Monday, March 26, 2018

Development: the shattered illusion (1997)

From the August 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard
The stereotype is that we live in a world of haves and have-nots: a prosperous "First World" alongside an impoverished "Third World".
The reality, however, is more complicated. For wherever you look you will find rich and poor people alike. Indeed, the growing disparity in GNP between rich and poor states in recent years has been matched by the growth of inequality within each. That said, there arc undeniably huge differences in material circumstances of the average worker in Britain and their counterparts in, say, Bangladesh. But how did this come about and what, if anything, can be done about it within global capitalism?

Modernisation
Since the Second World War there has been a concerted effort by national governments and international agencies to "develop" the so-called Third World. At the outset this was linked with de-colonisation; it would help make political independence more "meaningful". According to the prevailing "modernisation" theory, development meant less developed countries passing through a scries of stages mirroring the economic history of developed countries. But while favourable circumstances had allowed the latter to reach the final stage of "mass consumption", a number of internal factors prevented the former from progressing towards "take-off into self-sustaining growth”.

Most important was a supposed shortage of capital. This had to be tackled on two fronts. Firstly, savings as a proportion of GNP had to be increased. As the "propensity to save" was thought to be highest among the rich, gross inequalities were justified on the grounds that they facilitated savings. Secondly, as less developed countries were thought unlikely to generate sufficient capital internally, foreign capital needed to be mobilised for inward investment along the lines of the famous Marshall Plan which helped rebuild the war-torn economies of Western Europe.

For modernisation theorists, this shortage of capital necessitated a policy of "unbalanced growth": concentrating investment where it realised the greatest return and hence the most rapid accumulation of capital. Following the example of the First World countries, developing nations embarked on a programme of industrialisation. At a time when Keynesian orthodoxy still held sway with its implicit distrust of unfettered markets, a policy of import-substitution was pursued to protect budding industries from foreign competition behind a wall of tariffs.

As well as promoting rapid growth, industrialisation was supposed to assist the structural transformation of these countries’ economies. Typically, these were thought to exhibit an essentially dualistic structure: a small modern urban-industrial sector alongside a large traditional, mainly pre-capitalist, rural sector. The latter was supposedly characterised by low productivity and an abundance of surplus labour. Industrialisation would enable this surplus labour to find employment in the modern sector and indirectly help boost local agriculture: the exodus of labour from the rural areas would draw farmers into the emerging cash economy, compelling them to buy agricultural inputs, like machinery and fertilisers, to meet the growing demand for food in the towns. In due course, the benefits of economic growth hitherto confined to the modern sector would automatically "trickle-down" to the impoverished backwaters: the "dual economy” would be replaced by a structurally-integrated modern capitalist economy.

It was not long before cracks in this scenario began to appear. The prohibitive costs of agricultural inputs meant many small farmers were unable to increase output, while growing labour shortages caused by urban migration seriously impaired the productivity of traditional labour-intensive farming. As for the urban sector, modern methods of industrial production, being highly capital-intensive, required only a relatively small workforce. Thus, increasing urban migration in fact led to rising unemployment while the importation of these First World technologies imposed a growing debt burden.

Dependency
By the 1960s modernisation theory had reached an impasse. A new scenario of development emerged: dependency theory. Contrary to the previous conventional wisdom that the economic backwardness of less developed countries was attributable to their incomplete incorporation into global capitalism, it was portrayed instead as an inevitable consequence of capitalist penetration of the Third World which left it increasingly dependent on the First. This shifted attention from internal to external factors affecting the development of national economics.

For dependency theory, the "world trading system" was a hierarchical order in which the dominant or "core” countries with their technological, economic and political superiority, are able to impose their needs on the "peripheral" countries. These dictate that the latter should become markets for the products of industrial countries, not rival producers, supplying them with raw materials for processing into finished goods. In short, industrial development and economic diversification in the less developed countries became effectively blocked within an externally imposed global division of labour.

