Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Not the right type of bombs

Nato commanders are hoping to reduce 'collateral damage' . Nato is considering the use of smaller bombs in Afghanistan to try to curb the rising number of civilians killed during operations against the Taleban. Nato commanders were "working with weapon loads on aircraft to reduce collateral damage"

Aid agencies say Western forces have killed 230 civilians so far this year. Between 700 and 1,000 civilians were killed by both sides during 2006, according to the Agency Co-ordinating Body for Afghan Relief . Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer acknowledged civilian casualties had hurt the alliance politically . He insisted it was impossible to eliminate non-combatant deaths entirely.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Return of the Sloane Rangers

From the Daily Telegraph :-

The Sloane Ranger is still going strong according to the authors of a sequel to the best-selling The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook which, when it was published in 1982, was the definitive guide to the upper-middle classes living in west London. The modern Sloane differs from the original in more than fashion sense. Today's Hooray Henrys and Carolines are perfectly coiffed, jet-setting and hungry to make money of their own .

"They are rich, but they are serving the rich," said co-author, Olivia Stewart-Liberty. "...They are also much more business-orientated."

This entrepreneurial spirit is personified by such as the Duchess of Cornwall's nephew Ben Elliot who runs a private members' club and Piers Adams, of the Piccadilly night-club Mahiki, a favourite of Kate Middleton and Prince William.

Chav Sloane: Court the paparazzi and manage to get kicked off down-market reality television shows, but still relish a freebie
Thumping Sloane: A pretty decent bunch: 21st century equivalents of Hooray Henry and Nice Caroline
Turbo Sloane: Have added to their fortunes through successful business ventures, in particular, exclusive nightclubs frequented by the other tribes
Euro Sloane: Usually the off-spring of minor European royalty, they spend most of their time in London
Sleek Sloane: Older but glamorous reincarnations of the original Sloane Ranger, who have updated their image
Eco Sloane: Altruistic and philanthropic, this tribe has impeccable green credentials
Party Sloane: Enjoy knocking back Crack Baby (mojito) cocktails in the capital's exclusive nightclubs
Bongo Sloane: Slightly dotty (but still posh) forty-somethings who extol the virtues of alternative treatments

Toby Mundy, the managing editor of Atlantic Books which will publish the sequel in October, said: "The Sloanes are back and richer than ever. It is okay again to be proud to be posh..."

I'm afraid they are just selfish scum of the earth to me .

Another Marx toon

Another of Mikes cartoon's of Marx .

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Me thinks Marx is a teddy boy

Many thanks to fellow postal worker and friend Mike Boyd for this cartoon of Charlie - Mike's less political cartoons and drawings can be found here

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Home of Democracy

According to BBC radio the USA came close to having a coup to overthrow Roosevelt in the 30s . The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell House and George Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression.

In 1933, Marine Corps Maj.-Gen. Smedley Butler was approached by a wealthy and secretive group of industrialists and bankers, including Prescott Bush the current President's grandfather, who asked him to command a 500,000 strong rogue army of veterans that would help stage a coup to topple then President Roosevelt.

The conspirators were operating under the umbrella of a front group called the American Liberty League, which included many families that are still household names today, including Heinz, Colgate, Birds Eye and General Motors. Butler played along with the clique to determine who was involved but later blew the whistle and identified the ringleaders in testimony given to the House Committee on un-American Activities.
However, the Committee refused to even question any of the individuals named by Butler and his testimony was omitted from the record, and the majority of the media refused to print the story.

In 1936, William Dodd, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, wrote a letter to President Roosevelt in which he stated,
"A clique of U.S. industrialists is hell-bent to bring a fascist state to supplant our democratic government and is working closely with the fascist regime in Germany and Italy. I have had plenty of opportunity in my post in Berlin to witness how close some of our American ruling families are to the Nazi regime.... A prominent executive of one of the largest corporations, told me point blank that he would be ready to take definite action to bring fascism into America if President Roosevelt continued his progressive policies. Certain American industrialists had a great deal to do with bringing fascist regimes into being in both Germany and Italy. They extended aid to help Fascism occupy the seat of power, and they are helping to keep it there. Propagandists for fascist groups try to dismiss the fascist scare. We should be aware of the symptoms. When industrialists ignore laws designed for social and economic progress they will seek recourse to a fascist state when the institutions of our government compel them to comply with the provisions."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Why We Must Win

ROYAL Mail workers will have their pensions slashed unless they work five years longer under secret plans revealed by the Mirror today.

The age staff could retire with full pensions would be raised from 60 to 62 next year and 65 from 2010.
Future rises in pensionable pay would be capped at the inflation rate.
Lump sum payments would also be hit. A worker aged 50 today with 30 years' service could have expected a one-off payment of £29,826. This would be cut to £25,515.

Senior management would be unaffected.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Workers Together

Whilst it is only natural to concentrate upon one's own problems and struggles , it is amiss of us to forget that the class war is a world - wide phenomenon . While the British postal workers have been out on strike and intent upon taking further industrial action , my colleagues at the mail centres in Egypt have also been engaged in strikes and sit-ins for better job security , according to the BBC .

In fact , it is being reported that there is a resurgence in workers resistance to management , the government and also to collaborating trade union leaders .

With inflation at 12.3% , and the gap between rich and poor growing , and in some cases privatisations that have brought job cuts and the loss of fringe benefits workers throughout Egypt are fighting back . Some have been been spurred on by earlier victories .

20,000 workers downed tools and occupied their factory last December, inspiring a series of copycat strikes as their demands for an unpaid bonus promised to all labourers nationally were eventually met. Within four months of the Mahalla strike, workers at three other large textile factories and two cement factories had held stoppages and railway employees had briefly blockaded the Cairo-Alexandria train line backed by a go-slow by Cairo metro drivers. the sit-in by the postal workers, who are calling for fixed term contracts, is one among hundreds of other smaller-scale actions by workers ranging from rubbish collectors to bakers and poultry workers to Suez Canal employees which have also been reported in the Egyptian media.

Angered by its refusal to back their strike action, the Mahalla textile workers submitted their resignations to the General Federation of Trade Unions - a body which is dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party and began calling for an independent union. The pro-government GFTU play the same role as our TUC and our own union leaders , watering down demands and dampening the flames of discontent in return for supposed political influence with those who hold the reins of power . But for a trade union the real power is within its rank and file .It is their own membership and their militancy that gives power to the union .

As a postman in Scotland I offer my full solidarity and complete support to the postal workers in Egypt .

Sporting trophies

Used and abused for national prestige . Nearly 80% of China's 300,000 retired athletes are struggling with joblessness, injury or poverty. Many athletes suffer from sports injuries and health problems caused by their training. Last year, China's national news agency Xinhua reported that almost half of 6,000 professional athletes retiring from competition each year end up jobless or without further schooling plans.

The root of the problem can be traced back to the country's wholesale adoption of unfettered capitalism. Market forces were unleashed on what was once a sports system that cared for its athletes from cradle to grave, leaving tens of thousands out in the cold when they had passed their athletic peak and could no longer win attention and profits for their sports associations. In 2003, the changes were reinforced by a new law that shifted most responsibility for employment after retirement to the athletes themselves.
"This group of athletes is the legacy of China's economic development," Liu Mingyu, deputy director of Liaoning Provincial Sports Bureau .

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A New web-site

Socialists For Free Access Just an exercise in web design but some of the articles may be of interest and some have been posted here or elsewhere so no real surprises but good to have them all on one site for easy reference

Police never change

Sachsenhausen , a former Nazi concentration camp is being converted into a police training academy . What was once a compound for Hitler's despised SS has been renovated and recently opened as a training academy for police recruits from Brandenburg State in Eastern Germany.

The Brandenburg Police Academy was officially opened last November. It coincided with the 70th anniversary of the opening of the death camp in 1936, the first to be opened by Heinrich Himmler after he was appointed chief of the German police in addition to his position as Reichsführer SS. Sachsenhausen is where the SS learned their barbaric trade before being dispatched to run a network of hundreds of death camps across occupied Europe.

"This was quarters for a SS regiment called the Death's Head; the state's riot police now use it," - Rainer Grieger, who heads the facility.

