Thursday, May 5, 2016

1992 and all that (1988)

From the December 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

In 1992. the barriers to trade in Europe will be removed. By then, the twelve member countries of the European Economic Community will be working together as a single market in which capital and workers will be free to move about without obstacle. Despite Margaret Thatcher's recent highly publicised and populist opposition to a United States of Europe, the pressure is now on for political change to match new economic circumstances.

Trade and investment no longer bind firms to their national economies. Improvements in communications technology mean that capitalists can operate on a continental scale formerly only possible in the United States. The combined sales of the top three multinational companies operating in Europe — General Motors. Esso and Ford — are larger than the gross national products of all but four of the EEC countries.

Throughout Europe, capitalists are being forced together in mergers and take-overs to defend themselves against worldwide competition. A small percentage of mergers involve contested take-over bids, such as that of Rowntrees by Nestlé. Most mergers, however, are entirely amicable, and the reason has long been apparent:
The battle of competition is fought by the cheapening of commodities. The cheapness of commodities depends on the productivity of labour, and this depends on the scale of production. Therefore, the larger capitals beat the smaller. (Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1. Ch. 25.2).
The post-war labour programme of nationalisation in Britain was simply a capitalist initiative to accelerate the process of concentration by instantly transforming smaller capitals into larger ones. The current trend of privatisation is. in reality, a programme of multi-nationalisation, as the necessity for capital to expand beyond the control of national governments becomes irresistible. British Gas already has oil interests in Canada and Kuwaiti capitalists have acquired a substantial stake in BP. 

The position of multi-nationals makes a nonsense of national frontiers. These companies are simultaneously buyers and sellers. Their plants and workforces are linked to facilitate co-operation in the production of a single product. Although separated by many hundreds or even thousands of miles, workers may be as much a part of the same production chain as those on assembly lines housed in the same factory Ford, IBM, ICI and Nestlé all have subsidiaries in at least six EEC countries. It is in multi-nationals like these that capitalist production has resulted in the socialisation of labour on a continental scale.

The formation of the EEC in 1957 and the widely advertised removal of barriers to trade by 1992 are examples of production relations adjusting to new economic circumstances. However, in contradiction to these developments, there are conservative capitalist interests that operate to put a brake on any change. Capitalism profits from the exploitation of workers and benefits from a workforce divided and weakened by petty national differences. Politicians, posing as patriots, attempt to maintain this division in the interests of the capitalists. "There will be no United States of Europe in my lifetime" Thatcher defiantly proclaims.

National antagonisms provide the capitalists with a convenient diversion from the one antagonism that counts to workers: class antagonism. Narrow-minded nationalism is perpetuated by the idea that poverty is caused by there not being enough to go round, and therefore each nation must compete for the wealth available. High wage claims and strikes for improved living standards are familiarly said to be "against the national interest".

But capitalism has long had the potential to satisfy human needs. Only the social organisation and relationships of production prevent it from doing so. Replace capitalism with socialism, and production will be geared not to selling goods on the market for profit but to creating the necessities of life for the satisfaction of need. Eliminate the waste of human capacities and material resources which exists under capitalism and we will achieve an abundance of the means to life to which everyone will enjoy free access.

In 1883 in his speech at Marx's graveside. Engels said: "Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of human history." This law. every bit as scientific as Darwin s. said that "people must always adapt their relations of production to their forces of production”. Thus, the need to get rid of capitalism and replace it with socialism is the need to eliminate production relations which have become fetters on the productive potential of the world. In short: we need a social revolution.

However, there are today forces at work which act to keep the fetters in place. While the right-wing of capitalism perpetuates national differences, the multitude of left-wing sects argue that the working-class is increasingly fragmenting into separate minority-interest groups that must campaign for their palliative reforms on single-issue platforms. In reality the workers of the world have more in common today than ever before. Earlier this century, a London cockney and a Spanish peasant might have seen each other as alien beings. Now, their grandchildren are probably exploited by the same company, producing parts for the same car, pushing buttons on the same IBM keyboard, having received just enough of the same repressive schooling for the privilege of so doing. One might take a holiday in the other s home town. They probably both wear Levi's, listen to the same analgesic pop music, eat the international standard Big Mac and wash it down with Coca-Cola.

