Monday, November 18, 2019

Rear View: Can’t pay, can’t have (2019)

The Rear View Column from the November 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

Can’t pay, can’t have

 ‘The [US] “Ending Homelessness Act”… would give an additional $13.27 billion over five years to create an estimated 400,000 affordable housing units. The funds would go to supportive housing, including homeless shelters and transitional housing, as well as housing vouchers for low-income families and local outreach services to homeless residents’ (huffpost.com, 3 October). Socialists have been saying for the past 115 years that there will never be a solution to the ‘problem’ of homelessness under capitalism. The mountain of evidence supporting our position is ever-growing. ‘Almost all two-bedroom homes available for rent across England, Scotland and Wales are too expensive for families on housing benefit… We contacted almost 200 landlords across the country. Half of them told us flat out that they would not let to anyone on benefits. Of the rest, most of them wanted further conditions fulfilled, including six months’ rent in advance, or a guarantor – conditions many of those facing homelessness would find it impossible to meet’ (huffingtonpost, 4 October). There is no legislative solution, brutal or otherwise: ‘Officials in Bakersfield just announced that they will be solving their homeless problem by throwing people in jail. Under the plan, homeless people would be rounded up under the ostensible charges of misdemeanor drug offenses or potential trespassing and thrown in a cage’ (activistpost, 4 October).


War & want

‘The official poverty measure is a very poor indicator of economic hardship in this country. In 2018, the Federal Poverty Level for a family of four in the mainland United States was $25,100 – – abysmally low standard of living. The problem of people living with poverty and struggling to make ends meet is far more widespread than the official poverty rate — measured with a 50-year old yardstick — would indicate… The truth is, millions more low-income people — defined in many official programs as those living at between one and two times the official poverty level — still hover at the edges of poverty, just one illness or divorce or job loss away from disaster’ (thehill.com, 19 September). The article in question is titled Millions of us are living in poverty – we need investments to raise the standard of living, but one endemic feature of capitalism will not be ended by diverting some funds, as the author suggests, from another – the mighty US war machine. Capitalism cannot be reformed so as to work in the interests of the class of wage and salary earners. It is a class system that can only work for those who own the means of production. As Warren Buffett said: ‘there’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.’ He is correct: the top 0.1 percent of American households hold the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90 percent and every 38 seconds a U.S. citizen dies of poverty and poverty-related social conditions.


Making a killing

  ‘This summer, a pair of Syrian brothers journeyed across Europe. Their story did not begin with a rubber dinghy afloat on the Aegean and a scramble for safety on to a Greek island: a well-worn route for many Syrian refugees fleeing a conflict that has lasted eight years and taken an estimated half a million lives. Instead, these brothers landed in Cannes; their transportation, a plane, then a pair of Ferraris;… Mohammad and Ali are the sons of Syria’s richest man, Rami Makhlouf, who also happens to be the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s cousin and childhood playmate. “There is a new class of wealthy war traders,” said Mazen, an Aleppo businessman from an old industrial family… These individuals have made fortunes picking clean the carcass of the country’s economy… Their dramatic rise to fortune has also helped the regime to survive by keeping trade going, oil flowing and helping to fund pro-regime militias, even as the country lies in ruins around them’ (ft.com, 3 October). We have to take from the capitalist class the means of producing wealth in the use of which they no longer take part, and use it as common property for the satisfaction of the needs of society. Until we do that, all our struggles will be in vain. If in the meantime one section of the capitalist class, the section which is primarily interested in exploiting us, asks us to defend its wealth against another section, act in accordance with the interests of our class, and let them fight their own battles. Join the struggle for socialism against them and their apologists and defenders.


Where are we now? (2019)

From the November 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

We, the working class, have no choice but to sell our acquired skills, knowledge and abilities to whoever is offering the highest wages as an employer, whether a private capitalist firm or some public body, in order to survive. All well and good, you might think, when times are productive and the capitalists are investing in their quest for a profit, and wages might be regarded as fairly good. You may even feel like you’re getting by reasonably well. This however is fairly rare in the grand scheme of things. Speaking for myself, I recall a period way back in the 1980s when working in the printing industry and before the onset of digital technology. I had a half-decent income. Housing was affordable, package holidays were all the rage, a car was quite cheap to run and heating your home was never much of an issue. Even putting decent, healthy food on the table was also relatively cheap.

Then came the 90s and things soon changed with the advance of media and other technologies. In the dog-eat-dog competitive world of the free market economy, companies started to go bust left, right and centre as they tried to keep up with each other for their share of the market. It was however a classic case of survival of the fittest, or more accurately survival of the cheapest. Workers were made redundant, incomes dried up as capitalist investment stalled and the harsh reality of many debt-ridden workers began to kick in as homes were repossessed; homelessness hit record highs.

John Major had taken over from the Wicked Witch of Westminster who had proclaimed that there was no such thing as society and who had thought nothing of ordering the boys in blue in to beat the shit out of striking miners who were trying in vain to protect their jobs under the misguided leadership of Arthur Scargill. Major tried every dirty trick in the book in an attempt to convince the voting public that he would be the great saviour of the country, trying to convince us that black was white and white was black. Only then to take on a peculiarly grey shade of skin tone of his own, which was satirised at the time by the television series Spitting Image.

Following his downfall, the next great hope of the people was Tory Blair and his New Labour bandwagon that rolled into town with his team of slippery, slimy city slickers kissing their way around just about every capitalist arse in town. Indeed, one of his head honchos Peter Mandelson – now Lord Mandelson – introduced us to the great new political technique known as ‘spin’, a particularly fine art of saying one thing while meaning another. This being still used by many politicians to this day.

Of course, what has been described is not something peculiar or exclusive to the periods of the 1980s or 90s. The boom and bust cycle has been a feature of modern history since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution around 1790 right through until around the end of the nineteenth century. By then the modern-day capitalist system we currently recognise became dominant. It has to be acknowledged that it has brought some positive benefits. But also many, many more negative results to humanity, the animal kingdom and the environment in general. One only has to turn on the TV, listen to the radio or read a newspaper in order to see at first hand the impact of capitalism’s destructive forces on nature as well as on people to begin to understand that something drastic needs to be done to fix the problems and challenges that the majority of people on this planet have to face on a daily basis.

