Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Revolutionary Vote 1

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has never held that a merely formal majority at the polls will give the workers power to achieve Socialism. We have always emphasised that such a majority must be educated in the essentials of Socialist principles and have a party democratically organised .

William Morris wrote. "It should be our special aim to make Socialists by putting before people, and especially the working classes, the elementary truths of socialism… before any definite socialist action can be attempted, it must be backed up by a great body of intelligent opinion — the opinion of a great mass of people who are already socialists…"

It is the quality of the voters behind the vote that, in the revolutionary struggle, will be decisive.

In our Declaration of Principles we stress the necessity of capturing the machinery of government including the armed forces. That is the fundamental thing. The method, though important, is second to this. The attitude of fetishism which some anarchists show towards "armed struggle" , their advocacy of street warfare against overwhelming odds only serves to make more difficult the Socialist education and organisation of the workers.
This either-or approach to activism is self-defeating. There appears to be disagreement on what form of resistance to capitalism is the most effective. Direct action or party political work through the electoral system . Such views have always divided anarchists and socialists. Some now argue that both forms of resistance not only complement each other but are also essential in the pursuit of class struggle. For the Trotskyist Lenininist Left, all activity should be mediated by the Party (union activity, neighbourhood community struggles , etc.) , whereas for us, the Party is just one mode of activity available to the working class to use in their struggles, a tail to be wagged by the dog.

The easiest and surest way for 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. This is why we advocate using Parliament; not to try to reform capitalism (the only way Parliaments have been used up till now ), but for the single revolutionary purpose of abolishing capitalism and establishing socialism by converting the means of production and distribution into the common property of the whole of society. No doubt, at the same time, the working class will also have organised itself, at the various places of work, 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. As the SPGB said in 1915 ( yes , we do have a long history as a political party based on agreed goals, methods and organisational principles. ) "The workers must prepare themselves for their emancipation by class-conscious organisation on both the political and the economic fields,the first to gain control of the forces with which the masters maintain their dominance, the second to carry on production in the new order of things" .

Political democracy is not, or is not just only , 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. The ballot box is a tactical but never a strategic (and the only) option (and that is true for Capitalists as well for Socialists.) The working class is the key political class, whoever wins its support wins the day, hence why the factions of the capitalist party vie for working class votes

According to our analysis of society , the capitalist class are the dominant class today because they control the State (machinery of government/political power). And they control the State because a majority of the population allow them to, by, apart from their everyday attitudes, voting for pro-capitalism parties at election times, so returning a pro-capitalism majority to Parliament, so ensuring that any government emerging from Parliament will be pro-capitalism.

If the workers (the vast majority of the population) are to establish socialism they must first take this control of the State (including the armed forces) out of the hands of the capitalist class, so that it can be used to uproot capitalism and usher in socialism. The Party has always said that, in countries where there exist more or less free elections to a central law-making body to which the executive, or government, is responsible, the working class can do this by sending a majority of mandated delegates to the elected, central legislative body. Just as today a pro-capitalism majority in Parliament reflects the fact that the overwhelming majority of the population wants or accepts capitalism, so a socialist majority in Parliament would reflect the fact that a majority outside Parliament wanted socialism. The SPGB contest elections making no promises and offering no reforms except for using parliament as a tool for the abolition of capitalism .

Anarchists have to envisage some other means of expressing the popular will/public demand than a parliament elected by and responsible to a socialist majority amongst the
population. But what, exactly? It would have to be something like the Congress of Socialist
Industrial Unions or a Central Council of the Federation of Workers Councils . That's not to deny that it could be one of these (because bodies such as these will exist at the time), but would any of these bodies be more efficient and more effective (and even more democratic) in controlling the State/central administrative machinery than a socialist majority elected to Parliament by universal suffrage in a secret ballot.

