Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sick Capitalism

Snaking its way through the Pennsylvania legislature is a bill that will block local governments from requiring companies to provide sick leave, even if unpaid, that is more than required by state or federal regulations. The Republican-controlled state Senate passed the bill, 37–12; the Republican-controlled House will now discuss it—and probably follow the Senate’s wishes.

There are no Pennsylvania or federal regulations requiring companies to provide sick leave. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 39 percent of all employees, and 79 percent of all employees in food service and hotel industries, have no sick leave. Unlike the United States, about 130 countries require employers to provide at least one week of sick leave per employee. The proposed legislation is in response to Philadelphia’s recent directive that requires companies with at least 10 employees to provide mandatory sick leave for its workers. Several metropolitan U.S. cities, as well as California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, already require companies to provide sick leave to employees.

Business employers oppose sick leave policies, believing corporate executives know better than workers or governments what’s best for the workers. As is the case for their opposition to raising minimum wage, it is because sick leave, somehow in their warped minds, reduces profits, shareholder dividends, and executive bonuses, benefits, and compensations.

The pretend-savings to preserve corporate greed, however, is a false economy. By not providing a decent sick leave policy, companies risk employees coming to work sick in order not to lose a day’s pay—or be fired.

This can lead to increased accidents because workers may be too ill to perform their jobs adequately.

The absence of a sick leave program can also lead a worker with a communicable disease to spread it to other workers and to the public. About 68 percent of all employees report they came to work with a stomach virus and other communicable diseases, according to a poll conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

About 30 percent of all workers said they became ill because of communicable diseases spread by fellow workers, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Not having adequate sick leave also can result in workers not staying home to care for sick children who, without anyone to care for them, go to school sick, and cause illnesses in other students, staff, and teachers.

The absence of adequate sick leave can also contribute to low worker morale, less productivity, and higher turnover—all of which affect a corporation’s profit margin.

The Princes and the Paupers

A new study by the UK’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI) reports that the number of people globally living on less than $1.25 per day is likely to be far higher than the already staggering 1.2 billion estimated by the World Bank.

“There could be as many as a quarter more people living on less than $1.25 a day than current estimates suggest, because they have been missed out of surveys,” the report notes, suggesting that the total number of people living in extreme poverty could be undercounted by as much as 350 million.

If, as the report claims, global poverty figures are “understated by as much as a quarter,” then more than 2.5 billion people, or over a third of the world’s population, survive on less than $2 per day. The most deprived layers of society—people who are homeless, or are living in dangerous situations that researchers cannot access—are left uncounted by household surveys, which by design are incapable of covering them. Only 28 of 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa had a household income survey between 2006 and 2013. Botswana’s poverty estimates are based on a household survey from 1993. The ODI study notes that more than 100 countries do not have functioning systems to register births or deaths, making accurate counts of child mortality and maternal mortality impossible. Twenty-six countries have not collected data on child mortality since 2009.

In Thailand, the official national poverty line is $1.75 per day and the poverty rate is 1.81 percent. However, urban community groups have assessed the poverty line to be $4.74 per day, bumping the country’s poverty rate to nearly half the population at 41.64 percent.

The combined net worth of the world’s billionaires hit a new high in 2015 of $7.05 trillion. Since 2000, the total wealth of the world’s billionaires has increased eight-fold. The amount of wealth controlled by the top 1 percent of the population will exceed that owned by the bottom 99 percent by next year, according to Oxfam.

The vast sums of money spent on war dwarf those needed to significantly reduce social misery. The United States alone spent $496 billion on defense last year, while, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture organization, “the world only needs 30 billion dollars a year to eradicate the scourge of hunger.”

If one were to define poverty as living on less than $5 per day, over four billion people, that is, two-thirds of the human population, qualify as impoverished, according to World Bank estimates. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Asylum seekers are not illegal immigrants

About 400 migrants are feared drowned after their boat capsized off Libya, survivors have told Save the Children. The Italian coast guard had rescued 144 people on Monday and immediately launched an air and sea search operation in hopes of rescuing others. More than 7,000 migrants have been rescued from the Mediterranean since Friday. An estimated 3,400 migrants died in 2014 while trying to make the treacherous crossing into Europe.

“280,000 people entered the EU illegally last year, many fleeing from conflicts in from Syria, Eritrea and Somalia.”The BBC website repeats once more the mistaken accusation that political asylum seekers are “illegal.” This is wrong under international law.

The UN Refugee Convention recognises that refugees have a right to enter a country for the purposes of seeking asylum, regardless of how they arrive or whether they hold valid travel or identity documents. The Convention stipulates that what would usually be considered as illegal actions (e.g. entering a country without a visa) should not be treated as illegal if a person is seeking asylum. This means that it is incorrect to refer to asylum seekers who arrive without authorisation as “illegal”, as they in fact have a right to enter to seek asylum. In line with our obligations under the Convention, the law also permits unauthorised entry into Australia for the purposes of seeking asylum. Asylum seekers do not break any laws simply by arriving on boats or without authorisation. International law make these allowances because it is not always safe or practicable for asylum seekers to obtain travel documents or travel through authorised channels.

Refugees are, by definition, persons fleeing persecution and in most cases are being persecuted by their own government. It is often too dangerous for refugees to apply for a passport or exit visa or approach an embassy for a visa, as such actions could put their lives, and the lives of their families, at risk.

Well Paid For Failure

BP chief executive Bob Dudley’s pension scheme “excessive,” after the oil tycoon pocketed £1.7 million in pension benefits last year.
Dudley’s award is roughly 10 times the average pension payment received by a FTSE 100 director and 62 times the average annual salary in the UK.
The oil giant also announced it would be cutting 200 full-time onshore positions and 100 contractor roles from its North Sea workforce.
Luke Hildyard, deputy director of High Pay Centre, said A pay package of this size seems excessive, but three out of four members of the BP remuneration committee are also former top executives and management consultants, who are unlikely to see anything out of the ordinary about a multi-million pound pay package. Former executives are instinctively sympathetic to other people in their position and think they deserve to paid huge amounts of money. They perhaps don't understand how a £1.7 million pension payment might look to ordinary workers across the wider economy who are seeing their pensions cut to the bone. This type of arrangement is fairly typical of a major UK company and highlights why the executive pay setting process needs to be accountable to people from outside the executive class,” he added.

A nice cup of tea?

India's tea industry directly employs more than a million people with many millions more dependent on it for their livelihoods. It brings in about $3bn a year, with up to a quarter of that coming from exports. India became a major tea producer after the British set up plantations in the 19th Century to break China's monopoly. The huge estates have traditionally provided for all their workers' needs - but if owners shut them down, thousands can be left without jobs, health care or enough to eat. Bijiita's Ekka’s ancestors worked as forced labour for British tea merchants, who set up India's north-eastern tea-growing belt in the 19th Century, and imported workers from central regions of the country.

Technically tea workers have been free for decades, but the 1951 Plantation Labour Act, introduced four years after India became independent, remains based on the colonial system. It outlines a duty of care owed by plantation owners to their employees, but at the same time it preserves a system of cradle-to-grave dependency. And even now, although the minimum wage is 169 rupees ($2.68) a day, tea workers typically only receive 96 rupees ($1.52), the companies arguing that the rest is made up by their welfare package.
In 2007 the UN Children's fund, Unicef, found that hunger, disease and child exploitation were a problem even on apparently successful plantations that sell tea to high-end customers. Now India's tea industry is being scrutinised by the World Bank, the National Human Rights Commission, the UN and other institutions.
"They are cocooned communities," says Unicef's Caroline den Dulk. "They have all their own services, nurseries, schools, health provision - but they are run from a private sector point of view, and the people there are among the most marginalised in India. They have fallen off the radar."