Socialists recognise that developments within capitalism itself are enmeshing workers together in production-relations on a continental and then increasingly global scale. Economic development is guiding the course of human history, whether workers are conscious of it or not. Workers everywhere have long shared interests that transcend national frontiers. A Europe opening for trade in 1992 is one sign among many that the appeal for workers of the world to unite has never been more urgent. History is on the side of socialism. The national state, once essential to the protection of national capital is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Economic necessity is bringing about the world socialisation of production. We must complete the process and effect a world socialisation of ownership. Only then will the forces of social labour be set free and the means to life be produced in abundance for all.
John Dunn

A day at the circus (1988)

A Short Story from the November 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

On a breezy March day my two youngest children and I went to the circus. We had been given vouchers to obtain half price tickets and as live circuses are now a rarity my children were keen to go. To avoid being late we decided to eat at one of the fast food places which have sprung up everywhere in the last few years.

The eating place (it would be an abuse of language to call it a restaurant) was gaudily decorated, noisy and overcrowded and although I managed to find seats for Angela and Jermaine, I had to stand throughout the meal.

I was struck by how young the staff were; labour costs were obviously being kept to a minimum by avoiding having to pay adult rates The orders were shouted through to the kitchen from the self-service counter and. in a matter of seconds, cardboard containers slid down a chute from the kitchen to the servery. There were no plates, knives or forks - everything was disposable. Hot drinks were not available so we settle for "root beer" which looked and tasted like weak disinfectant.

Whilst we ate the teenage staff, dressed in brightly coloured uniforms and paper hats, constantly moved around the room sweeping up and clearing away the vast amounts of rubbish generated by the disposable containers.

The food was out of this world: it tasted unearthly! We ate square lumps of fish type food in doughy rolls that tasted like chewy plastic. The whole process of ordering, paying for and eating this unsatisfying "junk food" took less than twenty minutes but cost nearly as much as a proper meal at a restaurant. We left, consoling ourselves with the thought that the next meal would taste wonderful by comparison The fast-food places epitomise capitalist values; money is taken from the customers in the shortest time possible and the fact that the product is unpalatable and lacking in nutrition doesn't matter as long as it is profitable.

We caught the 'bus to the circus ground The "Big Top" was situated on a patch of muddy, waste ground; the booking office was a caravan adjacent to it. Everyone in the queue appeared to have half-price vouchers; perhaps that was why the prices were so high the issue of vouchers all over town gave the customers the appearance of getting in cheaply but the tickets, even at half price, were more expensive than cinema seats.

The "heated" Big Top had two electric heaters. each about the size that would be used to heat a small bedroom and we were thankful that the afternoon, although quite windy, was not colder.

We bought a programme with more misprints than the Guardian, which stated that it was the circus's first British tour. Certainly the East European-sounding names of the artistes made it all sound quite exotic but their North of England accents contradicted this somewhat.

At the bottom of the programme there was a note stating that some towns refused to let circuses perform because of cruelty to animals, but claimed that all of their animals were well cared for. Cruelty or neglect of circus animals is usually not the result of individual culpability or sadism but the need to operate as cheaply as possible in order to make a profit.

