Sunday, February 28, 2010

Trade Unions - Part One

Trade unions arise out of the wage-relation that is at the basis of capitalism.When we say that labour-power has the commodity nature , it must express its value through a struggle in the labour market. Combining together in trade unions to exert collective pressure on employers is a way workers can prevent their wages falling below the value of their labour-power. It is a way of ensuring that they are paid the full value of what they have to sell. This is the usefulness of trade unions to the working class but they can do no more than this. The competition of individual workers for jobs enabled employers to take full advantage of their strengthened position. If, however, the workers unite and agree not to sell their labour-power below a certain price, the effect of individual competition for jobs can be, at least in part, overcome. Organised workers can ensure that the wage they get is the current value of their labour-power and, at times when the demand for labour-power exceeds the supply, they can temporarily push wages above the current value of labour power or even, in the longer term, raise its value. This was, and still is, the logic of trade union organisation.They cannot substantially increase the living standards of their members under capitalism but they can ensure that wages are not reduced below the subsistence level. The trade unions are essentially defensive organisations with the limited role of protecting wages and working conditions and it is by this criterion that their effectiveness or otherwise ought to be judged. Trade Unions can - and do - enable workers to get the full value of their labour-power, but they cannot stop the exploitation of the working class.

Workers may influence their wages and working conditions only by collective effort and only by being in the position to stop working if their demands are not met. The ability to withhold their service in a strike is one weapon in their possession ( work-to-rules and overtime bans are others) . It is the only final logic known to employers. Without it, wages tend to sink below subsistence level. With it , a substantial check can often be placed on the encroachments of the employers and improvements both in wages and working conditions can be made. The strike is not a sure means of victory for workers in dispute with employers. There are many cases of workers being compelled to return to work without gains, even sometimes with losses. Strikes should not be employed recklessly but should be entered into with caution, particularly during times when production falls off and there are growing numbers of unemployed. Nor should not be thought that victory can be gained only by means of the strike. Sometimes more can be gained simply by the threat of a strike. The most effective strike as the one that did not take place .Workers must bear all these things in mind if they are to make the most effective use of the trade union and the power which it gives them.

The non-revolutionary phase of the struggle between the classes is as inevitable as the revolutionary one . Therefore we should not reduce the trade unions to impotence by by getting them to practice principles and policies which are not necessary to their reason for being in existence - and nor also to ideas which their members do not hold. We, therefore, accept trade unions as they are, and, accept that all their grave and undeniable faults are but the reflection of the mental shortcomings of their members.The Socialist Party is not antagonistic to the trade unions under present conditions, even though they have not a revolutionary basis but we are most hostile to the misleading by the trade union leaders and against the ignorance of the rank and file which make such misleading possible. Workers must come to see through the illusion that all that is needed in the class war are good generals. Sloganising leaders making militant noises are powerless in the face of a system which still has majority support – or at least the acquiescence – of the working class.

It would be wrong to write off the unions as anti-working-class organisations. The union has indeed tended to become an institution apart from its members; but the policy of a union is still influenced by the views of its members. It may be a truism but a union is only as strong as its members. Most unions have formal democratic constitutions which provide for a wide degree of membership participation and democratic control. In practice however, these provisions are sometimes ineffective and actual control of many unions is in the hands of a well-entrenched full-time leadership. It is these leaders who frequently collaborate with the State and employers in the administration of capitalism; who get involved in supporting political parties and governments which act against the interest of the working class.

Under present conditions, trade unions are non-revolutionary but as far as the socialist thinks them necessary to his personal economic welfare and as far as economic pressure forces him to, he is right and justified in using them. The class struggle has to be carried on by socialists and non-socialists alike and because of the very nature of the workers' economic struggle under capitalism it compels socialists to associate in a common cause with the non-socialists during strikes, lock-outs and all the other activities on the economic side of the class struggle.

The Socialist Party urges that the existing unions provide the medium through which the workers should continue their efforts to obtain the best conditions they can get from the master class in the sale of their labour-power.We do not criticise the unions for not being revolutionary, but we do severely criticise them when they depart from the basic tenet of an antagonism of interests between workers and employers, when they collaborate with employers, the state or political parties, when they put the vested interests of a particular section of workers above that of the general interest of the working class as a whole.

Trade unions , in general , have languished in a role which provides little scope for action beyond preparing for the next self-repeating battle with employers. They tended to be bogged down in bureaucracy and run by careerists and timeserving officials for whom the future means little more than their pensions and peerage . It has to be admitted that this does present itself as a sterile accommodation with the capitalist system.

Trade unions can bring a great deal of experience to bear on the question of how a new society could be organised democratically in the interests of the whole community. Certainly in the developed countries they have organisation in the most important parts of production. They have rulebooks that allow them to be run locally and nationally in a generally democratic manner and they also enjoy fraternal links across the globe. All this is already in place , ready to be applied . If only trade unions set their sights beyond the next wage claim and by becoming part of the socialist movement, they could become part of the democratic administration of industry that would replace the corporate bosses and their managers who now organise production for profit.

We recognise that, under capitalism, workers depend on the wage or salary they get for the sale of their labour-power and that it is in their interest to get the highest possible price for this; collective organisation and action, as via trade unions, can help obtain this. In other words, we're talking about haggling over the workers' commodity. Clearly, necessary though it is, this has no anti-capitalist content. This doesn't mean that the wages struggle isn't part of the class struggle. It is, but as an economic, defensive struggle within capitalism to get the best deal under it. Obviously, being part of the class struggle, it has the potential to develop into full class consciousness, ie a recognition of the need to get rid of capitalism and to take political action to do this. But it's not going to develop into socialist consciousness automatically without those involved hearing the case for socialism. Discontent over wage levels or conditions at work can be a catalyst for socialist understanding but so can many other things such as concern about the environment or war or the threat of war or bad housing or the just the general culture of capitalism . It can be said that history has not borne out the view that there is some sort of automatic evolution from trade union consciousness to reformist political consciousness to revolutionary socialist consciousness . It's just not happened. In fact the opposite has: trade unions have dropped talking about the class struggle and socialism to present themselves as on a par with insurance companies, complete with trendy names such as UNITE to deal with problems at work.We have never uncritically accepted trade unionism. As we said in 1912 we support only trade unionism when it is on sound lines :-

"Sound lines" mean that while fighting the daily battles the toilers must adopt a policy of "No Compromise". They must have no regard for the master’s interests or property. "Conciliation" and "Arbitration" schemes and long notices must be strenuously opposed. They have got to teach their members that the interests of workers and employers are in direct opposition. Above all, the trade unions must use all their powers to increase the solidarity of the revolting working class and show the need for the toilers acting as a class. There must be no blacklegging of one section upon another, and the grievance of one part must become the interest of all. Thus only can the unions be moulded into a body capable of assisting in the revolutionary change."

The SPGB's contribution and value on the political scene is at two levels.
First , we can and do give an analysis of the present conditions engendered by human actions and seek to rationally work out a cause and effect towards providing achievable solutions to problems thrown up as best as humans can do for the time and the technology. This leads to demands for a complete revolutionary change in society , ownership, production methods , and human thinking, which involve both outlook and expectations.
Secondly, we have the ability to rise above the general fracas of the bourgeois parties and the trade unions and using evidence from present human capabilities envisage and present what a different society could now function like for the benefit of all.

In our view trade-union action is necessary under capitalism, but is limited by being of an essentially defensive nature. To overcome this limitation the workers need to organise themselves into a socialist political party aiming solely at the capture of political power to establish socialism .

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Raising consciousness

A study of history shows that from the earliest recorded times to the present , human society has had a process of change, now slow and gradual, now violent and dramatic, during which the existence of classes with opposing interests has been revealed. These classes struggle for the control of society, i.e., for the power to govern society in their own interests. These warring classes can be shown to be the representatives of particular mode of wealth production. A class struggle develops and is fought out. The present class struggle is between property owners and the propertyless (“property” being the right to appropriate the productive labor of others). On the stock exchange, by means of wheeling and dealing in stocks and shares , the identities of who actually has the ownership may be continually changing, but it remains in the hands of the capitalist class as a whole. This ownership is international and interlocking. Therefore, the wealth produced by the workers of the world belongs to an international capitalist class by virtue of its ownership of the means by which it is produced.The remedy is obvious. It is to transfer the ownership back to those who alone were the created and produced that wealth . The ownership must be wholly social. Society as a whole must own and operate the means whereby society exists. With the co-operative and social character of wealth production being recognised by society as a whole in assuming ownership, no class will be able to exploit another class by means of ownership. Classes and all the social relationships out of which they arise will disappear.

For this task the workers must acquire the consciousness which can enable them to do so. This consciousness must comprise, first of all, a knowledge of their class position. They must realise that, while they produce all wealth, their share of it will not, under the present system, be more than sufficient to enable them to reproduce their efficiency as wealth producers. They must realise that also, under the system they will remain subject to all the misery of unemployment, the anxiety of the threat of unemployment, and the deprivations of poverty. They must understand the implications of their position – that the only hope of any real betterment lies in abolishing the social system which reduces them to mere sellers of their labor power, exploited by the capitalists. A class which understands all this is class-conscious. It has only to find the means and methods by which to proceed, in order to become the instrument of revolution and of change .

