Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Calling time on the call centres

Having talked to a few Indian's about their experiences of working in the call-centres it seems my personal anecdotal evidence appears very true from this story .

Young men and women in call and contact centres across India are over-worked and stressed out. Many are leaving the industry.Call centres hold no attraction for these people anymore. They are changing professions.

Shabana Pavaskar, a senior staff at a reputable call centre in Mumbai, feels it is not a career, just a job.
"I have been working here for many years but there's no promotion, no motivation and the hours are extremely demanding," she says. "Over-time is not an option but a compulsion. A government job with a fairly less salary will be more feasible than working here."
She says it loud, she says it clear. And so do many others. The industry has tried hard to make it lucrative for young people by creating cool recreational facilities and improving infrastructure, but that has failed to stop them from leaving for greener pastures.
"Where's the time to use their damn gym or cafeteria or other facilities?" says Ms Pavaskar.

Shameela Zaidi was among the first to join the fledgling BPO industry at the beginning of the decade. She found little time to spend with her growing son and the shifts were at odd hours [ due to varying time zones ].
"I didn't get time to spend with my son and my health completely deteriorated," she says. "The other important thing is that there is no growth in terms of salary and career."

There was a time when our office was cluttered with 500 to 600 people who came for recruitment in one day," Abhishek Tiwari, with many years behind him as a call centre man, left the industry recently despite being promoted to senior manager and recruiting youngsters for his call centre says. "Today, even after lowering our standards, getting 40-50 people a day was a struggle."

India's Riches

India is minting new millionaires at a faster pace than anywhere else in the world, buoyed by a fast-growing economy, according to a new study.
There were an estimated 123,000 millionaires in India at the end of 2007 -- 22.7 percent more than in the previous 12 months . India's millionaires have a combined wealth of 440 billion dollars.

And ,of course, big money requires the lifestyle fashion gurus to accompany it . Men's magazine GQ India hits the newsstands, following in the footsteps of other male-only publications such as Men's Health, Maxim, and FHM.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

shit jobs

Who will do the dirty work is frequently the refrain from those who oppose a moneyless wageless society . All i can say that those who are forced by poverty to perform the sewer work in Delhi won't be expected to do it.

Omar Kumar gets drunk every day before he goes to work. It is the only way he can cope with spending hours chest-deep in Delhi's stinking sewers. "I have to drink alcohol -- if I don't, I cannot work," he said, after another shift unblocking tunnels beneath the Indian capital's slums, suburbs and factories. Health problems, and drug and alcohol addiction, are common among beldars who spend eight hours a day wading through sewage, said Hemlata Kansotia, a social worker
Kumar, a 30-year-old father of four, is one of thousands of men employed as "beldars," climbing down filthy manholes eight feet (2.4 metres) deep, dressed only in underpants and equipped with little more than a hoe and a wooden bar.
"When inside, the stench is so strong it hits you in your face," said Kumar's brother-in-law Vinod, also a sewage worker. "It is like descending into hell. Rats, cockroaches, mosquitoes. Dirty sludge and human waste all around. I hate my job but I have to earn money for my children."

"Sewer cleaners are operating in working conditions wholly incompatible with human dignity and hazardous to health," Delhi High Court Justice A.P. Shah stated in his ruling.

A 2005 report by a New Delhi-based Centre for Education and Communication, a think tank, found that half the city's sewage workers were malnourished or suffered from chronic illnesses.

Ashish Mittal, one of the doctors who wrote the report, said the High Court's intervention was desperately needed.
"Many workers die of asphyxiation," he said. "The sewers are full of noxious and dangerous gases -- hydrogen sulphide, methane, carbon monoxide -- from decomposing industrial, household and even hospital waste.A confined space without much oxygen can also cause syncope, which is a sudden loss of consciousness due to a stoppage of blood to the brain. Its long-term effects can be debilitating."
The manholes are too narrow for workers to wear protective suits, so skin problems and respiratory tract infections are also common, Mittal said

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Myth of the Transitional Society

Critique has recently published the translation of an article by Ernest Mandel, in which he develops his now familiar theme that, in the course of social evolution, there intervenes – and must intervene – between capitalism and socialism a transitional "society" with its own social base, relations of production, etc.[i] This is a point of view worth discussing but, despite the Marxist terminology in which it is expressed, it is in fact not a view held by Marx himself. As the present article will try to demonstrate, Marx did indeed speak of a "political transition period" between capitalism and socialism but never of a "transitional society". What, then, did Marx mean when he spoke of this "transition period"? Contrary to what is generally supposed (largely as a result of decades of Stalinist and Trotskyist propaganda), for Marx this period was not that between the establishment of the common ownership of the means of production and the time when the principle "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" could be implemented. Rather it is the period during which the working class would be using state power to bring the means of production into common ownership.