A sudden gust of wind caused some of the tent props to collapse, rocking the Big Top and knocking over two or three tiers of seats which, fortunately, were still empty. The scene shifters rushed to shore it up again. More recently four people were taken to hospital when 200 seats collapsed at a circus at Tunbridge Wells, safety always takes second place when profits are threatened

After a delay and an only partly coherent explanation announced over the Tannoy system the circus began. Some clowns, dressed as Disney cartoon favourites ran around the sawdust covered, muddy ring in old, patched outfits spoilt further by mud stains. The jugglers came on next, one of whom was the programme seller. The old adage about being Jack-of-all trades and master of none certainly applied here as she dropped one of her rings and her exclamation of annoyance was clearly audible. Next came the Apache chief (who judging by his accent probably came from Leeds) and his fire pony. After a flame swallowing act the pony was supposed to jump over a bar on which rags, soaked with methylated spirits and ignited, were tied. The pony refused and the Apache said despairingly to the Ringmaster: 'It's no good, he won't do it.'

To cover up the confusion the baby camel and llama were brought on quickly and scampered round the ring. Both of these animals smelled worse than a politician's promise and. for a few minutes, we regretted having ringside seats. The Ringmaster took a turn as a magician, performing all the tricks that can be seen in second-rate amateur talent shows. Then it was the turn of a "ghost" to torment the clown who turned out to be the "Apache" chief, his hands still blackened from the flame swallowing act and making an incongruous contrast to his white makeup and red nose.

After a girl performed an act with pythons, there was an interval in which we bought home-made popcorn which tasted like sweetened rubber but was much more expensive We were served by the two jugglers who had changed into overalls.

Following the interval the artists who had performed the act with the pythons had knives thrown at her. But this was no ordinary knife-throwing act; the knife thrower was the only member of the circus troupe who looked over twenty one. He looked much nearer to seventy one. was white haired, bowed at the shoulders and had no teeth. The knives were thrown from a distance of about four feet and missed the girl by nearly as big a margin so that, unlike most knife- throwing acts, there was no need to feel apprehensive for her safety.

A trapeze act, no more than eight or nine feet from the ground, performed by one of the jugglers was followed by more clowns. All ten acts, announcements and moving of props had been performed by about half a dozen people My children had enjoyed the circus because it had been a new experience to see a live show instead of the television and the cinema. I had enjoyed the comedy of errors, but it was tinged with nostalgic sadness that live shows cannot compete with the vast sums of money that go into making up the glossy entertainment of the mass media and the huge profits to be made from them.

The youngsters who performed did so cheerfully and worked hard to entertain the public, the fact that they had to try and master every circus act (not always successfully) is an indictment of the capitalist system in which everything is reduced to a commodity and has to be commercially successful to survive.

Under socialism, live shows will be performed for the pleasure that they give; it will no longer be necessary to exploit teenagers to make a profit.
Carl Pinel

The Economic Trend (1926)