Under capitalism, we are exposed to seeing a never-ending series of wars, conflict and a whole host of other atrocities that are an inevitable consequence of the ruthless nature of the beast that can only survive on a diet of profits for capitalists, whose only concern is for themselves and their search for ever more profits – no chance or likelihood of a profit, no chance or likelihood of investment or production. In other words, whether or not there happens to be a need for a particular product, if that product or commodity is unlikely to yield a profit, there ain’t no sensible capitalist ever going to put their hand in their wallet. And that rule applies to all manner of goods and items. From the basic essentials in life, including the food and water that we need to survive, to the clothes that we wear and the homes that we live in. From the cars that we drive or the leisure activities that we might pursue, or the potentially life-saving medication that we might need in order to keep us healthy, it’s the same old story – no profit, no production.

It simply isn’t possible to try to somehow tweak or reform capitalism so that it might somehow work for everyone. That’s been tried before in the likes of Russia, China and South America and we all know what a shambles that turned out to be. In short, the basic rules of capitalism dictate that for it to be successful for the capitalist, profit has to take priority over people.

The way out can only be what we in the Socialist Party understand by socialism. A new world order that will see everyone fulfil their potential, contributing to society what they can, and taking from society what they need to lead a fulfilling and satisfying quality of life. Worldwide cooperation will replace worldwide competition as the overarching source of production, with smaller pockets of local productive forces taking place in local communities in order to meet local needs.

Life within socialism will be a whole new ball game, very different to that under capitalism. The transition or revolution from capitalism to socialism can and will only happen when the majority of the working class throughout the world has developed a clear understanding and consciousness of the need for it.
Paul Edwards

Nuclear Threat: Resetting the Doomsday Clock (2019)

From the November 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the morning of 13 January 2018 a message was broadcast by the emergency alert system over television, radio and mobile phones to the people of Hawaii. The message stated that there was an incoming ballistic missile threat and advised residents to seek shelter, ending with: ‘this is not a drill.’ It seems the Hawaiian alert systems are stuck in a time-warp of the atomic age. Even back then the idea of ‘taking shelter’ was futile unless in a blast-proof underground concrete bunker and then the firestorm would probably incinerate, or asphyxiate, the occupants. Those who were unlucky enough to survive would either suffer a slow and agonising death by radiation poisoning or else face the prospect of an impoverished existence in a dystopian landscape. Hawaii’s emergency alert system is a throwback to the US public information film of the 1950s: Duck and Cover. The film depicted children sheltering under their school desks from a nuclear attack and at the time was accompanied by similarly ludicrous propaganda in other countries, including the UK.

The atom bombs dropped by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 – affectionately named: ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’ by the perpetrators – instantly killed 100,000 Japanese people. An additional 100,000 died of injuries and radiation poisoning in the following months. But these bombs are akin to peashooters compared to the much more powerful hydrogen bomb, invented in the 1950s, which packs a punch hundreds of times greater than its smaller cousin.

Alex Wellerstein’s Nukemap model (nuclearsecrecy.com/nukemap/ ) illustrates this bigger punch, by allowing the user to choose the location and size of the hydrogen bomb in a simulated detonation. I chose London as my target and selected the biggest bomb from the drop down menu; known as the ‘Tsar Bomba;’ produced in Soviet Union times, it weighs in at a whopping 100 Megatons (100,000 Kilotons) which makes it around 7000 times the size of the US atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Or, put another way, this single bomb exceeds the total explosive capacity of all munitions used during WWII by a factor of twenty. The result of the simulation indicated that 18 million people would be caught in the blast covering a radius stretching north to Cambridge and south to Brighton; of which around 6 million would be killed instantly and a further 6 million would suffer substantial injuries. The model helpfully clarifies that such casualties do not include the effects of radiation which are apparently too difficult to estimate. In such circumstances advising children to shelter under their school desks is not really going to cut the mustard as a strategy for survival.

Yet this kind of asinine propaganda is on the march again today. The madmen in charge of the asylum are busy overlaying a new, and even madder doctrine, on the traditional one of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The original MAD approach is grounded in the less than reassuring logic that no country would launch a nuclear attack on another nuclear state because the retaliatory response would be assured and would lead to its own annihilation. This tenuous logic is still the basis of ‘nuclear strategy’ and is predicated on the rational behaviour of those world leaders with their finger on the nuclear button. When one considers the current cohort of world leaders such an assumption would seem to have a rather flimsy foundation. But now the nuclear powers want to have their cake and eat it too. Whilst their main posture towards each other is still MAD, they are now promulgating a secondary and seemingly contradictory approach. Led by the United States, the assertion is that a nuclear war is not only ‘survivable,’ but also ‘winnable’; amidst talk of tactical and battlefield nuclear weapons and smart nukes in space.

Sounding the alarm bells
A mechanism for alerting the public to the nuclear threat was conceived in 1945 by the Chicago group of scientists – Compton, Oppenheimer and others, who were part of the Manhattan Project – and who, ironically, created the atomic bomb in the first place.

Every year since 1945 the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has set the hands of the Doomsday Clock to represent the imminence of Nuclear Apocalypse according to conditions prevailing at the time. In recent years the clock has been calibrated to take into account the other existential threat to the world; that of climate breakdown/ecological collapse. Currently the hands of the Doomsday Clock are at two minutes to midnight, indicating that the world is on the brink of self-immolation; the closest it has been since 1952 when the first hydrogen bombs were tested.

At the peak of the MAD doctrine it was estimated that there were 40,000 nuclear weapons in the world; mainly held by the United States and Russia, but also by Israel, France, the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, China, North Korea and the NATO ‘nuclear-sharing states’ of Germany, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands and Turkey; these latter countries holding them under the auspices of the US.

The ‘peace dividend’ at the end of the Cold War in 1991 – which led to the decommissioning of thousands of nuclear weapons – was short lived, although the actual numbers are still down from the peak. Today it is estimated that there are around 14,500. 13,000 of these are held by the US and Russia, with clusters dotted around the other nuclear powers, including the UK in the form of the Trident deterrent; soon to be upgraded at a cost estimated to be as high as £200 billion over the lifetime of the project.

