Monday, December 26, 2011

St Paul

People are attracted to Ron Paul as a candidate who is against war, for drug legalization, hands off the internet, etc. and then they swallow the pill and think they hold the key to 'righting' the economy with his gold standard ideas. Why are so many leftists offering sympathy to Ron Paul , a free-market capitalist, right-wing pseudo-libertarian? The ONLY things they have in common is some degree of anti-government sentiment and an anti-war position. Opposition to the state might sound pretty good, but the Libertarian anti-state position is based on a blind faith in the free market. They argue that the benevolent forces of the market economy are curbed by the centralised power of the state, which results in a curtailment of individual liberty. Libertarianism states that it shall be legal for anyone to do anything he wants, provided only that he not initiate (or threaten) violence against the person or legitimately owned property of another. That is, in the free society, one has the right to manufacture, buy or sell any good or service at any mutually agreeable terms. Thus, there would be no victimless crime prohibitions, price controls, government regulation of the economy. If libertarians are serious about liberty, and truly want to live under a state-less system where peace then they must end capitalism, whose invisible hand has been slapping all of us around and pushing us to slay each other.

Today in the United States, Ron Paul seeks to abolish what little services the state still provides for its poor, hungry, and dispossessed. These services were paid for in sweat and blood by activists who aimed to alleviate the stress and misery of poverty for the American working class. Although against reformism we cannot deny the reality that certain reforms such as an eight-hour work-day or welfare assistance help those who cannot endure the nature of our survival-of-the-fittest capitalist state. Social and welfare services which have been forced upon the elite and conceded to the working class during the New Deal and the Great Society, amongst other epochs cannot be written off as unimportant. Militant labour fought for concessions. Poor people now have social programs. Ron Paul's visions are nothing more than the resurrected dreams of robber barons past. He may be against state authority, but it is inconsistent to oppose tyranny in the public sphere of government and leave it unaddressed in the private sphere of work. It is to simply trade one slavemaster for another.

The logic goes something like this: Free-market capitalism on its own would naturally lead to a world of personal freedom and economic prosperity, but this is thwarted by the power of the state, an organism that grows robustly at times of war. Hence, war must be opposed not only because of its own obvious evils, but as a way to drive back the power of the state which is standing in the way of a better life. For Libertarians capitalism is an inherently peaceful system. They ridicule the idea that there is a connection between the nature of capitalism and the wars that constantly break out under it. In the Libertarian’s mind, capitalism is—or should be—a world made up of enterprising capitalists, minding their own business(es) and interacting peacefully, without any need for the state to intervene in these affairs or for wars to be waged overseas. Here we are basically dealing with the viewpoint of the individual capitalist, particularly the small-scale one, who experiences the state as an unpleasant institution that appropriates his hard-earned wealth through taxation, sometimes to pay for wars that bring him no direct benefit. Remove this alien force, he reasons, and life would immediately be much rosier. The “liberty” that Libertarians wax so philosophical about is the freedom of this economic actor to chase after his profit in peace. Ron Paul feels that capitalism can somehow behave more rationally than it does. This Libertarian view of the benevolent nature of a market economy is a selective one. Their focus is on exchange, as a mutually beneficial act. This is a real “win-win” situation, where I give you my widget and get your gadget in return. The reality is quite the opposite. What is left out, however, are some of the strikingly war-like aspects of a capitalist economy, starting first and foremost with the cut-throat competition that goes on in the pursuit of profit. Nor do they dwell on the class divisions inherent to such a system and the conflict that that results. Never minding the fact that profits are squeezed out of workers, thus depriving them of their own personal liberty!

The state and the wars it wages may seem a complete waste of taxpayer money to the individual capitalist (and to the Libertarian who translates his blinkered viewpoint into a grand philosophy), but things look a bit different if we consider the capitalist class as a whole. Like any ruling class throughout history, the minority capitalist class needs the state, as an apparatus of coercion, to maintain its grip on power. And in addition to this age-old function of the state, a capitalist state is also necessary as a means of coordinating the diverse interests of individual capitalists in order to represent their collective interests as capitalists. The example of banking alone shows how deregulation may benefit a tiny stratum of capitalists at the expense of their bourgeois brethren who have to purchase exorbitant or shoddy products. Given this twin-necessity for the state—as policeman and mediating judge—the more far-sighted or financially more comfortable capitalists view the taxes directed to the state apparatus as money well spent. Libertarians, in short, loathe the state without understanding why it must exist and play certain roles under their cherished capitalist system.

