Thursday, January 31, 2013

Against Gradualism

The Road to Socialism

The Socialist Party’s conception of revolution is often criticised for its lack of credibility since it is assumed that people have to wait for the overwhelming majority necessary to “enact” socialism before doing something about their immediate problems. The Party does argue that the work for socialism must be the building up of a majority of socialists who will then be in a position to remove the capitalist features from production as a conscious political act and that until a socialist majority is achieved, the class monopoly of the means of production, the wage-labour/capital relationship, commodity production, the operation of the market, and the state, will continue to be both the form of social production and its administration by governments. The Party’s theory of revolution  insists that socialism can only be established by the democratic, conscious political actions of a majority of socialists and it is not just any theory culled from a textbook of bourgeois sociology. The theory is based both on the class struggle as the motor of social change and on an understanding of the economics of capitalism and the limits it places on what can be done within the framework of the capitalist system.

Members of the Left reject the Party’s theory of revolution as “impossible”. Their argument was that without a majority of socialists, and prior to the formal enactment of common ownership, a working class government could set society on a course of change in the direction of socialism. In control of the state and all legal processes, such a government would grant the widest freedom of action to the trade unions and thus set up a partnership with the trade unions pursuing working class interests on the industrial field and a government doing the same on the political field.

The unions would maximise the workers’ share of the social product at the point of production. The government would provide housing, health care and education, etc. At the same time, such a working class government would begin the process of establishing common ownership through the nationalisation of the means of production and through “taxing the rich out of existence”.

The Party rejected this gradualist policy at the beginning of the century and this rejection has been vindicated by experience and has led to the Party’s traditional case for abolishing class ownership by one short, sharp political act.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Arguing with the Left is not always a useful way for socialists to spend their time,"We've got the wrong leadership" is the perpetual cry of Leftists. Many political groups fancy themselves as "leaders" of the working-class. We do not. We say that workers should spurn these would-be vanguards and organise for socialism democratically, without leaders.

Their basic dogma is that the mass of the workers cannot understand socialism (or at least, not without the constant tutelage of the vanguard) which implies that the vanguard must be recruited from outside the working-class. Therefore, the vanguard groups reject the Marxist contention that there are only two classes in advanced capitalism. Vanguardists may protest at this description but an examination of their propaganda shows that "consciousness" means merely following the right leaders. When it is suggested that the majority of the population must attain a clear desire for the abolition of the wages system, and the introduction of a worldwide moneyless community, the vanguardists reply that this is "too abstract" or "too academic." But members  of the vanguard do understand it, (or so they claim) . They are the "intelligentsia", the revolutionary officer corps.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Oliver James, the psychologist and broadcaster, identified three types of dysfunctional personalities among white collar workers: psychopath, Machiavellian, and narcissist. The author concluded that there was fourth dysfunctional type: a “triadic person” who is a combination of all three, a mix of a lack of empathy, self-centredness, deviousness and self-regard which can propel them to the top of the organisations.

 How to tell if your boss is psychopathic, Machiavellian, a narcissist or – even worse – all three.

For each character trait decide whether you strongly agree, agree, feel it applies sometimes, disagree or strongly disagree and give a score from 5 for strongly agree to 1 for strongly disagree.

The higher the score, the more they have combined psychopathic, Machiavellian and narcissistic tendencies.

1. They tend to exploit and trick others for self-advancement.

2. They have used lies and deception to get their way.

3. They have used ingratiation to get their way.

4. They tend to manipulate others for selfish reasons.

5. They tend not to feel regretful and apologetic after having done wrong.

6. They tend not to worry about whether their behaviour is ethical.

7. They tend to be lacking in empathy and crassly unaware of the distress they can cause others.

8. They tend to take a pretty dim view of humanity, attributing nasty motives and selfishness.

9. They tend to be hungry for admiration.

10. They tend to want to be the centre of attention.

11. They tend to aim for higher status and signs of their importance.

12. They tend to take it for granted that other people will make extra efforts to help them.

Friday, January 25, 2013

It is all Doom and Gloom yet again

Experts on the health of our planet are terrified of the future. They can clearly see the coming collapse of global civilisation from an array of interconnected environmental problems.

