Saturday, May 29, 2010

oh , to be young again

College students after 2000 have empathy levels that are 40% lower than those who came before them, according to analysis presented to at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science by University of Michigan researchers.

Today's children play outdoors much less--and they spend far less time in unstructured activity with others than prior generations.Without unstructured free time with playmates, youngsters simply don't get to know each other very well. And you can't learn to connect and care if you don't practice these things Free play declined by at least a third between 1981 and 2003--right when the kids who hit college in 2000 and later were growing up. Worse, much of the time that used to be spent playing outdoors is now spent in front of screens. Television, obviously cannot teach empathy. Even nonviolent kids' TV, research finds, is filled with indirect aggression and linked to increased real-world bullying. Though social media is an improvement on passive TV viewing and can sometimes aid real friendships, it is still less rich than face to face interaction. This is especially important for the youngest children whose brains are absorbing social information that will shape the way they connect for the rest of their lives.

Another factor is the "self esteem movement" and its pernicious notion that "you can't love anyone else until you love yourself." Today's kids grew up with parents who were taught by therapists and self help groups attended by millions that caring too much for other people or having your happiness tied to theirs was "co dependence,"--and that people should be able to be happy on their own, needing no one.
In reality, we need each other to be both mentally and physically healthy. Solitary confinement, in fact, is one of the most stressful experiences someone can undergo: this wouldn't be true if most people were happy without social contact. Normal people kept in complete isolation can become psychotic in as little as a few days.

Perhaps an even larger factor is the merging of the liberal's "do your own thing" individualism with the right's glorification of brutal competition and unfettered markets. You wind up with a society that teaches kids that "you're on your own" and that helping others is for suckers. A country where the mystical new age "Secret" is that the rich deserve their wealth and got it by being positive and good--while the poor, too, get what's coming to them because they didn't try hard enough.

Empathy requires an ability to understand others. Economic inequality, however, by radically separating the rich from the poor and shrinking the middle class, literally physically isolates us from each other and provides few opportunities for connection or understanding. If you spend your time in limos and gated communities and first-class travel, you aren't likely ever to meet poor people who aren't there to serve you; outside that context, you won't know how to relate to them. And then, if you know nothing about someone's real situation, it's easy to caricature it as being defined by bad choices and laziness, rather than understand the constraints and limits the economy itself imposes. Seeing yourself doing so well and others doing poorly tends to bolster ideas that "you deserve your wealth," simply because guilt otherwise becomes uncomfortable, even unbearable.
In reality, self esteem doesn't come from thinking positive or telling yourself that you are special or worthy--though telling kids they are rotten and selfish can surely destroy it. And, sadly, you can be optimistic all you like in an economy with 20% unemployment and still not get a job through no fault of your own.

If the split into "us" v. "them," "haves" v. "have nots," continues the empathy decline will undoubtedly continue and it will be a meaner, nastier world in which ideas about humans being selfish and competitive rather than caring become a self fulfilling prophecy by crushing the tendency toward kindness with which we are all born.

In another study of 500 Norwegian schoolchildren between the ages of 11 and 19, researchers from the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration found that children start out as strict egalitarians, preferring to divide resources equally among peers. But as they grow older, by late adolescence, they come to prefer a more meritocratic method of resource distribution — based on individual contributions or performance. used a modified version of the dictator game, a classic experiment used to measure attitudes toward fairness. Children were randomly divided into pairs by age-group. One member of each pair was assigned an amount of money to distribute between him or herself and the partner.
Alexander Cappelen, one of the authors of the study, says it's not clear what triggers the change in philosophy, but he believes it may be the result of increasing exposure to achievement-based activities, such as sports and standardized tests. "Young children are rarely rewarded for individual achievement. There is an extremely egalitarian culture in their school life. But as they get older they are exposed to more meritocratic institutions, and that might change their views on equality," he says.

It begs the question: Are we all born communists? After all, the finding seems to suggest that people's innate inclination is toward income equality, a view that changes only when they are influenced by market-based values. Is strict egalitarianism our state-of-nature preference?
"I don't think so," says Cappelen. "You could turn it around and say that people who have a communist view lack maturity and hold a childish view. Maybe communists lack the cognitive ability to make the distinction between different types of equalities."

