Saturday, December 29, 2012

capitalism is the problem - socialism is the solution

Capitalism has created all the economic prerequisites for socialism but all around us we see skills and talents squandered by unemployment or pointless work while the liberating potential of automation and computerisation is misused and misapplied. Millions of people face starvation while there is food in abundance. Millions die from diseases that can be easily be prevented or cured. Something is wrong with the world and most people know it. We are told we are free but we don't feel free. No longer are we convinced by the "virtues" of capitalism. Even its apologists can not sell a vision of a better capitalist future and instead people looking forwards can only picture a dystopia of despair.

Millions are turning away in disgust from the social and political status quo but, so far, only a tiny fraction of them are understanding the need for socialism. Discontent is mounting. Every day people are more repelled by the present political, economic, and social order, however, many fall into a cynical disillusionment and see no point joining a party, no point voting, no point protesting. It would be quite wrong, however, to believe that most people are apathetic about politics but when they look for solutions they see them in religion, in nationalist myths and the myriad of single-issue and identity politics. Their protest demands amount to mere appeals, petitioning the ruling class for more sops. Is it no wonder people quickly realise that the demands for reforms make little difference even if achieved and even desert those. All the time  they are campaigning for palliatives they never hear the communist case, never discuss communist ideas. The time spent making reformist demands is time not spent talking about the need for revolutionary change. We need to be positively advocating socialism as a practical possibility and an achievable one. The primary purpose of being a socialists is to raise people’s consciousness and to further social democracy. The organisational structures we are creating today and the means we opt to engage in will reflect the type of society the future will inherit so it is mportant that we should work out forms of organisation and stategies of mass action that are genuinely participatory and empowering. The question of class/party organisation and the question of class consciousness are inseparable, they are two aspects of the same development.

The 19th century Chartists organised enormous petitions, with millions of signatures. These were ignored. Still petitions circulate in political campaigns. Huge demonstrations have taken place but they too are ignored. But still we march. The Occupy movement showed a way by transforming parks into public forums and general assemblies but they too failed when faced by the coercive machinery of the state. This is unpalatable but true.

We do not present policies for capitalism's salvation or offer a better capitlaism. It isn't just the this form of capitalism or that version we oppose, but capitalism as such itself. It isn't just who profits and by how much that we oppose, but it is the entire concept of profit, which is always generated from the appropriation of surplus labour extracted from the working class by wage slavery.

So far, only a tiny fraction of people understand the need for the alternative - socialism, a society with no private property, no classes, and no state. The real opposition to capitalism is still struggling to be born. It will take shape in the workplace and in the street, in colleges and in communities. Capitalism has outlived its usefulness, but it won't just fade away of its own accord. It needs to be abolished. We are the majority of the population and we are endowed with eloquent spokes-persons and capable organisers, but we don't exercise any real power – so we are ignored. Yet every day brings a clash between most people's interests and those of the few who possess the power. William Morris called upon the working class to acquire the "intelligence enough to conceive, courage enough to will, power enough to compel."  In Marxist terms, a class ‘for itself’ – a class that is not just passively united in its unions because of its position in production, but that is also politically organised to assert its interests against the ruling class. Socialism is in the interests of, and to be fought for by, the whole proletariat; and will transform the whole of social and economic and political life. Forms of collective actions and organisation must include and involve all sections of the class, and not simply those who happen to be employed and organised at their factory floor or office or store. That is why a political party is required, to encompass the working class as a whole and not just parts.

In a society with no private property and no classes, a communist society, everyone would be free to contribute 'according to ability' and to take 'according to need'. Production would be for use, not for profit, and would be rationally planned by mutual agreement. Technology would be employed to reduce and eliminate mindless drudgery, allowing people to develop their creative potential to the full. With no class privilege to defend, the state would no longer be required. Communist society would be a free society.

 Socialism is as old as class society itself. But it is only relatively recently that it has become a practical question. Capitalism has created an economy where everything is interdependent and socialized. In Britain, most people obtain their food supplies from four or five big firms. The supermarkets are already a model of efficient planning. However it is planning with no democratic control and the whole operation is aimed at realizing maximum profits for share-holders rather than at the general welfare; but the mechanism is there. Socialist society would only need to turn the task of administration and decision-making over to those who participate in the production and distrubution process. Socialist seek an economy which serves all the people and all the planet.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Israel's apartheid

Shimon Gapso, the mayor of Upper Nazareth, had banned Christmas trees from all public buildings in his northern Israeli city. “Upper Nazareth is a Jewish town and all its symbols are Jewish,” Gapso said. “As long as I hold office, no non-Jewish symbol will be presented in the city.” The city’s chief rabbi, Isaiah Herzl, has refused to countenance a single Christmas tree in Upper Nazareth, arguing that it would be “offensive to Jewish eyes”.

 A recent letter from Haifa’s rabbinate came to light in which the city’s hotels and events halls were reminded that they must not host New Year’s parties at the end of this month (the Jewish New Year happens at a different time of year). The hotels and halls were warned that they would be denied their kashrut (kosher) licences if they did so. “It is a seriously forbidden to hold any event at the end of the calendar year that is connected with or displays anything from the non-Jewish festivals,” the letter states.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


In a letter to Maxim Gorky in 1913, Lenin pointed out that "a war between Austria and Russia would be a very useful thing for the revolutions throughout Eastern Europe, but it is not very probable that Franz-Josef and Nicky will give us this pleasure." So much for Lenin's ability to read into the future.  In Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism he sought to demonstrate that capitalism was not only in decline, but exhausted its progressive role in history, it had become, in its imperialist phase, positively retrogressive, also missed the mark.  Lenin’s article on imperialism was written at a time where members of the Second International were busy voting for war credits while the working class was being slaughtered by the millions so Lenin was not interested in writing a “theory” of imperialism for all time but a polemic during WW1, an inter-imperialist conflict. The main branch of support for this was that it was German militarism which supposedly caused the war. Lenin made the point of showing how all the allied powers were probably far worse imperialists and militarists than Germany. Having identified the "age of imperialism" as "capitalism's last stage of development" and as "the eve of the proletarian revolution," Lenin saw the WW1 as the beginning of an international revolution and consistently called not for the restoration of the capitalist peace but for turning the imperialist war into civil war.

Lenin's anti-imperial analysis gets in the way of a class analysis too much -- especially since a useful class analysis should be rooted in immediate experience and struggle. The basis for an labour aristocracy — so called “superprofits” — simply does not correlate with the actual profits, and investments made in less developed countries. If the goal of imperialism, according to Lenin, is to extract super-profits, then how does one explain the fact that the USA invests far more in places like Canada or Britain than Nigeria or the Philippines?

Marx's explanation as to why wages were higher in some countries is that productivity and the rate of exploitation (ratio of paid to unpaid labour) are higher there:
"The more productive one country is relative to another in the world market, the higher will be its wages compared with the other. In England, not only nominal wages but (also) real wages are higher than on the continent. The worker eats more meat, he satisfies more needs. This, however, only applies to the industrial worker and not the agricultural labourer. But in proportion to the productivity of the English workers their wages are not higher (than the wages paid in other countries)"
(Theories of Surplus Value, Part Two, pages 16-17).

Industrialisation and technology works both to reduce the costs of subsistence and drive down the cost of wages and coincidentally allows wages to rise above “absolute subsistence” to the required level of social subsistence.

The actual source of the higher wages afforded the workers in the advanced countries is derived from 1) The higher costs of subsistence and  the costs of reproduction of a skilled working class capable of functioning in an advanced country. 2) The shrinking portion of wages, no matter how high, in the exchange with capital — in relation to the constant capital — machinery, raw materials, so that wages even ten times those of wage-laborers in less-developed countries are still a smaller portion of the “total input” into capital. Industrialisation and technology works both to reduce the costs of subsistence and drive down the cost of wages and coincidentally allows wages to rise above “absolute subsistence” to the required level of social subsistence. 3) The class struggle. The working class is seen as passive. This is particularly clear in Lenin's conception of the labour aristocracy in terms of workers being 'bought off' rather than in terms of them winning concessions. Where does a wage rise gained by struggle end and a bribe begin? Lenin's theory is to locate the movement towards communism in the contradictions of capital as an objective economic system rather than in the revolutionary self-activity of the working class. The group Wildcat argued  .
"Lenin argued that Imperialism was in part a conscious strategy to buy off the working classes in the Imperialist countries. His evidence consists of one quote from arch-imperialist Cecil Rhodes, and one from Engels to the effect that the workers of England "merrily share the feast" of its colonies...From Rhodes' opinion that Imperialism would help avoid revolution in Britain, Lenin derived his theory of the Labour Aristocracy...Lenin's position was not a mistake. The Labour Aristocracy theory had the political purpose of enabling the Bolsheviks to argue for the workers in the colonies to form united fronts with their local ruling classes against Imperialism. This in turn had the aim of dividing the working class internationally, and turning it into cannon fodder for capitalist war."

