Thursday, March 7, 2019

In Name only: “Socialist” Party of Austria (1961)

From the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard
We have received the following letter from a sympathiser in Vienna, which gives a critical look at the 1961 Annual Conference of the Socialist Party of Austria.
With an impressive show, as befits a government party, the annual conference of the S.P.A was held in Vienna from June 6 to 9, 1961. Among others, the British Labour Party had also sent a delegate. From the reports of the proceedings and speeches published in the Arbeiter Zeitung, the central organ of the S.P.A. one could gather how much Socialism there is left in the "Socialist" Party of Austria.

"Democracy's big chance," said the chairman and vice-chancellor Dr Bruno Pittermann. "Would be in the further progress on the road to securing for the workers a voice in the management of industry, and of participation in the government, corresponding to the election result. Because, for the working people of our times, the ownership of the means of production is no longer the only question which is decisive. To this must he added the right of a voice in the planning of industry and in the distribution of the proceeds! This right of participation, which raises man to a factor of equality, side by side with dead capital, is being refused by both reactionary capitalism, and by the communists."

Thus, Pittermann is satisfied if the workers become “a factor" with equal rights beside "dead capital." He is no longer concerned with the abolition of capital (private ownership). Pittermann seems to be quite oblivious of the fact that capital is not a thing, not some dead object, but a peculiar social relationship between man and man. Did not a certain Karl Marx once scientifically analyse and explain it all?

“Besides the factor capital, the factor labour must at last find recognition" a delegate urged. Thus, despite the S.P.A.’s boasted many decades of activity, the “factor labour" has so far not yet found recognition. This delegate was moreover of remarkable modesty. He demanded for labour no more than a place beside capital. The latter can safely keep its hitherto held position. It would seem that this representative of “Socialism" too had never heard of capitalist conditions and of the capitalist mode of production.

“I should like to once more emphasize," said another leading light, the Sozialminister Proksch, “that over the present questions of the day our social policy must not relegate to a back seat our big fundamental tasks, to which belongs the fresh formulation of the old obsolete labour charter." Proksch distinguishes between the present questions of the day and the fundamental issue, i.e., the essential aim of Socialism. No person of common sense will quarrel with this. Strange it is, however, that a Socialist—and Proksch claims to be one—sees in the new formulation of labour rights a fundamental task of Socialism. Is not the "right of labour" the “right" of those dependent on, and exploited by, capital? Is it not by its very nature committed to perpetuate the existing relationship between wage labour and capital? Even if it be admitted that reforms have brought to labour some alleviation of hardships, it stands in question whether the benefit to the workers outweighs the harm done to the working class movement by this day-to-day reform policy. After all, the “fundamental task" of a Socialist Party consists not in perpetuating, but in abolishing the exploitation of the workers by capital. The watchword must ever be revolution —not reform. But apparently such is no longer Pittermann, Proksch and consorts' concept, if ever it has been.

It will be understood that at a party conference questions of the day, and measures for dealing with them, are discussed. It may be argued that one cannot always and exclusively concentrate on the all-important supreme aim. But in dealing with pressing temporary problems, as well as with proposals and plans in cases of emergencies, the genuine great Socialist principle must ever he all-present and all-transcending. It must never be lost sight of. This, however, was sadly missing in the speeches and discussions at the said party conference. Rather had one the impression that any allusion to the real aim being the abolition of the exploitation of man by man through the wages and money system, was designedly shunned in order not to give offence in any quarter. This, however, means nothing less than abandoning the supreme principle, which cannot but please its adversaries.

All demands and decisions made at the S.P.A.'s conference will only serve to consolidate the present constitution of society and, if possible, perpetuate it. The “Socialist Party of Austria” is therefore not entitled to call itself Socialist, if the word is to keep its true meaning.
Dr. Johannes Kleinhappl


Letter: Trade Unions and Socialism (1961)

Letter to the Editors from the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

What is the true position of the SPGB in regard to trade unions as they arc presently constituted in this country? Do you believe in the closed shop, and that members of your party should belong to a trade union and support it even though it may be anti-socialistic in character? Your writers often claim in the Socialist Standard that trade unions tend to help capitalism to run more smoothly; if this were so why not state in your journal that trade unionism is anti-socialistic and that no real socialist should belong to any trade union at all? This would be the only logical position that your party could take, hut as it is now you seem to be running with the hares and hunting with the hounds. Trade Unions may he necessary under a certain phase of capitalism just as the National Assistance Board is at present, but nevertheless it does not necessarily follow that socialists should support them.