Apart from the developing sophistication of nuclear weapons and their increased killing capacity, the posture towards them is also changing in the direction of becoming more trigger-happy. The US has always maintained its right to launch a first strike, in addition to its ‘launch on warning’ policy. With the continuing deterioration in relations between the nuclear powers the others are upping the ante as well. China has recently responded to heightened tensions with the US by putting its nuclear arsenal on high alert by combining its missiles and warheads, which were previously kept separate. Russia who, in common with the US, already has several thousands of its nuclear weapons on a hair trigger has resurrected a new version of its ‘Dead Hand’ system which was believed to have been disabled at the end of the Cold War. Dead Hand involves an automatic and massive launch of Russia’s nuclear weapons in the event of censors picking up seismic vibrations indicative of an incoming nuclear attack. Some pundits have heralded this system as making the world safer by increasing the ‘deterrent effect’. Presumably they are unaware of the event in 1983 when the electronic monitors being watched by Stanislav Petrov, a Soviet officer, detected incoming nuclear missiles launched from the United States. This was at a time of high tension between the two nuclear powers following the shooting down of a South Korean airliner which had strayed into Soviet air space. Petrov decided to contravene orders by not reporting the incident to his superiors which, had he done so, would probably have prompted a retaliatory strike by the Soviet Union, leading to all out nuclear war. It turned out it was a false alarm caused by an unusual alignment of sunlight filtering through high altitude clouds over North Dakota.

A first strike posture is contrary to various aspects of international law, including: the Nuremberg Principles, the Geneva Conventions, The Hague Conventions, the UN Charter, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But such legal niceties provide no brake on the bellicose rhetoric of the leaders of the nuclear powers. In 2016 Prime Minister Theresa May assured parliament that she was ready to press the nuclear button, taunting the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn for dithering over the issue. Trump regularly spews inane utterances on Twitter, such as those aimed at the ‘Little Rocket Man’ of North Korea saying that: ‘my nuclear button is much bigger than Kim’s and my button works!’. He also threatened Iran, a country of 83 million people, with ‘obliteration’ if it ever crossed America. Trump articulated his overall stance on nuclear weapons during his presidential campaign as: ‘You want to be unpredictable.’ Now in office he is presiding over an unprecedented programme of renewal and expansion of nuclear weaponry under his Nuclear Posture Review; including the creation of the sixth arm of the US military, in the form of Space Command, to take warfare into the new frontier of space. The other nuclear states are embarked on tit-for-tat expansion and modernisation of their nuclear arsenals.

But all these cunning developments in nuclear warfare will amount to nothing if the Nuclear Winter thesis, postulated by a group of climate scientists, proves to be valid. They assert that a relatively small number of nuclear explosions will create a massive firestorm which would suck up a dust cloud into the stratosphere, blotting out the sun’s rays for years to come and thus ending all life on Earth.

The end of the era of nuclear warfare restraint
In August 2019 the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF) expired which, since 1987, has banned the stationing of short and intermediate nuclear missiles – such as Cruise and Pershing – in Europe. In October 2018 the US signalled its intention to withdraw from the treaty and Russia quickly followed suit; each side accusing the other of breaches. This amounts to the final unravelling of over a dozen treaties that have limited the expansion of nuclear arsenals over the past half century.

The United States has led the way in the shredding of the treaty infrastructure, beginning with its withdrawal from the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and, more recently, its abandonment of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action; the multilateral agreement that imposed constraints on Iran’s nuclear program. The only treaty of any significance remaining is the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which currently places limits on certain categories of nuclear weapons held by Russia and the United States. This expires in 2021 and has little prospect of being renewed. President Putin has repeatedly expressed a wish to renew START, but President Trump has described it as a: ‘one sided deal’ and a: ‘bad deal’ and the two leaders have no plans to engage in negotiations.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), established in 1968, is still extant but of questionable value given that the new nuclear states, such as Israel, India and Pakistan, refuse to participate in the treaty and North Korea simply withdrew from it in order to embark on its nuclear weapons programme.

It will be the first time since the 1980s that the world will be in an unregulated nuclear weapons environment. Add to all of these regressive trends the array of other factors creating instability in the geo-political situation and it is surprising that the Doomsday Clock is set as far away as two minutes to midnight.

What prospects for peace?
There are many conciliatory parties urging the nuclear powers to resume negotiations in order to set limits on their nuclear arsenals but, in the current febrile atmosphere, the prospect of them being listened to is slim. In any case the treaty approach of containment did little to reduce the risk of the world’s annihilation by nuclear warfare given the huge scale and destructive power that remained, even after such limitations were imposed. The treaties were at best a sticking plaster and at worst created a soporific effect and a normalisation of the nuclear threat.

Nuclear War represents the pinnacle of violent warfare but it is one of degree, rather than difference in kind. From its inception in 1904 the Socialist Party has opposed all wars as a matter of principle. Confronted with the call to war – and flying in the face of almost every other party calling itself ‘socialist’ – the Socialist Party has never capitulated to the jingoistic rhetoric of nationalism. We have always stated our unambiguous opposition to war. We regard war as the manifestation of conflict between competing factions of the capitalist class, fighting over the spoils of territory, resources, markets and trade routes; the cost of such conflict being suffered by the working class in the form of death, misery and privation. It follows that war is an inherent characteristic of the capitalist system and will only be eradicated when the death cult of capitalism is ended.

Socialism would comprise a world-wide community where there would be no nation-states. There would be no ownership of either property, territory, or natural resources. There would be no markets and no need to compete for resources to sustain life because these would be freely provided according to need. In such a society war would be redundant.

The only war that socialists are interested in fighting is the class war; with the aim of bringing it to a swift end by non-violent means through the ballot box, thus relegating the concept of war to the history books.
Tim Hart

Through a Glass Darkly (2019)

The Wood for the Trees Column from the November 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

‘A struggle has been going on in these islands for centuries of which you’re only dimly aware’ is a quote from the 1971 movie version of Stevenson’s novel Kidnapped. It is spoken by the Lord Advocate to David Balfour as part of an explanation of his political ideology. He seeks to communicate the idea that his political insight (or consciousness) is superior to that of his young listener. Balfour’s response: ‘I can’t argue with you; you’ve answers to questions I haven’t even thought of’ is a confirmation of this disparity of political knowledge. The historical context of the novel is the struggle in Scotland between the English-backed bourgeoisie and the reactionary highlanders attempt to restore the Stuart monarchy and its autocratic rule (the Jacobites).

