Monday, January 1, 2018

Lounge Lezard (2013)

Book Review from the October 2013 issue of the Socialist Standard
Bitter Experience Has Taught Me. By Nicholas Lezard, Faber and Faber, 2013. £9.99.
Lezard is a Guardian book reviewer and critic, with a column in the New Statesman called ‘Down And Out in London’. This book has been adapted from that column and is a self-deprecating and amusing account of his life after being kicked out of the family home by Mrs Lezard for a wide variety of inadequacies and misdemeanours. In near financial ruin, he shares a dilapidated house near Baker Street called ‘The Hovel’ with his friend Razors and the focus of this book is his struggle to maintain his head above water while also maintaining his daily wine habit (Lezard is an erstwhile companion of Jeffrey Bernard).
Originally from a relatively privileged background, Lezard is a left-wing, professional cynic who also thinks nothing of inviting police attention by playing midnight cricket – after a few glasses and with real cricket balls – on the chi-chi streets of Marylebone. The contradictions are often what make the humour here, and Lezard is an engaging writer.
He claims to have often annoyed his right–wing father (who at an earlier time of life had been rather bizarrely awarded the Order of Lenin, Fifth Class) with his forthright, radical politics. Interestingly, on one occasion this involved young Nick ‘urging everyone to vote for the Socialist Party of Great Britain’ during a mock election at school, with himself as the candidate. Inexplicably, he seems to have done worse than we normally do, and we can only hope that this psychological trauma didn’t influence his subsequent life path too much.
Dave Perrin

Exhibition Review: 'No Man’s Land - Women’s Photography and the First World War' (2018)

Exhibition Review from the January 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

The simple view of the First World War in gender terms is that men did the fighting while women, who were not allowed to fight, took many of their places on the ‘Home Front’. But an exhibitionNo Man’s Land: Women’s Photography and the First World War’, seen at the Impressions Gallery in Bradford, shows that this is only part of the story. The Bradford exhibition closed at the end of December, but will be touring this year and next to Bristol, Leigh and Bishop Auckland.

The work of three women photographers during and shortly after the war is featured. Florence Farmborough was working as a governess in Russia when the war broke out. She volunteered for the Red Cross and was assigned to a mobile military unit of the Russian army; her photos are among the few of the Eastern Front taken by a woman. Olive Edis was the first officially-commissioned British woman photographer sent to a war zone, in Northern France and Flanders, though this was only in 1919. Mairi Chisholm set up a first-aid post in Flanders and took many photos throughout the war using a small snapshot camera.

All three depicted women who were employed in war zones, mainly as nurses, but also in other roles, such as ambulance drivers and welders. They variously showed men and women relaxing behind the lines, playing on swings, for instance. There are no photos of combat, but there are a number showing corpses and ruined buildings; as Chisholm noted, ‘One sees the most hideous sights imaginable, men with their jaws blown off, arms and legs mutilated’.

There are in addition photos by three contemporary women photographers. The most powerful of these are by Chloe Dewe Mathews, showing locations where WW1 Belgian, British and French soldiers were shot (or imprisoned prior to being shot) for cowardice or desertion; in many cases they were in reality suffering from shell shock. The photos are taken in the same season as the original events and at the same time of day. The scenes are bleak and extremely moving.    
Paul Bennett

Editorial: Tillett and Dublin. (1914)

Editorial from the January 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard

Tillett and Dublin.
The “Daily Herald” has been left in the charge of Ben Tillett whilst George Lansbury has gone to the States (hunting for fresh finance, no doubt), and the paper has been full of denunciation of the trade union leaders. Ben Tillett, true to his reputation, has played two parts. One in the “Herald,” of Suffragettism and Sabotage, and another at the Conference of Labour leaders on Dublin. Sitting alongside the other misleaders of Labour he moved:
   “That this Conference deplores and condemns the unfair attacks made by men inside the Trade Union movement upon British Trade Union officials; it affirms its confidence in those officials who have been so unjustly assailed and its belief in their ability to negotiate an honourable settlement if assured of the effective support of all who are concerned in the Dublin dispute.”
Some of the rebels (!) are murmuring : “One damned leader in place of another!"

The painting trade is rather slack just now, otherwise Ben might have been in great demand as a whitewasher — look at the experience he has, had. Ask Bottomley.