From the May 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

When poverty, side by side with the material requirements for its removal, becomes as pronounced as it is to-day, our masters and their agents are driven to find more up-to-date excuses to explain away such contradictions. Once Tariff Reform and Free Trade served the purpose, according to the sectional trade interests of the Capitalists. To the Tariff Reformer, Germany was the paradise of the worker, and working-men were held breathless while the Free Traders told of trade booms, and of imports and exports beyond their comprehension. The outstanding fact the workers fail to understand is that, be “our” prosperity never so great, while wealth production is carried on for trade and profit purposes, such prosperity must here, as elsewhere, always be that of our masters, still leaving the producers in poverty. The latest nostrum, repeated almost daily in the press in the hope that it will be drilled into the workers’ heads as a profound truth, is the prosperity in America. There, we are told, labour-saving devices are a blessing to the workers, and if we were to believe all we are told, the economic laws governing Capitalist Society appear not to operate. Americans, like other Capitalists, however, will allow their workers to produce wealth, only while markets for it are available. All countries vie with each other for what the “ Daily Chronicle ” in a series of articles calls "The World Race for Trade,” but modern methods quickly outstrip the effective demand of such markets. Mere need means nothing to the workers, their power to consume any part of the wealth they alone produce is limited to the fraction they receive as wages. Under the fierce competition of to-day, lower prices of the things wages buy mean lowered wages. Even the relatively higher wage sometimes supposed to be a monopoly of America only means on the whole a lower wage bill. Increased efficiency means fewer workers for a given amount of production. J. Ellis Barker, writing on American industrial methods (“Contemporary Review,’’ March) proves the correctness of the above unintentionally, because he assumes markets to be unlimited in their capacity to absorb products. He estimates that “a single American railway man does as much freight work as 5 Englishmen." “In coal-mining one American produce as much as 5 Englishmen." Obviously, with markets overstocked, for fewer to do the same amount of work as at present would only aggravate unemployment. Hear what the President of the International Chamber of Commerce, Mr. W. Leaf, a prominent banker, has to say (“ Morning Post,” 6/3/26):—
Everywhere, with hardly an exception, there are complaints of the difficulty of finding markets for manufactures. The capacity for production is there and is generally much larger than in pre-war times, but the products are stagnating.
Despite all their increased and cheapened production, despite the Capitalists' own profligate dissipation of wealth, they cannot find markets, and have now in all the principal industries to actually restrict production. Our evidence?—No, again their own:—
Our experience during the past 4 years has been that the lowering of the price of goods has stimulated demand very little . . .  Only by curtailing our production on organised lines have we been able to minimise our heavy losses. Every business man must know that nothing but disaster can follow the making of goods for which there is no demand. (Sir Chas. Macara, Daily Mail Year Book, 1926, p. 31.) 
That ought to be comforting news to the cotton operatives, an industry in which production has been increased, per unit of labour, possibly more than in any other industry. If the American myth were true, then the cotton operatives should enjoy unparalleled prosperity to-day, but short-time working and poverty is theirs as with other industries where similar increased productivity has taken place. America is no exception to the vicious circle in which Capitalism must travel. The greater the boom the greater and more prolonged the depression to follow. America in 1921 had her 6 million unemployed, and according to the New York correspondent of the “Economist’’ (6/3/26) there has been a sudden slump on Wall Street which “marks the end of a long upward movement, and was not
 altogether unexpected." Apart, however from such warning, the crash is inevitable, for the reasons enumerated above. Such are the results of the private possession by an idle few of the means of life, which if held in common by all, to serve the needs of all, could give luxury for every human being with a minimum of effort. Why, year after year, chase each other country in turn down the blind alleys of more production, more trade and more work? These efforts, for others, can never give you more than increased poverty and insecurity. Face and study the situation, then you will learn that though industrially the developed means of production could provide increasing comfort and security for all, the Social Revolution which can bring that condition awaits the mental revolution of the workers for its realisation.

Christian Values (2016)

The Halo Halo! column from the May 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
Margaret Thatcher used to lie awake at night and fantasise about ‘Victorian values’ and how, if only they could be reintroduced, the working class would learn to know their place. These days, however, since there are few cotton mills or coal mines remaining where small children in rags can be put to work for six days a week, or cheery young urchins for that matter, who for a crust of bread can be forced up chimneys to clear them of soot, it’s not an idea we hear so much about.
What we need now, we are told, are ‘Christian values’, and although there is some confusion, especially amongst those who recommend them, as to what they actually are, they probably amount to pretty much the same thing. And their big advantage is that they can be bandied about as the cure for everything from the perilous state of the NHS and the steel industry to street beggars.
So for David Cameron’s Easter message to the Tory faithful, delivered just after the Islamic terrorist bombing in Brussels, and another one targeting a children’s playground in Lahore even as he finished speaking, what better way to assure everyone that he, and God, were still in control than a rousing speech on good old ‘Christian values’?
We, in the UK, must ‘stand together and defend’ these values in the face of threats from terrorism he said. And he singled out ‘Responsibility, hard work, compassion and pride in working for the common good’ as the kind of values that Christians, or at least Tory ones, hold and are in danger of being blasted out of existence by Isis.
Had he consulted his bible, he would have found God held a whole range of very different values, and he didn’t hesitate to exercise them when dealing with anyone who annoyed him – the Amalakites, for example. He told Saul to ‘utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass’(1 Samuel. 15 v3-4).You can see where that other God, the ISIS one, gets his ideas from can’t you?
We can perhaps make allowances for Cameron’s shaky grasp of ‘Christian values’ though. Although he once described himself as being a ‘committed’ Christian, he admitted that he was only a ‘vaguely practising’ one, and was ‘full of doubts’ on the big issues.
One big issue he may have wrestled with would have been tax avoidance schemes for the rich, which only a few weeks ago he slammed as being ‘totally unacceptable’ and ‘morally wrong’.
Imagine his theological uncertainties when the ‘Panama Papers’ tax avoidance scandal came to light and it emerged that his father, whose fortune was estimated in the 2009 Sunday Times Rich List at £10 million, had made his fortune in offshore funds in Panama and Geneva, and that he, too had benefited from these.
Fortunately after much soul searching and examining his ‘Christian values’ he was able to explain that although such schemes for the rich may be slightly ‘totally unacceptable’ and perhaps even a tiny bit ‘morally wrong’, they were perfectly legal, and anyway, his father’s financial affairs were ‘a private matter’.