But Cappelen acknowledges that a society's values can have a profound impact on the formation of fairness view — and, hence, economic beliefs. Mainstream economic theories are predicated on the principle that people always act in their self-interest. But the pure version of the dictator game disputes this: in a variety of settings and among different ages and groups, people almost never take all the money for themselves.

Monday, May 24, 2010

grey poverty

The fact that 3.7 million older adults do not have sufficient cash income to meet their basic expenses too often escapes attention of the media. AARP’s Public Policy Institute produced an interesting report on the older American population.

Nearly one in ten adults age 65 and above live in a family with income below the official U.S. poverty line, or federal poverty level (FPL).Today, nearly 3.7 million older adults (9.7 percent of adults age 65 and older) live marginally above the poverty threshold (between 100 percent and 125 percent of the federal poverty line), and 2.6 million have incomes between 125 percent and 150 percent of the federal poverty line. Overall, 36.2 percent of older adults, or 13.7 million adults age 65 and older, have low income—defined as 200 percent of the FPL.

In 2008, an adult age 65 and older living alone was counted as poor if his or her annual cash income before taxes was below $10,326. An elderly couple with income below $13,014 was counted as poor. Nearly one in six older adults was poor or near poor, with income below 125 percent of the FPL, and about a third had low income—below 200 percent of the FPL. The official U.S. poverty measure has been in use for more than four decades, but increasingly, it fails to accurately describe who is and who is not poor, and it does an especially inadequate job of measuring the extent of poverty among older adults. Nearly twice as many adults age 65 and above are poor when newer measurement approaches are used.The official poverty measure describes the number and percentage of people who have pre-tax cash family income inadequate to meet their most basic needs for shelter, food, and clothing. Constructed more than four decades ago—and adjusted only for price inflation since then—the poverty measure is widely regarded as out-of-date. Recent efforts to measure the income needed to pay for ordinary expenses find that the income needed for a decent standard of living is significantly higher than the federal poverty level (FPL).

59 percent of poor older adults depend on Social Security for all or nearly all (90 percent or more) of their family income.Details describe the fact that twenty percent of older adults who are black or Hispanic are poor, and poverty hits older people with limited education and those who are not married especially hard. Most poor adults age 65 and older are not married—either widowed (43 percent), divorced or separated (19 percent), or never married (8 percent). Older women of color are especially likely to live in poverty. Nearly a quarter of older women who are black or Hispanic are poor, and more than a third are poor or near poor (with income below 125 percent of the FPL).

In 2008, 22.1 percent of low income elderly households (with incomes below 130 percent of the poverty line) were “food insecure” (they had limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods). This is a substantial increase from 2006, when 17.6 percent of the very low-income elderly had low or very low food security.Moreover, in 2008, roughly 10 percent of low-income elderly households had very low food security: They not only had limited or uncertain availability of food, but they ate less than they felt they should, cut the size of meals, or skipped meals in three or more months during the year.

Poor older adults tend to be in worse health than adults who are not poor. They tend to have more chronic and disabling health conditions. Poor health and disability, on top of very limited income and inadequate insurance protection, mean that health care costs are a burden for many poor older adults.

Housing takes an even bigger bite out of the incomes of poor older adults. Housing costs absorb more than 30 percent of income for 80 percent of poor older households.

As the previous post explains the worst poverty is usually suffered by those who for some reason such as old age or racial descriminatin but we all suffer poverty , some perhaps worse than others but the cure is to tackle the root cause , to recognise to solve one person's poverty is to deal with everybody's ragardless of individual degree .

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Black American Poverty

We read that the wealth gap between whites and African Americans has expanded dramatically. A new study by Brandeis University in Massachusetts Institute on Assets and Social Policy reveals that income equality does not always lead to wealth equality when it comes to race. The wealth gap between black and white families and individuals being tracked in the study more than quadrupled over the course of a generation, and that the middle-income white families in the study accumulated a higher net worth than high-income African-Americans.

The escalating gap, according to the study researchers, was largely caused the fact that white families have historically had more wealth to pass down. Although many black families have moved up to better-paying jobs, they begin with fewer assets, such as inheritance, on which to build wealth. They are also more likely to have gone into debt to pay for university loans.