Birds of a Feather.
Whilst Ben was defending Havelock Wilson, J. E Williams and others, some of whom Larkin accuses of “foul” and black conspiracy, it may be recalled that he is quite willing to sit with them as one of the governors of Ruskin College. Since Ben became one of the bosses, "Justice.” (of Ben’s party) has been silent about that organisation. Some day, no doubt, the “rebel” readers of the “Daily Herald” will realise how they were duped.

When the Omnibus trusts slaves were betrayed was it because of the advertising contract with the paper? Did the large advertising bill of Lipton’s overweight margarine cause the editor to practically ignore the supplying of rotten food for consumption by East End children? The paper just mentioned the fine.

Once upon a time the “Herald” bitterly attacked the Prudential. but shortly afterwards a four column advertisement appeared. Now that there is great unrest amongst the Prudential's slaves no mention of it is made in this “Labour” paper. Can Ben explain?


Socialist (!) Unity.
The International Socialist Bureau has convened meetings for the purpose of uniting the Independent Labour Party and the British Socialist Party. For our part we cannot see why they should not unite. Two parties composed of such similar anti Socialist elements should have linked up long ere this. Mr. H. M. Hyndman and Mr. Robert Blatchford will undoubtedly find many supporters for their “large Navy” proposals among the ranks of the Labour leaders. The condition of unity is that the B.S.P. shall join the Labour Party. That would be a very good thing from our point of view, for it would totally destroy the last tottering claim of the former organisation to be a Socialist body. The way would then be clearer for us of the Socialist Party, and therefore clearer and easier for the working class to follow to their historic goal — Socialism. '

The B.S.P’s advice to the workers to vote Tory has now been officially adopted by the I.LP , and Mr. Keir Hardie gloats over the help the Linlithgow branch recently afforded to the Tory candidate. This is sufficient for the day, of course, and no doubt when the Labour Party has scooped the B.S.P., and as the time for a General election draws nearer, the Liberal dog will rehabilitate itself in the estimation of its unified tail, even unto that most recalcitrant hair, H.M.H. provided, of course, that his services to the cause of anti-Socialist unity are properly rewarded by adoption for a safe Liberal constituency.

The Landlord's Paradise.
The sale of the Covent Garden estate by the Duke of Bedford for several million pounds to the well-known financial magnate and Tory M.P., Mr. Mallaby Deeley, disposes of all the Liberals’ claims as to bringing the land back to the people. So harmless are Lloyd George's taxes, and so empty his vote-catching vapourings, that this astute financial prince laughs at the very idea of the danger to property, and calmly ventures millions upon its stability—a safe enough guide for anybody.

But besides showing the utter fraud of the Liberal Land Campaign in a peculiarly convincing manner, the stupendous transaction is interesting for that it records the passing of the aristocratic property-owner as each, and the rising of the commercial king.

Music Review: 'Dangerous Dogs' (2018)

Music Review from the January 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

'Dangerous Dogs', by Stern John (Off Records. 2017)

A polemical and at times whimsical album of nine tracks from a latter-day Billy Bragg, with acoustic guitar at the ready. There also are echoes of the wry social commentary of bands who have stood outside the mainstream over the years like The Declan Swans and it is clear that Stern John has his proverbial ear to the ground when it comes to spotting social developments and pricking prevailing attitudes.

Stronger vocally than musically in the main, the first and last tracks – ‘The Tipping Point’ and ‘Rope’ seem to be the most overtly political and driven by a passion for things to change. ‘Rope’ is easily the stand-out track and deserves a wider audience, both for its lyrics and melody. It recognises the power of collective thought and action and forms a metaphoric call to arms for those who question the system – ‘tiny strands can make a rope, once bound together they can’t be broke, when we’re united there’s more hope . . .  tiny strands can make a rope’.
Dave Perrin

Words to the Wise (1915)

From the December 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard

Men are running short — save the kids!

*     *    *
Capitalism is no longer a system, it's a bloody mess.

*     *    *
Socialism, therefore, is not a mere theory, it's a necessity.

*     *    *
In short, Socialism is not a dream, though capitalism is a nightmare.

*     *    *
To do nothing to end it is to maintain this regime of murder and robbery.

*     *    *
Socialism, said the holy friar, will destroy civilisation ; well! what is capitalism doing? 

*     *    *
Churchill has gone to the front. Now perhaps we shall soon hear of the Germans being gassed. 

*     *    *
There is one certain remedy for Socialism, said the statesman, and that is war. But will capitalism survive it ?

*     *    *
Bill Nye said : “It is the duty of the great orator to howl for war, and then hold some other man’s coat while he fights.” The orators are not tired yet.

