued full employment - the end of depressions with their accompanying massive demonstrations of working class discontent, the removal of one of the causes of war, and the arrival of lots of other good things. Keynes, they said, had revolutionised economic thought, blotted out the growing interest in Marx's theories, and made capitalism safe.
In 1944 the three parties. Tory, Labour and Liberal, all part of the war-time National government, formally endorsed the main Keynesian doctrines in the government White Paper, Employment Policy, which set out the principles to be followed by post-war governments.
The attitudes of the three parties have partly changed since then. While the Labour Party, the Liberals and their allies the Social Democratic Party are still unrepentant Keynesians - as also are some Tories - the main body of the Tories, under Thatcher's leadership, have thrown Keynes over and adopted the theories of Professor Milton Friedman.
Some leaders of the Labour Party went through a phase of doubting their saviour when Callaghan, the then Labour Prime Minister, and Healey the Chancellor of the Exchequer adopted the "monetarist" policies now followed by the Thatcher government. It is for this reason that the present leader of the Labour Party, Michael Foot, gives 1976 as the date of the abandonment of those Keynesian principles which, he says, "for a quarter of a century or more, worked with such beneficial effects"
(NEW STATESMAN, 26 November 1982).
The Keynesian argument is that if the demand for goods is maintained at a high level, industry is kept busy and unemployment will remain low. The "demand management" cure for rising unemployment is therefore for the government to increase its expenditure and investment, meeting the additional cost by borrowing; this will, the Keynesians say, increase the number of jobs. It is crucial for the Keynesian argument that the increase of government expenditure and investment should not be offset by a simultaneous fall in the investment by private industry. The Keynesians claim indeed that increased expenditure by the government will positively stimulate investment and activity in private industry.
The Keynesians have an early showpiece, supposed to vindicate Keynes, in the Roosevelt New Deal in America. A Keynesian admirer of the New Deal is Dudley Dillard, sometime Professor of Economics at Maryland University who wrote about it in his THE ECONOMICS OF J.M. KEYNES (Lochwood & Son, London. 1948).
In his book, Professor Dillard compared the Keynesian policy of the New Deal with what happened in Great Britain at the same time, under the anti-Keynesian National government. His specific claim for Roosevelt is:
The economic expansion between 1933 and 1937, despite occasional minor relapses, was one of the most rapid in the history of American business cycles. The speed of this recovery was undoubtedly conditioned by the depths to which activity had plummeted in 1932. It was, nevertheless, a remarkable recovery which was nurtured by fairly large-scale loan expenditure. (p. 127).
So how successful was the New Deal with its Keynesian policies? Unemployment in America was 24.1 per cent in 1932, the year when Roosevelt became President, and 25.2 per cent in 1933. By 1937 it was down to 14.3 per cent, though it rose again in 1938 to 19.1 per cent, which is nearly double what it is in America in 1983. In Britain at the same time, with a government running a non-Keynesian policy, unemployment fell from 22.1 percent in 1932 and 19.9 per cent in 1933 to 10.8 per cent in 1937. and it was 13.5 per cent in 1938. So, as Marxist theory would lead us to expect, the trend of unemployment was much the same whether the policy was Keynesian or not.
And what about the Keynesian argument that increased government expenditure stimulates private industry? In the pre-depression year 1929, "government expenditure, including capital expenditure" was $22 billion, and "gross private domestic fixed investment" was $39.5 billion. In 1938 the former had risen to $34.2 billion but the latter had dropped to $21.5 billion. As the one went up and the other went down. Dillard admits that private investment "remained abnormally low". He and Keynes met this with the plea that it might have been different if the Roosevelt government had increased its expenditure still more. It is difficult to counter arguments of the "what might have been" variety, but it is worth remembering that in Germany where the government in 1920 not only increased expenditure but multiplied it enormously (also in the belief that it would create jobs) in 1923 about 25 per cent of the workers were out of work and nearly as many again were on short time.
Michael Foot believes that Keynesian policy was a success for 1945 to 1976 in Britain. But did it work as he thinks it did? Unemployment for years after 1945 was abnormally low. In fact, it was considerably lower than Keynes expected from his Full Employment policy. But was it the result of Keynesian policy? One Keynesian, Joan Robinson, in her PROBLEMS OF FULL EMPLOYMENT (1950) said it was not. "Employment after the war would have been high in any case."
Another Keynesian, Alvin Hansen, in his GUIDE TO KEYNESs (1953) said the same: "Full employment was however primarily the result of the war and post-war developments, not of consensus policy". And Aneurin Bevan, Minister in the Attlee government, attributed the low unemployment to Marshall Aid.
These hundreds of millions of dollars enabled British industry to obtain materials the lack of which was hampering production. Bevan said, in 1948: "Without Marshall Aid unemployment in this country would at once have risen to 1.5 million."
So it wasn't Keynes but Marshall and the American government who kept unemployment abnormally low for some years after the war. From the mid-fifties until 1976, in spite of Keynesian policies, unemployment has been on a more or less continuous upward trend.
It touched 575,000 in 1958, 747,000 in 1963, a million in 1972, and 1.5 million in 1976, and so on to the present 3 and a third million. Keynesian policy had nothing to do with the very low unemployment in the early post-war years, and nothing to do with the subsequent steady increase.
A major factor was first, the war-time destruction in Japan, Germany and some other countries which put them for all practical purposes out of the world market, and later on their return to the world market in strength after their industries had been rebuilt and modernised, largely with American finance. They came back as cheap producers able more and more to undersell British products.
In 1955 British capitalists' share in world exports of manufactured goods (based on 11 industrial countries including Japan and Germany) was 19.8 per cent. It had dropped to 13.8 per cent in 1965 and to 10.6 per cent in 1970. The fall has continued so that for the first time British imports of manufactures now exceed exports. And with this change of conditions unemployment in Britain went on rising, well before the start of the great depression in 1979. So Keynesian "demand management" is based on fallacious theory and its two showpieces, Roosevelt's New Deal and Foot's golden age of 1945-76, demonstrate that it does not work.