"About one in every four white families inherit money, and their average inheritance is $10,000" said Thomas Shapiro, director of the IASP and author of "The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality." "That provides a huge head start. Less than 8 percent of African-American families inherit wealth, and when they do, the average inheritance is $900. Even when African Americans do everything right - get an education and work hard at well-paying jobs - they cannot achieve the wealth of their white peers in the workforce, and that translates into very different life chances”

White families typically have assets worth $100,000 (£69,000), up from $22,000 in the mid-1980s. African-American families' assets stand at just $5,000, up from around $2,000. A quarter of black families have no assets at all.Only one in 10 African-Americans owns any shares. A third do not have a pension plan, and among those who do the value is on average a fifth of plans held by whites.In 1984, high-income black Americans had more assets than middle-income whites. That is no longer true. "African-Americans' wealth essentially flatlined."

The report attributes part of the cause to the "powerful role of persistent discrimination in housing, credit and labour markets. African-Americans and Hispanics were at least twice as likely to receive high-cost home mortgages as whites with similar incomes. African-Americans, before the 1960s, first by law and then by custom, were not really allowed to own businesses. They had very little access to credit. There was a very low artificial ceiling on the wealth that could be accumulated. Hence there was very little, if anything, that could be passed along to help their children get to college, to help their children buy their first homes, or as an inheritance when they die" said Shapiro. "In African-American families there is a much larger extended network of kin as well as other obligations. From other work we've done we know that there's more call on the resources of relatively well-off African-American families; that they lend money that's not given back; they help cousins go to school. They help brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, with all kinds of legal and family problems".

Class is determined, not by the size of income or colour of skin but by their ownership or non-ownership of the means of production and distribution. Today, the richest 1% of the US population owns close to 40% of its wealth. The top 25% of US households own 87%.

The fact that these are examples of the lower strata of working class existence should not obscure the fact that poverty, in some measure, is a problem for the entire class. The worst poverty is usually suffered by those who for some reason - unemployment, old age, sickness are unable to get a job and a decent wage. Or as this report explains , an unwelcomed legacy of discrimination and racism from the past. History will affect peoples chances in life. Chronic poverty can be passed on from generation to generation

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Food Movement

Americans spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than any people in history—slightly less than 10 percent—and a smaller amount of their time preparing it: a mere thirty-one minutes a day on average, including clean-up. The supermarkets brim with produce summoned from every corner of the globe, a steady stream of novel food products (17,000 new ones each year) crowds the middle aisles, and in the freezer case you can find “home meal replacements” in every conceivable ethnic stripe, demanding nothing more of the eater than opening the package and waiting for the microwave. Companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s pay their workers so poorly that they can afford only the cheap, low-quality food these companies sell, creating a kind of nonvirtuous circle driving down both wages and the quality of food. The advent of fast food (and cheap food in general) has, in effect, subsidized the decline of family incomes in America.

One of the most interesting social movements to emerge in the last few years is the “food movement” or perhaps “movements” since it is unified as yet by little more than the recognition that industrial food production is in need of reform because its social/environmental/public health/animal welfare/gastronomic costs are too high.Where many social movements tend to splinter as time goes on, breaking into various factions representing divergent concerns or tactics, the food movement starts out splintered. Among the many threads of advocacy that can be lumped together under that rubric we can include school lunch reform; the campaign for animal rights and welfare; the campaign against genetically modified crops; the rise of organic and locally produced food; efforts to combat obesity and type 2 diabetes; “food sovereignty” (the principle that nations should be allowed to decide their agricultural policies rather than submit to free trade regimes); farm reform; food safety regulation; farmland preservation; efforts to promote urban agriculture and ensure that communities have access to healthy food; initiatives to create gardens and cooking classes in schools; farm worker rights; nutrition labeling; animal feed pollution; and the various efforts to regulate food ingredients and marketing,( especially towards children) . Sometimes the various factions work at cross-purposes. For example, activists working to strengthen federal food safety regulations run afoul of local food advocates, who fear that the burden of new regulation will cripple the revival of small-farm agriculture. Animal rights advocates conflict with sustainable meat producers . “No movement is as coherent and integrated as it seems from afar, and no movement is as incoherent and fractured as it seems from up close.” Viewed from a middle distance, the food movement coalesces around the recognition that today’s food and farming economy is “unsustainable”—that it can’t go on in its current form much longer without courting a breakdown of some kind, whether environmental, economic, or both.

