After the Labour Party’s 2013 conference, the burning question for the media hacks and the world at large was this: is Ed Miliband “bringing back Socialism”? Reading between the lines, they thought his speech showed that Labour had moved to the unions and the Left - shock, horror!
The answer to that stupid question is no, as:
* ‘Red Ed’ hasn’t a clue what Socialism would mean or how to achieve it – and if he had, he and his party would be against it;
* He is a member of and leader of a “One Nation Labour” party, a party of reformists;
* It would need the majority of the world’s working class to bring about World Socialism, since this cannot be done in a piecemeal way, a bit at a time, or in one country;
* As Socialism has never existed in the past, not even in Russia, it is impossible to speak of “bringing it back”.
None of today’s politicians care to say what it is they mean by capitalism or Socialism. To them, capitalism seems to mean banks, the financial sector, ‘entrepreneurialism’ and the ‘free market’ ideology. Cameron trots out his slogan “working for hardworking families”, and his LibDem Coalition partners, like the former banker Vince Cable, talk of “responsible capitalism”.
But they all seem to think they can reconcile the ‘national interest’ with being kind to “hardworking families” and the “deserving poor”. Socialism is often mentioned but never defined, and Marxism is always associated, misleadingly, with totalitarian dictatorships.
Vince Cable’s view of “responsible capitalism” is a fantasy world: one without capitalism’s tax-dodging plutocracy (bankers, CEOs, accountants, consultants, conmen etc.), and at the other end of the spectrum, the “seriously deprived” majority. Cable also speaks of the need to bridge the “dangerous divides... between rich and poor” and again we see he neatly dodges the toxic Marxist term, class.
Actually, the capitalist production for profit system is amoral at best and not at all a “responsible” system. The TV screens are filled with heart-rending appeals by charities and NGOs for help. As ever, help is desperately needed for millions of people, in many countries, including Britain: those who, due to dire poverty, natural disasters and wars, cannot feed their families, get water or medical treatment, get a roof over their heads, etc. All that misery, and much, much more, is down to capitalism’s gross irresponsibility.
So what is ‘Socialism’?
After Labour’s conference, LBC, a London radio station, ran a phone-in on “What is socialism?” Dictionary definitions of Socialism are pretty weird, ranging from Utopian to Stalinist, idealist to totalitarian, anarchist to vanguardist. However, one of the LBC callers was a man who said that Socialism was not about taxation and distribution but about owning the means of production and distribution. He went on to say that, to understand the necessity for Socialism, you should read Marx, particularly CAPITAL. From reading Marx, he said, you would learn that it was not employers but the working class who produce all the social wealth.
Actually you only need to use your own eyes to discover how little employers actually do, and to know how hard workers toil to make them rich. But we do agree. By reading Marx, you learn a lot more about this crazy, class-divided, system.
The LBC presenter then asked why Socialism was not on the cards. The caller gave two reasons: Russia, and workers being taught that to be successful they needed more and more money and commodities.
Socialists would add a third reason. Most workers in Britain and other countries support reform parties, believing that capitalism can be put right by a few reforms. Typical of this line of thinking, the actor Russell Brand said that Socialism would mean a “massive redistribution of wealth... and a reduction of profits” (BBC2 NEWSNIGHT, 23 October 2013).
Socialists argue that the Labour Party is now, as it always was, at best just a reform party, which side-tracks workers from understanding their class interests. From the start, Labour formed opportunistic election pacts with the Liberal Party. It is willing to do so now, even after the LibDem Party has been in a coalition government with the Tories.
As to what exactly the founders of the Labour Party actually stood for: this was deliberately left as vague as possible. When the question of Socialism came up at Labour’s 1900 Newcastle conference, Keir Hardie declared: “they did not want Toryism, Liberalism, or Socialism, only Labourism” (quoted in THE MANIFESTO OF THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN, June 1905, p30). What he meant by this “Labourism” was left to the imagination.
But that refusal to stand for Socialism was not the clarion call of a revolutionary party! From then on, anyone joining the Labour Party did so knowing that this is a party which has always rejected Socialism, favouring instead futile reformist policies like welfare reforms and nationalisation. And in wartime, Labour politicians vie with the Tories and Liberals to prove their ‘patriotism’ in the service of King Capital.
The Labour Party and the working class
Labour is no friend to the working class of this country. Its main ‘achievements’ in the field of ‘welfare’ or ‘benefits’ were mainly to save the government money. The Beveridge reforms of the “inefficient” welfare system, adopted post-war by Labour, were designed to save the Scrooge-like capitalist class from too much state spending on the unemployed, the sick, the disabled and pensioners, i.e. on members of the working class who cannot be of use to the capitalists.
Like the Tories, New Labour’s Blair and Brown held that unemployment was a choice, a matter of laziness. In Britain, with the ‘minimum wage’ law in place, one of New Labour’s vaunted ‘achievements’, there are ‘zero-hours contracts’, sweatshop conditions, and excessively long hours worked.
Working 100 hours a week is what happens when employment protections are insufficiently strong and employers excessively greedy.
NEW STATESMAN, summary, i 31 August 2013
The provision of ‘affordable housing’ (flats and the slums of the future) drives down ever further the living space a working-class family must try to live in: at best cramped, and at worst not fit for animal habitation. For “hardworking families”, a rabbit-hutch rule is applied. But the idle rich can easily find mansions with more bedrooms than they can count and acres of grounds, plus 2nd homes and villas abroad.
The Labour Party has, patriotically, and opportunistically, supported almost all possible wars from 1914 to now. The post-war Labour government carried on a nuclear armaments programme and was the first British government to have peacetime conscription. Against the dockworkers, it even used conscripted National Servicemen as strike breakers. Would today’s New Labour Party be any different? Not judging by their record.
From Ramsay MacDonald to Gordon Brown, the message to trade unionists has been consistent: we may support you discreetly and only if we are in opposition, but in government we will always put the ‘national interest’ first. This means they will almost always take the employers’ side against striking workers, and so be on the side of capital vs. labour.
Capitalism’s need for a two-party system was argued in 1910, by Lloyd George, one of Labour’s Liberal allies: “If the party system were destroyed, the class line must become the line of demarcation” something to be avoided at all costs. As this party argued:
When capitalist interests are threatened by the workers, both parties reveal themselves as one class.
SOCIALIST STANDARD, June 1914
So what benefits can workers hope to get from Liberal or Labourite reform parties? Lloyd George himself in 1911 was plain on what workers can expect (SPGB MANIFESTO, 1905):
There are MILLIONS of men and women in this country who through no fault of their own are suffering unnecessarily... who go through life sodden in poverty, wretchedness and despair... You have greater poverty in the aggregate than you ever had, you have oppression of the weak by the strong, you have a more severe economic bondage than you probably ever had before.
The SOCIALIST STANDARD noted how all the parties’ MPs collaborated in wartime: They have now forgotten they are Tories and Liberals, but they never forget they are capitalists; and working in capitalist unison, they are moving heaven and earth to safeguard those interests now seriously threatened by ‘alien’ capitalists abroad. These things show they CAN move when they like. BUT Why was it then that for over 6 years they deliberately refused to feed half-starved children on non-school days or increase the miserable half-penny rate allowed for food?
Why did this government break its own signed agreement with the London Dockers, driving them back, with the use of armed force, to harsher conditions; refuse to concede miners the minimum wage of 5s. a day? or give dock navvies 6d. an hour - while giving MPs £8 per week? THE FUTILITY OF REFORM, February 1915
This shows how some things just never change. Millions now are unemployed or struggling to get by on ‘zero-hours contracts’, while MPs are still defending their bloated, discredited, and corrupt expenses and allowances.
In the next election, the Labour Party will again urge workers to vote Labour so as to keep the Tories out, a feeble “lesser of two evils” line used by Labour from 1900. But which is the worse? As the SPGB argued in 1905 in our first MANIFESTO:
Of two evils choose the lesser, we are told; but... between the Liberal and Tory on the one hand, and Liberal Labour on the other, the choice is between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Labour’s record shows that it is a deceptive enemy of the working class, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, only a ‘pretend friend’. The need for Socialism is urgent but the Labour Party is not a Socialist party, never was and never will be.
CAPITALISM, WAR AND CONFLICT
Five million people have died in wars over the past decade - 3 out of 4 casualties in modern war are civilians while Capitalist Countries spend over $800 billion annual on military assets and there are over 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world (United Nations 2013).
Future Wars or a Socialist Future Without Wars
We live in a world capitalist system shot through with international rivalry and conflict. As one war ends so another begins. With each passing decade tens of thousands of people are maimed and killed while the weapons used to “degrade”, “take-out” and inflict “collateral damage” become more sophisticated and deadly in their use and consequence.
Capitalism causes war but it is not generally through direct market competition and trade - the buying and selling of commodities for profit - that causes governments to go to war. War is usually fought over the acquisition and protection of raw resources, trade routes and spheres of strategic influence.