Winners and losers (1988)

Editorial from the October 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Workers constantly compete with each other. We are taught to do so from a very early age. At school we run races against each other to prove who is the "fastest''; our school work is graded to see who is "top of the class" (and who is at the bottom); we sit examinations to find out who is the "cleverest"; we compete for the right to continue our education in polytechnics, colleges and universities. In adult life we are also forced to compete against each other - for a job, for promotion. And we also engage in vicarious competition - "our" football team against yours; "our" country against all the rest.

And yet the prizes on offer to the working class are both shoddy and few and far between compared to the glittering rewards that are theirs for the taking by the capitalist class. A very few workers may succeed in being catapulted out of their class by winning a large amount on the football pools or premium bonds. Others - because they won earlier competitions - acquire the kind of education or training which gives them access to employment that is highly regarded and highly paid. They become lawyers, consultants, dentists, accountants, or City whizz-kids. They are still, for the most part, workers but they have access to high salaries and the comfortable life-style that money can buy. And in the unequal race of life, their children will start out streets ahead of those whose parents were not the winners - the unemployed, the badly-paid. the badly housed.

Positions of wealth and prestige can only ever be open to a few. Not all workers can be winners in the capitalist race. For the vast majority the only prizes they will win will be a barely adequate standard of living, a life time of wage slavery constantly hedged around with fear and insecurity.

Some workers seek a different future. They will strive to excel in sports, the arts or entertainment - the only too common dream of playing for England or of being a superstar. In these fields of endeavour the prizes on offer are so glittering that some workers are willing to sacrifice their future well-being for the sake of grabbing a brief moment of glory. The joy of running and jumping, of playing a sport, or of singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument is overtaken by the grim determination of those who will succeed at whatever cost to themselves. They are prepared to torture their bodies - just think about those unnaturally thin female gymnasts who perform such amazing feats at the Olympics, or the emaciated bodies of ballerinas who know that to carry any extra weight will be the end of their dancing careers. Some are ready to use artifice to improve on what nature and hard work have given them - athletes who use anabolic steroids or testosterone to enable them to run faster, jump higher, throw further, no matter what the cost to the health of the very bodies in which they take such pride. Think of the rock stars and entertainers who cope with the heady brew of fame, adulation and punishing tours with an equally heady, but often fatal, cocktail of speed, acid, cocaine and alcohol. There is a cruel irony indeed in those workers who win the glittering prizes but end up destroying themselves in the process.

This personal self-destruction in the cause of standing for a few fleeting seconds on the winners' podium is one aspect of competition. Another is reflected in the waving of flags and the singing of national anthems as the winners receive their medals. "Our" team has won or lost, we are informed by the sports commentators. The focus is always on "our" team. The Olympic commentaries hold up the number of medals for each country to give a league table of sporting prowess. This is another form of competition we learn while we are still young. "My" country, right or wrong; the pernicious sentimentality of nationalism.