For some in the movement, the more urgent problem is environmental: the food system consumes more fossil fuel energy than we can count on in the future (about a fifth of the total American use of such energy) and emits more greenhouse gas than we can afford to emit, particularly since agriculture is the one human system that should be able to substantially rely on photosynthesis: solar energy. It will be difficult if not impossible to address the issue of climate change without reforming the food system. Several of the major environmental groups have come to appreciate that a diversified, sustainable agriculture—which can sequester large amounts of carbon in the soil—holds the potential not just to mitigate but actually to help solve environmental problems, including climate change. Environmental organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group are taking up the cause of food system reform, lending their expertise and clout to the movement.

Another claim of the food movement for public attention is the fact that the diet of highly processed food laced with added fats and sugars is responsible for the epidemic of chronic diseases that threatens health care. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that fully three quarters of US health care spending goes to treat chronic diseases, most of which are preventable and linked to diet: heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and at least a third of all cancers. The health care crisis probably cannot be addressed without addressing the catastrophe of the American diet, and that diet is the direct result of the way that agriculture and food industries have been organized.

What is attracting so many people to the movement today (and young people in particular) is a much less conventional kind of politics, one that is about something more than food. The food movement is also about community, identity, pleasure, and, most notably, about carving out a new social and economic space removed from the influence of big corporations on the one side and government on the other. As the Diggers used to say during their San Francisco be-ins during the 1960s, food can serve as “an edible dynamic”—a means to a political end that is only nominally about food itself. One sociologist calculated that people have ten times as many conversations at the farmers’ market than they do in the supermarket. Someone buying food here may be acting not just as a consumer but also as a neighbor, a citizen, a parent, a cook. In many cities and towns, farmers’ markets have taken on the function of a lively new public square. For those who are committed to eating as much locally produced food as possible—is the desire to get “beyond the barcode”—to create new economic and social structures outside of the mainstream consumer economy. Though not always articulated in these terms, the local food movement wants to decentralize the global economy, if not secede from it altogether, which is why in some communities local currencies have popped up.This is at bottom a communitarian impulse.The food movement has set out to foster new forms of civil society. But instead of proposing that space as a counterweight to an overbearing state, as is usually the case, the food movement poses it against the dominance of corporations and their tendency to insinuate themselves into any aspect of our lives from which they can profit.
Wendell Berry writes, the corporations "will grow, deliver, and cook your food for you and (just like your mother) beg you to eat it. That they do not yet offer to insert it, prechewed, into your mouth is only because they have found no profitable way to do so."

Freely extracted and adapted here

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The SPGB - World Socialists

The Socialist Party of Great Britain are not the socialist "party" that Marx (or even our Declaration of Principles) envisages, ie the working class as a whole organised politically for socialism. That will come later. At the moment, the SPGB can be described as only a socialist propaganda or socialist education organisation and can't be anything else (and nor would it try to be , at the moment ). Possibly , we might be the embryo of the future mass "socialist party" but there's no guarantee that we will be ( more likely jusdt a contributing element). But who cares? As long as such a party does eventually emerges .At some stage, for whatever reason, socialist consciousness will reach a "critical mass" , at which point it will just snowball and carry people along with it. It may even come about without people actually giving it the label of socialism.

In 1904 the SPGB raised the banner for such a single, mass socialist party and proclaimed itself as the basis of such a party . Not only did the working class in general not "muster under its banner" but neither did all socialists. So although with a long history as a political party based on agreed goals, methods and organisational principles we were left as a small propagandist group, but still committed to the tenets set out in our Declaration of Principles. But we have never been so arrogant as to claim that we're the only socialists and that anybody not in the SPGB is not a socialist. There are socialists outside the SPGB, and some of them are organised in different groups. That doesn't mean that we are not opposed to the organisations they have formed, but we are not opposed to them because we think they represent some section of the capitalist class. We are opposed to them because we disagree with what they are proposing the working class should do to get socialism -- and of course the opposite is the case too : they're opposed to what we propose. Nearly all the others who stand for a classless, stateless, moneyless, wageless society are anti-parliamentary ( the old Socialist Labour Party being an exception). For the SPGB , using the existing historically-evolved mechanism of political democracy (the ballot box and parliament) is the best and safest way for a socialist-minded working class majority to get to socialism. For them, it's anathema. For the SPGB , some of the alternatives they suggest (armed insurrection or a general strike) are anathema. We all present our respective proposals for working-class action to get socialism and, while criticising each other's proposals, not challenging each other's socialist credentials .

