Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Wealthy Duchess and
 the Factory Girls (1937)

From the November 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

The late Duchess of Bedford died possessed of a beautiful estate at Woburn Sands, in Bedfordshire. All round the estate is a brick wall ending in massive gates, through which the curious can obtain a glimpse of the ancestral hall beyond. Set in acres upon acres of England’s most gracious parkland, the mansion strikes a note of peace and prosperity, which is the heritage of capitalism’s favoured ones.

The late Duchess’s will was recently reported in the Manchester Guardian. Nearly £331,000 was left in bequests to various individuals. This is a lot of money, especially when one considers that the Duchess of Bedford was a lady who certainly never denied herself anything that fancy or necessity dictated during her very long lifetime. During her old age she took up the expensive hobby of flying—upon which she must have spent thousands of pounds.

Passing from one extreme to another, the same newspaper, in its correspondence columns, issues an appeal by the "Factory Girls’ Holiday Fund Committee” for help. A pathetic paragraph says : "A large number of the girls sent away are hardly more than growing children, having recently left school for work in factories and warehouses." It pleads for a week in the country "to help make life fuller and more complete " for these girls.

A very old lady has left in her will enough money to give thousands of those girls a real good holiday, but she thought fit to leave it to diverse other people who had ministered to her personal comfort during her lifetime. The Duchess of Bedford was interested not in factory girls, but in herself and her friends, and who shall blame her? The significance of these two reports lies in the glaring instance it reveals of the gross inequality of opportunity for sections of the people. On the one hand we have an elderly woman representing the wealthy and leisured community, possessed of wealth, part of which takes the form of a vast country estate, closely walled and secluded from the eyes of the vulgar. On the other a number of poor, undernourished work girls, whose only knowledge of the country comes secondhand from the pictures or from books, and who represent the working class.

But even if the Duchess of Bedford had thought fit to open wide the iron gates and invite the Factory Girls Committee to cover the pleasant green fields with their white-faced protégés the problem would still be unsolved. Once more the Manchester Guardian, in the same issue (August 24th), points the moral.

The suicide of Mr. John Brown, a Manchester philanthropist who took his own life because of financial difficulties, which unhinged his mind. “He spent a large amount of money in providing holidays for poor Birmingham children." The last sentence should be put upon his tombstone as a suitable epitaph and a warning to all other kind hearted dabblers with things as they are. Not all philanthropists ruin themselves financially, but they are nearly all mentally bankrupt. That is the fate of all those who compromise with the existing state of affairs.

The revolutionary Socialist movement becomes almost suffocated by these reformers. Every crying evil of capitalism has its devoted band of would-be reformers. What a vast and formidable front could they oppose to the capitalist class were they united for its abolition. But some of the capitalist class are even among the reformers. The horrors of capitalism are world-wide and ever growing, they cannot be cured a bit at a time. All over the world, in all the great cities, are horrible and indescribable slums. People are mentally and physically starved, and repressed in a thousand different ways. The throw-outs of society fill the hospitals and mental wards, whilst the huge majority of the workers hang on by a very narrow margin. Yet all over the world there are acres and acres of habitable and unpopulated country for people to spread out in. It is possible to produce everything that we need in spacious surroundings and decent buildings, and for people to enjoy life to the full. People live on top of their jobs because of the time and expense of getting to them. The motive of industry all the time is profit-making, not the supplying of things for the people’s use.

All the means of production lie in the hands of private holders. These owners, not only of inanimate things but of workers' lives, constitute not one tenth of the population. The rest of the people who, not by our wish to tabulate them as such, but by their own class portion, form that vast working majority who must gain permission to work for wages for the small minority who have the power to say yea or nay.

At times of slump and depression it is “nay," and then the belts must be tightened and those few little luxuries previously enjoyed altogether discarded. The worker’s wage, whether £2, £3 or £5 per week, determines his standard of living. It is our object to abolish wages altogether.

Socialism means a system of society where men and women organise together to produce the things they need, and having produced them in co-operation enjoy them freely. This does not mean a stilted uniformity, but a satisfaction of individual requirements. Socialism means that all men and women will become individuals for the first time and will have individual expression of thought and feeling. If all the people engaged in useless effort, such as those in the repressive and fighting forces, canvassers, clergymen and others, were diverted to useful channels of production and distribution we could considerably shorten hours or increase the amount of goods produced. There is only one thing in the way of realising this wondrous state of things, and that is the realisation of its possibility by the rest of the workers. Help us to spread the knowledge, fellow-workers, to waken the "dreamers" and teach the ignorant.
May Otway


The Socialist Party and economic organisation (1937)

From the November 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

Upon the formation of the Socialist Party of Great Britain in 1904, its membership immediately took up the matter of – to use a phrase well known on the other side of the Atlantic – “The Burning Question of Trades Unionism.” In point of fact, the whole question of the necessity of economic organisation relative to Socialism was comprehensively discussed at a series of specially-convened meetings of the party. This should indicate that the original members of the Socialist Party were fully alive to the importance of the subject if Socialism was to be considered as a vital force, and brought within the sphere of practicability. Here we return to this subject again to enable workers newly interested in Socialism to understand our position from what we ourselves state, rather than from the misrepresentations of our opponents.

In the first place, it may be necessary to point out that we regard Socialism not as a purely political theory, nor as an economic doctrine, but as one which embraces every phase of social life. Still, every form of human society has its economic basis; either this or it must perish. The production and distribution of the wherewithal to live is a fundamental condition of all social as well as all individual existence.

Hence, the future society of Socialism cannot be an exception to this rule. But the quest for Socialism must proceed upon the well-practised principle of thought and action from the known to the unknown; in other words, we are compelled to act upon the raw material at hand, in the form of human society as it is, and as all past historical and social development has shaped it.

Capitalist society, and all that it entails, gives us the necessary pre-conditions for the formation of Socialism. It has massed together vast populations of property-less wealth producers who unceasingly experience exploitation through enslavement, besides economic insecurity. Not only this, capitalism has raised gigantic means of wealth production whose capacity to sustain human kind can, and will, be enormously expanded once they are freed from capitalist control.

The problem at the outset is how to get rid of the capitalist system. The present writer, like every other Socialist, as an individual, knows that it is utterly impossible to waive it out of existence (he would if he could) and so at present does the whole Socialist Party. It may seem unfortunate to many people, but it is, nevertheless, the fact that the task of removing capitalism and replacing it with Socialist society is one which must be undertaken by the great mass of the workers themselves. The primary work of .the Socialist now is, therefore, propagandist in character.

The power over the means of life which the capitalist class has, is vested in its control of the political machinery. Ownership of the world’s economic resources is certainly an economic factor, but that ownership, if challenged, will find its means of enforcement by and through the State political machine, which, as everybody should know, includes the armed forces, the Army, the Navy and the Air Forces, etc.