In a recent article, (Surrounded: How the US Military is Encircling China, FOREIGN POLICY 20th August 2013), John Reed highlighted the increasing conflict between China and the US in the Pacific. The writer was no Socialist but the content of the article confirmed the Socialist analysis and reasons for war, particularly the consolidation and expansion of spheres of strategic influence.
As John Reed, wrote:
The U.S. military is encircling China with a chain of air bases and military ports. The latest link: a small airstrip on the tiny Pacific island of Saipan. The U.S. Air Force is planning to lease 33 acres of land on the island for the next 50 years to build a "divert airfield" on an old World War II airbase there. But the residents don’t want it. And the Chinese are in no mood to be surrounded by Americans.
The Pentagon's big, new strategy for the 21st century is something called Air-Sea Battle, a concept that's nominally about combining air and naval forces to punch through the increasingly-formidable defenses of nations like China or Iran. It may sound like an amorphous strategy -- and truth be told, a lot of Air-Sea Battle is still in the conceptual phase. But a very concrete part of this concept is being put into place in the Pacific. An important but oft-overlooked part of Air-Sea Battle calls for the military to operate from small, bare bones bases in the Pacific that its forces can disperse to in case their main bases are targeted by Chinese ballistic missiles.
The report also highlighted plans by the USAF to send fighter jets and bombers to bases from countries as far apart as Australia and India:
In addition to the site on Saipan, the Air Force plans to send aircraft on regular deployments to bases ranging from Australia to India as part of its bulked up force in the Pacific. These plans include regular deployments to Royal Australian Air Force bases at Darwin and Tindal, Changi East air base in Singapore, Korat air base in Thailand, Trivandrum in India, and possibly bases at Cubi Point and Puerto Princesa in the Philippines and airfields in Indonesia and Malaysia….
China has responded in kind by courting friendly governments like Tonga and giving vast sums of money for the building of ports and infrastructural; development for potential military and naval bases. According to ABC NEWS (14th May 2013):
In countries across the South Pacific, Chinese money is pouring into infrastructure and construction projects. In Tonga, the Chinese have built roads, invested in telecommunications, and just completed a huge wharf that can accommodate cruise liners and container ships. The investment infrastructure has also built influence.
Of course, the wharf could equally be used to support “military assets” such as warships, while the investment to infrastructure across the island could lead to the construction of airfields for fighter-jets and ballistic missiles. Chinese capitalism is just as imperialistic as its 19th century European counterparts.
And it is not just the Pacific area that the increasing international rivalry between the US and China asserts itself. China’s recent colonial adventurism to take control over disputed islands in the potentially energy-rich waters of the East and South China Seas rubbed against the interests of Japan and the Philippines. These two countries both enjoy political and military support and protection from the United States and the increasing territorial tension over the islands sets the grounds for future wars not just regionally, but globally too.
What of the moralists who deny that their Foreign policy and military action are informed by the interests of trade routes and strategic spheres of influence? In the arena of international rivalry the justification for war on moral grounds is merely empty rhetoric.
The use of white phosphorous and depleted uranium by the US in Iraq, notably against the city of Fallujah http://www.brusselstribunal.org/WMD.htm and the use of white phosphorous by Israel in Palestine (loc cit) is not condemned by the moralists of the world like Tony Benn and David Cameron. The proposed war aims of Cameron, Hollande and Obama in Syria, until scuppered by Russia, was not a moral crusade but an attempt to tip the balance of the civil war in favour of the rebels, undermine support for Syria from Iran and Hezbollah and to ease the Russian fleet away from Syrian port of Tartus once a government pliable to Western capitalism has been installed. It is not morality but government realpolitik and economic and political interests that informs the decision to go to war. The vulgar and base pursuits of economic and military interests by capitalist governments are the driving force behind the preparation for war and ultimately the engagement with other countries in armed conflict.
The Socialist Position on War
What of the Socialist position on war. And does the future have to be one of international rivalry, conflict and war?
We can only repeat what we said at the beginning of the second Iraq war in 2003:
What US capitalists and their governments are hoping for is stability. Stability to exploit the world’s working class, to increase profits and to consolidate and extend their class power and privilege. But capitalism can never give them stability. Future wars are already being hinted at against North Korea, Iran and Syria – and possibly others. Killing some people as a pretext for saving others is a barbaric argument. Who was saved by the 500,000 Iraqi children sacrificed for sanctions? How many by the million killed in Indonesia or the 3 million in Vietnam? Capitalism killed them all and it will kill more (THE IRAQ WAR - IN WHOSE INTERESTS?)
And Socialists have a consistent record in opposing capitalism’s wars. The Socialist Party of Great Britain opposed both the First and Second World Wars on the grounds that they had nothing to do with the interest of the working class.
Two Manifestoes were published setting out the Socialist position; the first was published in the S.P.G.B’s official journal, the SOCIALIST STANDARD in September 1914, and the second in the issue for October 1939.
As we stated in the pamphlet “THE SOCIALIST PARTY AND WAR”
These statements not only expressed the S.P.G.B.’s attitude to the wars now past. The Principles behind them endure and the statements represent the Party’s attitude to wars that might arise in the future (p. 75 1950).
The capitalist class and their politicians use the armed forces for their own purpose and not in the interest of the working class. As Benjamin Franklin once said:
There was never a good war or bad peace (Letter to Josiah Quincy, 1783 Wiki-quotes)
The Socialist Party of Great Britain never supposed that you can stop war by merely opposing war. It has always been the Party’s case that to get rid of capitalism’s wars the working class first has to consciously and politically get rid of capitalism.
Throughout the SPGB’s history it has seen capitalist states presenting different types of political faces; imperialist and anti-imperialist, monarchists and republics, all varieties of Christian religions, Islamic and Hindu sects, Buddhists and even atheists, who have gone to war.
There have been those countries which have claimed to be “Socialist” but they were nothing more than capitalist countries with an exploitive wages system, ruling class and armed forces. They were no different to other capitalist countries ready to use force to protect the interests of a privileged minority; internally against their working class and externally against other capitalist countries.
Economic Liberals from Adam Smith to the market anarchists of today believe that free trade would bring permanent peace; it hasn’t any more than protectionism has. Free traders believe that more and more trade will prevent war but war is bound up with international rivalry and you cannot have capitalism without nation states and its armed forces; you cannot have capitalism without international rivalry, conflict and war. Just as the tortoise needs its shells so the capitalist class needs the protection of the machinery of government. The Cobden dream of capitalism without international rivalry and war is simply utopian.
The League of Nations and the United Nations have both failed to prevent war. In fact the United Nations, in particular, has being implicitly engaged in war throughout the world. In the Eastern Congo, for example, the United Nations’ force, known as the “intervention brigade” has a mandate from the UN to go on the offensive against the rebels along the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. There have also been allegations that UN troops have fired on protestors (INDEPENDENT 30 August 2013). What is not commented on is that the Eastern Congo has great mineral wealth coveted by the likes of China and the US; war by proxy even if it is through the United Nations.
Socialism would mean no more war
There is only one thing which has not been tried. There has never been Socialism in the world. With Socialism there will not be any more war; there will be no armed forces for the propertied class to protect its property; there would be no production for sale and profit; there would be no markets; there would be no need to protect raw resources, trade routes and spheres of influence; the world would not be divided into separate capitalist nations each fighting the other; there would not be government exploiting different languages and religions and there would be no conflict between capitalists and workers because there will be no profit system and no exploiting capitalist class.
Socialism will be organised world-wide on the basis of common ownership and democratic control of the means of production by all of society. Production would be solely and directly for use. The function of production would be to make goods available to all society. There would be free access.
To achieve Socialism requires foremost, the winning over of the working class to an understanding and acceptance of the Socialist case. It is a Socialist principle that you cannot contemplate socialism being run except by socialists. Socialism is not possible until a Socialist majority democratically gain control of the machinery of government and the means of production.
A Socialist working class have got to take conscious political action within a principled Socialist party in order to get democratic control of the machinery of government, including the armed forces. To believe you can have Socialism – the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society - without political class struggle is naïve, idealistic and utopian.
A socialist majority has to gain control of Parliament and Local Councils. This is the only way for the capitalist class to be disposed and for the working class to establish Socialism. And in ridding the world of war and conflict: “Socialism will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race and sex” (CLAUSE 4 Declaration of Principles of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, 1904)
THE LOGICAL AND THEORETICAL IMPOSSIBILITY OF ANARCHISM
Marx and Engels stated in 1848 that “every class struggle is a political struggle” (COMMUNIST MANIFESTO). They had put this point as part of the principles of the First International and re-asserted the need for political action emphatically throughout their political lives. The key difference between Socialists and Anarchists is the Socialist understanding of the class role of the State. Since the State came into being to protect the property and the interests of the wealthy, and the modern capitalist State’s core function is to defend the capitalist class’s interests, if Socialism –the ending of the class system – was to be possible, then it could only be achieved by the Socialist Party gaining control over the machinery of government, including the police, armed forces, etc. Only that way could we ensure that these forces could not be used to crush the Socialist movement and set the clock back. The Anarchists who claimed that they would “abolish the State” never explained just how they proposed to do this – assuming that the capitalist class were unlikely to go quietly, meekly surrendering their wealth and power.