Class consciousness was never more needed than now.To the socialist, class-consciousness is the breaking-down of all barriers to understanding. Without it, militancy means nothing. The conflict between the classes is more than a struggle for each to gain from the other. The class-conscious worker knows where s/he stands in society. Their interests are opposed at every point to those of the capitalist class. Their cause can only be the cause of revolution for the abolishing of classes. Without that understanding, militancy can mean little. Class-conscious people need no leaders. The single, simple fact which all working people have to learn is that capitalism causes capitalism's problems, so that the remedy – the only remedy – is to abolish capitalism. In that knowledge they must take hold of the powers of government – for one purpose only: that the rule of class by class shall end. Socialism is not a benevolently-administered capitalism: it is a different social system. Reform is no answer, even though at times – rare times – it benefits working people.The reformer has agreed that capitalism shall continue, and is merely trying to alleviate its worst effects. Has poverty been abolished by the reformers? Ask the old, ask the unemployed or the homeless , or the sick. Has life been made more satisfying by the Welfare State?

Although it’s now clear that trade unions are not the “schools of socialism” they were once seen to be, they should not be written off . Without them, the workers have no economic weapon to defend themselves against the encroachments of capital. Capitalists would be able to consistently obtain labour-power below its value, instead of being made to pay something nearer its full price. The importance of the unions is therefore clear - a worker in a trade union will generally be closer to class consciousness than any other. They have realised their position in the world as a creator of wealth, and that some form of exploitation is going on that needs to be checked. The workers' failing is simply not bringing this realisation to its logical conclusion and organising for the complete restructuring of society to end this exploitation of which they strive against.This is where socialist action on the political field becomes an objective - action that does not simply seek to hold off some of the exploitation inherent in capitalist society, but that seeks to abolish it . Unions are economic weapons on the battlefield of class war, but unfortunately, thanks to the efforts of reformist or right wing union leaders, they remain committed to simply striving for economic gains within the system.Trade union action on its own is unable to bring about socialism was stated several times by Marx, and remains valid to this day:
“They [the unions] ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects, but not with the cause of those effects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction; they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady.”

Not curing the malady? Only too true. Trade union action alone has failed to remove the class antagonisms present in the capitalist world we live in. It has made some excellent gains, certainly saving large sections of the working class from even greater abuse, but the fundamentals of exploitation and class antagonisms remain. Marx expected the working class to develop from a mere economic category (a "class in itself" ) into a revolutionary political actor ("class for itself")—but at least the process started even if it did get stuck on route as it were. A "class consciousness" did develop among particular sections of the working class but this did not develop into a revolutionary socialist consciousness. It stopped at trade-unionism and Labourism, the idea and practice of the working class as a class within capitalism but which wanted a better deal within this system, not to replace it with a classless and exploitation-free society. So, even if a working class "for itself" has never developed, a class consciousness of a lesser sort did.
Marx believed as the workers gained more experience of the class struggle and the workings of capitalism, it would become more consciously socialist and democratically organised by the workers themselves. The emergence of socialist understanding out of the experience of the workers could thus be said to be “spontaneous” in the sense that it would require no intervention by people outside the working class to bring it about (not that such people could not take part in this process, but their participation was not essential or crucial). Socialist propaganda and agitation would indeed be necessary but would come to be carried out by workers themselves whose socialist ideas would have been derived from an interpretation of their class experience of capitalism. The end result would be an independent movement of the socialist-minded and democratically organised working class aimed at winning control of political power in order to abolish capitalism. As Marx and Engels put it in The Communist Manifesto:-
“the proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority”.

This in fact was Marx’s conception of the workers’ party - a mass democratic movement of the working class with a view to establishing socialism.The self-emancipation of the working class, as advocated by Marx, remains the agenda .

Working class action must be revolutionary. The workers of Britain have common cause with the workers of every other country. They are members of an international class, faced with the same problems, holding the same interests once they are conscious of them. As class consciousness grows amongst the workers in all lands, co-operative action will be planned. It will not stop at the organisation of marches and demonstrations . It will be co-operation to speed the abolition of capitalism.

The Socialist Party does not minimise the necessity and importance of the worker keeping up the struggle to maintain the wage-scale, resisting cuts, etc. If he always laid down to the demands of his exploiters without resistance he would not be worth his salt as a man, or fit for waging the class struggle to put an end to exploitation. More and more of the workers are forced to realise that their interests are opposed to those of the owning and ruling class, in fact that the continuation of this rule spells disaster to society generally. The class war is far from over. It can only end with the dispossession of the owning minority and the consequent disappearance of classes and class-divided society.

Success through striking may well encourage other workers to stand up for their rights in the workplace more. A group of workers' strength, however, will continue to be determined by their position within the capitalist economy, and their victory a partial one within the market system. Only by looking to the political situation, the reality of class ownership and power within capitalism, and organising to make themselves a party to the political battle in the name of common ownership for their mutual needs, will a general gain come to workers, and an end to these sectional battles. Otherwise, the ultimate result of the strikes will be the need to strike again in the future. Class struggle without any clear understanding of where you are going is simply committing oneself to a never-ending treadmill. This is where the Leninist parties go wrong. They think mechanistically that a sense of revolutionary direction emerges spontaneously out of "the struggle" thus circumventing the realm of ideology - the need to educate . It doesn't . The workers can never win the class struggle while it is confined simply to the level of trade union militancy; it has to be transformed into a socialist consciousness.Conversely, socialist consciousness cannot simply rely for its own increase on ideological persuasion. It has to link up with the practical struggle. The success of the socialist revolution will depend on the growth of socialist consciousness on a mass scale and that these changed ideas can only develop through a practical movement.

Our interest lies in pursuing the class struggle and forging our own class agenda - world socialism.The battle between capitalism and socialism is by no means off the agenda. The class war is not yet over. Only by recognising the struggle between capital and labour, and acting to bring about the victory of labour, of the working class , can classes once and for all be abolished, common ownership be established, and real human interests and relationships begin.

To bring about socialist consciousness involves understanding socialism which means talking about it, sharing ideas about it - in short educating ourselves and our fellow workers about it.But some detractors, have the mistaken idea that the Socialist Party of Great Britain thinks selling a copy of the Socialist Standard and holding meetings is the key to revolution.If that really was the case, the world would be in for a very long wait. People become socialists from their experiences; meeting socialists is part of that experience.The SPGB have always guarded against appearing to be the sole agent of the socialist transformation. In fact , that nobody knows how revolutionary class consciousness is going to arise and the SPGB has the intellectual honesty to admit this. Socialism will be established by the working class and that its establishment will result from an intensification and escalation of the class struggle. That follows almost by definition--obviously, if the working class are going to overthrow capitalism and capitalist class rule the class struggle is going to be stepped up. That's not the interesting question. The real question is what is it that is going to provoke the working class into intensifying/escalating the class struggle and/or acquiring socialist consciousness .

Socialist consciousness comes from life experience, but that being said, why are not more people achieving this consciousness? Everything from education, accepted customs, the prevailing capitalist ideology and cultural hegemony .We can say that socialist consciousness comes from life experience, but then that automatically implies that every worker should achieve it, it should have happened. And I see this as a problem. It leads to a belief of the old "historical inevitability" of Socialism, that inevitably people will come around to becoming Socialists. That would indeed leave no role for a Socialist Party . We can join a Party and then watch it all unfold before our eyes .

However many have not accepted this inevitability and wonder what exactly is our role? Where do we "intervene" to raise consciousness and how do we intervene? What practical measures can we take as a Party?
Workers don’t just wake up one morning and think to themselves - "Ah that’s it! Socialism is the answer!" This is the mechanistic theory that a socialist consciousness can somehow materialise by circumventing the realm of ideology. We come to a socialist view of the world by interacting directly or indirectly with others, exchanging ideas with them. And that is perhaps the role of the revolutionary group as being - as a catalyst in the process of changing consciousness.

Class struggle without any clear understanding of where you are going is simply committing oneself to a never-ending treadmill. This is where the Leninists and Trotskyists go wrong. They think mechanistically that a sense of revolutionary direction emerges spontaneously out of the struggle per se circumventing the realm of ideology -the need to educate - as such. It does not. The workers can never win the class struggle while it is confined simply to the level of trade union militancy; it has to be converted into a socialist consciousness. Conversely, socialist consciousness cannot simply rely for its own increase on ideological persuasion; it has to link up with the practical struggle. The success of the socialist revolution would depend on the growth of socialist consciousness on a mass scale and that these changed ideas can only develop through a practical movement:
Socialist consciousness on a wide scale is not going to emerge from mere abstract propagandising or proselytising . All we are doing in the SPGB , essentially, is trying to help the emergence of majority socialist consciousness, but even if the sort of activities we engage in can't be the main thing that will bring this consciousness about , it is still nevertheless essential. People can, and do, come to socialist conclusions without us, but they can come to this more quickly if they hear it from an organised group dedicated exclusively to putting over the case for socialism. We can't force or brainwash people into wanting to be free , they can only learn this from their own experience .We see majority socialist consciousness emerging from people's experiences of capitalism coupled with them hearing the case for socialism. Not necessarily from us, though it would seem that we are the only group that takes doing this seriously. Socialist consciousness emerges through discussion and analysis. Our main task is to find better ways of expressing our message to as many workers as possible, to evolve a strategy so that we use our resources to most effect.

There are clear limits to what militancy can achieve on its own and most workers know this full well. The working class is simply the working class, a bundle of contradictions and yet a very real thing. It is both the most conservative class because they have the most to lose AND , at the same time , the most revolutionary because they have the most to gain. Marx put it as, it is a class "in itself" and not yet a class "for itself".

