Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ninety nine percent of politics is crap! (1995)

Editorial from the December 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Millions of people today are angry. Angry that nobody listens as they continue their daily struggle simply to exist. Angry that the professional politicians who seek their votes once every few years seem more concerned with their own welfare, and that of those like them, than with the lives of ordinary people. Angry that while the problems that beset society get worse, nobody does anything about it. The politicians make promises, of course—but then again, they always did.

Disillusionment with the major parties is rife. Who really believes that a Labour government would be any better than a Tory one? People may hate the Conservatives and all they stand for, but they have little confidence in Labour either. They remember all too well that the last Labour government saw unemployment double, inflation take off, and real cuts in social services expenditure together with falling real wages.

The Labour Party, like the Tories and Liberal Democrats, don't really listen and certainly don't learn. They offer nothing today which they haven't offered before in some shape or form, and which only brought failure in the past. No matter which party or parties have been in office, the problems have continued—class division, unemployment, poverty, environmental destruction, war and a whole host more.

The truth is that on their past records alone none of the political parties which dominate politics today deserve the support of the majority in society who have to work for a living, or exist on benefits. They are all a standing joke. The trouble is that the joke is really on us. For as long as they rule, insecurity of life and today's social problems will continue to exist. This is because the system which puts the wealth and power of the privileged before the needs of the majority will still be intact. In the market economy—whether free market or with state regulation—profits always come first and the interests of wage and salary earners a poor second.

We think that it is time to tell the politicians that enough is enough and that they—and the system they uphold—are not needed any more. A real social democracy, where production is for use not profit and where the opportunity for real democratic participation will exist, is up for grabs if a majority of us want it. Do you want real social change badly enough to want to do something about it? The Socialist Party does—perhaps you owe it to yourself to find out a bit more about us.

Money gets in the way (1983)

From the October 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Arriving from Glasgow Central on the 6.15am train into Euston, I cursed at my second-class seat which was too uncomfortable to sleep on and too boring to sit up in. I had finally nodded off at 3.45, only to be nudged by the ticket collector who, contrary to description, does not collect tickets, like some people collect model soldiers, but walks around the train picking up all the tickets only in order to deposit them in a bin and destroy them. Clearly, the ticket is of no intrinsic value; one does not see the collector rushing to the driver to pass him the precious ticket fuel. Scraps of old paper which to me represent a passport back to London: no money, no ticket; no ticket, no travel. What was that about the freedom of movement which British workers are supposed to be grateful to possess?

Off the train and straight into a queue for a new ticket. My underground trip will last twenty minutes. In less than half an hour I could be where I want to be, but . . . secure barriers obscure my access to the trains. I fumble for the right coins to put in the ticket machines, but fail and fall victim to a twelve minute queue: it takes 60 per cent as long to buy my way on to the train as to travel on it. I mention to the man in front of me how strange it is that the public are supposed to own the railways yet we have to pay to travel on them. Imagine if you owned a bicycle and you had to pay the government every time you had a ride on it — then it would not be yours, just as the "public services" do not belong to the public. The man in front of me asks me something in Swedish (the way to Pimlico, I think), and as I search my briefcase for an SPGB Swedish introductory leaflet I notice an old man sitting on the floor playing a mouth organ to the tune of his own misery. It is usual to call such men tramps and to hope that they will not come near you. A few travellers threw pennies into his hat, but it was easy to see that money was the disease from which this man was suffering, not the cure. "There's your Victorian values for you" I muttered to the incomprehending Swede, and "Highbury and Islington" I shouted through the glass at the bored-looking London Transport coin collector.

Having exchanged metal for paper I am free to travel. The ticket office could close tomorrow and the trains would still run on time. On the platform I am confronted by an array of wallposter women who offer me everything from the chance to get rich when I'm dead (Life Insurance) to stereo systems which have a different knob for every reason why I can't afford them.

Arrive; throw the indispensable ticket on the floor. I think of my breakfast and reach to my wallet so see how big my appetite is. My stomach presents me with a comprehensive menu, but my wallet is on a diet. Given the choice between chewing into my remaining pound note or exchanging it for some food I decide to give the Queen's head a miss and opt for something tastier.

Sitting in the grubby cafe in Upper Street, Islington, I wonder where all the greedy people are — the ones who opponents of free access seem to know so well. The two Securicor men at the next table, who guard gold and eat the cheapest food, do not appear to be indulging in a banquet of gluttony. I ask the Greek proprietor whether he knew any cases of people eating ten or twenty dinners a day. He wishes that he did — such greed would be good for business. Lack of money prevents many workers from getting enough to eat, but where is the evidence that people with free access to food would eat until they were sick? And the so-called lazy people — where are they? Through the window I see hundreds of wage slaves rushing to work. Apart from the odd yawn, probably inspired by the monotony which is to come for many of them, the men and women in the street seem eager to get to work. How much more eager they would be if their incentive was the knowledge that they were running society for the sole benefit of satisfying human needs, including their own. Over the road a queue is forming outside the busiest shop in the street: the Job Centre. The wasteful scene of a queue of men and women who want to work, but are locked out of productive activity because there is no money to be made in employing them.

I turn to the taller of the Securicor men and mention how much saner it would be to live in a world without money. Spitting small lumps of tea-covered bacon into my face as he speaks, Brother Securicor explains the facts of life:

"We've always had money".

"No, we haven't". Now, this throws him. I point out that money is a relatively new invention, arising out of property society.