An opening extract taken from the on-line pamphlet THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF ANARCHISM (http://www.socialiststudies.org.uk/pamphlet%20anarchy.shtml)
At any time in the history of capitalism there have been lots of people and organisations occupied in trying to solve wages problems: the difference between now and the past being that the problems multiply and become more complex, and the armies of “solvers” - politicians, business people, academics, trade union officials and so on - become larger and larger. There is not the slightest prospect that these people will solve the problems associated with what Marx called “the wages system”.
In the present depression when unemployment at one stage officially approached 2.9 million, workers at JCB and other factories had to take wage cuts and job losses such as those at the Nissan car plant.
Elsewhere, workers at the Ford plant in Luton were working part-time for a number of months and some were even told that they must take a 2 to 9 month sabbatical with a 70% drop in wages (DAILY MAIL, 17 December 2008). When interviewed, some workers complained it was not “fair”.
And employers can also take advantage of conditions in the labour market during a depression. Zero hours contracts have been forced on workers rather than ordinary employment contracts to reduce costs and by-pass “employment rights” like protection from instant dismissal. According to The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) recently reported that there are now over 1 million workers on zero hour contracts, a figure set to increase over the coming years (CIPD, August 7th 2013).
Over a century ago, Karl Marx urged the trade unions to give up struggling for “fair” wages and go for the abolition of the wages system, not, of course, as a tactic that could be operated in a capitalist social system but as an integral part of the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by Socialism.
Marx was being logical. Socialism, as he envisaged it, involved the “abolition of buying and selling, of the bourgeois conditions of production” (COMMUNIST MANIFESTO). It would not be possible to abolish the system of buying and selling generally, and still retain it in the form of the employer buying the worker’s labour-power and paying him wages for it.
The wages system is a form of class rationing. The wages system restricts the consumption of the working class to the level that they can efficiently produce and reproduce their class exploitation. What wages actually buy and what workers actually need are two different things. Under the wages system, workers and their families are deprived of what they need to live creative and worthwhile lives.
And this is all unnecessary. The means of production and distribution, if it were under common ownership and democratic control by all of society, would be used by to produce enough food, clothes, housing and other necessities for people to lead decent lives.
This is not utopianism. The necessity of Socialism is because capitalism deliberately under-produces for the market. Capitalism holds back the forces of production including social labour. In the late nineteenth century, the idea of abolishing the wages system appeared to have become widely accepted in organisations making some claim to be socialist.
In 1890, the Social Democratic Federation and the Fabian Society both signed THE MANIFESTO OF ENGLISH SOCIALISTS which contained the pledge: “We look forward to an end forever to the wages system”. Among the individuals who signed on behalf of their organisations were Bernard Shaw and Sidney Webb but before long most of the signatories forgot all about it and were busy joining the anti-Socialist Labour Party which devoted itself to the attempt to solve social problems, including wages problems, within capitalism.
That attempt has, of course, been fruitless. Marx foresaw that it would fail and explained why this was bound to happen. In one of his early writings he said:
What errors are committed by the advocates of piecemeal reform, who either want to raise wages and thereby improve the conditions of the working class, or (like Proudhon) regard equality of wages as the aim of social revolution.
Quoted in McLellan’s MARX BEFORE MARXISM, Pelican, p 214
And he pinpointed the basic error of their approach to the problem in their belief that it is possible to retain the capitalist mode of production and superimpose on it a socialist principle of distribution. Under capitalism this is impossible.
One place in which he explained this was in his notes on the 1875 constitution of the German Social Democratic Party, published as CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAMME:
Vulgar socialism has accepted as gospel from the bourgeois economists (and a part even from the democracy have taken over the doctrine from the unreflecting socialists) that the problems of distribution can be considered and treated independently of the mode of production from which it is inferred that Socialism turns mainly upon the question of distribution (Marxists.org).
Written long before the British Labour Party was formed, this might be a description of the muddled thinking that has always governed the actions of Labour governments.
A New Wave of Socialism?
When a Socialist reads an article in the media demanding “a new wave of Socialism”, experience immediately tells them that what is being demanded is not Socialism at all but a series of social reforms. It is all tiresomely predictable.
So it comes as no surprise that the article “Only a new wave of Socialism can end the squeeze on all of us” (INDEPENDENT 9th September 2013), written by Owen Jones, falls into this latter category. A new wave of Socialism it is not.
Jones lists six “waves” of what he calls “bread-and-butter Socialism” which he wants introduced now:
* Better organised trade unions
* A living wage
* The government solving the housing crisis
* Better childcare for parents who work
* Nationalisation of the railways
* Radical Keynesianism and state intervention in the economy
And where are these “bread and butter” reforms supposed to wash ashore to? Into the waiting arms of the Labour Party! Jones, with his mixed metaphors, implores the Labour Party to embrace these urgent reforms otherwise “…the remorseless turning of neighbour against neighbour will only escalate”.
Social Reforms do not lead to Socialism.
Socialists have no problem with organised trade unions struggling for higher wages and better working conditions. The more workers who become trade unionists and understand they are in a class struggle with employers over the rate and intensity of exploitation the better. Trade Unions could also act as educational hubs for the dissemination of Marxian ideas and an understanding of capitalism. Trade Unions could publish, for example, Marx’s WAGE, PRICE AND PROFIT from which workers would learn that there can never be fair, just or equitable wages and that the class struggle on the economic field is never a level playing field because the capitalist class own the means of production and distribution . And this ownership is protected by the machinery of Government, including the armed forces.
Yet the problem facing Trade Unions is not the Trade Union legislation passed by the Thatcher and John Major governments in the 1980’s and early 1990’s as Owen Jones mistakenly believes. The current problem for Trade Unions arises out of their past and present support – both financially and organisationally – for the Labour Party. The Labour Party never was and never will be, a Socialist Party
Trade unions sponsor Labour MP’s and take part in the running of capitalism by involving themselves with government committees, Labour-supporting policy institutes and other political organisations within capitalism. However, the Labour Party is a capitalist political organisation and when in government it has to run British capitalism in the interest of the capitalist class, not the working class. The working class, whether in trade unions or not, should never give this anti-working class political party their support. Trade Unions also made a mistake in supporting British capitalism in two world wars.
And Trade Unions should be under the democratic control of the membership as a whole. This applies to voting for strike action as well as for democratic practices within the organisation of the Union itself. Trade Union leaders have often sold out their member’s interests, have sat on policy reviews with Labour Ministers and have pursued a vision of a highly regulated capitalism which sits comfortably with their reformist aspirations.
Another serious problem, not addressed by Owen Jones, is that the Trade Unions only deal with the effects of capitalism not the cause. The ownership of the means of production and distribution by the capitalist class always tilts the class struggle in the favour of employers by giving them the opportunity of attacking wages and salaries and working conditions, particularly during economic depressions. Employers can also move operations abroad and out of the country, introduce labour saving machinery and enjoy the media telling the workers to work harder while pitting one section of the working class against another.
The employers also enjoy the support of the machinery of government, through the various capitalist political parties which includes the Labour Party, who have on several occasions tried to impose wage restraints on the working class and has a long history of using troops to break strikes, more recently the fire-fighter’s strike under the Blair government. The class struggle, as Marx pointed out in THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO; “is a political struggle”. Socialism is necessary to ensure that the means of production and distribution are used just to meet people’s need. It was Marx who said that the working class should inscribe on their banners “the abolition of the wages system”.
This brings us on to Owen’s second point; the so-called living wage. This wheeze was dreamt up by academics at the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University who have proposed an hourly wage to cover the minimum cost of living. This is just a new twist on the doctrine of “the just wage”. However you cannot have “socialist distribution” on the basis of the private ownership of the means of production; you cannot have equitable distribution in a class divided society. The problem for the working class is not the “minimum wage” or the “living wage” but the exploitive wages system; a form of class rationing.
The wages system restricts the consumption by the working class to what is needed to keep them in efficient working order so that they do not fall below a certain minimum where the price of the commodity labour power “…can be maintained and developed only in a crippled state” (Marx, CAPITAL VOL. 1 Ch. VI. p. 173). What workers and their families need to live creative and worthwhile lives and what they can buy as commodities with their wages and salaries within the framework of the wages system are two entirely different things.
In fact Owen has not the slightest idea of what constitutes the wage. Wages are the price of the mental and physical energies the workers sell as a commodity to the capitalist class. Workers sell, what Marx called, their “labour power” to employers in exchange for a wage or salary. And the value of labour power, which governs its price, is defined as the socially necessary labour time that goes into its production and maintenance. The wage, then, only buys those commodities necessary to produce and reproduce the workers and their families as an exploited class. The wages system can never be fair, equitable or deliver workers a decent standard of living. The wage is the mark of wage slavery; a mark of a servile and degrading social existence.