Any supposed "Marxism" which tells workers in poor countries that they have more in common with their own ruling class than with the workers of the 'rich' countries is a fraud.  Any supposed "Marxism" that militates against the fundamental idea for the workers of the world to unite to overthrow all their exploiters and oppressors is clearly not Marxist . It is political poison for workers everywhere. Imperialism is not the “highest stage of capitalism” but a normal feature of capitalism from its beginnings. The overthrow of US  imperialism without the overthrow of capitalism would merely result in a global imperialist system led by some other power. Lenin's theory of imperialism pits the working class of undeveloped countries against that of the developed ones, upholding national interest against class interest. All nation-states are imperialist. They promote their own interests at the expense of rivals; they compete for larger markets for their own national capitals. Some (those who can get away with it) are militaristic; the biggest are global adventurers (eg the USA, Britain, France, China) and the smaller powers are local adventurers (India and Indonesia); and the really weak 'merely' support terrorist movements in other countries. The more powerful states throw their muscle around to intimidate other states, but they also have their clients and these clients are constantly trying to extend their own spheres of influence, either economically or militarily or both. Imperialism is just another name for geo-politics.

 There is no doubting the Bolsheviks sincerity, only their judgement. The extent to which the Bolshevik leaders really did believe at this time that they were turning “Russia into a socialist country”can be gauged from a passage in an article included in this book that Zinoviev later wrote on his “Twelve Days in Germany”:“We are approaching a time when we shall do away with all money. We are paying wages in kind, we are introducing free tramways, we have free schools, a free dinner, perhaps for the time being unsatisfactory free housing, light, etc.”

How divorced from reality can be gauged from this 1920 claim by Zinoviev quoted in a book that received extensive reviews by the CPGB that in England “the beginning of the proletarian revolution can be clearly seen...I am convinced that in two or three years, it will be said that this was the beginning of a new era. The proletarian revolution has a great chance in England.”

 It was who Martov argued that the workers in Europe were certainly discontented but that this was not an expression of socialist consciousness but of despair.  Martov said that the Bolshevik party had “conquered state power in a country with a proletariat that was numerically insignificant, a country with an insignificant productivity of labour, with a complete lack of the basic economic and cultural preconditions for the organisation of socialist production - and these objective conditions presented the Bolsheviks with an insurmountable obstacle for the realisation of their ideals.”He went on to point out that “the development of the revolution in the West …is not going as quickly as the Bolshevik party had reckoned when it obtained state power through a fortunate confluence of circumstances and then used this power in an attempt to turn Russia into a socialist country by a radically accelerated path.” Lih says that Martov could be seen as a sort of “premature Trotskyist”, however the SPGB would argue he reflects of our own position.

 The Bolsheviks had choices.

.(1) To share power with bourgeois parties.  (2) to entrench themselves in intransigent opposition and decline the responsibilities of power (3) to try to seize power by force.

The last option was the Bolshevik solution. It failed to produce socialism and necessarily failed to do so because even in power and ruling by dictat, the Commissars of the people, still found themselves face-to-face with hard economic reality, denying them the possibility of immediate establishment of Socialism."

"Bourgeois revolution" signifies a revolution that destroys feudalism and opens the way to industrialization, with all the social consequences this implies. The Russian Revolution is thus in the direct line of the English Revolution and the French Revolution. The Russian working class was not yet mature enough to govern itself.  The Russian Revolution may seemed to be a proletarian revolution but the participation of workers is not suffice. The criteria is if the workers are simply the foot-soldiers of others or if they fight for their own goals.

Prior to October 1917 the Communist Party never proclaimed that it had to take power or that its dictatorship would be the dictatorship of the proletariat. It had always proclaimed that the soviets, the representatives of the masses, had to take power; the Party itself formulated this program, it fought for it, and since the majority of the soviets finally acknowledged this program to be correct, they took government power into their hands, at which moment the Communist Cadres spontaneously took control of its executive offices. The Bolshevik Party, little by little, succeeded in appropriating more and more power. The Russian factories were again ruled by managers appointed from above and all the important political positions had been seized by the Communist Party. The workers got new masters instead of the old ones. The workers were not masters over their workshops, they were not masters of the means of production. Capitalism does not change by a change of management personnel. The essence of socialism is that the working class direct their work themselves, collectively.

Like a meteor the Russian revolution flared up and lit up the World. Only a few years it had burnt out. The character of  Russia determined the character of the Third International, red-hot rhetoric and shameless opportunism.

Martov recognized the Russian Revolution to be a progressive, pro-capitalist, national revolution that cleared the way for the solution of the economic backwardness of the country. He recognized the Russian Revolution as a "bourgeois" revolution, directed in part by the proletariat and impregnated with the utopianism typical of the proletariat of a backward country. He emphasized that the dictatorship of the Bolshevik "professional revolutionists" was not to be confused with the "dictatorship" of the working class, which, according to him, was impossible in a country like Russia. He foresaw that the pretensions to a program of world revolution affected by the Bolsheviks during their "heroic" period served as a sort of camouflage to protect their rule, and would in time give way again to the program of Russian "national socialism," the traditional and real program of Bolshevism.

"Martov expected the workers themselves to accomplish their emancipation. He believed that with historic experience, the working class would undergo a political and moral development and overcome in time the current Utopias and swindles in political theory and practice fostered among them by various sets of "leaders." He understood that the socialist revolution could only take place in countries that were economically ripe for socialism. He understood that the political setup produced by the socialist revolution could never be the Jacobin dictatorship of a revolutionary minority but could only be the expression of the majority rule of the population. He believed that after the proletariat of the countries economically ripe for socialism had once seized power, it could never find itself in a situation where its rule was anything else but the majority rule of the population."
- from the foreward by Integer (1938) to The State and the Socialist Revolution, articles by Martov written between 1919 and 1923.

Martov ridiculed the Bolsheviks for their belief that revolutions were ready to break out everywhere, for their belief that workers and peasants, by embracing Soviets (a world merely meaning Council), could establish Socialism. He held the Marxian view that no political form can enable Socialism to be won, unless the material conditions are ripe for such a change, unless capitalism has reached a high degree of development. Says Martov: “Soviets are the perfect form of State. They are the magic wand by which all inequalities, all misery, may be suppressed” adding that it is “No less than mystic is the concept of a political form that, by virtue of its particular character, can surmount all economic social and national conditions”

In his essay on “Dictatorship of the Minority”, Martov shows how the Bolsheviks were forced by conditions of the time to change their tactics and ideas.

In 1917, Lenin urged that the Russian workers would shatter the old bureaucratic and oppressive features of the State, once they had gained political power. He wrote of “the substitution of a universal popular militia for the police”, of the “electiveness and recall at any moment of all functionaries and commanding ranks”, of “workers’ control in its primitive sense, direct participation of the people at the courts” . Indeed, Lenin claimed that the triumph of the Bolsheviks would bring to the Russian workers a more real democracy than that found in capitalist countries with the parliamentary system.

This soon proved to be an idle dream. (And yet, perhaps, it was not so “idle”, since such talk helped Lenin and his clique to gain support and power.) In any case, the programme above outlined was soon abandoned. It was found impossible to put it into effect in face of the backward condition of industry and agriculture, and of the peasant outlook. Already, by1919, Martov could observe that the machinery of State in Russia was being strengthened, and that the apparatus for repression was being improved and extended. Martov sums up the matter in these words:

“Reality has cruelly shattered all these illusions. The ‘Soviet State’ has not established in any instance electiveness and recall of public officials and the commanding staff. It has not suppressed the professional police . . . It has not done away with social hierarchy in production . . . On the contrary, in proportion to its evolution, the Soviet State shows a tendency in the opposite direction. It shows a tendency toward the utmost possible strengthening of the principles of hierarchy and compulsion. It shows a tendency toward the development of a more specialised apparatus of repression than before . . . It shows a tendency toward the total freedom of the executive organisms from the tutelage of the electors” 
Again Martov tells us how things developed after 1917. “In Russia the evolution of the ‘Soviet State’ has already created a new and complicated State machine, based on the ‘administration of persons’ as against the ‘administration of things’ based on the opposition of  . . . The functionary (official) to the citizen. THESE ANTAGONISMS ARE IN NO WAY DIFFERENT FROM THE ANTAGONISMS THAT CHARACTERISE THE CAPITALIST STATE” (Our emphasis).

Engels and Marx knew from experience that before there could be a Socialist revolution, capitalism must have reached a high stage of development for “no social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room within it have been developed; and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society” (Marx’s Preface to the Critique of Political Economy).

The Bolsheviks, however, thought it possible for an active minority, representing the vague aspirations of the workers, to gain political power before the capitalist revolution itself had been completed. What would happen if such a minority gained a political victory over the capitalist classes?

Marx himself answers this question in clear-cut terms in his article, “Moralising Criticism”. Briefly stated, his answer is the following: In those circumstances, the minority become merely the tools of the capitalist class, which has not been virile enough to gain or hold power. Such a minority finds itself in the position of having to develop and run capitalism for a class unable, at the time, to do it successfully itself. Hence, let it be remembered, in running capitalism, the minority will be compelled to use its power to keep the working class in its slave position. Says Marx:

“Its victory will only be a point in the process of the bourgeois (capitalist) revolution itself, and will serve the cause of the latter by aiding its further development. This happened in 1794, and will happen again as long as the march, the movement, of history will not have elaborated the material factors that will create the necessity of putting an end to the bourgeois methods of production and, as a consequence, to the political domination of the bourgeoisie”

Hence, we see the real content and meaning of the Russian Revolution. It was “only a point in the process of the capitalist revolution itself”.  The Bolsheviks, finding Russia in a very backward condition, were obliged themselves to do what had not been done previously, i.e., develop capitalism. The Bolsheviks performed the task of setting Russian capitalism on its feet and helping it through a very stormy period. “For the proletariat can score a victory over when the march of history will have elaborated the NECESSITY (not merely the objective POSSIBILITY) of putting an end to the capitalist methods of production” .