It is hardly conceivable when there is, say, 10 percent of the population who are socialist, that at election times they will not decide to put up candidates against those favouring capitalism.
What would be the point of boycotting elections? There would be nothing to gain (in fact there could be something to lose in terms of political stability).When it came down to it, when they felt that something important was at stake, not even the anarchists in the one place where they did have appreciable support (Spain in the 1930s) were able to maintain their boycott position: they allowed, even encouraged, their supporters to take part in both the 1931 and 1936 elections there (in the one case to kick out the monarchy and in the other to secure a parliamentary majority favourable to the release of anarchist political prisoners)

No-one can be exactly sure which form the revolutionary process will take but the Socialist Party of Great Britain has always held that the potential use of parliament as part of a revolutionary process may prove vitally important in neutralising the ruling class's hold on state power. For us, this is the most effective way of abolishing the state and ushering in the revolutionary society . The working class cannot enter the class war with one arm tied behind its back.

And disagreeing with the IWW deletion of the political clause in 1908 , James Connolly remarked "just try and stop them " or as he later elaborated in this article
"I am inclined to ask all and sundry amongst our comrades if there is any necessity for this presumption of antagonism between the industrialist and the political advocate of socialism. I cannot see any. I believe that such supposed necessity only exists in the minds of the mere theorists or doctrinaires. The practical fighter in the work-a-day world makes no such distinction. He fights, and he votes; he votes and he fights. He may not always, he does not always, vote right; nor yet does he always fight when and as he should. But I do not see that his failure to vote right is to be construed into a reason for advising him not to vote at all; nor yet why a failure to strike properly should be used as a gibe at the strike weapon, and a reason for advising him to place his whole reliance upon votes."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

North Korea and world capitalism

North Korea , that archetype state capitalist centrally planned economy has been undergoing certain changes recently , according to the BBC .
In areas designated "special economic zones", North Korea now invites foreign investors - mainly South Korean - to take advantage of cheap North Korean labour.
At the northern frontier with China, trade is thriving, and bribes can often buy passage across the border for North Koreans wishing to buy goods, visit family or flee the country.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Jamie Oliver and food

Perhaps Jamie Oliver might have a point .

80% of British people did not sit around a table for dinner, the chef said: "It's true in London and in the big cities of the north. It is connected to the new poverty."

Oliver went on: "England is one of the richest countries in the world. The people I'm talking about have enormous televisions - a lot bigger than my own - the latest in mobile phones, cars and they go and get drunk in pubs at the weekend.

"Their poverty shows in the way they feed themselves."

Oliver said in his experience the cuisine of "people living in the slums of Soweto" was "more diverse" that that of Britons.

For Oliver a soundbite guaranteed press coverage but should we forget other facts .

Elizabeth Kineelwe, the cook at a drop-in centre that provides meals and support to orphans and impoverished families in Soweto, Johannesburg's largest township, is on the frontlines of a nationwide struggle to cope with rising food prices. Lately, she has been cooking a lot of cabbage soup.

"I used to grill chicken for the children, but now we can't," she sighed. "Yesterday, I paid R6.19 [US$0.81] for a bundle of cabbage. It used to be two or three rand six months ago."

The cost of basic foods like bread, rice and maize-meal is climbing.

Elizabeth Rapuleng, who also runs a drop-in centre for children, told IRIN/PlusNews that a local bakery was no longer donating bread. "We've tried to reduce the number of kids we're feeding but they still come here, so we just have to make the food go further," she said.

Prof Alan Whiteside, head of the Health Economics and HIV Research Division (HEARD) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said the AIDS epidemic affected the ability of households both to produce and buy food when families lost productive adults to HIV/AIDS. "It results in skipping meals, eating less quality food. It’s a catastrophe on top of a chronic problem,"

So it is still the same old story - good diet depends on the money in your pocket

Saturday, August 23, 2008

It is a small world

A social graph derived from billions of instant messages validates folklore that there are about six degrees of separation between any two strangers on the planet.

A research team at US software giant Microsoft studied 30 billion instant messages sent by 240 million people in June of 2006 and determined that, on average, any two could be linked in 6.6 steps.

"We've been able to put our finger on the social pulse of human connectivity - on a planetary scale - and we've confirmed that it's indeed a small world." Microsoft told AFP

The "6 degrees of separation" premise stems from an oft-cited 1969 study by Stanley Milgram and Jeffrey Travers.

Milgram and Travers asked nearly 300 people in the US state of Nebraska to send a letter to someone in Boston through acquaintances.People were considered one degree apart from a friend, two degrees away from a friend's friend and so on.While most of the letters didn't make it to the designated recipient, those that did arrived with an average of 6.2 degrees of separation from senders.