In other words, the transition period is a political form between the capture of political power by the working class within capitalist society and the eventual establishment of socialism, a period during which the working class has replaced the capitalist class as the ruling class, i.e. as the controller of state power. The end of this transition period is the establishment of a classless society based on the common ownership and democratic control by the whole of society of the means of production, with the consequent disappearance of the coercive state, of the system of working for wages, of the production of goods for sale on a market with a view to profit, indeed, of buying and selling, money and the market altogether. That for Marx the "transition period" was the period after the capture of political power by the working class and before the actual establishment of the common ownership of the means of production is clear both from his early and his later writings. In 1852 he wrote to his friend Weydemeyer in America that one of the things he had proved was that "the dictatorship of the proletariat" (as he called the period of working class control of state power [ii]) "only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society"[iii](emphasis added).
Engels summarizes his own and Marx's view in 1873 as follows:

"The views of German scientific socialism on the necessity of political action by the proletariat and of its dictatorship as the transition to the abolition of classes and with them of the state. . ."[iv] (emphasis added).

The transition period, then, is the period up to the establishment of the common ownership of the means of production. Again, in 1875 in his private notes on the Gotha Programme adopted by the unity congress of the German Social Democrats Marx wrote:

"Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat."[v]

Marx, we can note here, used the words "socialist" and "communist" interchangeably to refer to future classless society (if anything, he preferred the word "communist", but we shall follow Engels' later usage and employ the word "socialism" to describe future classless society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production). The idea that "socialism" and "communism" were two successive phases of post-capitalist society is not to be found in Marx, but derives from Lenin. Thus, when Marx writes, in the above quote, of "communist society", he means precisely the same as when he wrote of "classless society" in 1852.

It is true that Marx realised that, had socialism been established in his day, it would not have proved possible to implement immediately, or even for some years, the principle "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs", i.e. free access for all to consumer goods and services according to individual need. In the early years of socialism, established at this time, there would inevitably have had to have been some restrictions on access to consumer goods and services, some form of, if you like, "rationing" (if this word's association with the war- time and post-war ration cards is forgotten, for although full free access according to need would not have been possible in 1875, the amount allocated for consumption could have been considerably higher than the workers were then getting under capitalism). Marx suggested as one such possible method so-called labour-time vouchers. It is important to realise that this was only a suggestion and, moreover, one open to serious objections. But Marx's point was that, for some period of time, some method of rationing consumption would be necessary. He referred to the period of socialism during which this would be so, as "the first phase of communist society", as compared with a "higher phase" in which free access to consumer goods and services could be implemented. Note that Marx is talking of different phases of the same society, society "based on the common ownership of the means of production"[vi], i.e. a classless, stateless society with no wages or monetary system (Marx made it clear that the "labour-time vouchers" were not money, "no more `money' than a ticket for the theatre" as he put it in Capital [vii]). No doubt one could speak of a transitions from the "first" to a "higher" phase of socialism, but the fact remains that Marx did not employ the concept of "transition period" in this sense. For him, as we have explained, it was the transition from capitalism to socialism and not from one phase of socialism to another.

How long did Marx expect this political transition period to last?
His opinion on this question changed over the period of his political life. In 1848, he clearly felt it would have to last quite some years. Thirty years later, he and Engels thought it could be considerably shorter, as a result of the tremendous development of modern industry in the intervening period.
The Communist Manifesto of 1848 speaks of the working class capturing political power and using "its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the state, i.e. of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible" (emphasis added).

Marx and Engels go on to list various immediate measures which they and the other members of the Communist League felt the working class should take on coming to power, in order to make "despotic inroads on the rights of property".