The basic mechanism that condemned them to a state of perpetual "underdevelopment" has been said to be the continual outflow of economic surpluses—notably in the form of debt repayments and expatriated profits. So, far from foreign aid and investment compensating for the lack of local capital, they caused this to happen. This had been compounded in recent years by the declining terms of trade with the value of Third World exports falling sharply against manufactured imports. Political independence made little difference to their plight: it simply enabled the First World to divest itself of the cost of administering these territories while co-opting an emergent class of "comprador bourgeoisie" into this process of neocolonial exploitation.

To break this stranglehold less developed countries would have to "delink" as far as possible from the international economy and pursue "self-reliance", while nationalising the economy to staunch the likely outflow of capital this would incur. In short, a marriage of convenience between Third World nationalism and Leninist state capitalism.

However such an approach has been problematic for several reasons. Firstly, the structure of production which many of these countries inherited was heavily oriented towards exportation of cash crops or minerals and could not easily be re-oriented towards local needs. Secondly, an autarkic policy favouring economic diversification has to contend with local markets being insufficiently large, particularly in small countries, to justify investment in certain lines of production where economies of scale may be critical. Thirdly, increasing state intervention is likely to lead to the growth of an unproductive bureaucracy, further impairing an already impoverished economy while increasing the scope for corruption.

Getting worse
The 1970s oil crisis made matters worse for the less developed countries by massively increasing import costs but in the short term it produced a flood of "petrodollars" loaned to them via western banks. Between 1973 and 1981 these loans increased nine-fold. The spending spree this unleashed helped maintain relatively high growth rates though much of this investment tended to be channelled into grandiose projects which did little to alleviate poverty.

Then, as the long post-war boom petered out, the bubble burst. The 1980s in particular witnessed a steep decline in Third World incomes. Growing poverty led to eruptions of popular unrest to which governments responded with increased military repression. Yet ironically increased military spending only exacerbated the problem, diverting scarce resources away from development projects. In the 32 poorest countries in the world (apart from India and China) such expenditures amounted on average to twice what was spent on education and seven times that on health.

Global recession also signalled a profound change in the political climate. Growing disenchantment with Keynesian policies in the late 1970s and the sudden collapse of the Soviet bloc in the late 1980s ushered in an age of "market triumphalism". Blind faith in market forces replaced blind faith in the efficacy of state intervention.

The concept of development had by then already undergone a subtle mutation. No longer crudely equated with GNP growth it began to also incorporate notions of redistribution and empowerment. In this broader sense, development came to be increasingly linked with concern for the environment, following the emergence of the environmental movement in the early 1970s.

As the global economy went into recession interest in environmental issues diminished but it re-emerged in the late 1980s under the rubric of “sustainable development". Popularised by the 1987 Brundtland report Our Common Future, sustainable development meant a form of development that met "the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". Environmental deterioration and economic decline were perceived as being mutually reinforcing. Since poverty caused people to over-exploit their natural resources, a more equitable distribution of wealth would help ensure more sustainable use of those resources. Although this represented an advance on earlier environmental thinking, it failed to address the real problem: it is not the poor who are the main culprits of environmental vandalism: more often than not they are victims of destructive decisions made by remote governments and multinational corporations who in turn are driven by the logic of market competition.

Contradictions
Yet it was this self-same logic which the less developed countries were now being urged to apply. With the growing threat of debt defaults in the early 1980s, the IMF and World Bank took on a more aggressive role as watchdogs of international capitalism. Structural Adjustment Programmes were imposed in exchange for rescheduling debts and further aid. This involved privatisation of state enterprises, public spending cuts and price liberalisation. If the stated intention of such reforms was "economic stabilisation", their real purpose was to ensure that these countries were better able to fulfil their debt obligations. To that end, greater emphasis was placed on boosting exports with the less developed countries reverting to their traditional role as suppliers of raw materials as prescribed by the theory of comparative advantage within a global trading system progressively shorn of protectionist features.

Predictably, the results have been disappointing. But then that is the nature of reformism: “solving" one problem within capitalism only seems to generate another. For example, while the new GATT treaty prohibited developing countries from dumping subsidised food onto Third World markets, this meant the less developed countries having to pay more for food imports. More expensive imports means getting ever deeper into debt which in turn intensifies the drive towards export production at the expense of domestic food production. Furthermore, with many other producer countries in the same boat yet prevented by free trade agreements from forming cartels to bargain for higher prices, the markets for such exports are soon saturated. So, prices decline and hence also the capacity of less developed countries to service their debts. It's a case of protectionist swings or free market roundabouts.

