Friday, June 3, 2016

Contrast (1982)

Book Review from the October 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

John Madeley, Diego Garcia: A Contrast to the Falklands (Minority Rights Group, 1982.)

Now that Falkland Islands jingoism has died down, the Minority Rights Group's Diego Garcia: A Contrast to the Falklands is a timely refutation of the hypocritical British claim to be defending the “sovereign rights" of British citizens.

In 1965 Britain offered Mauritius independence on condition that the islands of the Chagos Archipelago were excluded. The United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 2066 XX in December 1965 inviting Britain not to “dismember the Territory of the Mauritius and to violate its territorial integrity". Britain declined that invitation. Mauritius was granted independence in 1968 and Britain retained the Chagos Islands the largest of which. Diego Garcia, had a population of 1,800 — roughly equivalent to that of the Falkland Islands. The Chagos Islands, and those of Desroches, Farquhar and Aldabra became the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). In 1966 BIOT was leased to the United States for military purposes.

Diega Garcia was seen by the Pentagon as an ideal position to monitor the movements of the Russian navy in the Indian Ocean. Originally, the island was to be a communications centre but the base has gradually become a military one. The presence of an indigenous population, the llois, was inconsistent with the presence of a military base and. as John Madeley points out:
between 1965 and 1973 the British Government went about the systematic removal of its own subjects from Diego Garcia: it deposited them in exile in Mauritius without any workable settlement scheme: left them in abject poverty, gave them a tiny amount of compensation and later offered more on condition that the islanders renounce their right to ever to return home (p. 4).
The British Government, which later gave much credibility to the words of the United Nations over the Falkands' dispute, were in this instance acting in contravention of articles 9 and 13 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which state that “no one should be subjected to arbitrary . . . exile" and that “everybody has the right to return to his country".

The removal of the Ilois took a number of forms. Ilois families who had gone to Mauritius, some 1,200 miles away, were told that they would not be allowed to return. Madeley points out that many Ilois testified that they had been “tricked into leaving Diego Garcia by being offered a free trip" (p. 5) and boats were not available for the return journey. In 1967 the BIOT took over Chagos Agalega and closed down activities on Chagos during 1968-73. This effectively meant that Diego Garcia’s largest employer had ceased to operate. Finally, in 1968 food ships did not sail to the Chagos Islands. March 1971 saw the arrival of the first American servicemen and in the following December the remaining inhabitants of Diego Garcia were ordered to leave. In 1973 the evacuation of Ilois from the smaller islands of Chagos was carried out using the BIOT's ship Norvaer.

Mauritius was offered £650.000 for relief and resettlement of the islanders in 1973. The Sunday Times of 21 September 1975 published an article stating that the United States had given Britain an $11.5 million discount on Polaris submarines to help establish BIOT and thereby pave the way for the Diego Garcia base. The £650,000 compensation was paid to the islanders in 1978 and the Mauritius government put pressure on Britain to increase the amount of compensation. By 1979 Britain agreed to pay increased compensation if the Ilois abandoned all claims to be able to return to the island: an additional £1.25 million was offered.

In June 1981 the £1.25 million offer was renewed with an additional £300,000 of technical aid. The United States meanwhile were preparing their $1,000 million expansion of Diego Garcia into a base capable of accommodating aircraft and ships. In March 1982 the British offers of compensation were increased to £3 million and then £4 million. The Mauritian government offered the islanders land to the value of £1 million, which they accepted: the British compensation was still offered, on the condition that the islanders accept “their transfer to and their resettlement in Mauritius and their preclusion from returning to the Chagos".

It is ironic that five days after the settlement with the Ilois the Falklands were invaded by Argentina. The quibbling as to how much should be spent on "defending" the Falkland islanders was drowned in a sea of patriotic fervour. The £1,000 million and the loss of both British and Argentinian workers' lives makes a striking contrast to the treatment of the Ilois. and is another example of the cynicism of capitalist politics.
Philip Bentley

The Struggle for Power in Russia (1953)

From the February 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since the arrest of nine doctors, most of them Jewish, on charges of murder and attempted murder of Russian military and civil leaders at the instigation of foreign governments and the Zionist movement, political commentators in the Western countries have been busy trying to guess what are the hidden forces and personal ambitions that will explain why the Russian Government chose to expose itself to publicity that must gravely damage its prestige and embarrass its Communist supporters in other countries. While the explanations vary and are often contradictory they almost all agree in refusing to accept the validity of the charges and die prisoners’ “confessions.” Most of them start off with the crippling defect of assuming that Communism exists in Russia and that the Russian Government’s actions are dictated by interest in furthering Communist ideas. President Truman carried this kind of examination to its logical extreme by interpreting the trial as a sign of Russian weakness, due, he said, to “ a fatal flaw in their society. Theirs is a Godless system.”