Child care schemes are a futile attempt to make poverty less burdensome to the poor and have nothing in common with the Socialist objective to abolish the society in which the poor and rich lead such different lives. And why should workers have to conform to the employment demands of capitalism which fractures family life and to jump to the demands of capital? Why should parents be forced into employment, lose access to their children for 8 to 10 hours a day and then come home too tired to read and play with them? Child care is a misnomer under capitalism.
Capital rules and dictates how society is organised around its objective for profit, capital accumulation and the expansion of value, not the needs of the majority of the world’s population. Children are only important to capitalism as future wage-slaves. Surely people should be able to decide the patterns of their own existence, particularly nurturing and being with their own children? Socialism is not only about ending class exploitation but giving men and women a decent worthwhile life in which to love and care for children.
Among the other problems Jones lists are the issues of insufficient wages to find adequate shelter and the shortage of decent housing. Yet these very same problems were facing workers 50 and even 100 years ago. In fact Marx’s friend, Frederick Engels, wrote a pamphlet “THE HOUSING QUESTION” in 1872 pointing out that the housing crisis was just one of many social problems then facing the working class as a result of capitalism. Get rid of capitalism and only then can people lead creative worthwhile lives and enjoy decent housing.
As for nationalisation, the Socialist Party of Great Britain has long shown that nationalisation is a form of capitalism and has nothing to do with the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society. For the working class there is no difference in their position as employees between privatisation and nationalisation. The working class are exploited in both forms of capitalism. Let us not forget that when the railways were nationalised workers were still forced to form themselves into trade unions, to take strike action and protect their members from the attack by government boards acting in the same way as if they were corporate or private directors; that is against the interest of the workers. And this applies whether there are trade unions or consumer groups on the board of directors.
The Rise and Fall of Keynesianism
And this brings us on to Jones’ last “bread-and-butter” demand; the re-introduction of Keynesianism. This utterly discredited economic doctrine has a long history of failure. We only have to consider early Labour Party documents of the 1940’s advocating Keynesianism and compare the experience of subsequent governments, both Labour and Tory, in running a Keynesian policy when faced with the reality of capitalism. This is what Labour’s Annual Conference in a report on FULL EMPLOYMENT AND FINANCIAL POLICY (1944), stated:
…If bad trade and general unemployment threaten, this means the total purchasing power is falling too low. Therefore we should at once increase expenditure…We should give people more money and not less, to spend (quoted in QUESTIONS OF THE DAY: A SOCIALIST ANALYSIS Socialist Party of Great Britain p.93 1976).
In the years following the Second World War, successive Labour and Tory governments adopted Keynesianism as an economic policy but it all ended in tears. Unemployment was low from 1945 due to the war and two major competitors, Japan and Germany, temporarily removed from competition on the world market. But, from 1955 onwards unemployment began on a sharp upward trend to 747,000 in 1963, to above a million under the Heath government in 1972 and then to 1, 700,000 in 1977 under the Labour government.
Matters came to a head during the Callaghan Labour government of 1974 to 1979. The government was not only faced with an economic crisis and trade depression but also with rising inflation. The Treasury was forced to consider two incompatible Keynesian policy directives to resolve these economic problems; the first stated that when there is an economic depression and the unemployment rate increases then the government should run a budget deficit while the second, stated that when prices begin to rise then a government should run a budget surplus. Which policy would the Treasury choose when unemployment and prices were both rising together? The government was trapped in a policy contradiction and so it was left for the Labour Prime Minister, James Callaghan (not Thatcher) to drop Keynesianism and embrace Monetarism.
The failure of Keynesianism left an opening for the reactionary and equally fallacious economic theories of Milton Friedman’s Monetarism and the market fundamentalism of von Mises and F.A. Hayek. They fared no better than Keynesianism – Thatcher came to despair of Monetarism apparently claiming that the contents of the economic theory did not do what it said on the label. And the free trade, free market de-regulated capitalism of market fundamentalists died in the recent economic crisis. Who seriously reads Hayek and Mises anymore?
The Subsequent trade crises and economic depressions only demonstrated that politicians and the economists and their economic theories cannot prevent the trade cycle and Marx was right all along. Marx showed that periodic unemployment and the high rate of unemployment during trade depressions arises out of the contradictions of commodity production and exchange for profit and is inevitable while capitalism lasts. If Socialism is not established, capitalism will merely pass from one economic crisis to the next.
There is only one route to Socialism
In our view there is only one practical route to Socialism, the one proposed by the Socialist Party of Great Britain, while the policy of dealing with social problems in a piecemeal way as set-out by Owen Jones in his INDEPENDENT article is not one worth travelling along. Reformism is a futile and anti-Socialist politics. Socialists, contrary to Jones, say that the working class should not pursue “bread and butter” reforms but aim for the cream; common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.
“Socialism” is supposed to be, for Jones and others like him, a practical day-to-day politics of resolving a menu of social and economic issue while the “bowl of cream” advocated as a singular objective by the Socialist Party of Great Britain is a treat to be left for a future date. This is merely the old Social Democrat politics of immediate demands and a future Socialist object. The trouble is that many workers pursue the immediate demands and forget about the Socialist object. This political error was corrected in 1904 when the SPGB stated in its OBJECT AND DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES that a Socialist Party has no immediate demands only a Socialist objective. There are no “bread-and-butter” Socialist policies distinct from a Socialist objective; there is only the Socialist objective; the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.
And yes, it is a hard pill to swallow; social reforms cannot resolve the problems currently facing the working class, only Socialism can do that. However, Socialism cannot be established until a majority of the working class understand and desire the need for a completely new social system of society. A Socialist majority will have to take the necessary political action through a principled Socialist Party to achieve this Socialist objective. The Socialist majority, using the vote to gain control of the machinery of government via Socialist delegates, will introduce a classless society in which production will take place by co-operative and voluntary labour just to meet human need.
Egypt - Armed Force versus Direct action?
After about 6 weeks of street protests involving mass ‘sit-ins’ in various squares in Cairo, after the military coup in July when the elected President was removed by the armed forces and a new nominee government put in place, the armed forces were again in action, with violent attacks on these peaceful protesters. By the end of the day, a ‘state of emergency’ had been declared and a curfew imposed throughout most of Egypt.
Again the military were in charge. So, in the name of ‘law and order’, men, women and even children – not to mention foreign journalists – were killed and injured, or simply detained, beaten up and robbed
Egypt’s military-industrial complex has been long subsidised and bankrolled by the US and other Western - democratic and freedom-loving - politicians and governments, of both Right and Left varieties. The US for example gives $1.5 billion each year in military aid to Egypt’s armed forces. For decades they ruled Egypt, with an iron hand, and with ‘state of emergency’ powers, suppressing any form of democratic movement.
With power, came corruption and great wealth. The senior ranks of the armed forces in Egypt control significant sectors of the economy, owning much property in prime locations, and in addition running a number of industries. All the while, lining their own deep pockets.
Naturally the last thing they wanted was a government run by their opponents – in this case either the Muslim Brotherhood or some other group, determined to bring the military to heel. Such an independent government would not serve their interests.
So the elected President al-Morsi would have to be got rid of – and all those who dared to protest against the re-imposition of the normal state of affairs would also have to be dealt with.
Socialists do not support the Muslim Brotherhood or their ‘democratic’ allies. We do not advocate reforms or support reformist organisations, however much we may sympathise with those being crushed under the iron heel of a ruthless military.
But their cause is not our cause. Few of them would be likely to support us in our struggle for world-wide Socialism. So we are not going to join the chorus of those who, with liberal hand-wringing, merely deplore or condemn what’s happening in the streets of Cairo or Alexandria and other cities.
What we can do and need to do is to focus on this atrocity and explain just why protest movements, marches and ‘sit-ins’ and other forms of popular protests are inevitably not just doomed to failure but truly suicidal.
First and foremast, all governments declare truthfully (about the only honest statement ever made by capitalism’s politicians) that what they do is in the “national interest”. Yet even this statement is only partly true.
By the “national interest” what they really mean is the interest of the capitalist class – never the working class.
This comes out most obviously when the government is confronted by a set of workers in some key industry who insist on striking. For instance, in Britain, the Attlee Labour government (1945-51) used the armed forces to break a strike of dockworkers. Near the end of the 20th century, the Thatcher Tory government likewise used the army to break the coal miners’ strike.
More recently, New Labour under Blair devised the thuggish method of ‘kettling’ when policing mass protest marches and demonstrations.
Clearly the mere fig-leaf of ‘democracy’ is no guarantee that the armed forces will not be used to beat up peaceful demonstrations.
In other countries there have been many examples of such brave military actions. Think back to the 1950s - the time of the Suez War. That was fought to save the world from Nasser – thought by some in the Foreign Office to be as bad as another Hitler, and all because he had nationalised the Suez Canal, Europe’s lifeline to the oilfields of the Arab states. At the same time as British and French troops, secretly backed by the Israeli forces, were being parachuted into Egypt to ‘save’ the Suez Canal and protect Europe’s oil supplies, at the same time, the Russian armed forces were deployed in Budapest to crush Hungary’s government with its leaning towards some sort of freedom from Moscow’s rule. Czechoslovakia and Poland got the same treatment in subsequent years.