The SPGB is the oldest existing socialist party in the UK and has been propagating the alternative to capitalism since 1904. A Marxist-based ( but perhaps a William Morris - Peter Kropotkin amalgam , some may say might be a better description ) organisation . It is a non-Social Democrat 2nd Internationalist , non-Leninist 3rd Internationalist , non-Trotskyist 4th Internationalist political organisation that is a formally structured yet leader-less political party ( under UK electoral law , a registered political party , which we are, has to name its leader and to comply the SPGB simply drew a name out of a hat and it is doubtful if any member recollects who it was ). We were in pre-1914 accusing the 2nd International of being non-socialist , and while we were throwing cold water on the 2nd International , the Lenins of the world were still adhering to the mistaken strategies and tactics .The SPGB never had to leave the Second International because we were never in.
The failures of post -1917 has only confirmed the SPGB case that understanding is a necessary condition for socialism , not desperation and despair . There is no easier road to socialism than the education of the workers in socialism and their organisation to establish it by democratic methods. Shortcuts have proved to be cul de sacs.

We share in common with the Industrial Workers of the World the view that unions should not be used as a vehicle for political parties . The SPGB have always insisted that there will be a separation and that no political party should , or can successfully use , unions as an economic wing , until a time very much closer to the revolution when there are substantial and sufficient numbers of socialist conscious workers . And thats not in the foreseeable future . It is NOT the SPGB's task to lead the workers in struggle or to instruct its members on what to do in trade unions, tenants' associations or whatever , because we believe that class conscious workers and socialists are quite capable of making decisions for themselves. For the Lenininist , all activity should be mediated by the Party (union activity, neighbourhood community struggles or whatever .) , whereas for us, the Party is just one mode of activity available to the working class to use in their struggles.
Even when the worker acquires revolutionary consciousness, the Socialist Party acknowledges that it is still necessary to engage in the non-revolutionary struggle of every-day life . But it is advocating the idea that THROUGH a policy or programme of reforms that the workers' situation can somehow be intrinsically improved or that it can progress towards the establishment of a socialist society that the SPGB adamantly refuses to recognise.The existence of the wage-workers depends upon their wages and it is not determined by legal law, but by the economic law of supply and demand. The condition of existence of the wage-workers is determined by the progress of the development of machinery, the concentration of capital, the proportion of the unemployed industrial reserve army. Social realities that are outside parliaments. Although the bettering of the conditions of existence by way of political reform is impossible, it is not the same as regards the conditions of fighting. To distinguish between the conditions of fighting and the conditions of existence is not to split hairs. There is a real difference. Some reforms would render the struggle of the proletariat more powerful, weakening capitalism - the right to strike and the right to picket, for instance.
The SPGB reject ALL forms of minority action to attempt to establish socialism, which can only be established by the working class when the immense majority have come to want and understand it. This is why we advocate using parliament. Not to try to reform capitalism but for the single revolutionary purpose of abolishing capitalism.What our capitalist opponents consequently do when the majority prevail will determine our subsequent actions. If they accept defeat, well and good. If they choose not to accept the verdict of the majority which is given through the their own institutions and contest that verdict by physical force, then the workers will respond in kind , with the legitimacy and the authority of a democratic mandate.

Clause 7 of our principles does commit the SPGB to "there can only be one socialist party" in any country in the sense of only one party aiming at the winning of control of political power by the working class to establish socialism. How could there be more than one socialist party in any country trying to win political power for socialism? It just doesn't make sense. If this situation were to arise then unity and fusion would be the order of the day.

Mandating delegates, voting on resolutions and membership referendums are democratic practices for ensuring that the members of an organisation control that organisation – and as such key procedures in any organisation genuinely seeking socialism. Socialism can only be a fully democratic society in which everybody will have an equal say in the ways things are run. This means that it can only come about democratically, both in the sense of being the expressed will of the working class and in the sense of the working class being organised democratically – without leaders, but with mandated delegates – to achieve it. In rejecting these procedures what is being declared is that the working class should not organise itself democratically.

