The Voice From The Back column from the September 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
Down with Leaders
Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders? Nay, nay and thrice nay! No Governments, No Leaders, No Led! Take Bernie, a staunch supporter of the Democrats. If he becomes the next US President (or, indeed, if Jeremy Corbyn becomes next Prime Minister), what would this mean for the 99 percent? More of the same – and business as usual for the capitalist class. Eugene Debs, an earlier candidate for the same office, made the same observation in 1904: ‘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.’ The same could be said of Labour and the Tories in this country.
Praying for Armageddon
’Pope Francis will give mass in Cuba’s capital on an altar next to a portrait of the revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara. A construction crew has begun erecting the altar where Pope Francis is planned to give mass on 20 September as part of his tour to Cuba and the United States. The altar will be placed next to a 36 meters high sculpted outline of Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara, which covers the facade of the Ministry of Interior. The portrait is based on a famous photo by Alberto Korda and sculpted by Cuban artist Enrique Avila’ (telesurtv.net, 4 August). This seems appropriate as Che is viewed as the patron saint: at school every child must repeat each morning, ’we will be like Che.’ The icon is on record as stating, one year after the Cuban missile crisis: ’the people [of Cuba] you see today tell you that even if they should disappear from the face of the earth because of an atomic war unleashed in their names … they will feel completely happy and fulfilled.’
’Pictures of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman flashing a watch worth an alleged $620,000 [£397,000] on Monday sparked controversy in the crisis-hit country. Dmitry Peskov, who is given a broad remit to voice the views of the Kremlin strongman, was photographed wearing the pricey timepiece as he tied the knot with Olympic ice dancer Tatiana Navka on Saturday in the Black Sea resort of Soch’ (Zee News, 3 August). Socialists are not surprised by such news, having long ago realised that the November 1917 revolution did not end capitalism or the class system which continue today under Putin.
Up, up and away
The development of nuclear missiles in India started decades ago and more recently the launching of satellites commenced. Back on Earth, we are reminded that ’of the 300 million households surveyed, an overwhelming majority (73 percent) live in villages. Of this rural population, less than 5 percent earn enough to pay taxes, only 2.5 percent own a 4-wheeler vehicle and less than 10 percent have salaried jobs. Not only does rural India have miserable statistics on income and asset ownership, its literacy rates are low. Only 3.5 percent of students graduate and around 35.7 percent of residents can’t read or write’ (CNN, 2 August). The same source adds ’it comes as no surprise that the bulk of the Indian population is still overwhelmingly poor.’ Indeed.
‘When discussing my upcoming book on the economics of Star Trek with people who have only a passing interest in the show, I have noticed that the issue of work keeps coming back. More specifically, casual viewers, professional economists and members of the press alike seem to hone in on the (fictional) consequences of automation. Arguably, Star Trek is the only sci-fi franchise that takes automation seriously. In Star Trek, the necessity to work to provide for oneself has vanished. Star Trek society, as depicted in the show, is perhaps the most popular example of what is called a ’post-scarcity’ economy, for lack of a better term’ (Business Insider, 3 August). Everyone in a socialist world will have the possibility to live long and prosper – without money.
Employment is prostitution
There has been much debate in the Guardian this summer over prostitution, should it be decriminalised or not? Lacking, sadly, is the socialist perspective, as put forward by Marx in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, for example, in which he saw such work as ’only a specific expression of the general prostitution of the labourer.’ Such dehumanisation of those involved will only end when the terms buyer and seller become redundant with the establishment of socialism.