The Rear View Column from the July 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
Koch & Co.
Socialists have long said that political parties of the left, right and centre exist to preserve the status quo. ‘The Republican and Democratic parties . . . are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principle. With either of these parties in power one thing is always certain and that is that the capitalist class is in the saddle and the working class under the saddle …The ignorant workingman who supports either of these parties forges his own fetters and is the unconscious author of his own misery’(Eugene Debs, 1904). Recent evidence supports this view. Capitalist Shri Thanedar is in the race for governor of Michigan. Differences in policy between the two main parties are of little concern to him and apparently his decision to run under the banner of pseudo-socialist Bernie Sanders is based purely on advice that Independents and Republicans are less likely to win. And, ‘the political arm of the Koch network, long reputed for championing conservative causes and politicians, has launched an ad campaign thanking a Democratic Senator up for re-election in a red state for her work in passing a financial deregulation bill’ (time.com, 4 June). The brothers are actively opposed to Trump’s tariffs and other issues of concern to capitalists.
Dumb & Dumber
The comedian John Oliver has been taken to task in a recent article (businessinsider.com, 3 June) by José Niño of the Mises Institute. Both agree that ‘socialist’ countries exist, but the advocate of a dystopia known as free market capitalism objects to remarks made by Oliver on his TV show such as there are ‘plenty of socialist [sic] countries that look nothing like Venezuela’. This country has long been the bête noire of the Institute and other right-wing groups (with the opposite being true for supporters of state capitalism) and José, unsurprisingly, adds Cuba and North Korea for good measure before insisting that price controls are an essential feature of ‘socialism’. He then delivers what he clearly thinks is his coup de grâce: ‘For those that remain skeptical about Venezuela’s socialist status, they can look no further than the second section of the Communist Manifesto, “Proletarians and Communists,” to understand the government’s true nature. Marx sums up the socialist program with ten essential tenets.’ The measures ranging from nationalisation to a heavy progressive or graduated income tax may have had merit in 1848 but not today. Indeed, Marx and Engels in their joint preface to the 1872 edition state: ‘No special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II. That passage would, in many respects, be differently worded today.’ Besides, as Rosa Luxemburg said succinctly: ‘without the conscious will and action of the majority of the proletariat, there can be no Socialism.’
More huff and puff from Hedges
Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, New York Times best selling author, former professor at Princeton University, activist and ordained Presbyterian minister, has given talks on Red Rosa –although even viewing the YouTube videos after reading a recent essay of his titled Teaching ‘Les Misérables’ in Prison (truthdig.com, 27 May) may leave you in doubt. Hedges writes in his introduction: ‘the socialist [sic!] British Prime Minister Lloyd George said “Les Misérables” taught him more about poverty and the human condition than anything else he had ever read and instilled in him a lifelong ambition “to alleviate the distress and the suffering of the poor.”’ There follows a reasonable summary of the book and comments from some inmates, but no call for a world without the prison industry, no mention that the 99 percent worldwide remain in chains: ‘earning a wage is a prison occupation’ – D H Lawrence, or acknowledgement that ‘the paradise of the rich is made out of the hell of the poor’ –Victor Hugo.
No leaders, no led
‘I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition; as it is now the capitalists use your heads and your hands’ ( Debs, pre-1908).