R. Smith,
Dundee
                                                                                                                                          
 
Reply:
Capitalism is a social system in which most people have to go to work for wages in order to live. This means that they are forced to sell their mental and physical energies to an employer. The interests of the seller of any article are in getting the highest possible price for what he is selling. Thus the workers are forced to struggle for the best conditions for the sale of their labour power. This means that they must struggle for shorter hours, less intense working pace, higher wages and so on.

It is obvious that the workers will be able to assert their interests more strongly if they do so together: this is the basic reason for the existence of trade unions. They are the only weapon which workers can use under capitalism to defend and to improve their working conditions. Because of this, all workers should join their trade union. Any trade union action which is in line with working class interests is worthy of wholehearted support from all workers —and receives the support of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

It is true, however, that trade unions do many things which are quite opposed to working class interests; some of them, as our correspondent points out, tend to help capitalism run more smoothly. Such actions are contrary to trade unionism and the Socialist Party opposes them. Thus we opposed trade union participation in the war effort and later their support of government productivity drives.

The closed shop is an arrangement which is operated sometimes with the aid and approval of the employers and sometimes by the workers themselves. While we hold that, on balance, compulsory trade union membership is not in the best interests of the Trade Union movement and the working class, we also recognise that trade union action, and strikes in particular, cannot operate without trying to compel would be blacklegs to conform to the decision of the majority.

It is hardly surprising that trade unions have their faults. They are, after all, a feature of capitalist society and they must recruit workers of all sorts of political and religious opinions, who are united only in the struggle against their masters. When Socialism is established, trade unions will exist no more—the need for them will have disappeared. Until that day, life under capitalism is a battle, and the workers must fight it with the best weapon available.
Editorial Committee

Russia again (1961)

From the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. S. P. Chambers, Chairman of the Imperial Chemical Industries, on a recent visit to Russia on behalf of his Company, reported on some very interesting observations he had made. He stated:
  "I had a measure of success and with one exception, all my questions were answered fully and frankly. The one exception was in the sphere of actual living conditions."
It appears Mr. Chambers wanted to see for himself how the people lived and asked for permission to visit their homes. This did not meet with the approval of the Soviet authorities. According to Mr. Chambers:
  The vast blocks of flats erected in and around Moscow represent by European standards a low level for new accommodation.
  In Industry, it seems to be the general rule for husband and wife to do a full day's work and the children are left at a nursery or creche, or in the care of some relation.
Mr. Chambers claimed that, although it is said hours of labour are reduced, if statistics were available they would show that many more hours are worked per thousand of the total population than in the United Kingdom or in Western Germany, Clothing and toilet articles, he said, are expensive, meat and poultry was of good quality and not unreasonable in price.

Like many other Directors of the I.C.I. who have previously visited the Soviet Union, Mr. Chambers has clearly shown that this country organises its industrial affairs just like any other capitalist country and has the same anomalies to contend with.

The claim that Socialism exists in the Soviet Union is disproved by the evidence from Mr. Chambers visit. Its workers, just like the working class elsewhere, have to sell their power to labour. There is commodity production, private properly and the same sort of social problems.

A curious fact mentioned by Mr. Chambers was that, at the Coke Chemical Works, a wall 8½ feet high and 3,000 feet long was built to ensure privacy against a rival factory—Agostral. Whoever heard of commercial rivalry in a Socialist economy? There are different classes for passengers in their liners — one of them plying to London has even five classes and that in a so called classless country!

Capitalism exists in the Soviet Union — and until such time that its Working Class understand and desire Socialism, poverty and insecurity will be the lot of the workers there.
Dick Jacobs

Voice From The Back: Down with Leaders (2015)

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.’


Ru$$ia
’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.


Beyond economics
‘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.




The Rainbow Party and Its Vision of ‘Socialism’ (2015)

From the September 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
Our correspondent in Zambia looks at local political developments
The Rainbow Party was formed by Wynter Kabimba way back in 2003. However, Kabimba ditched the Rainbow when he joined the Patriotic Front (PF) in 2009 and became its general secretary.