And the same shallowness characterizes their view of war, which is fervently opposed without an understanding of its root causes. Tensions between nations are always present over shifts in political allegiances between countries that may benefit some better than others. Global politics is a macrocosm of the local economy, with each company vying to get as much of the business as it can, such as trade, material resources and opportunities for future economic growth. Capitalism, as already noted, generates its own war-like behaviour at home, where capitalists will go to any lengths to vanquish the enemy (i.e. competitors). We may find this behaviour deplorable from the standpoint of human decency, but it does have its own necessity. And there is a similar capitalist logic at play when nation-states jostle and throttle each other for access to markets and resources, despite such behaviour being the height of idiocy from the perspective of humanity as a whole.

Noam Chomsky has said of Ron Paul "He is proposing a form of ultra-nationalism, in which we are concerned solely with our preserving our own wealth and extraordinary advantages..."

Ron Paul wants to abolish "The Fed", the Federal Reserve, America's central bank, a critic of “fractional reserve banking” , as well as an advocate of a return to a gold-backed currency. If Paul had his way, the Fed would no longer manage the issue of the currency. This would pass to the Treasury Department which would only be allowed to issue paper money if it had the equivalent value of gold in Fort Knox. This would be a further absurd waste of resources as much more gold would have to be mined – just to store in places like Fort Knox. Paul thinks that a return to a gold-based currency would eliminate crises such as in the 1930s and today. This is an illusion. There was a gold-based currency up until WWI, yet crises occurred regularly, including a Great Depression in the 1880s and a hundred years ago the same sort of banking crises as today. Capitalism goes through its boom/slump cycle whatever the currency. No monetary reform can change that.

Money originated as a commodity, i.e. something produced by labour that had its own value, which evolved to be the commodity that could be exchanged for any other commodity in amounts equal to the value of the other commodity. Various things have served as the money-commodity, but in the end gold (and silver) was almost universally adopted. Being rare (i.e. requiring more labour to find and extract from nature, so concentrating much value in a small amount), and it was divisible and so easily coined as well as long lasting. As capitalism developed it was found that gold itself did not have to circulate, but that paper notes could substitute for it as long as those accepting or holding it could be sure that they could always change them for gold. Up until WWI in most countries the currency was gold coins and paper notes convertible into gold. The Great Depression of the 1930s led to the major capitalist countries abandoning this convertibility. Since then the currency nearly everywhere has been inconvertible paper notes. With an inconvertible paper currency, the amount of money is no longer fixed automatically by the level of economic transactions, nor is there any limit to the amount of paper currency that can be issued. It is this that Paul objects to because, if the central bank issues more paper money than the amount of gold that would otherwise be needed, then the result will be a depreciation of the currency; the paper money will come to represent a smaller amount of gold with the result that prices generally will rise.

The gold standard was put into effect in the U.S. after the American Civil War. The gold standard in the U.S. was implemented due to demands from Wall Street financiers. they had financed the Union Army based on paper money. They wanted to be able to redeem the debt in dollars worth more than what they provided by tying the dollar to gold, and this would cause deflation, thus raising the value of their dollar-denominated debt. But the effect of this was to restrict growth in the money supply which was to drive down farm commodity prices, impoverishing farmers and driving a huge number of people off the land. That was because, as productivity in agriculture and industry in the U.S. grew in the late 19th century and early 20th century, growth in the money supply didn't follow suit. This led to a constant deflationary tendency. as farmers could get less and less per unit of output, they were unable to pay their debts.

In that era credit in general was extremely scarce. for example, until after World War II, it was hard to get house mortgages in the U.S. Typically you could only get a mortgage for a short period. Consumer credit only really developed in the '20s. This is relevant to the issue of the money supply because expansion of credit expands the money supply. Individualist Anarchists in the US in the 19th century spent a lot of time attacking the gold standard as it allowed the banks to charge extremely high interest as it restricted the money supply. Of course, in practice, banks used lots of techniques to increase the supply to make more profits, of course, but it was a key means of restricting working class access to capital -- which was essential to proletarianise a mostly artisan/peasant (i.e., pre-capitalist) society.

Nor was the deflationary effect necessarily a good thing for workers in the late 19th century. Falling commodity prices meant that employers also were under pressure to cut wages, which they did. It was wage-cutting that provoked the Great Rebellion, the railway strike, of 1877. Recessions/depressions tend to reduce worker bargaining power, and the late 19th century was subject to continual recessionary tendencies, with a big depression in the 1870s and again in the 1890s.