Of course, an elaborate legal machinery exists whereby claims on private property are settled among the capitalists themselves, but behind the Judicature and the Legislature stands the means of enforcing the decrees. The political arm of capitalism rules the economic body of the system in the final analysis: which reveals the chief reason why the capitalist class concern themselves so much about political action; they realise that in this field their economic interest finds its ultimate, if not immediate, protection. Thus, the political organisation of the workers for Socialist purposes is thrust upon us as a primary and imperative necessity.

The Socialist Party, in aiming for the control of the State, is a political party in the immediate sense, but we have an economic purpose in view, namely, the conversion of the means of living into the common property of society. Therefore, the question necessarily arises whether an economic organisation acting in conjunction with the political is vital to our task. We have on more than one occasion pronounced ourselves in agreement with the need for such an organisation, and in so doing have flatly denied the charge that the Socialist Party of Great Britain is “nothing but a pure and simple political party of Socialism.” Our standpoint has been that in the present stage of Socialist thought, where the great bulk of the workers are non-Socialist in outlook, the attempt to lay down the form of economic organisation for Socialism is both idle and utopian. The workers’ political organisation must precede the economic, since, apart from the essential need of the conquest of the powers of government, it is on the political field that the widest and most comprehensive propaganda can be deliberately maintained. It is here that the workers can be deliberately and independently organised on the basis of Socialist thought and action. In other words, Socialist organisation can proceed untrammelled by ideas other than those connected with its revolutionary objective. But on the economic field to-day the position presents a somewhat different aspect. Here we already have the trade unions, which are a necessity to the workers under the present system, from the standpoint of their dire need to resist the pressure of exploitation, besides gaining whatever concessions are obtainable in the sale of their labour power. It must be understood that the price of the commodity labour-power, or what is commonly known as wages, together with hours of working and all the many other questions connected with the workers’ employment, are not a matter which is settled by chance or the automatic working out of some indefinable economic law, but is one which is largely to be accounted for by the degree of resistance made by the workers from time to time. Hence, the greater the extent to which they combine on the economic field the more the workers present the capitalist with a situation which the latter cannot afford to ignore. The Socialist Party, therefore, supports and encourages such organisation by the working class, and one of our first public pronouncements on the question read as follows:–
  The basis of the action of the trade unions must be a clear recognition of the position of the workers under capitalism, and the class struggle necessarily arising therefrom; in other words, they must adopt the Socialist position if they are going to justify this existence at all. Does this mean that the existing trade unions are to be smashed? That will depend upon the unions themselves. All action of the unions in support of capitalism, or tending to sidetrack the workers from the only path that can lead to their emancipation should be strongly opposed, but, on the other hand, trade unions being a necessity under capitalism any action on their part upon sound lines should be heartily supported.
Where we raise the question whether the trade unions will be broken up in the event of accepting the Socialist position, this can be taken to mean that we do not urge, neither do we anticipate, that the struggle on the economic field would be surrendered, rather would it be intensified and more intelligently conducted because of the Socialist basis of the unions. As the trade union movement stands to-day it is still craft and sectarian in outlook, still mainly pro-capitalist, even where the workers are organised on the basis of industry. Our own experience of some of these latter unions is that they are little more than a confederation of craft unions, each section regarding its own immediate interests as the more important; real working-class interest and understanding is conspicuous by its absence. In fact, whilst we are writing this there comes to hand a letter from an American reader in which our attention is drawn to a similar state of things in U.S.A. We are told that in the United Mineworkers of America , “‘the diggers’ interest is primary and other groups, such as fan men, boiler men, hoist men, etc., being very much in the minority often get, when the scale (wages) is drawn up, less than the rates paid in other industries for like work.” Whilst we have no means of checking the statement of our correspondent, we can well understand such a situation existing. Apart from other influences the failure to understand the class position plays a big part in the many anomalies which arise among the organised workers, hence the need for Socialist propaganda among them is of paramount importance. But they have yet to learn the real nature of capitalism besides understanding the process by which the common interest of humanity can be effected through Socialism. The social ownership of the means of life must be understood to mean exactly what it implies, namely, that the interest of society as a whole is of primary importance.

It is for this reason, apart from others that we need not now dwell upon, that we have opposed those industrial unionists of the De Leon school. These people have insisted that organisation by industry should be the basis of the economic organisation for the establishment of Socialism, or, to use their own phrase, “industrial unionism is the embryo, the undeveloped form of future society.” We have insisted that such a form of organisation would divide the workers on the basis of the industries in which they were engaged, with the inevitable consequence that the industrial interest must triumph over the social interest which Socialism so fundamentally demands.

The economic organisation based on Socialist principles can only arise after the workers have been made Socialists in far greater numbers than at present. The struggle on the economic held under capitalism has to be, and is, carried on by Socialists and non-Socialists alike. The small number of workers who really understand the meaning of Socialism is such that any attempt to form a separate Socialist economic organisation at present would be practically futile, for the very nature of the workers’ economic struggle under capitalism would compel such an organisation to associate in a common cause with the non-Socialist unions during strikes, lock-outs and all the other activities on the economic side of the class struggle.

The Socialist Party, therefore, whilst holding that the working class must be organised, both politically and economically, for the establishment of Socialism, urges that the existing unions provide the medium through which the workers should continue their efforts to obtain the best conditions they can get from the master class in the sale of their labour-power. That the trade unions must inevitably accept the Socialist theory as the logical outcome of their own existence, and as such will provide the basis of the economic organisation of the working class to manipulate the means and instruments of wealth production and distribution when the capitalist ruling class have first been dislodged from political power. The essential conditions for obtaining Socialism must never be underestimated. At the very moment that the workers have gained control of the State machine provision must be made simultaneously for the economic requirements of the community. The Socialist working class of the future will, no doubt, see to this as one of its supreme functions.

We intend later to deal with other aspects of this question.
Robert Reynolds

Rear View: BBC Newspeak (2017)

The Rear View Column from the June 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

BBC Newspeak
‘When you have covered the story from every angle. When you have reported the facts whatever the obstacles. If you have asked the questions others won’t. When you have never taken sides in any war, revolution or election. When you have come under fire from people in power around the world and you have always championed the truth, then you can call yourself the most trusted brand in news.’  Sic and repeated ad nauseam currently on the BBC World News television channel. Such vomit-inducing chutzpah! How should socialists react to media lies, omissions, distortions and half-truths, as well as conspiracy theories and alternative facts? We should remember Marx’s favourite motto – doubt everything! – and this from his German Ideology (1845): ‘the class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production.’ The BBC has a long history of supporting the status quo: in the General Strike of 1926 it clearly sided against our class. This quote attributed to Orwell is also apposite: ‘during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.’


