Socialist Studies Socialist Studies

SOCIALIST STUDIES

No. 46 Winter 2002

PUBLIC-PRIVATE DOGMA

NEITHER NATIONALISATION NOR PRIVATISATION

THE CLASS SYSTEM

POISONING YOUNG MINDS

THE WAR AGAINST IRAQ

''HUMANISER" LE CAPITALISME?

PUBLIC-PRIVATE DOGMA

In Animal Farm, the animals were encouraged to chant out the mantra "four legs good, two legs bad".

The modern day equivalent of this inane dogmatism can be seen in the battle between those who favour either public or private provision of central and local government services.

For Tony Blair and those who inhabit No 10 policy units, the chant is "private good, public bad". They want a Los Angeles Utopia of beautiful and bronzed young people moving from one private act of consumption to another.

For the trade unions and the capitalist Left the cry is "public good, private bad". They want a state that is pure and holy, dispensing services like a feudal monastery.

Both dogmas have nothing to do with the working class.

New Labour is in love with business and management. They believe that private investment and modern management practice will provide the holy grail of cheap, efficient and rational delivery of targets set by ministers. The unions, like Unison and the GMB, see the private sector as a threat to wages, sick pay and pensions, forgetting that the NHS and local authorities have some of the lowest paid workers working under the worst conditions.

For the government, the Public Finance Initiatives and the Public-Private partnerships have turned into a nightmare. Privatisation by local and central government has turned companies like Capita from a company worth #330,000 in 1987 to #2.6 billion today. But Capita has failed to deliver services. It has, for example, failed to deliver housing benefits to the South London poor and is the butt of satirist magazines like Private Eye for its poor performance.

The private sector can never meet the needs of all society. Private companies exist to make profits for investors and shareholdiers. They do not exist to meet people's needs. Efficiency to make profit and drive

down costs is not the same thing as efficiently using resources to meet people's needs.

Yet, in the past, the state has fared no better. Unison's belief that the state can act in the favour of trade unionists through "a fair day's pay for a fair day's work" is a myth. The slogan is deeply conservative and was dismissed be Marx nearly a hundred and fifty years ago with the revolutionary watchword "abolition of the wages system". The state is the executive of the capitalist class, it too has to drive down costs and pay workers as little as possible.

Throughout its history the National Health Service has meant low pay and poor working conditions for nurses, porters and cleaners. For those using its services it is a poor second to the health care the rich can and do afford.

In education some children of the working class get taught in crumbling 19th century buildings or post-war prefabricated classrooms that leak, are too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. The education received is utilitarian where certificates come stamped with the legend "suitable for the labour market".

We deserve better. And to receive the best possible of services requires workers to break out of the straight jacket that views private and public provision as alternatives rather than what they really are two sides of the same capitalist coin. Only Socialism can provide quality health care and education. Only Socialism can guarantee social needs are put first.

The real debate about private and public provision is about cost and saving money. It is not about the provision of first-rate services to meet the needs of all society. The NHS is not a socialist institution but repairs and workers and their families for the place of exploitation as cheaply as possible. In education, workers are trained for the labour market.

Socialists see no virtue in either state or private capitalism. For the working class the distinction between who gives them dole money, social security, second rate schooling and so on is a distinction without a distinction. A battle line with no war. Differences with no difference. And a debate with nothing about which to debate. Compared with the capitalist class what workers receive under capitalism is always second-best and rationed by the wages system.

The real debate for the best services society could provide is a political one around the retention or abolition of capitalism. Socialists say that this debate can only be resolved within the framework of common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by everyone.

Thought for the Day

Several atheists have recently written to the BBC complaining that Thought for the Day which is broadcast each morning on Radio 4's The Today Programme, excludes non-religious people from making a moral or ethical point about the news.

Socialists are excluded from all BBC programmes presumably on the grounds that we are politically contentious and would challenge the audience to think for themselves.

But if we were ever invited by Radio 4 to give our thought for the day, what would it be? One which comes to mind is "Abolish the Wages System". An important thought for the millions of workers stuck in traffic jams on their way to another day of wage slavery.

NEITHER PRIVATISATION NOR NATIONALISATION BUT SOCIALISM

All railway systems in the world sell tickets (have fare structures), charge for Freight transport, employ wage-labour, have Chairmen and Boards of Directors whether appointed by private or state run companies, and meet the economic criteria of capitalism regarding investment, renewal and safety according to the priorities dictated by the prevailing needs of this profit system.

In this, the railways function as part of the classical capitalist system of commodity production and exchange for profit, irrespective of being state or private owned. Costs impact on the capitalist class as a whole. All the workers have are wages and salaries which keep them in the necessities that enable them to continue working as an exploited class.

The working class produces all the social wealth of capitalism, but the Capitalist Class own the means of wealth production as well as the surplus wealth after payment of wages and salaries. The upkeep of the employers system and its infrastructures, including railways, is paid for by them alone. Whether capital is either state or private owned, it is part of surplus value (unpaid labour) used for further investment and production through the exploitation of wage labour.