In reality there is no particular reason to tie money to gold. The right-libertarian types such as Ron Paul like gold because the idea is to have control of the money supply independent of the state. Paul cannot be called a currency crank as he has a correct understanding of what causes inflation and his solution would work to stop it, if that what was wanted, even if it would be unnecessary, pointless and a waste of resources.

Ron Paul is not our friend. He is not our ally. He is not fighting for us. If our goal is the eradication of capitalism, then supporting Ron Paul is just completely delusional.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Re-defining the rat race

Rats display human-like empathy and will unselfishly go to the aid of a distressed fellow rodent, research has shown. Rats opened a door to free trapped cage-mates. No reward was needed. There was no other reason to take this action, except to terminate the distress of the trapped rats. Rats still prioritised their cage-mates when offered the option of ''freeing'' chocolate chips. They could been lured away by the distraction and have eaten the entire chocolate stash if they wanted to, and they did not.

In 1925 the French anthropologist Marcel Mauss in “The Gift,” argued that contrary to the textbook account of primitive man merrily trading beaver pelts for wampum, no society was ever based on barter. The dominant practice for thousands of years was instead voluntary gift-giving, which created a binding sense of obligation between potentially hostile groups. To give a gift was not an act based on calculation, but on the refusal to calculate. In the societies Mauss studied most closely — the Maori of New Zealand, the Haida of the Pacific Northwest — people rejected the principles of economic self-interest in favor of arrangements where everyone was perpetually indebted to someone else.

David Graeber argues those once-prevalent relationships based on an incalculable sense of duty deteriorated as buying and selling became the basis of society and as money, previously a marker of favors owed, became valuable in its own right. Graeber’s point is that we ended up enslaving ourselves by thinking of ourselves as fully autonomous. As anyone who works a 9-to-5 job knows, the “right” to sell one’s labor hardly feels like privilege. Graeber thinks it’s a mistake when unions ask for higher wages when they should go back to picketing for fewer working hours.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Trust in God?

Religious believers distrust atheists more than members of other religious groups, gays and feminists, according to a new study by University of B.C. researchers. The only group the study's participants distrusted as much as atheists was rapists.

"People are willing to hire an atheist for a job that is perceived as low-trust, for instance as a waitress," said Will Gervais, lead author of the study. "But when hiring for a high-trust job like daycare worker, they were like, nope, not going to hire an atheist for that job." The antipathy does not seem to run both ways, though. Atheists are indifferent to religious belief when it comes to deciding who is trustworthy. "Atheists don't necessarily favour other atheists over Christians or anyone else," he said. "They seem to think that religion is not an important signal for who you can trust."

And in the Bible we read:-

" Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling"

God exacting his revenge on pregnant women and infants. Hebrew soldiers killing all the non-virgin women and raping the others.

And who should we trust, the believer or unbeliever?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

reforms change little

Eugene Debs once said, “Its better to ask for what you want and not get it, than ask for what you don’t want and get it.” If you really want socialism, join the World Socialist Movement. Ask for what you do want.

After over a century of reform activity, and the sincere efforts of a multitude of reformers, the world is in a greater mess than ever it was. We socialists are often accused of being opposed to reforms, social legislation designed to ameliorate some intolerable situation. Not so. We of the World Socialist Movement are not opposed to reforms per se, any more than we advocate them. The really vital reforms of capitalism were won a long time ago, for instance, the vote that gave the working class the opportunity to take its fate into its own hands.The position of a revolutionary is to reject reformism - the advocacy of reforms - which is not the same thing as opposing reforms themselves. Reformism is the promotion of reforms and it is this that we revolutionaries should not be engaged in. Trying to mend capitalism is incompatible with trying to end capitalism. For ourselves, radicalisation entails the conscious propagandisation of the communist alternative under each and every circumstance thrown up by capitalism. It an interactive process between thought and practice driven by a clear and unambigous conception of what we are to replace capitalism with. Nothing less will do. Unless we know what to replace capitalism with, capitalism will not be replaced. We will be stuck with it. It is literally a case of one or the other