The capitalist class, however, has no such allegiance. Unlike workers they are rooted through economic necessity in the country in which they were born or live. In fact the ideal world for the capitalist class is one where national boundaries are only political boundaries posing no serious obstacles to the movement of money. The capitalist class may claim allegiance to the country of his or her birth but will nevertheless move investments from one part of the world to another according to the potential for profit. He or she may espouse a particular set of beliefs or principles - for freedom or democracy; against communism - but this will not stop him or her trading with or investing in South Africa, Russia, Chile or Korea, providing the price is right. In other words the capitalist class, in practice, recognises the world for what it is - a global village. Despite national boundaries, different cultures and languages, we are all part of the world system of capitalism whose lifeblood is competition.

As workers cheered on "their" team in the Olympics, at the football ground or wherever, they might have done well to reflect on their allegiances. The capitalist class recognise the global character of capitalism and despite the competition between individual capitalists or between sections of capital, in the final analysis they act as a class with common interests. Workers would also do well to recognise not only the global character of capitalism but the necessary consequence of that - the common class interest that unites workers wherever they happen to have been born. Perhaps then the destructive nationalist rallying cry of “Come on the Brits" will be replaced by the socialist call of "Workers of the world unite".

Marx, class and socialism (1988)

From the August 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Class and class struggle are central to an understanding of the case for socialism. Marx and Engels had been concerned to show the "class struggle as the primary motive force of history, and especially the class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat as the great lever of modern social change" (Circular letter to Bebel, Liebknecht, Bracke and others).

Marx, however, undertook no systematic definition of class. While he certainly planned to do so. the unfinished chapter of Capital intended for the purpose ends after a few paragraphs with a note from Engels that the manuscript breaks off. The omission has certainly fuelled the confusion and ignorance surrounding the meaning of class and its relevance to the socialist case.

It would however be surprising if, in the whole of the writings of Marx and Engels, we were not able to understand what they meant. Indeed, the whole of their writings is about understanding the historic dynamic of class, the class struggle and the abolition of class society. Within the body of their writings there exist enough references for us to constitute what they meant by class. Marx did not, of course, invent class. His contribution was to articulate and conceptualise the existing historical reality. Class is not some figment or idea emanating from the mind of Marx.

In the unfinished chapter Marx prepared to answer his own question - what is a class? - and began by writing of three “great classes" in modern society. He identified these, firstly, on the basis of income: wage for labour, profit for the capitalists and rent for the landowners. But note here that income is the result of different property relationships, different relationships to the means of production. The word "great" was not intended to imply numerous, but the importance such groups had to the functioning of society in a particular manner. The working class is the most numerous but the capitalists constitute a tiny and parasitic minority. The greatness of the latter arose from the fact that they constitute the ruling class in modern society by virtue of their legal ownership and monopoly control of the means of production and distribution of wealth. This position allows a class to dominate not only in the economic sphere but, as Marx and Engels stated:
in every epoch the thoughts of the ruling class are the ruling thoughts; ie. the class that is the ruling material power of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual power. The class that has the means of material production in its control. controls at the same time the means of intellectual production (The German Ideology).
Capitalism has now succeeded in absorbing the landlord class, leaving society polarised between two classes: capitalists and workers.

Marx stresses the importance of production as the determinant of social class and differs fundamentally from the apologist sociologists who stress status differences. His reason is simple, for. since it is productive activity that creates history, then it follows that an understanding of humans' quest for subsistence, their production, holds the key to the understanding of historical change. In order to live, to satisfy basic needs, humans must work. And work is a fundamental aspect of human life.

There are generally two ways of organising work. One is where individuals or collectives of producers use their own means and objects of production and distribute their own products. The second is class society, where a particular class owns or controls the means and instruments of production and organises the work of the producing class with the intention of producing and expropriating surplus wealth. Inevitably there is a conflict of interest between producers and expropriators over the control of the means of production and the division of the products; between feudal lord and serf, between capitalist and worker. In class society there always exists class struggle.