The Lord Advocate couches his understanding of events in ideological terms by referring to his protection of the freedom of religion and equality under the law. A socialist would likewise accuse him of a na├»ve and superficial understanding of history by reference to the class struggle. We have here an example of three different political perspectives: Balfour’s idealistic insistence on the moral integrity and rational coherence of the law, the Advocate’s belief in the use of realpolitik to further the ideals of the Enlightenment (ideology) and Marxism’s economic and political materialism that exposes the underlying class struggle. We can perhaps boil down these three polemical stances into idealism, ideology and materialism. Of course the three do occasionally overlap but they can still give us an insight into levels of consciousness or, to put it another way, into different degrees of awareness.

Socialists quite often refer to political or ‘class consciousness’ as a higher form of social awareness that is essential in seeing what lies behind the propaganda and ideological values of any given historical period. To some class consciousness is mistaken for an obsession with social status and socialists are accused of having ‘a chip on their shoulder’ or suffering from financial envy. But in reality an understanding of the social tectonics of class is the only way to cut through the ideological overgrowth of ideology that merely serves to justify minority political power. But how can we be sure that this approach to politics is not also ideological? Do socialists force everything into a class context when an ideological or even moral perspective might be more revealing? It would be ironic indeed if Marxism could be accused of being ideological or even idealist since opposing these twin illusions was responsible for its very conception. One way to undermine such allegations would be to examine the existence of the reality, or otherwise, of the different levels of awareness (consciousness).

It would be nonsense to deny that some members of any community are more talented than others in certain areas of conception and/or production. The complexities of the technological age in which we live make a division of both intellectual and physical labour essential. Because everything is socially produced all these talents are totally interdependent and so there should be no question of a hierarchy in production creating any kind of elite (unlike today in class society). So we find a disparity of knowledge between those who studied and have experience of a certain discipline and those who have not. This is just stating the obvious but in politics everyone is expected to somehow have an equality of understanding even if they have made no effort to study the subject.

To object to this nonsense is to risk being accused of elitism. But those socialists who take an interest in this kind of philosophical inquiry are entirely aware that the ideas, language, laptops and electricity are all equally necessary to its creation and is therefore itself conceived of as a part of social production. Avoiding the emotional and intellectual seduction of the language of the idealistic, moralistic and ideological is impossible without some knowledge of their respective origins in terms of context, rhetorical structure and power source. Awareness that these elements obscure, distort and condition our experience of the world is vital if we are to lift the veil from what is real and authentic.

All of the above is, of course, dependant on the existence of an objective world that is, in some sense, independent of how we think about it (materialism). The efficacy of this ‘higher consciousness’ can only be tested empirically: the ability to make predictions based on research, etc. The fall of the Russian (sometimes erroneously called Soviet) empire was no surprise to socialists. Although the ideological rhetoric was a parody of Marxism every socialist knew that it was, in fact, just another form of capitalist economic imperialism that along with all the others of its kind (British, Japanese, German, Spanish, Portuguese etc.) would flourish and then decay with time. We knew this because we are not subject to the emotional, intellectual and moral illusions of ideology. If this is not proof of the existence of different levels of political consciousness then what is?

Those whose beliefs and values are not based on empirical evidence leave themselves open to accusations of dogma, delusion and self-deception which are a testament to the existence of vastly different levels of political consciousness. Such muddle-headedness has resulted in untold suffering and an unerring ability to be wrong time and again. A critical response to the moral values and political mores of the culture into which we are born is not easy and depends on more than just the intellectual deconstruction of propaganda but without such an ability a viable political alternative is rendered inconceivable.
Wez.

Pathfinders: Socialism – there’s an app for that (2019)

The Pathfinders Column from the November 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

Funny how, if you do a column for long enough, you can meet yourself right back where you started. When this column began, in January 2005, the very first article asked if the popular computer simulation game, Sim City, could ever be used to create a realistic model of a global socialist society in operation. As there wasn’t a computer big enough to do this at the time, we suggested distributed processing using a global network of home PCs crunching data in the breaks when their users weren’t at the keyboard. In theory this might have worked, but in any case we had no suggestion at the time for how to make the model sophisticated enough. Simply consider one average human being, and the range of possible actions open to them in any given situation, and the variables quickly become enormous. Multiply those by the population of the world, and the task was beyond incomputable. We threw the question out there anyway, knowing we were asking for the moon on a stick.

Well, Moon, it’s time to meet Stick, because things have changed. If 2005 doesn’t seem that long ago, remember that the Sim City article appeared four months before the first ever YouTube upload, ‘Me at the Zoo’, by Jawed Karim. Facebook was just a year old and only 5-7 percent of people in western countries used social networking sites. In the same month Microsoft released its XP Professional operating system. Reddit was launched in June. Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat did not yet exist.

Since then, raw computing power has increased by orders of magnitude. The advent of big data, collected through trading sites and social networks, has created a new science of mass behavioural analysis. Artificial intelligence, given clear rules and parameters, can now out-think any human on the planet. We are starting to get thinking and planning tools that are unimaginably faster, and involving data sets that are vastly bigger than anything conceivable even in 2005.

A recent article in New Scientist shows just how far things have come, with a new generation of simulated models which are able to plot predictions at the crowd or mass level on the basis of individual behaviour. Multi-agent artificial intelligence (MAAI) allows ‘predictions to be made with extraordinary accuracy by testing them in highly detailed simulations that amount to entire artificial societies’ (5 October). This may sound far-fetched, but it’s being done now. ‘MAAIs are already being used to build digital societies that simulate real ones with uncanny accuracy’.

Instead of primitive top-down social models, MAAI uses agent-based modelling, in which individual ‘agents’ are ‘programmed to interact with one another and their virtual environment and change their behaviour accordingly’. One early non-AI model was developed to predict the spread of the Ebola outbreak in 2014, using known parameters ranging from demographics to disease pathology to cultural factors such as burial rites. At the same time researchers developed ‘what if’ interventions to see what might impede the disease spread. Without interventions, the model predicted 1.4 million infections. In the event, smart interventions suggested by the model kept the figure down to 28,000. This doesn’t prove the model was responsible per se, or that unknown factors didn’t play a role, but it is nevertheless powerful evidence in favour.

Even so, the model had to be kept simple, with a very limited range of individual behavioural options, because that was all the available computing technology could cope with. Instead of near-zombies, what researchers really wanted were ‘intelligent agents’ able to emulate the behaviour of thinking and acting for themselves.