A lawyer by profession, he had strong objections to corruption and worked tirelessly to root out corrupt elements from the ruling party when it came to power in 2011.

He became more or less the second most powerful man in the PF, second only to President Sata. It was typical of him to differ with fellow cabinet ministers within the PF. This was especially the case when he published corruption allegations against Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda and Geoffrey Mwamba, the Minister of Defence.

In 2013 he became embroiled in a tit-for-tat row with Mwamba that went unresolved until the latter resigned from the Cabinet in 2014. There were widespread calls for the removal of Wynter Kabimba from within the PF to which President Sata turned a blind eye.

Thus Wynter Kabimba became the political spokesman of the PF, explaining and defending the social and economic policies of the party.

It was Wynter Kabimba who advised President Sata to appoint Mutembo Nchito as Public Prosecutor in 2012 in order to remove the presidential immunity of former MMD President Rupiah Banda. It was alleged that Rupiah Banda and his son Andrew had swindled the Zambian government through a bogus oil deal signed between the Zambian government and Nigeria in 2009 to import crude oil from Nigeria. It was discovered by the Taskforce on Corruption that the government had paid huge sums of money for this but that the crude oil was not delivered to Zambia.

The political career of Wynter Kabimba took a nosedive in August 2014 when he was relieved of his duties as party secretary general and justice minister by the late President Sata. The departure of Wynter Kabimba had become a foregone conclusion and caused relief within the ruling party.

Dissatisfaction
The Rainbow Party is one among the myriad political opposition parties that were formed after the death of President Sata in 2014 to express dissatisfaction with the current political and social policies of the PF government under President Edgar Lungu.

The terminology of ‘socialism’ is not unique to the Rainbow Party, but is embedded in the political constitution of the PF. Dr Cosmas Musumali, the deputy general secretary of the Rainbow, recently said that the Rainbow Party would not hide that its focus was on workers, students, peasants and all progressive Zambians who have borne the brunt of capitalism since its ‘adoption’ (actually, moving away from state capitalism) in 1991 by President Chiluba: ‘If you look at the key documents of the PF constitution, you will find that under article 4, they are talking about socialism.’ According to article 4 of the PF constitution the party ‘shall wage a relentless fight against domestic and international forces of reaction. It shall fight for the eradication of capitalism, with its offshoots of hunger, ignorance, disease, corruption and the exploitation of man by man.’

Musumali went on to say that governance mistakes that have come as a result of capitalism should be exposed because remaining silent on the matter would be like giving ammunition to those who exploit others.

He said that Rainbow was not ashamed to expose the past failures of ‘socialist’ initiatives of the past:
  ‘For our part we believe in the future of socialism and we are not ashamed to expose the past failures because this is what gives us legitimacy. We went the capitalist route in 1991 and to date. In the past 24 years what have we achieved in Zambia?’
He further urged intellectuals in Zambia to familiarise themselves with the Rainbow Party’s manifesto and its social and economic programme.

It is a palpable fact that the Rainbow Part does not have a mass following among the workers, students and peasants in Zambia compared with the PF and the UPND. The ‘socialist’ ideas which are being parroted by the Rainbow Party do not echo well among many ordinary Zambians in the sense that the words ‘socialism’ (‘communism’) bring memories of police brutality, suppression of political opposition and indiscriminate political detentions that characterised the one-party  so-called ‘socialist’ state under Kenneth Kaunda.

We in the WSM look askance at the ‘Marxist-Leninist’ version of ‘socialism’ being propagated by the Rainbow Party as it is really a programme for state-run capitalism.
Kephas Mulenga

50 Years Ago: What Runs the Labour Government? (2015)

The 50 Years Ago column from the September 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is almost a year now since the Labour Party formed a government. They felt that thirteen wasted years of Tory rule would give way to an administration that could solve social problems. It has been a year of renewed failure, in which their optimism has been humiliated by their inability to control Capitalism.

We do not doubt that the Labour Government really believed they could “get the economy moving”. There was to be steady expansion. Out of a four per cent increase in productivity there were going to be more schools, hospitals, roads, pensions. There were going to be more wages. A “planned” incomes policy. A “planned” growth rate. None of these schemes have begun to get off the ground, nor do they show any prospect of doing so.