Sachsenhausen, named after an area of the town of Oranienburg, was established initially to hold political prisoners and those deemed enemies of the Nazis. As a model for other camps, and in view of its location just outside the Third Reich capital, Sachsenhausen acquired a special role in the National Socialist concentration camp system. This was reinforced in 1938 when the Concentration Camp Inspection Office - the administrative headquarters for all concentration camps - was transferred from Berlin to Oranienburg.Sachsenhausen was one of the first to use the infamous slogan Arbeit Macht Frei (work sets us free) on its front entrance gate.
Of the 100,000 inmates who died here, many expired from exhaustion, disease, malnutrition or pneumonia contracted in the freezing cold. Others were summarily executed or died as a result of brutal medical experimentation (the SS practised methods of mass killing that were later used in other Nazi death camps). Those targeted included Jews, Communists and many Russian prisoners of war, among them Stalin's eldest son, Jakov, who was shot. Other famous prisoners included Jimmy James, a British pilot involved in the mass escape from Stalag Luft III - an incident immortalised in the film The Great Escape, starring Steve McQueen. When the Red Army advanced in the spring of 1945, the SS ordered 33,000 emaciated inmates at the camp on a death march westwards. Most were exhausted and were shot when they fell to the ground. On April 22, 1945, the remaining 3000 prisoners were liberated by the Red Army and the Polish 2nd Infantry Division of Ludowe Wojsko Polskie. For five years after the end of the Second World War the Soviets used the camp to intern some 60,000 people, including Nazi prisoners. By the time Sachsenhausen closed in 1950, at least 12,000 of them had died of malnutrition and disease.

The Reverend Martin Niemöller was also imprisoned here and famously wrote:
"First they came for the Communists and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me."

Friday, July 20, 2007

Talking With Marx

Mailstrom recently conducted a séance and employed a ouija board to make contact with the long - dead Karl Marx which resulted in the following interview .

Interview with Marx

Question 1 : Dr Marx , you are well known as the author of a book on economics but I think you studied law at university , didn’t you ?
Karl Marx: Although I studied jurisprudence , I pursued it as a subject subordinated to philosophy and history . In the year 1842-43 , as editor of the Rheinische Zeitung , I first found myself in the embarrassing position of having to discuss what is known as material interests . The deliberations of the Rhenish Landtag on forest thefts and the division of landed property ; the first polemic started by Herr von Schaper , then Oberpresident of the Rhine Province , against the Rheinische Zeitung about the condition of the Moselle peasantry , and finally the debates on free trade and protective tariffs caused me in the first instance to turn my attention to economic questions .

Present-day society

Q 2 : What , as a result of the studies you then undertook , would you say is the basis of present-day society ?
Marx: “Present-day society” is capitalist society , which exists in all civilised countries , more or less free from mediaeval admixture , more or less modified by the particular historical development of each country , more or less developed .
In present-day society the instruments of labour are the monopoly of the land-owners ( the monopoly of property in land is even the basis of the monopoly of capital ) and the capitalists.
The capitalist mode of production rests on the fact that the material conditions of production are in the hands of non-workers in the form of property in capital and land, while the masses are only owners of the personal conditions of productions , of labour power .

Q 3 : What would you say are the essential features of this capitalist society ?
Marx: Capitalist production is distinguished from the outset by two characteristic features.
First. It produces products as commodities .The fact that it produces commodities does not differentiate it from other modes of productions ; but rather the fact that being a commodity is the dominant and determining characteristic of its products . This implies , first and foremost , that the labourer himself comes forward merely as a seller of commodities , and thus as a free wage-labourer , so that labour appears in as wage labour . The relation between capital and wage-labour determines the entire character of the mode of production . The principal agents of this mode of production itself , the capitalist and the wage-labourer , are as such merely embodiments , personifications of capital and wage-labour .
The second distinctive feature of the capitalist mode of production is the production of surplus-value as the direct aim and determining motive of production .

Q4 : You say that the relation between capital and wage-labour determines the whole character of capitalism but how , first , would you define “capital”?
Marx: Capital is a social relation of production. It is a bourgeois production relation, a production relation of bourgeois society . Capital consists not only of means of subsistence , instruments of labour and raw materials , not only of material products; it consists just a much of exchange values. All the products of which it consists are commodities . Capital is , therefore , not only a sum of material products; it is a sum of commodities , of exchange values, of social magnitudes.
Material wealth transforms itself into capital simply and solely because the worker sells his labour-power in order to live . The articles which are the material conditions of labour , the means of production , and the articles which are the precondition for the survival of the worker himself , the means of subsistence , both become capital only because of the phenomenon of wage-labour . Capital is not a thing , any more than money is a thing. In capital , as in money , certain specific social relations of production between people appear as relations of things to people , or else certain social relations appear as natural properties of things in society . Without a class dependent on wages , the moment individuals confront each other as free persons , there can be no production of surplus-value ;without the production of surplus-value there can be no capitalist production , and hence no capital and no capitalist ! Capital and wage-labour ( it is thus we designate the labour of the worker of the worker who sells his own labour-power) only express two aspects of the self-same relationship.

Q5: But in some cases the means of production belong to the State . Does this make any difference to this basic relationship of capitalism?
Marx: The social capital is equal to the sum of the individual capitals ( including joint-stock capital and also state capital , in so far as governments employ productive wage-labour in mines, railways, and so on and the function as industrial capitalists) . Where the State itself is the capitalist producer , as in the exploitation of mines , woodlands and the like , its product is “commodity” and for this reason possesses the specific character of every other commodity .

Q6: How do you explain the origin of surplus-value ?
Marx: The value of a commodity is determined by the total quantity of labour contained in it . But part of that quantity of labour is realised in a value , for which an equivalent has been pain in the form of wages; part of it realised in a value for which no equivalent has been paid. Part of the labour contained in the commodity is paid labour ; part is unpaid labour.
The surplus value , or the part of the total value of the commodity in which the surplus labour or unpaid labour of the working man is realised , I call Profit .
It is the employing capitalist who immediately extracts from the labourer this surplus value , whatever part of it he may ultimately be able to keep for himself . Upon this relation , therefore , between the employing capitalist and the wage labourer the whole wages system and the whole present system of production hinges.

Q7 : So you are saying that it is through the wages system that the workers are exploited ?
Marx : Wages are not what they appear to be , namely , the value , or price , of labour , but only a masked form for the value , or price , of labour power. The wage- worker has permission to work for his own subsistence , that is , to live , only in so far as he works for a certain time gratis for the capitalist
( and hence also for the latter’s co-consumer’s of surplus-value); the whole capitalist system of production turns on the increase of this gratis labour by extending the working day or by developing the productivity; consequently the system of wage labour is a system of slavery , and indeed of a slavery which becomes more severe in proportion as the social productive forces of labour develop, whether the worker receives better or worse payment.

Q8: But surely you are not saying that workers should not try to obtain “better payment” while capitalism lasts?
Marx: To clamour for equal or even equitable retribution on the basis of the wages system is the same as to clamour for freedom on the basis of the slavery system. What you think just or equitable is out of the question . The question is: What is necessary and unavoidable with a given system of production?
The periodical resistance on the part of the working man against a reduction of wages , and their periodical attempts at a rise in wages , are inseparable from the wages system , and dictated by the very fact of labour being assimilated to commodities , and therefore subject to the laws regulating the general movement of prices.
The value of labour-power constitutes the conscious and explicit foundation of the trade unions , whose importance for the English working class can scarcely be overestimated . The trade unions aim a nothing les than to prevent the reduction of wages below the level that is traditionally maintained in the various branches of industry.
Trade unions work well as centres of resistance against the encroachments of capital . They fail partially from an injurious use of their power . They fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerrilla war against the effects of the existing system , instead of simultaneously trying to change it , instead of using their organised forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class , that is to say , the ultimate abolition of the wages system .