We make a very clear distinction between reformist struggle and other forms of struggle. We are 100 % behind militant industrial struggle. fully support militant struggle by workers as a class and as individuals in the economic domain to resist the downward pressures of capital. In fact, in our view, the trade union movement has largely compromised and weakened itself by blurring this distinction as for example in the UK where many unions are affiliated to the capitalist Labour Party. Trade unions should stick to the economic domain where they work much better as militant organisations of the working class. Reformist struggles are qualitatively different in kind to industrial struggle since they are of a political nature and seek to impact on the way capitalism is administered in terms of policies. What those who are essentially advocating is reformism in the belief that it entails some kind of progressive dynamic which will lead us somewhere closer to achieving a socialist society. In fact all the historical evdience shows that your progressive changes lead to the abandonment of revolutionary socialism and the co-option of erstwhile revolutionary socialists into capitalism In any case it is nonsense to suggest that revolutionary socialism means "standing outside of the political process". This a terribly mechanical not to say narrow minded, concept of what the political process actually is.

Nor can we automatically assume that crises help to radicalise workers. In fact, there is strong empirical evidence to the contrary some, recent studies show that a crisis tends to make some workers more fearful of the future, more conservative and more conformist even though it might well radicalise others. One must never forget the lessons of pre-war Germany and the depression which helped to fuel the growth of the Nazi movement. Revolutions are not simply the result of social crises and class struggle, they are mediated by consciousness. The ideas themselves don't stand alone but are drawn from the class struggle and in turn recipriocally influence the struggle. Its a two way interactive process not a one way street. As far as a communist revolution is concerned while we may not know what shape the working class is in when it happens we do know that a significant majority must understand and want communism in order for a communist revolution to happen. Communism absolutely neccessitates conscious majority support and therefore a revolutiuon which does not have this conscious majority support will not be a communist revolution becuase the outcome will not be communism. The revolution is effected by the communist minded working class seizing power and declaring capitalism null and void. This is fully consistent, with the point about the seizure of political power by the proletariat being the precondition for the "historical process of revolutionary change". But in order for the proletariat to seize power and effect a revolutionary change it has to be substantially communist-minded in the first place. This is absolutely essential and is integral to the Marxian perspective. Engels points this out in the introduction to Marx's Class struggles in France "Where it is a question of a complete transformation of the social organization, the masses themselves must also be in it, must themselves already have grasped what is at stake, what they are going in for [with body and soul]."

Of course, socialist consciousness comes through struggle not just propagandising. This is not an either/or situation. It is actually mutually reinforcing. The struggle gives rise to the ideas and the ideas in turn help to clarify and strengthen the stuggle. Part of my argument against reformism is that it actually weakens the position of workers. It doesnt radicalise them at all. It ties them politically to capitalism via capitalist political parties that aim to garner support through the advocacy of reforms. This is what workers need to reject. They will actually become much more militant in my view if they completely rejected the refromist illusion that capitalism can be moulded to accommodate their interests and if they came to regonise that the interests of workers are diametrically opposed to the capitalists. This is what revolutionaries should be doing - saying how it actually is not trying to dishonestly socially engineer workers into coming over to them by dangling reforms in front of them which they know full well are not going to modify the position of the exploited class. In the end if you do not break with the logic of capital completely and in ideological terms, if you do not explicitly advocate a genuine alternative to capitalism, there is no way on earth that you will ever create an alternative to capitalism. You will remain forever stuck in the reformist treadmill going nowhere. Although the ultimate aim of the radical fighting for a reform may be the self emancipation of the working class, it will never ever come to self emancipation of the working class precisely because fighting for reforms is a trap fromn which you will never ever escape unless you stop fighting for reforms and raise your sights higher. Capitalism cannot be reformed in the interests of workjers so fighting for reforms in the interests of the workers is fordoomed. It is simply a treadmill which will never lead on to anything else. "Radicalisation" is the result of an interaction between material struggles - workers organising on the industrial and social terrain - and communist ideas. Above all it involves the explicit and conscious embrace of the communist goal - a non market non statist alternative to capitalism. This is what truly constitutes radical in the sense of a root change.

