Friday, January 3, 2020

Identity (2001)

From the January 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

When discussing socialism with someone who has had little interest in politics we invariably find ourselves confronting their “identity”. This is because we all identify, sometimes unintentionally, with certain ideas and values. We may not be aware that we do until we attempt to articulate them in response to another idea asserted by someone else. At a basic emotional level we might take an ideological position because we feel that our status is being threatened by the other personality that confronts us.

The concept we have of our social status is one of the most emotionally-charged elements that constitutes our identity. It also aligns us politically with the values of a class or a subdivision of a class or cultural group. Other components such as gender, age, sexuality and “race” also play a part in defining identity but only through the lens of group ideology (ideas of masculinity and homosexuality are very different in “blue-collar” and “white-collar” communities).

Indeed the very concept of class itself is received differently as can be seen readily by its relative acceptance by those on a lower income (sometimes erroneously called working class) and its complete denial by those on a higher income (incorrectly called middle class). A friend of mine who resolutely denies that class has any effect on their tastes refuses to attend a “multi-plex” cinema to watch a film but is quite happy in the local art-house theatre. When pressed for the reasons why this is so he points to their respective atmospheres; he clearly prefers intellectual pretension to Hollywood popularism and the audiences they generate.

This choice can be interpreted in a class context because of the identification with certain tastes and values and a rejection of others; or to put it more bluntly, a liking for some “types” of people and a dislike for others. This kind of division exists in almost all areas of life and certainly inhibits the political cohesion of the working class being properly understood (since both communities have to sell their labour power to the capitalist class to make a living).

So it can be said that identity, in some important respect, is based on an association of the self with others in a social group and their value system. We may even go as far as to say that the nature of those values is dependent on their association with a group with whom we wish to identify and not essentially on the internal logical structure of the ideology in itself. The motivation for this social/ideological identification derives from our need for social status and the self-respect it supplies.

Paradoxically an example of our need for status to confirm our identity is when we appear to give it away to someone else in the form of exclusive love. During such an event between two people the individual identity seems to depend on the other and this would seem to contradict the cult of the self that so characterises our society.

There is a very revealing and desperate need to escape the prison of our identity in this search for such a liberating synthesis with another. Invariably such a relationship fails because it reveals itself to be yet another example of the attempt to confirm identity through conforming to a social convention to achieve status. The projection of our needs onto another can become so comprehensive because of the socially restrictive context imposed by a competitive culture that it leaves little space for the other to express their needs. The relationship crumbles under the pressure caused by the crowded desires needed for the mutual confirmation of identity between just two people. Sometimes we look to parental love as an example of an escape from status inspired identity but many times this too succumbs when children grow up to deny parental aspirations for the same reasons.

If we are to accept that to an important degree identity is generated by our need for social status must this always be a destructive element within human society? To answer this let’s return to our starting point, the political discussion. If we are honest about our desire for status and the respect it gives us from others we have to understand what it is and how we achieve it within contemporary society.

For most of us status is acquired through competition in a capitalist system except for those who inherit it. Those who are regarded as successful manifest their status in the accumulation of material wealth which in turn enhances their social influence. We may come to dislike these people through envy but who has not daydreamed of having wealth and power? There are those amongst us who have turned their backs on the rat-race and devote their lives to helping others such as nurses, carers, charity workers and even social revolutionaries. As a psychologist once said: “political ideology is a kind of love affair”, and there’s no denying that the identification with a political group is in part motivated by the desire for social status, albeit of alternative nature.

The difference is, of course, that this time it confronts the values of society because by acquiring membership status socialists undertake the formal denial of competition. This can be seen as a positive manifestation of the need for social status because this time it motivates the need for social liberation. It also serves to undermine our culture’s insistence that it is only through competition that the human spirit is creative and productive. There is also the possibility that competition is a perversion of human social instincts because, as the psychologist observed, identifying with an ideology shares the emotional liberation felt during the first stages of a relationship—but this time with a community and not just an individual. Once the needs of the individual are identified with the community and not in competition with its members then socialism becomes not only possible but necessary.

The litmus test for this perspective concerning identity can only be our emotional well-being. Even within the group of high wage earners it is difficult to deny that unhappiness has become something of a plague. For all the inherent frustration of working for socialism it does afford some emotional protection against the pain caused by the loss of a job or the breakdown of a relationship.