Future Society

Q9 : Clearly then , the abolition of the wages system is one key feature of the socialist , or as I believe you prefer to call it communist , society which will achieve “the emancipation of the working class” , but what else can be said about it ?
Marx : The condition for the emancipation of the working class is the abolition of every class . The working class , in the course of its development , will substitute for the old civil society an association which will exclude classes and their antagonism , and there will be no more political power properly so-called since political power is precisely the official expression of antagonism in civil society .
Within the co-operative society based on common ownership of the means of production , the producers do not exchange their products ; just as little does the labour employed on the products appear here as the value of these products , as a material quality possessed by them.
There can therefore be nothing more erroneous and absurd than to postulate the control by the united individuals of their total production , on the basis of exchange value, of money . The private exchange of all products of labour , all activities and all wealth stands in antithesis to free exchange among individuals who are associated on the basis of common appropriation and control of the means of production.
If we were to consider a communist society in place of a capitalist one , then money capital would immediately be done away with .

Q10 : So you are saying that the working class can only emancipate themselves by establishing a classless , stateless , and moneyless society , but , with regard to this last point , you yourself are on record as mentioning “labour-time vouchers” as a possible means of distributing consumer goods in the early stages of communist society . Is there not a contradiction here ?
Marx : Any distribution whatever of the means of consumption is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves . If the material conditions of production are the co-operative property of workers themselves , then there likewise results a distribution of the means of consumption different from the present one.
With collective production , money capital is completely dispensed with . The society distributes labour-power and means of production between the various branches of industry. There is no reason why the producers should not receive paper tokens permitting them to withdraw an amount corresponding to their labour time from the social consumption stocks. But these tokens are not money ; they do not circulate .
The certificate of labour is merely evidence of the part taken by the individual in the common labour , and of his claim to a certain portion of the common product which has been set aside for consumption .

Q11 : But you are not claiming , are you , that such “tickets” or “certificates” would be a permanent or even an essential feature of a future classless society ?
Marx : What we have to deal with here is a communist society , not as it has developed on its own foundations but , on the contrary , just as it emerges from capitalist society ; which is thus in every respect , economically , morally ,and intellectually , still stamped with the birth marks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.
In a higher phase of communist of communist society , after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour , and herewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour , have vanished ; after labour has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want ; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-round development of the individual , and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly - only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners : From each according to his ability , to each according to his needs !

The Period of Revolution

Q12: The continuing development of the forces of production over the last hundred or so years means that communist society could now proceed almost immediately to this stage of free access . But I want to move on to ask you about how you see the change-over from capitalist to socialist . Or communist , society taking place.
Marx: The first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class , to win the battle of democracy . The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest , by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State , of the proletariat organised as the ruling class , and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible .

Q13: Wait a minute . Let me stop you there . What exactly do you mean by the phrase “centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State , of the proletariat organised as the working class” ? In a previous reply you told us that socialism was a society without a State .
Marx: When [ the proletariat] attains government power its enemies and the old organisation of society has not yet vanished .
The proletariat still acts , during the period of the struggle for the overthrow of the old society , on the basis of that old society , and hence also still moves within political forms which more or less belong to it . It has not yet , during this period of struggle , attained its final constitution , and employs means for its liberation which this liberation fall aside .
It can however only use such economic means as abolish its own character as salariat , hence as a class . With its complete victory its own rule thus ends . As its class character has disappeared .
When , in the course of development , class distinctions have disappeared , and all production has been concentrated in the public power will lose its political character .In place of the old bourgeois society , with its classes and class antagonisms , we shall have an association , in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

Q14: You are saying that to establish a classless , stateless society the working class has first to organise to gain control of political power - “win the battle of democracy” , as you put it - and use it to expropriate the capitalist class . This seems reasonable enough , even if today it could again be said that this period of revolution could be passed through very quickly precisely because the centralisation and development of the means of production has now reached such a high degree. But how do you see the working class winning political power , peaceably or violently.
Marx: The workers will have to seize political power one day in order to construct the new organisation of labour; they will have to overthrow the old politics which bolster up the old institutions
We do not claim , however , that the road leading to this goal is the same everywhere . We know that heed must be paid to institutions , customs and traditions of various countries , and we do not deny that there are countries , such as America and England , where the workers may attain their goal by peaceful means . That being the case , we must recognise that in most continental countries the lever of the revolution will have to be force.

Q15: Today of course “most continental countries” have adopted the same political forms as America and Britain , but in any event won’t socialism or communism , have to be a world system ?
Marx: United action of the leading civilised countries at least , is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat .
Empirically , communism is only possible as an act of the dominant people “all at once” and simultaneously , which presupposes the universal development of productive forces and the world intercourse bound up with communism . Moreover , the mass of propertyless workers presupposes the world market through competition . The proletariat can thus only exist world-historically , just as communism , its activity , can only have a “world-historical” existence.

Causes of Crises

Q 16: Can we now perhaps turn to some current issues that are of immediate concern to people today . First of all , the present slump where we hear about there being over-production of steel , cars , food and other goods .
Marx: The word “over-production” in itself leads to error . So long as the most urgent needs of a large part of society are not satisfied . Or only the most immediate needs are satisfied , there can of course be absolutely no talk of an over-production of products - in the sense that the amount of products is excessive in relation to the need for them . On the contrary , it must be said that on the basis of capitalist production , there is constant under-production in this sense . The limits to production are set by the profit of the capitalist and in no way by the needs of the producers But over-production of products and over-production of commodities are two entirely different things.

Q17: Yes , that’s clear enough , but what do you think of the proposal put forward for instance by the Labour Party that the way out of the crisis is to increase spending.
Marx : The popular ascription of stagnation in the processes of production and circulation to an insufficiency of the circulating medium is a delusion .
It is pure tautology to say that crises are provoked by a lack of effective demand or effective consumption. The capitalist system does not recognise any forms of consumer other than those who can pay , if we exclude the consumption of paupers and swindlers . The fact that commodities are unsaleable means no more than that no effective buyers have been found for them , no consumers ( no matter whether the commodities are ultimately sold to meet the needs of productive or individual consumption ) . If the attempt is made to give this tautology the semblance of greater profundity , by the statement that the working class receives too small a portion of its own product , and that the evil would be remedied if it received a bigger share , if its wages rose , we need only note that crises are always prepared by a period in which wages generally rise , and the working class actually does receive a greater share in the part of the annual product destined for consumption . From the standpoint of these advocates of sound and “simple” ( ! ) common sense , such periods should rather avert the crisis . It thus appears that capitalist production involves certain conditions independent of people’s good or bad intentions , which permit the relative prosperity of the working class only temporarily , and moreover always the harbinger of crisis.

Q18: What about the other aspects of crisis such as unemployment and falling real wages ?
Marx: Capitalistic production moves through certain periodical cycles . It moves through a state of quiescence , growing animation , prosperity , overtrade , crisis and stagnation . The market prices of commodities , and the market rates of profits , follow these phases , now sinking below their average , now rising above them .
Well ! During the phase of sinking market prices and the phases of crisis and stagnation , the working man , if not thrown out of employment altogether ,is sure to have his wages lowered .
A surplus population of workers is a condition for the existence of the capitalist mode of production . It forms a disposable industrial reserve army , which belongs to capital just as absolutely as if the latter had bred it at its own cost .
Capitalist production can by no means content itself with the quantity of disposable labour power which the natural increase of population yields . It requires for its unrestricted activity an industrial reserve army which is independent of these natural limits .
Taking them as a whole , the general movements of wages are exclusively regulated by the expansion and contraction of the industrial reserve army , and this in turn corresponds to the periodical alternations of the industrial cycle.

Q19 : Lets now turn to the other big economic issue , inflation . What do you see as its cause and consequences ?
Marx: Here we are concerned only with inconvertible paper money issued by the State and given forced currency.
Pieces of paper on which money-names are printed , such as £1 , £5 , are thrown into the circulation process from outside by the State . In so far as they actually circulate in place of the same amount of gold , their movement is simply a reflection of the laws of monetary circulation itself . A law peculiar to the circulation of paper money can only spring up from the proportion in which that money represents gold .In simple terms the law referred to is as follows: the issue of paper money must be restricted to the quantity of gold ( or silver ) which would actually be in circulation , and which is represented symbolically by the paper money .
If the paper money exceeds its proper limit - the amount in gold coins of the same denomination which could have been in circulation - then , quite apart from the danger of becoming universally discredited , it will still represent within the world of commodities only that quantity of gold which is fixed by its immanent laws . No greater quantity is capable of being represented . If the quantity of paper money represents twice the amount of gold available , then in practice £1 will be the money-name not of ¼ of an ounce of gold but of 1/8 of an ounce . The effect is the same as if an alteration had taken place in the function of gold as the standard of prices . The values previously expressed by the price of £1 would now be expressed by the price of £2 .
In such a case nothing would have changed , either in the productive powers of labour , or in supply or demand , or in values. Nothing could have changed except the money names of those values . To say that in such a case the workingman ought not to insist upon a proportionate rise of wages , is to say that he must be content to be paid in names , instead of things . All past history proves that whenever such a depreciation of money occurs , the capitalists are on the alert to seize this opportunity for defrauding the workingman.

