Friday, January 15, 2016

Foreign Policy For Beginners

“We want a foreign market for our surplus products.”– William McKinley, 1880’s

“In the interests of our commerce  . . . we should build the Nicaragua canal, and for the protection of that canal and for the sake of our commercial supremacy in the Pacific we should control the Hawaiian islands and maintain our influence in Samoa  . . . The great nations are rapidly absorbing for their present defense all the waste places of the earth. It is a movement which makes for civilization and the advancement of the race.”Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, 1890s

“It seems to be conceded that every year we shall be confronted with an increasing surplus of manufactured goods for sale in foreign markets if American operatives and artisans are to be kept employed the year around. The enlargement of foreign consumption of the products of our mills and workshops has, therefore, become a serious problem of statesmanship as well as well as of commerce.” – State Department 1898

“Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even of the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process  . . . the doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down.”– Woodrow Wilson, 1907

“The real reason that the war we just finished took place was that Germany was afraid her commercial rivals were going to get the better of her and the reason why some nations went onto the war against Germany was that they thought Germany would get the advantage of them.” – President Woodrow Wilson, St Louis, 1919

” . . . our general diplomatic and strategic position would be considerably weakened – by our loss of Chinese, Indian and South Seas markets (and by our loss of much of the Japanese market for our goods, as Japan would become more and more self-sufficient) as well by insurmountable restrictions upon our access to the rubber, tin, jute, and other vital materials of the Asian and Oceanic regions.” US State Department, 1940

“The real stake in this war is sea control, is the domination of the avenues of world trade.”– United States News, Sept. 13, 1940

“There never was a war at arms that was not merely the extension of a preceding war of commerce grown fiercer until the weapons of commerce seemed no longer sufficiently deadly.” – General Hugh Johnson (1882-1942)

“As you know, we’ve got to plan on enormously increased production in this country after the war, and the American domestic market can’t absorb all that production indefinitely. There won’t be any question about our needing greatly increased foreign markets.” – State Department official, April 1944

“In May of 1962, we stand at the great divide; we must either trade or fade. They (the Russians) are ready to take and sell any area in which we leave a gap. And we do not intend to give way.” President Kennedy, May 4 1962

“What is the attraction that Southeast Asia has exerted for centuries on the great powers flanking it on all sides? Why is it desirable, and why is it important? First, it provides a lush climate, fertile soil, rich natural resources, a relatively sparse population in most areas, and room to expand. The countries of Southeast Asia produce rich exportable surpluses such as rice, rubber, tea, corn, tin, spices, oil and many others . . . “ – Kennedy’s Undersecretary of State, U. Alexis Johnson – Early 1963

“My approach to Africa is in some ways like the Japanese approach to Asia, and approach is not necessarily humanitarian. It is in the long-range interest of access to resources and the creation of markets for American goods and services.” – U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, 1977

Thursday, January 14, 2016

What to do and not what to do

The trade unions are the organising centres of the working class, the most important mass organisations of workers. Trade unions first arose in order to eliminate the existing competition among the workers. They arose as organising centers that provided the workers with their initial lessons in class struggle. The solidarity learned in the course of the trade union struggle was a school of socialism. The immediate aims of the first trade unions were to win the basic economic demands of the workers, through collective action. The boss tries to squeeze as much profit out of the worker as he can. The worker tries to wring as close to a living wage out of the boss as he or she can. And if the workers stopped struggling, they’d just be squeezed more, that’s all. That’s why there’s a class struggle.
Immediately it became apparent that the function of the trade unions was not only to fight on the economic front, but to fight for the abolition of wage slavery itself, to fight to end the rule of capitalism. We want to get rid of the class struggle too. We’re going to do it by getting rid of the profit system, which exists only because there is a class of exploiters and a class of the exploited.
Many of the fundamental rights of the working class today were a result of the early trade union struggles, such as the eight hour day. Today this advance is being eroded by the capitalists. But certainly, in response to the austerity cuts of the recession,  the class struggle is sharpening. The storm clouds of great battles ahead are filling the air. The task of Socialist Party is to assist  linking these with the aim of our movement–the establishment of  socialism. This task can only be accomplished through patient and careful work, challenging any viewpoint which denies the necessity of trade unions, or that belittles the nature of the class struggle to be waged, and suggests trade unions engage in the line of class collaboration.
To increase profits and expand investments, capitalists have to pay workers lower wages and benefits and keep down the expenses needed to provide safe and healthy conditions. Therefore, workers have to fight both to maintain any gains they have won and make any new advances.
As socialists, our approach recognises that the class interests of workers and capitalists are in basic conflict. We are also concerned that working people do not narrow their attention just to the economic struggle (wages, benefits, working conditions) in their particular workplace. When working people take an active role in struggling with major social and political issues they increase their strength and help both themselves and all oppressed people worldwide. This means taking stands that offer solutions for discrimination, war, pollution and other problems that nobody can really afford to ignore.
There is no kind of labour unionism by itself which is going to provide a solution to the exploitation of the working class. Unions helps to strengthen the working class’ position against the capitalists, and therefore it can contribute to building a  movement of the working class to overthrow the capitalist system and construct a socialist society. Only in socialism do working people have the means to collectively decide the direction their society will take and how they will participate in it.
As socialists we believe society’s main problem is the capitalist system itself and always uphold that the only real solution is socialism and political rule by working people, not capitalists. A socialist party fights for the interests of the working class as a whole and doesn’t take a narrow sectional view of just looking out for the interests of a few trades. A socialist party struggles for the long-term, political interests of working people, and not just a few short-term economic gains. Socialists also recognise that international borders should not be allowed to divide workers from other working people around the world because we are all fighting one international capitalist system.
Of course, not everyone who calls him or herself a socialists is one. Some leftists who may have the best of intentions cannot be considered socialists because they have the wrong idea of what a socialist society is and advocate the wrong strategy for making a revolution. Too many left-wing activists engage in adventurist acts as publicity stunts to gain attention primarily for their own organisation. They try to be impressive to other working people by striking a “militant” pose, but often their reckless actions just make them end up looking irresponsible and foolish. Typically, a group like this overestimates the conditions that could create a revolutionary situation because it needs to justify its adventurist actions because it has an over-inflated view of its own importance. They cause unnecessary divisions among the working class, and it ends up strengthening the position of the repressive political forces. What is most serious is that it tends to fan anti-socialism by discrediting genuine socialists in the eyes of the working class.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Belaboured Party