 Martov’s appears to add further proof of the correctness of the attitude taken up by the SPGB on the Russian Revolution. He dispels many of those illusions which have been hindering the growth of a socialist movement during the years. Martov put forward the Marxist argument against this. Socialism, he argued, could only be achieved by a politically conscious working class. It is the experience of workers under capitalism which drives them to understand the need for Socialism and this process is enhanced by the degree of democracy which they have won for themselves. Dictatorial power wielded by a vanguard minority, no matter how sincere its intentions, can never act as a substitute. That way the workers remain a subject class and the dictators, having acquired a taste for power, consolidate their own rule.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Talking about the war

James Heartfield's book The Unpatriotic History of the Second World War views the war as an inter-imperialist conflict not worth the shedding of a single drop of working class blood. His position is similar to our own in the Socialist Party of Great Britain. The history of the Second World War's official account is so profoundly ideological. Official history sees Britain betrayed by the (Tory) appeasers, and rescued by a combination of Winston Churchill's patriotism and Labour's anti-fascists. Revisionists have tried to show that appeasement was a necessary breathing space to build up the military means to defeat Hitler. But like much of the European ruling class, British leaders sympathised with Hitler's goal of crushing working class power, both in Germany and elsewhere. That was what Churchill admired in Mussolini and Hitler. But where German territorial expansion threatened British markets in Europe, and territory in the colonies, they opposed it. 'Better Hitler than Blum', was a slogan commonly heard from the French employers, and a reason why the French establishment failed to put up more resistance to the German invasion in 1940. They hoped the Nazis would provide the force that would crush organised labour, removing the need to accommodate the 'Popular Front'. But that was the account of the war that would not meet with the approval of the official version. The war was not fought to save the Jews - most governments were largely indifferent to Jewish suffering. Nor was it fought to defend democracy. The British and American governments fought to defend their own economic interests against their German, Italian and Japanese rivals. The people were persuaded to make sacrifices to defeat fascism, but ended up with another form of class rule.

In post-war Germany it is the idea that every German was guilty that ensures that the individuals who were personally responsible for the Nazis crimes remain faceless. The doctrine of collective guilt imposed by the allies was taken up eagerly by the post-war German elite, the better to ensure that nobody could point the finger at them individually. Even in the face of savage repression German workers did on occasions react against Nazi policies. Between February 1936 and July 1937 the government recorded 197 strikes. Ordinary Germans protested vehemently at the euthansia programme against the mentally ill and disabled, and succeeded in stopping the policy. When their Jewish husbands were imprisoned, German women massed in Berlin in protests over three days, and won the release of 6000 men. Daniel Goldhagen rejects the explanation for German acquiescence to the holocaust, the argument that they were uniquely obedient to the state, pointing out that these 'were the same people, Germans, who had battled in the streets of Weimar in defiance of existing state authority' . But the obedience was the result of the conflicts of the twenties: the Left had been crushed, and the Nazis were now the state authority (and even that required an internal massacre of Nazi militants of the SA in the 'night of the long knives'). The effect of the 'collective guilt' idea was that it diluted the actual guilt of the Nazis and their supporters, while heaping blame on the German working class whose political defeat had been the overriding purpose of the Fascist regime. When German workers pressed their claims, they were chided to remember that they, like all Germans, were guilty. Franz Neumann wrote in 1944 that 'so vast a crime as the extermination of the Eastern Jews' was an attempt to make the masses 'perpetrators and accessories in that crime and make it therefore impossible for them to leave the Nazi boat'. This was Goebbels view as well, recorded in his diary a year earlier: 'On the Jewish question we have taken a position from which there is no escape...Experience shows that a movement and a people that has burned their bridges fight with much greater determination than those who can still retreat', he added. Between 1945 and 1949 six million Germans went through the 'denazification' process, after every adult had been required to complete a questionnaire outlining their past activities and allegiances. Of these one million were classified as followers, 25 000 offenders and just 2000 major offenders. Historian Mark Mazower judged that 'these purges left intact the same structures of power through which the Germans ruled Europe: local civil servants, police, business organizations and the press'.  The Allies could not get Germany working without using former Nazi Party members and supporters

The Second World War was a fully industrialised war. Destructive as it was, the war laid the basis for new industry. Plants created in Detroit and Dagenham, the Urals and Silesia during the war would lay the basis for the post-war boom. Hitler's expansion of production heightened the need to conquer markets for exports, and secure territory for supplies. Eastern expansion was essential for securing oil and wheat. On 4 March, 1940, James D. Mooney, a vice president of General Motors, was sent by president Roosevelt to plead for peace in Western Europe and added 'that Americans had understanding for Germany's need with respect to the question of living space'.  But Germany also needed to knock out its European rivals to secure economic expansion.  Defending the supply routes to the Empire was where Britain's interests as a trading nation lay. Roosevelt was hostile to the recreation of French imperialism after the war. The American president had no need for a strong France after the war. 'France's role as a great power is finished for good', US leader Wendell Willkie told Ilya Ehrenburg, 'it's not in our interests to restore her to her former position'

The Nazi Government made the 1 May a national holiday in 1933, and trade union leaders marched alongside national socialists. The following day their offices were occupied, and on 12 May 1933, all their property attached to the public prosecutors office in Berlin, with Nazi labour leader Robert Ley as trustee . The German Labour Front substituted itself for the unions, but as an organisation that promoted Nazi ideals to workers rather than one that represented their interests. Compulsory Labour Service (Arbeitsdienst) and Compulsory Agricultural Service (Landhilfe, the 'most feared') were introduced, and war industries were working 70 hours a week by 1936, when workers were pledged to secrecy under threat of the death penalty in the event of 'treason' . Without independent organisations, and with their leaders in concentration camps, the German working classes were prey to extreme exploitation. Though Alan Milward argues that consumption levels under fascism remained high, wages in 1937 were lower than they had been in 1929, despite full employment.  At the same time hours rose dramatically so that the profits of large companies quadrupled between 1932 and 1936. In 1932, 60 per cent of the national income fell to labour, 19 per cent to capital; after four years of Nazi rule, labour's share had fallen to 52 per cent, while capital's had risen to 28 per cent. Mark Mazower's assessment is that 'in industrial relations, fascist relations clearly lent towards the bosses' and that 'Fascism remained a low-wage economy'. But disciplining labour was not coincidental; it was the role that fascism played, and the reason that big business and the establishment supported the Nazi party.

 In Italy, under the Vidoni Palace agreement of 1925 the General Federation of Industry granted sole negotiating rights to the fascist unions, effectively outlawing independent trade unions. The militarisation of labour was not restricted to the Fascist dictatorships, though. In France decree laws increased hours in the armament industries to 60 a week  - output increases that would later feed the German military. In the US four million unemployed were organised in the Civil Works Administration in 1934, a further three million in the Works Progress Administration the following year, and 2 500 000 men aged 19-25 in the Civil Conservation Corps. The Civilian Conservation Corps (1935) took a quarter of a million Americans off the unemployment register and put them to work clearing forests and building dams. Where Britain, France and America differed from Italy and Germany was that instead of dismantling the trade unions, they had succeeded in recruiting their leaders as quasi-official supervisors. In the US, for example, the American Federation of Labour, which had reduced from four to 2.5 million members between 1920 and 1932, was boosted by official recognition as the house union of the National Relief Association.

In Britain production was boosted by the Labour Party and the unions' embrace of the war effort. On the initiative of the left, Joint Production Committees were formed in the engineering industry in 1942, where unions and managers collaborated in increasing output. Left-wingers denounced absentees for 'sabotaging' the war effort, and demanded they be prosecuted. It is true that there were considerable changes brought about by the war. Many of these tended over time to improve the material conditions of the mass of people, like the National Health Service in the UK, or the GI Bills extending education and home loans in the US. But for the most part, these reforms were necessary for continuing the process of capitalist development. And what is more, they were paid for by the phenomenal increase in output wrung from the working class through the wartime restructuring of industry. The war changed the balance between labour and capital. Most think that it shifted the balance in labour's favour. The real lesson of the Second World War was that it crushed the independent organisations of the working class. 

It was by and large the ruling classes who collaborated, and the working classes who resisted. De Gaulle's flight to London to found the 'Free French' was the only sign of dissent amongst the French elite. In the Netherlands and Belgium, ('the Belgian resistance, that was after the war', mocked the artist Marcel Marien), the collapse before superior forces led to elite collaboration. Communist parties were banned, and anti-Semitic laws imposed. While the elites collaborated, like Petain, or fled, like Queen Wilhelmina of Holland, ordinary people took great risks to challenge the occupying powers. Dutch opposition to anti-Jewish laws boiled over in protests in University towns in the winter of 1940-41, before a general strike was started by Communists beginning in the Amsterdam shipyards on 17 February 1941. 'Protest against the horrible persecutions of the Jews!', read a Communist Party poster, which urged families to take in Jewish children to save them from Nazi atrocities. The strikes shocked the German authorities and effectively sidelined the Dutch Nazi movement for the rest of the war. Sporadic demonstrations throughout France in 1941 were organised from 1942, when De Gaulle appealed for May day demonstrations, a call taken up in Toulouse, Avignon, Nice and Marseilles, where 30 000 came out. Russia's entry into the war gave the allies a much needed opportunity to re-brand their war as a 'People's War' against Fascism. On 5 March 1943, workers at the Rasetti Factory in Turin struck for higher wages, starting a general strike of 100 000 workers throughout the northern cities - and won. Workers in Milan and Genoa demonstrated for an end to the war.