Q20 : What do you think of the idea of cutting taxes as a way of trying to improve the workers’ position under capitalism ?
Marx: If all taxes which bear on the working class were abolished root and branch , the necessary consequence would be the reduction of wages by the whole amount of taxes which goes into them . Either the employers’ profit would rise as a direct consequence by the same quantity , or else no more than an alteration in the form of tax-collecting would have taken place . Instead of the present system , whereby the capitalist also advances , as part of the wage , the taxes which the worker has to pay , he [ the capitalist ] would no longer pay them in this roundabout way , but directly to the State.


Q21: Finally , there is a growing concern these days about pollution and the environment . Could you say something on this .
Marx: The capitalist mode of production completes the disintegration of the primitive familial union which bound agriculture and manufacture when they were both at an undeveloped and child-like stage. But at the same time it creates the material conditions for a new and higher synthesis , a union of agriculture and industry on the basis of the forms that have developed during the period of their antagonistic isolation. Capitalist production collects the population together in great centres , and causes the urban population to achieve an ever-growing preponderance. This has two results . On the one hand it concentrates the historic motive power of society ; on the other hand , it disturbs the metabolic interaction between man and the earth , it prevents the return to the soil of its constituent elements consumed by man in the form of food and clothing ; hence it hinders the operation of the eternal natural condition for the lasting fertility of the soil . Thus it destroys at the same time the physical health of the urban worker , and the intellectual life of the rural worker . But by destroying the circumstances surrounding that metabolism , which originated in a merely natural and spontaneous fashion , it compels its systematic restoration as a regulative law of social production, and in a form adequate to the full development of the human race.
Moreover , all progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress in the art , not only of robbing the worker , but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time is a progress towards ruining the more long-lasting sources of that fertility .
Capitalist production , therefore , only develops the techniques and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth - the soil and the worker.

Q22: Would you like to address a special message to our readers?
Marx: It is the working millions of Great Britain who first have laid down the real basis of a new society - modern industry , which transformed the destructive agencies of nature into the productive power of man. The English working classes , with invincible energies , by the sweat of their brows and brains , have called to life the material means of ennobling labour itself , and of multiplying its fruits in such a degree as to make general abundance possible . By creating the inexhaustible productive powers of modern industry they have fulfilled the first condition of the emancipation of Labour . They have now to realise its other condition . They have to free those wealth - producing powers from the infamous shackles of monopoly , and subject them to the joint control of the producers , who , till now , allowed the very product of their hands to turn against them and transformed into as many instruments of their own subjugation.
The English working men are the first-born sons of modern industry . They will then , certainly, not be the last in aiding the social revolution prepared by that industry , a revolution , which means the emancipation of their own class all over the world , which is as universal as capital-rule and wage-slavery.

Q23: with your power from the other-side , Herr Doctor , for a Brooklyn comrade , could you perhaps tell us who will win this season’s football league , Celtic or Rangers ?
Marx: Hegel [ a Hearts fan ] remarks somewhere that history repeats itself . He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy , the second time as farce .

Mailstrom: Thank you Dr Marx
Marx: Bitte

A Note on Sources
Every word in Marx’s replies is taken from his actual writings , the only changes being to leave out , in some cases , introductory phrases or conjunctions. Nor have we indicated that we are sometimes quoting from different writings in the same reply .
Q1 Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy Lawrence and Wishart , 1971 , p19-20
Q2 Three separate passages from the Critique of the Gotha Programme , Progress Publishers , 1971 , p 25 , p13 , and p18 respectively
Q3 Capital Vol 3 ,FLPH , 1959, p 857-8
Q4 Wage Labour and Capital M-E Selected Works , Vol 1, 1958, p90
Results of the Immediate Process of Production , appendix to Penguin Vol 1 of Capital , 1976 p1005-6
Q5 Capital Vol 2, Penguin 1978 p177
Comments on Adolph Wagner’s Lehrbuch , BICO . 1971, p22
Q6 Three separate passages from Value , Price and Profit ,Peking , 1969, p54, 55 and 56
Q7 Critique of the Gotha Programme p22-3
Q8 First two and fourth paragraphs from Value Price and Profit , p 46 , p71 , and 78-9 . Third paragraph from Results , p1069
Q9 The Poverty of Philosophy FLPH ,1956 p196-7, Critique of the Gotha Programme , p16 Grundisse , Pelican , 1973, p158-9
Q10 Critique of the Gotha Programme p18 , Capital Vol 2 ,p434 ,Capital Vol 1 p188-9 footnote
Q11 Critique of the Gotha Programme , p16 and p17-18
Q12 Manifesto of the Communist Party , FLPH ,1954 , p79-80
Q13 First three paragraphs from Conspectus of Bakunin’s Statism and Anarchy , The 1st International and After , Penguin , 1974 p 332 , 338 , and 335. The fourth paragraph from the Communist Manifesto p81 and p82 [re-translated from original German]
Q14 Speech at the Hague Congress , The 1st International p324
Q15 Communist Manifesto , p77
Q16 Theories of Surplus Value , Pt2 , Progress Pub., 1968, p527
Q17 Capital ,Vol 1 , p218 , footnote , Capital , Vol 2 , p486-7
Q18 The first two paragraphs from Value , Price and Profit , p69 , the other three paragraphs from Capital Vol 1 , p784 , p788, p790,
Q19 First three paragraphs from Capital Vol 1 p224-5 . Last paragraph Value , Price and Profit , p65-66
Q20 Moralising Criticism and Critical Morality ,Collected Works , Vol 6 Lawrence and Wishart ,1976, p329
Q21 Capital , Vol 1 p637-8
Q22 Letter to the Labout Parliament , Articles On Britain , Progress Pub., 1975 , p215
Speech at the anniversary of the “Peoples Paper” , Articles On Britain , p261

From the Socialist Standard , March 1983


Ian Bruce , normally the Defence correspondent for the Herald had an interesting article . He ponders over all the recent poverty statistics that has recently been published . Bruce has some questions that he wished to be answered .

In terms of cash, the inequalities in sheer wealth separating us count as a gulf. Does that make me poor?
Or rather, is there an actual connection between poverty and inequality?
Why should poverty be defined in terms of inequality if the numbers of "core" poor have been declining?
Social mobility is less common in Britain now than for a very long time. Increasingly, people no longer get on and get out. Increasingly, they do not believe that such a thing is possible. Why?

Bruce then reflects on the failure to address poverty .

Failures of policy, failures of will, failures to think and failures to act. Failures, equally, to understand that so many actions have failed, and for so many years. Sometimes you even begin to wonder if the state and its agencies had just handed out cash from the backs of buses then the poor, breadline or core, would be less common. Tax credits, the Child Support Agency, countless regeneration schemes, welfare-to-work, on-yer-bike, mass unemployment as "a price worth paying", job creation deals involving billions and endless "poverty initiatives

Yet he acknowledges one in four households remain breadline poor despite these 40 years of reforms .

It is disappointing that such a questioning individual as Ian Bruce simply fails to follow the trail to the root cause of poverty . Capitalism .

Marx has something to say about poverty and the contradictions created by Capitalism .

" It is true that labour produces marvels for the rich, but it produces privation for the worker. It produces palaces, but hovels for the worker. It produces beauty, but deformity for the worker. It replaces labour by machines, but it casts some of the workers back into barbarous forms of labour and turns others into machines. It produces intelligence, but it produces idiocy and cretinism for the worker."