Down and Out in Manchester
Engels’ The Condition of the Working Class in England (1844) is a classic analysis of the appalling conditions of our class in Britain during his stay in Manchester and Salford. There have, undoubtedly, been some improvements since then: smallpox has been eradicated and deaths from diseases such as measles, scarlet fever and whooping cough are very rare. In The Housing Question (1887) he shows how and explains why reforms within capitalism always come up short. News therefore of a ‘homeless community found living in dark, squalid tunnels… under the streets of Manchester’ (thesun.co.uk, 2 May) should not come as a surprise. There are more than enough empty dwellings in Manchester and elsewhere to accommodate the homeless but because houses are produced for profit there is no possibility of a rational approach to housing within capitalism. Engels is clear: ‘as long as the capitalist mode of production continues to exist, it is folly to hope for an isolated solution of the housing question or of any other social question affecting the fate of the workers’.


Moribund May Days
When the Labour Movement was young, the first of May was set aside as a day on which the workers of different countries would suspend their labouring and join in mass meetings to send to each other fraternal greetings and expressions of solidarity in the struggle against capitalist oppression. Their value has, however, long since come into question. A contributor to the May 1936 edition of this Journal wrote: ‘for many years now these May Day demonstrations have been held, and the net result of them all is nil, as far as helping the workers out of their difficulties is concerned.’ Were that writer alive today, he would likely die of despair: ‘… marchers have taken to the streets in several cities across Sweden to call for Muslim women’s right to work while wearing the hijab . . . Protesters . . . chanted slogans such as crush racism, my hijab is not your business and employment is our right” (aljazeera.com, 1 May). Today, a large number of workers want a visual sign of their ignorance and submission as well as the right to bear the yoke of wage slavery.


Telling the Truth
‘Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave’, said Frederick Douglass. Socialists value free speech and abhor censorship in all its forms. Stephen Fry may be fined for saying ‘how dare you create a world in which there is such misery? It’s not our fault? It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain’ (independent.ie, 6 May). Paying £11,000,000+ for a licence plate is legal yet ‘a Canadian Trekkie has had his Star Trek-themed license plate revoked after his insurance firm deemed it offensive. Nick Troller was driving round with his ASIMIL8 custom plate for almost two years before he was contacted by the Manitoba Public Insurance to say he would have to give it up. The phrase ASIMIL8 refers to the Borgs [sic] – the villains of Star Trek: The Next Generation – who want to assimilate all other alien races into their own’ (dailymail.co.uk, 30 April). Let us hasten that glorious day when a majority of us armed with the knowledge of socialism act. The capitalists will know that resistance is futile.



The Panjandrum: Science and Subversion (2017)

From the June 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
‘The sacrosanct fetish of today is science. Why don’t you get some of your friends to go for that wooden-faced panjandrum – eh?
The above quote is from Joseph Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent within which the employer of an ‘agent provocateur’ is attempting to persuade his employee to destroy an architectural symbol of science which he believed to be part of the iconography of bourgeois culture. Certainly during the nineteenth and early twentieth century this perspective is persuasive given the identification of science with the accelerating technological forces of production. There’s little evidence that the ruling class ever understood or took any interest in the intellectual rigours or origin of scientific analysis but many of them certainly believed it to be a symbol of the ‘progress’ that they thought of themselves as representing. Does science still possess this iconic status as a symbol of capitalism and the ideology of the class that bears its name? Or has the dialectical wheel turned to a point where science is now directly subversive of all that it once seemed to represent culturally and politically? Has science now turned against its own technological progeny and, in doing so, does it now represent an ideological challenge to the market/profit shibboleths of 21st  century capitalism?

Although some, including many within its own community, have made grandiose claims for science as the definitive form of knowledge (mathematics as the language of nature and/or god etc.) it is as well to remember that science is created and sustained by the labour of human beings (scientists). We may well see it as one of our greatest achievements but we must resist any attempt to dehumanise it and raise it to the level of some type of quasi-religion. As our creation, it is subject to all of the cultural and political influences that exist within all human endeavours. We can see this clearly within the arena of the law courts. ‘Expert witnesses’ will appear for both defence and prosecution and after confirming their exhaustive scientific credentials they will proceed to interpret the forensic evidence in often directly contradictory ways.

In the past we have seen such experts confidently assert that nicotine is not addictive and that tobacco can have positive effects on the health of those who smoke. Indeed some commentators have dated the end of the love affair between capitalism and science to December 1953 when the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC) was created in the US. This organisation was a pseudo-scientific front for the tobacco industry which employed those scientists who were ‘sceptical’ about the connection between smoking and serious heart and lung disease. It set a precedent for a way in which companies could deal with ‘unhelpful’ scientific data – they would not directly confront the evidence but would highlight and emphasise the inherent scepticism within the scientific method itself. We can ridicule such things in retrospect but remember that those who deny ‘global warming’ as a result of industrial activity (including some scientists) and those who desperately still look to science to demonise substances like marijuana are still playing the same game. It is not that they are necessarily consciously lying but rather that the cultural and political pressures to make the evidence fit the needs of the dominant ideology are sometimes irresistible.

Socialists are materialists and as such we attribute the success of science to its ability to represent, more or less accurately, the world in which we live. It can be seen as part of humanity’s ongoing project to understand itself and its world alongside philosophy, anthropology and history, etc. The results of scientific enquiry can be described as ‘correspondence truths’. As we have noted, these ‘truths’ seemed to consolidate the political validity of the capitalist class of the past; now they seem to have turned on their owners with a vengeance. Historically we have seen a similar phenomenon in religion as the Protestants of the Reformation turned on their former masters (the Catholic hierarchy) and used the same biblical scripture in the forefront of their struggle against Rome. As has happened with science today, the Christian faith was subverted by the specific political needs of the rising European nation states of that period. Some socialists called their more rigorous materialist approach ‘scientific socialism’ in an attempt to completely confiscate the beloved panjandrum of the bourgeoisie. Today we are more aware of the ideological component within the scientific method and so do not believe it to be the definitive description of the world that some once did.