They conclude:

"When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character".[viii] (emphasis added)

Clearly, in 1848, Marx and Engels expected the transition period to the establishment of common ownership and the consequent abolition of classes and the state to be fairly long. Engels, in his draft for the manifesto which was not used but was later published under the title Principles of Communism {and which is always a useful gloss on the Manifesto), stated this explicitly. Answering the question, "Will it be possible for private property to be abolished at one stroke?", he wrote:

"No, no more than existing forces of production can at one stroke be multiplied to the extent necessary for the creation of a communal society. In all probability, the proletarian revolution will transform existing society gradually and will be able to abolish private property only when the means of production are available in sufficient quantity".[ix]

It was not until later, after the wave of revolutionary enthusiasm of 1848 had ebbed, that Marx and Engels worked out the full implications of this. They had been saying, in effect, that the establishment of socialism was not possible in 1848. Engels, in 1895, in an introduction to some articles Marx had written, in 1850, on French politics, openly stated this:

"History has proved us, and all who thought like us, wrong. It has made it clear that the state of economic development at that time was not, by a long way, ripe for the elimination of capitalist production."[x]

Engels was clearly correct on this point. Capitalism, as Fritz Sternberg has pointed out, was then dominant only in one country:

"When Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote `The Manifesto of the Communist Party', – that is to say, about the middle of the nineteenth century – capitalism was dominant only in England; the United States was still a colonial country, in which the agricultural population far outnumbered the industrial; in Europe, the beginnings of capitalism were confined to the west – in Germany, for instance, pre-capitalist forms of production were still dominant; Russia and Japan were still feudal states; and there were relatively few points on the Asiatic coastline which were in contact with those occidental countries in which capitalist development had begun.
To say that, at that time, perhaps 10 per cent of the world's population were engaged in capitalist production is probably an optimistic estimate."[xi]

If socialism wasn't possible in 1848, this raises the interesting question (clearly relevant for later attempts to establish "socialism" in a single, backward country):
What would the working class, or rather a determined group of Communists, have been able to do in the unlikely event of them having gained control of political power at that time? Surely, only to develop capitalism. In fact, the measures listed at the end of Section II ("Proletarians and Communists") of the Manifesto, and referred to above, could accurately be described as being of a state-capitalist nature. Many of them have since been implemented in openly capitalist countries (progressive income tax, state bank, nationalisation of railways, free education, prohibition of child labour, etc.), thus indicating that there was nothing inherently anti-capitalist about them. Neither Marx nor Engels went quite so far as to repudiate these measures, or to state that the Communists of 1848 were wrong to have imagined that they could even capture political power, let alone establish socialism at that time. But this is what Engels wrote in 1872 of these measures:

". . . no special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II. That passage would, in many respects, be very differently worded today. . . this programme has in some details become antiquated."[xii]

Also, writing in 1850, Engels discussed the fate of Thomas Munzer, as the leader of a communistic party coming to power before conditions were ripe for establishment of a communistic society. This passage is worth quoting extensively:

"The worst thing that can befall a leader of an extreme party is to be compelled to take over a government at a time when society is not yet ripe for the domination of the class he represents and for the measures which that domination implies. What he can do depends not upon his will but upon the degree of antagonism between the various classes, and upon the level of development of the material means of existence, of the conditions of production and commerce upon which class contradictions always repose. What he ought to do, what his party demands of him, again depends not upon him or the stage of development of the class struggle and its conditions. He is bound to the doctrines and demands hitherto propounded which, again, do not proceed, from the class relations of the moment, or from the more or less accidental level of production and commerce, but from his more or less penetrating insight into the general result of the social and political movement. Thus, he necessarily finds himself in a unsolvable dilemma. What he can do contradicts all his previous actions and principles, and the immediate interests of his party and what he ought to do cannot be done. In a word, he is compelled to represent not his party or his class, but the class for whose domination the movement is then ripe. In the interest of the movement he is compelled to advance the interests of an alien class, and to feed his own class with talk and promises, and with the assertion that the interests of that alien class are their own interests. He who is put into this awkward position is irrevocably lost."[xiii]

Marx himself had written something similar in October 1847 (a few months before he and Engels wrote the Manifesto) :

"If the proletariat destroys the political rule of the bourgeoisie, that will only be a temporary victory, only an element in the service of the bourgeois revolution itself, as in 1794, so long as in the course of history, in its `movement', the material conditions are not yet created which make necessary the abolition of the bourgeois mode of production and thus the definitive overthrow of bourgeois political rule."[xiv] (Marx's emphasis)

Is it too much to say that, had Marx and Engels and the others in the Communist League come to control political power in 1848, that, not being able to establish socialism, they would have been "irrevocably lost", in that they would have had no alternative but to develop capitalism (even if in the form of a state capitalism)?