The poverty of the working class to which Marx often refers can be understood in absolute and in relative terms. In absolute terms (in terms of how much workers have to eat, how much of a house they can afford, etc.) the condition of workers in highly developed countries has undoubtedly improved since the 19th century. In relative terms, however (in terms of what workers earn in comparison to what the owners of capital gain), the situation of workers has worsened.Since the imbalance of wealth usually translates into an imbalance of political power and influence as well, many capitalist countries tend to be, for all practical purposes, oligarchies rather than genuine democracies. Although their democratic institutions may be intact and functioning, their policies tend to be determined by wealthy elites much more than by citizens at large. The poor suffer from a lack of empowerment . High standards of living are not defined in terms of ever more food, drink, clothing, vehicles, appliances--in short, ever more things. A high standard of living rather means rich experiences, fully developed emotions, closeness to other people, a good education, and so forth. A person with very few possessions, but with an intensive life, comes much closer to Marx' idea of a happy human being than a well-paid worker who can afford to buy many consumer goods, but who is neither informed enough to understand the society in which he lives, nor has the motivation to shape, in cooperation with fellow-workers, his working conditions or the political system in which he lives. A worker who is overweight, who spends most of his time watching commercial television, whose main conversations with colleagues deal with the sports page, and who is too tired or apathetic to participate in the political process--such a worker is not well off in Marx' eyes, but a victim of a system that is ripe with alienation in every sense.

As Marx has written

"A house may be large or small; as long as the neighboring houses are likewise small, it satisfies all social requirement for a residence. But let there arise next to the little house a palace, and the little house shrinks to a hut. The little house now makes it clear that its inmate has no social position at all to maintain, or but a very insignificant one; and however high it may shoot up in the course of civilization, if the neighboring palace rises in equal of even in greater measure, the occupant of the relatively little house will always find himself more uncomfortable, more dissatisfied, more cramped within his four walls."

Seeking a solution within capitalism is futile .

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Big Bucks

Not much changes when we compare the bacchical excesses of the yester-years caesars with some members of todays capitalist class .

Henry T Nicholas III , for a brief period one of the richest men in America , founded the company Broadcom in 1991, making the innards of cable TV boxes . When it floated in the years of the internet boom, his shares went up in value 40 times .

He acquired the trappings of the super rich: private jets, a Lamborghini and a mansion in Laguna Hills with its own equestrian estate and, court documents claim, his personal brothel, hidden in an underground grotto. The grotto was reached by hidden doors with secret levers, leading to tunnels and a 2,000sq-ft underground sports bar called "Nick's Café". According to claims in court papers, this was a "secret and convenient lair", to cater for "Mr Nicholas's manic obsession with prostitutes" and his "addiction to cocaine and ecstasy". He used his private jet to pick up prostitutes as far away as New Orleans, Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles "and bring them back to the Pond for his rock star friends", according to documents filed with Orange County Superior Court. "He provided his guests with transportation and cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamines, marijuana, mushrooms, and nitrous oxide [laughing gas]".

The contractors say the underground site, called Ponderosa, "was infamous for excessive extravagance, its sex rooms and its million-dollar sound equipment", the documents claimed. The allegations were made by a construction company which says it was not paid. It is supported by other claims made by Kenji Kato, Mr Nicholas's former assistant. Mr Kato says he is owed $150,000 in back wages, and alleges serial drug use and other debauchery at the mansion.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New Mail Strikes

As promised , when the one day strike strategy failed to bring Royal Mail management back to the table to engage in meaningful talks , our union has escalated the strike action . To maximise the disruption within the business our union have now called for what they describe as rolling strikes - different sections of the industry walking out on different days so that the one-day strikes have a cumulative effect in delaying the mail . It appears to have been the choice of this tactic or one of geographical regional strikes . Perhaps that will be utilised in the future if Royal Mail management still refuse to negotiate .
We have already witnessed Alan Leighton secretly planning to jump the sinking ship - or should i say the ship that he has been foremost in scuttling - and returning to his earlier occupation as a shop-keeper .
As far north as The Shetlands the reason for this strike has become clear .
"What Crozier and co. want is to run the Royal Mail into the ground, then float it. A private equity company will pick it up, take it off the stock market for about three years, and then Airpost, Deutsche Post and TNT - the three big couriers - will carve it up between themselves...They want to drive Royal Mail into the ground and then it'll be taken over, ripped apart and not only will Britain lose that heritage but also the finest postal service in the world." -Paul Scarsbrook, local rep has explained , very clearly .
And from South Wales we read :-
The posties are one of the few lots left who, in an era of drearily, dutiful behaviour, won’t hesitate to declare strike action and rise to the challenges of “Down wiv ’em!” and “Everybody out!” ... our generally cheerful posties remain one of the last bastions of true socialist principles...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Just a thought

" One man with an idea is in danger of being considered a mad-man . Two men with the same idea in common may be foolish but can hardly be mad . Ten men sharing an idea begin to act . A hundred draw attention a fanatics . A thousand and society begins to treble . A hundred thousand and there is war abroad , and tha cause has victories , tangible and real. And why not a hundred million and peace on earth ? You and i agree together , it is we who have to answer that question " - William Morris

A striking question of law

Discussion arose with colleagues about the possible use of agency casuals as scabs during the present postal dispute . So what does the law say about the matter .

The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations 2003 and,in particular, Regulation 7. They are enacted under the Employment Agencies Act 1973.

Regulation 7 prohibits an employment business from introducing or supplying a work seeker to the hirer to perform the duties normally performed by employees of the hirer who are taking part in industrial action (or to perform the duties of other employees who may be moved by the employer to cover the work of those taking part in industrial action). There are circumstances when the regulations do not applyand that is when the individual employee of the hirer is taking part in a strike or other industrial action which is considered unofficial.

It is illegal for an agency to supply workers to scab during an official strike , but it is not illegal for the company with workers on official strike to hire and use agency casuals to scab and break the strike .

There does not seem to be any effective enforcement mechanism within the regulations. Agencies are policed through section 9 of the Employment Agencies Act allows the Employment Agency Standards Inspector (part of the DTI) to carry out investigations following a complaint, or to undertake inspections of and/or visits to any employment business. The enforcement of the legislation would appear to be on an application by the secretary of state either for criminal proceeding or a prohibition notice to a tribunal. The DTI can initiate criminal prosecution against the employment business. The maximum penalty is a fine of up to £5,000 per offence and a 10-year ban in carrying out an employment business. In addition, a tribunal, on an application by the secretary of state, may make an order prohibiting a person (including a company) from carrying on or being connected with the carrying on of an employment agency or employment business for up to 10 years on the grounds that the person concerned is unsuitable because of misconduct or any other sufficient reason.

Information gathered from here . Actual legislation found here .

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Trade-unionist ?

Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, saw his salary jump from £611,000 to £1.15 million in one year , according to reports .

Mr Taylor, who runs one of the smallest trade unions affiliated to the TUC, with just 4,000 members, headed a list of trade union bosses who have seen their official salaries rise above inflation. His union represents players ranging from international stars to modestly paid football league professionals.

His union offers "wealth management services" to players .

The SPGB - Our Eight Original Contributions to Marxian Theory

The Socialist Party is like no other political party. It is made up of people who have joined together because we want to get rid of the profit system and establish socialism.Our aim is to persuade others to become socialists and act for themselves, organising democratically and without leaders. We are solely concerned with building a movement of socialists for socialism. We are not a reformist party with a programme of policies to patch up capitalism. The Socialist Party is an organisation of equals. There is no leader and there are no followers. So, if you are going to join we want you to besure that you agree fully with what we stand for and that we are satisfied that you understand the case for socialism.

The Socialist Party has also made its own contributions to socialist theory, in the light of further developments, going beyond some of the theories of socialist pioneers like Marx and Engels. We set out below a number of these contributions:

1. Solving the Reform or Revolution dilemma, by declaring that a socialist party should not advocate reforms of capitalism, and by recognising that political democracy can be used for revolutionary ends.

2. Realisation of the world-wide (rather than international) character of Socialism. Socialism can only be a united world community without frontiers, and not the federation of countries suggested by the word "inter-national."

3. Recognition that there is no need for a "transition period" between capitalism and Socialism. The enormous increases in social productivity since the days of Marx and Engels have made superfluous a period, such as they envisaged, in which the productive forces would be developed under a State control, and in which consumption would have to be rationed. Socialism can be established as soon as a majority of workers want it, with free access.