"We used a population sample that is more than two million times larger than the group studied earlier and confirmed the classic finding," Horvitz and Leskovec concluded.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Class and Life

Women live longer than men, whites live longer than blacks, and the rich and well-educated live longer than those who are less well off in schooling and wealth. The gender and race gaps have narrowed. But the opposite has happened with wealth and education. The rich and well-educated have pulled further away from the pack in life expectancy.

See report for full details

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Poor told to eat rat

A state government in eastern Indian is encouraging people to eat rats in an effort to battle soaring food prices and save grain stocks.

Authorities in Bihar, one of India's poorest states, are asking rich and poor alike to switch to eating rats in a bid to reduce the dependence on rice. They even plan to offer rats on restaurant menus.

We await the Hilton to serve rat .

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

We were not the first, nor shall we be the last

The earth is to be planted, and the fruits reaped and carried into barns and store-houses, by the assistance of every family. And if any man or family want corn or-other provision they may go to the store-houses and fetch without money. If they want a horse to ride, go into the fields in summer, or to the common stables in winter, and receive one from the keepers; and when your journey is performed, bring him where you had him, without money. If any want food or victuals, they may either go to the butchers' shops, and receive what they want without money; or else go to the flocks of sheep or herds of cattle, and take and kill what meat is needful for their families, without buying and selling. And the reason why all the riches of the earth are a common stock is this, because the earth, and the labours thereupon, are managed by common assistance of every family, without buying and selling; as is shewn how more largely in the office of overseers for trades and the law for store-houses...

...Store-houses shall be built and appointed in all places, and be the common stock.

There shall be store-houses in all places, both in the country and in cities, to which all the fruits of the earth, and other works made by tradesmen, shall be brought, and from thence delivered out again to particular families, and to everyone as they want for their use; or else to be transported by ship to other lands, to exchange for those things which our land will not or does not afford.

For all the labours of husbandmen and tradesmen within the land, or by navigation to or from other lands, shall be all upon the common stock.

And as every one works to advance the common stock, so every one shall have a free use of any commodity in the store-house, for his pleasure and comfortable livelihood without buying and selling or restraint from any.
And having food and raiment, lodging and the comfortable societies of his own kind, what can a man desire more in these days of his travel?

Indeed, covetous, proud and beastly-minded men desire more, either to lie by them to look upon, or else to waste and spoil it upon their lusts; while other brethren live in straits for want of the use thereof.

But the laws and faithful officers of a free commonwealth do regulate the unrational practice of such men.

There are two sorts of store-houses general and particular.

The general store-houses are such houses as receive in all commodities in the gross, as all barns and places to lay corn and the fruits of the earth at the first reaping: and these may be called store-houses for corn, flax, wool; for leather, for iron, for linen and woollen cloth or for any commodity that comes into our hand by shipping; from whence [a] particular family or shop-keepers may fetch as they need, to furnish their lesser shops.
So likewise herds of cattle in the field, flocks of sheep and horses, are all common store-houses- so that from the herds and flocks every family may fetch what they want for food or pleasure, without buying and selling.

So likewise all public dairies are store-houses for butter and cheese: yet every family may have cows for their own use, about their own house.
And these general store-houses shall be filled and preserved by the common labour and assistance of every family, as is mentioned in the office of overseer for trades.
And from these public houses, which are the general stock of the land, all particular tradesmen may fetch materials for their particular work as they need, or to furnish their particular dwellings with any commodities.

Secondly, there are particular store-houses or shops,

To which the tradesmen shall bring their particular works: as all instruments of iron to the iron-shops, hats to shops appointed for them; gloves, shoes, linen and woollen cloth in smaller parcels, to shops appointed for every one of them; and the like.

Even as now we have particular trade[rs?] in cities and towns, called shopkeepers, which shall remain still as they be, only altered in their receiving in and delivering out. For whereas by the law of kings or conquerors they do receive in and deliver out by buying and selling, and exchanging the conqueror's picture or stamp upon a piece of gold or silver for the fruits of the earth; now they shall (by the laws of the commonwealth) receive into their shops, and deliver out again freely, without buying and selling.