It is time to draw some lessons from the past and apply them now. One of the most important lessons concerns class and how many workers fail to act in their own interest. People increasingly appreciate that capitalism is the key problem of our time, but they see no solution that can overcome the limits of the present political discourse.
Ed Miliband not our friend. He is not our ally. He is not fighting for us. If there are two people and the first one of them is openly hostile, abuses you at every turn and is obviously working for interests diametrically opposed to your own, you would have to be crazy to consider them a friend. But if the other person keeps telling you that they are on your side, sympathises about how awful the first person is being, and says you should trust them instead – while all the while they are pursuing interests just as opposed to yours and will proceed to stab you in the back at the first opportunity – then who is your real friend? Neither of them is the answer, of course, though we can say that you are less likely to be deceived by the openly hostile one. The function performed by the Labour Party is always to appear as the benign friend to the workers in distinction to the “wicked” Tories. Hoping that the Labour Party will behave differently is an unrealistic – indeed utopian – expectation.
If our goal is the eradication of capitalism, then supporting the Labour Party is just completely delusional. The object of socialists is to assist in the emancipation of the workers from its enslavement to the capitalist class. To those who support the Labour Party we would appeal to reconsider their position. What does its boasted achievements amount to after all? With many on the Left calling for the re-formation of a Labour party, members of the Socialist Party ask “why bother?”  In office and out, Labour is a party for capitalism. It is a party that has regularly and routinely acted against the working class. Yet we are constantly told not to give up hope. Every time an election comes round the different left wing groups tell us to vote Labour. Can Labour be changed? We think that its history proves the impossibility of changing Labour. Labour long ago gave up any pretence at wanting to get rid of capitalism.
The Labour Party has always tried to make capitalism work for the people. And every time that it has been in office, it has failed miserably to do so. The reason Labour – and indeed the Tories who also talk of a “people’s capitalism” – fail to make capitalism work for the people is that this is an impossible mission. Capitalism just cannot be made to work in the interest of all. It is a profit-making system that can only work as such, in the interest of those who live off profits.
The Labour Party has failed, so let’s start a new one. That’s what some trade unionists and lef-twingers are saying. But why? Surely one of the lessons we have learned has been that Labourism is a dead end. It can’t succeed. Not because its leaders are insincere or incompetent or corrupt or not resolute enough. It fails because it sets itself the impossible mission of trying to gradually reform capitalism into socialism. This can’t be done, as experience, not just theoretical understanding, has confirmed. The last thing that is needed today is a non-socialist, trade-union based “Labour” party. We have seen the past and it doesn’t work.
The Labour Party are simply a party of capitalist maintenance, with objectives of some form of new society being not just shunted into the background but completely out of existence. They are now more dedicated than ever to running with optimal efficiency the very system that creates poverty, misery, homelessness and war. As for those old Labourites who blame all on the mistakes of the past and present on certain leaders, this simply adds to the argument against leadership. In any case, the leader as a individual is irrelevant. Knocking one leader out of office and replacing them with another won’t change the system, and it’s the system that all attention should be focused on if we desire a radical change in the way we live. Trading one group of pro-capitalist apologists and careerist politicians for another can never be the answer. Changing society’s economic structure is the answer.
Labour Party reformists prefer to define class in terms of the unequal social distributions of wealth (rich versus poor) and/or power (rulers versus ruled) so they devote their efforts to equalise wealth disparity and democratise power. But they are blind to the most important aspect of class. This definition focuses precisely on production, on who produces and who gets the surplus, that is, the inequality separating those who produce the surplus value in society from those who take and live off the surplus value they did not help to produce. In slave systems of production, masters exploit slaves. In feudalism, lords exploit serfs. In capitalism, employers exploit workers. In the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, state officials or party functionaries displaced private individuals (boards of directors elected by shareholders) as corporate employers. Yet by occupying precisely that position, state officials likewise exploit workers, hence the term, “state capitalism.” Ending exploitation means changing and transforming social relations.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Who We Are and What We Do