In societies dominated by owning classes - in Europe, slavery, feudalism and capitalism - the slaveowner, lord or capitalist is not concerned with the production of wealth as such, but with the production of surplus wealth. Surplus wealth requires surplus labour, or exploitation. Marx put it thus:
The essential difference between the various economic forms of society, between, for instance a society based on slave-labour, and one based on wage-labour, lies only in the mode in which this surplus-labour is in each case extracted from the actual producer (Capital, Vol I. chapter 9. section 1).
and again:
Capital has not invented surplus-labour. Wherever a part of society possesses the monopoly of the means of production, the labourer, free or not free, must add to the working time necessary for his own maintenance an extra working time in order to produce the means of production (Capital, Vol I. chapter 10. section 2).
He shows that the struggle between the exploiter class and the exploited class over the organisation of work, distribution of the social product, working conditions and the results of production is the living contradiction between the forces of production and the relations of production.

Above all Marx is concerned to show that ownership is a social relationship; that it is not simply based on the individuals property holding but is a relationship between people, through objects. Marx posed the simple question of how people stood in relationship to other people, how some people managed to acquire vast amounts of wealth while the sole role of others was to engage in its production. The production of wealth was a relationship in which the great majority produced but did not own and a small group owned but did not produce. Such origins of class society lay rooted in historical development. Keys to understanding lay in the study of the past as a guide to the present and future. To say that society is based on class is to articulate the real life experience of people's social relationships with one another. The capitalist class owns and controls the means of production through the legalised power vested in it by the state. The producers have no such property and are forced to sell mental and physical energies for wages or, what is the same thing, a salary.

When modern sociologists use the term class they omit this fundamental fact and fail to address the issue of the social relationship of production. People are classified in some hierarchical logic based on income, occupation. education, or some notion of status. For all that this tells us about human and property relationships, we might as well classify people by the size of their noses.

When scientific socialists speak of classes we are discussing property relationships and social activity. Marx asks first how income is obtained, but warns against commuting class differences into differences in "the size of purses".
The size of one's purse is a purely quantitative distinction whereby any two individuals of the same class may be incited against one another at will" (Moralizing Criticism and Critical Morality, 1847).
The language used by those sociologists who bolster the society of oppression is carefully chosen to avoid the real issue of the prevailing class struggle. They present us with a gradational picture of class society. Classes are described as "above" or "below" other classes. Little mention is given to the inherent antagonisms that are the inevitable result of class society.

Socialists rightly do not speak of "upper", "middle" and "lower middle" classes. Instead we use the language that best describes the social relationships that actually matter in society: we speak of capitalist and worker, feudal lord and serf, master and slave. Neither do we accept that class relations are based on forms of technology, the level of industrialisation or the technical division of labour. Members of the working class are not just blue collar workers, and neither are technical workers part of some lower middle class or "new petty bourgeoisie". For, as stated, class relations are socially determined by reference to the property relationship and are not defined by some notion of an occupational hierarchy. Class operates in the social relations of production and not in the realm of consumption. Owning a car or possessing a mortgage does not alter the fact that you are a member of the working class.

In the English preface to the Communist Manifesto Engels sums up the aim of the movement for socialism as “once and for all emancipating society at large from all exploitation. oppression, class distinction and class struggles". The role assigned to the World Socialist Movement is to assist in building a class-conscious working class the world over who understand the nature of class society and who will take, through majority action, the necessary steps to end oppression. With the abolition of minority ownership of production and distribution will come the abolition of class society.
Ewan Knox

Green politics in Germany (1988)

Book Review from the July 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

The German Greens. A Social and Political Profile, by Werner Hülsberg, Verso. £9.95

For anyone who has been following the press reports about the on-going debate in the German Green Party between the realos and the fundis, this book will fill in the background. Writing as a Trotskyite infiltrator into the Greens (yes. super-opportunists that they are. they get into any movement of size influence). Hülsberg begins by describing the social and political conditions in West Germany since the war from which the Greens emerged as a political party at national level as recently, it should be recalled, as 1980.