“We’re all scared,” said Paul Ehrlich, president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University. “But we must tell the truth about what’s happening and challenge people to do something to prevent it,” Ehrlich told IPS. Global collapse of human civilisation seems likely, write Ehrlich and his partner Anne Ehrlich in the prestigious science journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society.

This collapse will take the form of a “…gradual breakdown because famines, epidemics and resource shortages cause a disintegration of central control within nations, in concert with disruptions of trade and conflicts over increasingly scarce necessities”, they write.
Already two billion people are hungry today. Food production is humanity’s biggest industry and is already being affected by climate and other environmental problems. “No civilisation can avoid collapse if it fails to feed its population,” the authors say.

Escalating climate disruption, ocean acidification, oceanic dead zones, depletion of groundwater and extinctions of plants and animals are the main drivers of the coming collapse, they write in their peer-reviewed article “Can a collapse of global civilisation be avoided?”.

Global population is projected to increase by 2.5 billion by 2050. It doesn’t take an expert to conclude that collapse of civilisation will be unavoidable without major changes. We’re facing a future where billions will likely die, and yet little is being done to avoid certain disaster, he said. “Policy makers and the public aren’t terrified about this because they don’t have the information or the knowledge about how our planet functions,” he said.

Last March, the world’s scientific community provided the first-ever “state of the planet” assessment at the “Planet Under Pressure” conference  in London. More than 3,000 experts concluded humanity is facing a “planetary emergency” and there was no time to lose in making large-scale changes.
In 2010, a coalition of the national scientific bodies and international scientific unions from 141 countries warned that “the continued functioning of the Earth system as we know it is at risk”.
“The situation is absolutely desperate and yet there’s nothing on the front pages or on the agenda of world leaders,” said Pat Mooney, head of the international environmental organisation ETC Group.

 A key element in meeting this unprecedented challenge is “…to see ourselves as utterly embedded in Nature and not somehow separate from those precious systems that sustain all life”, writes Prince Charles commenting on the Ehrlich’s paper. “To continue with ‘business as usual’ is an act of suicide on a gargantuan scale,” Prince Charles concluded.

American reality

Nearly a third of the nation’s working families earn salaries so low that they struggle to pay for their necessities, according to a new report.    The ranks of the so-called working poor have grown even as the nation has created new jobs for 27 consecutive months and is showing other signs of shaking off the worst effects of the recession.    “Although many people are returning to work, they are often taking jobs with lower wages and less job security, compared with the middle class jobs they held before the downturn,” said a report released Tuesday by the Working Poor Families Project. 70 percent of low-income families and half of all poor families were working by 2011, the report said. The problem is they did not earn enough to cover their basic living expenses. 37 percent of the nation’s children — 23.5 million — were part of working poor families in 2011. Half of all American workers earn $505 or less per week. At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less. Today, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.

Many of the occupations experiencing the fastest job growth during the recovery have been the ones that also pay poorly. Among them are retail jobs, food preparation, clerical work and customer assistance. In 2011, the top fifth of working families had incomes that were 10.1 times greater than those in the bottom fifth of income earners. The best means for climbing the income ladder — improved education — is growing more uncertain and more expensive, the report said.  60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs. Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs. According to one survey, 77 percent of all Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck at least part of the time. Low income families spend about 8.6 percent of their incomes on gasoline.  Other families spend about 2.1 percent.

 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing.  40 percent of all Americans have $500 or less in savings.

 Productivity has continued to rise unabated while wages have stopped growing. In effect, the workers who built a productive America stopped getting paid for their efforts. A minimum wage linked to productivity would be  $21.00 per hour. The number of families in the United States living on 2 dollars a day or less more than doubled between 1996 and 2011.

The wealthiest one percent of all Americans households on average have 288 times the amount of wealth that the average middle class American family does. The average CEO now makes approximately 350 times as much as the average American worker makes.  In the United States today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.The bottom 60 percent of all Americans own just 2.3 percent of all the financial wealth in the United States.The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have a net worth that is roughly equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans combined.  According to Forbes, the 400 wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. A higher percentage of children is living in poverty in America today than was the case back in 1975.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Check your label

Socialism and capitalism are among the most misused words in the world. They all refer to social systems which should historically develop out of one another.