The partisans' contribution was swept aside by the invading allies, who saw them as dangerous to the restoration of good order, especially as they were often Communist-led. Gradually stories emerged of the grotesque lengths to which the allies went in order to disarm them. On 8 May, as Paris celebrated its liberation, crowds came out in Algiers adding banners for their own independence. French troops opened fire on the crowd, inaugurating five days of skirmishes that left 40,000 Algerians dead.

  In the summer of 1944 partisans, by then 100 000 strong, succeeded in liberating at least 15 'partisan republics', like Carnia, Montefiorini, and Ossola, emboldened by the allied advance, and established Committees of National Liberation. British General Alexander, the Allied Commander, told the Times that the partisans were holding down up to six of the 25 German divisions Roberto Battaglia's Story of the Italian Resistance (1953), explained how the partisans had been encouraged to take on the German army and liberate the northern cities by the Allied invasion from the South. On 10 November 1944, however, General Alexander announced over the radio that there would be no advance until the spring. 'Having received the assurance that they would not be subjected to a major attack by the allies during the winter, they decided to make the most of the respite and deal the partisans a crushing blow.' British historian David Ellwood's Italy, 1943-45 (1979) and former intelligence officer Basil Davidson's memoir Special Operations Europe (1981) confirm the view that the Allies left the partisans to the Wehrmacht's mercy because they did not want to face an indigenous challenge to their authority. With the agreement of Communist Party leader Palmiro Togliatti, who returned from Moscow in March 1944, The Italian Badoglio's government was recognised by the Committees of National Liberation, who were thereby sidelined. Togliatti counselled his supporters to restrict their wider ambitions in favour of 'continuity of the state' . British representative Harold Macmillan was relieved: 'it would suit us much better not to be stimulators of a revolution, which we shall only have to suppress later' Unable to get a reasonable price, Italain farmers in the south withheld their grain and the cities starved. To restore order, the allies recreated Mussolini's police state. On 19 October 1943, a demonstration against wage and price levels was fired on, leaving 14 dead. The 'collective contracts' between workers and employers that had been introduced by Mussolini were continued by Lt. Colonel Charles Poletti for AMGOT.

The Greek partisans had, if anything, a worse tale to tell. In April 1944 the Greek Army stationed in Cairo mutinied. They were accused by Churchill of harbouring 'an unworthy fear of being sent to the front', but in fact they were demanding to be sent into battle to help free their country. British hostility to the army's demands were made clear by Sir Reginald Leeper, British Ambassador to the Greek government in exile, who telegraphed the foreign office that 'what is happening here among the Greeks is nothing less than a revolution' . Churchill had the 20,000 men rounded up and held in concentration camps in Libya and Eritrea - 'let hunger play its part', he cabled Leeper. Their mass partisan army, ELAS, also dominated by Communists, had succeeded in liberating much of the mountainous north of the country.11 But in exchange for recognising Soviet authority in Eastern Europe, Churchill had Stalin's agreement that Greece would be in the Western zone of influence - a deal he imposed with military force, telling General Scobie 'do not hesitate to act as if you were in a conquered city where a local rebellion is in progress' Astonishingly, the Allies had already sent an intelligence officer, Captain Don Stott to negotiate with the Gestapo chief in Greece, Hermann Neubacher, the transfer of fascist militias to allied command to defeat ELAS. 'This war should end in a common struggle by the allies and the German forces against Bolshevism', Stott told him. After the war, ELAS was isolated by the allies, and then gradually annihilated by a Greek Army made up of former fascist militias.

In Holland, a German Military Decree of 29 April 1943 that former Dutch soldiers would be sent to the Reich as labourers provoked a wave of strikes centred on the industrial town of Hengelo, and rapidly spreading to the mining district of Limburg and the Philips works in Eindhoven. It took ten days, and summary executions, as happened at Philips, to restore order. Pointedly, the London-exiled Dutch Prime Minister Gerbrandy broadcast from the BBC on 19 May warning 'against revolt at too early a stage', and encouraging passive resistance. In 1944, the allies again proved less than enthusiastic about strikes planned by Central Dutch Resistance Council - this time to coincide with the invasion. In retrospect, British commander at Arnhem R.E. Urquhart admitted that an unwillingness to cooperate with the Resistance contributed to major setbacks in the winter of 1944-5. From the perspective of the British military historian Foot, the resistance largely existed to serve the needs of the Allies: information gathering, aiding escaping officers, and, insofar as it engaged in the economic sphere, this was just 'sabotage', not insurrection

'The depression was finally ended not by a new prosperity but through World War II, that is, thorough the colossal destruction of capital on a worldwide scale and a restructuring of the world economy that assured the profitable expansion of capital for another period.'
Paul Mattick.

 'The higher level of the rate of exploitation which had been brought about by force was maintained for ten years after the period of fascism'
, wrote Elmar Altvater, 'the "West German economic miracle" was pre-programmed in the course of the "thousand year Reich". Mazower agrees: 'a nazi public utility like Volkswagen, or private utility like Daimler-Benz, laid down plant and equipment in the 1930s (and early 1940s) that would form the basis for post-war growth' . But these changes were not just restricted to Germany. In all of Western Europe, post-war reconstruction was boosted by the redirection of resources from consumption to investment initially made under the discipline of war.  Though they fought Germany over territory and markets, the Allies gained from the Nazi disciplining of the working class in Europe. Furthermore they redirected working class opposition to Fascism in Germany and Italy into support for the adoption of an enhanced industrial discipline at home. The ideology of the People's War proved even more effective a means winning authority over the working class than Nazi repression. Having been persuaded to sacrifice all in the struggle against Fascism, the masses were recruited to the stabilisation of capitalist production in Europe. The Allies gained by the German war against the partisans, too. Nazi defeats of national resistance movements made the second (Allied) occupation of Europe a great deal easier. In December 1943, the British Middle East HQ sent Captain Don Stott (pictured right) to negotiate with Hitler's envoy in Greece, Hermann Neubacher of the Gestapo on the best way to defeat the partisans. 'This war should end in a common struggle by the allies and the German forces against Bolshevism,' Stott told them

In the decade from 1935 to 1945 the warring nations turned their factories into engines of destruction. Between 1933 and 1936 US armaments spending rose from $628 million to $1.161 billion, by 1942 government awarded $100 billion to US business in military contracts. The growth in output was phenomenal. Aircraft production was more than twenty times greater in 1944 than in 1935. To get this much out of industry, factories had to be placed under military discipline – not just in the Fascist countries, but in the democracies too. For the workers, wartime regimentation was hard graft on low wages. Business, though, made a fortune out of the war. During the four war years, 1942-1945, the 2,230 largest American firms reported earnings of $14.4 billion after taxes, up by 41 percent on the previous four. In Germany, too 'the higher level of the rate of exploitation which had been brought about by force was maintained for ten years after the period of fascism', wrote Elmar Altvater, 'the "West German economic miracle" was pre-programmed in the course of the "thousand year Reich".' Dragooning the workforce made more money for business.

In 1935 the Nazi regime began a compulsory system of workbooks. One copy was held by the employer another by the labour exchange. Workers were barred from leaving named key sectors, like aircraft and metal production. In 1938, Goering's decree for Securing Labour for Tasks of Special State Importance effectively conscripted labour. Within a year 1.9 million workers had been subject to compulsory work orders. Japan passed a General Mobilisation Law in 1938. Japanese civilians were barred from leaving work without the say-so of the local office of the National Employment Agency, under the Employee Turnover Prevention Ordinance (1940), and given work books from March 1941. In January 1940 the British Cabinet agreed to Ernest Bevin's proposals for a Register of Protected Establishments, and in March for a Register of Employment Order. Men up to the age of 46 had to be registered by 1941. Most agreed to reassignment after a talking to at the Labour Exchange, but one million directions had been issued by 1945, 80,000 to women. Under the Essential Work Order, workers were forbidden from leaving their jobs without permission – thirty thousand orders were made, covering six million workers. In 1943, 12,500 people were found guilty of breaking a Control of Employment Order. In this way Bevin boosted the armaments industry so that it ate up 37 percent of the workforce – up from 30 percent in a year. These were the people who sweated to make Vickers-Armstrong, ICI and Hawker-Siddeley into world class businesses. nder New Zealand's National Service Emergency Act of 1942 it was an offence to leave or be 'absent from work without a reasonable excuse' in 'essential industries'. Australia's government wanted to direct labour but did not dare to overturn the rights of its states. In America, the War Manpower Commission's Chief Paul McNutt drew up a Worker Draft Bill that would have let him send labour to the North American Aviation Plant in Texas, and other war industries. In the event, America's business lobby won the government over to the idea that they could recruit labour. In fact they signed up 17 million new workers between 1940 and 1944. But as in Australia, the American authorities still kept butting in to regiment the factories – still they kept employers sweet with war contracts worth billions. n 1941, Roosevelt helped war profiteers by banning strikes and taking away labour legislation protections in the armaments industry. In 1935 he had made a dispute procedure, the National Labour Relations Board, which barred wildcat strikes. In Britain, Order 1305 banned strikes.15 In Nazi Germany a law on the National Organisation of Labour imposed the Führer-principle on the ‘shop community', with workers cast as ‘followers', while a Court of Honour heard labour disputes. By 1944 some 87,000 Germans had been jailed for breaking workplace rules, and in 1943, 5,336 of them were put to death. The model was Mussolini's Italy, where workers and bosses were put in the same corporations, and 'strikes, protest demonstrations and even verbal criticism of the government were illegal'. The battle between labour and capital that had raged between the wars was settled when governments all over came down firmly on the side of industry.