We do not doubt that the Labour Government is serious when it implores the country to “pull its weight in the national interest”. The inane weakness of appeals to community spirit in a money grabbing, competitive society escapes them.

Mr. Wilson no doubt thinks of himself as an architect of social progress but in practice he imposes credit squeezes. In the reality of Capitalism his burdening problem is “to devalue the pound or not to devalue the pound?” This is the pathetic plight of a politician who claimed to have practical solutions.

No doubt members of the Labour Government are free from race prejudice yet they have legislated against the immigration of West Indian and Pakistani workers. Under Labour Government management, economic frustrations may well be creating more acute racial tensions.

In his role of peacemaker, no doubt Mr. Wilson is sincere. As head of the Commonwealth mission he felt that his wise counsels might prevail in Vietnam. Some months later we have almost forgotten about the peace mission, but the fighting continues.

The debate between Socialists and reformers goes on. They claim that as a Government they can control Capitalism. They argue that through a process of reform they can direct its affairs in the interests of the whole community. The sorry spectacle of the Labour Government today underlines how tragically wrong they have been.

(from editorial, Socialist Standard, September 1965)

Voice From the Back: Hobson’s choice (2015)

The Voice From the Back column from the October 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

Hobson’s choice
You have found work in the city but need somewhere to live, your choice is limited. ‘The shockingly bad rental flats, based mainly in Britain and the US, repeatedly appear online among lists of the worst homes available to rent. In one cheeky advert, a tent in the garden of a property in San Francisco is being advertised for £458 per month, while another ambitious landlord has listed a cupboard in Paddington, west London, for £160 per month. Elsewhere in Rheims, France, a room with a shower and toilet fitted next to the kitchen sink will set tenants back £169 per month, while a horrendously cramped room in Islington, north London, with a kitchen doubling up as a bedroom will set tenants back a staggering £730 per month’ (Daily Mail, 4 September).


Embarras de richesses
We produce but do not possess. Indeed, ‘for every dollar of wealth created, 93 cents goes to the top 1%’ (truth-out.org, 3 September). Members of the owning class can live where they want when they want. In preparation to accommodating King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia and his huge entourage last month one five star hotel, closed to other guests, was transformed. Crates containing golden mirrors, end tables, lamps and hat racks were unloaded and red carpets ‘laid down in hallways and even in the lower parking garage’ so that the parasites did not ‘have to touch asphalt when departing their custom Mercedes caravan’ (Politico, 3 September).


Killing is my business
The Saudi ruling class, backed by the USA, is using armed workers and advanced weaponry to enforce regime change in neighbouring Yemen.

Wars raging in the Middle East and elsewhere mean business is good for arms manufactures such as Textron. This Massachusetts-based manufacturer of cluster bombs, helicopters and jets had its stock upgraded recently ‘fromneutral to buy by a Citigroup analyst’ (vocativ.com, 4 September). The brutal Saudi regime, which has beheaded more people than the Islamic State so far this year, has used cluster bombs in Yemen.


Migrant misery
War is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why millions have been, and continue to be, murdered, mutilated or forced to migrate. Over 2000 people have died taking the perilous but profitable for some journey from Libya to Europe. There is money to be made out of such misery: ‘with militias controlling large swathes of land, their attentions have turned to the people who cross their territories. The fighters assert they are bringing order to the country as they detain the refugees, yet these people’s lives have become valuable commodities to the militias as they try to solidify their positions in the country’ (vice.com, 4 September).


Hell awaits
You have the stuff of migrants’ dreams: somewhere to live and a place of work, but neither are secure. Your life is still at risk. Examples of death at work are legion, The BBC reported recently (1 September) that a ‘Dundee company has admitted health and safety failings after a worker died while cleaning out a chemical tank … The 33-year-old was sent in to remove debris from a chemical tank with limited protective clothing in August 2011… Dundee Sheriff Court heard that Mr Conway was sent into the tank containing volatile chemicals while wearing only trainers, tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt and fleece.’