In any event, this situation never arose, nor was it even a remote possibility. In exile in London, Marx and Engels soon realised the futility of communists plotting to seize political power in the immediate future, and turned to concentrating on the long, hard task of preparing the working class to organise itself to capture political power. After 1848, modern industry made great advances. In 1847, Engels had written of the means of production not being available in sufficient quantity to permit the immediate, or even rapid, establishment of socialism. A quarter of a century later, in 1872, he was writing :

"...it is precisely this industrial revolution which has raised the productive power of human labour to such a high level that – for the first time in the history of mankind – the possibility exists, given a rational division of labour among all, of producing not only enough for the plentiful consumption of all members of society and for an abundant reserve fund, but also of leaving each individual sufficient leisure so that what is really worth preserving in historically inherited culture – science, art, forms of intercourse – may not only be preserved but converted from a monopoly of the ruling class into the common property of the whole of society, and may be further developed."[xv]

And six years later, in that part of Anti-Dühring later published as the immensely popular pamphlet Socialism, Utopian and Scientific :

"The possibility of securing for every member of society, by means of socialized production, an existence not only fully sufficient materially, and becoming day by day more full, but an existence guaranteeing to all the free development and exercise of their physical and mental faculties – this possibility is now for the first time here, but it is here." [xvi](Engels' emphasis)

In other words, it was Engels' opinion that by the 1870's, contrary to the situation in 1848, "the state of economic development was . . . ripe for the elimination of capitalist production". While he might not have answered the question, "Will it be possible for private property to be abolished at one stroke?" with a `yes', he would certainly have answered that it could be abolished (i.e. common ownership, and a classless society established) fairly rapidly. The principle is clear here: for Marx and Engels, the higher the level of development of the means of production, the shorter the political transition period needed to make them the common property of society as a whole.
Engels was exaggerating when he wrote in 1872 that the means of production could then have provided "enough for the plentiful consumption of all members of society and for an abundant reserve fund". Certainly, they could have provided enough to completely eliminate material poverty and to raise the consumption of all well above the level they had to endure under capitalism, but it would not really have been possible to implement the principle of "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs". Engels, or course, recognised this, and it was precisely Marx's point as well in his notes on the Gotha Programme about the inevitability of some limitations on free consumption in the "first phase" of socialism.

Having discussed the question of how long Marx and Engels expected the political transition period between capitalism and socialism to last, we can now ask, how long did they think the transition (as one might want to call it) between the "first" and "higher" phases of socialism itself would take. This is something they don't seem to have discussed, but it is clear that the same principle applies: the higher the level of development of the means of production, the shorter the period.
One thing is clear, though, that the development of the means of production during this period would be on the basis of the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, and the consequent abolition of the market, money, buying and selling, wages, profits, etc, The "first phase of communist society", like the higher phase, would be a non-market society in which production would be consciously planned to satisfy human needs. What would be produced would be useful things, for direct allocation to democratically-decided social uses (individual consumption, collective consumption, expansion of productive resources, reserves, etc.). What Marx called "commodity-production", the production of goods for sale on a market, would not exist; indeed could not exist without the society ceasing to be socialist.
Marx repeatedly made it clear that socialism, in both its phases, was a non-market, production-solely-and-directly-for-use society. The Communist Manifesto specifically speaks of "the Communistic abolition of buying and selling", and of the abolition not only of capital (wealth used to produce other wealth with a view to profit), but of wage labour, too.[xvii]
In Volume I of Capital Marx speaks of "directly associated labour, a form of production that is entirely inconsistent with the production of commodities ...", [xviii] and, in Volume II, of things being different "if production were collective and no longer possessed the form of commodity production. ..". Also, in Volume II, Marx, in comparing how socialism and capitalism would deal with a particular problem, twice states that there would be no money to complicate matters in socialism: "If we conceive society as being not capitalistic but communistic, there would be no money-capital at all in the first place. ..", and, "in the case of socialized production the money- capital is eliminated".[xix] In other words, in socialism the production and distribution of wealth is solely a question of organisation and planning.

It is precisely Mandel who is the most influential and able opponent of Marx (and the others who have agreed with him, notably Bordiga) on this point about the entirely non-market nature of the "first" phase of socialism. In his essay Economics of the Transition Period, Mandel notes that:

"Immediately following the victory of the October Revolution, and especially in the period of War Communism, the Communist theoreticians saw the construction of a socialist economy primarily in terms of an immediate and general disappearance of the market and monetary economy."