MAAI is delivering just this. ‘One of the things that has changed is an acceptance that you really can model humans,’ says one researcher. ‘Our agents are cognitively complex. They are simulated people with genders, ages and personalities. […] They’re social in the way humans are. They learn from each other, react to each other and to the environment as a whole.’

You might be impressed if they could do this at the scale of a village. In fact the technology can already model a city as big as London, and the plan is to scale it up to a population the size of the US, then China, and ultimately the world. Just as so-called Industry 4.0 is introducing the digital twin, whereby a whole factory can be managed and monitored via its virtual equivalent using a vast array of sensors attached to every moving part, so it should soon be possible to ‘build an artificial society, try things out and see what works’.

Today’s researchers are understandably thinking about models which address questions internal to capitalism. But the possibilities for socialists are as dazzling as they are obvious. What if you could model a global, democratic, non-market society of common ownership? What might it look like? Could there be different but workable versions? What forms of direct or representative democracy would be most feasible and at what scales? Which forms of science and culture might bloom and which might wither on the vine? What might we lose, and what gain, without the cruel driving force of money? People comprehend what they can see with their own eyes. We could potentially bring the concept of socialism to life the way a 3D chart brings a table of data to life, and in ways we haven’t even thought of yet.

But even if we could do all this, would it necessarily convince anyone? However sophisticated the model becomes, it is still just a digital model. As such, it doesn’t prove anything in the real world. But socialists, like scientists, know that they can never expect to get absolute, concrete proof of anything. The most we can do is amass such a weight of evidence that people are gravitationally inclined towards it. MAAI will help us do this. Make no mistake, other political and commercial groups will use it, for their own manipulative purposes. We can use it too, but with no nefarious objective and with our code and parameters open to scrutiny. If our model reveals ways in which socialism might go wrong, or break down, say in circumstances of large-scale harvest failures, we would certainly want to know in advance. But if we can demonstrate that socialism works as a stable system, without the kind of wild fluctuations you get with market societies and the kind of inequality, wars and environmental damage that the market also produces, then it will be a lot harder for people to dismiss out of hand. Maybe we could get it on a phone app. Somebody down the pub says: ‘Nah, it would never work, mate, not in a million years’. You say ‘Really, you think so? Then have a look at this…’
Paddy Shannon 

Greasy Pole: All good clean fun? (2005)

The Greasy Pole column from the January 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

Michael Howard will have been delighted that David Blunkett’s entangled difficulties pushed the Boris Johnson affair off the front pages. Sacking Johnson for denying his relationship with Petronella Wyatt enabled Howard to appear as a fearless guardian of moral standards. It would be churlish to entertain the idea that acting with such speed had something to do with Johnson being spoken of as the next Tory leader. Then there is the “morality” of why Howard appointed Johnson in the first place and what this says about the whole process of what is called politics.

The Tories have plenty to worry about right now, including the fact that few of their leaders are “recognisable”.  It is assumed that workers are more likely to abuse the power of their vote by casting it for people they feel familiar with, regardless of what that person represents. A canny politician understands this and, on the assumption that there is no such thing as bad publicity, relentlessly courts media attention. John Prescott, for example, is one of the most recognisable of politicians, especially since he appeared on the nation’s TV screens chinning a bystander who threw an egg at him at a meeting in the 2001 election. But the Tories?  Who recognises Prescott’s counterpart Michael Ancram? What London cabby boasts about having that John Redwood in the back the other day? Who queues to catch a glimpse of Oliver Letwin?

Henley
Even before he made it onto the opposition Front Bench, Boris Johnson was not one of the featureless, unrecognised Tories. Overweight, bumbling, rumpled, dishevelled and speaking with the plummiest of accents, he was ideally suited to play the victim on Have I Got News For You. The merciless verbal mauling he got on his first appearance on that show ensured him a place in the catalogue of eccentrics who do such an effective job of blanketing the realities of capitalism and its politics from the people who could, if they wished, put an end to the system. Johnson moved smoothly into the Tory candidature for the constituency of Henley on Thames, after Michael Heseltine had left the Commons.

Henley suited Johnson very well and he suited Henley, an excruciatingly posh, smartly ancient town on a beautiful stretch of the Thames. Howard, surrounded by tedious, but grippingly ambitious, shadows, may have seen Johnson and his effortless talent for attracting publicity as a vote-fertile gift. In all the circumstances, it was understandable that Howard should overlook some of Johnson’s little lapses, like being asked by a fellow Old Etonian, the convicted fraudster Darius Guppy, for the name of a journalist Guppy wanted to have beaten up in revenge for exposing his offences (typically, Johnson couldn’t put his hands on the information) and being sacked from a job on The Times for making up a quotation.

Petronella Wyatt is the daughter of the late Lord Wyatt, who as Woodrow Wyatt was a Labour MP during the 1950s and 60s. Wyatt always made it clear that he had no truck with all that nonsense about designing socialism for Britain, or allowing the workers by hand or brain to have access to the wealth they produced. He was notable for very little other than opposing the renationalisation of steel and carrying on a McCarthy-type campaign against Communists in the trades unions. In 1987 Thatcher made him a life peer – by which time he was thoroughly under her spell.

Petronella was a child of Wyatt’s fourth marriage and he was said to dote on her, to the extent of pulling many an influential string to get her to Oxford and then, in spite of her being notably unqualified, into media jobs. There were many rumours about her job as deputy editor of the Spectator relying on the closeness between her and Johnson the editor, and of Johnson’s readiness to buy the silence of anyone who got to know of their relationship with gifts of space in the magazine.

Buffoonery
So in terms of her background and personality Petronella Wyatt seems to have been an ideal match for a man whose buffoonery is relentless to the point of tedium. Perhaps that was why there was such an upsurge of support for Johnson, which more or less advised Michael Howard that such a lovely couple should be left untroubled and that if he thought he had done the Tories a good turn by the sacking he was very much mistaken.  According to the Guardian of 15 November a recent poll put Johnson as the third best known Tory, after Howard and William Hague. David Mellor (as if anyone pays any heed to anything he says) described him as “one of the few MPs with genuine charisma and a favourable public profile”. The Independent of 15 November raved that he “created a buzz around political life, making at least his portion of it attractive, youthful and entertaining . . . someone with a rare ability to bring politics alive”. And Norman Tebbit burbled that Johnson “added a lot of colour and fun and I suspect it’s that which has caused his downfall”. (Of course the last thing anyone  associated Tebbit with when he was in the government would be “colour” or “fun” and the fact that he bestirs himself to use such words is a measure of the hysteria stimulated by Johnson’s sacking).