Those who know of the SPGB have noticed that we don't go out of our way to recruit members. Some would in fact say we do just the opposite. At first sight, we seem to have an odd approach to recruitment of any political party in existence - we actually have a test for membership.The SPGB will not allow a person to join it until the applicant has convinced the branch applied to that she or he is a conscious socialist. Surely it must put some people off? Well, that may be, but it can't be helped. There would be no point in a socialist organisation giving full democratic rights to those who, in any significant way, disagreed with the socialist case. The outcome of that would be entirely predictable.
This does not mean that the SPGB has set itself up as an intellectual elite into which only those well versed in Marxist scholarship may enter. The SPGB has good reason to ensure that only conscious socialists enter its ranks, for, once admitted, all members are equal and it would clearly not be in the interest of the Party to offer equality of power to those who are not able to demonstrate equality of basic socialist understanding. Once a member, s/he have the same rights as the oldest member to sit on any committee, vote, speak, and have access to all information. Thanks to the test all members are conscious socialists and there is genuine internal democracy, and of that we are fiercely proud.
Consider for a moment what happens when people join other groups which don't have this test.The new applicant has to be approved as being "all right". The individual is therefore judged by the group according to a range of what might be called "credential indicators". Hard work (often, paper selling) and obedience by new members is the main criterion of trustworthiness in the organisation. In these hierarchical, "top-down" groups the leaders strive at all costs to remain as the leadership , and reward only those with proven commitment to the "party line" with preferential treatment, more responsibility and more say. New members who present the wrong indicators remain peripheral to the party structure, and finding themselves unable to influence decision-making at any level, eventually give up and leave, often embittered by the hard work they put in and the hollowness of the party's claims of equality and democracy.

The SPGB hostility clause ,"to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist" is certainly unique and even within the SPGB it has always been subject to regular debate. Concerning the hostility clause, it is one issue that can justifiably put down to the 19th century social democrat roots of the SPGB since it stems from the early members experience of the SDF and the Socialist League. William Morris together with Aveling, Eleanor Marx, Belfort Bax and other members of the SDF, resigned and issued a statement giving their reasons, for "a body independent of the Social Democratic Federation". Yet they added : "We have therefore set on foot an independent organisation, the Socialist League, with no intention of acting in hostility to the Social Democratic Federation” . The main weakness, as some saw it, of the Socialist League was that it "had no intention of acting in hostility" to the SDF. When the Socialist Party was formed, its members made certain that their Declaration of Principles would include a hostility clause against all other parties (such as the SDF) who advocated palliatives, not socialism. Given the context when it was drawn up that the early members of the SPGB envisaged the party developing fairly rapidly into a mass party, not remaining the small educational group that it has done up to the present ), what it says is that when the working class form a socialist party this party is not going to do any election or parliamentary deals with any other political party, either to get elected or to get reforms. Basically, the hostility clause applies to political parties, organisations aiming at winning control of political power. In fact, in the eyes of those who drew it up, it was about the attitude that a mass socialist party (such as along the lines of the German Social Democratic Party was then seen to be albeit with its warts and all ) should take towards other political parties.
Importantly , the hostility clause doesn't mean that we are hostile to everything . There are a whole range of non-socialist organisations out there, ranging from trade unions to claimants unions to community and tenants associations to which we are not opposed. Clause 7 does not mean that "if you are not with the SPGB, somehow you are automatically anti-socialist". Of course, there are, and always, have been socialists outside the party in the sense of people who want to see established, like us, a classless, stateless, wageless, moneyless society based on common ownership and democratic control with production solely for use not profit. The party has in fact always recognised this, right from the start, seeing some other groups as socialists with a mistaken view of how to get there. Clearly, such people and such groups are not in the same category as openly pro-capitalist groups . What about some of the anarchists, the original SLP? Of course there are socialists outside the SPGB, and some of them are organised in different groups, some (like us) even calling themselves a "party". That doesn't mean that we are not opposed to the organisations they have formed, but we are not opposed to them because we think they represent some section of the capitalist class. We are opposed to them because we disagree with their proposed method of getting rid of capitalism rather than because of the hostility clause. That opposition doesn't have to go as far as hostility. Our attitude to them is to try to convince them that the tactic they propose to get socialism is mistaken and to join with us in building up a strong socialist party. Of course, if we think that the tactic they advocate (such as minority action or armed uprising or a general strike by non-socialists) is dangerous to the working-class interest then we say so and oppose them. We are opposed to them because we disagree with what they are proposing the working class should do to get socialism -- and , of course , the opposite is the case too , they are opposed to what we propose. We agree to disagree . Comradely disagreements. We cannot see any alternative to the present situation of each of us going our own way, putting forward our respective proposals for working-class action to get socialism and, while criticising each other's proposals, not challenging each other's socialist credentials. In the end, anyway, it's the working class itself who will decide what to do. For the moment, "our sector" , the thin red line, is condemned to remain an amorphous current. At a later stage, when more and more people are coming to want socialism, a mass socialist movement will emerge to dwarf all the small groups and grouplets that exist today. If this situation were to arise then unity and fusion would be the order of the day.