Those who believe in a socialist future do not make the same emotional investment in the capitalist present and so have another place to go to when the anxiety endemic in the sick culture in which we live threatens to overwhelm us. The capitalist class and its supporters of left and right hate socialists for their identification with hope and liberation but they can never destroy it because to do so they would have to kill part of their own humanity forever.
Wez.

Prisons (2001)

Book Review from the January 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Behind Bars: The hidden architecture of England’s prisons. Allan Brodie, Jane Croom, James O Davies.

To socialists this book is an abomination, as repugnant as “Floral Displays at Auschwitz” or “Idi Amin’s recipes for vegetarians”. But hey, you say, don’t get wound up, it’s only architecture, it’s only art. If this were so the book would be merely in bad taste. But it isn’t so. In fact it’s a thoroughly distasteful example of the reformist’s art.

To explain: the first part of the book is indeed a history of prison architecture and surprise, surprise, not all prisons look the grim Victorian monstrosities of popular imagination (although window bars and locks are recurring architectural themes). In the second section of the book, however, great pains are taken to contrast the prisons of today from those of yesteryear. The pointless labour of the treadwheel, the brutality of corporal punishment, chains and tin buckets to piss in, are all recalled. And today’s prisons? Images of children and animals, as if jail is a kind of friendly club for malefactors (Tony and his frigging budgie in HMP Grendon took the biscuit for me). But a prison is a prison for all that. A cell is nothing but a cell.

For all the 200 years of reform, prisons, like the poor, are still with us. Prison is an indictment of the capitalist system. Prison means punishment, generally punishment for the infraction of property laws. In the more exceptional cases of punishment for personal crimes, it results in the further alienation of already psychologically damaged individuals, who need treatment not punishment. Socialism means the abolition, not just of nasty jails, but of all places of punishment.
Keith Scholey

Obituary: Bob Simpson (2001)

Obituary from the January 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Members will be saddened to hear of the death of comrade Bob Simpson, who has died after a short illness aged 81. Bob first joined the Party in 1942 and was—like his twin brother Tom who passed away in 1994—a conscientious objector during the Second World War. He originally became a member of the Party`s Lewisham branch but later transferred to South-West London branch when it began meeting in Clapham, just a few miles from his home in Bermondsey.

Bob lived all his life in London and epitomised what is sometimes referred to as the cheerful “Cockney disposition” of Londoners, being born (just) within the sound of Bow Bells. It seems quite remarkable that during his long life Bob only left the confines of the capital on literally a handful of occasions—and all the more so because his range of interests and pursuits was so extensive: from the benefits of Chinese herbal medicine, to old-time dancing and through to the study of UFOs.

The principal forum for Bob’s activities though was the Party, where he held a number of positions at branch and national level over the years and where he threw himself enthusiastically—and with typical good humour—into everything he did. For example, Bob was one of the stalwarts helping with the distribution of the Socialist Standard for a considerable time and for a period also served on the Party’s reformed Economic Crises Committee where he was an assiduous collector of statistics, newspaper cuttings and anything else he thought could further the collective knowledge of Party members and therefore the strength of the Party’s case.

With Bob’s passing the Party has lost another one of its “characters” and it is sad to think that he is no longer with us. His cheeky wink and infectious laugh will be sorely missed at the Party’s gatherings, as will his unstinting hard work for the cause to which he dedicated the best part of his life.

50 Years ago: The Road to Destruction (2001)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Militarism, the worship of arms and armaments, the glorification of battles and destruction, has not a separate existence of its own, it is merely the instrument of those who wield power in the countries of the world. Capitalist trade rivalries create antagonism and the government responsible for administering capitalism in each country responds to it by organising the military forces and preparing for war. But the people of the world do not readily accept this doctrine of the necessity of war, and they have to be tricked and goaded and frightened into a more receptive state of mind. So after being told for many years that the enemy of peace was the alleged warlike nature of the German people, the Western Governments, along with their own fantastic increases of armaments, are setting about re-arming Germany. But the Germans, like the rest of humanity, are lukewarm about it and, as Mr. Kenneth Ames writing from Germany tells us in the Daily Mail (24/11/50) they “must be roused.” “Western Allied officials here stress that the German nation must be aroused to some sense of imminent danger and talked over to the idea of re-armament before it will be possible to provide Western Europe with anything more than a small force of mercenaries.”

. . . The human race looks forward apprehensively to a new world war in which “protective” armaments of a size and power never before known may be set in motion. Well may we all wish to be protected from our protectors; but it will not be done by “Communist” Peace Conferences, or by United Nations debates and interventions. Only by destroying capitalism which engenders war, and replacing it by Socialism in which the human race will have no need to engage in fratricidal conflict will the world be rid of capitalism’s handmaiden militarism.