The sprawling Bundapani Tea Garden in West Bengal, in the foothills of the Himalayas is a vast, 3,000-acre (1,214-hectare) property which had its own hospital, schools and shops and more than 1,000 families were involved in the growing and processing of tea. Then, in July 2013, the tea garden was shut down. No-one told the workers why - they assume it was not making enough money. In the first 18 months, 10 people died from malnutrition-related illnesses according to Partha Pratim Sarkar, who runs a tea-worker charity, G-Nesep. Today Bundapani has an atmosphere of part post-apocalyptic ghost town and part faded colonial glory. The once blooming deep green tea bushes are overgrown with weeds. A post office, a factory and a school are all boarded up and abandoned. The hospital is derelict with broken windows and posters about health care strewn on the floor.

Bijiita Ekka, was a young teenager enjoying school “We had no money and we had to get money from somewhere," she says. "So my mother took me on a train to Delhi." There they went to see a labour contractor. the pair were separated, and the 14-year-old was taken by train north to Chandigarh, more than 1,000 miles (1,600km) from her home.
"I was terrified because I realised that something really bad was about to happen to me and I didn't know what I could do. I had never felt so scared and lonely," she says, her eyes filling with tears. What followed was a life of servitude in a military family that treated her like dirt. "I worked all day and everything I did was wrong. They used to scold me and hit me. Even the children would hit me." She speaks about being constantly hungry, working all the time and being beaten on a daily basis. One day her mother appeared in Chandigarh, and managed to take her away. She doesn't know exactly how long she spent there, but she knows it was months - and that she was paid nothing. "I can't go back to that life. Please. Never."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

1910 Election: We still say it today

The 1910 General Election:
 Our Manifesto to the Workers

Once again the various political parties are seeking your support in a General Election. The Liberal Government, who are appealing to you to retain them in office, were boasting in January last of their “great victory” at the polls. They pointed to the anti-Lords majority of 120 as a proof of their clear mandate and sufficient backing to abolish the Lords’ veto. Yet within a few months of this “great victory”, they are again asking you to return them for the same purpose.

Hardly had the Liberals been elected when Mr. Asquith admitted that he had not got the “guarantees” without which he promised at Albert Hall he would not hold office.

The history of the Liberal party shows that the House of Lords has nothing to fear from them. Besides acting as a trysting place for their financial supporters, it does duty as an excuse for their broken promises and procrastination. They have raised the bogey election-cry of “Down with the House of Lords!” ever since the rejection of their 1832 Reform Bill, but though in power a dozen times since then with large majorities, they have not once joined issue with the peers. Instead of “ending or mending”, they have been extending, the Second Chamber. A far greater number of peers were created in the 19th century by the Liberals than by the Tories, and they are well ahead, with a total of 40, in the 20th century. In fact, the necessity of rewarding with peerages the great contributors to the party’s funds is, doubtless, one of the reasons for the Dissolution.

After indulging in the most violent denunciation of the Lords the Liberals arranged to patch up their quarrel by holding a conference, which, after five months existence, has been abandoned “for the present” – to use Mr. Asquith’s phrase. During these months a truce was called and we told not to disturb the little game of coddem evidently being played by the wily “eight”. The Government, if returned again, obviously intend to continue the sham-fight ’til the Coronation, when we may expect another General Election – or another conference.

Although the Liberals admit that the reform in the composition of the House of Lords means strengthening it against the people, the preamble to the Government Veto Bill states that “it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists, a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of a hereditary basis”. This Bill gives the Lords power to reject every bill twice. Even one of their own members has admitted the hypocrisy of his party. Writing to the Daily Chronicle (June 20th) the Hon. J. Martin, Liberal M. P. for St. Pancras, said: “The Government have changed front several times on the House of Lords question, and on account of their wobbling since the Election, I have no hesitation in saying that I have no confidence whatever in them.” During the Dissolution debate (18.11.10) he said: “I do not believe the Government are in earnest in their fight against the Lords. With a majority of a hundred members like myself to stand by them, I do not believe there was any need for a dissolution.”

All this goes to show how fraudulent the Liberals are; but even were they sincere on this question of the Upper Chamber it would not concern you, fellow-workers. Mere political changes do not affect your economic condition. The Liberals say that there is not such a reactionary Second Chamber abroad as the British, yet you know that poverty and unemployment abound there as here.

The poverty and insecurity from which you suffer has its roots, not in political forms, but in the class ownership of the means of life. No reform, whether of Tariffs, Franchise, or Poor Law, can touch the cause; consequently the effects persist though social reforms are continually passed.

Even Lloyd George confessed, in his City Temple speech (17.10.10), that “before we succeed in remedying one evil, fresh ones crop up. We are hopelessly in error”. That is a very significant admission. But the very reforms that fail to touch the evils they are supposed to remedy are, the “wicked Lords” notwithstanding, being made the issues by the Liberals at the present election.

Very Old Age Pensions for those on the verge of the grave (adopted because they are cheaper than Poor Law relief); Labour Exchanges (organised to smash strikes and reduce wages); a specious promise to qualify the legal effects of the Osborne judgment (a sop to catch the votes of the trades unions): these are the futilities with which the Liberals mock the care-worn wage-slaves of capitalism.

The Labour Party, as we have continually pointed out, is merely a wing of the Liberal party. It is composed of job-hunters who, like Shackleton, are seeking office in Liberal administrations. Said their chairman in the House of Commons (18.11.10): “It was because the Labour Party believed the solution of the House of Lords question would be a step forward that they supported the Government”.

Your masters are seeking your suffrages in this election because upon their control of the political machine their supremacy depends. Liberal and Tory alike are out for the maintenance of this system, which means for you a continuation of your slavery. While pretending to be in deadly enmity, they are united as one against you when you try to better your lot. They combine in Masters’ Federations and try to starve you into submission by locking you out when you seek to make your wages cover the increased cost of living – as in Lancashire. They bring the armed forces into your midst to bludgeon you and menace your very lives – as in South Wales. Through their political supremacy your masters control these forces of repression, and if you are to change the conditions under which you work and live, you must fight to get control of the machinery of Government.

In that fight you cannot take sides with any section of the capitalist class, because it is to their interest to maintain this system which means luxury and idleness for them. Neither can you support those parties which, like the Labour Party and the Social-Democratic Party, are parties of compromise and reform. (The latter of these organisations has, in its election manifesto, advised the workers to stultify themselves by voting for the Tories. Their only candidate is a champion of “a strong navy”!) Your interests, being opposed to those of the capitalists, must lead you to ally yourself with a working-class political party waging an uncompromising battle against all the forces ranged in opposition to your class.

Your emancipation can only be achieved by converting the instruments of production from the property of the few (who use them to exploit you) into the common property of society, so that they can be used to produce the requirements of life in abundance for all; in a word, Socialism must be established.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain is the only party in this country that consistently works for this end: and as the realisation of Socialism depends upon the conversion of the workers, your place is within its ranks, striving to bring your fellow-workers into line, helping to hasten the day when the fratricidal warfare of capitalism is supplanted by the fraternal co-operation that Socialism alone can ensure.

Pending the time when the workers rally in greater numbers to the Socialist Party, and so enable it to take its proper place in electoral contests as the only working-class political party in this country, it has no candidates in the field. Hence all candidates before you at this election, whether they be openly and avowedly capitalist, or slink at the heels of the Liberals under the title of I.L.P., S.D.P., Labour or Socialist, stand for the maintenance of capitalism, and from the position we have outlined your duty is plain.


On this occasion, and, lest the enemy impersonate you, go to the ballot-box and inscribe “SOCIALISM!” upon your voting paper. Above all, the work that lies before you is to enlist the support of your fellows in the fight for Socialism, for that alone can deliver you from the misery which to-day you endure.