We don't have to lead, or intervene, or integrate into it. That was the role of the Social Democrats and the Leninists. What we have to be is the movement (as Marx said in "The Communist Manifesto") that group which points out the way, which "pushes forward". The question comes to making Socialism an “immediacy” for the working class , something of importance and value to people's lives now , rather than a singular "end". Socialists are not superior to society members . Nevertheless , we do understand how the class society basically works. That is the difference to the majority of the working class, which do not understand and therefore do not see the need to abolish capitalism.

We have yet to hear a convincing argument how you are supposed to become a "revolutionary" without engaging - and eventually agreeing - at some point with the IDEA of what such a revolution would entail. There is no logical imperative embedded in the material circumstances of capitalism that dictates that we must necessarily become revolutionary socialists . Our experience of these circumstances could just as easily turn us into Fascists , Tories or Liberals. In other words, our engagement with the world around us is always mediated by the ideas we hold in our heads; we cannot apprehend this world except through these ideas .

We agree the majority will not understand Socialism from the campaigning and educational effort of the SPGB , but from the potential effect of the social practice particularly of the class struggle.
“A period of revolution begins not because life has become physically impossible but because growing numbers of workers have their eyes suddenly opened to the fact that problems hitherto accepted as part of man’s unavoidable heritage has become capable of solution…No crisis of capitalism , however desperate it may be , can ever by itself give us socialism ” - Will Capitalism Collapse ?

And here we also stated :-

“If we hoped to achieve Socialism ONLY by our propaganda , the outlook would indeed be bad .But it is Capitalism itself unable to solve crises , unemployment , and poverty, engaging in horrifying wars , which is digging its own grave . Workers are learning by bitter experience and bloody sacrifice for interests not their own . They are learning slowly. Our job is to shorten the time , to speed up the process” - Socialism or Chaos
We can quote from Paul Mattick with his understanding to his own political experiences :
“There is no evidence that the last hundred years of labour strife have led to the revolutionizing of the working class in the sense of a growing willingness to do away with the capitalist system…In times of depression no less in than these of prosperity , the continuing confrontations of labor and capital have led not to an political radicalization of the working class , but to an intensified insistence upon better accommodations within the capitalist system…No matter how much he [ the worker ] may emancipate himself ideologically ,for all practical purposes he must proceed as if he were still under the sway of bourgeois ideology .He may realize that his individual needs can only be assured by collective class actions , but he will still be forced to attend to his immediate needs as an individual .It is this situation , rather than some conditioned inability to transcend capitalism. He may realize that his individual needs can only be assured by collective class actions , but he will still be forced to attend to his immediate needs as an individual .It is this situation , rather than some conditioned inability to transcend capitalist ideology, that makes the workers reluctant to express and to act upon their anti- capitalist attitudes ” - Marxism, Last Refuge of the Bourgeoisie

Also from Sidney Hook in his From Hegel to Marx who said
“…the struggle to achieve institutional change produces changes in those who participate in the struggles .The Praxis of trying to bring about a new order , no abstract doctrine , educates the workers ..Marx‘s great insights that human beings cannot change the world without changing themselves , and that social struggles , under certain conditions, are the best school for acquiring an education in social realities are not isolated thoughts but organically connected with his materialistic theory of history .… The class struggle is not a doctrine , but the school in which doctrines arise Are tested and used or discarded . The working class not only becomes conscious of itself in these struggles , but it changes and re-educates itself by its revolutionary practice"
Another insightful comment upon the non-commital and non-involvement of many workers in creating socialism comes from Hegel in his Philosophy of the Mind
“If , therefore man does not want to perish he must recognise the world as a self-dependent world which in its essential nature is already complete , must accept the conditions set for him by the world and wrest from it what he wants for himself . As a rule , the man believes that this submission is only forced on him by necessity . But ,in truth , this unity with the world must be recognised , not as a relation imposed by necessity , but as the rational ...therefore the man behaves quite rationally in abandoning his plan for completely transforming the world and in striving to realise his personal aims , passions and interests only within the framework of the world in which he is a part”
Anton Pannekoek describes in The Workers Council that
“[class consciousness ] is not learned from books or through courses on theory and political formation , but through real life practice of the class struggle”
While Wilhelm Reich in Sex-Pol describes class consciousness ande explains:
“Everything that contradicts the bourgeois order, everything that contains a germ of rebellion , can be regarded as an element of class - consciousness ; everything that creates or maintains a bond with the bourgeois order , that supports and reinforces it , is an impediment to class consciousness”
and again
“Against the principle of self-denial preached by political reaction , we must set the principle of happiness and abundance …Any socialist political economist can prove that sufficient wealth exists in the world to provide a happy life for all workers .But we must prove this more thoroughly , more consistently , in greater detail than we generally do”

and again
“Question : If two human beings , A and B , are starving , one of them may accept his fate , refuse to steal , and take to begging or die from hunger , while the other may take the law into his own hands in order to obtain food. A large part of the proletariat , often called the lumpenproletariat, live according to the principles of B .Which of the two types has more elements of class consciousness in him ? Stealing is not yet a sign of class consciousness but a brief moment of reflection shows , despite our inner moral resistance , that the man who refuses to submit to law and steals when he is hungry, that’s to say , the man who manifests a will to live , has more energy and fight in him than the one who lies down unprotesting on the butchers slab ..we have said that stealing is not yet class consciousness .A brick is not yet a house , but you use bricks to build a house”

Finally , we have from Murray Bookchin's contribution in his article Listen Marxist !
“ The Marxian doctrinaire would have us approach the worker , better still - enter the factory - and proselytize him in preference to anyone else . The purpose ? to make the worker class conscious . In the end , the worker is shrewd enough to know that he can get better results in the day-to-day class struggle through his union bureaucracy than through a Marxian party bureaucracy …the worker becomes revolutionary not by becoming more of a worker but by undoing his ‘workerness‘. His ‘workerness’ is the disease he is suffering from , the worker begins to become revolutionary when he undoes his ‘workerness‘ , when he begins to shed exactly those features Marxists most prize him - his work ethic, his character-structure derived from industrial discipline , his respect for hierarchy, his obedience to leaders , his consumerism, his vestiges of Puritanism . In this sense , the worker becomes a revolutionary to the degree that he sheds his class status and achieves an un-class- consciousness .He degenerates and he degenerates magnificently . What he is shedding are precisely those class shackles that bind him to all systems of domination . He abandons those class interests that enslaves him to consumerism , suburbia and a book-keeping conception of life”
The search for why socialist consciousness arises is The Holy Grail of every sincere socialist and no one has the answer as yet . We hold only generalisations - and possess a political approach that when exercised will not be counter-productive or have a negative effect .One of the great principles of the SPGB is our opposition to leadership , so whatever weaknesses or mistaken views we hold or that it is accused of , they cannot be imposed upon others with possible worse consequences . The validity of the SPGB's ideas will either be accepted or rejected by discussion and debate , plus by actual concrete developments on the ground . The SPGB are not going to become entryists or a vanguard who proclaim that as possessors of the Holy Grail , all must follow and then take the workers to where they do not want to go ( even if they know where they are going , in the first place , that is )

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Socialist Model

We in the SPGB are seeking what some call a "steady-state economy" or "zero-growth" , a situation where human needs are in balance with the resources needed to satisfy them. Such a society would already have decided on the most appropriate way to allocate resources to meet the needs of its members. This having been done, it would only need to go on repeating this continuously from production period to production period. Production would not be ever-increasing but would be stabilised at the level required to satisfy needs. All that would be produced would be products for consumption and the products needed to replace and repair the raw materials and instruments of production used up in producing these consumer goods. The point about such a situation is that there will no longer be any imperative need to develop productivity, i.e. to cut costs in the sense of using less resources; nor will there be the blind pressure to do so that is exerted under capitalism through the market. Technical research would continue and this would no doubt result in costs being able to be saved, but there would be no external pressure to do so or even any need to apply all new productivity enhancing techniques.

Since the needs of consumers are always needs for specific goods at a specific time in a specific locality, we will assume that socialist society would leave the initial assessment of likely needs to a delegate body under the control of the local community (other options are , of course , possible and feasible ).
In a stable society such as socialism, needs would most likely change relatively slowly. Hence it is reasonable to assume that an efficient system of stock control, registering what individuals actually chose to take under conditions of free access from local distribution centres over a given period, would enable the local distribution committee to estimate what the need for food, drink, clothes and household goods that would be required over a similar future period. Some needs would be able to be met locally: local transport, repairs and some food produce are examples as well as services such as libraries and refuse collection. The local distribution committee would then communicate needs that could not be met locally to the bodies charged with coordinating supplies to local communities.

The individual would have free access to the goods on the shelves of the local distribution centres; the local distribution centres free access to the goods they required to be always adequately stocked with what people needed; their suppliers free access to the goods they required from the factories which supplied them; industries and factories free access to the materials, equipment and energy they needed to produce their products; and so on. Production and distribution in socialism would thus be a question of organising a coordinated and more or less self-regulating system of linkages between users and suppliers, enabling resources and materials to flow smoothly from one productive unit to another, and ultimately to the final user, in response to information flowing in the opposite direction originating from final users. The productive system would thus be set in motion from the consumer end, as individuals and communities took steps to satisfy their self-defined needs. When introducing new products it is not necessary to start out producing millions of units. You make a few thousand prototypeswith some form of consumer testing and feed-b ack and measure how rapidly consumers take them from the store. Whether it will be the individuals whose job is to develop new products (chemical engineers, mechanical engineers, etc.) who can decide on their own to submit the requision for resources to the manufacturing line, or whether some degree of communitity endorsement is also needed, will be society's policy choice. It wouldn't be the workers' choice whether or not they want to make them.