 Socialism originally referred to a way of living in which all the means of producing our needs would be controlled by society as a whole. This would entail the free association of the world's people, with every associate a co-owner of the entire world's vast array of resources, natural and human made. The global community would collectively make decisions on matching their needs with available resources. This would mean the end of wage labor, i.e. the selling of one's ability to work in order to gain access to social wealth, an end to separate nations and enterprises, an end to money and all forms of exchange.

Capital is a social relation, a relation between people expressed through things. Goods were exchanged in previous social systems although the scope of exchange was much more limited and its occurrence much less frequent. But in capitalism, labor power becomes a commodity, something to be bought and sold. Workers sell their available time in return for the money needed to reproduce themselves as workers. In return, those few who own or control the means of production and/or investment funds, be they corporate owners or state bureaucrats, obtain control over the workers' time and energy, and thus can require them to produce beyond their needs. The capitalists' control of the products means that by selling them, they can potentially draw a profit from the surplus (beyond expenses) which is thereby produced. Some of this profit is used for their own consumption and vital but unproductive expenses, such as running the government and keeping track of money. But profits are primarily for reinvestment in profit-making activity. This is how investments grow. And growth is capital's reason for living, its ultimate priority, even if growth requires war.

Capitalism survival, as well as its potential overthrow, depend on the working class. This social class includes all who own little except their labor power, their capacity to perform work. The working class not only produces all wealth which exists in usable form, but also enriches and empowers the owners/controllers of capital. The workers' activity exhausts them, while strengthening the impersonal forces which dominate their lives. Their own creative energies are transformed into a seemingly alien entity, capital, which stands ever taller and more imposing, and confronts them as a “given" fact of life, like the weather. Outside work, activities like commuting and passive entertainment reinforce our roles as workers for capital. Even when survival Is not In question, a wage slave's life is a boring treadmill compared with the passionate creative lives we could be living within a different social structure. This is the essence of exploitation. which most people think of as low wages and other obvious injustices. In their effort to ensure continued growth of their capital, the ruling elite throughout the world are driven by the dynamics of global competition to get the most out of their labor forces, to substitute machines where possible, and to get people to act like machines when this is unfeasible. This has led to social conflicts since the bloody beginnings of capital, as workers were forced to take drastic action to protect their living standards.

Socialism was first proposed as goals by activists in the working class movement of the early 19th century. They believed class conflicts would escalate, and would present the working class with both an opportunity and a necessity to tear down the social structure and live differently. Marx and most of his contemporaries saw socialism as arising out of the ensuing social conflict. By the end of the 19th century, the movement had degenerated. Socialism came to be redefine  as an evolutionary process whose aim was the redistribution of money. In their view, a party made up of intellectuals and experts. i.e. themselves, would take over the government, and gradually have the state acquire control of the means of production in society's name. An updated distortion of socialism see it as the ownership of each enterprise by a workers' cooperative, the break-up of large enterprises, and support for small ones, nationalization of some sectors, and coordination of the whole mixture by state planners. In other words, they propose to deal with the problems of "free" market (dog-eat-dog competition) and inefficient state control by combining the wont features of both. But workers' control and/or ownership of an enterprise does little to relieve the market pressures which all companies face—outcompete rivals or go under. Workers in a co-op situation often resort to speeding themselves up, cutting their own wages, even laying themselves off, so the enterprise has a chance to survive. And forcing companies to become and/or stay small does very little to improve their competitiveness. In the meantime, state regulators will have tremendous difficulties reconciling their need to centralize decision-making with the decentralized co-op ownership pattern. Besides, any effort at planning the economy would quickly find that it is merely a part of a world mechanism. Most of those who call themselves Leftists dismiss the possibility of an anti-capitalist transformation. This is usually due to a mixture of a lack of understanding of capitalism and socialism, cynicism about human nature and a desire for power.

Adapted from here

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Go forth and multiply (2)

If you’re a blue chip multinational, you possess an abundance of capital liquidity. For example, Apple (AAPL) had over $3 billion in cash on its balance sheet at the end of 2012, up from $368 million in 2008.  General Electric (GE) had $84 billion in cash to start with in 2012 after ending 2008 with $48 billion.  Here’s another one, Starbucks (SBUX) had $1.2 billion in cash at the end of 2012, up from $269 million in 2008. In 2012, total financial assets are nearly 10 times the value of the global output of all goods and services. As financial markets in China, India and other emerging markets continue to develop, total global capital will hit $900 trillion by 2020.