There is no real evidence that it does lead to a communist outlook. Many radicals ultimately end up in in the ghetto of worthy liberal causes which only serve to fragment working class solidarity in plethora of separate struggles each demanding attention at the expense of others . Or they become disillusoned old cynics in later life and join the establishment. We dont say socialists need to stand on the sidelines and tell workers to drop their illusions and follow us. Firstly we reject the whole principle of vanguardism and leadership. Secondly we dont say we should stand on the sidelines. No revolutionary ever is on the sidelines anyway. This is a meaningless way of looking at this anyway. We are all involved in the class struggle whether we like or not or whether we are aware oif it or not. As workers we will join with our fellow workers in a union to fight the bosses in the indistrial field. We are simply members of the working class who has come to communist conclusions. We dont exist in some sense outside of the working class telling the working class what to do. This is an elitist leninist perspective which we abjure. As communist workers we will therefore put across communist ideas - about communism, about rejecting nationalism, racism and sexisim and so on and so forth. Speading ideas is essential. Everybody without exception believes their ideas are the right ones - otherwise they would not hold or expression them. Its got nothing to do with "leadership". Its what human beings do - talk, discuss , argue. If it is elitist in and of itself to express an idea then what you are trying to say is that we really should not express ideas at all . We should keep mum about our political vierws. That is quite absurd. If everyone followed that adviice there would be discussion about anything. People do develops their ideas as a result of hearing other ideas. This is not "idealist". Materialism does not deny the role of ideas, what it denies is the "independent" role of ideas, that social developments are completely explicable in terms of the impact of ideas alone. This is false but nevertheless it is quite true that all social developments involve an exchange of ideas between historical actors and could not happen without that.

Radicals talk of the need to have the ear and confidence of the working class. They want to say to workers "yeah, great carry on with your reformist struggles. We're with you all the all way" even though in their heart of hearts they know that this is a recipe for failure. This is not honest and dishonesty does not pay in the end. It is far better to say what you really think and feel to be the case however unpopular or out of touch it might might make you seem at the time. Workers wilkl not thank you for trying to lead them up the garden path and you will certainly not gain their confidence as a result. You stand to lose their confidence completely and this is in fact the story of the Left in general. It has marginalised itself precisely becuase of its opportunistic relationship with the working class.

Some on the Left have a kind of festishised view of "action" that there is something latent or inherent in the acts one carries out that somehow drives one forward into becoming a communist. This is wrong. Strikes, protests demonstartions and all these sorts of activities dont carry any necessary communist implications whatsoever. It is the interaction of ideas and actions which is what is needed. This is the point Im trying to make about radicalisation. If you ignore the importance of ideas and the necessity for a clear and explicit alternative to capitalism you will never ever pose a serious threat to capitalism. Never. Reformist struggle does not necessarily imply a passive working class. This is the point. Workers can be actively engaged in reformist struggles to get governements to introduce measures that they perceive to be in their economic interests. But in the end they actually help to weaken not strenthgthen the working class by tying it ideologically to capitalism, fostering the illusion that capitalism can be run in the interests of workers and entrenching their dependence on capitalist governments to do it for them.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

political integrity

One of the more over-looked elements of the Sheridan farce is the question of political party democracy. Secret minutes of EC meetings . Star Chamber interrogations.

The SPGB minutes of EC meetings are posted on our website for all to see. EC meetings themselves open to the public.

THAT IS our commitment to party democracy .
THAT IS one of our methods for maintaining membership control of our party .
THAT IS the lesson of the Tommy Sheridan court case .

Monday, December 05, 2011

food facts

At present, the total quantity of food that is produced globally is good enough to meet the daily needs of 11.5 billion people. If every individual were to get his daily food requirement as per the WHO norms, there would be abundant food supplies. In terms of calories, against the average per capita requirement of 2,300, what is available is a little more than 4,500 calories.

An average American consumes about 125 kg of meat, including 46 kg of poultry meat. While the Indians are still lagging behind, the Chinese are fast catching up with the American lifestyle. The Chinese consume about 70 kg of meat on average each year, inclusive of 8.7 kg of poultry meat. The Indian average is around 3.5 kg of meat, much of it (2.1 kg) coming from poultry. If you put all this together, the Chinese are the biggest meat eaters, and for obvious reasons - devouring close to 100 million tonnes every year. America is not far behind, consuming about 35 million tonnes of meat in a year. Six times more grain is required to provide the proteins that are consumed by the meat-eaters. Americans throw away as much as 30 percent of their food.

The 1996 World Food Summit, political leaders pledged to pull out half the world's hungry (at that time the figure was somewhere around 840 million) by the years 2015. In other words, by 2010, the world should have removed at least 300 million people from the hunger list. Instead it has added another 85 million to raise the hunger tally to 925 million. Considering FAO's projections of the number of people succumbing to hunger and malnutrition at around 24,000 a day, it is estimated that by the year 2015, the 20 years time limit that World Food Summit had decided to work on to pull out half the hungry, 172 million people would die of hunger.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

working hours

The fight to discipline peasants into proletarians is indeed interesting. One of capitalism's myths is that it has reduced human toil yet Bushmen work two-and-a-half days per week and on average the working day was less than five hours.