All of this was based on the assumption that introducing “fun” or “entertainment” into politics has to be a good thing. It avoids the question of what politics is, why political parties exist and what they do. To begin with, politics is peculiar to capitalism; it is all about the exercise of power over society, about the establishment, the rule and the running of states and units of them. Political parties are the expression of class interests and any differences between parties such as Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat only express varying views about the details of how capitalism should be organised, with a basic agreement that it must be in the interests of the capitalist class. With a classless society, without states, without government, there will be no politics and no political parties in the current sense.

Capitalism
Meanwhile, while capitalism exists, we have politics and it is no cause for fun. For example it was a political decision to start the war in Iraq, in which countless thousands have died (a recent article in the medical magazine the Lancet put the number at 100,000; Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said it was “only” about 16,000, which to any politician makes it all right). It is through political decisions that capitalism’s burdens of poverty, which means its burdens of mental and physical ill health, its social ailments, its human alienation, are administered. Poverty is a matter of class; according to a recent report by the Office for National Statistics the share of national wealth of the poorest 50 percent of the British population declined from seven percent in 1996, just before Labour came to power, to five percent in 2002.  During the same period the portion of the national wealth owned by the top one percent increased from 20 percent to 23 percent. A survey in late 2003 found that the death rate of the poorest people are four times that of the richest. One informed opinion is that the biggest killer is social stress, with all that entails. Being poor means a greater chance of suffering a host of problems – like being ill, of being arrested for an offence, of a child being excluded from school.

Capitalism’s waste and destruction continue, whatever government exercises its political power in office. None of it is amusing and none of it is a subject of fun for politicians who think to demonstrate what they regard as their superiority by never having anything useful, or indeed relevant, to say.
Ivan

Pathfinders: SocialSim City (2005)

The Pathfinders Column from the January 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

How can you ever prove socialism will work?

As socialism has never yet existed a very big obstacle for socialists is the lack of a working model. In the absence of this we are obliged to rely on theoretical arguments in order to persuade people. But not many people enjoy theory. Help however may arrive from a quite unexpected source, the computer games industry. As the internet becomes all pervasive and as computer games become ever more sophisticated, a new type of game may be able to create this model by simulation. The Sims launched in 2000 it became the all-time best selling computer game, and parents reported how their children’s perception of life and relationships changed after playing the games. So popular is the idea of simulation that now political parties are using it to promote their policies. In Uruguay the opposition left wing  coalition Frente Amplio devised a game called Cambienos (Let’s Change) for the October elections, while in the US elections there were five or six ‘party games’ on offer (BBC OnlineTechnology, Sat Oct 23). More significantly, sophisticated computer simulations offer a way of conducting complex what-if analyses of live systems from ecology to economics.

Maxis, the company behind SimCity, was approached by the military, governments and oil companies to design sim games that could help planners see the consequences of making different strategic decisions. Maxis designed models for the oil industry, healthcare sector and the environment protection agency, but discontinued development because of the extreme legal complications involved. see the consequences of making different strategic decisions. 

So could a socialist sim game be developed? The short answer is yes. But would it be any good? That depends on the number of variables in play, and the processing power available. Using distributed  processing across home PCs, as the NASA SETI project and the British Astronomical Association do, would provide a computational power unequalled by the world’s largest supercomputer, and with continual update and modification by online participants there is no theoretical reason why a working prototype could not provide valuable insights into some of the complexities of socialism in practice. If a simulation could give us an idea in advance of what sort of production and distribution problems are likely to occur, we can begin to find concrete answers ahead of schedule. And if we can show a stable model of socialism in practice, audited by independent third parties, it will go a long way to destroying the claims of economic calculationists and others who insist that socialism could never work in practice.

How do you know what to produce, where it goes and what happens to it?

Capitalist theorists are comfortable with the argument that the only variable they need to track is price.

Consumption and distribution don’t matter in themselves and can’t really be gauged anyway, whereas  in socialism, with no prices, the unmeasurable needs to be measured. But even capitalists have uses for better information and better tracking, and a revolution is taking place in stock control which has  enormous potential for socialism – the humble RFID tag. A radio frequency identification chip is inserted into all products which then emit a unique identifier bleep, a kind of audio bar code, enabling a receiver to identify all goods present, and track the passage of all goods through time and space, anywhere in the world. The applications however go well beyond supply chain tracking, with the US State Department issuing a million RFID tagged passports next year (New Scientist, 23 Oct) and supermarkets hoping to use CCTV to monitor which tagged items customers tend to pickup (NS, 28 August). What this means in capitalism is that the technology become mired in a new row about  state and corporate surveillance. What it means for socialists is that for a fraction of a cent per item capitalism has produced an easy way  to measure the ‘unmeasurable’, which in turn could greatly facilitate the operation of a socialist non-market economy.

Down the Millennia (2019)

Book Review from the November 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

Who We Are and How We Got Here by David Reich (Oxford University Press. £10.99.)

The first ancient human genomes, involving analysis of DNA, were only published in 2010. But since then ancient DNA has had a revolutionary impact on the study of the past, revealing many surprises in what is known about human evolution. Here David Reich, who has played a leading role in such research, describes the state of the art. We cannot summarise the book’s contents here, just focus on some of the main points made.

An important issue which arises is the extent of large-scale migration over the millennia and the consequent mixing of peoples: ‘Most of today’s populations are not exclusive descendants of the populations that lived in the same locations ten thousand years ago.’ Most DNA among Japanese people is inherited from farmers who migrated from the East Asian mainland and mixed with local hunter-gatherers. Everyone in India today is a mix, in varying proportions, of West Eurasian ancestry on the one hand, and East and South Asian ancestry on the other. Mixture often involved men who exercised power and women from a subordinate population; thus Thomas Jefferson, third president of the US, had six children with his slave Sally Hemmings. For biological reasons, men can have far more offspring than women, and one man at the time of the Mongol Empire (maybe Genghis Khan himself) had millions of direct male-line descendants. European men made a far greater contribution to the genetic make-up of African Americans than European women. These are examples of ‘sex-asymmetric population mixture’.