Go forth and multiply

Overpopulation is good for Filipinos, says a bishop.  Bishop Garcera said the huge Philippine population could be part of “God’s plan for Filipinos to be caregivers to ageing nations whose populations had become stagnant.” He also said many Filipino women would make “good wives” for foreigners in countries that have low population growth. He said that the overpopulation that breeds poverty was not a problem because poverty itself was not a problem. He said poverty even brought people “closer” to God and was instrumental in realizing God’s plan for Filipinos to take care of other nationalities by inducing migration and working abroad.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

GM food

When it comes to evolution, no reputable scientific organisation supported the ploy by creationists some years back to put “intelligent design” on an equal scientific footing with evolutionary biology, however, many in the GMO debate deny and muddy established, consensus science in a similar way as those religious fundamentalists and also climate change skeptics have done by claiming equal access time and for the "right for people to know".

A longtime opponent changed his former position and endorsed the use of genetically modified crops. Mark Lynas is a British environmentalist who helped start the anti-biotechnology movement in the 1990s and who took part in destroying test plantings of GE crops. Lynas realized that he had never done any academic research on biotechnology, despite his strongly held opposition to it. "So I did some reading," he said, "and I discovered that one by one my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths." Lynas said there is "rock-solid scientific consensus" on the safety of biotech food. "We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe—over a decade and a half with 3 trillion GM meals eaten there has never been a single substantiated case of harm," he said. "You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food."

The issue of herbicide resistance is not unique to GMO crops. Whenever a pesticide is used year after year in the same place on the same target populations, resistance to that pesticide will develop. With any pesticide, and with any genetically engineered crop that involves pests, the pesticides must be rotated to prevent any resistance genes that develop from spreading throughout the population. While crops resistant to glyphosate have resulted in a switch away from other herbicides to glyphosate which has resulted in an increase in glyphosate resistant weeds, this is not due to genetic engineering. The problem is a lack of integrated pest management strategies that incorporate a variety of solutions.

The real issue isn't GM technology itself or its safety, but what it's being used to do. Biotech is often used, not to feed people, but to line the pockets of Big Ag Corporations with many companies trying to patent pieces of genome, like Mosanto that copyright seeds, then prohibit the cleaning and re-using of seeds in order to make more money off them. What bio-tech is being used FOR is the much bigger issue than the technology itself.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Cosmic Marxist

Every Thing is Everything

There is much to be found in the ideas of Joseph Dietzgen, the forgotten philosopher, the first “dialectical materialist”.

“Socialist materialism understands by matter not only the ponderable and tangible, but the whole real existence. Everything that is contained in the Universe – and in it is contained everything, the All and the Universe being but two names for one thing – everything this Socialist materialism embraces in one conception, one name, one category.”

Dietzgen wishes to emphasise first and foremost the formal unity of all things, understanding the network of relations which constitute the tools of Marxist social analysis as expressive of the totality of interrelationships that form the dialectical realisation of the natural universe. The socialist materialist position, as expressed by Dietzgen is that: "We regard… forces, like heat, gravitation and all which is audible, visible and tangible, as a form or species, as a piece or product of the general force, which is identical with the omnipresent, eternal and indestructible cosmic matter." And  “being a part of the cosmos, the human mind is cosmic, partakes of the eternal and infinite nature of the cosmos, the same as every substance and force.” Dietzgen showed that the human mind itself was a product of that greater historical process, of which human history is but a small part, the cosmic process.

His was a cosmic-monistic philosophy.

Taken from Red, Black and Green: Dietzgen’s Philosophy Across the Divide. by Simon Boxley, University of Winchester

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

If the people lead, the leaders will follow

We are all leaders.

In 1916 in Everett, Washington state, USA, a passenger ferry loaded with Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) free speech activists attempted to dock. On the dock, the local sheriff, along with armed deputies and armed guards hired by local businesses, attempted to block the ship from docking. According to lore, when the sheriff asked, “Who are your leaders?” the response from the ferry was a shout from everyone aboard, declaring, “We are all leaders here.”