In the meantime, the best thing we in the SPGB can do, is to carry on campaigning for a world community based on the common ownership and democratic control of the Earth's natural and industrial resources in the interests of all humanity. We in the SPGB will continue to propose that this be established by democratic, majority political action. Other groups will no doubt continue to propose your own way to get there. And , in the end, we'll see which proposal the majority working class takes up. When the socialist idea catches on we'll then have our united movement .
The SPGB does not claim that socialist consciousness will come to dominate the working-class outlook simply as a result of the activity of socialists. The movement for socialism must be a working class movement. It must depend upon the working class vitality and intelligence and strength. Until the knowledge and experience of the working class are equal to the task of revolution there can be no emancipation. The SPGB's job is to shorten the time, to speed up the process - to act as a catalyst. This contrasts with those who seek to substitute the party for the class or who see the party as a vanguard which must undertake alone the sectarian task of leading the witless masses forward.
As a matter of political principle the SPGB holds no secret meetings, all its meetings including those of its executive committee being open to the public. This means that all its internal records (except, understandably , for the current membership names and addresses which remains confidential ) are open to public consultation. In keeping with the tenet that working class emancipation necessarily excludes the role of political leadership , the SPGB is a leader-less political party where its executive committee is solely for housekeeping admin duties and cannot determine policy or even submit resolutions to conference (and all the EC minutes are available for public scrutiny with access on the web as proof of our commitment to openness and democracy ). All conference decisions have to be ratified by a referendum of the whole membership. The General Secretary has no position of power or authority over any other member being a dogsbody. Despite some very charismatic writers and speakers in the past , no personality has held undue influence over the the SPGB.

We need to organise politically, into a political party, a socialist party. We don't suffer from delusions of grandeur so we don't necessary claim that we are that party. What we are talking about is not a small educational and propagandist group such as ourselves, but a mass party that has yet to emerge. It is all about understanding limitations and they will be subject to change when conditions change. The main purpose of the SPGB at the moment is to (a) argue for socialism, and (b) put up candidates to measure how many socialist voters there are. The SPGB doesn't go around creating myths of false hopes and false dawns at every walk-out or laying down of tools but will remind workers of the reality of the class struggle and its constraints within capitalism and as a party unfortunately suffers the negative consequence of this political honesty.

Anton Pannekoek, the Dutch writer on Marxism, writing in an American magazine, Modern Socialism, said: "The belief in parties is the main reason for the impotence of the working-class . . . Because a party is an organisation that aims to lead and control the workers". He qualified this statement. "If . . . persons with the same fundamental conceptions (regarding Socialism) unite for the discussion of practical steps and seek clarification through discussion and propagandise their conclusions, such groups might be called parties, but they would be parties in an entirely different sense from those of to-day"
The SPGB position is that it was not parties as such that had failed, but the form all parties ( except the SPGB) had taken as groups of persons seeking power above the worker. Because the establishment of socialism depends upon an understanding of the necessary social changes by a majority of the population, these changes cannot be left to parties acting apart from or above the workers. The workers cannot vote for socialism as they do for reformist parties and then go home or go to work and carry on as usual. To put the matter in this way is to show its absurdity. The Socialist Party of Great Britain and its fellow parties therefore reject all comparison with other political parties. We do not ask for power; we help to educate the working-class itself into taking it.
Pannekoek wished workers' political parties to be “organs of the self-enlightenment of the working class by means of which the workers find their way to freedom” and “means of propaganda and enlightenment”.
Which is almost exactly the role and purpose hoped for by the Socialist Party of Great Britain's present members .