*     *    *
The workingman who votes for and champions the class that robs him is like the ill-treated cur that licks the hand that thrashed it.

*     *    *
Oh yes! The boss and his workers are partners. They do everything and he gets everything. They do the work and he does them.

*     *    *
A lesson in Eugenics 
Lady: —Have you any experience of children? 
Woman : — No, Ma'am, I've always work'd in the best families.

*     *    *
The “Daily Mail" says "Single Men First.” It wants cheap soldiers, hut that's not all. It was stated during the South African War that the “Mail” was staffed by office boys. Since then it appears they've all got married. Hence the noble offer of the single men first. It recalls what Artemus Ward wrote to King Edward: “I have already given two cousins to the war. and I stand ready to sacrifice my wife's brother ruther'n not see the enemy krusht. And if wuss comes to wins, I’ll shed every drop of blood my able-bodied relations has got to prosekoot the war."

*     *    *
It was pay-day and the wage-slave crawled into the pay-office of the Gas, Light and Coke Company. A shiver ran down his back as his eye fell on the “writing on the wall”
“ONLY SEVENTEEN MORE DAYS!
GO! DON'T BE PUSHED!"
“ Its come at larst'" he gasped, staggering forward to meet his fate. "This meant the sack - and another bloomin' volunteer "

A minute later the wage-slave was being earned out on a stretcher.

“It wasn't the poster as did it, Maryann." the wage-slave was explaining “But arter readin’ ‘only seventeen more days, go, don't be pushed!" and then ter find, insteader bein' pushed they'd given us all a bob-a-week rise — and without arstin', rekerlec; without arstin' — that's what done it. That's the third without ever bein' arst. Lumme, they don’t arf luvus these days, they don’t, not arf!"
The Slacker.

The Class Struggle Is on. (1914)

Editorial from the February 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard

In obedience to the poet’s command, old Time rolls on. And the ever changing sequence of events which he drags after him, in spite of the fact that they ore ever-changing, bear a remarkable similarity, day after day, in their main features. All over the place strikes and rumours of strikes All over the place the mustering of organised and drilled and armed bodies of men to preserve “law and order.” Here the coal porters and carmen resort to the weapon of the strike in the endeavour to induce their “very good friends and humble servants," their Liberal and Tory employers, to shell out a little more wages ; there the Catholic workers of Dublin wear thin in a long death struggle with their Catholic masters; yonder corporation tramway men come to grips with those who control "people's trams.” In South Africa the “Outlanders” set up the “red flag” against the inevitable results of “nationalized” railways, and a new “miner’s war” finds all old sores healed between Boer and British masters, who deal out in touching unity to the white miners, and as lavishly as if it cost nothing, the same medicine that a few weeks ago these same white miners helped them to deal out to their Indian and native fellow workers.

The taxi-cab drivers try to find surcease from strife in a trade union effort to run their own cabs, and the ’buss men talk of following suit. The commercial traveller on the ’buss confides to the conductor the opinion that "the King and the rich people ought to go round by the docks at 6 o’clock in the morning—as I have done—and see the poor fellows” and so on. The old lady in the train is heard to declare that “in all these strikes it is the poor that suffer,” and to suggest the novel remedy of “ taking it to the Lord in prayer.”

In all this confusion only the Socialist Party holds a clear and consistent course. Other working-class organisations ship heavy seas of confusion and head now this war and now that, as a rudderless ship will. First there is a class struggle, then there is not; at one time the Liberals are the enemy, at another time the Tories; now political action is sufficient for the workers’ emancipation, anon only “direct action” is of use at all.

The Socialist Party, however, at its inception pointed out definitely the essential facts of the working-class position, and laid its policy down in a course buoyed with clearly formulated principles which, after nearly ten years of stress and storm, still mark the course as distinctly and as safely as at first

We have not said the most that can be said for them when we have said the lapse of a decade has revealed no weak spot in those principles, nor presented any need to add anything to them, or to take anything away. They have proved sufficient, as they have proved sound. And more than this, the events which follow day by day, and which are dealing such blows at the quasi working class parties, and stripping the masks from their vain pretences, are hall-marking our principles as fundamental, and confirming our position as impregnable.