Socialist production is self-adjusting production for use. It will be a self regulating , decentralised inter-linked system to provide for a self sustaining steady state society. And we can set out a possible way of achieving an eventual zero growth steady state society operating in a stable and ecologically benign way. This could be achieved in three main phases.

First, there would have to be urgent action to relieve the worst problems of food shortages, health care and housing which affect billions of people throughout the world.
Secondly, longer term action to construct means of production and infrastructures such as transport systems for the supply of permanent housing and durable consumption goods. These could be designed in line with conservation principles, which means they would be made to last for a long time, using materials that where possible could be re-cycled and would require minimum maintenance.
Thirdly, with these objectives achieved there could be an eventual fall in production, and society could move into a stable mode. This would achieve a rhythm of daily production in line with daily needs with no significant growth. On this basis, the world community could live in material well being whilst looking after the planet.

For socialism to be established, there are two fundamental preconditions that must be met. Firstly, the productive potential of society must have been developed to the point where, generally speaking, we can produce enough for all. This is not now a problem as we have long since reached this point.Secondly, the establishment of socialism presupposes the existence of a mass socialist movement and a profound change in social outlook.

Humans behave differently depending upon the conditions that they live in. Human behaviour reflects society. In a society such as capitalism, people's needs are not met and reasonable people feel insecure. People tend to acquire and hoard goods because possession provides some security. People have a tendency to distrust others because the world is such a rat-race . If people didn't work society would obviously fall apart. To establish socialism the vast majority must consciously decide that they want socialism and that they are prepared to work in socialist society. If people want too much? In a socialist society "too much" can only mean "more than is sustainably produced" . If people decide that they (individually and as a society) need to over-consume then socialism cannot possibly work. Under capitalism, there is a very large industry devoted to creating needs. Capitalism requires consumption, whether it improves our lives or not, and drives us to consume up to, and past, our ability to pay for that consumption. In a system of capitalist competition, there is a built-in tendency to stimulate demand to a maximum extent. Firms, for example, need to persuade customers to buy their products or they go out of business. They would not otherwise spend the vast amounts they do spend on advertising. There is also in capitalist society a tendency for individuals to seek to validate their sense of worth through the accumulation of possessions. The prevailing ideas of society are those of its ruling class so we can understand why, when the wealth of that class so preoccupies the minds of its members, such a notion of status should be so deep-rooted within workers . It is this which helps to underpin the myth of infinite demand. It does not matter how modest one's real needs may be or how easily they may be met; capitalism's "consumer culture" leads one to want more than one may materially need since what the individual desires is to enhance his or her status within this hierarchal culture of consumerism and this is dependent upon acquiring more than others have got. But since others desire the same thing, the economic inequality inherent in a system of competitive capitalism must inevitably generate a pervasive sense of relative deprivation. What this amounts to is a kind of institutionalised envy and an alienated capitalism .

In socialism, status based upon the material wealth at one's command, would be a meaningless concept. The notion of status based upon the conspicuous consumption of wealth would be devoid of meaning because individuals would stand in equal relation to the means of production and have free access to the resultant goods and services . Why take more than you need when you can freely take what you need? In socialism the only way in which individuals can command the esteem of others is through their contribution to society, and the stronger the movement for socialism grows the more will it subvert the prevailing capitalist ethos, in general, and its anachronistic notion of status, in particular.

All wealth would be produced on a strictly voluntary basis. Work in socialist society could only be voluntary since there would be no group or organ in a position to force people to work against their will. Free access to goods and services denies to any group or individuals the political leverage with which to dominate others (a feature intrinsic to all private-property or class based systems through control and rationing of the means of life ) . This will work to ensure that a socialist society is run on the basis of democratic consensus. Goods and services would be provided directly for self determined needs and not for sale on a market; they would be made freely available for individuals to take without requiring these individuals to offer something in direct exchange. The sense of mutual obligations and the realisation of universal interdependency arising from this would profoundly colour people’s perceptions and influence their behaviour in such a society. We may thus characterise such a society as being built around a moral economy and a system of generalised reciprocity.

In a socialist society, there will be no money and no exchange and no barter.
Goods will be voluntarily produced, and services voluntarily supplied to meet people's needs. People will freely take the things they need.Socialism will be concerned solely with the production , distribution and consumption of useful goods and services in response to definite needs . It will integrate social needs with the material means of meeting those needs . Common ownership means that society as a whole owns the means and instruments for distributing wealth. It also implies the democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, for if everyone owns, then everyone must have equal right to control the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth.

By the replacement of exchange economy by common ownership basically what would happen is that wealth would cease to take the form of exchange value, so that all the expressions of this social relationship peculiar to an exchange economy, such as money and prices, would automatically disappear. In other words, goods would cease to have an economic value and would become simply physical objects which human beings could use to satisfy some want or other. The disappearance of economic value would mean the end of economic calculation in the sense of calculation in units of value whether measured by money or directly in some unit of labour-time. It would mean that there was no longer any common unit of calculation for making decisions regarding the production of goods.

Socialism is a money-less society in which use values would be produced from other use values, there would need no have a universal unit of account but could calculate exclusively in kind .The only calculations that would be necessary in socialism would be calculations in kind. On the one side would be recorded the resources (materials, energy, equipment, labour) used up in production and on the other side the amount of the good produced, together with any by-products. Calculation in kind entails the counting or measurement of physical quantities of different kinds of factors of production. There is no general unit of accounting involved in this process such as money or labour hours or energy units. In fact, every conceivable kind of economic system has to rely on calculation in kind, including capitalism. Without it, the physical organisation of production (e.g. maintaining inventories) would be literally impossible. But where capitalism relies on monetary accounting as well as calculation in kind, socialism relies solely on the latter. That is one reason why socialism holds a decisive productive advantage over capitalism by eliminating the need to tie up vast quantities of resources and labour implicated in a system of monetary/pricing accounting.

Socialism is a decentralised society that is self correcting , from below and not from the top . Planning in socialism is essentially a question of industrial organisation, of organising productive units into a productive system functioning smoothly to supply the useful things which people had indicated they needed, both for their individual and for their collective consumption. What socialism would establish would be a rationalised network of planned links between users and suppliers; between final users and their immediate suppliers, between these latter and their suppliers, and so on down the line to those who extract the raw materials from nature. The responsibility of these industries would be to ensure the supply of a particular kind of product either, in the case of consumer goods, to distribution centres or, in the case of goods used to produce other goods, to productive units or other industries. Planning is indeed central to the idea of socialism, but socialism is the planned , but not Central Planning , production of useful things to satisfy human needs instead of the production of wealth as exchange value, commodities and capital. In socialism wealth would have simply a specific use value (which would be different under different conditions and for different individuals and groups of individuals) but it would not have any exchange, or economic, value.

Needs would arise in local communities expressed as required quantities such as kilos , tonnes , cubic litres, or whatever , of various materials and quantities of goods . These would then be communicated according to necessity . Each particular part of production would be responding to the material requirements communicated to it through the connected lines of social production . It would be self -regulating , because each element of production would be adjusting to the communication of these material requirements . Each part of production would know its position.

If requirements are low in relation to a build-up of stock , then this would an automatic indication to a production unit that its production should be reduced . The supply of some needs will take place within the local community and in these cases production would not extent beyond this , as for example with local food production for local consumption . Other needs could be communicated as required things to the regional organisation of production. Local food production would require glass, but not every local community could have its own glass works . The requirements for glass could be communicated to a regional glass works . The glass works has its own suppliers of materials and the amounts they require for the production of glass are known in definite quantities. The required quantities of these materials could be passed by the glass works to the regional suppliers of the materials for glass manufacture . This would be a sequence of communication of local needs to the regional organisation of production, and thus contained within a region .

Local food production would also require tractors , for instance , and here the communication of required quantities of things could extend further to the world organisation of production . Regional manufacture could produce and assemble the component parts of tractors for distribution to local communities . The regional production unit producing tractors would communicate to their own suppliers , and eventually this would extend to world production units extracting and processing the necessary materials .

Production and distribution in socialism would thus be a question of organising a coordinated and more or less self-regulating system of linkages between users and suppliers, enabling resources and materials to flow smoothly from one productive unit to another, and ultimately to the final user, in response to information flowing in the opposite direction originating from final users. The productive system would thus be set in motion from the consumer end, as individuals and communities took steps to satisfy their self-defined needs.

Stocks of goods held at distribution points would be monitored, their rate of depletion providing vital data about the future demand for such goods, information which will be conveyed to the units producing these goods. The units would in turn draw upon the relevant factors of production and the depletion of these would activate yet other production units further back along the production chain. There would thus be a marked degree of automaticity in the way the system operated. A maintenance of a surplus reserve would provide a buffer against unforeseen fluctuations in demand .The regional production units would in turn communicate its own manufacturing needs to their own suppliers , and this would extend to world production units extracting and processing the necessary raw materials .