December 1910

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Common Treasury For All

The ideas of common ownership are part of the history of the working people of Britain. A number of people, including Gerrard Winstanley, started to build houses, and dig and plant their crops on the common land at St George's Hill in Surrey. The Diggers, or True Levellers as they described themselves, were communists who wanted to abolish private property and unlike any other radical grouping, they tried to put it in to practice. However, the Digger communes lasted barely a year. They were broken by the violent hostility of the landlords and the indifference of the poor. Ruffians were sent to the commons to physically attack the Diggers, tearing down their houses and trampling crops. The landlords took them to court and prosecuted them for trespass. A smaller group of the original St.Georges Hill Diggers who moved to close by Little Heath near Cobham received similar treatment, as did other communes established in Wellingborough in Northamptonshire, Iver in Buckinghamshire, Barnet in Hertfordshire, Enfield in then Middlesex, Bosworth in Gloucestershire and a further one in Nottinghamshire. Indeed, nine of the Wellingborough Diggers were arrested and imprisoned in Northampton jail and although no charges could be proved against them the justice refused to release them. The Diggers’ communist ideas were a powerful attraction to the poor. Winstanley produced a utopian blueprint entitled Law of Freedom, a detailed plan for a future society.

An F again for capitalist reform

The promise that all children globally would have primary education by 2015 - pledged by world leaders in the millennium year - has officially not been achieved.
Unesco says there are 58 million children without access to primary school and 100 million who do not complete a primary education.
Only a quarter of countries achieved the goal of halving adult illiteracy.
here is a $22bn (£14.7bn) funding gap if the headline target of getting children into primary school is to be achieved, Unesco says.

USA not Number One

Although the United States is one of the the most powerful colossus in the history of the world it lags significantly in quality of life for its citizens. In the Social Progress Index 2015 the U.S. does not make the top 10, or even top 15. The global study measured “basic human needs,” “foundations of wellbeing” and opportunity. The U.S comes in at 16th overall.

America is ranked 30th in life expectancy, 38th in saving children’s lives, and a humiliating 55th in women surviving childbirth. We know that we have a high homicide rate, but we’re at risk in other ways as well. We have higher traffic fatality rates than 37 other countries, and higher suicide rates than 80. We also rank 32nd in preventing early marriage, 38th in the equality of our education system, 49th in high school enrollment rates and 87th in cellphone use. 

A teacher who earns $40,000 from her or his job pays 25 percent of income in tax . But a hedge fund billionaire raking in $400 million from investments will only pay between 15 and 20 percent of that haul in taxes. If I find $100 on the street, that’s taxable income. But if my grandfather gives me $100 million, I don’t pay any income tax on that jackpot. Inheritances are 100-percent exempt from the income tax. A tiny number of extremely rich families will pay taxes on estates before distributing funds, their relatives who inherit that money don’t need to fork anything over to the IRS once they take possession of those assets. Combine this arrangement with low-tax or no-tax trusts, and you can see why the living is easy for the children of billionaires. Billionaires have found ways for their fortunes to live forever. They deploy tax planners who design trusts and other mechanisms to reduce or flat-out eliminate their estate taxes. In 2013, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson used a complex trust mechanism to transfer $8 billion to his heirs, shielding over $2.8 billion in federal estate and gift taxes on the assets they’ll inherit once he passes on.

Congressional researchers estimate that people who use offshore tax havens cost the rest of us as much as $70 billion a year. And that’s just the tip of the tax-dodging iceberg. Global Financial Integrity, a financial watchdog agency, estimates that global corporations and wealthy individuals are hiding a total of over $21 trillion.

When a billionaire donates money to a large hospital or university, we’re encouraged to applaud their generosity. We seldom realize that we’re actually subsidizing those buildings adorned with the billionaire’s name. Since donations reduce taxes on a billionaire’s income and estate, ordinary taxpayers chip in about 50 cents of every dollar they donate.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Austerity and Food Banks

While soup kitchens have long been present in the UK, the rapid spread of food banks is a recent phenomenon. Harsh austerity measures including slashed welfare payments and dwindling public services have caused the rapid spread of food banks across Britain, new academic research suggests.

The research,“Austerity, sanctions, and the rise of food banks in the UK,” was published on Wednesday in the British Medical Journal. It was conducted by a team of academics from Oxford University. The government has long refused to admit to a link between its austerity policies and a dramatic explosion in food banks across the state. However, the Oxford University report shows otherwise.

The study highlighted a concrete link between demand for food parcels and the government’s austerity measures. It found demand for emergency food aid is highest in areas where poverty occurs in tandem with reductions in social welfare payments. It also revealed that emergency food assistance is particularly common in regions where high levels of unemployment exist. The report found high rates of food parcel use were particularly evident where benefits sanctions had been enforced on jobless claimants who had their payments terminated for at least a month as a result of not meeting local job center regulations. The Oxford University research uncovered stark fluctuations between different regions. While less than 0.1 percent of people based in Lichfield, Staffordshire, required emergency food parcels, this figure soared to 8 percent in Newcastle upon Tyne. Some of these variations stemmed from the length of time a particular food bank had been established, the research found. Nevertheless, the report said higher levels of emergency food distribution were “significantly associated” with austerity policies and welfare cuts.

When the coalition government came to power in 2010, the Trussell Trust food banks were active in 29 local council areas throughout Britain. By 2013/14, however, this number had risen to 251. Over the same period, the Trussell Trust’s rate of emergency food aid distribution had tripled, the Oxford University study said.

The UK’s Faculty of Public Health, which warned Prime Minister David Cameron in 2014 that Britain’s welfare system was “increasingly failing to provide a robust last line of defense against hunger.” In late 2014, a joint report by the Trussell Trust, the Church of England, Oxfam and the Child Poverty Action Group revealed that those who use food banks are more likely to be single adults or single parents, live in rented accommodation, suffer unemployment and have borne the brunt of some sort of benefits sanction. An official report by Britain’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs also expressed concerns about the rise of food insecurity. A cross-party parliamentary probe into hunger and food poverty conducted in 2014 found that financial hardship, austerity and government-driven sanctions may explain the rising use of food banks. The study also found a greater degree of clarity is required on how food insecurity is defined in Britain, and a system that monitors such trends is paramount.

James Meadway, a senior economist at UK think tank the New Economics Foundation (NEF), said the Oxford University study's implications are clear. "The research, peer reviewed and published in one of the world's leading medical journals, should finally kill off the ridiculous claim that more people are using food banks because they want to, rather than because they have to," he told RT. "The last official figures available, up to 2013, show the poorest 10% having a decline in their income of 15%, after inflation, in a single year. This has been driven overwhelmingly by benefits cuts. It's obvious that if the poorest people are squeezed like this, they'll be forced into relying on charity," he added. 

UK Hero?

Blair has insisted he is not “super-rich,” despite reports that he can earn more than nine times the average British annual salary in a single day. Multimillionaire Blair claimed to be “very lucky.”

Blair is guarded about his wealth, which some estimate totals more than £100 million. It is reported the former prime minister charges £250,000 for public speaking appearances – more than nine times the average UK annual salary.

Tony Blair Associates, reportedly earns £7 million a year for advising Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev whose government was accused of human rights abuses after his riot police massacred dozens of striking oil workers taking part in a peaceful protest in Zhanaozen, western Kazakhstan, in December 2011.

Tony Blair Associates has also been linked to a Saudi Arabian oil company founded by the son of Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah. A leaked contract, which emerged last November, showed Blair had been hired by PetroSaudi to help facilitate a deal between the oil firm and Chinese state officials.

Blair and his wife, Cherie, own millions of pounds worth of property in the UK. Top of the list is an £8 million Buckinghamshire mansion and a nearby three-bedroom cottage purchased for Tony Blair’s sister, Sarah. Tony and Cherie Blair reportedly purchased London homes for their children Nicky, Euan and Kathryn, valued at £1.35 million, £3.62 million and £1.2 million, respectively. The couple also own an £8 million Grade II-listed Georgian townhouse in West London, which they bought in 2004.

The GI Hero

An American soldier has pleaded guilty to being part of a "kill team" who deliberately murdered Afghan civilians for sport last year.

Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock told a military court he had helped to kill three unarmed Afghans. "The plan was to kill people, sir," he told an army judge. Morlock detailed how he and other members of his Stryker brigade set up and faked combat situations so that they could kill civilians who posed no threat to them. He described how elaborate plans were made to pick out civilian targets, kill them and then make their deaths look like they were insurgents. Four other soldiers are still to come to trial over the incidents. Some soldiers apparently kept body parts of their victims, including a skull, as souvenirs.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Is Socialism Practical Christianity?

No true Christian can remain indifferent while hundreds of thousands of his or her Christian brothers and sisters are ill-fed, badly housed, illiterate, and without proper medical care. Pained by the sight of so much suffering, Christians must turn to socialism as the solution. Capitalism, the system under which we are now living, may be described as a way of life in which, "One soweth, and another reapeth"(John: 4; 37). Well might we say to the wealthy few who own our large estates and factories what Jesus said to his disciples: "you…reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor"(John: 4; 38). The capitalists cease from resting only to eat, while you cease from working only to rest, and eat only when you can. Do you believe that Jesus favored such injustice, he who said, "by their fruits ye shall know them"(Mathew: 7; 20)? The fruits of capitalism can be seen even by the blind; they are poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, crime, greed, and disease. Could Jesus have wanted us to live like this?

"all ye are brethren." (Matthew"23;8)

"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."(Matthew: 22; 39)

"All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." (Matthew: 7; 12)

"Let everyone who possesses two shirts share with him who has none, and let him who has food do likewise." (Luke: 3; 11)

"Give to every man that asketh of thee." (Luke: 6; 30)

"Give and it shall be given unto you...for with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." (Luke: 6; 38)
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the preach deliverance to the captives." (Luke: 4; 18)

"Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation."(Luke: 6; 24).

"No man can serve two masters…Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matthew: 6; 24)

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."(Matthew: 19; 23)


"as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise"(Luke: 6; 31)—has to become the rule which all men and women follow in their daily lives.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

American Civil War And Marx
April 9, 2015 is the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War. From 1861 to 1865 about 620,000 soldiers lost their lives. One estimate of the death toll is that ten percent of all Northern males 20–45 years old, and 30 percent of all Southern white males aged 18–40 perished. It was perhaps one of the bloodiest wars in U. S history. Not all whites in the slave states of the Confederacy wanted to secede. Many wanted to stay in the Union. However, the vast majority of poor whites weren’t abolitionists even though they didn’t thrive economically because blacks were enslaved and their slavery actually hindered their economic development. Even though slavery was against their own class interests, poor whites continued to support the slave system on the hope that eventually, as Marx noted, they might become slaveholders themselves.

Marx and Engels and the First International backed the Republican Party and its candidate Lincoln. It was a new party that had emerged from the conflict in the Kansas territory prior to the Civil War. Karl Marx viewed the war, not as Southern apologists saw it (‘a war of Northern aggression’), but rather one of Southern aggression through which the plantation owning class hoped to preserve their political dominance. Marx recognised that the core reason for the war was chattel slavery, an economic system in which people are kept in bondage and not compensated for their labour. As today, apologists for the secession of the Southern states argued that other issues, such as state’s rights or tariffs, rather than slavery, explained the insurrection. Marx argued in his October 20, 1861, Die Presse article, ‘The North American Civil War’ he took Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, at his word when Stephens proclaimed what Southern secession was really all about. Wrote Marx:
‘The question of the principle of the American Civil War is answered by the battle slogan with which the South broke the peace. Stephens…declared in the secession Congress, that what essentially distinguished the Constitution hatched at Montgomery from the Constitution of the Washingtons and Jeffersons was that for now for the first time slavery was recognized as institution for good in itself, and as the foundation of the whole state edifice, whereas the revolutionary fathers, men steeped in the prejudices of the eighteenth century, had treated slavery as an evil imported from England and to be eliminated in the course of time.’
Marx continued:
‘The cultivation of the Southern export articles, cotton, tobacco, sugar, etc., carried on by slaves, is only renumerative as long as it is conducted with large gangs of slaves, on a mass scale and on wide expanses of a naturally fertile soil, which requires only simple labor. Intensive cultivation, which depends less on fertility of the soil than on investment of capital, intelligence and energy of labor, is contrary to the nature of slavery.’

If slavery were contained in the existing slave states, it would go into economic decline. Slave-owners would fall behind in political power to the emerging Northern capitalists, and this would cause a rift between the slaveholders and the poor whites who would no longer have the chance of becoming masters themselves. Containing slavery would jeopardise the compatible relationship of the ruling slaveholder class and the poor whites. In a brilliant passage describing this process, Marx wrote:
‘The number of actual slaveholders in the South of the Union does not amount to more than 300,000, a narrow oligarchy that is confronted with many millions of so-called poor whites, whose numbers have been constantly growing through concentration of landed property and whose condition is only to be compared with that of the Roman plebeians in the period of Rome’s extreme decline. Only by acquisition and the prospect of acquisition of new Territories, as well as by filibustering expeditions, is it possible to square the interests of these ‘poor whites’ with those of the slaveholders, to give their restless thirst for action a harmless direction and to tame them with the prospect of one day becoming slaveholders themselves.’

Many of the American revolutionaries of the 18th century wanted to contain slavery to the original thirteen states, and eventually to legislate it out of existence. The original Northern states allowed slavery, but over time the institution was outlawed. Slavery was forbidden in the Northwest Territory, the area today known as the Midwest. Most of the Constitution’s framers hoped that the institution of slavery would wither away in the South. But the Industrial Revolution in England, and the ever-expanding British textile industry, drove up demand for cotton. The Southern planters received a new lease on life. They began growing cotton for the emerging European textile market, which required more land, and more slaves to work the land. With their slave system thriving, the slave-owners wanted to ensure that this profitable enterprise would expand and prosper. The more farsighted plantation owners could foresee that an ever-expanding majority of Northern voters, irritated by slavery’s competition with ‘free labour,’ would eventually outvote the pro-slavery South in a presidential election. To compensate for this loss of political power, the slave-owners had expanded into the new western territories, trying to establish them as slave states. These new slave states would guarantee the planters two senators each, which positioned the Senate to block any attack on their ‘peculiar institution.’ Nevertheless, Northerners would have more votes in the House of Representatives, and pro-slavery forces recognized this dilemma. Consequently, the South’s power was focused on the less-democratic US Senate, where each state, no matter how small its population, received the same representation. This battle between free state Northerners and pro-slavery Southerners would erupt into civil war in 1850s Kansas as people from both regions rushed into the territory.

A strict confinement of slavery within its old terrain, therefore, was bound according to economic law to lead to its gradual extinction, in the political sphere to annihilate the hegemony that the slave states exercised through the Senate, and finally to expose the slaveholding oligarchy within its own states to threatening perils from the ‘poor whites.’ In accordance with the principle that any further extension of slave Territories was to be prohibited by law, the Republicans therefore attacked the rule of the slaveholders at its root. The Republican election victory was accordingly bound to lead to open struggle between North and South. And this election victory, as already mentioned, was itself conditioned by the split in the Democratic camp.

Marx had a clear view about how abolition would be the first step for enabling slaves in America to be effectively mobilised by the Union to overcome the old order, which he saw represented not only by the Confederate states themselves but also those pro-Union 'border states' in which slavery was still legal. Without abolition, he argued practically, the Confederacy would be able to mobilise all of its able-bodied men into military service. He was impatient with Lincoln's diplomacy for keeping the Northern 'border states' in the war on the Union side, advocating force be used to make abolitionism a declared Union war aim, while simultaneously transforming the struggle into ‘revolutionary waging of war’. Marx must have felt fully vindicated when the first black troops entered into the Union service shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1863). He also hailed the thaw in Britain's relations with the US in the wake of the Trent Incident, to the extent that the two countries signed a treaty in 1862 for jointly suppressing the slave trade.