The French government in 1937 set up Societe National e et Cheminx ,lc fer Francois. Both state-operated and company-operated mainline railways were merged into this new undertaking in which the state held 51% of the shares and until 1955 a majority of the board of 33 directors were nominated by the government. The remaining 49% of the share capital was allocated to the existing railway companies, again until 1955.

The capital of the new company was fixed at 2,838,824 shares of fr. 500 each These were divided between the government and five companies. Although these company shares were to bear no interest:

"Meanwhile, the five companies will receive from the National Company annual payments corresponding to statutory interest, guaranteed dividends and redemption of shares" (Facts from the Railway Magazine, December 1937, p 446).

It is thought that the way British Rail was privatised by setting up numerous regional companies and the separate ownership of the track created an unwieldy system. However, it should be noted that in France, the state-owned parent company SNCF has over 640 subsidiaries and interests. The parent company had 180,011 employees and its subsidiaries employed 38,982 workers in the year 2000.

As with Railtrack, the French railway infrastructure is owned by a separate company Reseau Ferre de France (RFF) but is managed by the parent company. The complications seem to differ little from those in the UK.

The message of the Chairman, Louis Crallois, for the year 2000 refers to the:

"... achievement of a clear, attractive and diversified fare structure..."

After all those years and the commitment to double freight volume within the next ten years. He also says:

"Economic growth allowed the SNCF group and the parent company to show a profit for the first time in many years, despite the cost of introducing the 35 hour working week and increasing toll charges. This is the culmination of the determined drive to break even that was set in motion in 1997, following the transfer of the company's infrastructure-related debt to RFF'.

In common with other nationalised industries, (coal-mines, steel and the post office for example), railways are subject to competition and the conditions imposed by the market and profit motivation. When a world over-capacity for steel develops particularly during a world slump, plants close and workers are sacked: both coal-mines and railways have been closed down by Labour governments while they were still nationalised. With diversification in the communication industry the prospect of closures and sackings hangs over the Post Office. The chopping and changing back and forth between private and state ownership is entirely the policy of the capitalists.

In Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Engels anticipated the taking over of industries by the State including the railways. He said:

State-ownership does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces"

and

"The modem State, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the State of the capitalists ..." (p 123).

He pointed to Bismarck's nationalisation of Prussian railways as "spurious Socialism" to "... have them in hand in case of war ....". He gives the examples Of Napoleon's nationalisation of the tobacco industry and State brothels to show the absurdity of regarding State-ownership as Socialistic (see pp 121 122. Kerr ed.).

Historically, railways developed with the growth of industry and world trade and were therefore vital to capitalism. The State-or-Private issue was. and remains, irrelevant to the purpose served.

By 1910 the Russia Trans-Siberian railway was almost complete: India had an excellent railway network and even in China the building of railways was under way.

The Japanese quickly adopted railways, and:

"... few areas of the inhabitable world could not be approached to within a reasonable distance by rail when the century began" (The Penguin

History of the Twentieth Century by J M Roberts, p 127).

In America, railways developed at a breakneck pace as the classical means of transport for big business. By 1840 there were 2,800 miles of railroad in operation. This more than trebled in ten years. By 1960 the number of companies had "... declined to 600 {compared with 1,400 in 1916)".

It is worth noting that President Truman played Bismarck in 1946 to counter:

"... a nationwide-strike by seizing railroads under war powers" (Modern

American History by Hook and Waller, pp 220-22).

The Socialist Party- of Great Britain has never advocated nationalisation. In fact, in December 1945 just as the post-war Labour government was launching its programme of nationalisation, we published a pamphlet called "Nationalisation or Socialism?". This went over the history of state-control in many industries and illustrated the essentially capitalist nature of such policies.

It is absurd to postulate the creation of bits of Socialism within the wage-labour and capital framework of capitalism. The one system has to be replaced by a fundamentally different one. Capitalism has easily accommodated every scheme of reformism, leaving class ownership intact. Socialism, by definition, means the complete abolition of capitalism.

In another of our pamphlets, the 1953 edition of Questions of the Day, the journal of the National Union of Railwaymen, "Railway Review" is quoted as saying:

"Nationalised transport is being operated on capiialist patterns with capitalist forms of accountancy, with capitalist conceptions of industrial organisation. Any changes which have been introduced could well have been made by the private owners of transport undertakings. In fact it is true to say. whether we like it or not, that a number of private enterprise firms provide better wages and conditions than those obtaining generally in nationalised transport" (Railway Review, 27 July 1951).

Today's leftwing parties are still shunning Socialism in favour of nationalisation? The working class should have nothing to do with groups like the Socialist Alliance who propose state capitalism or nationalisation in favour of private capitalism. Instead, the interests of the working class is to establish common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.

A reminder to the Labour Party

Capitalism operates according to its own economic laws and these laws do not cease to operate because Labour is in power.

The economic law of capitalism is that all companies, whether private or nationalised, are normally operated at a profit. If their commodities cannot be sold at a profit, production is curtailed or brought to a stop. Ihe overriding condition for production to continue is that wages shall not rise to the point where profit disappears. All governments administering capitalism, no matter what desires the individuals may have or the principles they may profess, base their economic policy on profit making.