The relation of "the party," to the masses plays a large part in contemporary Left discussion. The importance and indispensability of the vanguard party is taken as said. The militants who call themselves the vanguard believe that one or the myriad parties must direct the class struggle (or in the case of some syndicalists, the unions)

The Trotskyist/Leninist Left may remix the song over and over again all they want but the tune remains the same: leaders and the cadres of the vanguard can find the answer; the mass movements of the people cannot liberate themselves. The case for leadership is simple. Most working-class people are too busy to have opinions or engage in political action. There’s a need for someone to dedicate their time and energies to adequately represent working class people. Instead, we what really need is professional, full-time advocates for our interests. It’s only logical that the Trotskyist vanguard, understanding better the decision making processes of power, represent organised resistance on our behalf. Ensuring we have a united position is more important at this stage and what does solidarity mean if not getting in line behind strong leadership - even if that leadership isn’t always sure what it’s principles are? Too many people don't have the right political consciousness, and if we let them use too much democracy they will make counter-revolutionary decisions that sabotage the revolution. The "masses" just can't be trusted is the clear conclusion. If the masses don’t have an evolved enough political consciousness to be pro-revolution, then would elect people as their representatives who reflect their backwards political views.  If the masses don’t have advanced enough political consciousness, this is going to sabotage the revolution one whether through counter-revolutionary decisions being made via direct democracy via electing counter-revolutionary leaders via representative democracy. This would be the point where the vanguard party strategy would suspend even representative democracy. They attempt to solve the problem of widespread backwards consciousness by implementing a one-party dictatorship with the “representatives” chosen from within the party rather than freely elected by the masses. If most people don’t have a sufficiently advanced political consciousness, the revolution will fail whether a vanguard party is used or not. And if a totalitarian vanguard party succeeds in stealing power from the not-revolutionary-enough masses, the revolution will still fail – because tyranny in itself is counter-revolutionary.

The idea that someone with a job and kids can really understand the complex needs of the working class is farcical. Workers have nothing to gain and everything to lose by relying on leaders. Socialism means that people have taken their destiny into their own hands. Socialism can't be created by decree or by force by a minority. It can only be implemented by the majority of the people taking over the economy (taking over their workplaces, streets and estates) and reorganising them as they see fit. But being against vanguards is not the same as being against organisation. A vanguard is a particular type of organisation, with specific aims and to reject vanguardism is not to reject organisation.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain do not see ourselves as yet another leadership, but merely as an instrument of the working class. We function to help generalise their experience of the class struggle, to make a total critique of their condition and of its causes, and to develop the mass revolutionary consciousness necessary if society is to be totally transformed. We reject an organisational role. What we want people to come to is the realisation that they should take over their workplaces, communities, and put themselves in a position to control all of the decisions that effect them directly, and to run things themselves. If we were to be a vanguard, in the sense of an enlightened minority seeking to gain power over others, we could never achieve this aim, because WE would have the power, rather than people having power over their own lives, collectively and individually. We would also be assuming the arrogance to think we have a monopoly of truth, rather than certain views which we debate with others including amongst ourselves, coming to a better viewpoint at the end of it. There is a big difference between an organisation that produces propaganda and so on, and helps promote the popular will where people accept decisions  because they have been convinced by the case and  have freely chosen to do so.and a vanguard in the common sense of the word, meaning a party seeking to gain power over the masses. Revolution will be a process of self-education. Without the active participation of the mass of the working class in the fight for a communist/stateless society cannot even be contemplated.

We favour majority decision making in face-to-face assemblies and where and when necessary by fully accountable re-callable delegates. A representative is someone who makes decisions for the other people. A delegate, in contrast, carries out a mandate they have been given by the people who delegated them. In other words, they don't act as they think best, they act as they are told.  How could it not? The whole premise of democratic centralism is that a central authority dictates policy to everyone else, so no matter how democratically chosen it is it has to enforce its line and stifle dissent that makes this too difficult, which, in a revolutionary situation, there is bound to be a lot of. Democratic centralism would exclude you from participation. So whilst it pays lip service to the idea of the vanguard as the most conscious sector of the proletariat in practical terms, the real vanguard is the central committee.