Logo Template - Logo_63m
The class struggle is a political struggle. It cannot be fought successfully by the workers unless they have a political weapon, which means, their own political party. The capitalist class has its own political parties and interest groups and sees to it that they remain committed to its basic interests, the maintenance of the capitalist system. The capitalists sees to it that they remain under their control. They provides them with media exposure, provides them with funds, running into millions each year. In some places, the capitalists are in direct control of these parties, in others, its allies are in control.
Although as a political party committed to using elections to capture political power the Socialist Party surprisingly does not regard vote-getting as of supreme importance. We do not present a programme of attractive promises as a lure for votes. We seek only an actual vote for socialism and our manifestoes do not flatter the electorate but simply endeavours to convince them of the case for socialism. We make it clear that the Socialist Party wants the votes only of those who want socialism and disparages vote-seeking for the sake of votes and we hold in contempt those political opportunists seeking election for the sake of office or personal advancement. The Socialist Party stands squarely upon its principles. The Socialist party buys no votes with false pledges.
The ballot expresses the people’s will. The ballot means that the worker is no longer dumb, that at last has a voice, that it may be heard and if used in unison must be heeded. The appeal of the Socialist Party is to the exploited class, the workers in all trades and professions, from the most menial to the highest skill, to rally together and put an end to the last of the barbarous class struggles by conquering the capitalist government, taking possession of the means of production and making them the common property of all, abolishing wage-slavery and establishing the co-operative commonwealth. As individauls we are helpless, but united we represent an irresistible power.
The Socialist Party will not unite with any other party that does not stand for the democratic overthrow of capitalism and if it were ever to compromise and make such a concession, it will have ceased to be a socialist party. We are not here to play the filthy game of capitalist politics. the Socialist Party condemns the capitalist system. In the name of freedom it condemns wage-slavery. In the name of modern technology it condemns scarcity and poverty. In the name of peace it condemns war. In the name of humanity it condemns the murder of little children. In the name of enlightenment it condemns ignorance and superstition. The battles of the workers, wherever and however fought, are always and everywhere the battles of the Socialist Party. The education, organisation and co-operation of the workers is the conscious aim and the self-imposed task of the Socialist Party. There is no party leader or bureaucracy within the Socialist Party boss and there never can be unless the party deserts its principles and ceases to be a socialist party. Each member has not only an equal voice but is urged to take an active part in all the party’s administration. Each local branch is an educational centre. The party relies wholly upon the power of education, knowledge, and mutual understanding.
The Socialist Party proposes to use all the legislative and administrative machinery within the state and which the working class endeavour to take into its possession as the method of emancipation. We accept the vote and parliamentary action as revolutionary. The value of political action to the Socialist movement is called in question by anarchists who suggest what they consider to be more speedy means or more effective methods to be adopted. They expect nothing and never expected anything from parliamentary action. They maintain that participation in parliamentary action is a waste of time and effort, and they relish the disappointing and the poor results parliamentary action has so far has achieved for the Socialist Party. We cannot expect results, unless voters themselves get the understanding and the spirit of organization, which has yet to develop. Where people cannot imagine a way out of intolerable conditions there cannot be a great political movement and no amount of political propaganda can produce a movement.
Our primary function, however, is to organise as a political party, independent, class-conscious, and democratic. The function of anarcho-syndicalists lies with the unions. These two functions are not absolutely distinct and separate, they are co-ordinate, and to some extent interdependent. Yet they are not identical. The trade unions can help us, we can help them. Socialists should be the subordinate partner in the matter of supporting industrial disputes. The Socialist Party declines to dictate the policy of the trade union in conducting the strike, nor do we expect the trade unions to abandon the immediate objects and demands in order to make the socialist revolution.