A much more objective approach was made in Manchester Guardian editorials (14,16 and 17 January, 1953). Here there was a serious attempt to compare political methods and motives in Russia with those in the Western Powers. It was frankly recognised that “communism has nothing to do with the struggle” and that the concern of the Russian State “is not with communism but with power; it uses communist jargon to serve its purpose, but that purpose is the maintenance and extension of power.”

Admitting that in this respect “ Russia does not differ appreciably from the ordinary Western State,” the writer singled out as the important difference the fact that in Russia, since there are no political parties able to fight out the struggle for office in election contests, the form it must take is that of plotting, intrigue, and the violent removal of rival claimants. Victory means power, defeat means extinction. The '‘Guardian” writer’s conclusion is that whatever the present grouping of the contestants the likely outcome when Stalin dies is that the generals will move to the front of the political stage:—
“The fears and the hopes, as the life of Stalin moves to its end, may split that political structure as they have split so many before in the history of States. There will not be the authority of a Lenin or a Stalin to hold the ambitious down, nor the prestige of a Generalissimo to check the generals. The lions now under the throne will struggle for the seat on the throne. And in that struggle can the throne survive? May it not be that already the first faint shadow of anarchy and civil war is beginning to fall on Russia?”
It is an interesting speculation, but what is of more concern is to consider what sort of country Russia is that such events can take place there. As a great capitalist power in a capitalist world Russia is subject to the same kind of internal strains and external pressures as other powers; the need to keep an impoverished working class more or less content with wage-slavery; the need to accumulate capital and increase productivity in order to build up modem industry capable of serving the military and civil needs of capitalism; the need to force an unwilling peasantry into collective farms so that by increased production and government requisitions on produce the towns can be fed and manufacture supported; and of course the need to defend and expand its world position in face of the other powers. These are problems much like those of. all governments, but once those in power in Russia had committed themselves to dictatorship by suppressing the Constituent Assembly because it had not a Communist majority and then suppressing all political parties except their own, there was no other way of maintaining power against internal discontents, whether in the inner circle or among the population as a whole, than that of violence and terror.

For a guide the commentators, instead of looking for explanations in current ideological disputes in Communist circles, could more profitably have looked at Russian “palace revolutions” under 17th and 18th century Czarism or at any European country a few centuries ago. In such conditions current Russian events cease to appear fantastic; everything is possible, including plots to murder generals (almost alone the Manchester Guardian considers that “it would not be surprising if an attempt at medical assassination had in fact been made, from whatever motive”). Whether there ever was such a plot or whether it was the vile invention of the rulers of Russia, either way the event throws a revealing light on the savage political conditions of that country, for these accusations were made by men who know that they can count on wide masses of the population believing that such things are possible and that American-backed Zionism is responsible. So strong are the passions of rival contenders that either one group under cover of medical attention will murder its enemies or another group, those in power, will fabricate a plot and thus bring about the legal murder of innocent men as part of a political manoeuvre to discredit its rivals. This is the political system that Russia’s admirers tell us is so superior to the politics of Western countries!

It should also be noted that the men who are charged have spent 35 years under Communist rule. They are men holding responsible and well-paid positions in the Soviet “Paradise ” and now we must believe either that desperation drove them to political murder or that they are the innocent victims of other men's desperate ambitions. This tells us more about Russia than all the soothing accounts of unruffled progress and happiness brought back by the stream of credulous visitors, not one of whom in the past year or so has given so much as a hint of the bloody struggles for power going on behind the facade.

Party News (2016)

From the June 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party stood 3 candidates in the Greater London Assembly and 1 candidate in the Welsh Assembly elections on 5 May. Here are the results:

Lambeth and Southwark: Lab 96,946 (51.63%), Con 34,703 (18.48), Green  25,793 (13.74), LibDem 21,489 (11.4), UKIP 6,591 (3.51), Kevin Parkin (Soc) 1,333 (0.71), All Peoples Party 906 (0.48).

London North East: Lab 134,307 (58.7%), Con 32,565 (14.23),  Green 29,401 (12.85), LibDem 14,312 (6.26), UKIP 11,315 (4.95), Respect 5,068 (2.22), Bill Martin (Soc) 1,293 (0.57), Communist League 536 (0.23).