Every day those who deny the class struggle find it more difficult to hold their own against the siege guns of fact. When it is seen that no differences of religion, no political barrier, no race hatred or sex jealousies, can keep the masters of the world from joining hands in a struggle with the workers, it is clearly enough demonstrated that the Class Struggle is on. When it is observed that common religion, common race, common politics, and common sex fail to save the workers in the industrial strife, again it is clearly enough demonstrated that the Class Struggle is on. When it is seen that in every case of resort to the armed forces in the name of “law and order,” those armed forces, those pitiless weapons, are turned always toward the workers, still again it is proved that the Class Struggle is on. So we are we confirmed in the very foundation of our policy.

And when it is seen how helpless the workers are everywhere in face of the organised forces of repression, how even the best equipped and most desperate are compelled to surrender and go to prison without firing a shot because they know the futility of attempting to withstand the forces controlled by Parliament, then the necessity for obtaining control of that political machinery as the essential preliminary to taking possession of the means of life is irresistibly borne in upon the intelligent. Thus are we being supported by current events in our insistence upon the extreme importance of the political weapon.

Perhaps the moat significant feature of events to-day is that those who reject the political weapon in favour of what they are pleased to call “direct action” make no headway. Everywhere their earlier efforts have been their most successful, or rather, their least inglorious. It is ever the capitalist authorities that gain by experience. Each recurring attempt at “direct action” finds the master class more easily able to deal with it. Wherever Syndicalism springs up this is so, and appealing only to ignorance, having no support of scientific knowledge, having nothing but the effects of “direct action” to sustain it, it must automatically cure its victims with its succession of ghastly failures.

The Socialist Party, firmly founded on the Class Struggle, holding resolutely to the need for the workers to advance to their emancipation through the conquest of the political machinery, is the hope of the working class. Its Class Struggle foundation keeps it free from those who would have one foot in the capitalist camp; its political policy prevents it from leaning on any but class conscious workers. Hence it can not be betrayed by ambitious misleaders on the one hand, or experience defeats on the other. So when the bitterness of disappointment eats into the hearts and saps the courage of those who are burning their fingers with fire and cutting them with edged tools, the Socialist Party will stand between them and despair, as the only Party that has consistently fought for Socialism, the only Party that has never confused the issue by compromising with the masters, the only Party that has never led the workers into the morass of confusion, the only Party that has never tasted defeat, but has gone steadily on from victory to victory, as it has gone steadily on from strength to strength.

That is one of, the first of our reasons for opposing those misguided people of our class, utterly without reference to what their intentions may be, who are spending their energies in the vain pursuit of error. The time will come when error presents on further possibilities to be exhausted. Well then, for the working class, that they can find one policy they have never tried, one path they have never trodden, one weapon they have never found fail them — the policy and path of the Socialist Party — the weapon of political action on class-conscious, uncompromising, revolutionary lines.

So we go on as we have gone on, declaring that the only way is by the capture of the political machinery by means of the ballot, by the organised, politically educated workers. This implies that the first need is to politically educate and organise the workers. In the pursuit of which purpose the first essential is to adopt such a policy of stern opposition to all other political parties and objects as should leave no doubt as to what the issue is or who the enemy are, and make clear the class nature of the fight.


And That's That (1918)

From the January 1918 issue of the Socialist Standard

Readers of the Socialist Standard will be aware that there has recently taken place an editorial combat between that journal and the organ of the Socialist Labour Party, the “Socialist.” In the course of that combat it was shown by this side that the columns of the “Socialist” reflect the political ignorance and unsound organisation of the body whose organ it is supposed to be. Necessarily, that political ignorance must have its root in lack of knowledge of the scientific achievements of those men who raised Socialism to a science—Marx and Engels. In the September and November (1917) issues of the “Socialist" is to be found a case which bears this statement out.

In the September issue a contributor signing himself A. E. Cook, essaying to teach others what he himself does not understand, said: “Supposing the world's output of gold is doubled, and the labour needed to mine, refine it, etc., remained the same, then the price of gold would tumble to about half, and an ounce of gold could be bought for 40s."

This absurdity attracted the attention of one Wm. Walker, who, addressing the Editor as “Sir,” and being referred to as “Mr. Walker,” presumably was not a member of the S.LP. The critic pointed out that "Marx tells us that ‘money has no price.’ ” And he very legitimately proved A.E.C.’s statement to be the absurdity it is.

Mr. Walker’s letter, the Editor of the S L.P. organ informs us, was sent on to Mr. Cook, “to enable him to deal with the matter.”

How does Mr. Cook deal with it ? By resorting to a lot of tosh about “the dual function of gold when it appears at one time as a commodity and at another as money.” "My argument,” he goes on, “ is that the value of gold would fall to half as a result of the increased production ; and. all else being equal, the price would also fall to half.”