Slowly we rot
Somehow you reach the ever-increasing age at which you can draw your dwindling pension (delayed wages), but are you in any condition to enjoy your retirement? Is a care home on the horizon? ‘England’s care home regulator has repeatedly failed to act on official warnings from coroners in cases where elderly residents have died unexpectedly, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found. The Bureau has examined 23 cases in which coroners warned that people could die in future if care providers did not make changes’ (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 2 September).


Defend the indefensible
This is what the head of the Care Quality Commission said he was not going to do in relation to the above, but the 1% are happy to defend capitalism – at a safe distance. Yet maybe the Egyptian billionaire who ‘has offered to buy an island off Italy or Greece in order to rehouse hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Syria and other conflicts’ (Daily Telegraph, 4 September) is on to something. Come the revolution, any expropriated capitalists who do not want to live in a world of production for use and free access could be accommodated on such an island.




50 Years Ago: Los Angeles Erupts (2015)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

For a few days the spotlight was switched from the ever present horror of Vietnam and focussed on the United States itself.

Los Angeles, that most modern of cities – if such an outdated word as city can be used to describe a sprawl of over 452 square miles – erupted into violence. In an orgy of looting, arson and killing the Negro population, so often the victims of mob violence, themselves became the mob. The savage details were too well reported to need repeating, but many thousands of troops were needed to crush what amounted to a rebellion. When it was over, needless to say the Negroes were the worst-hit victims.

The suppression of the Negro, lasting for a hundred years after their “liberation,” ranging from murder to petty discrimination, and running through all strata of society, has produced a distrust and hatred that will take a very long time to overcome. At every moment and in every possible way, the Negro is made to feel inferior.

Such a situation, and the fact that it could be changed, must lead to an explosion. Los Angeles has been a modern legend, that personifies the so-called affluent society, the world of mass-produced commodities in profusion. Brash and ugly, a mass of sprawling suburbs and six-lane freeways where public transport has practically disappeared, the Watts-Willowbrook area where the explosion occurred is known as the Black Ghetto. Can anything illustrate the plight of the American Negro more than the use of this medieval word to describe the conditions of workers in an ultramodern city?

The riot was crushed, but as long as hatred between workers remains on such a scale and is added to the normal tensions and frustrations of capitalism, such eruptions will continue.

(from News in Review, Socialist Standard, October 1965)

Need a New Bike? Want to Destroy the Devil? (2015)

The Halo Halo! column from the October 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

You heard, perhaps, about the little boy sitting on his doorstep one Sunday morning crying his eyes out. ‘What’s the matter?’ asked the vicar as he passed on his way to church. ‘I want a bike’ sobbed the little boy, ‘All my friends have got one and I haven’t’. ‘Have you tried praying for a bike?’ asked the vicar. ‘Prayer is a wonderful thing. It can solve all your problems’.

So for the following week the little boy prayed every morning, but the next Sunday when the vicar passed there he was again, still in tears, and still without a bike.

‘You must have faith’ said the vicar, ‘and don’t stop praying. Prayers can solve all your problems’. So the little boy carried on praying every morning and sure enough, a couple of weeks later when the vicar passed, there was the little boy on his doorstep with a big smile on his face, and a beautiful, brand new, shiny red bike.

‘What did I tell you?’ said the vicar. ‘Isn’t prayer a wonderful thing?’ ‘Yes’, said the little boy. ‘You were right. Prayers can solve all your problems’. ‘What happened?’ asked the vicar. ‘Well I prayed really hard every morning’ said the little boy, ‘just like you said, but by Friday I still didn’t have a bike so I went out and stole one. Then I prayed to God to forgive me. And he did’.

Getting a new bike, though, would be a piece of cake for real believers. For the more ambitious there are numerous books available that explain, for a few dollars a go, not only how to make sure God is paying attention when you list your requirements, but how to beat the living daylights out of Satan while you’re at it.

You could start with ‘Discerning the Voice of God’ ($11.69). ‘Do you feel that the ability to hear God’s voice is for other people and not for you?’ asks its author. Don’t worry. With a little practice anyone can get into conversation with the voices in their head.

Or how about, ‘Prayers for Victory in Spiritual Warfare?’ ($10.59) ‘The enemy of your soul has gained the upper hand’, we are told. But again, nothing to worry about. ‘God has given you powerful weapons to help you withstand the onslaught of  Satan’s lies’.