Socialism will seek an enviromental friendly relationship with nature. In socialism we would not be bound to use the most labour efficient methods of production. We would be free to select our methods in accordance with a wide range of socially desirable criteria, in particular the vital need to protect the environment.What it means is that we should construct permanent, durable means of production which you don’t constantly innovate. We would use these to produce durable equipment and machinery and durable consumer goods designed to last for a long time, designed for minimum maintenance and made from materials which if necessary can be re-cycled. In this way we would get a minimum loss of materials; once they’ve been extracted and processed they can be used over and over again. It also means that once you’ve achieved satisfactory levels of consumer goods, you don’t insist on producing more and more. Total social production could even be reduced. This will be the opposite of to-day's capitalist system's cheap, shoddy, throw-away goods with its built-in obsolescence, which results in a massive loss and destruction of resources.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Being Human

It is human nature to eat when you are hungry, to drink when you are thirsty, and to sleep when you are tired. Nothing can alter this least of all socialists. However ,what is meant by human nature as an objection to socialism , is not human nature at all, but human behaviour. Human behaviour roots are to be found principally in one's environment and the economic conditions which influences one's physiological make-up. Man behaves in the way he does, very largely, although not completely, because of the conditioning he receives from his environment, since he is a social animal and lives in a community.How we behave is not "innate" or governed by our "instincts" or our genes, but can and does vary depending on the sort of society we were brought up in and live in.

We are born human and therefore possess the unique capacity to adapt culturally in accordance with the environmental conditions which surround us.The brain is not just a passive receptor of sense-impressions (experience) but plays an active role in organising these impressions so as to make sense of them (understand them). This capacity to organise sense-impressions is part of human biological nature.Before humans could develop culture – accumulated wisdom such as ways of tool making , hunting and gathering method ,which is learned and passed on by non-biological means – they had to have brains capable of learning and of using language and of thinking abstractly. These brains had to have evolved and are just as much a part of “human nature” as walking upright and stereoscopic colour vision. So, there's no denial of human nature.The view that the mind as a blank sheet on which the environment can imprint anything is wrong because the brain plays a much more active role in the learning process. Nor are we born with pre-programmed patterns of behaviour. We learn how to behave after we are born (this even starts while we are still in the womb) and in so doing "programme" our brains. We are animals that are capable of adopting a great variety of behaviour patterns. The nature of our brain allows us, as participants in a particular system of society, to "programme" ourselves, in ways that neuroscience is beginning to understand in more detail, for living in that society. Human behaviour is not biologically determined and that the main characteristic of us humans that distinguishes us from other animals is the capacity, as a species, to engage in a great variety of behaviours. This versatility and flexibility when it comes to behaviour has a biological basis , of course.

There is scarcely a single socialist who has not heard repeatedly the statement that human nature is against socialism.This objection needs to be met. When an opponent of socialism says “What about human nature?”, “you can't change human nature!” Needless to say that when they talk of human-nature they mean human behaviour . So when a supporter of capitalism says “you can't change human nature”, the reply should be: “who wants to? Human nature is alright as it is!” . Human nature as it is makes it possible to exist in all kinds of manifestations, not just support for capitalism but also the potentiality of the change from the behaviour of capitalism to that of socialism.The combination of our genetic and cultural characteristics makes humanity a superbly adaptable being, well-equipped to deal with problems.

For socialists , human nature is viewed as the “normal” mode of behaviour and mental outlook in any given society at any given period and, being determined by external material circumstances (physical but above all social), varied over type of society, time and place. Human nature is not fixed, but variable. It is what we would now call rather “human behaviour”.

Once a distinction is made between human nature (biological, and which can hardly have changed since homo sapiens evolved) and socially and culturally determined human behaviour (which has changed throughout pre-history and history), then the issue becomes clearer. It can be seen, not to be about whether or not there is such a thing as biological nature which is inherited and determined by genes ( so there's “no denial of human nature” as we have stated ), but about the extent of this and in particular whether or not it includes specific ideas or behaviour patterns. It is not our consciousness that determines our social existence but our social existence which determines our consciousness. Nobody, for example, is born a racist or a patriot or a bigot - this has to be learned.

Socialism does not require us all to become altruists, putting the interests of others above our own. In fact socialism doesn't require people to be any more altruistic than they are today. We will still be concerned primarily with ourselves, with satisfying our needs, our need to be well considered by others as well as our material and sexual needs. No doubt too, we will want to “possess” personal belongings such as our clothes and other things of personal use, and to feel secure in our physical occupation of the house or flat we live in, but this will be just that – our home and not a financial asset. Such “selfish” behaviour will still exist in socialism but the acquisitiveness encouraged by capitalism will no longer exist. The coming of socialism will not require great changes in the way we behave, essentially only the accentuation of some of the behaviours which people exhibit today (friendliness, helpfulness, co-operation) at the expense of others which capitalism encourages.

Socialism is a society where would all be considered of equal worth and be able to have an equal say in the way things are run and in which we recognise ourselves as members of an interdependent community where different people perform different functions and where everybody, irrespective of their function, has access to what they need to live and enjoy life just because they are members of the human race. And this doesn't require us to be any less selfish or more altruistic than we are today – it's not about changing human nature but about changing the basis of society. We don't need to change human nature; it is only human behaviour that needs to change . Humans' behaviour has been determined by the sort of society they live in and has varied with this while their biological make-up has remained unchanged. While our genes can't be ignored , they only intervene in our behaviours in an indirect way, by programming the development of our brains. Therefore, to understand the complexities of our behaviour, it is to our brains, not directly to our genes, that we have to look.When we do this we find that our brains allow us, as a species, to adopt – and, as prehistory and history bear out, we have in fact adopted – a great variety of different behaviours depending on the natural, economic and social environments we have found ourselves in. So, "human nature" is not a barrier to socialism. On the contrary, our biologically evolved and inherited human capacity will allow us to live in a socialist society.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Religion - Thy Name is Superstition

Primitive man was surrounded by natural forces that manifested themselves both to his detriment and benefit. Thunder pealed and lightning flashed, splitting the rocks and trees. Flood, fire and earthquake gave added testimony to the existence of an evil-disposed power, always near, never seen, whose awful omnipotence was beyond mortal conception. Early man naturally ascribed these terrors to some powerful, malignant force often in human shape (for he was making God in his own image) who took delight in causing sorrow and distress. He was the “Evil One” , who needed to be appeased by bribes of good things to eat. (Primitive man’s idea of heavenly ecstasy being to gorge himself to repletion, he unconsciously endowed the figment of his brain with tastes that he himself possessed, and his conception of the attributes of his deity was necessarily drawn from the source of all his ideas – his own immediate environment. What he considered good was surely desirable to his God.) . Other forces manifested themselves in an opposite direction. The warmth of the sun, the fruitfulness of the earth, the cooling breeze, the rain refreshing the parched earth, and numberless other agreeable effects could only be the results of the activity of an opposite nature to that of the evil one. The deity had to be thanked, and when a period of storm and famine gave way to one of mildness and plenty, what more natural than to ascribe it to the victory of the Good One over the Evil One? One was to be prayed to for success in the chase or in war, and for protection against the Evil One, while the latter had to be appeased by the sacrifice of the most precious of his primitive wealth, in order that he might be kept in good temper. Thus arose the ideas of God and the Devil, founded on man’s ignorance of the laws that govern the forces of nature. Religion is a manifestation of man’s ignorance of Nature’s working, and of the mastery which the uncomprehended natural and social forces have over man. As rites and ceremonies it is a legacy of the relatively changeless forms of ancient society, and of the supreme importance of mysterious and venerable custom to the existence of the primitive community.

The socialist point of view rests solidly on the materialist conception of history. Religion divides the universe into spiritual and physical realms and all religions offer their adherents relief from their earthly problems through some sort of appeal to the spiritual. Socialists see the problems that wrack human society as material and political, and their solutions as likewise material and political, not supernatural.A materialist is someone who understands the world by discovery and
observation, and does not postulate things without any bearing in fact. Some religious leaders may rebel against what they deem injustice, even suffering imprisonment or worse for their efforts. But where this means they seek their solutions within the framework of the system socialists aim to abolish, they demonstrate a lack of understanding of the development of social evolution, and socialists cannot endorse their views. More importantly , membership in formally defined religious denominations ( or adherence to their beliefs ) can defeat people's best intentions unawares. The doctrines of organised religions traditionally locate the solution to society's problems in the individual's salvation and remain fundamentally indifferent to the fate of the human social community. At their most progressive, they seek only to modify the existing institutions of a class-divided society, and at their most reactionary they openly obstruct even that desire. Such confusion over goals in an organisation claiming to practice scientific socialism would sooner or later undermine its revolutionary character, for the tendency of such thinking is to confine discussion of capitalism's problems to the horizon of existing society, a blindness fatal to the socialist viewpoint.One cannot understand the development of social evolution by resorting to religious ideas.Socialists do not hold beliefs. They have an understanding of the world based on the evidence available.Socialism isn't a dogma, it is a correct way of thinking about the world, and socialists learn to think correctly and accept the logical results of their own arguments. The Socialist Party is a materialist organisation, that is we believe that ideas, etc. have no independant existence from human beings, and that ideas are determined by the material world in which we live. This is an important idea for our case, and its refutation would amount to the anihilation of our case.

Science cannot prove the non-existence of God. It cannot, either, prove the non-existence of pixies at the bottom of the garden. But it does not seem very likely that God has a place as part of objective reality although, it obviously exists as an idea in society.It's true that belief in God is not synonymous with belief in a particular religion. But the fact remains that there is no concrete evidence for God's existence. If you believe in god, doesn't it follow that you believe that it has some influence in human affairs? If there's no such influence, there can't be any evidence for God's existence. If there is such an influence, then are we supposed to pray, or what?