Meanwhile, the problems of poverty and environmental destruction escalate in tandem. The same pressures that force governments to inflict austerity programmes on populations in the name of “structural adjustment” compel them to drastically cut their meagre environmental protection budgets—at a time when the drive to increase exports poses a growing threat to the environment. Similarly, the increasing mobility of international capital in an era of free markets has enhanced its bargaining position vis-a-vis labour in both developed and less developed countries alike while enabling it to circumvent even limited attempts by states to impose environmental cost constraints by relocating (or threatening to relocate) to countries where environmental standards may be lower.

Not that things could have turned out much different given the nature of capitalism. There can be no turning back to the discredited models of development of the past. State interventionism could never provide a solution to poverty and environmental destruction. Even if this were theoretically conceivable, capitalism's globalising tendencies have put paid to that option. Arguably, the neo-liberal order we now have is the irresistible outcome of such tendencies but in any event it too can offer no hope of real progress.

In short, the system has exhausted every possibility of meaningful development. To move forward the dispossessed majority across the world must now look beyond the artificial barriers of nation-states and regional blocs, to perceive a common identity and purpose. There is in reality only one world. It is high time we reclaimed it.
Robin Cox

Shame about the words (1997)

Book Review from the August 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

The People's Party. The History of the Labour Party by Tony Wright and Matt Carter. (Thames and Hudson. 1997.)

This purports to be a history of the Labour Party. As responsible history it bears about as much resemblance to the Labour Party as the notorious official history of the CPSU published in Moscow in 1939 did to the Communist Party of Russia. In short it is a propaganda blurb and hardly to be treated seriously by anyone who wishes to understand what the Labour Party is all about. Some examples of inaccuracies and convenient omissions are that the Socialist League disaffiliated in 1937, when it disbanded under threat of expulsion: no mention is made of Foot’s attack on Peter Tatchell, Kinnock’s attack on the miners’ pickets, the expulsion of MPs Nellist and Fields: the disbanding (several times) of the youth section; the block on Liz Davies as candidate in Leeds. One could go on.

However, it may be interesting to note the various ways in which the authors, one a Labour MP, the other a tutor in politics at York University, and prospective MP (a job for which he is more suited, judging by his efforts here) have glossed over the past embarrassing anti-working class actions of previous Labour governments.These include their use of troops to break strikes, the introduction of conscription in peace time, the record of wage freezes by several of their governments, all that to a genuine socialist are shameful acts have been turned into virtues.

Claims for Labour as a socialist party are numerously sprinkled throughout the book. They even have the cheek to lay claim to William Morris, and then call him a “Utopian Socialist". Nowhere is any attempt made to define what socialism is and a nationalist outlook is adopted throughout, with no conception that nationalism is of no interest to the working class and only operates for the benefit of the capitalists. When the word socialism is deployed it is used as meaning more government intervention in the running of capitalism and the lives of the people. Socialism of course means the end of government since there will be no minority class who need state power to maintain their dominance.

Throughout they casually mention reforms and socialism as though they were synonymous. When it comes to the famous Clause 4 on which the Labour Party staked its claim to stand for the interests of the working class, and which in practice has no other meaning than nationalisation, they are silent on the fact that nationalisation has proved to be an abject failure for the workers, especially the miners, and has been dropped by the Labour Party itself in favour of a hymn of praise to the capitalist market.

They scrupulously detail every piece of legislation ever carried out by Labour governments, from the Open University (possibly the best thing they have ever done, but was it designed for workers’ needs or for the needs of industry?) to Race Relations Acts and safety at work legislation.