THE CLASS SYSTEM

The SPGB stands out from the Left in our view of Capitalist society as being divided into just two classes. This is because the SPGB's analysis is based on Marx's labour theory of value and his economic analysis of capitalism, summed up for instance in his statement that "wage labour presupposes capital, and vice versa".

This Marxist analysis of capitalism focuses on the class struggle between Capital and Labour, the buyers and sellers of labour-power, with mutually opposed interests. It is this class struggle between capital and labour which is at the root of the case for Socialism.

However, in many of Marx's writings, especially on contemporary issues (e.g. The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte), he showed himself aware of the political and social roles of various social strata, most of which are nowadays rather crudely lumped together as the so-called 'middle class'. There is a reference to this issue in the unfortunately unfinished final chapter of Capital Vol. III, The Classes, where he wrote of "the infinite dissipation of interests and positions created by the infinite social division of labour among labourers, capitalists and landlords".

For most commentators, 'middle class' is not defined in economic terms, i.e. by ownership or non-ownership of the means of production and distribution. Instead, 'class' for them becomes a confused, inconsistent, subjective and ideological concept. It often comes down to a question of values and stereotypes: the 'middle class' pay for a good education whilst the 'working class' prefer to spend their money on booze, baccy and betting.

Or 'class' may be seen as a matter of status. Car manufacturers have latched onto this. Expensive Range Rovers, people carriers and top of the range models are meant to make a statement, defining their owners as a cut above the average. Status is shown too in other consumer choices: the middle class prefer to holiday in Provence or Tuscany whilst the 'working class' take a break in Blackpool, Butlins or Benidorm.

In the end, this supposed 'class' division boils down to a claim of superiority on the basis of higher spending power. Yet, in almost all cases, these so-called 'middle class' people are actually part of the working class.

If and only if they have enough wealth, such as money, land, stocks and shares etc., bringing in enough income for them to live on without ever needing to seek employment, they may be part of the world capitalist class. But, in fact, the capitalist class in Britain is actually very small numerically, a tiny minority of the population - about 6%. Most of us never meet any of them in the whole of our lifetime.

The probability is that most of the so-called 'middle class' people (doctors, architects, dentists and so on), if their small businesses etc. folded, would soon find themselves desperately looking for work, scanning the 'jobs vacant' ads and rewriting their CVs, just like other jobless workers.

Actually; these people, in most cases, must work extremely hard simple to make a living; They may employ others to work in their shops, farms, etc but they also employ themselves as a key part of the workforce.

In that role, as Marx noted when writing of small farmers, there is a borderline situation:

For the small farmer the limit of exploitation is not set by the average profit of the capital, if he is a small capitalist, nor by the necessity of making a rent, if he is a landowner. Nothing appears as an absolute limit for him, as a small capitalist, but the wages which he pays to himself deducting his actual costs. So long as the price of the product covers these wages, he will cultivate his land, and will do so often down to the physical minimum of his wages. Capital, Vol. III, chap. XLVII (V)

A characteristic misconception of the Left is to think of the working class or the 'working masses' in terms of an outdated stereotype, as simply factory shop floor workers, miners, dockers, construction workers and other manual workers. Put such people into offices with 'white collar' jobs, perhaps with management or training responsibilities, and they are instantly transformed into 'middle class' - or so it is claimed.

Yet, from the Socialist perspective, they clearly remain members of the working class, who must sell their labour power in order to live. The spurious nature of this supposed division between 'white collar' = middle class and 'blue collar' = working class is shown to be utterly false when it is described in terms which distinguish between work of hand or brain. Workers are never mere 'hands'', the hand cannot operate unless the brain is engaged. Likewise 'intellectuals' are utterly useless if they merely sit and think, using only brains: the moment they start to operate a computer, pick up a 'phone or write, in short to communicate their ideas, at that moment they too become manual workers.

Teachers and doctors, scientists and secretaries - all these are typically regarded as 'middle class'. But in fact all these are members of the working class. Socialists argue that this bogus division - with some better paid workers being seen as superior is simply yet another way of dividing the working class. It serves to prevent us uniting on the basis of our real interests, our interest in ending capitalism with its class struggle, the conflict of interests between those who buy and those who sell labour power, between Capital and Wage-Labour.

11

LESSONS FROM THE PARIS COMMUNE

The SPGB's Declaration of Principles asserts:

"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"..

The SPGB has always insisted on the need for class-consciousness as the basis of the movement.

There are however certain necessary preconditions before Socialism can be

achieved. First, that the working class become class-conscious, in Marx's phrase "a class for itself'. Only this could ensure that they would act "consciously" in their own class interest.

Secondly, the SPGB asserts too that, since the capitalist system is a world-wide one, so too is the class struggle. Consequently, it is impossible to suppose Socialist class-consciousness developing for instance in Europe but not America, Africa or Asia - or vice versa.

Moreover, on a practical level, Socialism can only be achieved by the united action of the majority of the; working class, world-wide. If an attempt was made to overthrow capitalism in a few countries or just one continent while the rest of the world remained capitalist, it would not be long before the capitalist class used its forces, ruthlessly and brutally, to crush such a threat to their interests or, by means of blockade and boycott, to starve into submission all who challenged their class interests.