Later, China followed suit with the crushing of the students’ peaceful protest in Tiananmen Square in 1989, at the very moment when Mikhail Gorbychev was visiting Beijing.
In post-revolutionary Russia itself, similar treatment was meted out to the Kronstadt sailors, who had been such keen supporters of Lenin’s revolution. They were on strike because they wanted the slogan “All power to the Soviets” to mean something more than just a slogan.
Lenin and Trotsky thought otherwise. Trotsky declared “we will shoot you like partridges”. The outcome was the predictable bloodbath.
Go back in time a bit more, and in 1871 the Paris Commune was crushed with appalling brutality – with the French government actually inviting the Prussian army, the army of its enemy, to come to its aid and crush the people of Paris.
Where capitalist interests are at stake, no action is ruled out, no matter how violent. While Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and its masses of supporters did not pose any real threat to the class system, they did threaten the creature comforts and vested interests of Egypt’s vile generals – and so they had to be crushed, ruthlessly. The outcome may well be something like the on-going civil wars in Syria or Pakistan, etc., etc., etc.
* How can the working class ever expect to achieve Socialism and an end to class exploitation, with the odds so stacked against the workers?
* What can we, as Socialists, do?
* How can Socialism be achieved?
Clearly, the answer is not in direct action, or occupations, ‘sit-ins’, protest movements, strikes, or even a general strike.
All forms of direct action are in face most unlikely to succeed – and much more likely to be simply suicidal.
There are those who urge the workers to use physical force against the State power, fight the police and the armed forces, try to get soldiers to change sides, in short, seek power through civil war. This is the road to a bloodbath. It can never in any circumstances lead to Socialism, which presupposes a predominantly socialist working class. The misguided people who advocate civil war only do so because they have despaired of winning over the working class, or are elitists who think that a non-socialist working class can be led or dragooned into Socialism.
Socialist Principles Explained – Clause 6
It is now over a century since, in 1904, the founders of the Socialist Party of Great Britain first drafted the DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES which established our party with its unique platform. Not only did the Party declare clearly what it stood for, with a clear definition of our sole object, Socialism. It also explained briefly and clearly how the class system exploits the working class, as a class, and why Socialism is necessary.
In the final three clauses, we argue logically the need for workers, when they want to achieve an end to this system of exploitation, to organise democratically and consciously as a political party. This was and is no mere ballot-box fetishism. It is because of the logic of the situation: the awkward, stubborn fact that all governments have control over the coercive machinery of the state – including the armed forces, along with the police, the law-courts and of course the jails.
The class struggle to end class exploitation must be fought in the political arena since other methods, such as strikes or direct action, would be crushed by ruthless state action. Lessons from history, for instance, the Paris Commune, reinforce this argument.
Socialist Policies and Principles – Setting the Record Straight, p41
How many more such “lessons from history” must workers down the generations have before the penny finally drops, the message finally gets through, and they come to understand that if capitalist interests are at stake, any capitalist government, democratic or dictatorial, will always be prepared to use armed force to crush its opponents ruthlessly? How long before you too work with us for Socialism - for an end to this system, described in MacNeice’s poem AUTUMN JOURNAL (1939), as one of “sheer power and mere profit... buying money and blood at the cost of blood and money”?
Who and What is the Muslim Brotherhood?
The Muslim Brotherhood was formed in Egypt by Hassan al-Banna in 1928. Originally it was a nationalist group trying force the British out of Egypt, and to rid their country of what they saw as "corrupting" Western influences. The original Brotherhood slogan was "Islam is the solution." .In the 1940s, an armed wing of the Brotherhood was blamed for a string of violent acts, including the assassination of Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmud Fahmi al-Nuqrashi in 1948 while Al-Banna himself was assassinated soon afterwards. The movement went underground in the 1950s, and decades of oppression by successive Egyptian rulers led many of the Brotherhood's members to leave the country, while others were jailed and tortured. In the 1980s the group gave up political violence but was still banned by the regime of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Up until 2011, it was illegal under Egyptian law banning all parties based on religion. But in December that year, its political party -- the Freedom and Justice Party -- dominated parliamentary elections, winning about half of the seats allocated. The group initially said it would not put forward a candidate for president, but Mohamed Moray ran and in June 2012, became Egypt's first democratically-elected president until he was removed by a military coup. The coup embarrassed many of the opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood both in and outside Egypt. Of course, Islam is not the solution; quite the opposite, but neither is the military dictatorship propped up by the US nor the Egyptian bourgeoisie who want the “Arab Spring” to bring in the type of political system they see in the West. For the working class in Egypt, as for the working class does elsewhere in the world, it has its own particular class interest; and that is to replace World capitalism with World Socialism.
Are You a Marxist?
Are you a Marxist? To make any criticism of capitalism and the profit system you run the risk of being labelled a “Marxist” as though that is supposed to stop any critique of class exploitation in its tracks. You are also “a useful idiot” for advocating a discredited ideology that saw a barbaric, totalitarian and ruthless regime rule over most of Europe until 1989 even though you never subscribed to such a political system.
In the “anti-Marxist hysteria” of the early 21st century, even President Obama has been labelled a “Marxist” by the mad hatters in the Tea Party. And by default, the Daily Mail has claimed “red-Ed” is a closet Marxist because his father was a “Marxist” professor at the LSE. Through either subtle brainwashing when he was young or by genetic disposition Ed Miliband, by the Daily Mail’s tortured logic, is today a dangerous revolutionary “Marxist”; the sins of the father, so to speak.
Then there are those on the capitalist left who claim to be Marxist; the SWP, the Socialist Party, and dozens of other political organisations subscribing to nationalisation programmes, direct action and the imposition of their leadership in place of “bourgeois politicians”. They claim Marx led to Lenin who then led to Trotsky which then led to whoever currently leads their organisation before the next internecine warfare and a new round of expulsions. As they say of the capitalist left there are usually two professors in the party; one the leader the other wanting to be the leader.
So what we can say about all these “Marxists” and the “Marxism” they claim to follow? Well we could say that, following a comment Marx made of those claiming to be Marxists, when he was alive; if this is “Marxism” then “I am not a Marxist”. What of Marx and his ideas? Well Marx was a social scientist and a Socialist revolutionary. And his most important contribution to Socialist theory was that Socialism had to be established by the conscious and political action of the working class and no one else.
Marx also gave the Socialist movement three important interrelated scientific theories; a theory of history known as the materialist conception of history, a theory of value, known as the labour theory of value, and a political concept of class. These three theories stand or fall together and find expression in the OBJECT AND DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.
So the Socialist theoretical framework is Marxian, in that we work within and have extended Marx’s three interrelated theoretical ideas; the materialist conception of history, the labour theory of value and the political concept of class. And what Marxian ideas did we extend?
* First, from the materialist conception of history, we demonstrated that Russia in 1918 was not ready for Socialism and the only social system the Bolsheviks could develop there was capitalism.
* From Marx’s Labour theory of value we extended areas of Marx’s critique of political economy to clarify the meaning of productivity, the cause of inflation and showed the idiocy in believing Banks can create credit by the stroke of a pen.
* From Marx’s theory of crises we showed why capitalism would not collapse.
* Then there is the rejection by Socialists of all war on the basis of class interest.
* And from the Marxian political concept of class we rejected the necessity for any form of leadership.
Of course the SPGB has made its own unique contributions to Socialist theory; that there first had to exist a Socialist majority before Socialism could be established and religion was not a private and personal issue but related to an idealised non-materialist view of the world, social control and spiritual leadership. If this acceptance of key Marxian ideas makes us “Marxists” then we plead guilty as charged. But it does mean that those like the DAILY MAIL using “Marxist” and “Marxism” as a smear to attack their opponents have missed their target while those on the capitalist Left, including Ed Miliband’s father, who claim to be both “Marxists” and their political theory, “Marxism” are, in fact, neither.
NOT A BAD WORLD IF YOU’RE RICH
3.2bn adults own virtually nothing at all. At the other end of the spectrum, just 32m people own $98trn in wealth or 41% of all household wealth or more than $1m each. And just 98,700 people with 'ultra-high net worth' have more than $50 million each and of these 33,900 are worth over $100 million each. Half of these super-rich live in the US:
Is Capitalism Ending Poverty?
Is capitalism ending poverty? Yes, according to THE ECONOMIST.
This vulgar and superficial house journal of free market fundamentalism recently carried an article stating that 1 billion people have been taken out of “extreme poverty” in the last 20 years, all as a result of global capitalism.
The article, “Towards the End of Poverty” (June 1st 2013), claimed that the reduction in global poverty had been due to the rate of economic growth taking place in countries like China and India which raised living standards and improved the conditions of those living there.
The author of the article believes it is now Africa’s turn to end poverty, with countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Angola currently enjoying high levels of economic growth through trade and investment while at the same time eradicating social problems associated with poor education, health and communications. By 2050, “extreme poverty”, the article concludes, will be a thing of the past.