And don’t miss ‘Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic Prayer’ ($10.05) by Priscilla Shirer who, the advertising blurb assures us, is a ‘Prayer warrior’.

‘You have an enemy’ we are told, ‘and he’s dead set on destroying all you hold dear. This book is your chance to strike back. With prayer. With a weapon that really works. Each chapter will guide you in crafting prayer strategies that hit the enemy where it hurts’.

Blimey, that’s a bit strong. We assume Priscilla the Prayer Warrior’s number one enemy is the devil, but aren’t Prayer Warriors supposed to love their enemies? This makes those Catholic exorcisms that come complete with candles, a crucifix and garlic, look like a picnic in the park. Still, if you can get a new bike out of it . . . 
NW

50 Years Ago: Indian A-Bomb (2015)

The 50 Years Ago column from the November 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

The plain fact about the Indian government’s much publicised decision, several years ago, not to produce an atomic bomb is that it is too good to be true.

And so it is turning out.

India’s renunciation meant that some people thought of her as a country where human interests were put above those of narrow nationalism. India was held up as an example for the rest of the sabre-rattling world to follow.

This has never been consistent with the way India acted over, say Goa and Kashmir – incidents which made Delhi’s attitude to atomic weapons look suspiciously like one inspired by anything but humanitarianism.

In any case, the Indian government always made it clear that, if the international situation demanded it, they would make the Bomb. For a long time they have been working on the basics of a nuclear weapon – their separation plant near Bombay, which produces plutonium, has been working for over a year.

And now comes the news from New Delhi that the pressure from Indian military and political circles to make the Bomb is growing, and that (according to The Guardian of 27th September last) the first one may be exploded sometime next year.

The campaign in favour of an Indian Bomb, to go with the rest in the world, has gathered strength from recent events. Indian military men complain that Pakistan had the advantage of advanced American weapons in the fighting in Kashmir, and that the threat from China looms ever larger.

They also claim that the old argument, that the Bomb was too expensive, has been disproved. The estimated cost is now around £20 million. There is no record yet of anyone in India protesting at this sort of money being spent on weapons by a country which has such a chronic problem of hunger and disease.

Such considerations are irrelevant. The reasons for making the Bomb are always the same; one senior Indian officer summed them up: “. . . if national interests are at stake . . . we have no alternative but to go ahead.”

Everyone is familiar now with the argument of “national interests”. It is used to excuse any suffering, any atrocity, any betrayal. It is an argument which will be used by many nations if and when a global nuclear war ever starts.

It is only appropriate that we should be hearing the same argument now that India may be getting ready to go back on her word over atomic weapons. It is also appropriate that India, who has done so much to foster the idea that there are such things as oases of nobility among the murderous desert of capitalism, should herself expose the fallacy.

(from News in Review, Socialist Standard, November 1965)

Voice From the Back: Kill Capitalism (2015)

The Voice From the Back column from the December 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

Kill capitalism
You want to know more about socialism, who are you gonna call? Jeremy Corbyn? Antonio Costa? Bernie Sanders? No, they can’t see beyond capitalism. You will learn more from the console/computer game Assassin’s Creed, where Marx’s call for workers of the world to unite is repeated along with the following biography: ‘Karl Heinrich Marx (1818 – 1883) was a German philosopher, economist, journalist and sociologist considered the founder of the ideology of Marxism … Throughout his life, Marx published several books, the most famous of which are arguably The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital. His work in economics laid the basis for much of the current understanding of labour and its relation to capital, as well as subsequent economic thought. Although many revolutionaries, such as Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro would later cite Marx as an influence, their fidelity to Marx’s ideas is highly contested’ (assassinscreed.wikia.com, accessed 7 November).


Same shit, different century
‘Communist [sic] dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s iron-fisted rule of Romania was marked by several decades of brutal repression, fear and intimidation. But the most shocking details to emerge after his death were the conditions in the country’s orphanages — where thousands of emaciated and diseased babies were found slowly dying in filth infested cradles. Images of their plight shocked the world when broadcast in 1989. Now, 25 years on, these orphans have been found still living rough in underground sewers throughout the country — where diseases such as HIV run rampant and drug addiction is rife’ (dailymail.co.uk, 6 November). State capitalism then, crony capitalism today.