Some of these are well-meaning reforms, but do the authors realise how the day-to- day operation of capitalism turns well meaning reforms into a nonsense? Employers will always find a way round legislation by introducing alternative working practices. Short contract labour as a way round pension schemes, or cheap illegal immigrant workers who are not covered by legislation are just two that spring to mind. Do they realise that mass unemployment which no capitalist government can prevent when there is a worldwide slump, favours the employer in reducing wage rates and worsening conditions of work? These things have been covered exhaustively in previous issues of this journal and do not need to be elaborated in a review, but suffice to say that such political naivety is bad enough in someone who teaches politics in a university, let alone someone who practices it at Westminster.

They follow the usual practice of capitalist political parties in crediting everything they deem to be "good", such as full employment, to their own polices, and everything that goes against them to the unpredictable workings of fate. They treat the EU as being of significance when of course it has no relevance to us as workers who have no country, and which is only meaningful to the various sections of the capitalist class who decide whether they will make more or less profit from being in or out.

Prominence is also given to another factor which should be of no interest to the workers—leadership. They have a morbid concern with the never-ending power struggles for the leadership of their party. The authors would no doubt claim this to be fair enough as history but they seem oblivious to the fact that battles for leadership are themselves a refutation of Labour as a socialist party.

There are some lovely photographs, quite a few oddly enough depicting activities the Labour Party has always been anxious to distance itself from. Shame about the words.
Cyril Evans

The Money Barrier (1997)

Book Review from the August 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Universal Impediment. By “Chappie”, (Third Millennium Press, 51 Newton Rd, Bath BA2 1RW.)

The universal impediment is, of course, money. The author demolishes the arguments used by conventional economists to defend money, that it is a simple tool that facilitates in the most efficient way possible the production and exchange of goods and services.

Money is certainly better than barter, the author concedes, but goes on to point out that the money system requires a large and wasteful bureaucracy to control its operation, from those involved in the production and control of the currency through those concerned with tracking down and trying to suppress financial fraud (indeed, 90 percent of all crimes) to all those whose job it is to take in or pay out or count or stand guard over money. All this wastes resources and distorts production. “Money is not", he concludes, "the catalyst essential to growth and progress or to the creation of wealth, it follows or impedes them. It is their wasteful and inefficient impediment".

The author looks forward to the time when the money system will have disappeared: "With lack of funding impeding progress no longer, and the complexities of the money system replaced by the simple manipulation of quantities, of production and distribution tailored to environmental and human needs, and with information, undistorted by advertising, freely available, the possibilities would be limitless".

The author doesn’t write as a Socialist. In fact he repudiates socialism which he sees as a project, not to abolish money, but to take money from the rich to give to the poor. To be honest, since most of those who have called (and call) themselves socialists have taken this position, it is an understandable enough mistake. It also needs to be underlined that the aim of Socialists is not to simply abolish money as such but to establish the common ownership and democratic control of productive resources, which will have as one of its consequences the disappearance of money.

The great weakness of this book is how the author sees a world moneyless society coming into being. He repudiates the class struggle and the winning of political power by a socialist party and instead envisages money gradually falling out of use following the establishment of a single world currency (which, somewhat strangely, he sees as a step on the road to the eventual disappearance of money).

This process is to be initiated by the UN and its agencies. No doubt when socialism is established such administrative structures will play a key role in balancing production and needs but the UN is made up of capitalist states. For it to change, political power in those states will have to pass out of the hands of their capitalist ruling class and into the hands of the working class—the vast majority of their populations constrained to work for a wage or salary.

So it comes back to the need for a consciously socialist majority to win control of political power after all. This is an essential precondition for the establishment of a world socialist society, the only basis on which Chappie's vision of a world without money can come into being.
Adam Buick

Earth Summit II—Another UN Failure (1997)

From the August 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Earth Summit ends in failure, ran a Guardian headline on 28 June this year—a headline any socialist could have written with prophetic accuracy weeks earlier.

Indeed, the failure of Earth Summit II which opened in New York on 23 June was only ever going to be a reenactment of a similar summit held in Rio five years previously.This much we could glean from the G7 gathering days earlier which closed with the heads of the world's leading nations failing to agree on new targets for carbon dioxide emissions.