Two other aspects of the doctrine deserve mention. The 1944 White Paper looked forward to more or less stable prices, and Keynes himself looked to slowly rising wages "while keeping prices stable" (GENERAL THEORY, p.271). What we got was continually rising prices, so that the level in 1976 was more than four times what it had been in 1945.
Lastly. Keynes held that many wars are caused by "the competitive struggle for markets" and they would be ruled out by the adoption of his full employment policy (GENERAL THEORY, p.381). It is therefore interesting to notice that the Labour Party, Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party, while all professing to accept Keynesian policies, are all busy with schemes for increasing the competitiveness of British exports against foreign rivals, by such devices as lowering the exchange rate of the pound.
In the House of Commons on 10 November 1982 Roy Jenkins, Leader of the SDP, said that "Britain's lack of competitiveness was the central problem requiring solution", and he agreed with the Labour Party spokesman, Peter Shore, that "a reduction in the exchange rate could make an important contribution".
According to Keynes, his full employment policy makes it unnecessary to go in for the war-promoting, competitive struggle for markets. Is the explanation that the three Keynesian parties do not now believe that full employment works, and are hanging on to it only because they have to oppose Thatcher's policies and believe that the empty promise of full employment may still be a vote-catcher at the next election?
A Tale of Two Chinas........And Communism?
As President-for-life, Xi Jinping stood proudly in front of the Mao mausoleum, in his Mao-style outfit and saluting as the vast parade of military goose-stepped smartly through the immense Tiananmen Square. This parade was accompanied and followed by the usual display of deadly weaponry from tanks to missiles, and later by civilians singing and dancing. All this, on 1 October 2019 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Maoist Peopleâ€™s Republic of China.
This massive display and pageantry was not unlike those favoured in Nuremberg under Hitler's regime. It struck the same themes â€“ nationalism and flags and bands and militarism.
There was by contrast a very different scene that day in the streets of Hong Kong. After months of regular, persistent street protests, often confronting police ready and able to act with violence, and after official warnings, the crowds of mostly young protesters were again thronging the streets, and again the police and protesters used violence.
And the two events were linked by the memory of the events in Beijing and 400 other Chinese cities in 1989. That year was one of huge, youthful protests, starting in the spring and finally crushed in early June, by military force and the Tiananmen Square massacre, with hundreds or may be thousands killed and many more injured.
The five demands of 1989 were to end corruption in the ruling party, for democratic reforms, and for freedom of the press, of speech and of association.
In 1989 the ruling party found those demands intolerable and used tanks and guns to crush the demonstrators. And President-for-life Xi is the proud heir to that policy. Today, the Hong Kong protest movement has also unified around a set of five demands, like those of 1989.
Under Xi's rule, China has developed into a major player in global capitalism; has come to dominate many markets; has developed a modern military machine, including ICBMs and the latest in hypersonic gliders; has occupied Tibet; has constructed and fortified man-made islands on coral atolls in the geo-strategic and oil-rich South China Seas; has developed advanced IT and facial recognition software linked to a massive database which is intended to include not just the Uighur Muslim minority but ultimately to cover the whole population. Its economy, with its cheap consumer goods and ever-so-cheap labour force, is a significant player in modern capitalist trade.
Historically, China today plays the same role as Britain in 1848 when Marx and Engels wrote in the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO:-
The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarous, nations into civilization. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians' intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate...
But today the boot is on the other foot. The British Empire has long since gone from the scene and the once all-important United States is no longer the economically dominant power house of innovation it once was. But historically China, with its huge and low-paid but skilled workforce, and largely untapped mineral resources, and regional dominance, is now the rising technological and economic superpower.
Yet still the mass media insist that this is 'Communism', a 'Communist state', run by the Chinese 'Communist Party'. That of course is an old tune, played over and over again, ever since the 1917 Russian revolution, when Lenin and the Bolsheviks claimed that theirs was a Socialist / Communist revolution. Their opponents in the West were delighted to associate Marxism with this new form of a collective dictatorship - the 'dictatorship of the Party'. With Lenin and his one-party state, with state censorship and secret police, any pretence of Soviet Russia being 'democratic' evaporated like the morning dew, fast.
Stalin, like Trotsky, followed in Lenin's footsteps, building up his 'cult of the individual', backed by the Party and state-controlled media, expanding a vast network of jails and prison camps, and crushing any possible whisper of dissent. This was then taken as a role model for later revolutions, and not only in China.
Years before the Long March and his victory in the civil war, Mao had come under Moscow's influence, and so his regime was intended to follow the example of the Soviet Union. Just as Stalin had destroyed the peasants with his policies of forced collectivisation, so Mao aimed to collectivise the Chinese peasants. Both wanted to use state force to speedily develop modern industry â€“ hence Mao's Great Leap Forward, with its wasteful backyard steel smelting. Both mistakenly relied for increasing agricultural production on the fake science peddled by Lysenko. As dictators often do, they both insisted that they alone knew best: protests from engineering or agricultural experts were disregarded and brushed aside.
In both regimes, the 'Party' was simply the instrument of whoever held power, and without opposition, with all independent voices silenced by terror, the totalitarian system became an all-powerful regime.
The Myth of 'Liberal' Capitalism
In the United States with its 18th century constitution, the idea that capitalism means freedom is used to express horror at 'Communist' dictatorships. This is a naive black and white view of the world: the good guys are for freedom, the bad guys want to "impose Socialism". And only with entrepreneurial capitalism can you have freedom for the individual - 'collectivism' is just tyranny and dictatorship.
However, the capitalist system is simply a system of commodity production - production for profit based on the exploitation of the wage-slave class. In fact, capitalism can exist under any sort of political regime whether democratic, dictatorial or pseudo-socialist. So-called 'free enterprise' is no guarantor of political freedom or free speech, freedom of the press etc. Private enterprise operates quite well under despots, military juntas and dictatorships, just so long as their liking for bribery and corruption does not go too far and eliminate their profits. In some circumstances it can even be useful for the capitalist state to run certain public services, utilities, natural monopolies, etc, as a 'collective capitalist'.
Such is the world we all live in - a world of production for profit, with global mega-corporations operating around the planet, exploiting wage-workers wherever they are, for the profit and enrichment of a tiny minority of the world's population. It is the same economic system - both in mainland China and in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, in both Koreas, in Japan and Russia, etc. Wherever you go on this unfortunate polluted planet, you find always the same economic system, the worldwide capitalist system - one where the many work as wage-slaves for the minority class.