Would it! Let us see, then, where Mr. Cook lands himself.

“Gold,” Mr. Cook tells us, “functions as money.” That is to say, it functions as the medium of exchange. But why? Simply because, besides having certain qualities which select it from almost all other commodities, it contains that essential element which constitutes value — embodied socially necessary labour.

This value is, in the case of all commodities, measured by quantity ; for instance, double the amount of the same commodity contains double the value. Hence the shilling (the reference is not, of course, to the silver coin of that denomination, but to the portion of gold equal to the twentieth part of a sovereign) contains definite portion of the ounce of gold, and therefore a definite portion of the value of the ounce of gold. That is the crux of the matter. It is not the gold as such that is needed to make money, but the value of which the gold is the measure.

It is quite obvious, then that the shilling must always bear the same definite quantitative relation to the ounce of gold, both in the matter of weight and of value, and if the gold sinks in value the shilling will do so also. Therefore the value of the oz. of gold could never fall to 40s., fall it never so low. The formula must always be : 1 oz. gold =80s., never as Mr. Cook says: 1 oz. gold=40s. ,

We can find a simple illustration in the case of a foot rule, which in the first instance cost 1s. According to Mr. Cook's method if the value fell by half, the foot rule would only be six inches long. Thus—
A— 1 foot rule = 12 inches.
B—1 foot rule = 6 inches.
The foot rule stands in the place of the oz. of gold; the inches are analogous to the shillings. As the inches are parts of the rule itself, so the shillings are parts of the oz. of gold. The 80s. are no more the price of the gold than the inches are the price of the rule— they are the thing itself, and it is impossible for the thing to be its own price. Just as the changing value of the rule cannot be revealed by its inch marks, but only by comparing it with something outside itself— money so the changing value of the gold is not revealed by its parts, but only by comparing it with the whole world of commodities outside itself. Granted, therefore, that in Mr. Cook's first case 
A—1 oz. gold= 80s. 
is correct, his formula in bis second case (i.e., when the value of gold had fallen to half):
B—1 oz. gold= 40s. 
is wrong, for it would result in this :
A—1 oz. gold = 80s., or = 2 cwt. blacking
B — l oz. gold=40s., or = 1 cwt. blacking 
thus leaving gold in its money form with the same purchasing power as before—which is ridiculous.

Of course, the correct formula is 
A —1 oz. gold=80s., or 2 cwt. blacking.
B— 1 oz. gold=80s., or l cwt. blacking.
Mr. Cook’s concluding advice to Mr. Walker to "re-read a little more carefully that chapter from Marx from which he tears his quotation” when "I am confident he will get a a little insight into the dual function of gold and avoid confusing gold as money with gold as a commodity” about reaches the limit of the ludicrous. The above shows who is confused.

Now for another aspect of this matter. It was recently shown in these columns that the pages of the “Socialist” lmd been used for urging the workers to support the capitalist war. In the resultant discussion the "Socialist” said how ready they were to congratulate the subjects of their criticism when they amended their ways, and instanced when the B.S.P. assumed control of their official organ. The impudence of this statement in view of the utter inability of the S.L.P. to conduct their own party organ in accordance with the principles they profess to hold is striking. Those in "control” of the S.L.P. organ follow their violation of the principle of the class struggle by teaching unsound economies, even in the face of correction.

The present writer is now waiting to be told that he is a “logic chopper.”
A. E. Jacomb


50 Years Ago : The Wages Question at the T.U.C. (1976)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Pugh, in his presidential address to the T.U.C. was no more practical in his ideas than presidents of former years have been. Ideals, platitudes, and ‘philosophy’ are poor stuff for those workers whose time is mainly taken up in the struggle to obtain a living.

* * *

Sentimental ideals are useless when the business is to explain to the workers why it is that, although they produce the wealth, they remain poor. If Mr. Pugh once admits that the possession of wealth by a class that does not work can only be the result of robbery or exploitation of the class that does, the next obvious thing is to explain how the exploitation is effected. This . . .  is part of the knowledge required by the workers before it is possible for them to take any step to shake off their poverty.

Mr. Pugh, in his remarks, associated himself with the campaign of the Independent Labour Party for a living wage. Marx, Engels, Kautsky and others have repeatedly shown that the wages system is the basis of capitalism. The capitalist buys labour-power and pockets the difference between the value of the workers’ product and the wage he pays them. It is obvious, therefore, that while the wages system remains, exploitation must continue. Notwithstanding this fact, which shows the necessity for the abolition of the wages system, Mr. Pugh can only suggest to the Congress that they should ‘examine in the light of new theories the whole basis and application of the traditional wages policy and methods of determining wages which the trade unions have followed’.
From an article by F. Foan in the Socialist Standard, October 1926.