They shall receive in, as into a store-house, and deliver out again freely, as out of a common store-house, when particular persons or families come for anything they need, as now they do by buying and selling under kingly government.

For as particular families and tradesmen do make several works more than they can make use of: as hats, shoes, gloves, stockings, linen and woollen cloth and the like, and do carry their particular work to store-houses:

So it is all reason and equity that they should go to other store-houses, and fetch any other commodity which they want and cannot make; for as other men partakes of their labours, it is reason they should partake of other men's.

Gerrald Winstanley , The Law of Freedom , 1652

Indian Independence

The anniversary of Indian Independence from Britain is approaching and by coincidence one of the latest articles by Hardy ( Edgar Hardcastle ) of the SPGB has been placed on the Marxist Archives here . From 1935 the artickle discusses what independence for India would really mean .

The article ends "Now is the time for those in India who really desire Socialism to strike a blow for it by preparing the way for the genuine Socialist Party of India, which has yet to be formed."

Sadly rather belatedly but hopefully a beginning there now exists a group of genuine socialists socialist.

World Socialist Group,
Vill Gobardhanpur. PO Amral, Dist. Bankura, 722122

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

America the Poor

Early each morning these days, the manager of Mendota Food Center on Derrick Avenue in this small community west of Fresno, boxes his aging produce, which he would normally throw away, and leaves it at the back of his store.

Within an hour, the boxes are all gone.

"It shows there's hunger in Mendota, and people will take anything," said Mayor Robert Silva, who manages the grocery store. Some other grocery stores are doing likewise.

The economic downturn, state-enforced water rationing, poor rains, and unemployment have all come to a head here. Now, hunger is sweeping through the community. Town officials are bracing for longer lines at food distribution centers, starting next month, when Mendota's single largest employer, the 42-year-old Spreckles Sugar Company, is set to shut its door.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki

On Wednesday and today , Saturday , people remembered the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki .

Was the toll of all those innocent civilians justified because it shortened the war and saved the lives of tens of thousands American troops ?

An article from the Socialist Standard questions the validity of that claim .

Understandably Allied servicemen involved in the Pacific war, many of whom experienced the unspeakable horrors of Japanese prisoner of war camps, welcomed the atomic bombs as a “miracle of deliverance”. With a few notable exceptions, even those historians who conclude that dropping the bombs was not necessary to obtain Allied victory – that it would not even have been necessary to invade Japan – generally accept that using the bombs probably shortened the war. Even if only by a few weeks. In the grim reality of war, the life of a single comrade saved is worth a thousand enemy slain.

But what would such men think if they knew that, far from shortening the war, the atomic bombs actually prolonged it? That for all the crocodile tears shed about the “terrible plight” of the captives; for all hollow praise heaped upon the “heroic sacrifices” of the armed forces they were, after all, merely expendable pawns in the unrelenting hostilities of power politics? That “bringing our boys back as soon as possible”, was not actually the first order of business?

By the time the atom bombs were dropped, Allied victory through overwhelming military superiority was virtually assured.
Japanese diplomats initiated peace feelers as early as late summer 1944. They continued to do so - through Sweden, Switzerland, Russia and even the Vatican. Particular efforts were made via Moscow in the (mistaken) belief that the Neutrality Pact that existed between Japan and Russia made it the most viable channel.
Following the collapse of Okinawa (21 June 1945), Emperor Hirohito told the Supreme Council for the Direction of War to reverse their “Basic Policy”, urging them to seek peace by diplomatic means: “You will consider the question of ending the war as soon as possible”. It was the specific mission of the new cabinet of Prime Minister, Baron Kantaro Suzuki (appointed 7 April 1945), to seek peace. Neither the US nor Russia were interested in Japan’s efforts for peace; the US wanted to wait until it could drop the atom bombs and Russia until it was ready to declare war.

US Strategic Bombing Survey concluded, less than a year after the bomb had been dropped:

“Certainly before 31 December 1945 and in all probability before 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bomb had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”

Some historians argue that the bombs were unnecessary precisely because Russia intended to enter the war.