London South West:  Con 84,381 (39.47%),  Lab 62,937 (29.4), LibDem 30,654 (14.34), Green 19,745 (9.24), UKIP 14,983 (7.01), Adam Buick (Soc) 1,065 (0.50).

Swansea West: Lab 9,014 (40.6%) Con  3,934 (17.7%), Plaid Cymru 3,325 (14.5), UKIP 3,058 (13.8), LibDem 2,012 (9.1), Green 883 (4.0), Brian Johnson (Soc) 76 (0.3)

To a New Reader (1938)

From the January 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

The journal which you are now reading is published each month. For many years it has appeared as surely as night has followed day. Just as surely, each month a copy drifts into the hands of many who have not read it before. This copy has drifted into your hands for the first time, maybe at a street-corner propaganda meeting, from one of the all-too-few newsagents who stock it, or from one of the enthusiastic workers who sell it in the streets and at railway stations. It would be fair to assume that you are an anti-Socialist or non-Socialist; that you bought the “S.S.” because a particular article caught your eye, or because some question dealt with by a speaker interested you. Probably you did not buy it because you wanted to learn about Socialism. You “know” all there is to be known about that, don’t you? And yet, fellow-worker, you are reading a journal you have never seen before, describing itself as the official organ of THE Socialist Party, which claims to be the only party in Great Britain organised for Socialism. Moreover, you will find in these columns the opinion implicitly and openly expressed that the reason for workers not supporting the Socialist Party is because they do not understand Socialism. Your reactions we can imagine. It is the first time you have read the "S.S.,” and, after all, you did think you knew about Socialism. You think us arrogant? And our claim to be the only party organised for Socialism just advertising ballyhoo, as it were. To call attention to our wares. Fellow-worker, our claims are not arrogant; we are not engaged in ballyhoo. Workers organised in this party are THE Socialist Party of Great Britain and the only workers organised for Socialism.

You, fellow-worker, “know” all about Socialism, don’t you?

You “know” that Socialism means “share and share alike,” that is to say, that you should share your belongings with your neighbour. And knowing your neighbour, you decide against Socialism. You “know” that Socialism means some vague mush about “loving your neighbour,” and again looking at your neighbour you feel uninspired. You “know” that Socialism means the destruction of initiative and inventiveness, and being young (or not so old) and ambitious you feel that the present order of things should not be upset. You “know” that Socialism means that woman would occupy a degraded position in the social arrangement. For hasn’t the Morning Rail often turned your stomach in its description of the free love of the Socialists and the nationalisation of women. You ”know” that Socialism has | been tried in different parts of the earth. After I all, the self-styled “Socialists'' have said so.

Quite bluntly, fellow-worker, you know little or nothing about Socialism. In truth, if Socialism did mean the things which these mangled ideas try to express then the working men and women who are organised in the Socialist Party would turn to some other more intelligent pursuit.

Socialism does not mean sharing out either goods or income. Such a conception implies a fixed amount of social wealth, out of which each took an equal share. Socialism means something fundamentally different from that. It means the social ownership of the means for producing wealth. Consider for a moment the factory in which you work. Each worker, out of perhaps many thousands, has his particular job to do. Yet no one worker produces the finished article, which the factory, as a whole, produces. Each worker plays his part, but the product is the result of the indispensable work of all. Production is a co-operative process. As in the factory, so in society generally. The work and life of the community is carried on by the workers as a whole. No one worker or group of workers is independent of the rest. One worker can play his part in steering a ship, but the labour of many thousands is required to build it. The worker who steers the ship could not do so without the builders. Production is social.

Yet outside the productive process is the class who own the means of production. It takes no part in social production and is unnecessary to it. Socialism means the social ownership of the social means of production. This will eliminate the owning class. Quite a simple proposition to conceive, but profound and revolutionary in its implications. Far from Socialism meaning the sharing-out of some imaginary fixed quantity of wealth, social ownership will release the powers of production from the fetters of private ownership. It will bring into productive activity an enormous number of workers now engaged in unproductive labour. Production will expand to correspond to the people's needs. The people will take from the social store as they have need. Initiative and inventiveness will have the chance to thrive, instead, as now, of being dependent on the ability of the worker to sell his abilities to a capitalist. Cut-throat competition for jobs will no longer exist and the mushy sentiment of brotherly love will have an opportunity to acquire real meaning.