In the Middle Ages hours of work was tied to the seasons and the number of holidays and fairs were many. Work was intermittent - called to a halt for breakfast, lunch, the customary afternoon nap, and dinner with also mid-morning and mid-afternoon refreshment breaks. The medieval workday was probably not more than eight hours. Days off in medieval England took up probably about one-third of the year. And the English were apparently working harder than their neighbors. In France they were guaranteed fifty-two Sundays, ninety rest days, and thirty-eight holidays. In Spain holidays totalled five months per year.

13th century - Adult male peasant, U.K.: 1620 hours
Calculated from Gregory Clark's estimate of 150 days per family, assumes 12 hours per day, 135 days per year for adult male ("Impatience, Poverty, and Open Field Agriculture", mimeo, 1986)

14th century - Casual laborer, U.K.: 1440 hours
Calculated from Nora Ritchie's estimate of 120 days per year. Assumes 12-hour day. ("Labour conditions in Essex in the reign of Richard II", in E.M. Carus-Wilson, ed., Essays in Economic History, vol. II, London: Edward Arnold, 1962).

Middle ages - English worker: 2309 hours
Juliet Schor's estime of average medieval laborer working two-thirds of the year at 9.5 hours per day

1400-1600 - Farmer-miner, adult male, U.K.: 1980 hours
Calculated from Ian Blanchard's estimate of 180 days per year. Assumes 11-hour day ("Labour productivity and work psychology in the English mining industry, 1400-1600", Economic History Review 31, 23 (1978).

But for capitalism , there was a financial incentive to maximize the return on expensive machinery by having long hours, twelve to sixteen hours per day, six to seven days per week were practiced. Cottage handicraft workers learned to fear and hate factory work and its pace of work and degree of discipline. Clocks, not daylight or weather established work patterns. Workers often attempted to observed "Holy Monday" to lengthen the weekend

1840 - Average worker, U.K.: 3105-3588 hours
Based on 69-hour week; hours from W.S. Woytinsky, "Hours of labor," in Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, vol. III (New York: Macmillan, 1935). Low estimate assumes 45 week year, high one assumes 52 week year

1850 - Average worker, U.S.: 3150-3650 hours
Based on 70-hour week; hours from Joseph Zeisel, "The workweek in American industry, 1850-1956", Monthly Labor Review 81, 23-29 (1958). Low estimate assumes 45 week year, high one assumes 52 week year

Workers have simply recovered what they had four or five centuries ago and but who are now under threat once again of losing.

1987 - Average worker, U.S.: 1949 hours
From The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, by Juliet B. Schor, Table 2.4

1988 - Manufacturing workers, U.K.: 1856 hours
Calculated from Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Office of Productivity and Technology

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Thursday, December 01, 2011


Magicians do not claim to be practising magic in the literal sense. They see themselves as entertainers who hood-wink the public by what they call “tricks”. It is the self-styled “psychics” who are the problem who claim to be exercising special powers and who take advantage of the bereaved to make a show of pretending to contact the spirits of the dead.

Many, perhaps a majority, believe that there is life after death. Although a number of churches discourage the view, some draw the conclusion that it is therefore possible for the living to contact the dead and vice versa. This is the basis of spiritualism and its "mediums" between the living and the dead. Spiritualists have evolved an elaborate theory to explain how this is possible but most adepts are no more interested in this than the average church-goer is in theology. It's the simple, popular belief that it is possible to contact the dead that attracts them. Science is based upon knowledge and knowledge only. Observation, experiment, classification, generalisation, are its methods. Since there is no scientific evidence of life after death, it's reasonable to assume that mediums cannot be contacting the dead. So what are they doing? Some will be out-and-out frauds who are deceiving vulnerable and gullible people as a way of obtaining the money we must all obtain, one way or another, to survive under capitalism.

Socialists see humans as an animal species that has succeeded in adapting the natural world to meet its needs. We view with wonder and astonishment its magnificent accomplishments in the fields of agriculture and technology . We place our faith not in supernatural forces, but in the intelligence and knowledge of the working class. Socialist understanding is based not simply on a materialist approach to history but also on a materialist approach to the universe, and also to life – this is the only one all of us are going to get, so let's make the most of it.