David Bowie RIP

"It's not politicians who will end oppression. It's the radicals, with the stink in their clothes, rebellion in their brain, hope in their heart and direct action in their fists." ~David Bowie
Recognizing that his own videos would be played in heavy rotation, Bowie used the medium to attack Australian racism and discrimination against aboriginal people. The “Let’s Dance” clip was incredibly important for what it said about race and erasure in the country, and broadcast it around the world. The Guardian recalls that Bowie, in an interview with ABC television, said it was, “A direct statement on integration.” Speaking to MTV’s Kurt Loder, Bowie noted that “In the north, there’s unbelievable intolerance. The Aborigines can’t even buy their drinks in the same bars—they have to go round the back and get them through what’s called a ‘dog hatch’. And then they’re forbidden from drinking them on the same side of the street as the bar.”
The female protagonist of the video, Joelene King, spoke to the Guardian in 2015 about the video's critical message. “It lets the world know that Australia has a black history,” she said. “That this history is alive and well. We’re still here.”

Monday, January 11, 2016

Who's afraid of socialism?

 "Yes, I agree with your arguments, but how are you going to get everyone else to?” This is a common reaction of people when the idea of establishing Socialism is put to them. Ninety nine out of a hundred agree it would be pleasant to live in a moneyless world where they had free access to everything they required, where threats like war and pollution no longer existed, where work was not something they were forced to do and therefore disliked, but something they did out of choice and took pride and pleasure in. Yet when we have satisfied them that the world’s resources, if exploited with a view to use and not to profit, could satisfy all the needs of all human beings, and when they have accepted that it is not against “human nature” for people to live together in harmony, to associate rather than to compete: then they are inclined to say that this is all very well in theory, but how are you going to convince the majority of people that Socialism would be best for them?

Capitalism has given, and is giving, people the weapons to destroy it. At the moment people are thoroughly dissatisfied with all that capitalism involves (unpleasant work, rationing by wages, intolerable social and psychological pressures), but seeing no alternative still continue to support it. Hence, whilst being increasingly aware of the fact that they are deprived, they either limit themselves to demanding a slightly less minute share of the capitalist cake, or their frustrations explode into violence. But neither course of action leads far. Before we can get rid of a system we must understand the nature of it and have another system to put in its place. It is unconvincing to attack capitalism without being able to propose an alternative to it. That alternative, Socialism, is what we propose.

The important principles that underlay Marx and Engels’ policies were:

1. The scheme of social evolution (primitive communism, chattel slavery, feudalism, capitalism. Communism) was meant as a description of what had happened in Western Europe and was not necessarily universally applicable.

2. The socialist revolution depended on a certain level of social and economic development and could not take place anytime and anywhere merely because a determined minority wanted it.

3. Those who represented a ruling class politically did not have to be of that class, but merely had to share its views and protect its material interests.

4. Under capitalism the working class were already the economically important class since the capitalists had become economically redundant “leaving the work of supervision to an increasingly numerous category of managers.” All that was needed to dislodge them from their privileged position was a political revolution.

5. To win political power the working class as a whole had to be “conscious of their common class position, class interests, and class enemies, and willing to act upon that consciousness” and to have organised themselves into a “gigantic political party.”

6. After winning political power the working class would for a “limited” or “short” period become the ruling class as a step towards the abolition of all classes. This political transition period would be the dictatorship of the proletariat as a whole, and not of a minority of revolutionary leaders.

7. In socialist society production of commodities, i.e. articles for sale, would come to an end. Instead “production would no longer be directed by the interests of a privileged minority but would be guided by an overall rational plan which had reference solely to human needs.”

8. In socialist society the coercive State machine would be replaced by “a nonpolitical type of authority” and there would be “effective communal decision without coercion.”

9. The socialist revolution would take place “just possibly at the polling booths, but much more likely at the barricades.” The Socialist Party would now put the emphasis emphatically the other way round.

10. In economically backward countries still dominated by feudal rule socialists should help the bourgeoisie to carry through their revolution. We say this is now no longer necessary since capitalism is firmly established as the dominant world system so that socialists everywhere should be working for the immediate establishment of socialism on a world scale.

11. Marx and Engels regarded Tsarist Russia “as the most serious obstacle to revolutionary progress" and advocated and supported war against it. Our position is it now wrong to support wars.

12. In the early stages of Socialism there could not be full free distribution according to needs and. although money would be abolished, distribution would take place by means of non-circulating labour-time vouchers. The Socialist Party explains that, even if there was a temporary shortage, such vouchers would not be the fairest method of rationing but that in any event the tremendous technical developments in the last hundred years have meant that free distribution can be implemented almost immediately.

co-own your team?

Football fans should get a bigger say in the day-to-day running of clubs, according to Scotland's sports minister, Jamie Hepburn. In a speech at Hampden, Hepburn said fan involvement and, in some cases, ownership "does work". He said: "I firmly believe there is a powerful and persuasive case for supporter involvement and - where appropriate - ownership of their clubs.
"It is commonplace in the Bundesliga (German league) so often held up as an example of best practice on and off the field. And supporter involvement and ownership is gaining momentum here in Scotland too. Hearts and Motherwell are pursuing high-profile fan ownership models, while other clubs like Clyde, Dunfermline and Stirling Albion have led the way. So fan involvement and ownership can - and does - work."