4. Rejection of any further progressive role for nationalism after capitalism became the dominant world system towards the end of the 19th century. Industrialisation under national State capitalism is neither necessary nor economically progressive.

5. For the same reason, rejection of the idea of "progressive wars". Socialists oppose all wars, refusing to take sides.

6. Recognition that capitalism will not collapse of its own accord, but will continue from crisis to crisis until the working class consciously organise to abolish it. ( see here )

7. Exposures of leadership as a capitalist political principle, a feature of the revolutions that brought them to power, and utterly alien to the socialist revolution. The socialist revolution necessarily involves the active and conscious participation of the great majority of workers, thus excluding the role of leadership.

8. Advocating and practising that a socialist party should be organised as an open democratic party, with no leaders and no secret meetings, thus foreshadowing the society it seeks to establish.

Anglo-Marxism - The SPGB


The Socialist Party of Great Britain, more popularly known as the SPGB even though, despite Militant, it now prefers Socialist Party is it by far the longest surviving political party in Britain calling itself socialist.


If the SPGB has survived for this length of time it must have been because it filled some need, or at least some niche, in working-class politics in Britain. But what need? The SPGB has been described as being in the tradition of what Eric Hobsbawn once called "Anglo-Marxism". This would be a Marxism that arose in English-speaking countries, with their well-established conditions of political democracy, and which not only envisaged the working class making some use of existing political institutions to win control of political power but which also emphasised that the main task of a socialist political organisation was in preparation for this "education", or "making Socialists" as one prominent Anglo-Marxist William Morris used to put it. Besides the SPGB, it would cover the Social Democratic Federation, the Socialist League, the De Leonist Socialist Labor Party of America, the Socialist Party of America and the Socialist Party of Canada.

The SPGB was one of the products of what Chushichi Tsuzuki, in an article that appeared in the International Review of Social History in 1956, called the "impossibilist revolt" in the SDF (the other product was the Socialist Labour Party of Great Britain, founded in Scotland the year before at a meeting chaired by James Connolly and which regarded itself as the exact equivalent in Britain of the SLP of America).

The "impossibilists", as they were dubbed by the leadership of the SDF, were dissatisfied with two things in particular. The domination of the SDF by a clique around H.M. Hyndman who had founded the organisation twenty years previously, and which reflected its lack of internal democracy; and its opportunist concentration on trying to obtain certain reforms of capitalism as supposed "stepping stones" to socialism. Significantly, these were the same two issues over which William Morris and others had broken away from the SDF at the end of 1884 to form the Socialist League.

The SPGB’s inaugural meeting was attended by some 140 people, mainly members and expelled members of the SDF’s London branches. While the SLP could boast of having its inaugural meeting chaired by James Connolly and attended by Tom Bell and Arthur McManus, two future leaders of the early British Communist Party, and by one future Labour MP (Neil Mclean), present at the SPGB’s were two future Labour MPs (Valentine McEntee, who ended up in the House of Lords, and George Hicks, who as the leader of the building workers’ union, had been TUC chairman in 1927), another early Communist Party leader, journalist and writer (T.A. Jackson), as well as a Irish Republican activist (Con Lehane, also known Con O’Lehane and Con O’Lyhane) and a syndicalist pamphleteer who worked with Tom Mann (E.J.B. Allen, whose pamphlets still feature on anarchist websites and anthologies). Whatever else this may or may not indicate and whatever the SPGB thought of their subsequent political trajectory (which wasn’t much of course), this at least shows that the meeting that took place a hundred years ago to found the SPGB was not one that had no relevance to general political developments in England - and Ireland, since both McEntee and Lehane (the SPGB’s first General Secretary and a fluent Irish speaker) had previously been members of the Irish Socialist Republican Party which James Connolly took the lead in forming in 1896 as the equivalent in Ireland of the SDF in Britain.

Although the term "Anglo-Marxist" is not entirely inappropriate, the SPGB was also influenced by Continental Marxism, by (of course) the German Social Democratic Party and its main theorist, Karl Kautsky (three of the SPGB’s first four pamphlets were translations of parts of Kautsky Erfurt Programme, the fourth was by William Morris). But also, perhaps not so obviously, by the French "Guesdists", as the Marxists in France were known after Jules Guesde who had been instrumental in setting up the Parti Ouvrier Français in 1880 (and whose declaration of principles was drafted in Marx’s study). A number of articles translated from Guesdists appeared in the pre-WWI issues of the SPGB’s journal, which is still going, the Socialist Standard.

Except on reforms and on patriotism, the SPGB and the Guesdists’ Parti Socialiste de France (as the POF had become in 1902 before merging in 1905 into a united Social Democratic party in France, and after which the SPGB was probably named in preference to "Social Democratic Party", the other possible name discussed at the inaugural meeting) shared a number of key positions, in particular on the imperative need for the working class to gain control of political power before trying to dispossess the capitalist class (the "political expropriation of the bourgeoisie must precede its economic expropriation", as the Guesdists used to put it). This led both the Guesdists and the SPGB to be quite opposed to anarchist and syndicalist "direct action", and talk of "taking and holding" the means of production by industrial action alone, as counter-productive not to say suicidal. This distinguished both groups from most of the other anti-revisionists, in the "intransigent Marxist" tendency within international Social Democracy with which the early SPGB identified itself, such as Rosa Luxemburg and Anton Pannekoek who did try to incorporate the "mass strike" into socialist tactics. Despite this, "Red Rosa" received a favourable mention in the Socialist Standard in 1907 which translated and published part of her speech at one of her trials.

"Peaceably if we may"

A distinguishing feature of the SPGB, as compared to the various Leninist parties and groups that have existed in Britain since 1918, has been its typically Anglo-Marxist insistence on the existence, as a precondition for socialism, of a working class imbued with socialist understanding ("You can’t have socialism without socialists") and that, once a sufficient majority of workers have acquired such understanding, they can, and should, use existing elective political institutions to win control of political power with the sole purpose of abolishing capitalism and ushering in socialism.

This position has been caricatured by the SPGB’s Leninist opponents as meaning that the SPGB has been committed to a mere pacific, constitutional, parliamentary road to socialism, and has led to it being dubbed the "Small Party of Good Boys". Actually, the position of the founder-members of the SPGB was the same as Marx’s as outlined by Engels in his preface to the English edition of Capital in 1886, i.e. that, although in Britain the working class might well be able to win control of political power "entirely by peaceful and legal means", it would most probably have to use this to suppress a "pro-slavery rebellion" since the capitalist class could be expected to resist their expropriation.

In other words, the socialist revolution - as a complete change in the basis of society - would be legal and constitutional but not necessarily entirely peaceful. In fact, the early members of the SPGB didn’t think that in practice it would be peaceful but that the working class would have to use the state to overcome capitalist resistance. After all, 1904 was only 33 years after the bloody suppression of the Paris Commune, the anniversary of whose proclamation the SPGB used to celebrate every 18 March until WWI. Today, SPGB members are more inclined to discount the possibility of a violent capitalist opposition to their legal expropriation, but it is not a pacifist organisation, the old Chartist slogan "peaceably if we may, forcibly if we must" still being its official policy.

This rejection of insurrection and civil war as a means of winning political power will probably have been a factor in the SPGB’s continual existence. The working class in Britain, though it has never advanced much if at all beyond a trade unionist and reformist consciousness, has at least understood the importance of the vote and has never seen the idea of a violent insurrection to seize power other than as, to be frank, completely bonkers. Thus, there has been a place for a revolutionary socialist party that agreed with this position and based its policy on it, a place the SPGB has filled.

Ironically, in contrast to the SPGB (which only contests elections on the "maximum programme" of socialism and nothing else, i.e. without any programme of vote-catching reforms to capitalism), when Trotskyist organisations contest elections as they have increasingly from the 1970s on, it has been the SPGB that has had to accuse them of "electoral opportunism" for entering in full into the electoral game of putting themselves forward as a group offering to implement reforms of capitalism (some manifestly impossible) for workers if only workers would elect their candidates.