To paraphrase Donne, no country is an island, in the modern world, no country or even continent is economically self-sufficient, able to go it alone. However, as capitalism has developed a world-wide division of labour, and along with this global communication systems, these would be of use in helping develop the international class-consciousness which is an essential precondition for Socialism.

The SPGB draws several lessons from it the Paris Commune.

First, that lacking support outside Paris, the Communards were brutally butchered as a lesson to other workers. The French army even joined forces with the invading Prussian forces. Clearly crushing the Commune was far more important than the conflict between France and Prussia. As Marx argued.

The revolution must be made with solidarity; we learn this from the Paris Commune, which only fell because just this solidarity was lacking among the workers of the other countries.

Volkstaat, 2 October 1872

It would then be suicidal for Socialists to attempt a coup, as Lenin did in 1917, hoping as he did for international support but without evidence of international revolutionary class-consciousness. In his expectation that workers in other countries would rise. Lenin was mistaken.

Lacking outside support and surrounded by its enemies, the Commune was crushed. If Socialism is to be achieved, we must avoid such a situation. We can avoid it by ensuring that the Socialist revolution is built on the firm foundation of class-consciousness and democratic political organisation.

In this too Lenin was mistaken. He held that workers were only capable of a limited form of 'trade union consciousness', good enough only for limited druggies over wages but not enough for a revolution. Consequently, he argued that the ignorant masses needed the political leadership of a 'vanguard party, a revolutionary elite (v. What Is To Be Done? 1902).

Such a movement became the Bolshevik dictatorship over the proletariat, a dictatorship from the start since that was the only way a minority which lacked mass support could hold onto power. Socialism however is democratic or it is not Socialism, as Rosa Luxemburg argued.

At the time, the Paris Commune showed clearly that the workers were capable of managing things very well without having bosses to give them orders. Their institutions of self-administration were thoroughly democratic. Even in a very short period, a time when they were always under threat, the Commune was effective in tackling some social problems. It was recorded that during the period of the Commune, incidents of drunkenness were almost unheard of, and women were able to go about unmolested.

In fact, this was a model of democracy in action. But in the last century, after 1917, the phrase 'dictatorship of the proletariat' was effectively hijacked by Leninists and their supporters in the West. It came to be used to justify a real despotic dictatorship, and even to excuse Stalin's purges and prison-camps The result has been to make many decent, intelligent workers hostile to am mention of Socialism. Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism and their latter day supporters, including the Trotskyists, have done a lot to set back the cause of Socialism by associating it with state capitalism and a party-state dictatorship.

For this reason, the SPGB avoids using this phrase, just as we do not argue in terms of a 'transition' to Socialism.

A final point: some people have raised the issue of Marx's apparent inconsistency, first about the class system, then about the Paris Commune. The SPGB owes a lot to Marx but we do not follow him slavishly, and on some issues we reject his views. In applying Marxian theory we have developed his theories further. Consequently it seems to us a matter for 'armchair philosophers' to be forever poring over Marx's writings in order to look for inconsistencies. We leave that sort of point-scoring to academics with time on their hands. As for us, we have other, more important work to do, arguing the case for Socialism.

The SPGB's View on Labour governments

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has a distinctive point of view on the labour Party and Labour governments. We are neither disappointed with Labour governments' record in office nor do we give advice to the Ministers about the policies they ought to follow. We have no hope in Labour governments or advice to offer to them, we do not hold that if they had been led by other men or women or had thought up other policies the outcome would have been significantly different. As Socialists, our interest is in the vital issue of changing completely the economic structure of society. If capitalism continues it is a matter of small account whether the administration is Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat.

Labour governments have always pandered to the capitalist class. They have sent workers to kill and be killed in wars. They have sent troops against striking workers. They have tried to impose pay restraints. At every twist and turn Labour governments have attacked the working ciass. Workers should have nothing but contempt for Labour. A vote for Labour is a vote for war, poverty and exploitation. Workers should look to their own political interests. Workers should become Socialists. One more Socialist is one less vote for Labour. Labour the party of capitalism does not deserve any support from the working class.

POISONING YOUNG MINDS: PSHE AND CITIZENSHIP

The government has directed all state school children to be indoctrinated with Person, Social and Health Education and Citizenship at Key Stage 3 of the school curriculum. This has created a market for a range of books written by political reformists, social conservatives and evangelical religious zealots to determine an agenda of how children, from a very young age, understand and relate to politics, social problems and their solution.

Your Life (Collins, 2000) by John Foster is a typical example of the type of book children are expected to read at school. Published for 13-14 year old children, the text replicates the type of layout used by teenage magazines and the tone of Sunday school teachers: preachy, condescending and moralising.

Your Life is nothing more than crude propaganda. By far the worst section is "political parties and the political spectrum (p 64).

In this section children are introduced to both Communism and Socialism Both are given definitions.