Placing science and scientists within an historical and political context gives us a greater insight into its nature and how it has contributed to both conservative and revolutionary ideas. It is tempting to hope that science can still aspire to a value-free conception of nature (and the culture that created it) but this now seems increasingly naive. Is this a council of despair or, ironically, an example of the very same scientific approach that its conclusions seem to undermine? As we socialists are prone to say: only history will tell us. What we can say with confidence is that the political struggle will continue as long as poverty, privilege, exploitation and war thrive. That both sides will continue to utilise all of the intellectual weapons available to them is also inevitable. After the revolutionary resolution of this struggle it is unlikely that anyone will proclaim the victory as being that of ‘science’ or any other single component of human knowledge. What we can hope for from science is that no socialist revolutionary will die with any idealistic illusions, including those provided by its own panjandrum.
Wez

Northern Exposure (2017)

From the June 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists have a long history in the north of Britain. The Party’s first ever meeting was in Bolton, Lancashire. To many people, the north conjures up images of slate-grey skies, broad drawls and coal faces, ranks of pokey houses stretching down hillsides, wasp-tongued matrons, factories, fog and squalor. It’s an old stereotype now permanently fossilised into a soap opera, but in truth you can still find traces of it if you go to some north-western former mill-towns on a bad weather day.

The north was certainly grim once. Slum clearances beginning in the 1930s gave way to out-of-town ‘modern’ housing estates and tower blocks in the 1950s that became the new slums, their windswept Brutalist architecture growing graffiti, syringes and crushed Special Brew cans like urban weeds. The pubs closed in all the poorest areas as cheap ‘offies’ stole their business and communities disintegrated to the point where even the concept of ‘community’ disappeared. Sink-estate lad-gangs exercised their ire on each other in mass battles while litter filled the streets and parks like tumbleweed, left by people with no cause for civic pride. Mothers called their wayward children in for tea with the universal war cry “You! Fookin’ get in ‘ere, now!” On Friday nights at chucking-out time the streets filled with strobe-flashing squad cars and riot vans. Not that the north was anything special in that respect. The same scenes could be found repeated all across the south like a low-rent franchise chain. The Sex Pistols, a London band, captured the mood of the country in enraged 4-chord rants and razor-slashed fashion statements. If the 1930s was ‘Love on the Dole’ the 1970s was just the dole. In the Thatcher years that followed, the rage boiled over.

Socialist Party members went out postering for meetings with buckets of wallpaper paste and brushes, furtively throwing up hand-drawn posters while keeping a lookout for coppers. Risking arrest was part of the deal. Splattered in sticky slop we afterwards went and had a pint of fizzy keg ale until the nerves had subsided, hoping the meeting attendance would justify the effort, though often it didn’t. Every available wall and window of every closed-down shop was festooned with layers of posters, the new atop the old, screaming the political life of the towns, the concrete and sheet-steel social media of the 1980s. We had an ‘honour’ policy not to cover over in-date posters from other groups, even the Trot groups, though they didn’t always return the favour. We took the Socialist Standard round the pubs, selling dozens of copies to half-pissed would-be rebels, disaffected Labourites and the occasional bemused National Front supporter. Meetings reflected the age – fiery speakers and no-quarter rhetoric – which visitors either warmed to enthusiastically or cowered from in fright. It was crude, and sometimes as ugly as the concrete shopping arcades. But there was no doubt that it was alive, that the towns were alive, that politics had two fists and was prepared to use them.

And then it all changed. A creeping gentrification took over the country. Our council stopped the flyposting with a simple trick. If you flyposted a meeting for a named pub, the council threatened to fine the pub £400, and £40 for every day the posters stayed up. The pubs promptly panicked and refused to host any political meetings. Fearing retaliation by far-right groups, the pubs also banned paper sales. Councils started refusing to allow paper sellers on the streets, ordering the police to move them on, while privately-owned shopping precincts insisted on trading licences which they then refused to grant. The handful of council-maintained public noticeboards, now the sole locations for legal advertising, became warzones of competing groups. All ‘honour’ policies went out of the window in a Darwinian fight for exposure. Finally the council, reacting to alleged citizen complaints that the noticeboards were unsightly, removed them altogether.

Complaints to our local council about the dereliction of their civic responsibilities yielded the response: “Why don’t you use the internet?” Yet when the council wanted to advertise its own programme of arts events it ignored this passive medium and instead planted giant billboards mounted on lampposts all along the main thoroughfares. Calling attention to this hypocrisy had no effect. Asked who at the council was responsible for the implementation of the Local Government Act which included a responsibility for community group support, council staff had no clue, and less interest. They didn’t much care that local groups could no longer advertise their meetings to the general public. It wasn’t their concern if the democratic process had effectively been silenced. People preferred their home videos anyway, didn’t they? No wonder public meetings went out of style, and radical politics went underground.

Nowadays, when you look at some parts of the north, you see an aspiration to ape the more prosperous bits of the south: private houses which were once council houses, expensive cars in drives, well-kept lawns, litter-free streets, boutique shops, gastro-pubs, hair and nail bars, upscale vernacular new build, and money. But the walls and the windows are blank and silent. Nobody has got anything to say, or any way to say it. Everywhere the debate has moved online and left the quiet towns to their dormitory slumbers. The physical landscape has been lobotomised in the interest of taste, of civic pride and good appearances. A digital generation has grown up with no experience of public meetings, and no exposure to open debate. Instead, all the talk today is of virtual echo-chambers where people only hear the sound of their own opinions reflected back at them. Even where people still gather in the few remaining pubs, they’re all simultaneously on their phones as if checking in with a higher power. If they talk at all, it’s mostly a confection of airy gossip, TV catch-ups and supercilious wise-cracking. People don’t want to argue politics because they don’t want to upset anyone, because it’s more important to have friends than to challenge them. Victorian taboos have returned for the Facebook era.

This is the creeping censorship of the modern capitalist elites. This is how they win, not with well-marshalled facts and arguments, because they haven’t got any, nor even with ‘alternative facts’ and bogus propaganda, because people are learning not to trust them. They win when they seduce us into a suffocated torpor, our class consciousness sapped by attention-deficit amnesia, our hunger for change sugar-soaked in celeb culture, vacuous clicktivism and pseudo-radical posturing. They don’t have to be right, they only have to shut us up with a barrage of noise until we forget that we had anything to say.

Times change, fashions change, but the class struggle is still the class struggle, and we are still there, even if we’ve given up the sticky paste and brushes and the crappy hand-drawn posters. We’ve had to find other ways to operate, but we still meet and discuss and we still manage to have a laugh or two along with it. Capitalism won’t give up, but neither will we. So here’s our message to new readers. Wherever you are, north or south, if you’re the kind that doesn’t give up, come and find us, help us, and join us. It’s the only thing that will work. In the end, it’s how socialism will win.
Paddy Shannon

Peter Joseph Indicts Capitalism (2017)

Book Review from the June 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

In his new book The New Human Rights Movement: Reinventing the Economy to End Oppression Peter Joseph has come a long way since his first Zeitgeist film in 2007 with its conspiracy theories and crude currency crankism (although he still adheres to a version of the ‘thin air’ theory of banking). Gone too are the technocratic views of his then mentor, Jacque Fresco.