Against reformism, but not reforms

This refusal to advocate reforms has been the other distinguishing feature of the SPGB, though one that has been less understood by other working-class militants and by the working class generally. Actually, the SPGB is not opposed to reforms as such - how could a party composed of workers and committed to the working-class interest be opposed to any measure that improved, however marginally and temporarily, conditions for workers - but to reformism in the sense of a policy of actively seeking reforms.

The SPGB’s policy is not to advocate any reform, but to advocate only socialism. As a corollary of this, it has also always refused to work with any other political party or group but, on the contrary, has expressed "hostility" (as Clause 8 of its declaration of principles puts it) to all other political parties. This has earned it a reputation for "sectarianism" but, in its terms, this position is only logical: the only basis for co-operating with some other party would be in a campaign for some reform but campaigning for reforms as such is precisely a policy that the SPGB rejects. The SPGB in fact argues, as did William Morris in his Socialist League days, that if it’s reforms you want the best way to get them is to go for revolution as, faced with a strong movement demanding socialism, the capitalist class will offer all sorts of reforms in a (futile) bid to buy off this movement.

It is also the official SPGB policy that a minority of Socialists MPs might vote, under certain circumstances, for reform measures proposed by other parties. This policy was adopted in 1911 at a time when many, including SPGB members, thought that socialism was a not too distant likelihood and that the situation of what a minority of Socialist MPs should do was therefore a live issue, not the academic one that the SPGB members had later to reluctantly admit that it was. Today, this position only has symbolic significance in showing that the SPGB is not opposed to reforms as such, a policy that has been challenged from time to time from within the SPGB by those who were and which led to small breakaways in 1911 and again in 1991.

Trade union action on sound lines

Nor is the SPGB opposed to trade unionism, as is sometimes imagined in Trotskyist circles. Many of the early members of the SPGB were active members of craft unions in the London area, such as the Operative Bricklayers Society. Indeed, the SPGB’s rulebook was clearly based on that of a small craft union and its practice of allowing any member to attend meetings of its executive committee was also that of a pre-WWI bus workers’ union (a practice which survives in the SPGB to this day, and in fact applies to any member of the public).

When the SPGB was founded one big issue concerning militant workers was whether or not to replace the "trade" unions by "industrial" unions and how (internal reform or forming a separate union?). The IWW ("Industrial Workers of the World") was to be founded a year later in Chicago committed to anti-trade-union industrial unionism, and the other impossibilist breakaway from the SDF - the SLP - was soon to embrace the "socialist industrial unionism" of its elder brother in America. SPGB members were not immune to such ideas and a motion was proposed at its first annual conference to set up a "socialist union", in opposition to the existing trade unions, as soon as SPGB membership had attained 5000. This motion was not carried (but even if it had been would still not be operative since SPGB membership has never exceed 1200) and, in the end, the SPGB adopted the policy, which still applies, of its members’ participating in the existing unions and supporting any action of theirs on sound lines (opposition to employers as the class enemy, solidarity with other workers, officials subject to democratic control, non-affiliation to the Labour Party, etc.).

Thus, the SPGB avoided the mistake of the American SLP - and of the CPGB during the "Third Period" after 1929 - of "dual unionism", i.e. of trying to form "revolutionary" unions to rival the existing "reformist" unions, though some SPGB members were involved, on an individual basis, in breakaway unions from TGWU on the buses and in the docks in the 1930s and 1940s (other SPGB members remained in the TGWU).

As a result of these early controversies and of practical common sense, the SPGB officially stands for workers organising both economically (to keep production going during the period of social reorganisation) and politically for socialism and so is not a "pure and simple" parliamentarist party, even by its own standards.

Marxism not Leninism

The SPGB has always regarded itself as being in the Marxist tradition, fully subscribing to the labour theory of value and the materialist conception of history. Right up to the 1950s it used to organise education classes in these subjects - very much in the tradition of Stuart McIntyre’s "proletarian science". Besides the words of Marx and Engels, the SPGB encouraged its members to read others by Kautsky, Plekhanov, Dietzgen and Lafargue and even, later, works by Bolsheviks such Stekloff’s History of the First International, Lozovsky’s Marx and the Trade Unions and Bogdanov’s A Short Course of Economic Science.

This does not mean, as has sometimes been claimed, that the SPGB’s Marxism can be dismissed as that of the Second International, if only because the SPGB, after attending the 1904 Amsterdam Congress as an affiliated organisation, did not renew its affiliation and by 1910 had completely written off the Second International as of any use to the cause of socialism. So August 1914 came as no surprise to it, as it did to Lenin.

On the other hand, the SPGB never became Leninist. In fact it has always regarded Leninism - as the doctrine embodied in particular in Lenin’s What Is to Be Done? and State and Revolution - as a deviation from and a distortion of Marxism. Despite this, at the time, the SPGB expressed a certain admiration for Lenin for the Bolsheviks’ policy of trying to stop the war on the Eastern Front and for his having understood, as against the "Leftwing Communists", that, in the circumstances of an isolated and backward Russia, socialism was out of the question and that therefore Russia could not avoid having to pass through capitalism, even if in the form of a State capitalism (see Lenin’s speech in 1918 and again in 1921 when the NEP, which explicitly recognised this, was adopted ; see the article from the July 1920 Socialist Standard ). It has to be said, however, that today most SPGB members take a less indulgent attitude towards Lenin, seeing him as an architect of the state capitalist regime in Russia that survived until 1991 ("Lenin led to Stalin").

It was the SPGB - and not Tony Cliff, as the old IS Group and the SWP claimed - that pioneered in Britain the description of the former USSR as state capitalist. This was more on empirical than theoretical grounds: the SPGB simply continued to describe Russia’s economy as state capitalist as Lenin had done, even after Lenin’s successors, Trotsky as much as Stalin, came to describe it as some sort of "Workers State". The evidence produced for this was the continued existence of the wages system, commodity production, and state bondholders. The latter illustrated what was perhaps a weakness in the SPGB’s original position, of pointing to evidence of the existence of features of private capitalism to argue that Russia was state capitalism.
Credit for developing the theory that a privileged, exploiting class could exist without legal private property rights vested in its individual members, i.e. that it could own and exploit collectively as a class, and that this was actually the case in the USSR, can indeed go to Trotskyist and Trotskyoid dissidents such as Bruno Rizzi, Max Schachtman, James Burnham and Raya Dunayevskaya. Like Cliff, the SPGB was happy to take this on board, though rejecting the view embraced by Cliff that Russia only became capitalist in 1928. In the SPGB’s view, the Russian economy had never ceased to be capitalist, with any change that might have taken place in 1928 being political rather than economic (which of course, ironically is also the orthodix Trotskyist position).

Socialism Today

Obviously conditions - and the perspectives of SPGB members - are rather different today from what they were a hundred years ago. Then, the early members (mainly young men in their thirties) clearly expected to see the cause of socialism make rapid progress and emphasised the determinist elements in Marxism that enabled them to see socialism as inevitable. Today, SPGB members (even those in their thirties) are much less sanguine about the inevitably of socialism, regarding it more as a desirable possibility. This of course makes it depend more on human will and humans (workers) making a conscious choice to establish it.

Some might see this as making socialism a "moral" issue rather than an inevitable working-class reaction to capitalist conditions (and from time to time some SPGB members have explicitly argued this), but it is not easy for members of an organisation that has found itself having to campaign for a hundred years for socialism without it happening - implying, as this does, that its early members (as well as Marx) were wrong or at least wildly over-optimistic - to sustain a belief in the inevitability of socialism

A hundred years ago, socialism, however vaguely understood, was seen by millions of workers all over the world as "the hope of humanity". Today, thanks in large measure to what happened in Russia, millions of workers perceive socialism as something that has been tried and failed. So, today, the SPGB has a much harder time "making Socialists". Nevertheless, Socialism - as the common ownership and democratic control of productive resources, with production solely for use not profit, and distribution on the principle of "from each their ability, to each their needs" - still retains for millions some of its original connection with equality and democracy and still remains, despite current popular opinion, the Hope of Humanity.

To mark its centenary, the SPGB published a book, entitled Socialism or Your Money Back (a more or less clever pun on the SPGB’s position that socialism necessarily involves the disappearance of money), a collection of 70 articles from the Socialist Standard over the period 1904-2004 on key events and trends in the 20th century.