This is a system that all socialists are working to put an end to. Not the phony 'socialists' of the Labour Party and other reformist parties, and not the Leninists, Trotskyists, Stalinists, Maoists, etc. with their defence of the indefensible â€“ such as the so-called 'Communist' Peoples Republic of China. Remember, as you hear or read via the mass media and from our politicians spouting about the evils of 'Communism', you are on the receiving end of propaganda. On this subject Hitler is worth quoting: "The broad mass of a natio... will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one."
(MEIN KAMPF, 1925, vol 1, ch 10).
Since 1917, socialists have been battling against the "big lie", peddled by quack ideologists, politicians and the mass media who constantly repeat the lie that socialism / communism / Marxism is all about totalitarian dictatorship. While capitalism supposedly means freedom and democracy, free speech and the rest. In fact, Lenin's plan for revolution was a top-down, vanguard-led, political coup d'etat which meant minority rule, holding power by force, i.e. as a dictatorship. But that was poles apart from what Marx and Engels campaigned for: a social revolution democratically achieved by a majority socialist working class, organising itself as "a class in and for itself". And that is still in the future.
Thirty years ago on the 9th November 1989, the Berlin Wall, which separated East Germany from West Germany, was breached. This symbolic event led not only to the end of the Cold War but also to the demise of the state capitalist totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe, including Russia. We were then told that "The End of History" had occurred with the imposition of a New World Order led by a triumphant United States. We were also told that "Communism" had collapsed and the ideas of Karl Marx buried with it.
If socialism, as a word, has been dragged through the sewers of 20th and early 21st politics, worse befell communism. However, communism's true meaning as a social system of free men and women, working in harmony to produce solely to meet human need, requires to be reclaimed.
Communism and communist emerged, as words in the late 18th century. Both words are associated with Marx and Engels, with the publication of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO in 1848 on behalf of the Communist League.
In his book KEYWORDS (1976), Raymond Williams noted that the word communism had been in use long before the publication of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO. One of the first uses of the word in its modern sense, according to Jacques Grandjonc, in his book QUELQUES DATES A PROPOS DES TERMES COMMUNISTE ET COMMUNISME (1984), is in a letter sent by Victor d'Hupay to Restif de la Bretonne around 1785 in which d'Hupay describes himself as an auteur communiste (communist author)
Communists from Germany living in London met at the Communist Club in Soho. The club was founded in 1840 and had links with Karl Marx. The club formed an important link between Chartism, the First International, the Social Democratic Federation and then the Socialist Party of Great Britain. The SPGB had our first head office there and also held meetings at the address (see THE COMMUNIST CLUB by Keith Scholey, no date).
The London Communist Propaganda Society was founded in 1841, by Goodwyn Barmby. John Goodwyn Barmby was a utopian communist, influenced by the ideas of Robert Owen and the early 19th century French Utopian socialist theorists. Barmby launched propaganda organisations to spread these utopian ideas, as well as founding his own communist community in west London. He is often associated with the growth of socialist and utopian projects during the rise of Chartism.
In France, Communiste is recorded in 1840 in use by Cabet in 1840 who Marx and Engels dismissed as a utopian communist whose supporters opposed the "progressive historical development of the proletariat" (COMMUNIST MANIFESTO p. 90). Cabet was convicted and sentenced to five years' exile. He fled to England and sought political asylum.
Influenced by Robert Owen, Thomas More and Charles Fourier, Cabet wrote VOYAGE ET AVENTURES DE LORD WILLIAM CARISDALL EN ICARIE (Travel and Adventures of Lord William Carisdall in Icaria, 1840), which depicted a utopia in which a democratically elected governing body controlled all economic activity and closely supervised social life. "Icaria" is the name of his fictional country.
Marx and Engels used the word communism and communist rather than socialism and socialist because Communism was a working class movement while socialist at the time were associated with respectable reforms. In Part Three of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO there groups were labelled "Reactionary Socialism", "Feudal Socialism", "Petty Bourgeoisie Socialism", "German or "True" Socialism" and so on. The only exception was the utopian communists like Fourier and Cabet who were written off for their utopian speculations.
In the Preface to the 1888 edition of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, Engels wrote:
Yet, when it was written, we could not have called it a socialist manifesto. By Socialists, in 1847, were understood, on the one hand the adherents of the various Utopian systems: Owenites in England, Fourierists in France, both of them already reduced to the position of mere sects, and gradually dying out; on the other hand, the most multifarious social quacks who, by all manner of tinkering, professed to redress, without any danger to capital and profit, all sorts of social grievances, in both cases men outside the working-class movement, and looking rather to the "educated" classes for support (p.55).
Engels saw no problem in using the word Socialism when he published his pamphlet, SOCIALISM: UTOPIAN AND SCIENTIFIC (1880). Marx and Engels were also quite clear that Communism meant the abolition of buying and selling (p. 75). This would mean the end of buying and selling of labour power; no labour markets and no employers and employees leaving:
...an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. (p. 81)
The central principle of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO was that the working class and the working class alone were to establish communism. Marx and Engels wrote:
All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.
(THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO AND THE LAST HUNDRED YEARS Socialist Party of Great Britain, 1948)
Marx and Engels often used communism and socialism interchangeably. Marx used many terms to refer to a post-capitalist society as "socialism", "Communism", "free association of producers", etc. He used these terms completely interchangeably.
The notion that "socialism" and "communism" are distinct historical stages is alien to Marx's work and were distorted by Lenin and the Bolsheviks long after his death. Lenin, in his THE STATE AND REVOLUTION (1917), distorted Marx by referring to two stages as 'socialism' and 'communism' respectively, where the former would have a money economy, labour markets and a coercive state.
In his CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAMME (1875), Marx made a distinction between two stages of 'communist society'. In both cases the stages were based on common ownership. There was a lower stage, with individual consumption being rationed through the use of labour-time vouchers, and a higher stage when people contributed to society according to their ability and take from what is produced to meet their needs. In both stages there would be the absence of money and a coercive state. Lenin however snatched at the notion of a two-tier revolution and built up from this brief reference, in a letter, a whole new opportunistic theory, one which was more suited to the backward conditions of 1917 Russia.