He now realises that he is up against an entrenched class that is opposed to the sort of society he wants to see introduced, and unambiguously identifies the capitalist system of production for sale on a market with a view to profit as the root cause of the social ills, not just material but socio-psychological too, that afflict society today.

The first chapter, whether intentionally or not, is virtually a statement of the materialist conception of history. He defines a social system as ‘the means by which society organizes itself to facilitate survival, prosperity, and, ideally, peaceful coexistence’ and points out that ‘how a society organizes its resources, labor, production, and distribution is by far the most defining and influential feature of its culture.’ And ‘…it will be found that the most influential characteristic of a civilization is the kind of technological means it has and how it is applied. When very large changes in applied technology occur, human culture and behavior tend to change as well.’

Class War
Joseph describes capitalism as ‘a social system based on property, exchange, labor-for-income, competitive self-regulation, and the capacity to profit from scarcity and deprivation’ and sees it as the latest manifestation of hierarchical class society ushered in by the Neolithic Revolution that the practice of agriculture represented. Although he does write of an ‘ownership class’ contrasted to ‘the wage working majority’ and of ‘wage slavery’ and ‘the general economy slavery of the majority’, his emphasis is more on the rich contrasted to the poor.

Starting from the more common view of society as stratified into classes by wealth and income levels, he argues that the inequality of wealth, power and esteem built into capitalist society leads to the oppression of ‘the lower classes’ (his term) by ‘the upper class’ by inflicting on them worse health and earlier death. He describes this as ‘structural violence’, a ‘class war’ against them. Hence one of his indictments of capitalism:
  ‘Evidence shows … that social class and the inferior-superior relationship inherent in it is simply bad for social and personal health. Hence capitalism, which is the embodiment of this market-created hierarchy, is really a poisonous social construct’ (p. 206).
This is certainly a feature of capitalism, in fact of all class societies, but his ‘class war’ is not the same as the ‘class struggle’ that Marxists see as taking place between classes defined by their relationship to the means of wealth production, in capitalism between the minority capitalist class who own and control them and the non-owning class forced by economic necessity to operate them for a wage or a salary less than the value of what they produce.

To see the upper class as oppressing the poor (as they in effect do, as Joseph argues) is not a complete picture, as it leaves out those who are neither capitalists nor poor (in the conventional sense), most workers in fact. They, too, suffer from capitalism and are economically exploited for surplus value, and also suffer discrimination when it comes to consumption even if not as much as the poor. Not, it needs to be added straightaway, out of any good will on the part of the capitalist class but because it is in their interest to have a relatively healthy and so more productive workforce.

But there is no need to get into a big argument about which – the lot of the poor or the exploitation of the producers? – is the worst aspect of capitalism. Peter Joseph is as much opposed to capitalism as Marxian socialists are.

He sees the way out, or, as he also puts it, humanity’s ‘next evolutionary step as an intelligent species’, as ‘an economic system that actually has no market’, a propertyless, marketless, moneyless world society of ‘sustainable abundance’:
  ‘… the end goal of achieving a truly sustainable, post-scarcity economy would logically be one that has no trade or money at all, but rather focuses on design and management procedures that have become democratic and made participatory’ (p. 295).
This is recognisably what we mean by ‘socialism’, although Joseph himself does not use this word to describe it, sticking to the confusing conventional view that ‘socialism’ means government intervention in the market economy.

‘There is,’ he points out, ‘no technical reason for any human being to starve, be without water, or exist in poverty as we know it.’ This is backed up by a technical appendix prepared by the Zeitgeist Movement which he founded and of which he is still the president (whatever that implies).

Fruitless
Because he shares the materialist analysis of social systems as having an economic basis, Joseph is fully aware that the social ills resulting from capitalism’s economic basis of inequality of wealth ownership and production for a market with a view to profit cannot be removed while that basis remains. The problems of public health and environmental degradation on which he concentrates but also others he mentions such as crime, violence and war are all symptoms of the system. ‘Society,’ he writes, ‘is constantly battling symptoms, not causes’, with the result that there is not much constructive or lasting that is achieved. Because these problems are structurally linked to the capitalist economic system, they cannot be solved within the system:
  ‘The negative forces preserving the status quo are not substantially affected by street protest, public outcry, media exposure of corruption, or other traditional methods. It is fruitless for us to demand an idealized or “more just” behaviors from our existing institutions, since they have been built around a value and incentive system that thrives on the very behaviors we wish to change. Only deep system changes will prove to have long-standing effects’ (p. 96).
Elsewhere, he describes these ‘deep system changes’ as ‘large and dramatic leaps’ and ‘a large, giant shift of our social system.’ In other words, what we are not afraid to call a social revolution, as a radical change in the basis of society.

But how is this to come about?

Not gradually:
  ‘… even if only partial transitions were made toward the ideal goal expressed, it would still improve things. However, the more one examines the implication of these changes, the more it will become clear how they work against the current economic system’s incentives and structure. This means the ideal of a step-by-step transition (and improvement) is improbable’ (pp. 265-6).
Nor will it be handed down from above:
  ‘The change I speak of will not originate from existing authority but rather from the raw masses. As noted, those who reach high levels of power and opulence in the world are usually conditioned to favor the mechanisms of their reward. As such, it is up to the average majority to realize this change can only come from the ground up’ (p. 299).
He doesn’t spell out how such a movement is to win. In fact he seems to have studiously avoided discussing winning political control as a preliminary to changing the basis of society. He may well see a role for elections but, if he does, he doesn’t say so.

Transitions
Joseph lists various transitional measures that could be taken once the radical change has ‘the overall sanction of society, meaning that the majority would seek these changes, with little political or establishment resistance.’ These include a universal basic income (to break the link between work done and consumption) and immediately making as many goods and services as possible free.

We cannot anticipate today what immediate measures would be implemented once a socialist majority was in a position to impose its will. That would depend on the exact circumstances and on the democratically-expressed preferences of those having to deal with the matter at the time. Joseph, however, extends the argument beyond this and says that the movement to establish a propertyless, marketless, moneyless society should put pressure on existing institutions to adopt such measures, even before a majority in favour of it exists:
  ‘Public appeals to directly reduce socio-economic inequality and stop environmental degradation are always going to go against the grain within a market system, which will resist every step. Regardless, we should constantly demand things such as Universal Basic Income, maximum wage and wealth caps per person, government subsidies to incentivize cooperative businesses rather than hierarchical ones, universal standardization of goods components by industry sector to reduce waste, and other socializing and income/wealth equalizing means, basic public health services, as common to Nordic countries, should also be pushed to ease social stress while larger strides are made. These are not solutions in and of themselves, but they will help’ (p.297).
His envisaging such a wish-list of desirable reforms is disappointing. While some of them, if implemented (indeed, if implementable under capitalism) might help mitigate things, there is danger in an anti-capitalism movement advocating them. We know, from the experience of the pre-WWI Social Democratic parties which claimed to be Marxist, that what happens when you try to combine advocating social revolution with reforms within capitalism is that you attract the support of those who want only those reforms; and in the end you become the prisoner of these non-revolutionary supporters and eventually the party becomes a simple, left-wing reformist party.