"Communism: The most extreme left-wing ideology is Communism. It is regarded as a radical ideology because it aims to place all parts of the economy, that is, the production and distribution of goods and services, and all financial institutions like banks, under the ownership and control of the state. There is no private ownership under communist rule."

and

"Socialism: In a Socialist system, there is some private ownership of small businesses, but banks, transport and communication facilities, and the supply of power, health and education services are owned and operated by the government. It is claimed that this kind of social and economic system protects the workers from being exploited by unscrupulous employers."

This nonsense is directed at 13 year olds. They are receiving these definitions as fact rather than as contested political opinions. The schoolchildren are not allowed to investigate whether these definitions are true or false and that other more precise and accurate alternatives exist.

Socialists, given a chance, would argue that both definitions have nothing to do with either Communism or Socialism. In fact the two descriptions reflect features of state capitalism which were once found in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe. In politics, words and definitions are contested. Words and definitions have to be questioned. Socialists have been doing this for the best part of a Century.

It is noticeable that in the book capitalism is passed over in silence. There are no reference points in which to locate political ideas and no historical setting is given. By controlling input the government and its advisors want to control output Each year schoolchildren will be given definitions of Socialism and Communism which depict an alternative to capitalism as being extreme, unpleasant and not in their interests to support.

This also applies to the metaphor "political spectrum" where ideas, beliefs and policies are located along a band; two extremes and a liberal centre. Children are not told that this is a contentious device to pigeon-hole ideas and to focus attention and support towards the centre of politics where the Labour government wishes to define its territory. Nor are they told that the metaphor of 'Left' and 'Right' derives from the 18th Century Revolutionary Constituent Assembly in France where one group of politicians sat on one side of the room and another group sat on the other.

There are many capitalist parties with their own beliefs, ideas and policies Socialists oppose them all. Where would Mr Foster locate the Socialist Party of Great Britain?

Marx was quite clear that Socialism meant the abolition of the wages system and the end to buying and selling. Both he and Engels used Communism and Socialism interchangeably.

Since 1904, before the Labour Party was founded, a definition of Socialism/Communism was put forward by the Socialist Party of Great Britain

We wrote that Socialism meant: "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".

The logical consequence is that there will be no financial institutions and banks in Communism/Socialism. There will be no small businesses in Socialism/communism. There will be no labour market, no buying and selling of someone's ability to work, no employers, no employees and no wages system. Work will be co-operative and voluntary. There will be an administration of things not people. It will be a system run on the principle "from each according to ability to each, according to need".

That these Socialist ideas are not being discussed at school supports Marx's view that the ruling ideas in society are those of the ruling class. That they have been given the Stamp of approval by the Labour government shows on whose side of the class divide they stand.

The imposition of a government-directed ideology stems from an attempt by politicians to create an ordered, conflict-free society in which workers obey the law, do as they are told, and have uniformity and conformity in thinking.

Politicians want a model citizenship within a cohesive civil society. The litany of think-tanks are full of ideas, pamphlets and policy documents of how to thread together the tatters of a socially alienated society with its drugs, crime, suicide, drug addiction and poverty. The Utopian end is an ordered capitalism and the means is education and the education system.

The central axiom around which this ideology rotates is "citizenship". The government and its advisors believe we all have a stake in capitalism with rights and obligations, entitlements and duties. Citizens are told to stand on their own two feet, they are not to become a burden on the state, and they are to participate in a "liberal democracy" at local and general levels of society to create the Utopian idea of capitalism without the effects of capitalism.

The fostering of state ideas through the education system is not new since it has always formed part of the schooling of working class children right back to the 1870's. The Elementary Education Act of 1870 was enacted because of threat of competition from abroad, the need for greater literacy by employers and concern about social problems like alcoholism.

What is new is the systematic way it is being carried out. The policy guidelines bear many marked similarities with 1930's Russia. This authoritarianism from ministers is a new departure.

It is no coincidence that many of Blair's most avid supporters spent their student and post-graduate years either in the Communist Party or various Trotskyist groups where they were drenched with the totalitarian ideas of Lenin, (What is to be done?) Gramsci, (Selections from the Prison Notebooks) Stuart Hall (see his publication for the Open University course Ideas and Beliefs: Study Guide 2: Politics and Ideology) and Eric Hobsbawm (The Great Gramsci, New York Review of Books XXI, 4 April 1974) and the dire "Marxism Today".

When New Labour came out of Old Labour, religious belief in the market replaced unquestioning belief in state capitalism. As ex-Communists and Trotskyists, Labour's career politicians, like Peter Mandelson, embraced Hayek, competition and market forces. They may have then discarded Lenin's economic ideas but not the authoritarian outlook of Lenin's politics.

Their view is that if you control the transmission of ideas you control people. Manipulate the media with spin and you destroy the ability to distinguish between fact and fiction. This political thinking has the working class perceived as stupid and malleable. We are back to Lenin and his followers view that workers cannot think beyond trade union consciousness and the wages system or so it is claimed.

These views lay at the heart of Gramsci's ideas about the control of idea, Gramsci believed that in order to overthrow the capitalist state Leninist parties must first overcome the sources of intellectual control within civil society such as churches, schools and the media (Gramsci and the Italian State. Richard Bellamy and Darrow Schecter, 1993). Gramsci is central to the New Left: it was the control of university' departments that the New Left aspired to and from this power base to control the political direction of students.