His basic thesis is that Greens are a left wing party that came into being within the framework of the West German electoral system (which allocates seats to any party obtaining at least five per cent of the vote) to occupy the political terrain left vacant by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) when they abandoned even their nominal opposition to capitalism at their conference in Bad Godesberg in 1959. This was the conference at which they called "the social market economy", i.e a market economy plus social reforms, which is the model that Kinnock and Hattersley now want the Labour Party to follow.

Hülsberg is able to produce hard facts to back up this argument. Firstly the Greens' programme shows that it is not a mere single-issue ecology party: the Greens are anti-NATO and pro so-called liberation movements in the Third World; they support feminism (at one time their three parliamentary leaders were all women). Secondly, Hülsberg produces evidence from studies of voting patterns which show that 80 per cent of Green voters used to vote SPD (while most of the rest are new, first-time voters) and that many voters use the two votes they have under the West German electoral system to vote for both the SPD (individual candidate vote) and the Greens (party vote) This means, as Hülsberg rightly points out, that Green local councillors and regional and national MPs are in a very real sense prisoners of their electors who clearly favour a SPD-Green coalition.

This is where the realos, or realists, come in. They are those who favour working with the SPD in government at local and regional and. if the occasion arises, even at national level, to try to achieve realisable reforms. This, in December 1985. one of their more prominent representatives. Joschka Fisher, became Minister for the Environment in the Hesse (Frankfurt are) State government. The fundis, or fundamentalists, are those who argue that the Greens should not take part in government but should campaign, against the Social Democrats and conservative Christian Democrats equally, for their long-term goal of a democratic, ecological society. One of their more prominent representatives was Rudolf Bahro who left the party in 1985. ostensibly because it agreed not to oppose vivisection under some circumstances (for medical research), but in reality because he had become a quasi-religious mystic preaching moral regeneration.

Some of the arguments between the realos and the fundis have been pretty vicious and the press are always speculating about a forthcoming split in the Greens. This has never materialised and probably won't since both wings have an interest in sticking together to stay above the five per cent vote level that enables them to be represented in elected bodies at local, regional and national level

Hülsberg identifies two other currents within the German Greens, which he calls, respectively, "ecolibertarians" and "ecosocialists". The first are those who favour a withdrawal from industrial society and concentration on building up an alternative network of cooperatives, health food shops and communes. The second current (with which Hülsberg identifies himself) consists of ex-Maoists. Trotskyists and others who favour the Greens orientating their activity towards the trade unions and the traditional, manual working class. Ironically. for all their talk of revolution and anti-capitalism, in the internal debate over tactics they line up with the reformist realos against the fundis. This is because they see the SPD as "the party of the working class" to be supported, as Lenin put it and as Hülsberg repeats, in the same way that the rope supports the hanged man.

Hülsberg argues that, at national level, the Greens' tactics, in the event of a SPD-Green parliamentary majority, should be critical support for a minority SPD government. In this way - according to him - workers will soon "learn from experience" that the SPD are no good and turn to the Greens . . .  in which the Trotskyite vanguard will be well entrenched. No wonder many German Greens have doubts about the sincerity of the so-called "ecosocialists". And they are right, since it is clear that they are neither ecologists nor socialists.

There is. however, no real possibility of the Leninists taking over the Greens since, whatever else can be said about them, the German Greens are organised on a far more democratic basis than other parties, practising time-limits on periods of office and rotation of posts which make it virtually impossible for them to be taken over by an unrepresentative minority. This might stop them becoming Green Leninists but it doesn't stop them being, in a description many of them wouldn't reject, Green reformists.
Adam Buick