The writer of the article then asks the anti-capitalists to stop bleating about the adverse effects of free trade and free markets and for capitalism to step forward “to take a bow” for being the success story of the 21st century. Instead of voicing any criticism about the existence of huge disparities of wealth in the world, the hundreds of millions of unemployed workers and the daily deaths of thousands of babies due to preventable causes , the writer calls for and for more and more global trade to take place to eradicate extreme poverty once and for all.
Such an article praising capitalism to the hilt is a growing example of the crude “Taliban economics” adhered to by market evangelists; the belief that unfettered markets will create the greatest individual freedom and general wellbeing and whose adherents believe that any criticism of their economic theology is irrational, mad and dangerous to the survival of the human species.
The political consequence of this unwarranted praise for the profit system is clear; if capitalism can solve poverty, “extreme” or otherwise, then there is no need for an alternative social system. Logic has been turned on its head.
Capitalism, the cause of poverty is now praised as the cure for poverty.
No wonder when the ECONOMIST article was published, free market blogs and policy institutes along with tame journalists employed by the likes of FOX NEWS and FORBES magazine coupled with celebrities like Bono and Richard Curtis, were all out ringing the bells for capitalism.
So what is “extreme poverty”? Is it different to the poverty faced by the working class? And should capitalism be congratulated for being on the threshold of ending the poverty currently faced by billions of people on this planet?
What is extreme poverty?
Extreme poverty was defined by the Catholic priest, Joseph Wresinski as:
a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services
The definition was adopted uncritically by the United Nations in 1996 refusing, like Wresinski, to accept the capitalist cause of the problem, while a new definition of “extreme poverty” was given a few years later by the World Bank as someone living on $1.25 a day, again without calling into question the profit system and its direct link to poverty. Today, most cases of “extreme poverty” are said to be found in the sub-Saharan region of Africa while the poverty derived from being a member of the working class is ignored altogether.
In 2000 the UN set itself the goal to eradicate “extreme poverty” within the parameters of capitalism; the private ownership of the means of production and distribution, competing nation states and commodity production and exchange for profit. The major capitalist countries all signed up to this objective. Capitalism was going to deliver.
In September 2010 the UN General Assembly met to discuss whether or not the targets set out in 2000 had been met. A decade after the adoption of these goals, UN agencies reported that while 830 million people lived on the edge of starvation when the objectives were first adopted, this number had increased to more than 1 billion a decade later, even though there was enough food produced in 2010 to provide everyone in the world with at least 2720 kilocalories per day.
Of course the ECONOMIST and other supporters of capitalism avoid the stark reality of the continued existence of extreme poverty as they do of poverty associated with the working class. The article “Towards the End of Poverty” ignored the fact that the Millennium goal of the United Nations failed to deliver because of the impediments placed in the way of meeting human need by the profit motive.
And nothing has been said about the impact of another problem caused by capitalism, climate change, which will have in the future an adverse effect on many countries in the world particularly food production and access to water supplies.
So here are the facts that demonstrate the failure of free trade, free markets and global capitalism
1. Nearly half of the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty (less than $1.25 a day).
2. 1 billion children worldwide are living in poverty. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty.
3. More than 1 billion people lack adequate access to clean drinking water and an estimated 400 million of these are children. Because unclean water yields illness, roughly 443 million school days are missed every year.
4. In 2011, 165 million children under the age 5 were stunted (reduced rate of growth and development) due to chronic malnutrition.
5. 870 million people worldwide do not have enough food to eat.
6. Preventable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia take the lives of 2 million children a year that are too poor to afford proper treatment.
7. As of 2011, 19 million children worldwide remain unvaccinated.
8. A quarter of all humans live without electricity — approximately 1.6 billion people.
9. 80 percent of the world population lives on less than $10 a day.
(Statistics taken from UNICEF 2012)
What of the world capitalist class? In owning the means of production and distribution to the exclusion of the majority of the population the rich do not worry about poverty. They live lives of unimaginable wealth, luxury and privilege.
The wealthiest 1 percent now controls 39 percent of the world's wealth, and their share is likely to grow in the coming years, according to a new report. The world's total private wealth grew 7.8 percent in 2012 to $135 trillion, according to the Boston Consulting Group's Global Wealth report. The top 1 percent control $52.8 trillion, and those worth $5 million or more control nearly a quarter of the world's wealth http://www.cnbc.com/id/100780163
The examples of extreme poverty listed above are preventable. What stands in the way of a solution to extreme poverty is the private ownership of the means of production and distribution, nation states and the profit motive. In other words, what ensures these preventable problems in persisting from one generation to the next is capitalism.
And persisting they are. According to Thomas Pogge, a Professor of Philosophy at Yale:
Many more people - 360 million- have died from hunger and remedial diseases in peacetime in the 20 years since the end of the Cold War than perished from wars, civil wars and government repression over the entire twentieth century (POLITICS AS USUAL 2010).
If World Socialism had been established by now, consciously and politically, by a Socialist majority then there would not be the extreme poverty in the world today and the peasants “lifted out of extreme poverty” in China and India would not have to endure similar bleak conditions to those endured by the early working class in 1840’s Manchester described in all its human misery by writers like Frederick Engels in his book THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING CLASS (1844).
Within the practical and reasonable framework of the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society free men and women would produce goods and services just to meet human need. No one would be without electricity, education, health provision, adequate housing and food, fresh water and communication systems.
It is a no good leaving poverty to politicians it is not in their remit to solve this dire and entrenched social problem. Nor can the philanthropists, celebrities and charities solve the question of poverty. For like the ECONOMIST they have no understanding of capitalism and why and how it causes poverty. They can see the effects of the poison but have no knowledge of what causes the poison and how to stop it.
What is Poverty?
So what is poverty in the Marxian meaning of the word? Poverty is linked to class, class relations and capitalism as a class divided society.
Capitalism has not ended poverty in places like China or India but merely replaced a largely agrarian system of class exploitation with wage slavery. The same process took place in Britain in the 18th century during the Industrial Revolution. It was not a philanthropic act. No one asked displaced peasants and journeymen whether they wanted to enter the wages system. They were not canvassed. They did not even vote for wage slavery! Exploitation in a Feudal society was replaced by exploitation in a capitalist economy through the exercise of class power.
Nor is poverty a natural state of the human condition. Poverty is in fact caused by capitalism and commodity production and exchange for profit. Capitalism excludes from the market those who cannot pay for commodities and through the wages system enforces a rationing system onto the working class so that what they can buy with wages and salaries and what they and their families need to live decent and creative lives are two different things altogether.
The existence of poverty is begins by the working class being excluded from the ownership of the means of production and distribution. In being excluded from what they need to live worthwhile lives, workers are forced to sell their ability to work – their labour power – to an employer in exchange for a wage or salary. During the productive process the workers produce commodities which have greater value than the raw materials, the machinery and the labour power that produced those commodities. Marx called the additional value produced by the working class, “surplus value” and is the source of the unearned income of rent, interest and profit going to the capitalist class.
And surplus value derives from the unique nature of the commodity labour power whose value is determined by the quantity and quality of socially necessary labour time that goes into its production. Surplus value is generated in production by the fact that the working class is paid not for its labour but for its ability to labour.
During the working day the working class works through two time periods; what Marx called “necessary labour time” and “surplus labour time”. During the period of necessary labour time the working class produces value equivalent to the wages and salaries workers require to buy food, clothing and accommodation and so on. However, if the necessary labour time to produce the value of the wage is 5 hours out of a 7 hour working day, the working class is contractually obliged to continue to work an additional two hours for free; the period Marx called surplus labour time. It is during surplus labour time that the working class produces “surplus value” which is then realized as profit once the commodity is sold on the market.
Class ownership of the means of production and distribution and class exploitation cause poverty because, having no direct access to the means of production and distribution, the working class do not receive what they and their families need but only what their wages and salaries can buy. And this Marxian definition of poverty holds true no matter whether the living standard of the working class rises or falls, or whether the rate of pay increases or decreases and whether “extreme poverty” improves or gets worse.
So the ECONOMIST, the philanthropists and the celebrities are wrong in believing we are on the threshold of a capitalist utopia; for capitalism cannot end poverty only cause it. As long as there is the private ownership of the means of production and distribution and the profit motive there will be poverty for the majority of the world’s population and wealth and luxury for a minority basking in the praise of their political sycophants and paid gunslingers in the media.
THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN
FACT SHEET No 6 - LECTURE 25th January 1986-1987
NATIONALISM AND RACISM
What We Said and When
The idea of a national identity which becomes a personal one and makes the others “foreigners” is a direct product of the nation-state which is the political unit of capitalism. Thus, each nation has its own history studded with its own partisan myths, and each represents its traditions and customs as the acme of civilization (SOCIALIST STANDARD, July 1976).
The solution to the problems is not “integration” or fresh restrictions, but recognition by all workers that they are in the same boat. The working class have no country; only their class identity (SOCIALIST STANDARD, July 1976).