The study of ancient DNA has even more to say about inequality. Around five thousand years ago, the Yamnaya culture spread from the eastern European steppe over northern Europe and central Asia. With wheeled vehicles, domesticated animals to pull them and the use of bronze, they were able to displace local people, and the powerful males among them could gain access to large numbers of women and so pass on their Y chromosomes to many subsequent generations. This did not apply to all men, only to a limited number, which implies a lot of social stratification.

Reich also confronts the question of race, and to what extent notions of ancestry overlap with race. Some people have objected to research along the lines sketched above, on the grounds that it just reinforces supposed racial ideas and categories. He is emphatic that race and ancestry are not the same, yet accepts ‘the possibility of substantial average differences in biological traits across populations’, which would include skin colour, height and the ability to breathe easily at high altitudes. It is hard to see how anyone could object to statements such as this, but claims that some genetic variations are more common in people with more years of education need a great deal more support in order to ascertain the role of other possibly relevant factors.

But all in all, a fascinating and informative, but fairly challenging read.
Paul Bennett


Climate Versus Capital: The Juggernaught of Profit (2019)

From the November 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

Climate: up against the ‘growth machine’ of capital

In late September the climate crisis was in the spotlight. Friday 20 September was the first Global Climate Strike, with four million taking to the streets in 185 countries (reported figures vary). Protests continued over the weekend. On Sunday afternoon our comrades in the World Socialist Party of India held a rally on College Square, Kolkata under the rousing slogan ‘Save the Planet, Share the Earth.’ Then on Monday 23 September the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York opened with the eloquent appeal of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, followed by speeches of so-called ‘world leaders’ (‘national leaders’ would be more accurate), including French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. More ‘world leaders’ spoke the next day at the 74th debate of the UN General Assembly.

The ‘world leaders’ proved that Greta was not far off the mark when she told them: ‘All you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.’ Reporting from ‘inside the messy, desperate chaos of the UN Climate Summit,’ Jeff Dembicki complains that their speeches were ‘blandly inoffensive’ (vice.com, 24 September). None dared name or confront the ‘elephants in the room’ – the corporations (Exxon, Chevron, Shell, etc) that since 2018 have invested $50 billion in new fossil fuel expansion projects or the Koch brothers and other tycoons who fund propaganda ridiculing climate science and calling global warming a hoax. None so much as mentioned the urgent need to complete the transition to renewable energy and leave remaining deposits of fossil fuel in the ground.

Dimitri Lascaris of The Real News had the following to say about the speeches delivered on September 24:
  ‘I was in the UN General Assembly yesterday. I must have seen fifteen world leaders come up to the podium. And every single one of them without exception talked about their credentials as champions in the climate fight without mentioning any of the things that they’re doing to undermine the battle.The last person to speak, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, was crowing about the fact that in 2028, a decade from now, they’re going to stop producing energy from lignite [brown coal] in Greece. What he didn’t say … and what the mainstream media are not talking about is that the Greek government is actively promoting offshore drilling in the Aegean Basin in the Eastern Mediterranean… Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also spoke… He was crowing about the number of trees they planted in Turkey, but he has deployed his navy near Cyprus in order to secure control over offshore oil deposits and begin drilling there… These leaders are talking out of both sides of their mouths (video, 25 September) .’
Talking out of both sides of the mouth – or ‘speaking with forked tongue’ – is an essential skill for the capitalist politician. You can hardly expect them to talk in the same way to the general public and to the capitalists whose interests they serve.

Painfully slow progress
Actual progress in the transition away from fossil fuels is painfully slow. With the aid of a good microscope you can detect it, but only if you focus on relative quantities. The proportion of the global power mix constituted by renewables (solar, wind, hydro) is about one quarter and inching upward, rising in 2018 by 0.8 of a percentage point to almost 26 percent. In Europe, the most advanced region, the proportion is 36 percent, in India, Japan, and the United States only 18 percent (all figures from the Global Energy Statistical Yearbook 2019, https://yearbook.enerdata.net).

In absolute terms, however, world output of all three fossil fuels is still rising. This is true even of coal: output seemed to peak in 2014, but is now again growing at the ‘modest’ annual rate of 1.3 percent, due in large part to expansion of production capacity in India and Indonesia.

As for oil and gas, a boom is currently in progress, led by the United States. US gas output ‘surged’ in 2018 by 11 percent, while world output rose by 5.2 percent, twice the historical trend. The boom is made possible by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing – the notorious ‘fracking’ that if we live nearby destabilises our subsoil, poisons our drinking water, and shoots methane flames from our faucets. The filthy tar sands of Alberta, Canada are still being extracted, transported, and processed. And drilling for new deposits continues unabated at numerous locations throughout the world, from the Gulf of Mexico to the South China Sea.

Not just the fossil fuel corporations
It is right to emphasise the need to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. And yet this is by no means the only front in the struggle for human survival, nor are the fossil fuel corporations its only enemies.

Consider, for instance, the fires now burning through the forests that serve as our planet’s lungs – in Amazonia but also in other parts of Brazil and in Indonesia. These are not ‘wildfires’: there is good reason to suppose that they are set deliberately in order to clear the land for commercial activities. In Amazonia arson opens up land for the cultivation of soybeans, for cattle ranching, in certain places for mining. In the tourist area around Pinheira in southern Brazil a state park has been set aflame with a view to residential development on what is viewed as prime real estate (The Real News, 25 September). In Indonesia most forest fires are set in order to clear land for palm oil plantations. So capitalists in at least five distinct non-energy fields of profit-making enterprise are involved in laying waste these precious forests.

Or consider the melting of the Arctic ice cap. If we are to restore the planet’s climate system to a stable and livable equilibrium, then we must find ways to halt and reverse this process. Here again, however, capitalists in diverse fields of enterprise are salivating over the profit-making opportunities created by the melting of the ice – above all, shorter routes for shipping between Europe and Asia and extraction of many kinds of natural resources. In Greenland the retreat of the ice sheet has triggered a hunt for yet more coal, oil, and gas as well as for iron ore, nickel, aluminum, lead, zinc, molybdenum, niobium, tantalite, rare earth elements, gold, platinum, diamonds, other precious stones, and uranium (though the country’s parliament did block a uranium mining project near the capital of Nuuk).