Almost a hundred a fifty years later, if socialism were established and despite the problems bequeathed by capitalism, there would be no "lower" or "higher" stages and there would be no need for vouchers and rationing.
William Morris wrote in the his pamphlet WHY I AM A COMMUNIST (1894).
Communism, therefore, can see no reason for inequality of condition: to each one according to his needs, from each one according to his capacities, must always be its motto. And if it be challenged to answer the question, what are the needs of such and such a man, how are they to be estimated? The answer is that the habitual regard towards Society as the real unit, will make it impossible for any man to think of claiming more than his genuine needs. I say that it will not come into his mind that it is possible for him to advance himself by injuring someone else. While, on the other hand, it will be well understood that unless you satisfy a man's needs, you cannot make the best of his capacities...... The communist asserts in the first place that the resources of nature, mainly the land and those other things which can only be used for the reproduction of wealth and which are the effect of social work, should not be owned in severalty, but by the whole community for the benefit of the whole.
When Marx drafted the rules for the International Workingman's Association in 1864, he started with the statement:
That the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves.
No other class could do the work of liberating the working class from capitalism, only the working class itself. This is perhaps one of the most important socialist principles of the 19th century. And it finds an echo in the fifth clause of the SPGB's DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES of 1904:
That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.
The word communism was usurped by the Bolsheviks after the coup d'etat in 1917. They had no right to use this word to describe their anti-working class politics. They rejected Marx's primary principle that communism/socialism had to be the work of the working class itself and no one else - particularly a so-called vanguard of professional revolutionaries. It was the Bolsheviks and their imitators who linked communism - and socialism - to genocide, concentration camps, dictatorship and totalitarian state capitalism. It is high time the word was rescued and used in its correct Marxian sense without apology.
Capitalism, Class and Racism
We live in an integrated global economic system known as capitalism. Capitalism is divided into 195 odd competing nation states. Each nation state is divided into two classes. There is a capitalist class minority who do not work but own the means of production and distribution. The capitalists are driven by competition to make a profit and accumulate capital. And there is a working class majority who do work but do not own resources like oil and gas, factories, transport and communication system, offices, warehouses and distribution points. The workers are exploited as they produce more social wealth than they receive in wages and salaries.
Capitalists and workers struggle economically on a daily basis over the intensity and extent of exploitation. Politically, it is a struggle over the ownership and distribution of the means of production, which are defended by the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the state.
Workers are constantly confronted with ruling class ideas and beliefs which keep them as an exploited class. As a result, workers are splintered and fragmented into groups along national lines and split into factions around race, gender, age and sex. Workers do not see themselves as a united world-wide class with the single-minded objective of establishing socialism. "Divide and rule" is the motto of capitalist governments and politicians. And they have been very successful in pitting workers against each other to the detriment of the interest of the working class.
Racism and Ruling Class Ideas
One of the more pernicious ruling class ideas is racism. Often it is crude and violent; a lashing out by workers against other workers due to the economic and social conditions they live under. While the ruling class entering their smart London clubs would kick the doorman at the gate, the doorman in turn would look out on "inferior races". He might be kicked and battered by his "betters" but at least he could look down on those outside. Governments impose austerity politics, leave parts of the country to fester and the response by downtrodden workers is to find other workers to blame.
However, racists have also produced sophisticated arguments, justifying slavery, genocide and segregation in the US and elsewhere. In the UK similar racist arguments were used to justify the British Empire. The nineteenth century saw working class racism against the Irish who were portrayed in cartoons in magazines like Punch as "prehistoric" and "ape-like" to reinforce racist claims that Irish workers were an "inferior race".
The future Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli wrote:
[The Irish] hate our order, our civilization, our enterprising industry, our pure religion. This wild, reckless, indolent, uncertain and superstitious race have no sympathy with the English character. Their ideal of human felicity is an alternation of clannish broils and coarse idolatry. Their history describes an unbroken circle of bigotry and blood.
(Robert Blake, DISRAELI, 1960, pp152-3)
Disraeli's racism would later come back and haunt him. Racism moved from deriding the Irish to scapegoating the Jews.
Divide and Rule
During the early twentieth century, racial divisions were a cause of tension particularly with the migration of Russian Jews into the country attempting to escape from pogroms, violence and war. From 1881 thousands of Jewish immigrants came and settled in the East End of London. They were seen as "wild, reckless, indolent, uncertain and superstitious race have no sympathy with the English character". Tensions were exploited between indigenous workers and Jewish immigrants by Tory politicians and culminated in the Aliens Act of August 1905 which imposed immigration controls and registration for the first time.
Eugenics was being used by John Galton - a cousin of Charles Darwin - and others to divide the working class into those who were fit to breed and those who were not fit to breed.
In 1869 Galton, in his book, HEREDITARY GENIUS, misapplied Darwin's theory of biological evolution to the evolution of human society and its division into higher and lower classes (as well as to what he considered to be "superior" and "inferior" races). One of his supporters, Herbert Spencer, also claimed that the aristocratic families of Great Britain had been selected in the struggle for the "survival of the fittest" (PRINCIPLES OF BIOLOGY 1864) because of their biologically superior traits and predisposition to rule.
Supporters of eugenics called for government policies to improve the biological quality of the human race through selective parenthood. Instead of focussing on capitalism, social problems including crime, vagrancy, alcoholism, prostitution and unemployment were blamed on the deficiency of sectors of the working class. Eugenics was seen as scientifically respectable and gained the support of leading politicians and opinion formers, notably the Fabians.
Socialists at the time were aware that racism was and is divisive and working against working class unity and solidarity. A world working class confronts a world capitalist class. Workers have no country but are united by their own interest manifesting itself in a class struggle. And the cause of social problems derives from capitalism not workers. Racism causes division and acts as a barrier to a clear recognition of working class interests.
Without Distinction of Race or Sex
When the Socialist Party of Great Britain was established in 1904 it had as its fourth principle, a clause that specifically dealt with race and sex:
That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class would involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.