The strategy Joseph suggests here would likely have the same result. On the other hand, the other activity – surveying the planet’s and localities’ resources and drawing up detailed, technological plans on how to produce ‘sustainable abundance’ – that he suggests that the movement for the new society should do in the meantime while waiting to get majority supports is unobjectionable and, indeed, something to be encouraged.

Perhaps Joseph’s book will achieve the same sort of status as Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty First- Century, David Graeber’s Debt and Paul Mason’s Post-capitalism. That would widen the debate considerably.
Adam Buick

Early Christianity and Communism (2017)

From the June 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
When our representative was interviewed on BBC2’s Daily Politics Show in the context of the general election, Polly Toynbee commented that socialism seemed like early Christianity (see: LINK). But there is a difference: they were only concerned with communism in consumption while modern socialism is about common ownership of the means of production.
Omnia sunt communia (‘all things in common’) is attributed to Thomas Müntzer, a radical theologian who during the German Peasants’ War, in February 1525, took control of the town of Muhlhausen where he imposed a ‘communist’ community in the name of Christianity. It was an epoch where itinerant preachers preached ‘the Kingdom of God on Earth’ which was biblical language demanding that the common lands the nobility have taken for themselves be restored to the community and the end of serfdom. Omnia sunt communia expressed the idea that everything belongs to everyone or in modern parlance, common ownership.

Some, such as James Connolly in Labour, Nationality and Religion, argued that early Christianity was originally ‘communist’-inspired, citing some of the church fathers.

  • “What thing do you call ‘yours’? What thing are you able to say is yours? From whom have you received it? You speak and act like one who upon an occasion going early to the theatre, and possessing himself without obstacle of the seats destined for the remainder of the public, pretends to oppose their entrance in due time, and to prohibit them seating themselves, arrogating to his own sole use property that is really destined to common use. And it is precisely in this manner act the rich”. – St. Basil the Great.
  • “The use of all things that are found in this world ought to be common to all men. Only the most manifest iniquity makes one say to the other, ‘This belongs to me, that to you’. Hence the origin of contention among men.” – St. Clement.
  • “Nature furnishes its wealth to all men in common. God beneficently has created all things that their enjoyment be common to all living beings, and that the earth becomes the common possession of all. It is Nature itself that has given birth to the right of the community, whilst it is only unjust usurpation that has created the right of private poverty.”   and “The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.”   St. Ambrose
  • “The earth of which they are born is common to all, and therefore the fruit that the earth brings forth belongs without distinction to all”. – St. Gregory the Great.


These ideals re-surfaced in the Middle Ages when John Ball, a preacher in the Peasant’s Revolt, was reported as declaring:
  When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman? From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by the unjust oppression of naughty men. For if God would have had any bondmen from the beginning, he would have appointed who should   be   bond, and who free. And therefore I exhort you to consider that now the time is come, appointed to us by God, in which ye may (if ye will) cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty
In the 15th century, in the town of Tabor in Bohemia, there arose a religious sect, the Taborites, who tried to put these ideas into practice. They went one step further than most, ‘Everything will be common, including wives; there will be free sons and daughters of God and there will be no marriage as union of two — husband and wife.’ Historians describe how ‘Every one who came was ‘brother’ or ‘sister,’ as all social distinctions were unrecognised. The priests shared the work among themselves; some preaching in designated places (men and women being kept apart), others hearing confessions, while a third part communicated in both kinds. Thus it went on till noon. Then came the consumption in common of the food brought by the guests, which was divided among them, the want of one being made good by the superabundance of another; for the brothers and sisters of Mount Tabor knew no difference between mine and thine.’

The Taborites taught that ‘In these days there shall be no king, ruler, or subject on the earth, and all imposts and taxes shall cease; no one shall force another to do anything, for all shall be equal brothers and sisters. As in the town of Tabor there is no mine or thine, but all is held in common, so shall everything be common to all, and no one own anything for himself alone. Whoever does so commits a deadly sin.’

Any layman might become a priest. The members of that order were chosen from the community, and they, in turn, elected the bishops; but they were financially dependent on the community. Their functions, like those of the medieval priesthood in general, were in the main similar to those of the present state and municipal officials and teachers in Germany. Their duties were to organise and manage the various institutions of the Brotherhood, and regulate the connection between the several communities, as well as the relations of these with the outer world.

During the Reformation, various religious sects arose that advocated equality ‘in the sight of God’. Karl Kautsky in his History of Christianity described the Anabaptists as ‘the forerunner of the modern socialism.’ An Anabaptist advocate, Jan Matthys, took control of the town of Munster. Since the New Testament said money was the root of all evil these Christians abolished private ownership of money. Instead, it was collected and put in the hands of the Church which used it to hire ‘outside’ workers. The food was also collectivised and rationed out by the Church. Communal dining-halls were created and private homes were declared public property open to the countless poverty-stricken seeking God’s kingdom. Another sect at the time, the Hutterites said, ‘private property is the greatest enemy of love.’

When the English Civil War erupted, it was the custom of the times for the Bible to be quoted on every occasion with meanings read into the text and the political writings were cloaked in religious phrases. The Digger, Gerrard Winstanley, used the ‘Good Book’ to advocate a socialistic society.
  ‘Every tradesman shall fetch materials… from the public store-houses to work upon without buying and selling; and when particular works are made… the tradesmen shall bring these particular works to particular shops, as it is now the practice, without buying and selling. And every family as they want such things as they cannot make, they shall go to these shops and fetch without money…The earth is to be planted, and the fruits reaped and carried into barns and store-houses, by the assistance of every family. And if any man or family want corn or – other provision they may go to the store-houses and fetch without money. If they want a horse to ride, go into the fields in summer, or to the common stables in winter, and receive one from the keepers; and when your journey is performed, bring him where you had him, without money. If any want food or victuals, they may either go to the butchers’ shops, and receive what they want without money; or else go to the flocks of sheep or herds of cattle, and take and kill what meat is needful for their families, without buying and selling.’, (The Law of Freedom
‘ . . . buying and selling is the great cheat that robs and steals the earth from one another. It is that which makes some lords, others beggars, some rulers, others to be ruled; and makes great murderers and thieves to be imprisoners and hangers of little ones, or of sincere hearted men.’, (A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England.)
Another Leveller, William Walwyn, explained that the only true religion consisted in helping the poor:
  ‘What an inequitable thing it is for one man to have thousands and another want bread! The pleasure of God is that all men should have enough, and not that one man should abound in this world’s goods, spending it upon lusts, and another man (of far better deserts and far more useful to the commonwealth) not to be worth twopence.’
He said that ‘ the world shall never be well until all things be common’.