The Scottish Football Supporters Association which has a membership of around 46,000 people, has produced a manifesto based in part on the responses, setting out how to "renew, reform and reclaim" football for fans and communities and called for a national conversation on "sweeping changes". 

A Declaration of Class War

Socialists are always accused of trying to set class against class. We plead guilty but we actually only point out what already exists. We are engaged today in a class war; and why? For the simple reason that in the the capitalist system in which we live, society has been is mainly divided into two economic classes—a small class of capitalists who own the means of producing wealth and a great mass of workers who own nothing and are compelled to seek employment in the services of the owners. Between these two classes there is an irrepressible economic conflict. The capitalist is the economic master and the political ruler in capitalist society. But we also want to get rid of the class struggle. We’re going to do it by getting rid of the profit system which exists only because there is a class of squeezers and a class of the squeezed.
All government is class government; and that the industrialist and aristocratic thieves hold the reins of political power. The employers know that class exist and they themselves are sufficiently class-conscious to engage in the class- struggle. It is the class struggle of the workers that is to be decried. No political party can serve two masters. No political party can serve the class which owns the wealth and also the one which produces the wealth but does not own it. No political party can serve both the robbers and the robbed at the same time. The Socialist Party is thus solely the political party of the working class. No part of its mission is to reach re-conciliation the capitalist class. We are organised to fight that class.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain is in fundamental opposition to all other parties. It proclaims that the building of socialism, the re-organisation of the economic life of the whole world, is impossible, unless the working class overthrows the capitalist class and becomes the ruling class. The Socialist Party therefore is the enemy of capitalists and capitalist parties. The political power of the capitalist class is exercised through the parliamentary institutions, through its class control of the armed forces, the police force, the law courts, the media and education centres. Having conquered the capitalists and with political power in the hands of the workers, the way to socialism is clear to proceed to socialise the economic life, and, for the first time in history give the working class, i.e., the great majority of the population, control over their daily lives and power to build the future as they themselves deem fit.
Many workers imagine that they must have a leader to look to as a guide to follow. Workers have been brought up with that belief and have been taught that they are dependent upon their betters and that without a leader decisions cannot be made and directions cannot be followed, so, therefore, they instinctively look for a leader. We have depended too much on leaders and not enough on ourselves. The Socialist Party doesn’t want you to follow it but rather acquire self-reliance. As long as you can be led by an individual you will be betrayed by an individual. That does not mean that all leaders are dishonest or corrupt but many of them are deluded themselves, a case of the blind leading the blind. The most dangerous leader is not the corrupt leader, but the honest, ignorant leader. That type of leader is just as dangerous as the one who deliberately sells you out. There are leaders whose good intentions are the paving stones to hell. Daniel DeLeon’s classic phrase, to describe them was “the labor lieutenants of the capitalist class.”
Far from even fomenting class war too many leaders have been almost too anxious to secure permanent peace between the wage-earners and their employers and forget that under existing conditions the capitalists always have the whip hand. They preach that there is no basic conflict of interests between the bosses and the workers, between the capitalist system and the interests of the working class. Reformers claim that a “promised land” can be brought about only if the capitalists and the working class are “reasonable”, if only we all “work together in the national interests”. With such slogans they paper over the class nature of the system. They cover up the inevitability of class conflict. They are for class collaboration, not class struggle.
The class war is our war and our only war. We have no interest in championing any wars for ruling class conquest and plunder. In all these wars the workers are slaughtered while their masters get fat on the spoils of conquest. The time has come for the workers to cease fighting the battles of their bosses and to fight their own; to cease being slaughtered like cattle for the profit of the ruling class and to line up in the class struggle regardless of race or nationality for the overthrow of class rule and for the emancipation of their class and humanity.
“Your King and Country Need You,
Ye hardy sons of toil.
But will your King and Country need you
When they’re sharing out the spoil?”

Out of sight, out of mind

The story told primarily by the media is one of Palestinian stabbers and Israeli retaliation in self-defense. However, as the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor documents in this 100-day report, proven Palestinian attacks are relatively small in number and often committed by lone youths, while the number of arrests, harassment and executions committed by Israeli forces are increasingly excessive and disproportionate. Its report covering the period between 1 October, 2015 and 8 January, 2016 indicate that 150 Palestinians, including seven women and 27 minors, were extrajudicially executed, with Israel refusing to release the bodies of 24 to their families. In contrast, 27 Israelis, including one woman, were killed by Palestinians. In addition, 15,759 Palestinians were injured, 92 seriously—including 58 journalists and 103 emergency medical personnel. Among Israelis, 385 were injured, 33 seriously. Palestinians attacked Israeli individuals or property an estimated 227 times, ranging from knife stabbings to car rammings. The most common incident, however, was stone-throwing by Palestinian youth. These incidents primarily occurred around checkpoints and on streets linking Palestinian cities and villages. They resulted in the death of 27 Israelis, including one woman, and the injury of 385 others (33 of whom were seriously wounded).