In the SPGB's QUESTIONS OF THE DAY, published in 1942, an article was written dealing with the question of "Socialism and Racial Theories". The 1930s had seen the rise of racial theories based on Social Darwinism, eugenics, "race hygiene" and so-called "race science". Mosley's Black Shirts were recruited from the working class, many economically hit by the effects of the Great Depression with its high unemployment.
Preventing workers from reproducing was seen by some social reformers, including Churchill and Beveridge, as a means to reduce the burden of taxation on looking after the poor as well as reducing levels of unemployment. In May 1910 Churchill had seriously considered the "sterilisation of degenerates" but the Bill introduced in 1913 was watered-down to exclude all but the pauper mothers of illegitimate children. There was no mention of sterilisation.
William Beveridge, the architect of the post-1945 welfare state, was highly active in the eugenics movement and said that:
Those men who through general defects are unable to fill such a whole place in industry are to be recognised as unemployable. They must become the acknowledged dependents of the State... but with complete and permanent loss of all citizen rights - including not only the franchise but civil freedom and fatherhood.
(The Eugenics Movement, Victoria Brignall, NEW STATESMAN 9 December 2010).
There was little or no opposition to eugenics. It was practiced within the medical profession and the universities and seeped out as policy proposals within government circles. Eugenics also had its supporters in the main capitalist political parties. The SPGB pointed out:
There is, in fact, no single scheme of classification that will satisfactorily cover the different types of human beings in existence. Alpine, Nordic, Mediterranean and other strains are present in varying degrees in all the peoples of Europe. The human race comes into the world naked, and clothes itself with habits and traditions the result of social circumstances. Different sections of the human race rise and fall in culture or importance according to the nature of the social environment, irrespective of colour, language or religion (p. 89).
At particular points in capitalism's history immigrants have often been made scapegoats for the problems facing the working class.
In Britain there have been spikes in racism and the rise of racist politics during periods of high unemployment and immigration, mirrored in groups like the National Front and the British National Party who drew upon racial and eugenic theories like Richard Dawkin's THE SELFISH GENE.
Following the Second World War, these periods of racism coincided with the arrival of workers from the West Indies in the 1950s, those coming to the UK from Pakistan and India, the arrival of Ugandan Asians in the 1960s and 1970s, and more recently refugees escaping war and conflict from the Middle East. Immigrants are ignorantly blamed for poor housing, taking jobs from the indigenous population, forcing wages down, parasitically using the Health Service, and so on.
However, low wages are the result of the class struggle. Organised unions can get higher wages and better working conditions. Workers have lived in poor housing before immigration. Workers cannot afford decent housing which meet their needs. There is no such thing as "British jobs for British workers". Workers are only employed when it is profitable. During economic crises and trade depressions when capitalists cannot sell their commodities for profit workers are made redundant. And only the rich get the best health care and education. They can afford the best. Only socialism will provide "from each according to ability to each according to need".
What of the government and anti-immigrant legislation. The Labour Government set up a Cabinet Committee in 1950 to review "...the further means which might be adopted to check the immigration into this country of coloured people from the British Colonial Territories" (cited in Bob Carter and Shirley Joshi, "the role of Labour in creating a racist Britain," RACE AND CLASS, vol. xxv winter 1984, pp. 53-70).
This did not stop the Labour Government enacting the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968 followed by the Tory Governments Immigration act in 1971 in the face of Enoch Powell's notorious "Rivers of Blood Speech" of 1968 which led to several dock strikes and marches by misguided workers who supported his view.
The long-term effect of the immigration legislation was to create a distinction between the predominantly white working class who could claim lineage within Britain and the predominantly non-white Commonwealth working class who could no longer claim to be 'British', which in turn barred the Commonwealth immigrant from entering Britain. The Act began the double-standard rule exploited by Theresa May of dividing 'desirable' and 'undesirable' migrants according to country of origin. The hostile environment policy Theresa May introduced when she was at the Home Office was regarded by some ministers as "almost reminiscent of Nazi Germany" according to the former head of the civil service, Lord Kerslake (INDEPENDENT, 19 April 2018), No cabinet member resigned.
Socialists not only opposed the race relations act preventing written or verbal anti-racism on the grounds that there should be free speech and free discussion of all social problems but also criticised the immigration acts as an attack on the working class.
On the cover of the SPGB's pamphlet THE PROBLEM OF RACE published in 1968. The Party stated:
Socialists emphatically repudiate racism. No one group is innately superior to another. From the earliest times mankind have been continually intermingling to the benefit of the whole human race. The interest of all workers throughout the world is the same â€“ the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by socialism. Away with the barriers of nationality and the prejudice of race, and unite for socialism.
William Shockley together with Arthur Jensen, Cyril Burt, Richard Hernstein, Hans Eysenck and others argued that the sections of the working class people including black people were innately intellectually inferior. These theories were still popular in the 1960s and 1970s and still have not gone away. The selection of children at 11 under the 1944 Education Act in Britain, for example, was largely based on the faked IQ findings of Sir Cyril Burt.
The theory of the innate inferiority of some groups in society is based on the view that "intelligence" is innate and fixed. According to the theory we are born with a given amount of intelligence which is constant throughout our lives.
Each person has a given level of intellectual ability and it is this level of attainment that prevents some in the working class from not going as far as others. This has now been rejected by educationalists that have shown that reasoning and intellectual capability can be taught and developed. The brain is "plastic" and is able to adapt to new tasks, even in adulthood. There is no biological barrier preventing someone learning something new and having expertise in the subject.
Race science never went away. Two recent and popular books, A TROUBLESOME INHERITANCE: GENES, RACE AND HUMAN HISTORY (2014) by Nicholas Wade and THE BELL CURVE: INTELLIGENCE AND CLASS STRUCTURE IN AMERICAN LIFE (1994) by Richard Herrstein and Charles Murray are used by racists to give their racism some scientific respectability. In response, Angela Sainiâ€™s book SUPERIOR (2019) charts the rise of race science that has tried to justify racism by developments in technology and genetics. In a GUARDIAN interview she said:
"...race science has always been innately political; it shouldnâ€™t surprise us that prominent thinkers used science to defend, slavery, colonialism, segregation and genocide. They imagined only Europe could have been the birthplace of modern science, that only the British could have built a railway in India. Some still imagine that white Europeans have a unique set of genetic qualities that propelled them to economic domination..."