Significantly, he does not question why this should have been, since this would have led him to have to admit that, on this point, the Bolshevik thinkers were in the Marxist tradition.
Mandel goes on to state that in Russia it soon appeared that "maintaining money and market relations was best suited to maximising economic growth and to the best defense of the interests of the workers as consumers" and to conclude by formulating the following general law:

"The survival of market and monetary categories thus proves inevitable during the period of transition from capitalism to socialism."[xx]

(Actually, what the experience of Russia under so-called "War Communism" proved was that isolated Russia was ripe at that time only for some form of capitalism – with its "market and monetary categories" – and not for socialism). Mandel accepts socialism as a world-wide, classless, stateless, moneyless, wageless society (to define it somewhat negatively). As he wrote in The Inconsistencies of State Capitalism :

"Socialism means a classless society. It therefore presupposes not only the suppression of private property of the means of production, henceforth managed in a planned way by the associated producers themselves, but it also calls for a level of development of the productive forces which makes possible the withering away of commodity production, of money, and of the state."


"The working class ... is not capable of building a socialist society in a single country, not even the USA (not to speak of Britain or Western Europe)."

All that can be established in the immediate future, says Mandel, is a third society neither capitalist nor socialist, which will have the aim of developing the means of production to the level where world socialism becomes possible as a society of abundance: a "transitional society" between capitalism and socialism, with its own social structure and economic laws different from those both of capitalism and of socialism. Mandel describes this so-called transitional society of his as follows:

"nationalisation of all the means of production under workers' control, democratically planned economy, but still with commodity production of consumer goods, with the survival of money, with foreign trade, and with a workers' army as long as the threat of strong bourgeois states subsists."[xxi]

This "transitional society", like capitalism but unlike socialism, can be established on a national scale. In fact, says Mandel, it should be the immediate aim of each national working class (thus rejecting the Marxist view that the working class of all countries should be aiming at a more or less simultaneous world socialist revolution).

If Marx had really subscribed to this view, that there was another system of society –lasting for a whole "epoch" – between capitalism and socialism, it is curious, to say the least, that he never mentioned it. Nowhere, in fact, does Marx speak of any "transitional society" in between capitalism and socialism, or, to use some of the phrases employed by Mandel, "the epoch of transition from capitalism to socialism", "a transitional-economy", "the society in transition
from capitalism to socialism". He certainly spoke of a "political transition period" and of "a period of revolutionary transformation" between capitalism and socialism but, as we have seen, this was merely the period during which the working class would use its control of state power to establish the common ownership of the means of production, a relatively short political transition period, which would be shorter the higher the development of the means of production was at the time the working class won control of political power, and certainly not lasting an "epoch".
Mandel tries to justify his position by identifying his "transitional society" with Marx's "first phase of communist society" (despite the fact that the phrase "first phase of communist society" obviously means what is says: the first phase of communist, not some other, different, society).

Marx, we have seen, did recognise the inevitability of some limitations on free consumption in the early stages of socialism (had it been established in the 1870's), and did mention "labour-time vouchers" as one possible method of doing this. Mandel claims that whether these labour-time vouchers or money is used in these circumstances, is just a matter of choice. Money, he argues, is better because it allows workers, as consumers, more freedom of choice than would labour-time vouchers, or some system of physical rationing. But, this is based on a complete misunderstanding of the Marxian theory of money. For Marx money was not a thing but a social relation, an economic category which existed on the basis of certain social relations between the producers, specifically, an exchange economy, reflecting the fact that production was not yet socialised but carried out by isolated individual producers – and later the fact that, despite socialized production, there was still private or sectional appropriation. He pointed out that "labour-time vouchers" were not money; they were simply pieces of paper entitling a person to draw so much from the stock of goods set aside for individual consumption. They did not circulate, nor did they reflect a relationship of private property. As Marx put it, in a passage in his notes on the Gotha Programme, – a passage incidentally quoted by Mandel in the Critique article – "within the co-operative society based on the common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products."[xxii]

We do not want to defend the "labour-time voucher" system. Even for Marx's day, it was inappropriate, suffering from numerous anomalies, only some of which Marx himself recognised. We would subscribe to the view that Marx's criticism of schemes to introduce "labour- money" under capitalism, applies to some extent also to the scheme for "labour-time vouchers" in the early stages of socialism.[xxiii] But it is clear that Marx did not regard the use of money (a commodity that has come to be universally exchangeable with all other commodities) as an alternative form of rationing in the "first phase of communist society". In fact, he would have regarded this as an absurd, contradictory proposal. We can imagine him lambasting Mandel in the same terms as he lambasted Proudhon for similar inanities!