(From editorial, Socialist Standard, January 1951)

Letters: Post-modern pessimism (2001)

Letters to the Editors from the January 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Post-modern pessimism

Dear Editors,

Probably the basic problem with the political perspective propagated by the SPGB is that you do not appear to have any sense of a dialectical perspective at all, which, in my opinion, accounts for your absolutist Utopian position, which is surely contrary to a marxist standpoint of scientific socialism. A dialectical perspective teaches that all aspects of life are relative and contradictory, so that the SPGB absolutist position of total communism on the basis of mass theoretical understanding is just totally absurd, and, if I did not know any better, I would have to say that the SPGB were some kind of agents provocateurs—indeed, the Maoists would say that you were objectively counter-revolutionaries. Surely the fact that the SPGB has been standing parliamentary candidates for the last hundred years and still does worse than the fascists should make you think that perhaps you are doing something wrong. I don’t think that you could show me one article in the Socialist Standard where the subject of dialectical materialism has ever been dealt with, which is quite serious, as only an uneducated fool would say that the philosophical basis of marxism was not imperative.

If I would have to label myself, then I would have to say that I am a post-modernist marxist, in the sense that, although I theoretically adhere to the marxist philosophy of dialectical and historical materialism, I would have to say that the ultimate communist goal is quite Utopian, and so unachievable, except perhaps in terms of science fiction, if a small number of people leave the dying civilisation on earth to form a communist space colony. I would say that the greatest obstacle to a fully-fledged communist society is what I call the ecological imperative, in the sense that, within the social context of a realistic expectation of world population levels, it would be ecologically infeasible to expect everyone in the world to have at least the the material status of, say, a working class English person. Just as the SPGB at least had the good sense to agree with the Trotskyists that socialism in any sense was impossible in one country, since, of course, it would only be an equality of poverty, the same thing applies in relation to the ecological imperative within the social context of any serious attempt to impose generalised world equality. Thus if the notion of communism has a future, then it is only in terms of a primitive communist society that would remain after the final collapse of bourgeois materialist civilisation. Moreover, contrary to what some idolatrous admirers of Marx seem to think, he was no more aware than anyone else was prior to recent times of the exigencies of the ecological imperative when he enunciated the Utopian goals of a wholesale communist society.

Thus, in my opinion, the zenith of human civilisation is liberal-democratic (or, perhaps, social-democratic) capitalism, and since the bourgeois materialism of capitalism is essentially ecologically infeasible, it is only a matter of time before bourgeois democracy will degenerate into bourgeois fascism of either the convential type or the Left-fascism of Stalinism—in this regard I would regard all the marxist-leninist groups as essentially Stalinist, since they, like the SPGB, are trying to achieve Utopian ends, although, unlike the SPGB, the Stalinists at least have a realistic perspective of power politics.

It should not be necessary to have to explain to someone who claims to be a socialist that the capitalist imperative of economic growth contradicts the ecological imperative, and that any notion of a green capitalism is nonsense, since, within the social context of realistic levels of world population, in terms of the dialectical principle of quantity changing into quality, even if so-called ecologically sustailable technology was adopted on a wholesale scale it would make no ultimate difference in terms of pollution and resource exhaustion; moreover, the notion of a green capitalism would presumably entail a fascist political context as the capitalist class generally would not willingly agree to abstain from what they would regard as profitable activities, although the ruling capitalist circles would regard it as necessary. And, as is the case in our present-day society, whenever a particular commodity is banned, there develops a criminal industry around it, and the same would be true if it was profitable to market illicit anti-ecological commodities, if, in accordance with the capitalist law of value, the illicit alternative to what was supposed to be ecologically sustainable was more economical.