(Why Race Science is on the Rise Again, GUARDIAN 18 May 2019).
For Saini, "race" is a social construct not a biological reality. Nevertheless, it does not stop its use within society as though it had some scientific grounding.
Racial division and the myth of racial purity have again become politically fashionable following migration from the Far East and Africa into Europe.
Fortress Europe with its walls, concentration camps in Libya and the rise of the nationalist extreme right in many European countries have uncomfortable parallels with the 1930s and the rise of Mussolini and Hitler. Immigrants are seen as "the other", not "one of us". Yet we are all from the same human species with the same social problems that can only be addressed and resolved by the establishment of socialism.
Even the EU has embraced a pan-European nationalism which excludes those from other parts of the world. The incoming president of the European commission, Ursula von der Leyen, for example, unveiled a new role, that of vice-president for protecting the European way of life. The commission's choice of words echoed the far right, borrowing from those who suggest that immigration places European, Christian civilisation in mortal danger (GUARDIAN 13 September 2019). Although this nationalism is not new: back in the 1950s and 60s, the right-wing and racist hostility to West Indian immigration regularly claimed this was a "threat to the whole British way of life".
Brexit and Racism
Brexit has also meant an increase in racism, xenophobia and nationalism from the far right to the Tory Party. Ethnic minorities in Britain are facing rising and increasingly overt racism, with levels of discrimination and violent abuse continuing to grow in the wake of the Brexit referendum.
The survey by OPINIUM (20 May 2019) suggests racists are feeling increasingly confident in deploying overt abuse or discrimination. Eryl Jones, from charity, Show Racism the Red Card, said he believed Brexit had been a "major influence. The feeling is that a lot of people believe they have the right to express their racist feelings or to show hatred." (BBC NEWS June 2019)
In fact, capitalism - with or without immigration - causes poor housing for the working class along with periods of high unemployment and cuts in wages. And workers only receive the necessary health care to ensure the reproduction of future workers and the maintenance of a fit and healthy workforce for capitalists to exploit.
Blaming other workers might be easy but it lets capitalism off the hook. All workers, no matter where they come from, have a common class interest in abolishing capitalism and establishing socialism: the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.
The SPGB And The Question Of Reforms
If the Socialist Party of Great Britain had any reformist leanings at all, it is reasonable to expect that the new-formed Party in 1904 would proudly have nailed its colours to the mast in the first issue of its journal in September 1904.
Having broken with the Social Democratic Federation, the first SOCIALIST STANDARD would have been the obvious place to proclaim what the Party stood for, and this is precisely what the Party did. Unfortunately, for today's opportunists no such tendency is anywhere to be seen.
The first ever Editorial in the first SOCIALIST STANDARD (September 1904), has this to say:
In dealing with all questions affecting the welfare of the working class our standpoint will be frankly revolutionary. We shall show that the misery, the poverty and the degradation caused by capitalism grows far more rapidly than does the enacting of palliative legislation for its removal. The adequate alleviation of these ills can be brought about only by a political party having Socialism for its object. So long as the powers of administration are controlled by the capitalist class so long can that class render nugatory any legislation they consider to unduly favour the workers.
In an editorial feature article in that same first issue the SPGB wrote:
The Social Democratic Federation, formed to further the cause of Socialism in Great Britain has, during the last few years, been steadily following the compromising policy adopted from the first by the Independent Labour Party. So much is this the case that today, for all purposes of effective Socialist propaganda they have ceased to exist and are surely developing into a mere reform party seeking to obtain the provision of free maintenance for school children.
Fifty years later, another milestone in the Partyâ€™s history was the publication of the Anniversary Number of the SOCIALIST STANDARD.
In looking back over 50 years and reaffirming the Party's principles and the stand taken against war, Soviet capitalism and reform policies, this is an excellent piece of Socialist literature. On page 3, under the heading: "Our contributions to the Socialist Movement", fourteen points are listed. Number three of these says:
Opposition to all reform policies and unswerving pursuit of Socialism as the sole objective.
Point number ten states:
The Socialist Party must be entirely independent of all other political parties entering into no agreement or alliances for any purpose. Compromising this independence for any purpose however seemingly innocent, will lead to non-socialists giving support to the Party.
Writing the word "Socialism" across ballot papers where no Socialist was standing was reaffirmed, as a way of showing rejection of all the other parties and expressing the demand for Socialism.
The same uncompromising case for Socialism against reformism is made in the Party pamphlets.
The Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Great Britain was the Party's first pamphlet, published in 1905. It is full of trenchant condemnation of all the opportunist reform parties of the time and rejects outright their political trading and vote-catching stunts. The independence of the Party is vigorously proclaimed. The case stated is as fresh today as in 1905 and remains the position of the S.P.G.B. Thus, for example, on page 9:-
A glance over past history shows that every class that emancipated itself had to commence by the capture of political machinery, that is the power of government. It is therefore necessary for workers to organise a political party having for its object the capture of political power. This political party of the workers can only be a socialist party because socialism alone is based on the facts of working-class existence Socialism alone can free the workers from the necessity of selling himself for the profit of a master: Socialism alone will strip him of his merchandise character and allow him to become a full social being.
There has been a chapter on the subject of reformism in every re-issue of QUESTIONS OF THE DAY since it first appeared in 1932. In that first issue on page 18 it states:
"..we know that the immediate need of our class is emancipation, which can only be achieved through the establishment of Socialism" (emphasis in the original).
There is also a detailed chapter on Parliament and "the necessity of gaining control of the machinery of government" (p. 44.)
The rejection of bartering our independence for promises of reform is stressed again. No opportunism, but a sober understanding of the fact that Parliament controls the armed forces, so Parliament must be captured "before attempting to uproot the existing foundations of society" (p.68).
A chapter on Fascism makes the unanswerable argument that the only way to prevent political power being used against the workers is for workers to refrain from voting capitalist agents into power.