So we could go on, stating and answering the common objections to Socialism. But we want to do more than that. We want your interest. Whilst we tell you that you know nothing about Socialism your interest is perhaps not easy to obtain. But be patient. Ask yourself what time you have devoted to a study of the question. Is your conception of Socialism the result of independent thinking, or has it acquired shape from the influence of biased or coloured sources more interested in misrepresenting it? Think that out and be wary. Perhaps you have not had the time to study Socialism. However, you are reading the “S.S.," and we assume that you want knowledge, and want to assist in removing the social evils of capitalism if you knew how. We know that only Socialism will solve these problems. We know that Socialism will come. Make up your mind about that. More, the time will come when there can be no ordered intelligent living, no progress, no harmony in social relations; national or international, without Socialism. The lessons of the Socialist message will be learned through the experience of bitter struggle. That struggle can be eased and shortened by the spread of Socialist understanding. That is our responsibility. Yours is surely to examine our case. And that is what we ask you to do.

In the course of years we have answered all known objections to Socialism in the “S.S." We can let you have back numbers if you wish. Read the “S.S." for the next twelve months and you will be much nearer an understanding of our position than you are to-day. One issue may modify some popular misconception in your mind, but it would be insufficient to convince you of the soundness of our case. One prejudice we are certain will disappear—that working men and women cannot understand the meaning of the apparently complicated events around. They can. You can. We have. And we lay no claim to more than average brains. But we have devoted many years to the study of Socialism. We know something about it. You know little. Quite naturally; we should be in a similar position regarding a subject to which you had devoted long study. We are not of superior intelligence. We do claim, however, that we have found ourselves on the road to Socialism (perhaps, in the first place by accident) and that you would be with us with a little guidance. We are workers drawn from representative occupations, miners, mechanics, carpenters, busmen, clerical workers, artists, house-wives, and so forth. We have a case—the case for the social ownership of the means and instruments of production. Study our case and we are certain that you will soon be in the fight for Socialism.
Harry Waite

5. Capital (1974)

From the May 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialist Economics Series

“The lazy men squandered their substance whilst the diligent saved theirs—thus Capital was born from thrift.” This fairy tale has about as much real application to the origins of Capital as Adam’s Rib has to the origins of women. The important point is: how are private fortunes created and how do they grow?

We know that prior to the capitalist system of production the producers owned their means of production, and the primitive accumulation of capital is nothing less than the process of divorcing the producers from their means of production and turning them into capital. When this process is completed historically we arrive at the situation which exists today, where the producers are totally alienated from the social means of production. They are propertyless wage-workers selling their life-activity to their employers, with enough to live on and sometimes not even that.

Capital has not existed from all time. It commenced in Europe out of the ruins of the old Feudal society around the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It is a social relation of production, and came into existence with the production of commodities and their circulation. The circulation of commodities means the development of an exchange system which finds its ultimate expression in the introduction of a monetary system. Any stated sum of money is representative of any stated quantity of commodities or Value. Money is the final product of the circulation of commodities, and capital appears in the first instance in that form. But capital can also appear in the form of a sum of commodities (Values); raw materials, instruments of labour, in fact, any sum of Exchange Values. What distinguishes the commodities comprising capital from any other group of commodities is the way in which they are used. The object behind their use must always be to produce a greater Value than that existing. Capital functions solely to produce a Surplus-Value greater than the sum originally advanced, either in the monetary form or in the commodity form, or both.

It is important to differentiate between capital trading transactions and share or stock dealings carried out mainly on the world’s stock exchanges between rival stockholders and investors, each trying to improve his financial position individually, or in a group. These represent transfers of capital between various people and institutions. They do not add to the total wealth, but change the ownership of existing wealth (Value), much in the same way as you can move furniture from one room to the other within the same house. You finish up with the same furniture but in different rooms. One man’s loss is another man’s gain.

The function of capital production is to increase existing wealth. The production of wealth cannot, therefore, depend on trading transactions, neither can it depend on nature or heaven, despite “the Lord’s bounty.” When the parson gives thanks every harvest festival “when all is safely gathered in”, it should never be forgotten that every day is harvest day for the capitalist, sowing capital and reaping Surplus Value.