"Look mate, money makes the world go round. How would you get things without money?"

"But people starve and go homeless and are refused medical attention in a world of potential abundance simply because they lack money". By now I detect that look in my listener's eye which indicates that he thinks I'm mad or — as I like to think — his imagination is being aroused by the idea of a world of common ownership and democratic control. The questions pour out as if they have been waiting to be asked for years, and the answers are responded to with a nod which represents a uniquely human recognition of rationality. I am definitely getting through to this one. After a while Securicor Two, who has been listening and reading the Sun at the same time, begins to become restless: how dare some loud-mouthed crank, without so much as a degree in economics to his name, sit in a cafe and re-organise the world over breakfast. His mate refuses to desist: his brain has shifted from automatic to self-drive and now there is no stopping him. We discuss all the useless jobs which the money system creates: insurance salesmen, cashiers, ticket collectors, bank staff, moneylenders, accountants, security guards. Then we go on to the problems caused by money: no money and starve; can't pay the rent and you're homeless; nearly every worker on earth suffers in one way or another because what he or she needs is beyond his or her monetary reach. During the course of the conversation Comrade Securicor cursed as he recalled his old friend who had been made an invalid while defending diamonds for some idle parasite. Money is dangerous: one only has to think of the victims of muggings whose faces are slashed for five quid and the victims of legalised mass muggings called wars who die for the patriotic plunder of their masters.

In a society where the earth's resources were owned commonly and controlled democratically — socialism — wealth will not be bought and sold. Envisage a moneyless world community where production is for use and access to the common wealth is the equal right of every human being. My friend in the cafe ponders in this thought and, convinced, for the moment at least, that socialism is worth aiming for, he takes a copy of the Socialist Standard and promises to read every word of it. Then he goes off to waste his day risking his life to secure someone else's money.

So satisfied am I with my success at socialist persuasion that I decide to visit the library until it is time to enjoy and early drink in the Cock Tavern. Standing before the bar my thirst grows as I survey the variety of drinks on offer. "What'll it be?" asks the barman. "Nothing" I reply, suddenly remembering that my wallet had taken the pledge. Money makes the world go round? Well, it's about time we let it go round in the other direction.
Steve Coleman

'Socialists and War' (2015)

Letter to the Editors from the February 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Editors

Recently my daughter brought me from England a copy of the August edition of  the Socialist Standard' with the excellent, moving and very informative articles on 'The Old Lie' –  the First World War. (She got it at the Anarchist Book Fair on 18 October)

I was brought up in an English Communist family in the 40s and 50s'. My parents, like thousands of other outraged party members, left the CP over the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.

I come from Dartford in Kent but have lived in Colombia since the mid 80s and before that was over a decade on an Irish island off Donegal. I have been militantly active politically all my life since childhood, especially in the Direct Action branches of CND/Committee of 100 (I worked as secretary to Bertrand Russell as a young woman) and the anti-Vietnam war movement.

Are you a specifically pacifist organization? I don't have access to internet out here as I live in a remote mountain region, but once a week am able to send my computer out on the one-and-only 'bus' to our nearest market town (a village) to send and receive post. So unfortunately I can't look you up on a website to find out more about you.

Congratulations to Richard Headicar, Steve Clayton, and 'Ivan' for their shocking and important articles. Disturbing and necessary reading.
JENNY JAMES, Colombia.


REPLY:  
We are not actually a specifically pacifist organisation. We are opposed to war on socialist grounds in that wars today are fought over rival capitalist interests concerning sources of raw materials, trade routes, markets and investment outlets and strategic points and areas to protect these. This is why we say that members of the majority class of those obliged to work for a wage or a salary for a living have no interests at stake in them and so should refuse to take part in the killing and maiming of their fellow workers from some other country.

 We also consider that a socialist majority that has won control of political power democratically should reserve the right to use armed force, if necessary, to deal with any armed resistance to the establishment of socialism by some recalcitrant pro-capitalist minority should this occur. – Editors 

Haringey teach-in (1966)

From the July 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our comrade Grant represented the Haringey (formerly Wood Green and Hornsey) Branch of the Socialist Party of Great Britain at a controversial teach-in on Vietnam, sponsored by Haringey Council, on May 21. The local Tories had refused to take part. "We are not interested in the goings-on of a lot of long haired cranks and loonies", declared one councillor.

Our comrade spoke in opposition to Baron Brockway, Richard Gott, a local CND man, Labour M.P. Norman Atkinson and academics Sean Gervasi and Malcolm Caldwell.

The Socialist speaker was the only dissenting voice as he didn't support the Vietcong. After pointing out that many of those who clamoured for "Peace in Vietnam" in fact wanted a victory for the Vietcong, our speaker went on to say that in the 19th century when capitalism had not yet established itself against feudalism as the dominant world system, Marx had taken sides in wars because he held that the triumph of capitalism over feudalism was necessary for social progress. For over half a century now capitalism had dominated the world and the idea that Socialists should take sides in wars was obsolete. What was going on in Latin America, Asia and Africa was the transition from feudal society to capitalism. Movements like the Vietcong, when victorious, led not to the establishment of a classless society but to the rise of a new ruling class. This had happened in Russia and China where state capitalism existed. Socialists did not support such movements nor did they take sides in the Vietnam war. As far as they were concerned wars would last as long as capitalism and there was no solution to the Vietnam war. The task of Socialists could only be to make more Socialists.