Forty-six years later, in 1978, QUESTIONS OF THE DAY was largely rewritten and brought up to date the treatment of old questions and dealt with later ones that had arisen, Chinese capitalism among them. There is still a Chapter headed: The Futility of Reformism and another on Parliament stating again the socialist case consistently stated before.
Is This The End
Climate Scientists now agree that global warming of 4 degrees by 2100 is a real possibility. In an article, "Climate Change: The heat is on", the environmental journalist, Gaia Vince explained what would happen to the planet if temperatures reached an additional 4 degrees by this date. She said that although human beings will not become extinct:
We risk great loss of life and perhaps the end of our civilisations. Many of the places where people live and grow food will no longer be suitable for either. Higher sea levels will make todayâ€™s low-lying islands and many coastal regions, where nearly half the global population live, uninhabitable generating an estimated 2 billion refugees by 2100. Bangladesh will lose one-third of its land area.
Vince went on to say:
From 2030, more than half the population will live in the tropics, in an area that already struggles with climate impacts. Yet by 2100, most of the high and mild latitudes will be uninhabitable because of heat stress or drought; despite stronger precipitation, the hotter soils will lead to faster evaporation and most populations will struggle for fresh water. We will have to live on a smaller land surface with a larger population.
(OBSERVER 20th May 2019)
This bleak future is a consequence of capitalism and the private ownership of the means of production. The capitalist class own energy resources, factories, transport and communication systems to the exclusion of the majority of people on the planet. Different capitalists and their politicians jealously guard and further their own economic interests, even if the use of commodities like fossil fuel continues to have a detrimental effect on the environment. The fossil fuel lobby have used their political power to eliminate state subsidies for renewable energy while maximising state subsidies for fossil fuel companies, like coal, oil and gas.
G20 nations have almost tripled the subsidies they give to oil-fired power plants, despite the need to cut the carbon emissions causing the climate crisis. It was over a decade ago that the EU promised to phase out all fossil fuel subsidies. Elsewhere in the world, China and India give the biggest subsidies to coal, with Japan third, followed by South Africa, South Korea, Indonesia and the US. While the UK frequently runs its own electricity grid without any coal power at all, a parliamentary report in June criticised the billions of pounds used to help to build fossil fuel power plants overseas (GUARDIAN, G 20 Nations Triple Coal Power Subsidies despite Climate Crisis 25th June 2019)
In desperation, the Union of Concerned Scientists recently wrote:
Burning coal, oil, and natural gas has serious and long-standing negative impacts on public health, local communities and ecosystems, and the global climate. Yet the majority of fossil fuel impacts are far removed from the fuels and electricity we purchase, hidden within public and private health expenditures, military budgets, emergency relief funds, and the degradation of sensitive ecosystems.
Although scientists are very good at presenting evidence based papers on climate change and other environmental problems, they stop short at a political critique of capitalism.
There is nothing in the above article drawing attention to the damage inflicted to the environment by the profit-motive and the powerful political machinations of the fossil fuel industry. The private ownership of the means of production and distribution is unquestioned. There is silence on proposing an alternative social system which would allow production and distribution to take place in harmony with the environment.
The reality is that global warming is not only caused by capitalism, but is a problem set within a social system of power relationships and private property ownership. Capitalism has the primary short-term imperative to make profit, accumulate capital and to expand and grow. Here is Marx;
Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets!...Accumulation for accumulation's sake, production for production's sake.
(CAPITAL, volume 1, Ch. XXIV, p. 595).
Investors invest their capital into companies who will give a profitable return on their investments. To be able to live off the profit and to re-invest again, investors expect companies to deliver profitable outcomes despite the environmental consequences.
In response environmentalists have urged fund managers to disinvest from the world's biggest polluters. This has led to Legal and General Investment to remove $5 billion "ethical" investment from carbon-intensive companies, including US oil giant ExxonMobil. Yet LGI still retains investments in these polluting companies in its other funds for fear of losing investors. It claims it will vote against the boards of polluting companies but their voting strength is marginal compared to other institutional investors (OBSERVER 23 06 2019).
Many capitalist governments do try to act to resolve environmental problems, but their actions are constrained by a world split into competing nation states and the conflicting interests of one set of capitalists against another. The United Nations has spent decades trying to get countries to agree to a common way forward in order to mitigate global warming.
Yet the UN refuses to charge capitalism as the cause of the problem of global warming and conclude that the only solution is its removal by the establishment of socialism. The UN cannot think and act outside its capitalist box. This is hardly surprising, when all the countries of the world are pro-capitalist, pro-profit and pro-growth. There can be no criticism of capitalism for fear of people considering an alternative social system. They do not want "system change".
Things are getting worse
The 2015 Paris Agreement, for example, aimed to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees.
The United States delivered notice to the United Nations in August 2018 of the country's intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, joining Syria as one of only two countries in the world not party to the treaty.
Yet the Treaty itself is problematic. According to an article in Science Daily:
Two new studies published in the AGU journals Geophysical Research Letters and Earth's Future now show some of the goals set forth in the agreement might be difficult to reach without much sacrifice.
The new research shows future climate extremes depend on the policy decisions made by major emitters, and that even if major emitters were to strengthen their commitments to reducing emissions, the rest of the world would have to immediately reduce their greenhouse gases to zero to achieve the Paris 2015 goal.(April 23 2019).
In an interview with the BBC, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, warmed that with the rise of nationalism around the world, there had been "a reduction in political will of some countries to work collectively to tackle global warming" (BBC NEWS 29 November 2018). Seven months later Guterres said the situation had worsened:
We are not on track to achieve the objectives defined in the Paris agreement, and the paradox is that as things are getting worse on the ground, political will seems to be fading.
(AL JAZEERA 12 May 2019).
Under capitalism, there is a constant clash of interests between competing nation states which undermines any co-operation to resolve environmental issues. Even in the European Union, three countries; Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic do not want to sign with the other EU countries, a common accord to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 because it will affect their respective coal industries and energy requirements. According to EUOBSERVER:
Poland's permanent representation in Brussels said in a tweet that prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki "defends [Poland]'s interests in discussion about climate policy... ".Fair distribution of climate protection costs means taking into account the specificities of [member states]. Climate goals are important in the same way as their implementation, taking into account citizens & economy.