Projected invasion casualties ranging from “hundreds of thousands” to “millions” were post-war exaggerations designed to contribute to the successful establishment of a public justification for the dropping of the bombs.

The Japanese forces was described by Hanson W. Baldwin as consisting of “Green conscripts and second rate troops”; communication lines were in disarray; fuel was in extremely short supply; roads were in a poor state of repair; transport and transportation could be bombed at will; ports were becoming paralysed; food was scarce; illness through malnutrition was an increasing problem and (not surprisingly) public morale was diminishing by the day. In marked contrast to this, the US armed might remained immensely powerful.

Major General Curtis E. LeMay expressed the truth quite bluntly a few weeks after formal surrender of the Japanese Emperor. “The atomic bomb,” he stated, “had nothing to do with the end of the war”.

Since Hiroshima was designated as a major port and home of Regional Army Headquarters and the northern sectors of Nagasaki contained the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works, why did they remain largely untouched until the Bombs were dropped (Hiroshima hardly damaged at all and Nagasaki comparatively unscathed)?

The answer is provided by the proposals of the Target Committee, 27 April 1945:

“To enable us to assess accurately the effects of the bomb, the targets should not have been previously damaged by air raids.”

A complex labyrinth of reasons lay behind the decision to drop the atomic bombs. Once the vastly expensive machinery of production had commenced, and the original purpose of its instigation forgotten, sufficient resolve not to use it ceased to exist. The astronomical investment of public funds needed to be justified; the widespread public antipathy of the American population towards the Japanese following the Pearl Harbour attack, demanded revenge – a mood of which the American leadership was acutely aware. As Secretary for War Stimson subsequently observed:
“No man, in our position and subject to our responsibilities, holding in his hands a weapon of such possibilities could have failed to use it and afterwards look his countrymen in the face”.

The fact that two bombs were dropped, however – without warning – on specifically targeted and crowded locations which had been spared aerial bombardment; the fact that each bomb had different technology (one uranium-explosion; one plutonium-implosion), each with different yields, dropped at different heights but both resulting in prolonged and deadly after-effects of which little was understood, suggests the conclusion that the primary motives might have been the seldom mentioned (almost unmentionable) one of “scientific” experimentation.

Leaflets were dropped warning of an atomic attack. In an act of macabre cynicism that almost defies belief, those leaflets were not dropped until 9 August - three days after the bombing. Things improved for Nagasaki - they were only one day late.

Extracts from the Socialist Standard here and here

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Tony Bliar

From The Times

MI6 told Tony Blair before the invasion of Iraq that a high-placed Iraqi source said that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction.

The report stated that according to Mr Habbush, the head of Iraqi Intelligence , Saddam had ended his nuclear programme in 1991 — the same year that he destroyed his chemical weapons programme — and ended his biological weapons programme in 1996. These assertions turned out to be true.

MI6 had sent one of its top agents, Michael Shipster, to the region. Mr Shipster held secret meetings in Jordan with Tahir Jalil Habbush . The meetings were confirmed by Nigel Inkster, former assistant director of MI6. Mr Inkster also confirmed that Mr Shipster was told by Mr Habbush that there were no illicit weapons in Iraq. Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of British Intelligence , confirmed the Shipster meetings and report.

So contrary to his weasel words that all the intelligence indicated that Saddam was a threat , Blair knew WMD did not exist .

Friday, August 01, 2008

World Capitalism

"By 2012, sovereign wealth funds will have about $7 trillion to invest worldwide," Peter Barker-Homek predicts."That equals US GDP."

"These funds are un-transparent," says Jeremy Warner."They're frequently run either directly by government officials or by government cronies. So although we have not yet seen any cases of outright abuse, it's quite possible that we'll get them and, in fact, I think it is extremely likely over the next five to 10 years."

United Arab Emirates: $875bn
Norway: $380bn
Singapore: $330bn
Saudi Arabia: $300bn
Kuwait: $250bn
China: $200bn
Singapore: $159.2bn
Libya: $50bn
Qatar: $50bn
Algeria; 442.6bn

The Terminator

Schwarzenegger of California has moved to end a budget crisis by sacking 22,000 state workers and ordering pay cuts for 200,000.