The Case Against Capitalism (2018)

From the January 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
Things are not produced today to meet people's needs. They are produced to make a profit. And that's the cause of the problems we face.
Under the profit system profits always come first. Before providing basic services like health care and transport,  before  improving  conditions  at  work,   and before protecting the environment.
Look at the results. The health service is crumbling. The transport system is in chaos. Pollution is rife and the environment under attack. The poor have got poorer. Begging and homelessness have spread. Crime is rising. Racism is reviving. Business culture reigns supreme, with 'market force', 'competition' and 'profit' as the buzzwords.
Life is becoming more and more commercialised and empty. People are becoming isolated from each other, with drug abuse and mental illness on the increase. The standard of living may have gone up a bit for some, but the standard of life is going down.
Under the profit system production is in the hands of profit-seeking business enterprises—whether state or privately owned—all competing to maximise the rate of return on the money invested in them. Decisions as to what to produce and how much, and how. and where to produce it, are not made in response to people's needs but in response to market forces.
The health and welfare of the workforce and the effects on the environment take second place. This is why at work we suffer speed-up, pain, stress, boredom, overwork and accidents. This is why we have to work long hours, shiftwork and nightwork.
This is why the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe are all polluted. This is why the Earth's non-renewable mineral and energy resources are plundered. This is why natural balances are upset and the environment destroyed.
If we are going to improve things we are going to have to act for ourselves, without professional politicians or leaders of any kind. We are going to have to organise ourselves democratically to bring about a society geared to serving human needs not profits.
Production to satisfy people's needs. That's the alternative. But this is only going to be possible if we control production and the only basis on which this can be done is common ownership and democratic control. In a word, socialism.
But real socialism, not the elite-run dictatorships that collapsed a few years ago in Russia and east Europe—that was state capitalism, not socialism—nor the various schemes for state control being put forward by the Labour Party again. We are talking about a world community without frontiers. Only on this basis can world poverty, hunger and the destruction of the environment be ended.

Editorial: A Borderless, Stateless World (2018)

Editorial from the January 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
We have been hearing a lot about borders lately. As part of the negotiations to leave the EU, the UK government has had to provide proposals to ensure that there is no ‘hard" border’ between the North of Ireland and the Irish Republic. A key argument for leaving the European Union was that the UK would be able to reclaim its borders. Donald Trump, the US President, has pledged to build a wall along the border of the United States and Mexico. Millions of workers have fought and died in wars to defend national borders. It is assumed that they are as natural to humans as dams are to beavers, and are, therefore, a permanent feature of human society. This view is mistaken.
Borders with their customs and passport controls are part and parcel of the modern nation-state. We are expected to feel a belonging and loyalty to the nation, in which we happen to be born and raised. After all, do not most of us share the same culture and language ? Maybe, but it does not follow, therefore, that we all have the same interests, for within each nation there are the capitalists, who own the means of production and live off the surplus created by the workers and therefore have an interest in minimising their labour costs; workers, on the other hand, have an interest in achieving the highest price they can for their labour power. This sets the stage for class conflict.
The nation-state is not a natural entity, but a product of history. Its origins lay in the struggle by the aspiring capitalist class for political power from the 15th Century onwards. Once they succeeded in toppling the old feudal order, new states emerged which replaced the old feudal monarchies and empires and better served the needs of the new capitalist ruling class. The latter were able to enact laws which protected their private property rights, legitimised their ownership of the productive resources and their control over their workforce, and removed any institutional barriers to capitalist trade and commerce. Police forces were established to enforce these laws. As the state governed over a given area, a border was required to control the movement of people and commodities between the home nation and other nation-states, and, at times, It needed to be defended by a standing army against hostile foreign powers. Its purpose was and is to protect the property of the capitalist minority. The foregoing also applies to the so-called ‘communist’ states that existed in the former Soviet bloc countries and still survive in North Korea and Cuba. These were state capitalist regimes, where the state took on the role of the capitalists.
Capitalism is also a product of history and is not a natural system. As feudalism was swept away by the revolutionary capitalist class, it is about time that the working class do the same with capitalism. Once capitalism is abolished, there will be no need for the nation-state, with its armed forces and borders. We will have a world society without any nation-states or borders.