Adam Buick - New Interventions, Volume 12, No 1, Spring 2005

The Socialist Party of Great Britain Centenary, London, June 2004.

Over the weekend of 12/13 June 2004 the Socialist Party of Great Britain marked a hundred years of political activity. A political and social event on the Saturday evening – a hundred years to the day since it was formed – in Regents College in Regents Park, London, was attended by some 150 members and sympathizers. On the Sunday those who had come from outside London for the event visited parts of the City of London and Clerkenwell associated with the SPGB, such as the site of the old Printers’ Hall, Bartlett’s Passage, off Fetter Lane, where the founding meeting had taken place. Most of the party’s successive head offices were situated in that area before the party moved in 1951 to its present offices in South London. Also visited were places of general working-class historical interest such as Farringdon Hall where the Labour Representation Committee was formed and the house where Keir Hardie lived next door to the one-time head office of the now defunct ILP.

From a historical-studies point of view, being a still extant political party has not been an advantage. Most labour historians have their own – leftwing – political views which are opposed to those held by the SPGB. If the SPGB had gone out of existence, this would not present a problem, but the fact that it has continued as an active political organization and has never been bashful about expressing its opposition to the political views held by most labour historians – whether they be Labour Party, Communist Party, or Trotskyist – has made an objective approach difficult.

This may explain why the first objective study of the origins of the SPGB – the first even to get the date of its formation correct (for years labour historians just repeated G. D. H. Cole’s error of putting this as 1905 [1], whereas the real date could easily have been verified)– was written by somebody not involved in working-class politics in Britain: Chushichi Tsuzuki from Japan, whose ‘The Impossibilist Revolt in Britain’ appeared in the International Review of Social History in 1956. The other historical studies have in fact been written by SPGB members and so could be open to the charge of being biased in an opposite direction [2].

The SPGB, however, provides an interesting subject for purely historical study. For instance, among the 140 or so participants at the inaugural meeting of 12 June 1904 were one who subsequently became a Labour MP and member of the House of Lords (Valentine McEntee), another a future President of the Trades Union Congress, Labour MP and junior minister (George Hicks), another an Irish Republican activist (Con Lehane). Also present were T. A. Jackson, who went on to be a leading Communist Party journalist and writer, E. J. B. Allen, who became a syndicalist pamphleteer and whose pamphlets are still quoted in anarchist anthologies and websites, and, last and perhaps least, Jack Kent, who, as a member of the Social Democratic Federation’s executive committee, was the most prominent SDF member to go over to the SPGB and who ended up as a Tory county councillor and mayor of Acton in London. In other words, here were gathered people whose subsequent trajectory could serve to illustrate the various trends of working-class political thinking in the fifty or so years that followed.

Also present of course were those who were to stay in the SPGB and contribute to the elaboration of its distinct political position, such as Jack Fitzgerald, Alex Anderson, F. C. Watts, A. E. Jacomb and Hans Neumann. These were all able thinkers and writers – and interesting persons in their own right – but the SPGB, as a matter of political principle, actively opposed leaders and leadership in favour of collective, democratic decision-making, and would in fact have fiercely protested had Fitzgerald been described as its leader (even if this was the perception of its political rivals at the time).
Although the SPGB put a distinctive view of the same problems discussed at the same time by ‘names’ such as Kautsky, Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotsky, James Connolly and John MacLean, whose views are still studied, the fact that its views cannot be identified as the work of a single individual has probably also contributed to the SPGB’s being neglected. Nevertheless, there has been some movement on this since the 1980s, with discussions of the SPGB’s position on the welfare state, ecology, and state capitalism in Russia, even if these have been by non labour historians [3].

McEntee and Lehane (a fluent Irish-speaker who was the SPGB’s first General Secretary and who later called himself O’Lehane and O’Lyhane) were both former members of the Irish Socialist Republican Party, which Connolly had been instrumental in setting up as the equivalent in Ireland of the SDF. So too would other SPGB founder members have been, yet nobody has done any research on this connection. Nor has any research been done on placing the formation of the SPGB in 1904 in a wider international context.

Hans Neumann, who was a German working in London in a travel agency, kept in touch with what was going on in the German Social Democratic Party and translated the first three parts of Kautsky’s Erfurt Programme which the SPGB published as pamphlets in 1906 and 1908. Watts, a wood carver, was a fluent French-speaker and kept in touch with trends in the French labour movement, particularly the ‘Guesdists’ some of whose positions the SPGB shared (a number of translations from the Guesdist paper Le Socialisme appeared in the SPGB organ, Socialist Standard, before the first World War). The SPGB was, and saw itself as, part of the more general anti-revisionist, intransigently Marxist trend within the international Social Democratic movement. The cross-fertilization of ideas with English-speaking ‘intransigent Marxists’ on the other side of the Atlantic – Daniel De Leon and the Socialist Labor Party in the US and the British Columbia-based Socialist Party of Canada – is fairly obvious, but no comparative study has been done between the views of the SPGB and those of similar groups on the Continent, perhaps because, unlike them, the SPGB did not go over to the Communist Party after 1917 and so does not have a place as they do (and as does the Socialist Labour Party, the other product of the ‘impossibilist revolt’ within the SDF) in the pre-history of some Communist Party.

As a political organization that has survived with a basically similar policy for a number of generations, the SPGB has also been the object of study by sociologists. One of these, perhaps following the lead of the Communist Party historians A. L. Morton and Eric Hobsbawm (the former described the SPGB as ‘a tiny sect, mainly concerned with echoing propaganda hostile to the Soviet Union’ [4] and the latter called it a ‘conventicle’ [5]), likened it to a religious sect. The other study, based on recorded interviews with members and ex-members carried out in the 1960s (which still exist and might interest oral historians), looked as if it might be more innovative but was never completed [6].

Having been in continual existence for a hundred years has its upside, however. The SPGB library has a collection of books, journals and pamphlets, inherited on the death of members, which reflect the reading of Marxist-oriented working-class activists – Stuart Macintyre’s ‘proletarian science’. They range over the whole period, from issues of Justice, the SLP's The Socialist and the International Socialist Review, and books by Herbert Spencer, Edward Aveling and Belfort Bax from the pre-WWI period, through Labour, ILP, Communist Party and Plebs League publications of the 1920s and 1930s and copies of now largely-forgotten ‘left-of-Communist’ journals such as the American International Review, Guy Aldred’s The Word, and Left, to post-war Trotskyist material. There is also material on the socialist movement in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These are in the process of being properly catalogued and can be consulted on the spot (52 Clapham High Street, London SW4) by fixing an appointment with the party’s archives department. 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 for the current membership list) are open to public consultation...

Adam Buick - History Workshop Journal No 50 of Spring 2005

1 G. D. H. Cole, Working Class Politics 1832-1914, 1941, p. 177.

2 Robert Barltrop, The Monument, 1976; Stephen Coleman, ‘Impossibilism’, in Non-Market Socialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, ed. M. Rubel and J. Crump, 1987; David A. Perrin, The Socialist Party of Great Britain: Economics, Politics and Britain’s Oldest Socialist Party, 2000.

3 John Clarke, Allan Cochrane and Carol Smart, Ideologies of Welfare: From Dreams to Disillusion, 1987, pp. 110-4; David Pepper, Eco-socialism: From Deep Ecology to Social Justice, 1997; Neil Fernandez, Capitalism and Class Struggle in the USSR: a Marxist Theory, 1997, pp. 45-8.

4 A. L. Morton and G. Tate, The British Labour Movement 1770-1920, 1956, p. 218. The year the SPGB was formed is erroneously given as 1905.

5 Eric Hobsbawm, Labouring Men, 1965, p. 231. Hobsbawm erroneously put the date of the SPGB’s formation as 1906.

6 R. Kenneth Jones, ‘The Organization and Structure of a Secular Value-oriented Sect: the Socialist Party of Great Britain’ in Ideological Groups: Similarities of Structure and Organization, 1984; P. J. Rollings, ‘The Maintenance of an Idea-system: the Case of the Socialist Party of Great Britain’, Paper read to a seminar at the Politics Department of the University of Reading, February 1968.