Under the discipline of war, hours spent working for the boss were ratcheted up. Roosevelt twisted arms to get rid of American workers' overtime payments. In France the average working week went up from 35 hours in 1940 to 46.2 hours in March 1944 and decree laws increased hours in the armament industries to 60 a week.21 In New Zealand workers lost overtime and holiday entitlements, and hours were put up to 48 on the farms and 54 in defence factories. In Germany, defence workers were put on a seventy-hour week, and a ceiling was put on wages in 1938. British men worked 47.7 hours a week in 1938, rising to 52.9 in 1943, but in a Factory Inspectorate survey of war plants, the sixty-hour week was the norm for men and women.24 Japanese authorities extended the working day to 11 or 12 hours in heavy industry.

The Allies used forced labour, too. Forty-eight thousand men aged 18 to 25 were sent down Britain's mines between 1943 and 1948. 21,000 seventeen year-olds were forced to dig. They were called the 'Bevin Boys' after Labour Minister Ernest Bevin. One in every ten that were called up for National Service in the Army were sent to the mines.  In Brazil 55 000 people were drafted as 'Rubber Soldiers' to work in the Amazon under a deal between US President Roosevelt and the dictator, Getúlio Vargas to fill America's rubber shortage – hundreds died of malaria.

Business recruited a whole new labour force during the war. The people working the lathes, hammering the rivets, directing the traffic, ploughing the farms were not the same people they had been. Apart from skilled workers in protected trades, the male core of the working class was sent to war. Others – women, minorities, young people, migrant labour – were recruited to fill the gaps. These new workers were easier to handle at first and worked harder to prove themselves.

Roosevelt put ten million men into the American Army, and six million more women into the workforce. In 1940, one quarter of all workers were women, by 1945, more than a third were women (a share not repeated until 1960). Two fifths of workers in the airframe industry were women, and the United Auto Workers had 250,000 women members, the United Electrical Workers 300,000.

Between 1942 and 1945, the number of black Americans in work tripled. The number working in industry grew one and a half times to 1.250 million (300,000 of them women). The number of black people working as civil servants grew from 60,000 to 200,000. The great migration of black Americans from the rural South to Northern cities changed America. One million six hundred thousand black and white moved North – but then people were moving everywhere. Between 1940 and 1947 more than a fifth of the country, 25 million people, moved county, and four and a half million moved from the farm to the city for good.
Britain was the first country ever to introduce conscription for women, and they were given the choice of war work instead. Those who refused could be fined up to five pounds a day, or imprisoned. Two million more women were put to work in the war, a growth of 40 percent. In 1941 the Ministry of Labour worked out that four fifths of all single women aged 14 to 49 were at work or in the services. Among wives and widows, two fifths were working, but only 13 percent of those with children under 14 did. Over 300,000 worked in the explosive and chemical industry, more than half their workforce, a million and a half in engineering and metal industries, 100,000 on the railways, thousands more on farms as part of the Women's' Land Army.

In Germany and Italy, the fascist governments drove wages down early on – by more than a quarter in Germany between 1933 and 1935, and by half in Italy, between 1927 and 1932. In the first year of Nazi rule, Krupp A.G.'s wage bill fell by two million RM while the workforce grew by 7,762, I.G. Farben's got a third more workers with just a 1.5 percent bigger wage bill. After that, wages rose in Germany until the outbreak of the war, when living standards were cut again. Even then, though weekly earnings rose by a quarter between 1932 and 1938, hourly rates were marginally down over the same period. So it was in Britain between 1938 and 1943, where people had more cash in their pockets 'not because their rates were relatively better, but because they were putting in more hours'. Americans, too, were earning their extra wages by working more – by 1945 their hours were up by a quarter on 1938. Japanese industrial pay was cut by a fifth under the Wage Control Ordinances of 1939 and 1940. Italians' wages came to a standstill under the Fascists, so that by 1941 they were just 113 percent of what they had been in 1913.50 By the end of the war, under the Allies, consumption was only three quarters of what it had been in 1938, and the number of calories Italians had a day had fallen to 1,747.51 In Vichy and Occupied France real wages went down as wage controls proved much more effective than price controls.

In America, a bigger wage bill was not matched by more goods in the shops, so business just put up prices to claw the money back. Around munitions plants housing was in short supply, transport was overcrowded and shop windows empty. The Department of Labor worked out that the 80 percent rise in cash wages between 1941 and 1945 was only a twenty percent rise when inflation and shortages were taken into account. Fortune reported from Pittsburgh 'to the workers it's a Tantalus situation: the luscious fruits of prosperity above their heads – receding as they try to pick them'. Though they ate well enough, their clothes and household goods were shabbier as real incomes stagnated. In Britain, too, more cash wages chased fewer goods to push prices up by half as much again between 1939 and 1941. In Germany, living costs were pushed up by a law allowing cartels to fix prices in 1935, and by 1941 household spending was down by a fifth from its already low point in 1938.

Governments grabbed workers' unspent cash for the war effort – handing it straight back to industry as payment on war contracts. In 1942 Americans were strong-armed to putting one tenth of their wages into war bonds, and in 1943 were taxed at source for the first time, a five percent victory tax.  Britons, too, felt the moral squeeze to put their money into National Savings at War Weapons Week (1941) Warship Weeks (1941 and 1942) Wings for Victory Weeks (two in 1943) and Salute the Soldier Week (1944). And like their American comrades, seven million manual workers had their first taste of Income Tax, when Pay As You Earn deductions were begun. In Germany, where a War Bond issue had fallen flat in 1938, government raided the Sparkassen savings banks where people kept their spare cash for eight billion Reichsmarks in 1940 and 12.8 billion in 1941.

The greatest cut in working class income came through rationing. Food and clothing was rationed in Germany in the first two weeks of the war. In Britain meat, eggs, milk, butter and sugar were rationed from January 1940, canned meat, fish and vegetables from November 1941, followed by dried fruit and grains in January 1942, canned fruit and vegetables the following month, condensed milk and breakfast cereal in April, syrup in July, biscuits in August and Oatflakes and rolled oats by the end of 1942. German rations were a healthy 2,570 calories for German civilians in 1939, but a cut in 1942 was found by scientists to lead to a loss of body fat in factory workers. It was under the Allies that German workers fared worst: their rations were cut to 1,100 calories in the American and British Zones. Italians' food was rationed from 1941. In Japan the rice ration of 0.736 pints was slowly adulterated with husks, and the standard calorie allowance cut from 2,400 in 1941 to 1,800 in 1945. Food for workers was kept down so that more could be spent on building up industry.

When in March 1933, after the Dutch council communist Marinus van der Lubbe burned down the parliament building, 100,000 Communists, Social Democrats and trade unionists were put in new concentration camps, and 600 killed. On May Day 1933, the leaders of the Trade Unions marched behind the Swastika, hoping to curry favour with the Nazis. On the 2nd of May union offices were occupied by brown shirts, the premises and assets seized by emergency decree. The working class were made to kneel before the Fuhrer or get sent to the camps, and their own unions were broken up.

Nazi Robert Ley led a substitute Labour Front that, being based on workplace subscriptions like the unions it replaced, was much bigger than the Nazis' old union faction the NSBO. Indeed the Labour Front quickly became one of the weightiest bodies in the Nazi state, with a lot of room to manoeuvre. The Nazis thought that they were different from the other right-wing parties because they were carrying the German worker with them, not just taking a whip to him. The masses did support the war, most of all in the early years of victory, and they joined in the big rallies.

Takn from here

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Robots or class fighters

Estimates are that the total world's wealth is close to $200 trillion. The wealthiest 1 percent of the world's population represents approximately forty million adults. The poorest half of the global population together possesses less than 2 percent of global wealth. The World Bank reports that, in 2008, 1.29 billion people were living in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25 a day, and 1.2 billion more were living on less than $2.00 a day. reports that 35,000 people, mostly young children, die every day from starvation in the world.The numbers of unnecessary deaths have exceeded 300 million people over the past forty years. Farmers around the world grow more than enough food to feed the entire world adequately. Global grain production yielded a record 2.3 billion tons in 2007, up 4 percent from the year before—yet, billions of people go hungry every day. describes the core reasons for ongoing hunger is while farmers grow enough food to feed the world, commodity speculators and huge grain traders like Cargill control global food prices and distribution. The richest 1% of Americans own 40% of the stock market and the richest 10% owns 80%.

Karl Marx in Capital explains that a human being is able to produce a product that has a certain value. Organized business hires workers who are paid below the value of their labor power. The result is the creation of what Marx called surplus value, over and above the cost of labor. The creation of surplus value allows those who own the means of production to concentrate capital even more. In addition, concentrated capital accelerates the exploition of natural resources by private entrepreneurs—even though these natural resources are actually the common heritage of all living beings.