If I say that I am a post-modernist marxist, and, as well as rejecting the SPGB perspective, I reject the so-called Marxist-Leninist position as objectively Left-fascist (i.e., Stalinist), then, in terms of concrete political practice, what indeed is left for an avowed marxist? I would say that in order to forestall or postpone what is the inexorable fascist political degeneration of capitalism my role is to do what I can to dispel Utopian illusions by emphasizing the necessities of supporting reformist political parties such as the Labour Party or the Liberal Democrats, as being the best of what is practicably possible. It is indeed the case that I would be inclined to agree with the perspective of an organisation called Living Marxism, which has a website at LM, and which could be said to have a post-modernist perspective, and I would be interested to know if you are familiar with them—I will not discuss the notion of post-modernism now, since that is rather complicated, although it could be generally said it is a theoretical recognition that modern-day capitalism civilisation has not got a progressive future, and that there is no realistic alternative. What is perhaps the best thing for avowed marxists is to form think-tanks in the tradition of the Fabian Society, since for an avowed marxist it would be somewhat of a dialectical contradiction for them to be actively involved in social-democratic politics (which is quite all right in itself), while cogently expounding the exigencies of capitalist social evolution, which is essentially that there is no progressive future, and that we only have the choice of what is the lesser evil in a capitalist social context.
Leonard Amos, 
Australia (by email)

Reply: 
Yes, we do know of Living Marxism or “Dead Leninism” as we used to call it. It was originally the journal of the Trotskyist “Revolutionary Communist Party” but later evolved into the voice of a group of trendy cynics, changing its name to LM (a good thing, since it minimised the discredit Marx’s views got from being associated with theirs).

Your own comments illustrate this cynicism quite well: “the ultimate communist goal is quite Utopian, and so unachievable”; “the zenith of human civilisation is liberal-democratic (or, perhaps, social-democratic) capitalism”; “the necessities of supporting reformist political parties such as the Labour Party or the Liberal Democrats, as being the best of what is practicably possible”; “there is no progressive future and we only have the choice of what is the lesser evil in a capitalist social context”.

You challenge us to produce one article in the Socialist Standard which discusses dialectical materialism. Since we’ve been published every month since September 1904 we could give you a whole list. But we’ll confine ourselves to referring you to our pamphlet Historical Materialism which has a chapter on the subject and which can be found on the internet [here]. Briefly, we, too, start from the basis that everything in the universe is interconnected and in a state of constant change but we don’t see any contradiction between this and our perspective of the more or less immediate establishment of “from each according to ability, to each according to needs” once a majority have come to want and understand it. Capitalism has had its period of being historically progressive and its insoluble contradictions now show that it is ripe to be replaced by the new social system it has prepared the way for—world socialism or communism (the same thing).

But you think that socialism/communism is in any event impossible because the resources don’t exist to sustain the present world population at the level of “a working class English person”. Really? Why not? A worker in England consumes a finite amount of food, clothing, accommodation, travel and entertainment but we can see no reason why, given the mobilisation of the world’s resources to that end, the same amounts could not be provided for everyone anywhere in the world.

The mistake you have made is to take the total amount of resources consumed in England (Britain) and divide it by the population and then multiply the result by total world population. This gives an enormous figure for resource consumption that may well not be sustainable. However, this figure is meaningless as it is invalid to assume that all the resources used in Britain are consumed in producing the finite amount of goods consumed by the working class here. Resources consumed in Britain at the moment include the waste of capitalism, which is enormous.

The waste, for a start, of arms and the armed forces. Then there’s the waste of the whole system of buying and selling (the armies of accountants, salespeople, ticket collectors, bank clerks, etc, etc, etc) and of administering the capitalist system (the armies of civil servants devising, collecting, recording taxes and paying out subsidies and benefits). Finally, there’s the waste of planned obsolescence, of producing shoddy goods designed not to last too long, and of not recycling.

How extensive is this waste? The most conservative estimate is that it amounts to 50 percent, i.e. that only half of the present-day resource consumption in Britain (and equivalent countries) is devoted to directly satisfying people’s needs, the other 50 percent being on-costs that are incurred solely because this is taking place in a capitalist context. Others have put the waste figure as high as 90 percent. Whatever the figure, socialism/communism being a society of direct production to satisfy people’s needs without money could economise on the resources used up on these oncosts of capitalism.

You also ignore the other side of the equation: resources. You seem to think that these are fixed and that we are near their limits but this is by no means the case. Figures produced by the FAO and other researchers show that, for instance, food production could be increased so as to adequately feed twice the world’s present population of 6,000 million (quoted by Swiss MP Jean Ziegler in his 1999 book La faim dans le monde expliquée à mon fils (Famine in the World Explained to My Son), p. 19; see also the FAO site at FAO under “Dimensions of Need”). Existing resources could also be made to go further by making things to last longer, by standardised spare parts, better storage facilities, recycling and by the adoption on a wholesale scale of the ecologically-sustainable technology you seem to doubt.