Two-thirds of Palestinian victims—95 of 150—were executed in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the border area of the Gaza Strip during protests or immediately upon detention. Many were killed merely on “suspicion,” including those falsely accused of trying to attack Israelis. In mid-October of 2015, Euro-Med published a video recording showing eight Palestinians being arbitrarily executed by Israeli forces. The UN special rapporteur called on the UN to launch a special investigation into such extrajudicial killings. Since the escalation of protests in October 2015, 3,401 Palestinians have been detained—58 percent more than during the same period the year before. About half of these detainees, 1,511, are minors. One in every 3 of these detainees was exposed to cruel treatment such as beatings, humiliation, hand-cuffing and blindfolding.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Socialist Party case for democracy

People talk incessantly about “The System”. “The System is bad”, “The System must be changed”. “Vote for me, because I am going to change The System”. What system, exactly?
The original theory of democracy envisaged popular participation in the running of affairs, what is called “participatory democracy”. This is the sort of democracy the Socialist Party of Great Britain favour but we know the most we will get under capitalism is the right to vote, under more-or-less fair conditions, for who shall control political power— a minimalist form of democracy that at least provides a mechanism whereby a socialist majority could vote in socialist delegates instead of capitalist politicians. This  form of politics is an effective antidote to bureaucratism, radical in the sense that it is not simply concentrating on the issue of democracy but upon the whole concept of leadership. Socialism is not the result of blind faith, followers, or, by the same token, vanguards and leaders. Nothing is more repugnant to socialism than clever strategisms and conspiratorial tactics. Socialism is not possible without socialists.
Political action must be taken by the conscious majority, without depending upon leadership. It is upon the working class as a whole that the working class must rely for their emancipation. Valuable work may be done by individual teachers, writers and speakers, and this work may necessarily raise them to prominence, but it is not to individuals that the working class must look. The movement for freedom 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 for them. Democracy and majority decision-making must be the basic principle of both the movement to establish socialism and of socialist society itself.
The lure and fascinations of protests,occupations and making demands is very attractive. It indicates how deep-rooted discontent with capitalism really is, and it demonstrates the latent strength of socialism once the masses wake up to the need for changing the system instead of adjusting to it. The bond that makes us as one and inspires us is the recognition that capitalism can no longer be reformed or administered in the interest of the working class or of society, and the understanding that conditions are now ripe for socialism, which is the solution for society’s problems. All that is lacking is a socialist majority. This is the essence of our principles. The socialist movement is not only heart, but is a combination of heart and head.
What the Socialist Party says is that democracy can and does change things, that it is not democracy that is the problem, but rather that it is the system underlying the democracy, that makes it imperfect. What we have to do is push for more democracy, not less . We want to protect the idea of democracy but not the idea that voting someone into power will solve your problems for you. Nor the idea that voting for something is in itself enough. We protect the idea of democracy by propagating the case for it and by practising it. It is not merely a formal majority at the polls will give the workers power to achieve socialism.  It is the quality of the voters behind the vote that, in the revolutionary struggle, which is decisive.
The easiest and surest way for such a socialist majority to gain control of political power in order to establish socialism is to use the existing electoral machinery to send a majority of mandated socialist delegates to the various parliaments of the world. No doubt, at the same time, the working class will also have organised itself, at their various places of work and in their communities, in order to keep production going, but nothing can be done here until the machinery of coercion which is the state has been taken out of the hands of the capitalist class by political action.  The political machine is the real centre of social control – not made so by capitalist rulers but developed and evolved over centuries and through struggles. It is on the political field that the widest and most comprehensive propaganda can be deliberately maintained. It is here that the workers can be deliberately and independently organised on the basis of socialist thought and action. In other words, socialist organisation can proceed untrammelled by ideas other than those connected with its revolutionary objective.
To repeat once again the SPGB case, the institution of parliament is not at fault. It is just that people’s ideas have not yet developed beyond belief in leaders and dependence on a political elite. Control of parliament by representatives of a conscious revolutionary movement will enable the bureaucratic-military apparatus to be dismantled and the oppressive forces of the state to be neutralised, so that socialism may be introduced with the least possible violence and disruption. Parliament and local councils, to the extent that their functions are administrative and not governmental, can and will be used to co-ordinate the emergency immediate measures to transform society when socialism is established. Far better, is it not, if only to minimise the risk of violence, to also organise to win a majority in parliament too, not to form a government , but to end capitalism and dismantle the state. Political democracy is not just, a trick whereby the capitalist class get the working class to endorse their rule; it is a potential instrument that the working class can turn into a weapon to use in ending capitalism and class rule.
Capitalist democracy is not a participatory democracy, which a genuine democracy has to be. In practice the people generally elect to central legislative assemblies and local councils professional politicians who they merely vote for and then let them get on with the job. In other words, the electors abdicate their responsibility to keep any eye on their representatives, giving them a free hand to do what the operation of capitalism demands. But that’s as much the fault of the electors as of their representatives, or rather it is a reflection of their low level of democratic consciousness. It can’t be blamed on the principle of representation as such. There is no reason in principle why, with a heightened democratic consciousness (such as would accompany the spread of socialist ideas), even representatives sent to state bodies could not be subject – while the state lasts – to democratic control by those who sent them there.