American corporations are seeing rising profits and the share of corporate revenues that shows up as profits is the highest in history. At the same time labor is seeing its lowest share in history. Myth has it that capitalism works because entrepreneurs take economic risk to build corporations from nothing and that that their managers keep business competitive through innovation—the development and adoption of new processes and technologies, while keeping labor at the minimum levels consistent with maximum productivity. Mainstream economists such as Paul Krugman repeats this myth here . The sad state of  labor is due to workers being replaced with technology—either allowing fewer workers to do work formerly done by many or through ‘robotics’ that replaces human beings in manufacturing with machines. Attributing increases in productivity to technology has the added benefit of provides the rationale (to capitalists) for all of the benefits of modern capitalism accruing to capital—capitalists invested in the technology that has replaced labor and therefore the results in corporate profits and concentrated wealth rightly belong to capital. Technology has undoubtedly played a role in the way that capitalist enterprises operate—computers and robotics have dramatically reorganized how everyday operations and processes are undertaken. The larger question, though, the struggle between labor and capital, is avoided. Austerity re-declared the class war.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The religion of economics

Religion has been around for a long time.  The traditional answer is that humans evolved religion as a means of coping with death of loved ones, which is true, as religion preys strongly on personal crisis in helping cope with the deaths of loved ones by promising that they will see their loved ones again. Another reason often put forward is for a means of explaining the world around us as being created by an all powerful deity, because it was only until quite recently that we have had any real clue as to the nature of the forces at work around us that have crafted our environment and state of existence. As humans discovered agriculture and started to settled down, populations tended to grow far beyond the small hunter gatherer groups. Human societies started to independently evolve religious ideas as a means of controlling the behaviour of members of society of how people should behave which were  said to be laid down by an all knowing and powerful deity, the creator, rules such as thou shall not kill, steal, and one man one wife, and of course to pay homage to the creator/s and follow the teachings and instructions of the deities prophets and priests, that were to be repeatedly recited and ingrained in all members of society.

All religion's seek to exert total control over every member of society as it was/is believed that all events that happen are as a consequence of the pleasure or displeasure of the Gods such as natural disasters in which respect societies even went so far as to sacrifice fellow humans to please their gods, and sacrifice remains at the fundamental core of all religions i.e. that humans sacrifice independant free will in this life for freedom in the next life, and to a achieve entry into the afterlife humans need to obey the will of the Gods as set down by those that purport to represent the deities such as kings and queens and priests under the fear of what would happen to them if they did now obey the will of the Gods as their representatives on earth. Complete religious control even upto the point of self sacrifice (martyrdom). Over time this control of the masses has continued to develop and intensify the hold on the general population's actions, making it far easier for the elite to control every aspect of life.

In today's society we are manipulated from cradle to grave by the state to serve the interests of the elite, we are educated to be docile citizens that will go on and work for the elite, to perform all of the duties that the elite request of us for pieces of paper and metal tokens. We are forced to toil for a third of our working life.  The compliance of the masses by means of money paid by the elite who own the means of production.

We are constantly being bombarded with propaganda to be good citizens or face the dire consequences, because our every action is being watched and monitored 24/7 by technology from millions of CCTV cameras, internet browsing logs, phone conversation, mobile phone networks, GPS positioning, financial card transactions, and in your every interaction with the state's apparatus and private corporations that is logged and which the state has constant access to determine whether our behaviour is subversive or not.

Economics is a form of religion, a means for controlling the masses.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Non-Violent Class Warriors

The members of the World Socialist Movement often meet demands for our solutions to the on-going struggles in Palestine, in Syria and all the other places over the world where despots are repressing peoples. We are how we'd deal with someone like Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein or who is the latest personification of evil is. We are accused of offering no immediate answer and it is true - we are no aspiring Che Guevaras - thankfully.  Socialists don't want to die for socialism, we want to live for socialism. By shortening of our lives with martyrdom, we can make no constructive useful contribution to the future.

Our view is that the power of dictatorships ultimately comes from the willing obedience of the people they govern.  All hierarchical systems require the cooperation of people at every level, from the lowliest workers to the highest bureaucrats. Despots depend on the population’s cooperation and submissiveness - and if the people effectively withhold their consent, even the strongest of regimes can collapse. Without the consent of the working class - either their active support or their passive acquiescence the ruling class would have little power and little basis for rule.

If protesters don’t have a clear objective, then they are likely to be sadly disappointed. Protest alone accomplishes very little. If you don’t have that basic understanding of what you’re doing, then you’re not going to win anything. One struggle doesn’t always do the job; sometimes you have to have two or three or four or five struggles in succession. Class war is in fact very much like war, a series of class-struggle battles with both victories and defeats. Cutting off our enemy's sources of sustenance, its power, is the ultimate goal. But it won’t happen easily, or quickly, or always. Non-violence is not passive, nor is it a way of avoiding conflict. Any non-violent movement that takes on a well-entrenched dictatorship. Those who start such a movement must be prepared for a long struggle, with setbacks and numerous casualties. After all, only one side is committed to non-violence. Nor is there any guarantee of success, even in the long run. However th other option, entails even larger casualties and has even poorer prospects of success.

Violence is not all that effective in a revolution. People have long thought that power grows out of the barrel of a gun.and it's taken a number of historical events to prove that is not true. When non-violence fails, the method is condemned. But when violence fails, strategy or tactics are blamed—not violence as a method. And partial success is seen as total failure.

Non-violent means will increase our chances of the military refusing to obey orders. But if you go over to violence, the soldiers will not mutiny. They will be loyal to the dictatorship and the dictatorship will have a good chance to survive.  An armed response from the revolutionaries will not succeed, as the regime is invaribly stronger on the military front. As soon as you choose to fight with violence you're choosing to fight against opponents in possession of the best weapons. The state's police and  army are better trained in using those weapons. And they  control the infrastructure that allows them to deploy them. To fight dictators with violence is to cede to them the choice of battleground and tactics. Using violence against  experts in it is the quickest way to have a movement crushed. That is why governments frequently infiltrate opposition groups with agents provocateurs—to sidetrack the movement into violent acts that the police and  security agencies can deal with. Non-violence is an aspect of resistance that the normal forces of co-ercion are ill-prepared for. When therulining class choose to use their superior force against noviolent activists, they sometimes find that it does not bring about the desired results. First, all sanctions must be carried out by the ruler's agents (police or military personnel) who may or may not obey or may reluctantly make a show of obeying to commit brutal acts against people who are clearly presenting no physical threat. It could have the effect of converting them to our point of view by winning over their hearts and minds. Even if a non-violent campaign is unable to change our adversary's way of thinking, it can still wield power and influence the course of events who may decide it is too costly to continue the fight or forced to make concessions because its power-base has been dissolved.

People turn violent because they feel there is little alternative but to resort to violence. Socialists organizations will develop the substitutes to militarising the class struggle and then people will have a choice of psychological weapons, social weapons, economic weapons and political weapons which can be applied and are ultimately more powerful against tyranny.  Once enough people and organizations within a society (trade unions, community groups) are engaging in civil disobedience and withholding their cooperation from a regime, the capitalists' power will gradually wither from political starvation.

The success or failure of any peaceful revolt largely depends on the campaign’s ability to undermine the regimes supporters and weaken the allegiance of its civil servants, police and soldiers to the regime; to persuade those neutrals sitting on the fence to join the opposition. The worse the regime suppresses protests, the more steadfast ought the opposition  be in its commitment to non-violence and the more the people resists, the more we will realize our own power and discover the means of re-shaping our destiny.

Non-violent popular civil-disobedience has an important role in moving forward from limited political democracy to full social democracy, which is what we mean by socialism. Not as a substitute for electoral and constitutional action, but as an additional guarantee that the socialist majority will achieve its goal under any conceivable circumstances. Socialists are not pacifists on principle but purely as a practical tactic. We acknowledge that there might be instances in which violence is a legitimate means to use.  

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Humanitarian War?

Ever since the Kosovo war in 1999, anyone who opposes armed interventions by Western powers and NATO has to confront what may be called an anti-antiwar Left. The anti-antiwar left does not come out openly in favor of Western military interventions. It may even criticize them at times  for their tactics or alleged motivations – the West is supporting a just cause, but clumsily and for oil or for geo-strategic reasons).  But most of its energy is spent disputing with those who remains firmly opposed to such interventions. They call upon us to show solidarity with the “victims” against “dictators who kill their own people”, and not to give in to knee-jerk anti-imperialism or anti-Americanism. After the Kosovo Albanians in 1999, we have been told that “we” must protect Afghan women, Iraqi Kurds and more recently the people of Libya and of Syria.

 Unlike the Iraq war, which was sold to the public as “humanitarian” by the likes of Ann Clwyd, there has been relatively little opposition to interventions presented as “humanitarian”, such as the bombing of Serbia to detach the province of Kosovo, the bombing of Libya to get rid of Gaddafi, or the current support and arming of the Syrian Free Army in Syria. We are tol it is the West's (and it is always the West's) responsibility and right and  duty to come to the aid of a people in danger.  Human rights is entrusted to the good will of the U.S. government and its allies in NATO.