That was before the collapse of state capitalism throughout Eastern Europe. Now Labour's leading politicians have transcribed Gramsci's view of the state into their own political programme. In modern education the dissemination of information is strictly controlled by the Ministry of Education. Educational institutions are then used as propaganda conduits to uphold the power authority of the capitalist state along with its goals for British capitalism and to induce school children to wholeheartedly accept the system of commodity production and exchange for profit without question.

School children are taught to be "entrepeneurs" and encourages to set up school companies as mini-capitalist. They are made to take part in non-political party parliaments to enact local reforms as though there was no alternative to this political process. Local businessmen are invited into schools to sit as Governors, to teach the "virtues" of selling, competition and making a profit. Dissenting parents have no say in what their children are taught, they are excluded from voicing an opinion about the ideas and beliefs which are transmitted, unchallenged, into the minds of their children. There is no dissent, no criticism, and no questioning the way in which the education system is imposed from a totalitarian centre.

Of course, Labour education policies are no different in content from those pursued by previous administrations. Education for working class school children is for a future labour market and class exploitation. All governments exist to mould, shape and influence public opinion, and the younger the audience the better.

Government propaganda makes deliberate one-sided statements to a captive audience. This does not mean that they will be successful. The experience of being in the working class and capitalism being unable to meet the needs of all society is a reality which capitalism's ideas and beliefs cannot permanently obliterate. There is dissent. There is questioning. There are Socialists.

The state enmeshes, controls, regulates, supervises and regiments civil society from the most all-embracing expressions of its life down to its most insignificant notions, from its most general modes of existence down to the private life of individuals.

(Marx: The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 2nd ed. 1869.)

CAPITALISM CAUSES WAR ANO TERRORISM

The War against Iraq: it's all about Oil and Strategic Interests

What US capitalists and their government are hoping for is stability. Stability to exploit the world's working class to increase profits and consolidate extend class power and privilege. Capitalism can never give them stability. They hope for a strong central government in Iraq rather than a civil war and instability. Capitalist investors will not want to risk their capital in an unstable region of the world. Afghanistan is seen as the experiment of US capitalism taking a country and installing a pliant government without internal diseent and civil war. They have failed in the past with both Vietnam and Somalia. They could fail again in Afghanistan. You cannot have capitalism without the effects of capitalism.

Whether US capitalism succeeds or fails in its conflict with Iraq concern for the working class of the world. War is never fought in their interests. Workers have no country. They have no raw resources to protect. They have no strategic points to secure. And they have no trade routes to fight over. In fact, the working class own nothing but their mental ability to work. As a matter of urgency, workers should use this ability politically, to work for the replacement of capitalism with Socialism, the establishment of common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.

The opportunist and unprincipled capitalist Left, under the name of "Stop the War Coalition", are wrong to state that they have the ability to stop the war through protest and direct action. The war against Iraq never stopped. It has continued since 1991. Only the establishment of Socialism can stop war.

Weekly sorties by US and British jet fighters along with imposed sanctions have seen thousands killed from either bombing raid installations or die from lack of medicine. Many of the casualities are children.

As recently as July 2002, the Independent reported the killing of a family of five through the result of a US air attack.

When the US let it be known that it was going to topple Iraq in the New Year the Times noted that the "West sees glittering prizes ahead in giant oil fields" (11 July 2002).

Ihe removal of President Saddam Hussein would open Iraq's rich new oil

fields to western bidders and bring the prospect of lessening dependence on Saudi oil.

No other country offers such untapped oil fields whose exploitation could lessen tensions over western presence in Saudi Arabia. The rush would be on for the US, Russia. France and China to strike deals with the new regime although with US troops an Iraq soil, like Afghanistan, it will be the US oil companies first off the block. Even now deals are being struck with Iraqi political groups in exile by Western governments.

Moreover strategic interests are just as important as securing raw resources like oil. Anthony Cordesman. of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies at Washington, said that the issue for the US was as much the security of the Gulf as access to particular oil fields:

'You are looking down the line to a world in 2020 when reliance on Gulf oil will have more than doubled. The security of the Gulf is an absolutely critical issue" (Times 11 July 2002).

Under new security measures announced by President Bush (the infamous "doctrine of pre-emptive defence") the US will now "first strike'" at any country who threatens its interests. The US will only tolerate political regimes which stand in line with its global interests.

As for Iraq's oil, it has reserves of 112 billion barrels, second only to Saudi Arabia, which has some 265 billion barrels. Iraqi reserves are seven times those of the combined UK and Norwegian sectors of the North Sea. But, according to Roland Watson of the Times: "the prize for oil companies could be even greater. Iraq estimates that its eventual reserves could be as high as 220 billion barrels".

Three giant oil fields - Majnoon, West Qurna and Nahr Umar - have the capacity to produce as much as Kuwait. The first two could equal Qatar's production of 700,000 barrels a day. "There is nothing like it anywhere else in the World: It's the big prize", Gerald Butt, Gulf editor of the Middle East Economic Survey, said.

