Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Canadian interested in socialism? Socialist interested in Canada? Read On . . .

Latest issue of 'Imagine', the journal of the Socialist Party of Canada, is now available.

Click on the image for the PDF of the issue.

Articles featured include:

  • National Ownership Or Common Ownership?
  • The Long Commute To Nowhere
  • Free Trade Or A Free World?
  • Honesty Is The Worst Policy
  • Tales From The Class War
  • Via the Socialist Party of Canada website:

    Wage Slave News: 2008 Federal Election Comment

    $300 million of government money, plus tens of millions of dollars more spent by each party to pay for advertisements that largely attempt to discredit their opponents, has just been spent in an exercise in futility. The new parliament will be almost identical to the last minority government that lasted just two and a half years. The voter turnout was among the lowest on record at just 59%. Why are voters so turned off? In the first place you often hear people say that it doesn’t make a difference. They are right. All the major parties support the current economic system, capitalism. As this system is based on the private ownership of the world’s riches and resources and the mechanisms for turning them into useful goods, all in the interests of those same owners, and as all parties compete to run and maintain that system, then we can say we have a choice between Private Property Party A, B, C, D, or E, i.e. no real difference and no real change. Not one party, outside The Socialist Party of Canada, has proposed any alternative to this current system in which billions live in poverty, millions starve to death or die from easily-treated diseases, hundreds of millions lack adequate housing or medical care, and even in our own rich country, over a million are forced to line up at food banks for paltry hand outs. All this, mind you, in the midst of plenty and signs everywhere of the ostentatious wealth of the owning class.

    Secondly, there is a sense that our system is undemocratic. Voting every four years or so doesn’t cut the mustard. The largest voter block was the ‘did not vote’ group at 41%, added to the estimated 8% who don’t bother to get registered, that makes 49%. The Tories got something less than 40% of 51% of voters equals about 22 % of all adults. In other words, practically 4 out of 5 didn’t want Harper as Prime Minister. I’m sure most candidates are genuinely expecting to go to Ottawa to serve their community and country. Alas, they only get to serve a small cadre of party insiders who, with one ear to the capitalist class and their lackeys, the lobbyists, decide party policy. All members are under the discipline of the party whips and are told how and when to vote, as they are needed, and to jump up and shout and applaud whenever their leader speaks in the house. Is this democracy? Don’t they ever disagree with their leader, or think he gave a lousy performance and refuse to act like cheerleaders? The big event of the election season is the leaders’ debate. Elizabeth May of the Green Party, who put candidates in every riding, was refused permission to participate for the second time. Only a large outcry reversed this decision. But what about all the other parties? In a democratic society we should listen to all sides, shouldn’t we? Those who vote and do not back a winner feel that their votes do not count at all and representation does not match the popular vote. The Green Party polled almost one million voters but didn’t get one seat in the House. Proportional Representation would make every vote count but The Toronto Star editorialized against this system on the grounds that groups like Alberta First or religious groups might get represented in parliament! That system wouldn’t, of course, make any difference unless we had real choices to vote for. With universal suffrage, we have the potential for democracy, but our convoluted system, the influence of money, and the bias of the media all converge to prevent any chance of real democracy. When socialism and common ownership are established, there will be no need for political parties as they are expressions of the class system. Socialist parties around the world, when elected to power will use state legislatures, presently the tools of oppression of the working class, as an instrument of emancipation, ending private property, giving power to local councils, and then disbanding. We do not attempt to lay down any blueprint for future generations to follow as that would be undemocratic, but it seems plausible that local elected, accountable, recallable, councils would organize production and distribution of goods based on needs, and their decisions and performances would be subject to daily scrutiny. In other words, real democracy, from the people up will be the order of the day. This can only happen, though, when you, reader, agree with our position and decide to do something about it.

    The Socialist Party of Canada


    Socialism as a Practical Alternative

    A discussion on the problems of society and how to solve them.

    Friday November 14th


    The Barrie Public Library

    60 Worsley St. (at Owen St.)

    (@ blocks north of Dunlop St.

    For more information on the Socialist Party of Canada:

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  • Cuba’s wage system (2008)

    The Cooking the Books column from the October 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

    Earlier this year, when in June the Cuban government, now under Fidel Castro’s brother Raul, announced a new system of wage payments, the Guardian (13 June) wrote that Cuba had “abandoned its egalitarian wages system”. This brought a response (20 June) from Helen Yaffe, author of Ermesto Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution:
    “In reality, there has never been an ‘egalitarian wage system’ (i.e. one where every worker was paid the same): Che Guevara himself devised a new salary scale, introduced in 1964, with 24 different basic wage levels, plus a 15% bonus for over-completion”.
    In other words, Cuba never had practised wage equality, not even when Guevara was Minister of Industry. Not that socialists favour equal wages. As long as the wages system – the sale of people’s working skills for money – exists there will be a different price for the different types of skill. We want the abolition of the whole wage system, an end to the buying and selling of people’s working abilities, and the application of the principle “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”.

    Yaffe made a claim about this too:
    “Like Marx himself, Che recognised the socialist principle: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his work’ – which your article associates exclusively with Raul. Cuba has never claimed to be communist and therefore never embraced the principle ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his need’, which expresses the attainment of communist society”.
    While it is true that Marx thought that it would not have been possible to implement “to each according to needs” immediately had a “co-operative society based on the common ownership of the means of production” been established in his day, he never drew a distinction between a socialist society (where this principle couldn’t yet be applied) and a communist society (where it would be). He actually spoke of two “phases” of the same society, which he called “communist society”. Engels and the later socialist movement adopted the term “socialist society”, but both terms referred to the same type of society; they are interchangeable.

    In any event, the temporary measure until distribution according to needs became possible which Marx mentioned in the private notes he wrote in 1875 known as The Critique of the Gotha Programme was a system of “labour-time vouchers”. This would probably have proved unworkable but it was not the same as “to each according to their work”. It would have been “to each according to their working time”, with people being given a consumption voucher based on the time spent at work not for the particular kind of work they did. There wouldn’t be 24 different levels, just one. An engineer and a cleaner who put in the same number of hours would get the get the same number of consumption vouchers. In this sense it would have been “egalitarian”.

    But what Lenin, Stalin, Castro and Guevara called “socialism” did not even correspond to Marx’s “first phase of communist society” since it was based on the state, not the common, ownership and control of the means of production, the majority remaining propertyless and having to sell their working skills to live. As the state was controlled by the leaders of a minority vanguard party, these leaders became in effect the employers of the excluded majority. As employers they had to devise some system of pricing the different kinds and qualities of labour-power they purchased. Hence schemes such as Guevara’s and the one just introduced in Cuba. This was state capitalism, not socialism/communism.