Raw materials, and even the most sophisticated machinery, or gold bars, do not possess magical powers, and cannot increase their own Value merely by being placed together in any sphere of production. Being inanimate objects they are dependent on men, either to produce them in the first instance, or to maintain or supervise their operation. Living Labour is vital to the whole function of capital. If the machine or the materials cannot change their Value, and if there is an additional or Surplus Value created, then it could only have come from living labour, there being no other possible source. The legendary brilliance of the capitalist, his organizing ability, and other associated fables, have little to do with the social production of wealth and its accumulation. Some are clever, some are industrious, most are ignorant of the source of their wealth, inefficient and self-indulgent. Were they all in the first category it would make no difference, because the fact remains that capital is a social relation of production working independently from personalities clever, stupid, or mediocre.

The social capital mainly consists of the means of production and distribution; factories, industrial complexes, oil wells, mineral workings, means of transport, ships, aeroplanes, railways and road transport systems, agricultural land, plantations, etc. Most of these have been created gradually by workers long since dead. This is the accumulated labour (Value) of the past which provides the basis for the living labourers’ productive activity in the present. The employer (capitalist) allows the worker access to this existing social capital, created by the worker’s predecessors, for the sole and specific purpose of adding a greater Value than that previously existing. This marriage between living labour and capital (past Labour) is a necessary condition for the social extraction of Surplus-Value. But, as has been stated, the element of Surplus-Value, or Profit, cannot come from a fixed quantity of accumulated wealth. If anything, without the fertilization of living labour the accumulated wealth of the past which exists in the objects of social labour—factories, machinery, road systems, industrial centres, shipyards, cultivated land, etc.— would deteriorate and eventually become wasted assets. Living labour serving capital therefore performs two functions: first it produces a Surplus-Value working together with the accumulated labour of the past; and second, and by virtue of its productive activity, it preserves the means of production from decay. Every act of production is, in effect, also an act of reproduction, and it is through this act of reproduction that the means of production remain intact, and are preserved for the capitalist.

The employers, as a class, who own the social capital, buy social labour-power, giving wages in return. The amount of the capital is described by Socialists as Variable capital, because we claim that it alone changes in quantity at the end of the productive process. This is because the workers produce more Value than they receive back in the amount of wages paid to them. The difference is described by us as the rate of Surplus-Value, or exploitation. If a company pays annually the sum of £1 million in wages, and £9 million in raw materials, machinery, etc. (£10 million total), and shows a profit of £1 million, the rate of exploitation is 100 per cent irrespective of the claim of the capitalist that he only earns 10 per cent. The variation upwards in total Value has been entirely due to living labour.

On the other hand, if a capitalist spends £10 million in wages and £1 million on raw materials, fuel, machinery, etc. and shows a profit of £1 million, the rate of exploitation would be 10 per cent.

The rate of exploitation is measured against the amount paid out in the form of wages, and not the total capital. The constant capital vested in machinery, raw materials, fuel, buildings, etc., is constantly replaced, or constantly reproduced by the capitalist adding the Value of these elements to the commodities which he produces. Constant capital cannot add any additional Value to the products, other than that contained within itself. In fact, it is only through the agency of human labour power during the productive process that dead capital (accumulated labour) gives birth to new additional Value.

Capitalism is basically a system of accumulation, and that portion of Surplus-Value which is not consumed by the capitalists on luxury living, is remitted to the fund of accumulated labour, where it can serve as fresh capital to exploit workers again and again, increasing with every phase of circulation. It is indeed the dead hand of the past weighing heavily like an Alp on the living. The greater the fund of accumulated capital the greater the pressure on the workers to serve that capital, to augment it ad infinitum.

It is often stated by supporters of capitalism that capital has opened up new horizons, and that men have access to things and technological discoveries previously undreamed of. But it should be remembered that men, together with their fellow men, live in society and create their own environment. That environment is anti-social, because men’s creative ability is stifled as they do not own or control the means of production. It is hardly an argument to suggest that man is adequately compensated for this social loss by the ownership of TVs, motor cars and central heating. As Marx stated: “Whether his wages be high or low, or whether the chains that bind him be made of gold, the worker is as firmly riveted to capital as was Prometheus to the rock.”

Capital appears to have a separate existence outside the control of man. As a social relation, it Frankenstein-like, dominates all forms of human behaviour, where everything is related to the money principle. The measure of a man is his wealth not his intellect or culture. The ability of a man is determined by his financial power. The big spender has inherited the earth—that is why he is a big spender. Capitalism has created a phoney culture, and has debased man’s intellect to the level of a commodity. Happily we have not all succumbed to its pernicious influence, and we know, and are optimistic enough to believe, that society can be turned the right way up—which means that civilisation can survive and prosper without capital.
Jim D'Arcy