Extraction costs in these giant onshore fields, where development has been held up by more than two decades of war and sanctions would also be among the lowest in the world. Provided that the US can ensure stability in a post-Saddam Iraq. The Times (quoting industry experts) claimed that it would take five years, at most, to develop the oil fields and Iraq's pre-war capacity of three million barrels a day could reach seven or eight million.

Socialists call on the working class to recognise that mere protest is not enough. To end wars, now and in the future, we need to end the capitalist system of production for profit which is the cause of war.

That is why it is not enough merely to protest against war, just one of many evil effects of capitalism. Socialists call on you to help us - join the Socialist campaign to end capitalism, world-wide, and to organise politically and democratically for a world of common ownership and production for use.

(This was the text of a pamphlet which we handed out to anti-war demonstrators in London in September of this year.)

CAPITALISM IN CRISIS

World capitalism is in crisis again. Germany's unemployment figures go beyond 4 million and the government is powerless to stop it occurring Japan is in stagnation and has been for over a decade. Manufacturing in Britain is in depression with 250,000 workers having been made redundant. Argentina is also in trouble, so is the US.

This is what we would expect from capitalism. The trade cycle is a fact of life. Capitalism's politicians and economists have no answer. They can't have any answer because they have no understanding of capitalism's anarchy of production and exchange. They reject Marx because Marx gave the only reasonable conclusion to the problems thrown up by buying and selling: abolish capitalism and establish Socialism.

Fundamentally the Socialist Party of Great Britain has always held that capitalism can only be abolished and replaced by Socialism as the result of the working class organising consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government. This emphasis on the need for the working class understanding separated the SPGB from those who believed that Socialism could come merely through the collapse of capitalism in a crisis. This was re-affirmed in 1932 in the Executive Committee's endorsement of the pamphlet. Why Capitalism will not collapse".

Against this background the Party has never had to try to justify its case by proving that crises had to get worse until a final crash, or that the workers' standard of living had to fall progressively, or that unemployment had to increase progressively.

Using the terms Crises and Depression in the sense used by Marx and other writers. Crises and Depressions have varied in intensity and duration, outstanding ones such as the 1840's, the 1870-80's, 1921-22, 1930's and early 1990's being interspersed with lesser ones. On the standard of living aspect, the Party, like Marx, recognised the part played by workers' struggles.

In the present period, as in earlier periods, the obligation rests with Socialists in trying to understand and explain expansions and contractions of capitalist production, and the failed efforts of governments and capitalists to deal with these developments.

After the 1945 war the main problem which presented itself to Socialists was of explaining the comparatively mild contractions of the post-war years in Britain and some others (though not in all countries), and also examining and criticising the claims of the Keynesians and others that while minor ups and downs cannot be eliminated, the major problem of the trade cycle of booms and depressions has now been mastered.

Many factors which lead to the onset of a crisis, and make for the subsequent larger or smaller depression, were examined by Marx. Two major factors that may be brought within a broad definition of "anarchy of commodity production" are the way in which, in the search for profit, an industry (or several industries simultaneously) may be over-expanded so that it produces an amount in excess of what that market can absorb at profitable prices and the way in which inevitable dislocation is caused when booms in the capital goods industries reach completion and tail off, thus causing a decline, sometimes large and sudden, in the sales of consumption goods and appears to derive from turbulence in finance and the money market.

How serious and prolonged the depression following a crisis may be depends on many factors, including the size and number of the initially over-expanded industries, the extent to which other and new industries still have a profitable market, and the view of future prospects taken by capitalists contemplating expansion of production, etc; also the demand for investment in the relatively undeveloped areas of the world market.

Among the fruitful studies made by Marx may be mentioned his observation that the insufficiency of the wages of the working class to buy their commodities cannot be the cause of crisis (though it is a determining factor in the build-up of the subsequent depression), because in the years leading up to the crisis wages rise and workers actually get a larger share of consumption goods (a fact statistically verifiable). Also, his observation that the tendencies working towards a falling rate of profit are "thwarted and annulled" by counteracting tendencies. It is quite certain that since Ricardo, about 190 years ago made a similar though much more superficial study of the same counteracting tendencies, there has been no continuing fall of the average rate of profit: though of course the rate rises and falls in the phases of the trade cycle.

That crises and depressions were, in most countries, not severe for several decades after 1945 was explained by the SPGB as the outcome of many factors, including the replacement of wartime destruction, the emergence of big industries, the development of the industrially less developed countries, the greater size of peacetime armies and armament expenditure and Japan and Germany were severely damaged by the war.

The power and scientific credibility of the SPGB's Marxian analysis of crises and depressions can be seen in the failure of Keynes's supporters to prevent subsequent crises and depressions occurring to this day. They believed that government policy could prevent crises, depressions and periods of high unemployment. They were demonstrably wrong.

THE UNIVERSITY OF LIFE

In left-wing circles the production of theory and the editorial control of Party journals are firmly within the hands of intellectuals. The language used is often obscure and the arguments equally dense and abstract.

These self-styled leaders generally have a further degree in economics, history, politics or sociology. As a result the political parties of the capitalist left have one dominant intellectual in control and another one trying to topple him.