Cruising to Chernobyl
Capitalism can seem like a crazy system where war, waste and want exist alongside wanton excess. Yet these are endemic features of a form of society which has outlived its usefulness rather than crazy per se. However, the following news item suggests that exceptions are to be found. ‘Plans to link a chain of rivers and canals in Poland, Belarus and Ukraine may release radioactivity from the remains emitted by the Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster of 1986, environmental experts say. The project, which would complete a huge trans-Europe waterway, is designed to increase trade between the three north European states, and to foster tourism and encourage more environmentally-friendly freight transport … Andrei Rehesh, secretary of the Commission on the Development of the E40 Waterway, the European Commissions name for the trans-Europe link, told journalists visiting the canal near Brest of the regular trips made through the zone by the river craft. These take them within an estimated 500 meters of the Chernobyl plant itself’ (truthdig.com, 1 November).


Blood money
We would like to think that bear baiting is extinct, but it continues in Pakistan and the USA. Similarly barbaric, cock fighting takes place in many countries. One clue as to why is given here: ‘ at the Bangkok Cockpit in Samut Prakan, a province on the outskirts of the capital, a 1,000-strong throng cheers on a pair of avian fighters whose necks are locked in combat as bets furiously exchange hands … A few weeks later the same stadium raked in 22.2 million baht ($618,000) for a record-breaking bet, venue manager Banjerd Janyai told AFP. In this lucrative industry “good fighting birds” can sell for more than $85,000, he added, with Thailand exporting cocks to neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia and buyers arriving from as far afield as France and Bahrain’ (news.yahoo.com, 1 November).


Unsafe sex in a dangerous world
‘Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar will leave for Moscow and St. Petersburg Friday, October 30 to finalize two defense deals …(over $1.8 billion USD) to acquire new equipment that (were) just approved by the Defense Acquisitions Council’ (valuewalk, 1 November). Meanwhile, in the world of the 99 percent, we read ‘India provides free condoms under its community-based AIDS prevention programme that targets high-risk groups like sex workers … The shortages come after Prime Minister Narendra Modi slashed federal AIDS funding in February by a fifth’ (asaiaone.com, 6 November).


No pies!
Capitalism exists worldwide. Nearly one in four Americans have more credit card debt than emergency savings and two out of three exist paycheck to paycheck. Yet members of the 1% have money to burn. Take Kanye West for example. He ‘… spends a whopping £120,000 a YEAR on getting his hair done …’ (heatworld,com, 3 November). Clearly it is time for capitalism to meet its Sweeney Todd in the form of an enlightened working class.


50 Years Ago: Christianity or Socialism (2015)

The 50 Years Ago column from the December 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

This month Christians celebrate the birth of their Christ. It is therefore appropriate once again to examine the Christian religion and its relations to socialism and the working class.

Christianity is a comparatively recent religion but it is thick with the debris of man’s earlier superstitions. The pagan influence on the Christmas festival is especially well marked, for December 25th was a holy day long before Jesus Christ was even thought of. Primitive man worshipped the sun because the course of his life was dominated by the yearly round of that planet in the heavens. This practice was wide spread but especially in northern countries mid-December was thought to be a critical time, as the days became shorter and shorter and the sun itself weaker. Great bonfires were lit to give the sun god strength and, when it became apparent that the shortest day had passed, there was great rejoicing. Thus the Roman winter-solstice festival, held on December 25th in connection with the worship of the sun-god Mithra, was known as the birthday of the unconquered sun-god. (…)

Christmas is supposed to be a time of good cheer, when the harsh reality of this world is briefly forgotten. But it is impossible to disregard capitalism even at this time of the year. We address our Christmas message to the working class, about to enjoy yet another wretched holiday under capitalism―the system they chose to perpetuate when they voted for the Labour and Tory parties last October. That man of the people, the sanctimonious Harold Wilson, has gone on record as talking of “our quest for the Kingdom of God on earth”. After one year of Labour government the conclusion in inevitable; God and Mr. Wilson are forced to administer capitalism in the interests of the ruling class as ever. But then Mr. Wilson is not a socialist―and neither is God.

(from article by J.C., Socialist Standard, December 1965)