Carbon dioxide emissions have been a core problem at both Earth Summits. Back in 1992, the 125 delegates at Rio agreed to return to pre-1990 C02 levels by the end of the decade. But in the past five years such emissions have in fact spiralled and are forecast to increase, with the industrialised nations—making up 15 percent of the world population, yet responsible for 50 percent of emissions—being the worst perpetrator. And China’s C02 emissions are expected to exceed those of the US within eight years.

Similarly, the Rio guidelines to protect the world’s forests have not been adhered to, with about 10 million hectares of forest vanishing every year—an area equivalent to the size of South Korea—with the loss of an estimated 130.000 species of life.

You name it and the delegates at Rio have reneged on it—climate, deserts, bio-diversity, even aid for the developing world.

At Rio it was agreed that the industrialised world should increase their portion of overseas aid to 0.7 percent of GDR. What happened was that aid fell by 20 percent between 1992 and 1995 (from 0.33 percent to 0.27 percent).And in that period global poverty has increased with the poorest 20 percent of the world's people sharing less than 1.1 percent of global income (compared with 2.3 percent in I960) with the richest 20 percent sharing over 85 percent.

Principle I of the Rio summit had been a pledge of $125 billion a year in aid initiatives and projects aimed at helping the environment. Few have been observed and many have resulted in misery. In Uganda, for instance. 35.000 inhabitants of the Kabale forest region were forcibly ejected from their homes in order that tourism could be encouraged and the forests protected. Those who resisted were either shot or burnt alive in their homes. In Kenya, a huge road project spewed up so much dust that thousands were left with irreparable lung damage.

Fishing around for profit
Were this not bad enough, in the past five years the world’s fishing grounds have become further depleted and whole eco-system faces an increased threat from oil and gas companies who are now exploiting the deeper oceans in their endless pursuit of profit.

This, then, had been the result of Rio in 1992, a summit that had taken 20 years and 30 million pieces of paper to get off the ground.

What added insult to injury at this year’s summit was that G7 scapegoating of the industrial world dominated so much of the meeting that constructive debate on saving the environment was precluded. Little wonder that the day after the summit closed the Guardian (28 June) could report of the summit ending "in a shambles with no clear agreements on its main goals of new aid for developing countries or protecting forests".

Talks on climate collapsed and have effectively been deferred until the Climatic Change Conference in Kyoto. Japan, this December. A text which highlighted targets to reduce C02 emissions had been agreed by a working group one evening, but came to nought when the group fell out over lunch some 12 hours later.

We may well ask that if the Rio summit resulted in a score of promises that were eventually broken, and if the latest summit ended in failure, then what future for planet Earth?

Commentators have tended to cite a growing governmental awareness of environmental issues as one positive spin-off of such summits.They point to the likes of Tony Blair, who believes C02 emissions should be reduced to below 15 percent of 1990 levels by 2010, as proof that governments are really beginning to care.

Like true apologists for capitalism, they continue to fail to locate global problems in a wider social and economic context, in capitalism itself, as if the profit motive was incidental to environmental concerns.

Profit is in fact the biggest stumbling block encountered by delegates at Earth summits and this journal has wasted no time in exposing similar summits in the past as the farces they are (see, for instance, our issues for June 1992 and July 1996). At Rio, evidence could be found during discussions on bio-diversity, with the US refusing to back an agreement to safeguard animal and plant diversity for no other reason than this would have curbed the excesses of the mainly US transnational corporations.

At the recent Earth Summit, a hoped-for agreement on a global tax on aviation fuel, aimed at improving engine efficiency and consequently reducing pollution, failed to materialise, with the US opposing new taxes. OPEC fearing a loss of revenue and developing nations fearful that increased prices would result in a drop in tourism.

You do not need a vivid imagination to envisage the environment and development report that will be prepared for the next Earth Summit in 2002. or indeed the outcome of the Conference on Climatic Change to be held later this year. If the past is anything to go on the delegates would be better advised to stay at home and plant saplings.

Their ideas of a world compatible with a profit-driven market economy are illusory and their prospects for reform in the interests of humans and the environment a fallacy.