The history of humanity and the growth of scientific thought through the ages has changed religious conceptions. And as scientific knowledge grows, "God" is relegated more and more to the background. The "God" of the modern capitalist is a different "God" than the feudal lord or slave owner of ancient times. And the "role" that "God" plays in the explanation of the working of the material world has changed.The role of "God" has changed from that of belief in predestiny, to God as a "personal God", from "God" as the first creator of the world and the "cause" to "God" as an afterthought (agnosticism) who has no control and the question of belief in him as irrelevant. The point being in this is that religion, belief in "God" and our own beliefs as Socialists arise from the material world, how we produce it, how we interact with it. And the primacy is the material world, of matter, yet as matter and mind (spirituality as some say ) that interact.Socialism, as the science of Society, is an essential part of a scientific view of all phenomena regarded as an interdependent whole; and such a Monistic view of the universe, with each part in inseparable causal relation to the rest, can leave no nook or cranny for "God".

As materialists, we apply the laws of thermodynamics (that neither energy nor matter can be created nor destroyed). Now, in the cases of 'God' or 'the soul' they all imply things existing beyond matter and energy - which is fine enough, although utterly unprovabole and thus irrational. the point though, comes, when claims to interaction between this spiritual world and the material world occur, that is, that a non-matter, non-energy 'entity' may be able to cause effects in the material world. Such an intervention would require, to all intents and purposes, the creation of energy.

Our case is that religion is not a personal/private matter, but a social and scientific matter.In religion, gods are products of the human imagination given powers to dominate the lives of those who create them. Throughout the history of class society religion performs two essential functions: it buttresses the established order by sanctifying it and by suggesting that the political order is somehow ordained by divine authority.Its sanctification of the existing social order makes it a counter-revolutionary force.Yet it consoles the oppressed exploited by offering them in heaven what they are denied upon earth. By holding before them a vision of what they are denied, religion plays at least partly a progressive role in that it gives the common people some idea of what a better order would be. But when it becomes possible to realize that better order upon earth in the form of communism, then religion becomes wholly reactionary, for it distracts men from establishing a now possible good society on earth by still turning their eyes towards heaven.We invent religions which denigrate our humanity, and which offer a solution in the promise of a mythical, never-never land of the future.
This is how religion works. You generalise from real conditions, keep the generalisation and discard the reality. The generalisations are now an ideal world, to which reality must conform. As our knowledge of the real world changes, the generalisations become outdated. At first, this seems to mark them as eternal truths, a divinely simple and regular account of a disordered and chaotic world. As time goes on, those people who live in the new, more complex world express their lives in new generalisations, and a new system confronts the old. The scientific worldview attempts to overcome this; it is, at least in principle, the permanent revolution of ideas. The generalisation process is continually subjected to experimental testing: does the theory match up with the real world? You can generalise as much as you like, as long as you can verify or falsify the idea, i.e. that you test it with relation to the real world.The post-modern retreat from reality denies this faculty of judgment; it says that there is no way to compare ideas against each other. Each person comes up with their own way of generalising the world; their “narrative”. So someone who thinks that the Earth is flat and the moon is cheese has just as much claim to a correct account of reality as, say, an astrophysicist. The logic of our existence as real, capable men and women who need no gods and masters to rule us is denied.

The socialist case against religion is a simple one. We understand that, as ideas are the result of the historical movement of society, and the premises of religion thus concur with specific forms of society, religion is a social matter and not, as protestant sectarians would have it, a matter of individual conscience. Religion as we know it today is a part of a social process of acquiring and understanding knowledge left over from a bygone age, one in which the imagination of humanity outstripped its capacity to understand and control the world. Knowledge is inextricably linked with the process of acquiring it, with the practise of thinking. Since we, as workers, live in a world that has acquired the capacity to control its own material environment, we must reject those guides to behaviour and analysis based upon premises of human powerlessness, and the practises of thinking that go along with them. Belief in religion – any religion – warps and handicaps the ability to think objectively, particularly about social and political issues. Socialism is the application of science to the relations between men, in effect, a branch of natural history.

The Socialist Party has been castigated for insisting that socialism and religion are incompatible. To us it is obvious that "render to God what is God's and Caesar what is Caesar's"; "servants be subject to your masters", together with focus on the "better life hereafter" are totally at odds with the emancipation of the exploited. Religion has always been used as an excuse for leaders' excesses. Everyone knows about the tortures and burnings of so-called heretics by the Inquisition and the selling of "Indulgences" and that the Crusades were not about the freeing of the Holy City of Jerusalem but rather the pillage, subjugation and rape not only of the Infidel but any Christian on the way.

There has sprung up a set of ideas, loosely related in content but closely tied by form, referred to collectively as the "New Ageism", crystal healing, aromatherapy, holistic remedies, along with a host of offshoots from the more conventional religions . These themselves are associated to a general "change of consciousness", in the main anti-technological and pro-"spiritual".We as Socialists often appear alone in standing against this seeming tide of goodwill, good vibrations, and wholesomeness. Our position on organised religion is that religion is debilitating to the mind of the worker and thus to the progress which we wish to make as workers in advancing our interests. But the New Age? What could be bad about "healing" ? Who could protest against the benefits of goddess worship in empowering women? Surely this New Age is at worst harmless fun and at best a route to a new, gentler society? Our answer is that the New Age religion is merely the old age religion in a new, modern form. New Age's powers are all developed on the side of "spiritual energy", "psychic transformation", etc. If the old religion was the opium of the people, then this is the heroin; no longer extracted by chance from nature but refined, even artificially manufactured, and all the stronger for the process. The chants and prayers of the old religion have become commodified into tarot cards, crystals, and psychic healing workshops with incense burners, and scented candles.New Age is not different from religion; it is the perfection of it.The old religions are dying in the West because actual experience of the modern world has ripped them asunder, and as dogmas they must break instead of bowing to this change. The Pope cannot end the Catholic Church's stance on abortion, for example, even though every Catholic with a rudimentary scientific education knows that there is no divine spark at conception.Rather than obeying a priest, we choose the form of our own mental domination.The pagan backdrop of Catholicism is filled by that of Hinduism or Buddhism removed from their own social contexts of native exploitation; all generating a thousand and one cults and sects. What all these have in common is the flight from reality into a magical world where the evils of the material world are transcended in thought. They are not revolutionary, as some might suppose, from their content of peace, love and contentment; they are escape, the only escape of the life prisoner staring through the bars of a jail cell window.

Should socialists really worry about religion and New Age-ism wiping out all scientific progress and knowledge, plunging the world into the long night of ignorance and superstition? Religion has had to do all the hard work of accommodating more and more scientific progress, which is why mature religions tend to become ever vaguer and more metaphorical.Successive modifications of religion have been the reflexes of changed conditions and interests.

To abolish religion is not to end exploitation.Since religion is ever used as a weapon by the ruling class against the workers, no socialist in the struggle for working class emancipation can avoid refuting religion .

Banish Gods from the Skies , and Capitalists from the Earth .

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The working-class movement has vacillated between four different roads:
1 ) The armed conquest of power by a small determined group which would hold on to power until the majority were converted – Blanquism
2 ) The seizure of the means of production and distribution by some form of industrial action – Syndicalism
3 ) The accomplishment of ever more sweeping reforms until capitalism had been reformed out of existence and society had “glided” into socialism – Reformism
4 ) The conquest of power by a majority of class-conscious workers antagonistic to reform policies, spurning leadership, using democratic methods, and imbued with the single aim of abolishing the capitalist ownership of the means of production and distribution in order to replace it by common ownership – Socialism.

In the history of the working class movement a variety of different parties have been formed; some following one or other of the above roads
Trying to change capitalism, or "reformism" is the one that has been taken by most people who have wanted to improve society. We do not deny that certain reforms won by the working class have helped to improve our general living and working conditions. Indeed, we see little wrong with people campaigning for reforms that bring essential improvements and enhance the quality of their lives, and some reforms do indeed make a difference to the lives of millions and can be viewed as "successful". There are examples of this in such fields as education, housing, child employment, work conditions and social security. Socialists have to acknowledge that the "welfare" state, the NHS and so on, made living standards for some sections of the working class better than they had been under rampant capitalism and its early ideology of laissez faire, although these ends should never be confused with socialism.

However, in this regard we also recognise that such "successes" have in reality done little more than to keep workers and their families in efficient working order and, while it has taken the edge of the problem, it has rarely managed to remove the problem completely. Socialists do not oppose reformism because it is against improvements in workers' lives lest they dampen their revolutionary ardour; nor, because it thinks that decadent capitalism simply cannot deliver on any reforms; but because our continued existence as propertyless wage slaves undermines whatever attempts we make to control and better our lives through reforms. Our objection to reformism is that by ignoring the essence of class, it throws blood, sweat and tears into battles that will be undermined by the workings of the wages system. All that effort, skill, energy, all those tools could be turned against class society, to create a society of common interest where we can make changes for our common mutual benefit. So long as class exists, any gains will be partial and fleeting, subject to the ongoing struggle.What we are opposed to is the whole culture of reformism, the idea that capitalism can be tamed and made palatable with the right reforms.