Let us now return to the question of how long, after the establishment of socialism, some restrictions on free consumption would have to continue. Today, looking back, we can say that, had world socialism been established in the 1870's, it might have taken about a generation before full free access to consumer goods and services, according to individual needs, could have been implemented. This estimate is based on the fact that it was by around 1900 that the effects of the so-called second industrial revolution – the application to production of the electric motor and the internal combustion engine – were beginning to be felt. Marx and Engels, remember, were judging the possibilities of socialism on the basis only of the first industrial revolution (the application to production of the steam engine). Marx, who died in 1883, never saw either an electric motor or an internal combustion engine. But of course every advance in technology made his case for socialism even more relevant.
By about 1900, thanks to this second industrial revolution,capitalism became the predominant world system. By "predominant" we don't mean that capitalism existed all over the world, but merely that all the people of the world, even if they lived under pre-capitalist conditions, were decisively affected by the workings of world capitalism, 1900 marks, if you like, capitalism becoming a world system – a fact which some Marxist writers have described as its becoming "imperialist". 1914, with the outbreak of the first world war in the history of mankind, was a bloody confirmation of this. To quote Sternberg again:

"Capitalist development had taken several hundred years to arrive at a stage at which perhaps 10 per cent of the world's population produced along capitalist lines, but within the two-thirds of a century which followed – approximately from the middle of the nineteenth century up to the outbreak of the first world war – capitalism became the dominant form of production not merely in one country, England, but all over the world, until perhaps between 25 and 30 per cent of the world's population were producing along capitalist lines, whilst in Great Britain, the United States, Germany and Western Europe in general, capitalism held practically a monopoly of production. At the same time capitalist development had made considerable progress in Russia and Japan, although the remnants of feudalism still existed, whilst in the other Asiatic countries the pre-capitalist forms of production had been definitely undermined."[xxiv]

We can, in fact, place the end of capitalism's role in history – to create the material basis for a world socialist society of abundance – at this time. By 1900, capitalism had completely outlived its usefulness. From then on only the immediate establishment of world socialism has been "progressive". From then on, in fact, world socialism – given, of course, the development of a majority socialist movement amongst the working class in the industrialised parts of the world – could have been established "at one stroke" by a more or less world socialist revolution.

Since 1900, the working class has still, it is true, needed to organise itself to capture political power in all the various states of the world, and, in this sense, a "political transition period" during which the working class uses state power to establish the common ownership of the means of production, is still necessary. However, since this period would be so short as to be negligible, the concept of a transition period has become outdated.

Similarly, though in the first few years of socialism, as the mess left by capitalism is cleared up, some restrictions on full free consumption may still be necessary, world socialist society could now move rapidly (i.e. in well under a decade at the most) to implementing free access to consumer goods and services according to individual need as the principle of distribution. To sum up, the concept of a "transition period", lasting some years, between capitalism and socialism is today an obsolete 19th century concept, while the ideal of a "transitional society" between capitalism and socialism, as proposed by Mandel, was never to be found in Marx in the first place.
Adam Buick , Critique 5, 1975