It is important to realize that that is the concrete meaning of all those appeals for “solidarity” and “support” to rebel or secessionist movements involved in armed struggle. Intervening means intervening militarily.  It is perfectly obvious that the Western left does not possess those means.  One might ask those liberal humanitarian human rights organizations the same question Stalin addressed to the Vatican, “How many divisions do you have?”  The demand amounts to nothing other than asking the U.S.A to go bomb countries where human rights violations are reported to be taking place. In fact, the saviour of the populations “massacred by their dictators” is the same one that waged the Vietnam war, that imposed sanctions and wars on Iraq, that imposes arbitrary sanctions on Cuba, Iran and any other country that meets with their disfavor, that provides massive unquestioning support to Israel, which uses every means including coups d’état to oppose social reformers in Latin America, from Arbenz to Chavez by way of Allende, Goulart and others, and which shamelessly exploits workers and resources the world over.  One must be quite starry-eyed to see in that political and military class as the instrument of salvation of “victims”, but that is in practice exactly what the anti-antiwar Left is advocating, because, given the relationship of forces in the world, there is no other military force able to impose its will.

Of course, the U.S. government is scarcely aware of the existence of the anti-antiwar Left.  The United States decides whether or not to wage war according to the chances of succeeding and to their own assessment of their strategic, political and economic interests. And once a war is begun, they want to win at all costs. It makes no sense to ask them to carry out only good interventions, against genuine villains, using gentle methods that spare civilians and innocent bystanders.  It makes no sense to ask them to protect but not to bomb, because armies function by shooting and bombing. The anti-antiwar Left has no influence on American policy, but that doesn’t mean that it has no effect.  It has served to neutralize any peace or anti-war movement. Opposition is attacked as “support to dictators”, another “Munich appeasement”, or “the crime of indifference”.

The problem is that every war is justified by a massive propaganda effort which is based on demonizing the enemy. When the media announce that a massacre is imminent, we hear at times that action is “urgent” to save the alleged future victims, and time cannot be lost making sure of the facts. This may be true when a house is on fire, but such urgency regarding other countries ignores the manipulation of information and just plain error and confusion that dominate foreign news coverage. The slightest mistake by the anti-war movement will be endlessly used against us, whereas all the lies of the pro-war propaganda are soon forgotten. The “we must do something” brushes aside any serious reflection as to what might be done instead of military intervention.

If we are to draw lessons from the past it is that interventions from outside power or even violent revolutions from within are not necessarily the best or the only ways to achieve social change.

Taken and adapted from here

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Family Business

Walmart earned $16 billion last year (it just reported a 9 percent increase in earnings in the third quarter of 2012, to $3.6 billion), the lion’s share of which went instead to Walmart’s shareholders. Between 2007 and 2010, while median family wealth fell by 39 percent, the wealth of the Walton family members rose from $73 billion to $89 billion…In 2007, it was reported that the Walton family wealth was as large as the bottom 35 million families in the wealth distribution combined, or 30 percent of all American families. And in 2010, as the Walton’s wealth has risen and most other Americans’ wealth declined, it is now the case that the Walton family wealth is as large as the bottom 49 million families in the wealth distribution (constituting 41 percent of all American families) combined.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The "Left" Nazis

Goebbels described Berlin as "the reddest city in Europe besides Moscow." Together, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) captured 52.2 percent of the vote in the 1925 municipal elections. It could only boast a few hundred Nazi party members. In a report written in October 1926, a party official wrote of the "complete breakdown of the Berlin organization," which he described as a self-destructive, confused group that was almost beyond repair. Some 39,000 Berliners, or 1.6 percent of the city's entire population, voted for Hitler's party in the May 1928 election to the Reichstag.

On Feb. 11, 1927, the Nazi Party at the Pharussäle, a meeting hall often used by the KPD for its mass rallies, Goebbels  gave a speech on the subject of "The Collapse of the Bourgeois Class State." This provoked the communists. The  meeting turned into a violent brawl between the two groups. Beer glasses, chairs and tables flew through the hall, and severely injured people were left lying covered with blood on the floor. Despite the injuries, it was a triumph for Goebbels, whose thugs beat up about 200 communists and drove them from the hall.

 Availing himself of the services of the uniformed Sturmabteilung ("Assault Division"), or SA, whose members were known as the "brownshirts." Goebbels used the hatred of younger people for the older elites, and the rage of Berlin's working-class in the east-end of the city against its wealthier west-end districts. For the Nazi Party, the brownshirts -- who included the unemployed, the underemployed, apprentices and high-school students -- were "political soldiers." In Goebbel's view, their task was the "conquest of the street." These primarily young men were supposed to reconcile and embody two previously hostile world-views: nationalism, which Goebbels believed had to be "reshaped in a revolutionary way," and a "true socialism" free of Marxism. Goebbels assigned the Jews the scapegoat role. Goebbels viewed the Jews as simultaneously embodying capitalism, communism, the press and the police. His simplistic slogan "The Jews are to blame!" proved to be a slow-acting poison. Goebbels chose Bernhard Weiss, the Jewish deputy chief of the city's police force, as a target of his anti-Semitic agitation. Goebbels nicknamed him "Isidore" and, after Weiss sued Goebbels for libel and won, he called him "Weiss, whom one isn't allowed to call Isidore." Goebbels derided Weiss's police officers as "Bernhardiner" ("St. Bernard dogs") and "Weiss guardsmen."

Young party members sang satirical songs about "Isidore" and wore "Isidore" masks -- and they often had the laughs on their side. Indeed, the Nazis used coarse humor as a sharp weapon in their struggle with the Weimar Republic. "We scoffed at an entire system and brought it down with resounding laughter," Gunter d'Alquen, the young editor-in-chief of Das Schwarze Korps (The Black Corps) wrote in 1937. Goebbels believed that "horseplay is necessary." At a showing of a film adaptation("All Quiet on the Western Front" members of the SA released white mice into the audience. Screaming women caused the film to be interrupted while SA men and Goebbels roared with laughter. He justified his strategy of provocation by saying that the Nazis could be accused of many things, but certainly not of being dull. Street battles and brawls at political meetings forged a sense of unity and camaraderie among party members in Berlin. It was only on Mayday 1927 that Hitler spoke to them for the first time.

 Five days after Hitler's speech, the police banned the Nazi Party in Berlin. But that didn't stop its ascent. Goebbels had read the memoirs of August Bebel, a Marxist politician and co-founder of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Germany, and had learned a lesson from the Social Democrats' struggle against Bismarck's anti-socialist laws. The Nazis established seemingly harmless groups, such as bowling, savings and swimming clubs. Using the motto "Not dead, despite the ban," Goebbels established the newspaper Der Angriff (The Attack) in July 1927, initially as a weekly. The subheading, "For the Oppressed -- Against the Exploiters," targeted working-class readers.  The strategy of the Berlin branch of the Nazi Party was to serve as an extra-parliamentary opposition, forming cells on the street and in businesses, using the communist approach as a model. In 1929, the Nazis captured 5.8 percent of the vote for city council, securing 13 seats in the city's parliament.

What changed in  October 1929, was that the stock market in New York crashed. Mass unemployment rose sharply, increasing the potential for urban unrest. Berlin's Nazis waged a political war on two fronts. One front was against the Social Democrats and the established parties running the city and the country. The other was against the communists, whose ranks swelled when people uprooted by the crisis were driven into their arms. To differentiate itself from other right wing parties in Der Angriff, Goebbels polemicized against the "black, white and red fat cats," referencing the colors of the flag of the German Empire favored by many right-wing nationalists. "You say 'fatherland,'" he wrote accusatorily, "but what you're talking about are percentages."
Goebbels saw workers disappointed by the stolid SPD as a target group. He called the SPD "Germany's most shameless party" and held it responsible for "poverty, hunger, fat cats and thin workers." The Social Democrats, Goebbels said in August 1930, were "no longer the protagonists of a true, purposeful socialism," but instead had become the "lackeys and beneficiaries of market capitalism." In fact, with its corruptible politicians, the SPD made things easier for the Nazis in Berlin.

The Communist Party of Germany (KPD), headed in Berlin by Walter Ulbricht had its strongholds in Berlin's blue-collar neighborhoods, like Friedrichshain and Wedding, and it had a powerful paramilitary organization in the Roter Frontkämpferbund (Alliance of Red Front-Fighters). Goebbels was familiar with the communists' weak points, namely, the often out-of-touch language of their officials and the control Soviet leaders exerted over them. In Der Angriff, Goebbels wrote that the KPD, as a "Russian foreign legion on German soil" created "with Russian money and German human resources," was alienating many members of the proletariat.

To hope to succeed in Berlin's "red" neighborhoods the Nazis had to speak a language understood there. In a flyer distributed in September 1931 to unemployed workers waiting at a government agency in Berlin, Goebbels wrote that the party was turning to "workers without work and without hope, exposed to the most horrible form of desperation," and he promised "to destroy the system of capitalism and replace it with a new, socialist order." In their appeal "to all of the unemployed," the Nazis cleverly called into question the strength of the leftist parties, the SPD and the KPD. Goebbels courted the proletarians by treating them like cheated brides, addressing them as "you who have been left forsaken by your seducers." The Nazis adhered to the third of the "Ten Commandments for National Socialists" penned by Goebbels: "Every national comrade, even the poorest, is part of Germany. Love him as you love yourself."