When Socialists are asked about the formal qualifications needed by someone to become a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, we say none. All we expect from applicants is for them to understand, agree with and to be capable of defending the SPGB's Object and Declaration of Principles.

The Object and Declaration of Principles is easily within the grasp of any open-minded and reasonable worker. We want intelligent men and women who can think for themselves rather than intellectuals who produce theory in a rarefied academic atmosphere and then hand it down like the ten commandments to a passive workforce below. We have no leaders. We are a political party of equals.

In fact, a university degree is often a disadvantage for understanding Socialism. An economics degree is largely worthless to Socialists except in appreciating the utter shallowness of the subject matter and its inapplicability to the real world in which we live. Certainly the assumptions necessary to get economics off the ground are either

spurious or act as an apology for the interests of the capitalist class.

Socialists are fully rounded individuals who, to borrow a phrase from Ben Elton's Blackadder, have received a real political education through winning a degree from the university of life, a diploma from the school of hard knocks and three gold stars from the kindergarten of having the stuffing kicked out of us when putting the Socialist case for the first time. As a result of this practical political education we are afraid of no one and can fight our political corner with confidence.

PARLIAMENT OR DIRECT ACTION

There are many critics of the Party who reject our view that parliament can be used in the revolutionary Socialist process. Instead, they advocate the use of direct action through either a general strike or insurrection.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always insisted that those who join the Party must understand, accept and be prepared to defend the Object and Declaration of Principles in its entirety. The principles are a guide to sound political action not a rigid set of rules for those who do not want to think for themselves.

Nevertheless, Clause 6 explicitly states the necessity for the workers to gain control of the machinery of government before trying to set up Socialism:

"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."

Members of Parliament are elected by adult suffrage, and the vast majority of the voters are members of the working class. The result is near enough democratic to ensure that when the mass of the working class understand and want Socialism they have the means to bring it into being through parliamentary action.

Socialism will not be possible until the majority of workers understand the necessity for establishing common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society and are prepared to vote.

In Britain and in other countries of the world. Parliament has a complete and secure grip upon the armed forces and so the only way to obtain control is by sending Socialist delegates to Parliament with the express aim of capturing the machinery of government to allow the smooth transformation from commodity production and exchange for profit to production and distribution for social use.

Where Parliament does not exist we suggest to workers living in such a political atmosphere not to support democratic movements but to keep their class interest separate; to organise into trade unions to defend their economic interests from the intensity and extent of exploitation and form, maintain and enlarge a Socialist Party', while developing and using what democratic avenues are open to them to gain control of the machinery of government. At two periods in the history of the Party, when general elections were suspended during the First and Second World Wars, the Socialist Party of Great Britain kept its Socialist object paramount and did not join anti-war and pacifist groups.

This meant that parliamentary action is at the heart of the revolutionary process. Socialists reject direct action, whether it be a general strike, insurrection or the "workers councils" favoured by syndicalists, anarchists, people like Rosa Luxemburg (the Spartacist revolt), Anton Pannekoek ("Workers Councils"), Lenin (The State and Revolution) and the students of the 1960's (Marching in the Streets: T Ali and S Watkins, 1998).

Direct action leaves the capitalist government in a strong position to put the insurrection down. The tactic is suicidal folly. All forms of direct action over the last one hundred years have not brought Socialism any closer but have led to workers being killed, injured, imprisoned and executed.

General Strikes have not been any more successful. The 1926 General strike collapsed when it was clear that only a minority of the working class supported the action, much like the ill-considered miners' strike of 1984 when Thatcher used police and state force to crush the strike. General strikes have shown how governments can manipulate and divide the workers against themselves.

When Socialists debate against supporters of direct action it is not long before the impracticality of their politics becomes apparent. Although workers continue to use Parliament for reformist goals it does not mean that using Parliament must always be a matter of compromise with capitalism The SPGB's Clause 6 points to a strategy of taking control over the machinery of government and the armed forces etc. so that these can be converted to serve as "the agent of emancipation'' by and in the interests of a Socialist majority.

Last Night of the Proms

Written at the end of Victoria's reign, Edward Elgar's March "Pomp and Circumstance" recalls the mighty days of British capitalism with thousands of politically ignorant flag-wavers in the Albert Hall, Hyde Park and Belfast celebrating their masters' former empire and Queen capital's jubilee.

Elgar's ode to patriotic hysteria "Land of Hope and Glory", is sung by the crowds and performed by the cream of classical musicians and choirists in much the same atmosphere of intelligence as that generated by a bunch of painted-faced football fans.

The years that followed this piece of music's early performances were years of wars with millions dead, years of poverty, dole-queues and hunger-marches - all to the tune of: "god who made thee mighty make thee mightier yet".

The following leaflet was distributed in France. It demonstrates that Socialism is a world-wide movement. Language is no barrier to the Socialist case. Socialist ideas are applicable to the working class no matter where they happen to live. To have Socialist activity in France is encouraging. It is also a rebuke to those who thought we could not grow. The formation of a strong Socialist movement would give lie to the current dogma that there is no practical alternative to capitalism and the profit system.

THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN

OBJECT

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 (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.

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 the 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.