Workers from Manchester to London organised in opposition to active British support for the slave South—helping to block the clearly marked intentions of Lord Palmerston, the British Prime Minister, to intervene militarily in the U.S. Civil War. This action on the part of the workers went against their own immediate economic interests and was, as Marx wrote to Engels on April 9, 1863, “an act almost without precedent” in the history of the working class. Marx himself attended the mass meeting of the London Trades’ Union Council in March 1863, in which the skilled workers of London proclaimed their support for the war against slavery and opposition to British intervention on the side of the Confederacy.

Alan Johnstone is a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, a companion party of the World Socialist Movement - He contributes to the blogs
Socialism or Your Money Back
Socialist Courier

Monday, April 06, 2015

Fully automated luxury communism

Fully automated luxury communism (FALC) aims to embrace automation to its fullest extent. “There is a tendency in capitalism to automate labor, to turn things previously done by humans into automated functions,” says Aaron Bastani, co-founder of Novara Media. “In recognition of that, then the only utopian demand can be for the full automation of everything and common ownership of that which is automated.”

This is an opportunity to realise a post-work society, where machines do the heavy lifting not for profit but for the people. “The demand would be a 10- or 12-hour working week, a guaranteed social wage, universally guaranteed housing, education, healthcare and so on,” says Aaron Bastani, co-founder of Novara Media “There may be some work that will still need to be done by humans, like quality control, but it would be minimal.” Bastani explains “Take Uber. Huge company. Its idea is that by 2030 it will have this huge global network of driverless cars. That doesn’t need to be performed by a private company. Why would you have that? In London, we have Boris bikes. Why couldn’t we have something like Uber with driverless cars provided at a municipal level without a profit motive?” Bastani says his conception of FALC is based on a modern reading of Marx’s Capital and Grundrisse.

Recent research indicates that 35% of jobs in the UK are “at risk” of being automated. The automatons of this new age offer a number of advantages beyond automation that promise to make drudgery redundant, including 3D-printing and algorithms smart enough almost to pass for human. An age of machine-abetted plenty appears to loom around the corner. “I’m not saying we’re there yet, though in certain areas we clearly are,” Bastani says. “Take video and audio content – we’ve reached post-scarcity with that. A Spotify or an iTunes or a Wikipedia-style model doesn’t feed people, obviously. But the claim could be that this is the leading edge of a set of trends for software, but also, soon, for hardware. Because that’s attendant with the rise of solid freeform fabrication, 3D-printing, synthetic biology.”

The left-wing group Plan C deploy the slogan “Luxury for all” in their agitations. “It seemed to us that this demand neatly summed up the aims of a modern communist movement,” say Plan C members. They believe its tenets were initially inspired by Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars trilogy, wherein a socialist utopia is established on the Red Planet. A Pattern Language, a 1970s utopian tract written by three architects, was also an inspiration.

 MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson doesn’t find the idea of machine-generated populist luxury outlandish. On the contrary. “A world of increasing abundance, even luxury, is not only possible, but likely,” he says. “Many of things we consider necessities today – phone service, automobiles, Saturdays off – were luxuries in the past…. doesn’t find the idea of machine-generated populist luxury outlandish. On the contrary. “A world of increasing abundance, even luxury, is not only possible, but likely,” he says. “Many of things we consider necessities today – phone service, automobiles, Saturdays off – were luxuries in the past.”

Luxury communism finds a current cultural analogue in sci-fi visions such as Star Trek, with its replicators and egalitarian politics, or the late Iain Banks’ high-tech post-scarcity Culture universe. Eventually, Bastani sees FALC achieving something closer to that — a society with collective control over its own high-tech, work-reducing gadgets. He believes what little work will be necessary in the future, such as optimising 3D-printers and agricultural robots, will be organised much the way editors currently manage Wikipedia — in a decentralised, non-hierarchical fashion. But before then, and in order to get there, he hopes to use the luxury communist label to win converts to the cause. Ultimately, this is about politics. Consider the Atlanta rapper Migos’ hit song, Versace, he says. “You get these music videos the kids love, where it’s completely outlandish, luxury everywhere. The story of capitalism is that if you work hard and play by the rules you can get this, which is obviously bullshit.

“But if you say, well look, if you want this, what you need to do is seize the means of production. We need to get automation and make it subordinate to human needs, not the profit motive. It’s about seizing the bakery rather than stealing the bread.” With robots presumably kneading the dough.

SPGB Manifesto 1905

Manifesto of The Socialist Party of Great Britain 1905

In bringing to your notice the aims and methods of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, and in order that the reason for the existence of the Party may be clearly understood, it will be necessary to give a short survey of the position of our class under existing society, and a sketch of the historical development which has resulted in present conditions.

To-day the worker goes into the labour market as an article of merchandise, and his wages, that is, his price, is determined like that of any other article of merchandise, by the cost of production (i.e. the social labour necessary), and this in the case of the worker is represented by the cost of subsistence. The price of labour power fluctuates by the operation of supply and demand, but those variations cancel one another, so that on the average the worker gets but a sufficiency to enable him to exist and reproduce his kind. There are generally more workers in the market than are actually required by the employers, and this fact serves to keep wages from rising for any length of time above the cost of subsistence. Moreover, machinery and scientific applications are ever tending to render labourers superfluous, with a consequent overstocking of the labour market, decrease of wages, and an increase in the number of the unemployed. Under these conditions poverty is necessarily the lot of the working-class, and it is admitted by even the apologists of the present system, that in Great Britain today one-third of the population is on or below the poverty line.  Herded together in slums, half-starved and ill-educated, the workers eke out a miserable existence, in many cases their whole life history being but the chronicle of a longer or shorter journey to the workhouse. The unhealthy conditions under which the workers live are the fruitful source of the diseases to which they are subject, and alone explain the physical deterioration which is working havoc with our class. The evils with which we are confronted are not temporary or accidental, but are the necessary outcome of the system of society itself. As long as that system remains its results will become more and more pronounced, and its effects increasingly felt by the working-class. Suffering from want and haunted by fear of want, life is a burden to the working-class today.

This was not always so. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries handicraft was the prevailing mode of production, and there was no machinery worth mentioning. Hence we wish to emphasise the fact that the handicraftman was in possession of his tools, and usually of the raw material, and the natural consequence was that he generally owned the product. He was also entitled to his share of the common land. The craftsman, therefore, was not obliged to sell his labour-power continuously, and he worked when and how he pleased. The handicraftsman, accordingly, was in a favourable social position. With the growing trade he was enabled to command a high price, so much so that at the end of the fifteenth century the handicraftsman could earn enough in ten weeks to provision himself for twelve months, while the labourer could support himself for a whole year by what he earned in fourteen weeks. The workers also had abundant leisure and recreation, owing to the numerous holidays, feasts, and fairs, and in their travels could always obtain food and a night’s lodging free at any of the monasteries or convents.

The discovery of America and the new way to the East, round the Cape of Good Hope, increased commerce and brought in its train a greater demand for labourers. Then began the systematic enclosure of the common land on the pretext of improving agriculture, but in reality for the purpose of driving off the people so that they might be available as wage-workers. The land was enclosed, the old craft privileges curtailed, and advantage taken of the Reformation to abolish the holidays. Driven off the land, the workers found the basis of their freedom gone and were forced into the handicraft factories which were brought into existence about this time by the merchants, the forerunners of the modern capitalist-class. In these factories, although the work was still mainly handicraft, the division of labour was, because of its economy pushed forward more rapidly than before. Then came the introduction of machinery. Hargreaves invented the spinning jenny, Arkwright the water frame, Crompton combined both and produced the mule, and Cartwright brought out the power loom. Soon Watt’s application of steam as a motive force for machinery revolutionised production, and enabled the capitalists to forsake hill and dale and bring the workers together in industrial centres, where the raw material, coal and iron were convenient. Hence have arisen the factory towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

From that day onwards there has been a ceaseless application of large and small inventions to machinery, increasing its power, speed, and productivity. The worker, however, lost his skill as craftsman, and now became a machine minder. Owing to machinery doing away with the need for great physical strength, women and children were next harnessed to the car of Commerce, so that the worker was brought face to face with two sets of competitors: the machines on the one hand, and his wife and child on the other. We see the result to-day, in that both here and more particularly in America there are “he towns” and “she towns,” while even where men and women are employed the home life is destroyed, and the woman works during the day and the man at night. By a wise dispensation of capitalist Providence the workman sees his wife regularly each day – at the factory gate.