Then, there were the Ranters. ‘Have all things in common, or else the plague of God will rot and consume all that you have.’ declared Abiezer Coppe while Thomas Tany maintained that all religion was ‘a lie, a fraud, a deceit, for there is but one truth and that is love.’ He demanded that the people’s lands were rendered to the people.

Had these movements succeeded they may well have become themselves some sort of theocracies such as the puritanical state the religious radicals of the English Revolution imposed, for as Engels pointed out in The Peasant War in Germany, talking about Thomas Müntzer, ‘The worst thing that can befall a leader of an extreme party is to be compelled to take over a government at a time when society is not yet ripe for the domination of the class he represents and for the measures which that domination implies…Thus, he necessarily finds himself in a unsolvable dilemma. What he can do contradicts all his previous actions and principles, and the immediate interests of his party and what he ought to do cannot be done. In a word, he is compelled to represent not his party or his class, but the class for whose domination the movement is then ripe. In the interest of the movement, he is compelled to advance the interests of an alien class, and to feed his own class with talk and promises, and with the assertion that the interests of that alien class are their own interests. He who is put into this awkward position is irrevocably lost.’

There are two essential aspects of socialism. One involves the common ownership of the means of production. The other involves the distribution of the means of consumption according to their needs. In was the latter ‘consumption communism’ which prevailed in those early social movements and they were unconcerned with common ownership in the sphere of production. The Taborite ‘communism’, for instance, was based on the needs of the poor, and not on production. While the needs of the poor engendered the struggle for ‘communism’, there existed the persistence of private proprietorship in production and these owners grew less willing to relinquish their surplus for the benefit of the poor.

What was lacking for a fully functioning socialist society was the capacity to provide for the needs of individuals and the community. But today we have the technology to supply everyone and as Sylvia Pankhurst explained, ‘Socialism means plenty for all. We do not preach a gospel of want and scarcity, but of abundance . . . We do not call for limitation of births, for penurious thrift, and self-denial. We call for a great production that will supply all, and more than all the people can consume.’

Modern socialism is concerned with who owns the means of production and distribution. The answer is everybody and nobody.
ALJO

The Lessons of East Europe (1990)

Editorial from the February 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

Before the end of 1989 few people had heard of the Rumanian town of Timisoara. Since then it has added its name to Tiananmen Square and the many other places where workers have been gunned down in their struggles for democracy; such blood has stained the streets of cities throughout the world. In Rumania the price was high and we salute the selfless courage and the sacrifice of men and women who put their lives on the line demanding freedoms which are vital to the interests of workers everywhere. There would be many political points on which Socialists would disagree with those who rose against their oppressors in Eastern Europe but we also acknowledge that they risked their lives trying to establish the conditions in which free trade unions and a genuine socialist movement could operate.

Since the second world war, the enforcement of political tyranny in Eastern Europe has cost the lives of incalculable numbers of workers and brought untold misery.

A further crime that has been perpetrated has been against the integrity of ideas in the claim that socialism exists in Russia and Eastern Europe. A distinction must always be made between the fraudulent claims of ideology and the real facts of productive relations. In Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe there is commodity-production, wage-labour and capital, the accumulation of capital through the exploitation of workers, the market, rent, interest and profit; that is to say, all the economic features of capitalist society, organised mainly through the state for the benefit of a privileged class. The wealth robbed from the workers and enjoyed by the Ceausescu family with its millions of pounds deposited in foreign accounts was only one example of the luxury lifestyle enjoyed by the rich in the state capitalist countries.

Despite these facts it has suited the propagandists of both East and West to describe those systems as socialist. The Russian rulers needed to cloak the reality of their vile system with an acceptable ideology and for Western propagandists, this gave them an ideal opportunity to discredit the name of socialism.

It was inevitable that the oppressive forms of state capitalism in Russia and Eastern Europe would degenerate into chronic inefficiency. It is impossible to allocate such vast resources to repression, to engender corruption, cynicism, low morale and outright lack of enthusiasm and at the same time expect to be well ahead in the world league of rates of productivity and industrial growth. However, it would be wrong to say that the pressures for changes have originated at the top. Leaders like Gorbachev have reacted to a situation created by Russian workers through their many forms of passive resistance including their unwillingness to apply themselves conscientiously at work.

In Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Rumania despite the intimidation, the workers took courage into their hands, came onto the streets and openly defied their oppressors. What has been impressive has been the sophistication of the ways in which these workers have conducted themselves. By their nature these events could not be well planned in advance, the movements had little structure of organisation behind them, yet despite these disadvantages in every case except Rumania (which was not the fault of the workers) they managed to conduct themselves without great bloodshed in a dignified and self-controlled manner.

With greater freedom of movement and expression, for the first time in many years, the genuine voice of socialism can now be carried to those countries. When we see these oppressive structures collapsing, what is being demonstrated is the power and force of popular consciousness. So, when we say that a majority of socialists will be able to take over the state and establish a system of co-operation and direct production for human needs on the basis of common ownership, the workers’ ability to carry this through has been demonstrated in Eastern Europe over the past few weeks.

When we say that in recognition of their common interests throughout the world, workers can co-operate and act simultaneously in each country; that a socialist majority will be able to organise this great revolutionary change through a series of fast-moving events in a level-headed and self-controlled manner, the ability to achieve all these things has also been demonstrated by the working class in Eastern Europe.

These are the grounds on which Socialists can be greatly encouraged by recent events. Having seen these vile and despotic structures continue intact decade after decade, we might have been excused for thinking that they were so firmly in place that they would last for ever. In fact, they were so fundamentally weak that they collapsed overnight.

Having seen world capitalism stagger on decade after decade, similarly we could get the impression that it is so firmly entrenched that it will remain for ever. In fact, confronted by a socialist majority, the lesson is that it will prove so fundamentally weak that its abolition will be a mere formality causing it to dissolve into history.

From Cold War to Class War (1990)

From the February 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

The past forty years have been marked by an apparent stability in the modem capitalist world order. The post-war settlement, arrived at by those partners-in-crime of world historical proportions, Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill, has survived surprisingly well. Its main achievement has been to neutralise conflict amongst the major powers, giving capitalists in these countries the peaceful base of operations needed to conduct the greatest programme of mass-exploitation of class by class ever seen on Earth. In the West, the traditional pressures for conflict between developed capitalist nations have been converted into a binding military alliance, and it has preserved a status quo of “mutual deterrence” with its state-capitalist rivals in the Warsaw Pact.