Were they to take the idea of socialism with them to future summits, however, the world would stand a far better chance of survival in the 21st century.
John Bissett

Passage to Poverty (1997)

The TV Review column from the August 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

David Dimbleby’s India (BBC2. 12 July) should have been enough to remind anyone with any doubts why this planet needs a social revolution. Dimbleby himself—a pillar of the British establishment— ironically demonstrated how relatively little of real worth has changed in India since the days of the Raj. The social and economic movement that there has been has done little if anything to benefit the vast majority of India’s teeming population.

Dimbleby’s programme started with one or two "success’’ stories brought about by the intrusion of capitalism into India’s backward economic structure. The very fact that these were painted as examples of real progress told the viewer everything one needed to know, both about the programme’s general ideological thrust and the state of the rest of India. "Successful’’ young computer software executives were shown imbibing the dubious advantages of western-style wage-slavery, all for the princely sum of £40 per month. Interestingly, some other would-be wage-slaves showed themselves unconsciously sceptical of the benefits of capitalism, including the schoolgirl who stated when asked about her ambitions: "I want to be an accountant—and apart from that have an enjoyable life." Well, quite.

Where Dimbleby's programme was telling, however was in its portrayal of India’s traditionalist/ modernist dichotomy. The tension between the demands of capitalism and the stifling structure of the centuries-old caste system was brought out quite well and not even Dimbleby—skilled broadcaster that he is—could disguise the awful truth that in many respects Indians are experiencing not the best of both worlds but the worst of both.

Infanticide and gangsterism 
As the need to compete in the world economy pushes down the meagre income of millions of Indian workers so they find it increasingly difficult to meet the obligations demanded of them by their culture and traditions. In many instances this has led to some quite dreadful consequences. Parents with young girls, for instance, are less able to afford the dowry payments expected from them on their daughter’s marriage and so parents look upon the birth of baby girls as a financial disaster waiting to happen. Almost unbelievably, this has provoked the return of mass infanticide as poverty-stricken young Indians, particularly in the north of the country, feel that the only way they can ensure their own survival is by terminating the lives of their own children. Relatively few can bring themselves to do such a deed, so amazingly, they scrape together a few rupees to pay somebody else to take the children away and do it for them. In this way traditional Indian culture meets the joys of Western free enterprise with a vengeance.

The dangerous mix of traditional authoritarian and patriarchal cultures with the market economy has brutally given rise to other social problems too. Many of these are common to the majority of the "developing" world, but as is so often the case. India probably demonstrates them better than anywhere. As the poison of the market soaks in to infect an already cancerous organism, crime, corruption, gangsterism, violence and massacres are the order of the day across huge swathes of this beautiful country. Such is the level of patronage, ignorance and illiteracy that hundreds of thousands have been known to gather to defend those politicians and criminals (the dividing line is hazy) who have been systematically defrauding and robbing them. In these circumstances it has been left to other members of the capitalist class to take action against those—and there are plenty of them— who have been refusing to play the game according to Hoyle.

In several regions of India slavery still unofficially exists. Millions of children are “economically bonded" to shopkeepers, artisans and factory owners, working for nothing apart from enough food to ensure that they can put a bit of wealth into their masters’ pockets the next day. This—yet another happy victory for traditional values in a modern setting—shows no real sign of abating. Even under India’s old neo-state-capitalist economic arrangements child slavery was still rife: anyone who expects a great improvement since the recent move towards a more free market economy would be foolish indeed.

Given that India is in a number of respects so typical of much of the world it is astounding that people exist who still think that capitalism is the best of all worlds, a progressive social system that is the best on offer. If watching TV programmes about India is not enough perhaps they should visit it and open their eyes. Then they might know what socialists have learnt—that capitalism is now a planetary disaster.
Dave Perrin

Letters: Back to the land? (1997)

Letter to the Editors from the August 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Editors,

What would the members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain do with the money, if they unwittingly won (through a third party perhaps) millions of pounds on the Lottery. Pools or suchlike?

Would they (1) take large tracts of land out of conventional land ownership (and use), and live and share the resources of that land according to Socialist principles as much as is possible, in their own lives, more than they do at present, and amongst increasing numbers of new members further increasing their share of land, or (2) put the money towards doing what they do at present and that is to pay for the use of capitalist "machinery" to spread socialist knowledge and awareness, paying their members capitalist expenses, paying capitalist printing costs, hire of halls, and other capitalist expenses that it takes to run a political party and magazine, postage, telephone, stationery, etc.?