Saturday, January 09, 2016

We Are All Leaders

mr-fishAdvancedAlienCivilization-500These are not times for reform and tweaking the system. Capitalism is in the process of destroying the Earth. The Socialist Party knows that no leaders are going to pull the workers into socialism. Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. Mainstream politics cannot comprehend the absence of leaders in the movement and that it is not a weakness but a strength, testifying to our determination not to be followers.
Forget about looking for leaders. What we need is a movement that rises from the people and empowers ourselves. People need to stop looking up, and start looking around. There is an old adage, if the people lead, the leaders will follow. People need organisations, and people need to come together. But by self-organisation from the root, you will find that you have got no leaders – and do not want them because you do not lead them.
A leader may say “all that our organisation has gained is because of me”. But it is not so. It is not because a leader persuades the government to be nice, but because the actions of mass movements force the government to give back some of what has been taken from us.
Leaders, indeed, will sometimes pretend that they know best and that the movement depends on them. But they can do this only by with-holding knowledge and denying power from others. This is why it is important to make organisations as democratic as possible. The individual leader substitutes for and holds back the capacities of the ‘led’. If we rely on one leader, or a group of leaders we are putting ourselves in a vulnerable position because we can easily be misled. Nor is there a leadership to be bought off. A leader comes to symbolise an organisation’s cause and projects it on to one individual that his or her reputation and personality comes to represent and embody the cause.
The working class have nothing to gain and everything to lose by relying on leaders.
Leadership is one of those problematic words that needs qualifying. When we say “don’t follow leaders” we mean by this something very specific – a narrow political sense of the term – to denote the idea of surrendering power to an individual or group to change society on our behalf. We are not promoting the false idea that socialism is about “making everyone equal” in their endowments, abilities and so on. There will always exist those who will be better orators or write more lucidly than others.
Structure doesn’t necessarily mean a leader. The best examples of organisation historically can be found in the trade union and labour movement at its best. Take, for example, the structures of trade union branches. These are a product of a long tradition of members debating, agreeing and renewing clear, transparent written rules that create a framework of mutual accountability, self-discipline and individual responsibility. They are there on paper, the responsibility of every member, to be used, contested and, once agreed, followed. That is not to deny that apathy and inertia can set in; the rules become a barrier to creative thinking and change; officials become corrupt or complacent. Yet the rules and basic principles remain, always available.
A socialist party must be a party of no compromise. Its mission is to point the way to the goal and it refuses to leave the main road the side-tracked that lead into the swamp of reformism. Nor does a socialist party advocate violence in the labor movement because it knows the capitalist class has the advantage. It is not cowardice but common sense and it is not heroism that makes a fool rock a boat in deep water, it is idiocy.
The capitalist class can gerry-mander elections, miscount and steal votes, plus resort to a thousand and one other political tricks, but such is simply to tamper with a thermometer, it cannot change the temperature. And the temperature is the organised power of the working class.
Power to no one, and to every one!

Friday, January 08, 2016

Against Nationalism

SOMEBODY ONCE remarked that the most important word in the political vocabulary is “we”. It was a shrewd observation, since to get someone to use “we” in relation to some group of people is to get them to identify their interest as the interest of that group.