[i] Ernest Mandel, `Ten Theses on the Social and Economic Laws Governing the Society Transitional between Capitalism and Socialism', Critique 3.
[ii] As is clearly shown by Hal Draper in his detailed study of the occasions Marx and Engels used this, and similar, phrases. See Draper's "Marx and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat", New
Politics, Vol. I, No.4, Summer 1962.
[iii] Marx to J. Weydemeyer, March 5,1852. Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1958.p.452
[iv] F. Engels, "The Housing Question", in Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I; FLPH, Moscow, 1958, p.613.
[v] Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme. Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1971, p.26.
[vi] Ibid, p.16.
[vii] Karl Marx, Capital Vol I. I, FLPH, Moscow, 1961, p.94.
[viii] Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, FLPH, Moscow, 1954, pp.80-81.
[ix] F. Engels, Principles of Communism, Pluto Press, London, n.d., p.13. [x] F. Engels, "Introduction" to "The Class Struggles in France 1848 to 1850", Selected Works, Vol. I, p.125.
[xi] Fritz Sternberg, Capitalism and Socialism on Trial, Gollancz, London, 1951, p.19.
[xii] F. Engels. "Preface" to the German Edition of 1872 of Manifesto of the Communist Party, p.10.
[xiii] F. Engels, The Peasant War in Germany, Lawrence and Wishart, 1969, p.115.
[xiv] Karl Marx, "The Moralizing Critique and the Critical Moral", quoted in Karl Marx: Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy, Ed. T. B. Bottomore and Maximilien Rubel, Penguin Books, 1963, p.244.
[xv] F. Engels, "The Housing Question", in Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 1, pp.564-565.
[xvi] F. Engels, Anti-Dühring, FLPH, Moscow, 1959, pp. 389-390.
[xvii] Marx and Engels, The Manifesto of the Communist Party, pp.72-73.
[xviii] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, p .94.
[xix] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. II, FLPH, Moscow, 1957, p.451, p.315 and p.358.
[xx] Ernest Mandel, "Economics of the Transition Period", in Key Problems of the Transition Period, Pathfinder Press, New York, 1970, pp.38-40. Originally published in Fifty Years of World Revolution (1917-1967): An International Symposium, ed. by Ernest Mandel, Merit
Publishers, New York, 1968.
[xxi] The Inconsistencies of State Capitalism, International Marxist Group. London, 1969, pp.17-18.
[xxii] Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, quoted by Mandel in a footnote on p.13 of Critique 3.
[xxiii] See "La Période de Transition (deuxième partie)", Révolution lnternationale 8, Paris, March-April 1974. See also "Labour-Time Vouchers", Socialist Standard, London, May, 1971, and "Marx's Conception of Socialism", Socialist Standard, December. 1973.
[xxiv] Fritz Sternberg, op. cit., p. 19.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Walmart Robbers

Walmart , owners of ASDA's were likened to 19th Century Mexican dictator .

A Walmart employee who had complained that vouchers handed out by the company as part of its salary payments could only be spent in the company's stores.

The practice of vouchers "that come from the worker's salary only to be exchanged in the management company's establishment is similar to what happened in old company stores (that existed during Diaz's dictatorship)," the court said in its decision.The company stores under Diaz's dictatorship were abolished under the 1917 constitution.

In both cases, "the cost of the respective discounts were absorbed by workers, not bosses," the court said.

Mexican non-governmental organizations last November called for a boycott of Walmart to protest low salaries and working conditions of its employees.Walmart is the largest private employer in Mexico, with 157,000 employees, according to Mexican media.

USA sponsors regime change again ??

Nearly 100 leading academics and foreign policy experts signed the letter last Friday, voicing their "deep concern" over the recent events in Bolivia that left dozens dead and cost millions of dollars in lost revenue to the developing nation.

The letter's signers, who represent dozens of top U.S. schools -- including New York University, the University of Maryland, and Johns Hopkins University -- as well as Latin America think tanks and journalists, said they were especially concerned about Washington's support for groups and individuals in Bolivia who are using violent means to oppose -- and potentially overthrow -- the popularly elected government of President Evo Morales.

Since the election of Morales in December 2005, the United States has sent millions of dollars in aid to departmental and municipal governments in Bolivia, but some agencies have failed to disclose who they provided money to, and for what purposes.USAID opened an "Office of Transition Initiatives" (OTI) in Bolivia in 2004, which provided some $11 million in funds to "build on its activities designed to enhance the capacity of departmental governments."In its 2006 report, the OTI said it sought to "[build] the capacity of prefect-led departmental governments to help them better respond to the constituencies they govern," and even brought departmental prefects to the United States to meet with state governors.

Some of the same departmental governments later launched organized campaigns to push for "autonomy" and to oppose through violent and undemocratic means the Morales government and its political platform.

The letter urged Washington to "cease any and all support -- financial or otherwise -- to any group or person in Bolivia and other Latin American countries that engages in violent, destructive, terrorist, or anti-democratic activities such as we have witnessed with great shock and sadness in the past weeks in Bolivia."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Food waste

Mailstrom has previously reported on food waste here and now it is reported that food distribution charity is calling on the industry to make better use of millions of pounds worth of food earmarked as waste.
It argues that excess or nearly out-of-date produce that might be regarded as rubbish to supermarkets or food producers can be a lifeline to others.

FareShare Leicester has come to an arrangement allowing groups to collect fresh produce from local supermarkets on a daily basis.
"When you have the choice that either surplus food is put to good use like this or goes to landfill, then it's a bit of a no-brainer really," said Mr Willetts. "It's just about putting the mechanisms in place to make it happen."

Naturally , the only long term mechanism is Socialism but it will take a while for all those charities to reach that conclusion .