Here we have the worker entirely dispossessed of the means of getting a living except by selling himself as an article of merchandise to the owners of the means of living. This is wage-slavery. Society is to-day divided into two classes with opposing interests, one class owning the means of life and the other nothing but their power to work. Never in the history of society was the working-class so free from all trace of property as today. Of the wealth produced in this country, roughly £1,750,000,000 per annum, the workers’ share is, according to capitalist authorities, less than £500,000,000, so that the working-class gets less than a third of the wealth produced. Wealth is natural material converted by labour-power to man’s use, and as such is consequently produced by the working-class alone; and while the major portion of the wealth is appropriated by the capitalist-class, this class numbers some 5,000,000, or about an eighth of the entire population. Over two-thirds of the wealth is therefore retained by an eighth of the population. It is, indeed, computed by Carroll D. Wright, Commissioner of Labour to the United States Government, that the worker in that country gets only 12½ cents out of each dollar’s worth of wealth he produces, that is an eighth of his product.
To-day production is social, but ownership and distribution individual. Production is co-operative and no man can claim that he produces a single article, for he has only carried out one operation of a whole series necessary to the final product.

But in the sphere of distribution, while the capitalists are a solid class against the workers as regards the ownership of the wealth produced by the working-class, they, the capitalists, are antagonistic to one another in the endeavour to get the larger share of the markets. Fourier pointed out at the beginning of the last century that this competition could only end in monopoly, and we see concentration and trustification going on in every branch of industry, more notably in the United States, the most advanced of capitalist countries. The present system contains within itself the germs of its own destruction. With increasing powers of production the worker’s share, and therefore his purchasing power, grows less, and this leaves an ever increasing mass of wealth for the capitalists to endeavour to consume, resulting in a constant glutting of the markets. The latter become more and more restricted as each country in its turn produces for itself and then joins the scramble for the markets of the world. By this process the small manufacturer and trader are being eliminated and wealth is concentrated in ever fewer hands. National and international trusts become the order of the day, and capitalism enters upon its final phase. The anomaly of starvation in the midst of plenty, a distinctive feature of capitalist society, becomes more and more apparent to the workers, and the capitalists themselves, overpowered by the very forces of production they have perfected but are no longer able to control, suffocated by the enormous mass of wealth they can no longer consume, and faced by the ever-increasing army of the unemployed, will be compelled to give way to the economic and human forces around them.

Production and distribution are becoming more and more out of harmony, and it is a sociological as well as a biological fact that an organism living out of harmony with its surroundings must readapt itself in order to continue in existence. To bring about this re-adaptation it is necessary to make ownership and distribution harmonise with production, that is, to make them social. This can be done only by the overthrow of capitalism and – 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. THAT IS SOCIALISM. In all human actions material interests rule, and therefore the dominant class can only be concerned in upholding wage slavery and increasing their power over the workers. The working-class, on the other hand, are driven by their material interest to struggle for the possession of the means of living. To the working-class history has committed the mission of transforming society from Capitalism to Socialism.

A glance over past history shows that every class that emancipated itself had to commence with the capture of the political machinery, that is, with the power of government. It is, therefore, necessary for the workers to organise a political party having for its object the capture of political power. This political party of the workers can only be a Socialist party, because Socialism alone is based on the facts of working-class existence. Socialism alone can free the worker from the necessity of selling himself for the profit of a master. Socialism alone will strip him of his merchandise character and allow him to become a full social being. Then, with the removal of the many artificial restrictions to production, those producing wealth, owning and controlling it for their own well-being, will be interested in the further development of the productive powers; for every new conquest in the domain of science, every fresh extension of the dominion of Man over nature, will be hailed by all as a means of shortening the time necessary for the production of our material requirements, and increasing the leisure essential to the adequate development of our physical and mental faculties.

In this country there are many organisations claiming to fulfil the requirements of a workers’ party. There is, for instance, the Social-Democratic Federation, established over twenty years ago by middle-class men. In most cases these men never had a real grip of the working-class position, and as a consequence middle-class ideas have usually dominated the S.D.F. Mr. H.M. Hyndman, “the father of British Social-Democracy,” does not accept the statement of Marx that the emancipation of the working-class must be the work of the working-class itself, but contends that the workers will be aided and guided (particularly by the latter) by men from the class above. Thus having no sound basis of action the political party of the S.D.F. has reflected practically all phases of tactics, ranging from the revolutionary position to support of betrayers of the working-class like Mr. John Burns. Never having sufficient faith in the class it was supposed to represent, the S.D.F. went from the support of one section of the capitalist party to the other. Although continually mouthing the class war, its members at one time talked of voting Tory to smash the Liberal Party, and at another time of voting Liberal to smash the Tories, as during the South African war, when they supported, among others, Mr. John Burns, Liberal candidate for Battersea, Mr Henry Labouchere, Liberal Candidate for Northampton, and Mr. Phillip Stanhope, Liberal candidate for Burnley. Their utter lack of Socialist discipline in allowing members to support capitalist candidates and capitalist parties was shown in the case of the support by Mr. H. Quelch of five Liberal-Labour candidates for the London County Council, viz, Messrs. Ben Cooper, G. Dew, H. Gosling, J. Gregory, and W. Steadman, when these men were nominated at a meeting of the London Trades Council, of which council Mr. Quelch has since been appointed chairman. The Social-Democratic Editor of Justice also supported the candidature at North West Ham of Mr. J. J. Terrett, a thrice-expelled member of the S.D.F. Mr. Quelch likewise supported Mr. Steadman, Liberal Candidate for Central Finsbury. Mr. Will Thorne (a Parliamentary candidate of the S.D.F.), supported Mr. Percy Alden, Liberal candidate for Tottenham, in spite of the determined opposition of the local branch of the S.D.F. Mr Thorne also supported Mr Will Crooks, the Liberal candidate for Woolwich. Mr. J. F. Green (Treasurer of the S.D.F.), with the sanction of his Executive Council, supported Mr. D. Naoroji, Liberal candidate for North Lambeth. Mr. J. Hunter Watts (member of the Executive Council of the S.D.F.) supported Mr. Masterman, Liberal candidate for Dulwich. The Executive Council of the S.D.F. supported Mr. J. Hill, Liberal-Labour candidate for Govan. Five years ago Mr. Hyndman, in withdrawing from the Executive Council of the S.D.F, stated that the majority of that organisation were wholly destitute of political aptitude, and that very much was to be desired in respect of their understanding of the basic principles of Socialism, and the statement is still true.