In the battle for “we”, socialists are trying to get all those excluded from ownership and control of means of production to recognise the fact of their common interest as one class within capitalist society, to regard themselves as “we” and to use “our” and “us” only in relation to that class and its interests.
Those who control one or other of the two hundred or so armed states into which the world is divided have to try to prevent this practice emerging, and deliberately seek to undermine it, in the interest of the other main class in capitalist society – those who do own and control means of production and who derive a privileged income from this. They seek to convince the people they rule over that the “we” they should identify with is “the nation” as the nation part of what they call the “nation-state” they rule.
Immigration causes a problem for them since immigrants, having been brought up under some other state, have not gone through the same process of brainwashing and conditioning as have the “native” population. Those born and brought up in Britain have been taught, through what’s been drummed into them in school and through what they continuously read in the papers or hear on the radio or television, to regard themselves as British. In school they are taught the history of the kings and queens of England, and of the wars in which the British ruling class has been involved in over the centuries, and of the evolution of the British state. The media reinforce this by reporting news from an almost exclusively British angle and encourage identification with “the nation” via identification with “our” sports teams and performers.
It therefore comes almost as a reflex action for people born and brought up in Britain to use “we” in relation to the British state and to regard themselves as part of a British “nation”. So people spontaneously say such things as “we beat the French at Waterloo” or “we won the Second World War” or “we got five gold medals at the Olympics”. Even opponents of particular policies pursued by the British state, yesterday as well as today, fall into the same trap and say such things as “we should never have conquered India” or “we shouldn’t join the euro”.
Such usage is music to the ears of the ruling class as they know it means they are on top in the battle for “we”. They have succeeded in getting their subjects to identify with them and their interests. Wage and salary workers, instead of seeing “we” as their class, have come to see it as “the nation”.
It wasn’t always so easy. Historians have demonstrated that a nation is not a natural community that existed before the state, but that it’s the other way round: the state existed first and then proceeded to impose on those it ruled over the idea that they formed a “nation”. The longest-standing states of Western Europe – England, France and Spain – emerged at the end of the feudal era and then had to create a national feeling amongst the population living within their frontiers. These frontiers were accidental and had been determined by a number of key battles amongst dynastic rulers in feudal times. Had the outcome of these battles been different, then southern Britain might have been part of the same state as northern France, while northern Britain might have been part of a state with Scandinavia, and southern France part of a state with Catalonia and northern Italy. That’s not how things turned out, but the point is that they could have done. States pre-existed and in a very real sense created nations. Nations are groups of people ruled by a state or a would-be state.
States that have been formed more recently – and most of the world’s states today were only formed in the last 80 or so years, i. e., have only been going for two or three generations – have had, and some still have, a serious problem in convincing all those they rule over that they form part of a single nation with a common interest. It is why their nationalism tends to be more shrill and authoritarian. It has to be, to overcome the tendency of some of their subjects, especially those speaking a minority language within their state, to identify themselves with some other nationalism particularly that of a neighbouring state.
Even a long-established state such as Britain has not solved this problem entirely, as witness Northern Ireland, where a considerable proportion of the population use “we” not in relation to Britain but in relation to the Irish State and the “nation” it fosters. On the mainland the British state’s problem in this respect has been amongst the immigrants from its former Empire, many of whom, notoriously to Norman Tebbitt’s annoyance, refuse to support the English cricket team and continue to support that of their country of origin or that of their parents. More seriously, the ruling class were shocked by the number of immigrants from Pakistan and their descendants who supported the Taliban in the most recent of the Afghan Wars.
Until recently the dominant opinion amongst those in charge of the British state about how to deal with this was to make a virtue of necessity and pursue a policy of “multiculturalism”. It didn’t work. In fact, it has encouraged division, by getting people to identify with their “culture” rather than with the British “nation”. (Socialists, too, see “multiculturalism” as divisive but for the different reason that it gets workers to identify with some other group over and above their class.) Now a change of policy is under way, a swing towards “assimilationism”.
The first to experience this change of policy are new applicants for British nationality. They have to be able to show some knowledge of the British state, its institutions and the history of its rulers, before being accepted into the British “nation”. The expectation is that they will say “we beat the French at Waterloo” and “we should/should not join the euro” as readily as any true-born Briton. Perhaps too they will support England in test matches.
Feudal relic
They are also now required to publicly pledge allegiance to the queen in ceremonies akin to the patriotic flag-worshipping that applicants for US citizenship have to go through. This is a farcical revival of feudal times, but it brings out the importance of the royal family to the British ruling class. The royal family’s role is to act as a focus for loyalty to the British state. The 19th century Tory Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, is credited with first having thought this up. The royal family may be a relic from feudalism but it is easier to get people to identify with it than with some abstraction like the constitution. Nor is any superannuated politician dubbed “the president” ever going to be able to act as such a focus.
It is also less hypocritical, because members of the British “nation” are called what they really are – “subjects”, people subjected to the rule of a ruling class. Tony Benn finds thisabhorrent. He wants us to be called “citizens” not “subjects”, as people are in France. But the people of France are no less subjects of the French ruling class and its state for being called citizens. Let a spade continue to be called a spade. What we should object to is not to being called subjects, but to being subjects.
Republicanism and “citizenship” could become a useful alternative way of ensuring loyalty to the British capitalist state if ever the royal family becomes too unpopular, but even though royalty is much less popular than it was even 25 years ago, it is still an asset that the British ruling class want to hold on to and use to the full. It serves to get wage and salary workers to be loyal to the British state and to use “we” in relation to the interests of its ruling class.
The “we” that socialists say that all those, wherever they were born, wherever they live or wherever they come from, who are not members of the privileged ruling class should identify with is people in a similar position throughout the world. “We” are all members of a world-wide excluded class of wage-working wealth producers – the world working class – who have a common interest in coming together to abolish so-called “nation-states” and establish a frontierless world community in which all the natural and industrial resources of the Earth will have become the common heritage of all Humanity, to be used for the benefit instead of, as to today, to make profits for the few. Then we would all really be Members of the Human  Race, Citizens of the World, Earthpeople.logo-h