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

One in the eye for the conspiracists

The fall of the 47-story World Trade Center building 7 (WTC 7) in New York City late in the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, was primarily due to fires, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced on August 21 following an extensive, three-year scientific and technical building and fire safety investigation. This was the first known instance of fire causing the total collapse of a tall building, the agency stated as it released for public comment its WTC investigation report and 13 recommendations for improving building and fire safety.

“Our study found that the fires in WTC 7, which were uncontrolled but otherwise similar to fires experienced in other tall buildings, caused an extraordinary event,” said NIST WTC Lead Investigator Shyam Sunder. “Heating of floor beams and girders caused a critical support column to fail, initiating a fire-induced progressive collapse that brought the building down.”

“Video and photographic evidence combined with detailed computer simulations show that neither explosives nor fuel oil fires played a role in the collapse of WTC 7,” Sunder said. The NIST investigation team also determined that other elements of the building’s construction—namely trusses, girders and cantilever overhangs that were used to transfer loads from the building superstructure to the columns of the electric substation (over which WTC 7 was constructed) and foundation below—did not play a significant role in the collapse.

According to the report, a key factor leading to the eventual collapse of WTC 7 was thermal expansion of long-span floor systems at temperatures “hundreds of degrees below those typically considered in current practice for fire resistance ratings.” WTC 7 used a structural system design in widespread use.

Citing its one new recommendation (the other 12 are reiterated from the previously completed investigation of the World Trade Center towers, WTC 1 and 2), the NIST investigation team said that “while the partial or total collapse of a tall building due to fires is a rare event, we strongly urge building owners, operators and designers to evaluate buildings to ensure the adequate fire performance of the structural system. Of particular concern are the effects of thermal expansion in buildings with one or more of the following features: long-span floor systems, connections not designed for thermal effects, asymmetric floor framing and/or composite floor systems.” Engineers, the team said, should be able to design cost-effective fixes to address any areas of concern identified by such evaluations.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

US oil corruption

Some US government employees have tried to hide their close association with the industry they were supposed to be regulating, the report says.

The investigation appears to have been prompted by an internal whistle-blower's report in 2006, and concerns activity from 2002 to 2006 by the department responsible for selling the oil and gas the government collects as rent from companies drilling on federal lands.

The report alleges inappropriate behavior by 19 members of the Royalty in Kind program -- about one-third of the department. Some have since left the department, making it unclear what kind of disciplinary action they could be subject to.

The Department of Justice declined to prosecute two former employees named in the report, the inspector general said, without saying why. Another pleaded guilty to a criminal charge.

The investigation turned up e-mails in which MMS employees "preparing to attend industry events used such language as 'this trip is to be kept quiet,' or were asked to RSVP 'in private' by their supervisor," the report says.

One of these employees when asked why they needed to avoid discussing their social activities with industry, he responded with a slight chuckle, 'They might have, you know, contacted the [inspector general],' the report says.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Brazil will use revenue from newly discovered offshore oil fields to eradicate poverty, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has vowed.

We await with interest ....for just how long we must wait ...who knows

Will the "curse of oil" be broken

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Are we Sadists -- Perhaps

"Everywhere I could reduce men into two classes both equally pitiable; in the one the rich who was the slave of his pleasures; in the other the unhappy victims of fortune; and I never found in the former the desire to be better or in the latter the possibility of becoming so, as though both classes were working for their common misery...; I saw the rich continually increasing the chains of the poor, while doubling his own luxury, while the poor, insulted and despised by the other, did not even receive the encouragement necessary to bear his burden. I demanded equality and was told it was utopian; but I soon saw those who denied its possibility were those who would loose by it..."

The Marquis de Sade wrote the above before 1788.

More to be found here

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Don't panic , Mister Mainwaring

Bloody well do panic is the answer according to this report .
The most common response in most disasters is not panic, but rather the opposite.

On the deck of the Estonia ferry, which sunk in the Baltic Sea in 1994, one man smoked a cigarette. Others sat in groups, doing nothing, as the water surged onto the ship.

In the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001, about 1,000 people took the time to shut down their computers before evacuating. On average, people waited six minutes before beginning to leave. Once they entered the stairwell, they descended at the rate of about one minute per floor - twice as long as engineers would have predicted.

We know that in all kinds of disaster, from ship wrecks to burning buildings, the brain tends to go through three phases: denial, deliberation and the decisive moment. Our first instinct is to normalize the situation - to come up with wildly creative and reassuring explanations for why smoke might be creeping across the ceiling or why oxygen masks might have dropped from the airplane ceiling.