In face of these facts the Social-Democratic Federation cannot correctly claim to be a genuine workers’ party. The Fabian Society also poses as a Socialist organisation, for we are told that this society “consists of Socialists.” It is, indeed, composed of “middle class” men, who naturally deny the class struggle, profess to believe in permeating the capitalist-class with Socialism and hold that the tendency of society is towards government by the expert. Fabianism, therefore, tends towards the rule of bureaucrats. The Fabians are the cult of the civil service, and are Socialist neither in name nor in fact. Whenever they take part in elections they run as Progressives (Liberals) – or as anything but Socialists. This is fortunate for Socialism. Fabianism, that peculiarly British product, is merely a manifestation of the intellectual bankruptcy of the capitalist-class, and can be left to its own devices.
The Independent Labour Party, another party claiming to be of the workers, was formed on the theory that the S.D.F. was not practical. The I.L.P. was going to preach Socialism in such a way as to bring it into actual practice. In its early days there was a big struggle over what was known as the “fourth clause,” which practically forbade alliances in the political field and would have put the I.L.P. in such a position that it could not join hands with any other party. For some years there was a battle over this point, and the “fourth clause” was finally defeated. Soon after it came into existence the I.L.P. spent about £5,000 in election expenses, and it is a significant fact that to this day no explanation has been given as to where this money came from. The members of the I.L.P. were also to give special attention to the trade unions, which they did by sinking the principles of Socialism for the sake of the financial and political support of the unions. Among their early doings was the Bradford affair. There they were running a Mr. F. W. Jowett for the local council, and made a bargain with the Liberals for the exchange of support. Hence Mr. R. Roberts, a member of the I.L.P, supported a Liberal candidate in the Tong Ward in opposition to Mr. C. A. Glyde, the I.L.P. candidate; and one of the reasons why the I.L.P. opposed Mr. Quelch at Dewsbury was that otherwise they would have lost the support of the Liberals for Mr. F. W. Jowett at Bradford. There are indeed many instances of alliances between the I.L.P. and the Liberal Party. In ’98 the Leeds I.L.P. approached the Liberals with a view to an alliance, which was refused; they then went to the Tories with the same object and the same result. In the same year, in London, they wanted some seats on the County Council, and in return for those seats they agreed to support the Progressives, but this action had the effect of opening the eyes of the honest rank and file of the I.L.P. in London, and killed their organisation in the metropolis. The so-called Independent Labour Party is independent only that it is free to sell to the highest bidder. The I.L.P. is in reality run by a set of job-hunters whose only apparent political principle is to catch votes on varying pretexts and by still more varying means. They openly repudiate the class struggle, the basis of Socialism, but nevertheless seek admission to the International Socialist Congress, where they acquiesce in what they call “a merely glorified animalism dangerously akin to bestiality” in order to pass muster in the presence of the assembled delegates of the international proletariat. The Independent Labour Party is evidently not a party of the workers.

The Labour Representation Committee came into existence chiefly, as far as the rank and file of the trade unions were concerned owing to the Taff Vale and Quinn v Leatham decisions, and as far as the trade union officials were concerned, because they saw a chance of Parliamentary jobs. At the first meeting of the L.R.C. Mr. John Burns opposed putting the movement on a working-class basis. Mr. James Sexton, of the Liverpool dockers, said that the Socialist resolution was magnificent but not war – not conductive to Parliamentary jobs, he meant – and he would vote for it anywhere but there. This position is characteristic of most alleged Socialists in Britain – they would vote for Socialism anywhere but where a vote would help it. Mr. Steadman said they should elect those who had borne the heat and burden of the day – i.e., men of the Steadman stamp. At Newcastle Mr. John Ward stated that they wanted to get their feet on the floor of the House of Commons and would not be particular how they did it. Mr. J. Keir Hardie said they did not want Toryism, Liberalism, or Socialism, only Labourism. Wonderful to narrate, this is the same Keir Hardie who sits as a delegate on the International Socialist Bureau. The L.R.C. constitution states that they should not support the Liberal or the Tory Party, but for every seat that has hitherto been contested the candidate put forward by the L.R.C. has been a Liberal-Labour hack, so much so that Mr. John Morley stated he would welcome them into the House of Commons, as they would always be found voting as Liberals. Last year Messrs. W. Crooks, D. Shackleton, and A. Henderson supported Mr. Benn, Liberal candidate for Devonport, and Mr. Bell, ex-chairman of the L.R.C, got his seat in the House of Commons by an arrangement with the Liberal party. Mr. D. Shackleton is a defender of child labour, and Mr. Henderson is an opponent of the legal reduction of the hours of labour. After all their cry of independence and after all their falling out with Mr. Burns, who told them they were selling themselves for two hundred dirty pieces of gold, they selected as Chairman of their Parliamentary group the same Mr. John Burns, the defender of Asquith (the murderer of miners at Featherstone), thus choosing as their leader one of the most bitter enemies of the working-class. The Labour Representation Committee is not the party of the workers.

A word with reference to trade unions may be found useful here. While writers like Smith, Howell and others imagined the present unions merely a continuance of the old craft guilds, later and more accurate research has shown this view to be untenable. With the break up of the feudal system and the advent of the manufacturing period, the old craft guilds died out. The grouping of large numbers of workers in factories, and, later on, the introduction of power driven machinery, rendered necessary the employment of capitals far too large for the workers to save out of their wages. Thus the workers remained workers all their lives, and the close communication between them in industrial centres, enabled them to interchange ideas regarding their various positions, with the result that unions began to be formed, based upon the recognition of the fact that the worker remained a worker during his life. Moreover, in many cases a grasp of the class antagonism necessarily arising from such conditions was obtained by the more virile and intelligent of their members.

For years they had to struggle to make their combinations lawful, and then to secure legal protection from the thieves who appropriated their funds; but at last both these objects were attained, and, until the Taff Vale and Quinn v Leatham decisions, the trade unions jogged along in a comparatively secure legal position. With this legal protection, however, ideas that had been growing up since the breaking down of the Chartist movement spread far and wide. Taught by the assiduous agents of the capitalist-class that “Capital” and “Labour” were brothers, the workers acted on the theory that between them and their masters were “common” interests: that if they demanded more wages than the capitalists cared to pay they (the workers) would drive the business out of the country; that as it was the employers who paid them their wages they should not “kill the goose that laid the golden eggs,” and such other phantasies as capitalist ingenuity could invent. As a result, portions of the textile and mining industries arranged “sliding scales,” under which wages were supposed to rise with prices. Long experience has, however, shown that in practice wages slide down with express speed, but the sliding up process proceeds at a tortoise-like rate, and the only under pressure, so much so that even a conservative and religious section as the Welsh miners have been agitating for the abolition of the "sliding scale" system. While the employers were numerous and competing, the workers’ unions were able to wring advantages from them and make employment a little less like the hellish slavery it had been, but now the growing combination of the capitalists in every branch of industry has rendered the chances of winning a fight by the old methods exceedingly small. Under those conditions, and coupled with the absurd idea of the mutuality of interests between Capital and Labour, trade unions upon their present base are little more than benefit societies which save the capitalist-class some amount out of the rates and taxes they would otherwise have to pay towards the support of their disabled slaves. Before the trade unions can become effective factors in bringing about a change of society, they must give up the superstition that the robbers can be friendly to the robbed. The other superstition, that the employer is an enemy on the industrial field but a friend on the political field, must also be abandoned. The spectacle presented by the Engineers in voting for Sir Christopher Furness, Parliamentary candidate for York, at the very time they were out on strike against him, could only arise out of ignorance of the antagonism between the worker and the master in the political no less than in the industrial field. Yet this political imbecility just instanced is supported by almost all the “labour leaders” and trade union officials as “practical politics.” Defeated on the industrial field, the workers are advised by their “leaders” to place the only weapon left, the political weapon, in the hands of their enemies. May we be spared from such instances of criminal folly in the future. The basis of the action of the trade unions must be a clear recognition of the position of the workers under capitalism, and the class struggle necessarily arising therefrom: in other words, they must adopt the Socialist position, if they are going to justify their existence at all. Does this mean that the existing trade unions are to be smashed? That will depend upon the unions themselves. All actions of the unions in support of capitalism, or tending to side-track the workers from the only path that can lead to their emancipation, should be strongly opposed; but on the other hand, trade unions being a necessity under capitalism, any action on their part upon sound lines should be heartily supported.

In the industrial field to day there is an irrepressible conflict between the propertyless producers and the propertied non-producers. This conflict is represented in the political field by the organised party of capitalism, the Tory Party and the Liberal Party representing different sections of the same exploiting class. All political parties are but the expression of class interests, hence the working-class party cannot ally itself with or support any section of the capitalist party, for any alliance or bargain between them can only serve the interests of the ruling class by perpetuating the present system. The working-class party must be opposed to all other parties. There are many more or less well-intentioned persons who contend that the workers have something to gain by playing off one section of the capitalist party against the other, and that in this way a political footing can be obtained by the working-class. Of two evils choose the lesser, we are told; but these good people do not realise that between the Liberal and Tory on the one hand and Liberal Labour on the other the choice is between the devil and the deep sea. The capitalist-class has for centuries been in possession of the political machinery and knows all the tricks of the trade. The capitalist-class has men of wealth and men of leisure at its disposal for the control and manipulation of the machinery of government, and in the contest of political trickery the workers cannot cope with the strategy of the professional prize fighters and trained tricksters of capitalism. The only true  position for a genuine working-class party is that of open hostility to all who support capitalism in any shape or form. This is the safe, sure and scientific position. By applying this test it is easily seen that neither the Social-Democratic Federation nor the Fabian Society, neither the Independent Labour Party nor the Labour Representation Committee, is the party of the workers.