We oppose those organisations that promise to deliver a programme of reforms on behalf of the working class, often in order to gain a position of power. Such groups on the Left , often have real aims quite different to the reform programme they peddle. Many of the Left are going to put before the working class only what they think will be understood by the workers - proposals to improve and reform the present capitalist system- and , of course they are going to try to assume the leadership of such struggles as a way of achieving support for their vanguard party. These Left parties may try to initiate such struggles themselves and they will try to muscle in on any struggles of this sort that groups of workers have started off themselves.But it's all very cynical because they know that reformism ultimately leads nowhere (as they readily admit in their theoretical journals meant for circulation amongst their members, though not in the populist, agitational journals). The purpose in telling workers to engage in such struggles is to teach them a lesson, the hard way which is the only way some on the Left think they can learn i.e. by experiencing failure. The expectation is that when, these reformist struggles fail the workers will then turn against capitalism, under the Party Leadership.It is the old argument, advanced by Trotsky in his founding manifesto for the "Fourth International" in 1938 , that socialist consciousness will develop out of the struggle for reforms within capitalism: when workers realise that they can’t get the reforms they have been campaigning for they will, Trotsky pontificated, turn to the "cadres" of the Fourth International for leadership.In fact the working class never never happens so all that's achieved is to encourage reformist illusions amongst workers .The ultimate result of this is disillusionment with the possibility of radical change.

It can be summed up in the following:
1 ) The working class has a reformist consciousness.
2 ) It is the duty of the Revolutionary Party to be where the masses are.
3 ) Therefore, to be with the mass of the working class, we must advocate reforms.
4 ) The working class is only reformist minded.
5 ) Winning reformist battles will give the working class confidence.
6 ) So that, therefore, they will go on to have a socialist revolution.
7 ) The working class will learn from its struggles, and will eventually come to realise that assuming power is the only way to meet its ends.
8 ) That the working class will realise, through the failure of reforms to meet its needs, the futility of reformism and capitalism, and will overthrow it.
9 ) That the working class will come to trust the Party that leads them to victory, and come a social crisis they will follow it to revolution.

It all relies upon a notion of the inherently revolutionary nature of the working class and that through the class struggle this inherently revolutionary character will show itself. Although , it hasn't.
Its also flawed because it shows no reason why, due to the failure of reform, the workers should turn to socialism. Why, since it was people calling themselves socialists who advocated that reform, don't they turn against it, or even to fascism? Under the model of revolution presented by the Trotskyists the only way the working class could come to socialist consciousness is through a revolution is made by the minority with themselves as its leaders.This, then, explains their dubious point about needing to "be" where the mass of the working class is. It is the reason why a supposedly revolutionary party should change its mind to be with the masses, rather than trying to get the masses to change their minds and be with it. They do not want workers to change their minds, merely to become followers. Their efforts are not geared towards changing minds, or raising revolutionary class consciousness.

What of the Labour Party ? They did seek to reform capitalism in the hope that perhaps a sudden change will take place and capitalism will prove to be a fair and fulfilling society for all its members. Now , as the natural conclusion to reformism has completely overrun them, they are a simple party of capitalist maintenance, with objectives of some form of new society being not just shunted into the background but completely out of existence. They are now more dedicated than ever to running with optimal efficiency the very system that creates poverty, misery, homelessness and war. Keeping the system and trying to make it work against its logic is not a viable option. Such reformism has been tried over the years and has failed. Those who set out to change society through winning political power and reforms have had to accept what was always inevitable, that reformism is a graveyard for such hopes. For anyone wishing to bring about a new and better world, reformism requires a pact with the devil. Where the forming of a government means being sucked into running the system. This is what has happened to the Labour Party.
Over decades, millions of workers have invested their hopes in so-called ‘practical’, ‘possibilist’ organisations like the Labour Party, hoping against hope that they would be able to neuter the market economy when, in reality, the market economy has successfully neutered them. they turned out to be the real ‘impossibilists’ – demanding an unattainable humanised capitalism – is one of the greatest tragedies of the last century, made all the greater because it was so predictable.They held idea that capitalism could be reformed into something kindly and user-friendly. It couldn't and it can't.

Socialists understand well the urge to do something now, to make a change. That makes us all the more determined, however, to get the message across, to clear away the barrier of the wages system, so that we can begin to build a truly human society. Why waste time fighting for half measures? We would better spend our time, energies, and resources educating people to establish socialism rather than waste time in the false belief that our present system can be made to work in everyone's interest.We do not claim “capitalist reforms” stand in the way of achieving socialism. If we did we'd logically have to oppose them; which we don't. We encourage workers to fight back against employers and, although we don't propose or advocate reforms, we don't oppose them if they genuinely do improve workers' lives under capitalism. What we say is not that they are obstacles to socialism but merely that they are irrelevant to socialism and that a socialist party should not advocate reforms.
If you are convinced, however, that groups or parties promising reforms deserve your support, we would urge you to consider the following points.The campaign, whether directed at right-wing or left-wing governments, will often only succeed if it can be reconciled with the profit-making needs of the system. In other words, the reform will often be turned to the benefit of the capitalist class at the expense of any working class gain. Any reform can be reversed and eroded later if a government finds it necessary. Reforms rarely, if ever, actually solve the problem they were intended to solve.Socialists make a choice. We choose to use our time and limited funds to work to eliminate the cause of the problems. One can pick any single problem and find that improvements have taken place, usually only after a very long period of agitation. But rarely, if ever, has the problem actually disappeared, and usually other related problems have arisen to fill the vacuum of left by the "solution".
If the view remains that the struggle for reforms is worthwhile then imagine just how many palliatives and ameliorations will be offered and conceded by a besieged capitalist class in a desperate attempt to retain ownership rights if the working class were demanding the maximum programme of full and complete appropriation and nothing less . To stem the socialist tide the capitalist parties will sink their differences and draw closer together, much as religions do today in the face of the world avalanche of atheism. Reforms now derided as Utopian will be two a penny - in an attempt to fob
off the workers. Perhaps, for example, capitalism will provide a batch of free services, on the understanding that this is "the beginning" of a free society, but socialists will not be taken in.

If a pipe bursts and the water is flooding the house , one can start bailing the water out while it continues to flow in , or one can turn the water off, and then start bailing it out . It may take a while to find the tap, but unless the water is turned off, the water will continue to rise and bailing is rather pointless. Socialists are not immune to the human tragedies which occur daily, by the millions, and which generate thousands of social activist groups trying to stem the tide. Socialists suffer those tragedies as severely as anyone else, but work to encourage people to find the tap and turn it off.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rising Up

In the bourgeois revolutionary struggles of 19thCentury , armed insurrection for the bourgeoisie and their working class allies was, in the absence of a wide suffrage, the only form of struggle available and, what is most important, the weapons and fighting methods then in use, made victory for the insurgents, under favourable conditions, possible.With the introduction of the general franchise an entirely new method of the proletarian struggle came into being .The bourgeoisie had more to feared from the legal than the illegal action of the workers' party, more to fear from the successes of the workers in elections than those of their armed rebellion.

What many can’t stand about the SPGB is that we do not advocate violence and therefore cannot offer a practical programme of activity based on it. We are thus labelled as sterile or ‘theoretical’ (this being a term of abuse, naturally). Not that the master class will hesitate at bloodshed if they deem it necessary to the maintenance of capitalist privilege. They have not hesitated to incur bloodshed and murder to maintain their full pound of flesh . But we are not Quakers, and do not rule out the need for violence under these circumstances. We simply argue that it is quite possible, and highly desirable, for a large majority to establish socialism without spilling blood. The more violence is involved, the more likely the revolution is to fail outright, or be blown sideways into a new minority dictatorship.We are not pacifists, but we always make it clear that we think that socialists should only contemplate resorting to violence reluctantly and as a last resort should an anti-socialist minority attempt to prevent by violent means the implementation of the democratically-expressed will of a majority for socialism. So you will find no glorification of violence.

The attitude of fetishism which the some anarchists and Trotskyists show towards "violence" their advocacy of street warfare against overwhelming odds, and their efforts to build up a party on mere desperation and unintelligent discontent only serves to make more difficult the Socialist education and organisation of the workers . Ill-timed revolts, the propaganda of sound-bite slogans in place of knowledge, and the strutting of impotent and empty-headed leaders . All this helps to impede the understanding of socialism and, along with disappointment at the failure of to get them anywhere, drove masses of workers to despair and to indifference to the genuine socialist message. Capitalism is the real enemy, not its managers, nor its police . If scapegoats there must be, we are all deserving. The creation of the human ‘enemy’ in revolutionary politics is the point of departure from the the Socialist Party’s case for change, and the foundation and wellspring of all appeals to violence. In short, any solution which necessitates violence against individuals is probably wrong, not because of some pacifist moral imperative, but because it doesn’t get rid of the problem.

The criterion for judging whether someone is a revolutionary or not is whether they want a rapid and decisive change in the basis of society, not the means they advocate to bring this about.Such a social revolution doesn't have to involve violence, insurrection, civil war, street battles, and executions as in the mistaken, popular conception of "revolution".

But what happens when such a small minority does succeed in winning and holding on to power? Because the "unconscious masses" don't want or understand socialism a key condition for its establishment is missing, so whatever happens socialism can't be the outcome. Not being able to establish socialism the new rulers find themselves obliged to govern what is inevitably still essentially a capitalist economy based on wage-labour, money-commodity relations and trading. The enlightened minority may try to do this more or less "benevolently" but this doesn't make much difference as what can be done, and what happens, is determined not by political will but by economic conditions. The minority may want to improve the living standards of the "unconscious masses" but are severely limited as to what they could do by world market conditions .
Our strategy is that the socialist-minded working class majority should try to bring this about with a minimum of social disruption and violence, by sending a majority of socialist delegates – socialist errand boys and girls – to parliament and take over political control, so depriving the capitalist class of the possibility of using the armed forces to protect themselves. If a minority of recalcitrant pro-capitalists were to seek to resort to violence to defy the politically-expressed will of the majority for socialism, obviously they would have to be dealt with. But, frankly, faced with a socialist majority legitimately in control of political power, even the top brass of the armed forces, let alone the rank and file (who will also be influenced by socialist ideas) would throw in their lot with a doomed hypothetical revolt by a recalcitrant pro-capitalists minority.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Democracy is ....