To the extent that Socialist ideas permeate the minds of the working class wherever they may be, to the extent that workers realise that there interests are in common, irrespective of race, and opposed to the interests of the capitalist class, irrespective of race, to that extent they will become proof against race prejudice and will work together for the establishment of Socialism, which will end, once and for all, the problem of race prejudice, THE RACIAL PROBLEM, A SOCIALIST ANALYSIS, 1947
Nationalism will slowly but surely follow the demise of the socio-economic order – capitalism – to which it owes its genesis and crystallization. Having in its rise developed nationalism, capitalism has also produced the conditions for its ultimate disintegration and disappearance, THE WESTERN SOCIALIST, No. 5 issue, 1970.
What They Said and When
Migration has caused over-crowding in our big cities with the attendant evils of taking houses which should be inhabited by the British who built them, Robert Row, UNION MOVEMENT PAMPHLET, 1969.
It has been suggested that there should be some restriction of immigration from the Commonwealth into the United Kingdom, but it is not possible under the law as it stands to prevent people who are British from entering this country. Any legislation which sought to alter that position would be both complex and controversial. Moreover, we have always prided ourselves on the fact that a British subject wherever he lives is free to come to the Mother country if he wishes to do so, CONSERVATIVE PARTY GUIDE BOOK., 1959
It is well for us all to proudly rally behind our flag, the emblem of justice, freedom and democracy, Mayor Daley of Chicago, June 14th 1970
Controls must be stricter. Numbers must get fewer and fewer until we arrive at a complete stop, Bob Mellish, former MP and Labour Chief Whip, NEWS OF THE WORLD, 30th May, 1976.
The National Front is committed to the ending of all non-white immigration and to the phased and financially assisted repatriation of all non-whites together with their dependence and descendants, NATIONAL FRONT STATEMENT OF POLICY, April 1985.
Are we are living through a Marxist Revolution?
According to the Shadow Home Office Minister, Stella Creasy, speaking a fringe meeting at the recent 2013 Labour Party Conference: “We are living through a Marxist revolution, where increasingly the means of production are in the hand of the workers” (PRIVATE EYE 5th October 2013). In her fevered imagination we are about to enter an e-utopia where producing information and communicating to other people through computers and other social media is more important than making things. And because we each “own” our computers she believes, collectively, we are beginning to own the means of production. Are we on the way to a “Marxist Revolution”? No we are not, more’s the pity. Computers are commodities and are made by large corporate firms who employ and exploit workers. Transmitting information and sending-e-mails by itself does not create social wealth but making things does. E-bay may be a new way of selling commodities but these commodities have already been made in factories and transported to retail outlets. And to buy a computer first you have to go to stores like PC World, again a privately owned company. Creasy also forgets that the electricity used to run the computers is also owned by large corporations who own the power plants, distribution cables and so on. Digital capitalism is not digital Socialism particularly when the software is also owned by multi-nationals like Microsoft whose solicitors jealously guard the software’s copyright which is also protected in law. A Marxist Revolution requires a Socialist majority taking into common and democratic ownership all the means of production and distribution for the benefit of society as a whole.
It is – unreliably – reported in the Gospels that one Jesus of Nazareth, purporting to be the son of god, attacked the money lenders who had set up shop in the Jewish temple of Jerusalem and threw them out. Not so his modern successors.
The Pope has a bank: the Vatican Bank, officially named the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR). Founded in 1942, at a time when the Vatican helped Nazis safeguard their loot and later escape from defeat, it followed an earlier bank founded in 1887. This secretive institution took till 2012 to produce a report.
This first report is meant to show how good a bank it is: it claims not to deal in hedges and swaps, has no anonymous accounts, and “barely [offers] loans at all”. As the FINANCIAL TIMES commented ironically, it “sounds too holy to fail” (6 October 2013), noting that this report “offers no clues ... into the murky image it [the Vatican Bank] has accumulated amidst a litany of past scandals” – scandals such as the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano (money laundering?) and the mysterious murder or ‘suicide’ of a senior Vatican banker, Roberto Calvi, found hanged under a London bridge.
This unique 2012 report sheds no light on such matters. Nor on the current Pope’s decision to sanctify his predecessor.
‘Saint’ Benedict, as a Cardinal and later as Pope, insisted on silencing allegations of systematic child abuse made against parish priests and teachers, with threats of excommunication if outraged parents and victims tried to lift the lid on this stench of a scandal. In short, Benedict had covered up for paedophiles so as to protect the assets of the Vatican.
This means that the present Pope Francis - the friend of the poor, the man of the people - has inherited the traditional, evil, papal abuse of power, protecting papal assets (his “patrimony”) by operating a protection racket, covering up the vices of bishops and parish priests by threats of excommunication.
So how much was at stake? It seems that the Vatican Bank’s own assets, in euros, came to a mere 5bn, plus 769m of equity capital, yet it had only 19,000 customers. But its operating expenses went up 14 per cent, “partly due to legal fees” (FT, 6.10.13). In 2012 it made a ‘net profit’ of 86.6m euros - four times the figure for 2011.
The IOR’s report listed only its assets, not including real estate such as valuable Church properties worldwide. Those assets are the ones which are at risk if legal actions are successful against the Catholic Church, as has been found in the USA and other countries, when at last the lid was lifted on this nasty can of worms.
Christians and Bad Banks
Other Christian churches are deeply involved in the misdoings of the banks. The Church of England was found to be embroiled in City trading scandals, money laundering, and offshore operations. Stephen Green, the chairman of HSBC, a major bank, is an ordained minister. HSBC is regularly cited in PRIVATE EYE for its money laundering activities. Yet humbug Green argued that “bank bosses had a duty to ‘nurture a real culture of ethics and integrity’” (OBSERVER, 25 October 2009).
Another who serves both god and mammon profitably is Ken Costa, chairman of Lazard International, a churchwarden at Holy Trinity Brompton, an evangelical London church (the UK birthplace of the Alpha movement brought over from Canada), and also the chairman of Alpha International.
From a Christian website, critical of the Alpha influence, we learn that Nicky Gumbel, a Brompton curate and the leader of the Alpha movement in the UK, wrote:
... I have found on Alpha that those from an essentially enlightened background feel at home with the parts of the course which appeal to the mind... Others coming from the New Age movement find that rational and historical explanations leave them cold... [TELLING OTHERS, p19]
This is hardly surprising – indeed what is odd is that anyone would expect to find a “rational and historical explanation” in any Christian teaching.
The Christian critic warns about believers’ gullibility:
Gumbel points out... that occult activity "always comes under the guise of something good". The Toronto Blessing is seen as "something good". How strange then that neither he nor anyone else at HTB thought to test the Toronto spirit before accepting it and then passing it on to everyone else.
Apparently the Alpha course material refers to “guidance by angels” and this Christian critic warns that this would need:
... thorough testing against Scripture in today's religious climate in which false prophets and occult 'spirit guides' masquerading as angels of light abound.
But testing “against Scripture” is no use. To test today’s unbelievable beliefs against those handed down from the superstitious past is not a useful test.
Suppose we say that Nicky Gumbel just joins a long line of “false prophets”, along with Billy Graham and very many others, going way back to Jesus and beyond? That is simply an assertion which Gumbelites and Alpha-ites can only oppose by their own “belief” and their own assertions.
That Alpha teaching is actually harmful and dangerous can be shown by their teaching about miraculous healing:
... Nicky Gumbel tells Alpha participants of the visit by John Wimber [of the Toronto Blessing]... in 1982 to demonstrate God's power to heal. “... So we began to realise that God heals miraculously...” Nicky Gumbel gives no indication here that he or anyone else attending that meeting tested the spirits to ensure that everything came from the Holy Spirit...
But even if “the spirits” existed and could be contacted, what use would it be to test them?. Among the words of wisdom offered by this critic of Alpha is this advice: “That they ensure participants are taught to proceed from the Word to experience, not from experience to the Word” - exactly the opposite of what rational people would recommend.
Astonishingly, Gumbel wrote in TELLING OTHERS (p114):
... we make it a rule on Alpha never to criticise another denomination, another Christian church or a Christian leader.
Effectively, that gives Stephen Green, Ken Costa and co., in the C of E and the City, a free hand: they can lucratively serve both god and mammon. And the Pope and his minions can carry on with their vicious, and profitable, papal protection racket.
Socialists oppose all religions. Religions pour fuel on other divisive animosities, so can be held responsible for fostering warfare and terrorism. They support the capitalist system of production for profit. They tell us to follow leaders uncritically, to obey orders, and teach the working class to “know their place”.
But it is high time the world’s workers got up off their knees and stopped praying to gods: gods like the fairies are clearly indifferent to the miseries suffered by the working class under capitalism. Only the exploited working class can act to change this system for a better one, Socialism.