Realising that the economic forces working through the development of capitalist society demanded the formation of a revolutionary Socialist party; believing that the emancipation of the working-class can be accomplished only by the members of that class consciously organised in a Socialist party; and recognising that the class struggle can alone be the basis of such a party, a small but determined band of workers assembled in London on June 12th, 1904, and founded the Party of the Workers, THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN, a party based on clear and unmistakable principles interpreted in plain and unequivocal tactics.

Realising that, as in the order of social evolution the working-class is the last class to be emancipated, the emancipation of the working-class will involve the abolition of all class distinctions and class privileges, and free humanity from oppression of every kind, and resolved to adhere to the only position marked out by past experience as impregnable, THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN enters the political arena, and, in full faith that the members of our class will work out their historic mission, hurls defiance at all the forces of reaction. Generated by capitalist society, heir to the slavery of ages, outcast of civilisation, the working-class will prove a fitting instrument of the movement of history, and by the brain and sinew of Labour will arise the Socialist Commonwealth, a society wherein poverty, privilege, and oppression will find no place, and wherein all may lead a full, free and joyous existence.


Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Bolshevik Coup

Contrary to some of my comrades I am not doubting the Bolsheviks sincerity, only their judgement when it came to choices.

(1) To share power with bourgeois parties
(2) to entrench themselves in intransigent opposition and decline the responsibilities of power
(3) to try to seize power by force.

The last option was the Bolshevik solution. It failed to produce socialism and necessarily failed to do so because even in power and ruling by dictat, the Commissars of the people, still found themselves face-to-face with hard economic reality.
But nevertheless these alternative options has been presented by some Trotskyists:
“ …What factors or actions by the participants might have resulted in the non-occurrence of October and a different outcome? Assuming that nothing is inevitable until it has happened, and that "men make their own history", there are three possibilities.
Firstly, that Lenin’s April Theses that set the Bolshevik party on the road to the October insurrection had been rejected by the party. Let us recall that up till Lenin’s arrival in Petrograd, the Bolshevik leadership was pursuing a policy of critical support for the Provisional government. They felt this was consistent with the view that since the Russian bourgeoisie was incapable of bringing about a bourgeois revolution, this task would have to be carried out by the proletariat supported by the peasantry, but that the revolution could not go immediately beyond the stage of establishing a bourgeois republic. In February, the Petrograd proletariat had carried out this "bourgeois revolution" with the support of the peasant soldiers. Now that the bourgeois republic was in place, the next stage was not the immediate struggle for working-class power, but a relatively prolonged period of bourgeois democracy. Lenin now abandoned this view which he had himself defended under the slogan of "the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry", and argued for no support for the Provisional Government, and for agitation for power to the Soviets. He swung the Bolshevik party to this policy. But it was not inevitable that he should have done. The Bolshevik party might have continued its policy of critical support for and pressure on the February regime.

Secondly, even after his steering the party on its new course, Lenin had to fight again in October to commit the party to insurrection against the opposition of Zinoviev, Kamenev, etc. It is not inconceivable that Zinoviev and Kamenev might have carried the day. Then there would have been no October.

Thirdly, even after October there was, as I have pointed out, a very real possibility of a coalition Bolshevik-Menshevik-SR government, based either on the Soviets or a combination of the Constituent Assembly and the Soviets as organs of local power and administration. This possibility foundered against the mutual intransigence of the Bolshevik hardliners on one side and the Menshevik and SR right-wing on the other. But in both camps there were conciliatory wings, the Menshevik Internationalists and some Left SRs and the Bolshevik "moderates" – Kamenev, Rykov, Nogin, etc.

A coalition government of Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and SRs, having a much broader based support than a purely Bolshevik one, would have been able to confront the White Armies more successfully, and thus shortened the Civil War, and reduced the destruction of the economy.

It can also be argued that the attitudes and actions of the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, SRs, their leaderships and individuals, were themselves determined by the whole of their past histories and ideological roots, and they could not have acted otherwise than they did. That what happened was inevitable. But this is to look at events from a distance and with the hindsight of 1997. What happened happened. But in 1917-18, these parties, leaderships and individuals did have a choice of actions.

The point of a revolutionary movement in a pre-revolutionary situation is to ensure the growth of proletarian power and the defence of the class. The Bolsheviks failed to do so, emasculating what workers organisations and democratic processes that existed. We need no hypothetical other universe scenarios to understand that reality. Our case is that the revolution was inevitably capitalist, and so the issue then as framed by Martov was to make it democratic, something that was not possible in a scheme of a minority party in the name of the proletariat seizing power. Lenin opportunistically temporarily favoured the soviets rather than the parliamentary system because he knew that he could get a majority under the former but not the latter. I certainly concede it was precisely because they were the best-organised and disciplined group that the Bolsheviks finally emerged as the government of revolutionary Russia following the collapse of the Tsarist regime - and they came to power by successfully manipulating the soviets.

The SPGB view expressed repeatedly is socialism could not be established in backward isolated Russian conditions where the majority neither understood nor desired socialism. The takeover of political power by the Bolsheviks obliged them to adapt their programme to those undeveloped conditions and make continual concessions to the capitalist world around them. In the absence of world socialist revolution there was only one road forward for semi-feudal Russia, the capitalist road , and it was the role of the Bolsheviks to develop industry through state ownership and the forced accumulation of capital. The SPGB would classify the Russian Revolution as a bourgeoise revolution without the bourgeoisie. The Bolsheviks, finding Russia in a very backward condition, were obliged to do what had not been fully done previously, i.e. develop capitalism.
But to sound very Marxian “…new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society".

The Bolsheviks, however, thought it possible for an active minority, representing the aspirations of the workers, to gain political power before the capitalist revolution itself had been completed. But what would happen if such a minority gained a political victory over the capitalist classes? In those circumstances, the minority become merely the tools of the capitalist class, which has not been virile enough to gain or hold power. Such a minority finds itself in the position of having to develop and run capitalism for a class unable, at the time, to do it successfully itself. In running capitalism, the minority will be compelled to use its power to keep the working class in its wage-slave position. The SPGB argument is that the material conditions in Russia meant the development of capitalism, which the Bolsheviks were unable to avoid. In fact, they became its agents.

There appears to be differing opinions on some issues within the SPGB. Some think Lenin and his party were genuine socialists who were inevitably bound to fail to introduce socialism because the conditions weren't there for this and that their method of minority dictatorship was wrong. While other members believe they were elitists (Jacobinists or Blanquists) from the start who were always going to establish the rule of a new elite even though they labelled themselves socialists. Rather than Bolshevik elitism was an inevitable product of the decision to build state capitalism in Russia in the aftermath of the October revolution, it was the other way round, the decision to build state capitalism was an inevitable product of the Bolsheviks' elitism. Take your pick. Both analyses are an advance on the degenerate party and deformed workers’ state thesis.

The SPGB argue that Lenin despite his claims that he was the first to see the trend of conditions and adapt himself to these conditions , he was far from changing the course of history , it was, in fact , the course of history which changed him. Lenin made a great miscalculation. He believed that the working masses of the western world were so war weary that upon the call from one of the combatants they would rise and force their various governments to negotiate peace. Unfortunately these masses had neither the knowledge nor the organisation necessary for such a movement, and no response was given to the call. Russia could not escape its destiny.