Socialists have no illusions about the democratic credentials of the politicians of the Left or the Right . What the capitalist class, and the political parties that serve that class, call democracy is a contrived form of consensus in which those political parties conspire to ensure that the maximum number of people accept a system of law which guarantees a minority class in society the legal right to own and control the means of life of the great majority. To achieve and maintain that system capitalism must have political control of the state machine. A vital part of the process that maintains the illusion of democratic choice is the power to confine political knowledge – and, thus, political options – to those parties whose policies are firmly rooted in an acceptance of capitalism. Perhaps the greatest impediment to the rational discussion of ideas is the lies, misinformation and confusion which the media generates on an almost daily basis about possible alternatives to capitalism. When it comes to elections, choice is governed by information and knowledge and, since the allegedly democratic parties have ensured that the public have information about, and knowledge of, the present system and the politicians offering themselves to run this system capitalism goes unchallenged. Like Henry Ford's Model T, which was available in any colour providing it was black, current “democratic” practice is to allow us the widest possible choice as long as it is capitalism.

The most damaging thing to the cause of true democracy is the repeated assurances that what we have nowadays is democracy, and so all the sleaze, all the dumbing down, all the secret negotiations and dirty deals get lumped together to suggest in people's minds that democracy is not all that great. Our masters wouldn't want it any other way.

Given the low turnouts in many elections there has been talk of introducing compulsory voting. This would amount to a state forcing its citizens to legitimize it and runs totally counter to any real notion of democracy. Proportional representation in some form or other such as transferable votes , if instituted, would just be a way of further institutionalising parties, and changing the question from representation to one of balancing the parties' share in the executive. It would merely mean that it would become more difficult for one party to dominate the government and thus go against the overall ruling class interest.All of these changes, however, are merely cosmetic. They represent changes to formal democracy, which has no real power to affect the course of events. At the moment a small group of people control all the wealth and property, and it is upon their interests that everything hinges. It is only by removing such people, and not by tinkering with the form, that true democracy can be reached.

It is the continual boast of modern politicians that we live in a democratic State. When they say “we” they mean, of course, the ruling class. But the so-called democracy conferred on the working class is not a semblance even of the real thing. Two thousand years ago Athens boasted in similar fashion of the democratic State, and the chief principle of the Athenians was that while there existed one man in the community who suffered in justice through the operation of the state laws, the others should not rest until his wrongs had been righted. An injury to one held possibilities of injury to all. But beneath this free and high-principled class was another class, chattel-slaves to them, who had no rights but what were willed to them by their owners.This same description applies to the working class of to-day.

Can the act of electing a government result in a democratic society?

Governments work for the privileged section of society. They make the laws which protect the property rights of the minority who own and control natural resources, industry, manufacture and transport. These are the means of life on which we all depend but most of us have no say in how they are used. Behind parliament governments operate in secret. They are part of the division of the world into rival capitalist states. With the back-up of their armed forces they pursue national capitalist interests. Though the politicians who run it may be elected, the state is the opposite of democracy. Production is owned and controlled by companies, some of them multinational corporations with massive economic power making the decisions on what should be produced for the markets for sale at a profit. Through corporate authority they decide how goods should be produced and the conditions in which work is done. Again, this is the opposite of democracy.

For socialists the rule of government can never he democratic. To govern is to direct, control and to rule with authority. Operating as the state this is what governments do. But to say that democracy is merely the act of electing a government to rule over us cannot be right because democracy should include all people in deciding how we live and what we do as a community. Democracy means the absence of privilege, making our decisions from a position of equality. Democracy means that we should live in a completely open society with unrestricted access to the information relevant to social issues. It means that we should have the powers to act on our decisions, because without such powers decisions are useless.

The vote they were compelled to give, though they made a virtue out of necessity and said they gave it because they loved the principles of democracy. But no matter how they got them, the workers have far more votes than their masters. With the knowledge of their slave-position and the courage to organise, these votes can be used as the means to their emancipation. The capitalist class cannot rescind what they have established. The vote was given to secure their own domination; if they discard it they lose control and have no sanction to govern.By constitutional methods the workers can win their freedom. They have no need to go outside the constitution until they finally destroy it. So the party system together with the franchise pave the way for working-class victory.

Democracy is not a set of rules or a parliament; it is a process, a process that must be fought for. The struggle for democracy is the struggle for socialism. It is not a struggle for reforms, for this or that political system, for this or that leader, for some rule change or other—it is the struggle for an idea, for a belief, a belief that we can run our own lives, that we have a right to a say in how society is run, for a belief that the responsibility for democracy lies not upon the politicians or their bureaucrats, but upon ourselves.

Real democracy will come with socialism. The party system will be exposed as a fraud, consciously practised by the ruling class in their own interest . Real democracy, where people run their neighbourhoods, schools and workplaces democratically from the bottom up, never existed in capitalist society . Socialism will involve people making decisions about their own lives and those of families, friends and neighbours - decisions unencumbered by so many of the factors that have to be taken into account under capitalism. Real democracy is fundamentally incompatible with the idea of leadership. It is about all of us having a direct say in the decisions that affect us. Leadership means handing over the right to make those decisions to someone else.
Common ownership will mean everybody having the right to participate in decisions on how global resources will be used. It means nobody being able to take personal control of resources, beyond their own personal possessions.Democratic control is therefore also essential to the meaning of socialism. Socialism will be a society in which everybody will have the right to participate in the social decisions that affect them. These decisions could be on a wide range of issues—one of the most important kinds of decision, for example, would be how to organise the production of goods and services. Socialism means democracy at all levels of society, including the workplace. Democracy means having the opportunity to intervene in making proposals, amending them and finally deciding upon them - as well as in implementing them. The more people can exercise a say in those actions, the more democratic the process becomes. Information must flow freely, so all can have an opportunity of reaching a decision, of judging the performance of delegates and appointees, of deciding to challenge the actions of one body in a higher authority; and in real democracy, the higher authorities are those bodies which contain more members of the community concerned. Everyday life must be the signalling system that lets people know what their fellows want, the way of co-ordinating votes and decisions. A society of common ownership would have no need of constricting decision-making. We would share a common interest, and most people's actions and decisions would be immediately related to their day-to-day outcomes. Democracy would be an everyday process, just as the management of workplaces is now for the appointees of the owners. Just as appointees now are accountable to and removable by the owners, when we own all the wealth in common we will have structures to ensure that we retain control of all decision-making levels where we feel we have need to intervene, not ritualistically handing that control over to rulers periodically.We say that direct democracy such as mass meetings need not be the only form of democratic control in socialism. For many choicies , decision-making by a committee or council of elected delegates will be more appropriate. In socialism there will certainly be elected assemblies and perhaps some elected officials. In the socialist conception of democracy, such elected people would be subject to recall if, in the opinion of a majority of those who elected them, they have failed to carry out the mandate conferred on them. For, in socialism, all elected persons will be delegates chosen by the community to carry out some task on their behalf. It is therefore only normal that, if they fail to carry out this task properly, the people who elected them should have the power to revoke their mandate, i. e. to recall them and mandate someone else in their place.

Socialists reject all forms of minority action to attempt to establish socialism, which can only be established by the working class when the immense majority have come to want and understand it. Without a socialist working class, there can be no socialism. The establishment of socialism can only be the conscious majority, and therefore democratic, act of a socialist-minded working class. Real democracy is fundamental to socialists. The revolutionary transformation of society must be brought about by the will of the great majority of the people if it is to succeed. Political democracy is the greatest tool (next to its labour-power) that the working class has at its disposal. When the majority of workers support socialism, so called "revolutionary" war will not be required. It is dangerous and futile to follow those who support violence by workers against the armed force of the state. Violent revolution has always meant dead workers, and never meant the liberation of the working class. Unless workers organise consciously and politically and take control over the state machinery, including its armed forces, the state will be ensured a bloody victory.The capitalist class control the state, not by some conspiracy, but with the consent or acquiescence of the majority of the population, a consent which expresses itself in everyday attitudes and, at election times, in voting for parties which support class ownership. It is such majority support expressed through elections that gives the capitalist's control of the state its legitimacy. The minority rule with the assent of the majority, which gives them political control. The first step towards taking over the means of production, therefore, must be to take over control of the state, and the easiest way to do this is via elections. But elections are merely a technique, a method. The most important precondition to taking political control out of the hands of the owning class is that the majority are no longer prepared to be ruled and exploited by a minority; they must withdraw their consent to capitalism and class rule-they must want and understand a socialist society .
What we conspicuously lack is the will and the imagination to look beyond the crippling assumption that capitalism is here to stay. We can change things, by taking matters into our own hands and organising to send mandated socialist delegates to elected bodies instead of falling for the empty promises of capitalist politicians. We make up the vast majority of the electorate but have not yet learned to use the vote in an intelligent way - not to elect capitalist politicians to govern capitalism in the only way it can be, as a system that has to put profits before people - but to send delegates into all elected assemblies mandated to put an end to capitalism. Of course, this assumes that people outside the elected bodies have also mobilised themselves and are ready to play their part in establishing socialism. Taking the decisions away from cliques and into the hands of a community means we would finally move into a collectively conscious, democratic society.