Besides governments wanting to protect their economic interests the EU is also besieged by well-funded lobbyists acting for companies like Shell and BP. Centrica, RWE and E.On also lobbied the EU to remain with its existing plans to reduce emissions by between 80% to 95%, despite concerns that the cuts do not go far enough to limit severe global warming (GUARDIAN June 20th 2019).
According to the UN intergovernmental science-policy Platform on diversity and Ecosystem services, up to a million species "are at risk of extinction" thereby threatening human life on the planet. (GUARDIAN, May 20th 2019). Loss of plants and animals on the planet reduces humanity's ability to survive. Scientists around the world can work together for a common aim but not politicians and governments.
The Center for Biological Diversity recently stated:
Scientists estimate we're now losing species at up to 1,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day. It could be a scary future indeed, with as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species possibly heading toward extinction by mid-century.
No government admits that capitalism - commodity production and exchange for profit - is the cause of global warming and environmental degradation. Governments are in denial that capitalism is actually causing detrimental harm to their profit system and the class they represent. This is one of the many contradictions in capitalism. The profit motive actually harms profit-making. And the vested interests of the fossil industry have been very successful in propagating global warming denial despite the scientific evidence to the contrary.
As for the share holders, profit is what they expect from their investments not in mitigating global warming. According to al Aljazeera, in May of this year, Exxon Mobil shareholder rejected a proposal that would have forced the company's board to create a special committee on climate change. The report went on to say:
Shareholders also defeated measures requiring the company to report the risks of climate change at chemical plants on the Gulf Coast in the United States and to report political contributions and lobbying.
President Trump does not believe the data on climate change and he thinks pollution is caused by other countries not the US. According to VANITY FAIR, there is a:
White House proposal to make it significantly easier for energy companies to release methane - a powerful greenhouse gas and a main contributor to climate change - into the atmosphere.
(M. Kosof, Trump's Ignorance Is Exacerbating an Ecological Apocalypse, VANITY FAIR, November 28th 2018).
The effects of such a large rise in temperature will be extreme, says Vince in her OBSERVER article. She recommends an urgent and immediate revolutionary change in society and the way in which we live and relate to each other and to nature. Vince, like other environmentalists, does not have the establishment of socialism in mind.
Is this the End?
The passive direct action of Environmental Extinction, school children demonstrations and article after article in scientific journals clearly demonstrating the consequences of global warming, all refuse to name capitalism as the cause and socialism as the answer. There is supposed to be a "citizen's assembly" on the "global emergency" as it is now called. If the assembly is held, it is doubtful if the profit-motive will be criticised or the private ownership of the means of production questioned.
The interests of businesses will be given centre stage. There has been a call for a world-wide general strike against the inaction of governments in September 2019. It will change nothing.
However, a revolutionary change to the relationship between human production and the environment is possible. However, it first requires the formation of a world-wide socialist majority within capitalism. It requires socialists taking conscious, democratic and political action within socialist parties to end the profit system. The solution to the problems caused by capitalism is socialist revolution.
If society is to be able to organise its production and distribution in an environmentally sustainable way, then a socialist majority must first abolish the profit imperative and the need for capital accumulation. This requires society as a whole to democratically set production to directly meet the satisfaction of human needs.
Without the establishment of socialism - the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society - the revolutionary change required to avert continued environmental degradation is not going to happen. Without socialism the consequences of global warming, pollution and destruction of the bio-sphere will continue.
In the film APOCALYPSE NOW (1979), the director Francis Coppolla used the Doors' The End at the beginning and end of the film to drive home the hopelessness and pessimism of the heart of darkness, which is the central theme of the films apocalyptic vision of the world. Using Jim Morrison's lyrics: "This is the end, beautiful friend / This is the end, my only friend, the end / Of our elaborate plans, the end / Of everything ... ", the film's violence apocalyptically fades to black. With the future possibility of drowned cities, intolerable heat waves, uninhabitable parts of the world, migration, war and death so too is the future sketched out by Gaia Vince.
However, this does not need to be the case.
Socialists are few on the ground. Yet we remain optimists in the face of a potentially grim capitalist future. There is nothing preventing workers with open minds from accepting the socialist case against capitalism and becoming socialists. Not leadership but mass socialist understanding is required.
The solid basis of socialism has not disappeared; the problems facing the working class will force upon workers the necessity of having a clearer understanding of the source and the solution of their present difficulties leading them to support the socialist case against capitalism. A socialist majority is possible as is the establishment of socialism: a social system in harmony with the natural environment.
MARX ON THE NATIONAL DEBT
The system of public credit, i.e., of national deb... took possession of Europe generally during the period of manufacture... The only part of the so-called national wealth that actually enters into the collective possession of the modern nation is - the national debt. Hence, quite consistently with this, the modern doctrine that a nation becomes the richer the more deeply it is in debt. Public credit becomes the credo of capital. And with the rise of national debt-making, lack of faith in the national debt takes the place of the sin against the Holy Ghost, for which there is no forgivene...The public debt becomes one of the most powerful levers of primitive accumulation. As with the stroke of an enchanter's wand, it endows unproductive money with the power of creation and thus turns it into capital, without forcing it to expose itself to the troubles and risks inseparable from its employment in industry or even in usury. The state's creditors actually give nothing away, for the sum lent is transformed into public bonds, easily negotiable, which go on functioning in their hands just as so much hard cash would. But furthermore, and quite apart from the class of idle rentiers, the improvised wealth of the financiers who play the role of middlemen between the government and the nation and the tax-farmers, merchants and private manufacturers, for whom a good part of every national loan performs the service of a capital fallen from heaven, apart from all these people, the national debt has given rise to joint-stock companies, to dealings in negotiable effects of all kinds, and to speculation: in a word it has given rise to stock-exchange gambling and the modern bankocracy.
(CAPITAL Vol. 1. Ch. 31 Penguin ed. P. 919).
Object and Declaration of Principles
The establishment of 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 interest of the whole community.
Declaration of Principles
THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN HOLDS:
1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie 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.
2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.
3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.
4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.
5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.
6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.
7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.
8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.