Of course, post-war capitalism has not been without its troubles. Since the global crisis of the early seventies, economic tensions, for example that caused by Japan’s massive trade surplus, have become an increasingly significant issue. However thanks to the close political relationship between the leading seven capitalist governments, the post-war era has been one notable for its unprecedented level of international co-operation on economic matters between the state administrators of capitalism. This has minimised the inherent tendency of capitalism to repeated crisis. The co-ordinated response to the October 87 slump on the world’s stock markets showed how important economic co-operation has become to the functioning of capitalism.

But behind the facade of stability things have not stood still – indeed they could not have. “All things”, Engels pointed out, “come into being and go out of being”, and the post-war settlement is far from being an exception, by reason of the competitive nature of capitalism:
  The battle of competition is fought by the cheapening of commodities. The cheapness of the commodities depends . . . on the productivity of labour, and this depends on the scale of production. Therefore the larger capitals beat the smaller. (Marx, Capital, Vol. 1, chapter 25.2)
And true to Man’s prediction, post-war capitalism has indeed been characterised by a growing, unabated concentration of capital. National markets are giving way to international markets. Financial markets are no longer national but global.

The impact of all this for a medium-sized European country like Britain is enormous. What government could once control, it no longer can. Evidence comes from the current trend of privatisation which is, in reality, a programme of multi-nationalisation, as the necessity for capital to expand beyond redundant national borders becomes irresistible. Amersham International, British Aerospace, British Airways, British Gas, British Steel, British Telecom, BP, Cable and Wireless and the others are all now multi-nationals. French interests in British water companies and Jaguar, swallowed whole by Ford, are the latest examples of the inevitable multi-nationalisation process.

Collapse of State Capitalist Bloc
But the major result of all this world capitalist integration is the defeat of the distorted, Stalinist concept of so-called “socialism in one country” or, indeed, one bloc. It has been undermined by its bureaucratic inflexibility and lack of democratic mandate, but finally, and much more emphatically, by the global market, by the logic of capitalism itself. “Socialism in one country” – state capitalism – is suffering the same economic pressures as openly capitalist Britain, which, out of economic necessity, has no choice but to integrate further with its European partners. In the same sense, we are witnessing the end of the era of separate state-capitalist development in the Russian Empire.

The tradition of the Russian Revolution gave rise to the chimera of so-called socialism and capitalism as separate worlds, as entirely estranged civilisations. The Socialist Party never gave in to the temptations of this “short-cut-to-socialism” tradition, and now that steadfastness of view is being vindicated. From now on, with gathering pace, there will be an unstoppable integration of East and West. Russia will over time acquire markets, multi-national firms will operate there, the rouble will become convertible, Russian tourists will visit London as Western tourists already visit Moscow. We are moving into a new era in which the distinctions between Russian state capitalism, the Swedish mixed economy and American capitalism will surely diminish. What does this mean for socialism?

In the short-term, the end of Stalinism will be held by the Western capitalist class as the end of the only apparent non-capitalist alternative, as the end of Marxism. This will lend a sickening prop of legitimacy to the capitalist free-market and the model of Western liberalism. Capitalists and their hangers-on will publicly gloat at the demise of their one-time ideological competitors – but, in private circles, there must be some disquiet about what is to follow the end of the Cold War.

Re-emergence of Germany
Historians in the pay of the master class have falsely (deliberately or not) interpreted the Cold War conflict as a struggle between alternative social systems. The “iron curtain”, a term ingeniously coined by that arch-champion of capitalism, Winston Churchill, has been central to their analysis of post-war international relations. None of this stands up to a thoroughgoing Marxist scrutiny of history. There is no internal tendency towards East-West conflict. What invokes fear and concern in London these days is not Russian military force but the power of the dreaded Deutschmark. And here lies the crux of the matter .The crisis in the Eastern bloc has made the rise of Germany as a new super-power a real possibility.

America, Britain and France are desperately trying to minimise the repercussions of the crisis of Russian state-capitalism, looking for all sorts of new roles for NATO. But the very foundations of the post-war settlement – the arbitrary division of Germany and Europe – cannot be sustained indefinitely. The re-emergence of the German question shatters the illusion (which those in the war-torn third world never had) that the peaceful co-existence of the major capitalist powers can go on for ever. The underlying problems which caused two capitalist world wars this century have not gone away. Indeed, anyone who thinks that peace between Washington and Moscow means total disarmament is only showing the utmost CND-like naivety. At a time when America’s, Russia’s and Britain’s world status rests not on economic power but nuclear capability, the decision to maintain militarisation will not be difficult – especially in the light of the glowing economic successes of Germany, Japan and Italy.

If the collapse of separatist state-capitalism in the Eastern bloc is giving capitalists around the world sleepless nights, then the opposite is true for scientific socialists. For us, there is some cause for optimism in the cataclysmic events of recent months. So long as Leninism, Stalinism, Russian state capitalism masqueraded as the only non-capitalist model, the project for building a majority support for socialism could make only limited progress. The apologists for capitalism on the political left and right could always point to Russian society in their ideological argument against a social revolution. Now at last, the end of Stalinism creates the possibility of clarifying the issues at stake in the class struggle.

Way Clear for Socialism
Never has the appeal for workers of the world to unite been more relevant or urgent. Together we can eliminate the waste of human capacities and material resources which exists under capitalism. Together we can achieve an abundance of the means of life to which everyone will enjoy free access. Together we can nullify the risk of another capitalist world war.

This prospect is brought nearer now that the siren-call of “Marxism-Leninism” that attracted many would-be socialists to the rocks of state-capitalism is being stifled. It is surely now clear that Lenin’s distorted interpretation of Marxism produced the vanguardism of which Sir Nicolae Ceausescu was the latest perverted symbol. Leninism occurred in a country in which there was peasant unrest, economic backwardness and no possibility, under feudal relations, of building up to the mass working-class movement that Marx had in mind. Though even in feudal Russia earlier this century, Lenin’s was not the only view of Marxism. After all, the Mensheviks took a different view. They believed, as Marx and Engels did, in the necessary development of the social contradictions in capitalism which would inevitably and inexorably lead to social revolution and socialism.

Marxism and scientific socialism are not the same as “Marxism-Leninism”. Martov and Plekhanov never thought so. The Socialist Party has never thought so at any point in its history and now world events have endorsed this unwavering position. The era of the 1917 revolution is at an end. And for those left disillusioned by the failure of “socialism in one country” it is time to join the party with untarnished principles, to help create a mass democratic movement for world socialism.

It is time to join the Socialist Party and the real pre-Lenin tradition of Marxism, for though the Cold War is over, the class war goes on.
John Dunn