Personally speaking I would say (1) would be better and the most effective, because you could still do no. (2). i.e. spread awareness, but at increasingly less and less money cost because "true" socialists would begin to own collectively more and more socialist and not capitalist resources, such as their own energy supplies, wood, recycled paper, mills, etc. to use, as well as their own moneyless food supplies, etc. thus allowing more effective use of what money is available, and have a much greater impact on the increase of the present activities of the Socialist Party.

This land which would be the physical practical place of where socialists arc practising socialism (albeit constrained by the limits of capitalism that we are all forced to live under) and would be an interesting, inspiring enjoyable place to visit, and also given that you do stick to socialist principles, would not this land, lands, unlike Animal Farm stay socialist? And another thing—you have already spent the time and energy put in by your loyal members.You in fact could be doing two things at the same time—creating socialism and educating socialism.
Frank Bowman,
Flint


Reply:
If we were to obtain such a windfall, since we are a democratic organisation the decisions as to how to use it would be taken democratically by the membership. We can’t see our membership, however, deciding to spend it on the sort of land project you have in mind since that would be contrary to our conception of how socialism will come about.

We imagine the money would be spent on doing what we do now better and on a bigger scale. We could obtain our own printing press and perhaps bring out a weekly paper as well as a glossy monthly. We could pay socialists to work full-time as journalists, designers, printers and experts in distribution. We could put organisers in the field. We could start a publishing house to bring out books and pamphlets, both reprints and new material. We could contest more seats at elections and run a more high-profile campaign: if we put up more than 50 candidates we could have party election broadcasts which we would have the money to do well. We could help our companion parties and socialist groups in other parts of the world expand their activities too. We could step up our advertising and publicity.

Such a windfall would enable us to redress a bit the present imbalance in favour of pro-capitalist propaganda. It would enable us to convince more and more people that socialism is the only lasting solution to the problems they face and that socialism can only be established when a majority of people have come to want and understand it and organise to take democratic political action to achieve it.

That—democratic political action by a majority that wants and understands socialism—is the way we see socialism coming about, not by "socialistic land colonies gradually becoming more and more self-sufficient and eventually squeezing out entirely capitalist production for profit.

This argument amongst those who want a classless moneyless society of common ownership and democratic control goes back a long time, right back to the origins of the modern socialist movement in the first part of the last century. On the one side was Robert Owen, who spent (and lost) the fortune he had made as a textile capitalist on founding communistic colonics in Britain and America. On the other were the Chartists, whose position was later supported by Marx and Engels, who argued that political action for social change was the most effective way to achieve a co-operative commonwealth.

It might be more pleasant to live in the moneyless communistic community you envisage, at least to start with, but the trouble is they never last. Not because communism is against human nature as opponents claim, but because they can’t escape from the surrounding capitalist environment. Far from them overwhelming capitalism it’s been the other way round.

Either they isolate themselves as much as they can from capitalism, in which case they arc only able to offer a very frugal existence, or they engage with the surrounding capitalist economy, for instance by selling their products, in which case they get more and more sucked into capitalist ways of doing things.

The kibbutzim in Israel are a good example of this. Some of them did start out as communities which didn’t use money internally and in which affairs were run democratically with everyone having an equal say. But over the years they have not only competed successfully on the capitalist market as sellers; they have also taken to employing non-members as wage workers, i.e. become capitalist enterprises.

Two further points. First, we are not saying that people shouldn’t live in communistic communities if they want to—we are not in the business of telling people how they should live their lives under capitalism—only that it’s not the way socialism is going to come. Second, we can imagine that, when socialists are measured in millions rather than thousands so that it has become clear that sooner or later socialism will be established in the near future, people will be making all sorts of plans and experiments in anticipation of the coming of socialism and that this will include communal living in the countryside as well as in towns, but we are not there yet since this presupposes the existence of a mass socialist movement which must come first. So at the moment we need to concentrate on spreading socialist ideas rather than promoting experiments in "socialist” living—Editors.