Horst Wessel saw himself as a socialist who had been shaken by the "great social impoverishment and servitude of the working classes in all professions." Next to Goebbels, there was no one who spoke more often than Wessel for the Nazi Party in greater Berlin. Wessel sought to establish contact with proletarians in dark back courtyards and noisy taverns, on street corners and at unemployment offices. He soon became a hated by the KPD.  On Jan. 14, 1930 he was shot and mortally wounded  by Albrecht Höhler. Wessel became their martyr. Communists attacked the funeral procession and tried to seize the coffin. Before the funeral, they had painted the words "A final Heil Hitler to the pimp Horst Wessel!" on the wall of the cemetery. In retaliation Communists Party members increasingly became the victims of armed SA members. In one version of their song, "We March Through Greater Berlin," they sang "The red front, break them to pieces.",  the words were changed to "beat them to a pulp."  SA "storm bars" -- which grew fivefold, to 107, between 1928 and 1931 -- SA members in their brown uniforms sang the anthem Wessel had supposedly written.

By Sept 1930, a crowd of more than 100,000 people turned up outside the Sportpalast, trying to gain get in for a rally attended by Hitler. Four days later, the Nazi Party became the second-strongest party in the country, capturing 18.3 percent of the vote. In Berlin, where it became the third most powerful party after the KPD and the SPD, it garnered 396,000 votes, or more than 10 times as many as it had just two years earlier. The Nazis had broken the KPD's monopoly as the only protest party among Berlin's working classes. Now even the communists, who had initially hoped to fight off the Nazis with fists, brass knuckles and revolvers (their motto was: "Beat the fascists wherever you encounter them!"), were now courting Hitler's followers. In an appeal by the district office for Berlin-Brandenburg in November 1931, the KPD praised the "National Socialist workers" and "proletarian supporters of the Nazi Party," calling them "honest fighters against the system of hunger."  In early November 1932, the National Socialist Factory Cell Organization, together with the KPD's Revolutionary Union Opposition, organized a strike against wage cuts at the Berlin Transport Authority. Nazis and communists picketed alongside each other and joined forces to beat up strike breakers.

 The KPD official newspaper Der Parteiarbeiter (The Party Worker) complained that new comrades in KPD were not finding "the spirit of camaraderie that is needed to be able to cooperate with friends." Instead of the KPD's rigid ideological fare, the SA homes offered hot soup and solidarity. In 1932, there were 15,000 SA members in Berlin. During the Christmas holidays, unemployed party members were invited to the homes of the members who still had work in what Goebbels called the "socialism of action." The concept gradually took hold in "red" Wedding, where the number of party members grew from 18 to 250 between 1928 and 1930. In a district where the majority voted communist, the Hitler Youth held "public discussion evenings" with titles such as "The Swastika or the Soviet Star." Workers who had lived in the Soviet Union were popular guests at Nazi agitation evenings. They gave vivid accounts of the miserable lives of workers and the reign of terror of the secret police.

In 1932, when the ranks of the unemployed throughout the Reich swelled to more than 6 million, and to 600,000 in Berlin alone, the Nazi Party achieved its breakthrough to become a major party, counting 40,000 members in its regional organization. In March 1932, the party mobilized about 80,000 people for a rally. On April 4, some 200,000 people congregated at a square to cheer Hitler. The general student body elections in Berlin had demonstrated that university students were also anxious to support Hitler. The Nazis captured 3,794 of the 5,801 votes cast, or almost two-thirds. The Hitler wave had even reached children, who entered the German Youth, a subdivision of the Hitler Youth for younger boys, and the League of German Girls - "Grandma, you must vote for Hitler!"
Goebbels promised the "right to work" and "a socialist Germany that gives bread to its children once again." This awakened the hopes of the 31.3 percent of Berlin voters who voted for the Nazi Party in the last Reichstag election of March 1933.

When Goebbels became a member of the Reichstag, he did so with the challenging words: "We have nothing to do with the parliament. We reject it from within." Only those who paid close attention to what Goebbels was saying could divine where the journey was about to go under Nazi leadership.

Adapted from here

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Manager, Bureuacrats, and the Coordinator Class

The basis of any society is the way its members are organised for the production of wealth. Where a section only of society controls the means of production then we can speak of a class society.
The class that controls the means of production can be said to constitute a stable ruling and privileged class when it:
1. controls the use of the means of production (possession);
2. controls the state (rule);
3. has preferential treatment in the allocation of goods for consumption (privilege).

These three feature — possession, rule and privilege— don't always necessarily or automatically go together. It is possible for a possessing class to be neither the ruling class nor a privileged class. For instance, it might not actually control the state but just have its protection against the excluded majority. Another minority class might control the state and use it to allocate itself, at the expense of the possessing class, a privileged consumption. In this case there is a socially and politically unstable situation in which the possessing class, starting from the finally decisive fact of controlling the means whereby society lives, will strive to capture state power for itself—strive to become the ruling class as well as the possessing class. This done, it can easily end the privileged consumption of the previous ruling class.

 Marx quotes Dr. Ure as saying in 1840, that not the industrial capitalists but the industrial managers "are the soul of our industrial system." (Capital, vol. 3). It is of course true as the managerial theorists say that the unity between owners of capital and the actual direction of production has been ruptured. Joint stock companies (corporations) operate not merely with their own capital but other peoples. Of them Marx says, "Capital ... is here directly endowed with the form of social capital ... as distinguished from private capital and assumes the form of social enterprise as distinguished from private enterprise. It is the abolition of capital as private property within the boundaries of capitalist production itself." Marx adds, that it leads to the "transformation of the actually functioning capitalist into a mere manager, and administrator of other peoples capital and the owners of capital . . . into mere money capitalists." (Capital, vol. 3) Marx did not believe the development of the corporation to be a step towards socialism. Collective capital, he said, although it gave impetus to the social character of wealth production could never overcome, but only intensify the antagonism of socially produced wealth and private appropriation. He also added that the development of the corporation and “the credit system, brings a new set of parasites . . . promoters, speculators …  a whole system of swindling by means of corporation juggling, stock jobbing and stock speculation. It is private production without the control of private property." (Capital, vol. 3,)

Marx dealt with the replacement of the capitalists as industrial entrepreneurs by managers. The early capitalists, while not producing surplus value, supervised the activities of those who did. This appropriation of unpaid labour was called the profits of enterprise. The economic apologists of the day also called it the wages of superintendance. With the vast growth of capitalism the function of the capitalist as a representative of capital became delegated to managers, whose wages of superintendence was fixed at the market price and was but a mere fraction of what the capitalist had appropriated for such work. Managers are then agents for the capitalists and hence agents for capital. Managers constitute the elite of the amorphous mass called by some people the new "middle class." It includes civil servants, professional workers, office staff, salesmen, etc. They are also known as the salariat. The requirement of large scale capitalism has brought about a considerable increase of these types of employees.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pharaoh Mursi

A president gives himself expansive powers under the populist cloak of protecting the revolution. How often have we witnessed that? The wide-ranging powers granted to Mursi by his own hand have been hailed as a "revolutionary decision" necessary to protect the 2011 uprising by his supporters, and described as a coup by his opposition. In scenes reminiscent of the protests which brought down President Hosni Mubarak last year, Egyptians have returned to the streets to protest.

The Vampires

Having been bailed out by after a Wall Street-driven financial crash instead of a thank-you, they are showing their appreciation in the form of a coordinated effort to rob Americans of hard-earned retirements, decent medical care and relief for the poorest. Using the excuse of a phony, manufactured crisis known as the “fiscal cliff” the rich are gearing up to pull the wool over the public’s eyes by cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

 Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO, GoldmanSachs, infamous for describing his financial activities as “God’s work,” recently explained that “You’re going to have to do something, undoubtedly, to lower people’s expectations of what they’re going to get, the entitlements, and what people think they’re going to get, because you’re not going to get it.”

The Greek prime minister Lucas Papademos, Bush's Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen in the United States, the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi,and Mark Carney, the nrw Bank of England governor all have one thing in common. All were former executives of Goldman Sachs. All assumed prominent positions of power, and all played a hand after the global financial meltdown of 2007-08.

In 2001, Goldman Sachs secretly helped Greece hide billions of dollars through the use of complex financial instruments like credit default swaps. This allowed Greece to meet the baseline requirements to enter the Eurozone in the first place. But it also created a debt bubble that would later explode and bring about the current economic crisis.  The man who headed up the Central Bank of Greece while this deal was being arranged with Goldman was Lucas Papademos. GoldmanSachs helps a nation hide a problem and sell its debt until the problem blows up and bursts then Goldman Sachs then puts their ‘man’ into a position of power to direct the bailouts so that Goldman gets all its money back and more, while the nation's economy gets looted.

 Why are the working people of Europe and America suffering under austerity and being asked to sacrifice their pensions, their wages, and their jobs? It’s because Goldman Sachs is sucking the last remaining wealth out of those nations to recoup whatever failed investments they made before the Crash. Why have thousands of homeowners in the United States  faced home foreclosure?  It’s because re-writing mortgages would force banks like Goldman Sachs to take a loss. Why have the banksters at Goldman Sachs not been thrown in jail for defrauding customers, manipulating LIBOR interest rates. Goldman Sachs executives, get a slap on the wrist when they steal $50 billion.

Trader Alessio Rastani told the BBC “We don't really care about having a fixed economy, having a fixed situation, our job is to make money from it…Personally, I've been dreaming of this moment for three years. I go to bed every night and I dream of another recession.” Rastani continued, “When the market crashes... if you know what to do, if you have the right plan set up, you can make a lot of money from this.” Rastani bluntly told the BBC, “This is not a time right now for wishful thinking that governments are going to sort things out. The governments don't rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world.”