Other forces standing in the way of effective action on climate are the military and the military-industrial complex. Neta Crawford, who teaches at Boston University, has analysed emissions of greenhouse gases by the US armed forces over the period 2001-2017. She found that the Pentagon is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions greater than those of many countries, including Portugal, Sweden, and Denmark. Weapons and military equipment use up enormous amounts of fuel. Aircraft are especially ‘thirsty,’ typically consuming 4-5 gallons per mile (not, be it noted, miles per gallon!).

Speaking of aircraft, even civilian air travel may have to be reduced, for the sake of the climate. That may not be welcome news to the capitalists who own airlines and aircraft manufacturing plants.

Up against the ‘growth machine’
These examples should suffice to show how broad a range of capitalist interests the struggle for human survival will have to confront and overcome. This is not to imply that effective climate action is against the profit-making interests of the whole of the capitalist class. Makers of solar panels and wind turbines obviously stand to benefit. And climate activists have had some success in winning managers of insurance companies over to their side.

It does not really matter to the executives of capitalist firms what they make, provided that they can sell it at a good profit. On the whole, however, they prefer to stick to the line of business to which they are accustomed and avoid incurring the costs of shifting to a new line. This is especially so in industries with vast amounts of sunk capital – that is, equipment that can only be used in the industry concerned. Coal, oil, and gas all fall into this category. 

In fighting for our survival as a species, we are ultimately up against the mindless and heartless ‘growth machine’ that has come to dominate our world. Socialists call this machine capital. Endless expansion is intrinsic to capital, which Marx defined as ‘self-expanding value.’ Capital is an inhuman and anti-human machine, even though it is human action that originally set it in motion, keeps it running, and will soon – let’s hope – bring it screeching to a halt.
Stefan

1989 and All That: The Fall of the Russian Empire (2019)

From the November 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard
Thirty years ago this month the Berlin Wall came down marking the end of the Russian State-capitalist Empire. We recall that, right from the start, we realised that Russia was not heading for socialism.
Of all the groups which arose during the Russian Revolution, those who came nearest to getting it right were arguably some of the ‘Mensheviks.’

The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party had split, before the Bolshevik coup, into Bolshevik (majority), and Menshevik (minority).

The Bolsheviks followed Lenin and their belief, amid the turmoil following the Tsar’s abdication (the Revolution had been underway since March 1917), was that the working class was too weak to make a socialist revolution. This was true, and the Mensheviks agreed. The two factions disagreed over the following.

The Mensheviks said that capitalism must be developed in Russia and industry and technology built up to the level of western Europe. Then, and only then, would the working class grow and achieve the strength in numbers and the awareness to carry out a socialist revolution. Socialism must be global and achieved by the workers themselves. In the meantime, they said, it is important for all to have freedom of press and assembly, and an open parliament, so that the free circulation of ideas can accompany social development. Russia, said the Mensheviks, could not jump over capitalism, but this had to be gone through. Parliamentary democracy was therefore the best option.

The Bolsheviks didn’t want to wait. They said (like the Leninist parties today) that the workers will never become aware of the need for socialism, and must therefore be led to it by a vanguard of intellectuals (meaning the Bolsheviks themselves)

So, in November 1917 (October by the old Orthodox calendar), Lenin, Trotsky, and a handful of Bolsheviks plotted and carried out a minority coup d’etat against the provisional government of Alexander Kerensky, and got workers to support them with the slogans ‘Bread!’ and ‘Stop the war!’ In the countryside, Bolsheviks put forward the slogan ‘Bread and Land!’ as well as ‘Stop the war!’

The Bolsheviks’ campaign to stop the war reached the West, and in 1915 they had attempted to have their anti-war declaration published. Every paper in Britain refused except the Socialist Standard, which published the Russian Bolshevik declaration on its front page, proclaiming solidarity with all workers wanting the war stopped.

Lenin and Trotsky, after seizing power in November 1917, kept their promise to stop the war, winning massive support. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed with Germany, taking Russia out of the war.

Almost immediately, the Western Allies blockaded Moscow and shut out all information concerning Russian events. British and US armies were dispatched to Russia’s north-west; in the south and east, Tsarist armies terrorised the countryside, while in Moscow and Petrograd (St. Petersburg) Lenin and Trotsky gave into hysteria similar to that of the revolutionaries in Paris in 1793.

In Ukraine, Makhno’s Anarchist cossacks defeated the Tsarist army there and made an alliance with Lenin and Trotsky, which the Bolsheviks reneged on later.

Responding to the conditions of the military blockade, the Bolsheviks cracked down with their own terror, abolishing freedom of the press and arresting and executing political dissidents. In the naval port of Kronstadt, the sailors mutinied, demanding the socialism the Bolsheviks had promised, and bread for the workers at least. Trotsky sent raw young frightened Red Army recruits against the sailors and many were killed. Finally the Red Army overran Kronstadt and those sailors who were not killed escaped to Finland.

Fleeing for their lives, many Mensheviks escaped to Georgia and held out briefly there against the Bolshevik government forces. Trotsky then turned his attention to destroying the Ukrainian Anarchistsas Lenin’s government became more secure.

Having seized control of the Russian state, Lenin found himself faced with the enormous task of transforming a vast peasant economy in ruins into a capitalist nation-state. Just as the Mensheviks had told him, Russia wasn’t ready for socialism and had to build a capitalist economy. Now he was faced with the task, having closed parliament outlawed all parties besides his own and established a dictatorship based on tyranny over the working class.

He thus elaborated an ideology which would permit the ruthless development of capitalism under a one-party state and still keep a ‘Marxist’vocabulary.

He renamed the Bolshevik RSDLP the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, redefined socialism as state-capitalism, and said that this ‘socialism’ must be an immensely long ‘transition period’ before communism (real socialism) can become a reality. A transition period which, naturally, would be ruled over by the CPSU.

By 1918, it was obvious to us that what had occurred in Russia was not a socialist revolution, but a coup d’etat by a group of opportunists, paving the way for a semi-feudal economy to be transformed into a modern capitalist state. However it took nearly 70 years before Russia finally dropped the pretence of being socialist and did away with its pseudo-Marxist terminology and emerged as the openly capitalist power it is today.
A.W.