NOT SUCH A GOOD WORLD IF YOU’RE POOR
The role of the revolutionary Socialist is not to sentimentally moralise against war and the effects of war but to provide a critical examination of why war takes place and in According to the BBC (12th October 2013), The Red Cross is to start collecting food for families in the UK who are struggling to feed themselves. It said there was strong evidence of families in need through food poverty. More than half a million people in the UK rely on food banks according to Oxfam. The Red Cross blames benefit cuts, unemployment and the increased cost of living for the growth in hunger and poverty. Charities erroneously believe that governments exist to be compassionate. In fact, they are class institutions looking after the interest of the capitalist class. Charity is not the answer for the problems facing the desperate and the vulnerable. There is more than enough food as well as the potential for growing more. What prevents people being fed is production for profit. Socialism is the only practical answer for ending poverty.
To Whom It May Concern,
I write to you as a 15 year-old who can see that New Labour is drifting further and further to the right. In my search for a more left-wing alternative, I found that there are several left-wing parties in this country.
I have also noted that there seems to be a certain amount of conflict between these parties, and that attempts at unity such as the Socialist Alliance have had limited success. As you can see from the list of recipients to this email, I have decided to contact the different left-wing parties to try to discover which of them sits closest to my own set of political beliefs.
Whilst I hold socialism as my political ideal, I can see from the example of Cuba that it is difficult for a truly socialist country to survive in a largely non-socialist world. Therefore, I seek a party who aims to bring about greater social equality through tax, benefits and public services (rather than a complete overthrow of our current political and economic system). My questions to you are therefore:
In what way is your party different to other left-wing parties?
Which other left-wing parties do you support/oppose?
How do you aim to achieve social equality in this country?
Thank you very much in advance for your responses,
Thank you for your e-mail. Labour cannot be anything but a capitalist political Party.
The questions you have asked are not new but have been asked over 100 years of our existence. Here is a list of core principles which distinguish us from the capitalist Left.
* The Party does not have leaders. The membership as a whole controls the organisation including our journal SOCIALIST STUDIES which we can send you on receipt of your address.
* The Party does not pursue reforms but pursues one object and one object only; the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.
* We have a set of eight guiding principles and a Socialist object which appear in all our written propaganda and is explained on our web site www.socialiststudies.org.uk
* To join the Socialist Party of Great Britain a candidate is expected to understand, agree with, and be prepared to defend the OBJECT AND DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES.
* We hold that the Socialist case, set out in our principles, can be understood by any reasonable and unprejudiced worker.
* We showed in 1918, on the basis of Marx's writings, that Lenin's coup d'etat was not a socialist revolution, that the ideas of Lenin and his Party did not derive from Marx and that Russia could only develop along capitalist lines; State capitalism is what we called it.
* We also oppose the dictatorship found in Cuba as state Capitalist.
* We showed that Socialism cannot exist in one county but has to be world-wide. World capitalism has to be replaced with World Socialism
* We have shown, on the basis of Marx's writings that taxation is not a working class issue. This is set out in more detail in SOCIALIST STUDIES.
* We oppose all political parties, organisations and groups who do not share our OBJECT AND DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES. This includes the SWP, Respect, Socialist Alliance, The Socialist Party and the anarchists.
* We do not exist to establish "social equality" in this country. We exist to establish Socialism. What we do want to is persuade the working class to become a Socialist majority who understand and accept the case for Socialism, and use a principled Socialist Party to gain control of the machinery of government - the armed forces of the state - through parliament. Unlike the capitalist left we hold that parliament and the vote can be used for revolutionary purpose to establish Socialism.
* We hold that you cannot have social equality on the basis of private property ownership - which includes nationalisation - commodity production and exchange for profit. You cannot have capitalism without the effects of capitalism.
We hope these short replies are useful. We urge you to look at our literature on our web site. If you disagree with what we say let us know where you think we are wrong. At 15 your political journey is just beginning. In three years’ time you will be able to vote. We take the vote very seriously.
However we urge workers to think and act in their own class interests. We urge workers not to vote for any Party who does not stand for the abolition of capitalism and the wages system. The vote should only be used to vote for Socialist delegates who stand for the establishment of Socialism. Where no Socialists are standing at an election we suggest workers write “World Socialism” across the ballot paper.
We do not pretend to be a large Party. Our funds are small and there is only so much we can do. But we take political action in the interests of the working class who form the majority in society. We act in our own interests and are led by no one.
As you pass through the education system and then into paid work you will feel the pressures all workers do under capitalism; the pressure of time, of having to make ends meet of imposed dead lines of bullying managers; of profit obsessed capitalists and there legions of politicians telling you that you live in the best of all possible worlds. But as a Socialist you will at least be actively engaged in removing this pressure of class exploitation.
THE FAILURE OF THE LABOUR PARTY
…,the Labour Party fails to make a clear-cut choice between Capitalism and Socialism, hoping always that goodwill and good intentions combined with careful planning will make it possible so to administer the capitalist system and that there will be a successful and continuous march towards a new social order.
Capitalism makes a mockery of such hopes. It can only be administered in accordance with its own basic laws, the exploitation of one class by another, production for profit instead of production solely for use, and the never ceasing struggle for markets.
Efforts to administer capitalism on lines incompatible with these basic laws are certain to fail and may even aggravate the position, since the expectation of profit is an integral part of the functioning of industry while in capitalist hands.
The problem facing the workers is, therefore, essentially the same now as it was in 1914 and in 1904, when the S.P.G.B. was formed. The cycle of war and peace has brought the Labour Party back to the position it occupied in 1914-1918, with the same vain hopes of the future and the same certainty of failure.
It is true now as when the S.P.G.B. first proclaimed it, that there can be no Socialism without Socialists. Therefore, the paramount task is not that of trying to reform capitalism whether in office or in opposition, but that of making Socialists and organizing for the change-over from Capitalism to Socialism. (The Labour Party during the War, 1939 from QUESTIONS OF THE DAY, Ch. IX p.49 1942)
Marx At The BBC
Recently the BBC broadcast a short five minute introduction on the relevance of the ideas of Karl Marx to the 21st century. The programme was fronted by the INDEPENDENT Journalist, Owen jones (1st November 2013).
The relevance for Jones of Marx’s ideas was vague to say the least.
First there was a reference to Marx’s alienation which Jones believed was something about workers not liking to be employed. Marx gave a much richer and diverse explanation. In THE ECONOMIC AND PHILOSOPHICAL MANUSCRIPTS (1844), Marx identified four specific ways in which alienation manifests itself under capitalism; the product of labour, the labour process, how workers relate to each other, and the denial to workers of creative expression in work.
And, second Jones linked Marx to the Labour Party concept of “Social justice”; which was a concept Marx repudiated when he said that you cannot have “socialist distribution” on the basis of private ownership of the means of production and distribution.
The programme was also let down by the contribution from the academic, Dr Elizabeth Fraser, Fellow in Politics at Oxford University, who was parachuted into the programme to make a “balanced” comment on Marx.
In her contribution she claimed that the central error made by Marx was to begin his analysis of capitalism with production. He did no such thing. In the first volume of CAPITAL, Marx began his analysis of capitalism with the commodity; and for very good reason. In fact, Marx wrote capitalism appears to be nothing more than an “immense collection of commodities” (First page of CAPITAL volume 1).
Marx then went on to give a detailed analysis of the commodity considering its use value and exchange value before turning his attention to money, labour-power as a commodity, production and capital.
Of course bourgeois economics begins with circulation, banking and consumption relegating production to merely one factor of the mystical “trinity”; labour, capital and land. This “vulgar and apologetic” change in emphasis came about in economic history shortly after Marx’s death.
This reactionary sleight of hand, known as “neo-classical” economics allowed economists to avoid asking the questions Marx had asked about the production of social wealth and its distribution. Capitalism was socially harmonious; trade unions were considered a tiresome monopoly while the profit-system was deemed to be efficient, rational and crises-free. Oh, and capitalism had no history; it extended back and forward in time as a natural entity beyond criticism.
Once Marx gets to production in his critique of political economy he shows that the working class generates a surplus value from which the unearned income of rent, interest and profit derive. Capitalists are just “personified capital”. For capitalism’s economists, then and now, this is a heresy.
However, if you begin with the City and Banks, as most bourgeois economists do, it is finance and “entrepreneurs” which conveniently generates social wealth but no account can be given of the movement of capital from one crisis to another.
Capitalism cannot be studied and understood from “mere appearance” but by “the power of Capitalism cannot be studied and understood from “mere appearance” but by “the power of abstraction”. But then Marx had already addressed the error of political economy in his own day in section 4 of CAPITAL he called “The Fetishism of the Commodity and its secret”
Dr Fraser also pulled out from a shelf behind her a copy of Marx’s CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAMME. What bearing this had on the programme was unanswered?
The German Social Democratic Party held its initial Party congress in the town of Gotha in 1875. The SDP, whom Marx was addressing in his pamphlet, had a programme, one clause being for the introduction of universal suffrage which he did not criticise.
So how she could believe there was a causal connection between Marx’s small little group of Communists in 1848 with Lenin’s Bolsheviks in 1917 and the formation of totalitarian states during the 20th century?
We just do not know although we pity her students if this is an example of her teaching.
As for BBC bias, why did they ask a Labour Party supporter to present a programme on Marx? Why did they not ask a Socialist from the reconstituted Socialist Party of Great Britain?
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.