You don’t need to convince us that a “green capitalism” is nonsense. That’s been our case against the Green Party and campaigning environmentalist groups like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace from when they first made their appearance on the political scene in the 1970s and 1980s. You’re probably right that under capitalism the measures they advocate could only be fully implemented by authoritarian methods. And we can go along with you that things are going to get worse from an ecological point of view as long as capitalism is allowed to continue. Capitalism does indeed risk a descent into barbarism, the beginnings of which can already be seen. Indeed, the emergence of pessimistic and cynical doctrines such as so-called “post-modernism” is an ideological reflection of this.

You preach pessimism and say that the most we might be able to do is to slow down a little this descent into barbarism. We, on the other hand, retain the “modernist” view inherited from the 18th century Enlightenment that humanity can build a better future—but only as long as it takes steps to replace capitalism by a world socialist society.
Editors.


Capitalism’s twofold lie

Dear Editors,

At the heart of the capitalist economy was, is and always will be deception. Since capitalist production is based on selling for profit, and not to simply satisfy demand, it relies on two such deceptions for each and every exchange of goods or services. In the first place, in order to sell a quantity of products sufficient to overcome the material cost of production, provide for future expansion of production, and to place profit in the pocket of the owner, it is necessary to sell as many products to as many people as possible.

Unfortunately for the owner of said means of production, the product is at no time needed or desired by all the potential customers needed to satisfy this sales requirement. So it falls on the producers to make as many people as possible believe that they need the product, should ignore any other competitor’s offering and purchase the product immediately. Here we encounter the first lie. Since all of the producer’s goals rest in the success of this lie, modern producers enlist the aid of an advertising juggernaut that will stop at nothing to achieve their aim: to make you believe that their client’s product is absolutely vital to your happiness, success or esteem. One cannot doubt the success of advertising in the advancement of the first lie—you need only to look at the people around you, festooned with the latest brand-name styles, falling over each other to be the first in line for the Next Big Thing, and spouting inane jingles and catchphrases designed to securely place the product image in the back of every dollar-spending head.

If it were sufficient to merely dupe you into purchasing the product against your better judgement by convincing you of the overwhelming advantages of your newly-acquired possession, it would be bad enough. However, the producer, in order to maximize his gain, must again deceive you, the poor consumer, as to the value of the product. This second lie is much more subtle than the first. If advertising in modern times could be equated to the repeated bludgeoning of the consumer into submission, pricing would be much more akin to a stab in the back. The producer is placed in a precarious position: charge too little, and you don’t satisfy your profit margin, charge too much and your advertising was all for naught as the customer walks out the door. Enter markups, price discrimination, collusion and so on.

One cannot dispute the success with which capitalism has mastered the twofold lie. Consumers continue to fall for it with every purchase. People would rather pay over $100 dollars to take a family of four to a baseball game instead of buying a weeks worth of groceries. They pay $18 for CDs which cost $1.50 to produce. They pay $35,000 for a four-wheel drive death trap and drive it while talking on their cell phones. No wonder we can’t pick a president! As holidays become more commercialized, advertising becomes more and more obnoxious and pervasive, and life becomes the stuff we do between trends, one must wonder if we will ever wake up and just stop believing the lie!
Tony Pink, 
USA (by email)

A Crime Against Humanity (2001)

Editorial from the January 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent murder of 10 year old Damilola Taylor on a south London housing estate has shocked and outraged the public, the politicians and the press alike. The manner of his death–slashed with knives and bottles and then left to bleed to death in the stinking stairwell of a condemned council housing scheme–serves as a metaphor for the current state of modern capitalism. Not that the press and politicians realise this of course, but it is worth us pointing it out all the same.

Capitalism is a sick society and we do not hesitate to say so. Nor do we hesitate to say that Tony Blair and Jack Straw (or alternatively William Hague and Ann Widdecombe) could double the number of police on the streets and quadruple the number of people “stopped and searched” under current legislation without it having any noticeable effect on the violent crime and disorder eating away at the fabric of society. New Labour came to power famously promising to be “tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime” but if you are seemingly unaware of what the causes of crime really are how can you be “tough” on them?

It does not take a leader-writer for the Daily Mail to know that serious crime is at the highest levels it has been in living memory, and pretty much right across the “developed world” too. Neither do you have to be a seasoned criminologist to be aware that where the lawless American inner cities and ghettos have led, so have London, Manchester and a whole host of other cities followed.

Catching criminals in modern capitalism is like the labours of Sisyphus, a never-ending task. This is because crime is overwhelmingly committed by the poor, the disenfranchised, and the cynical, in short the people without a stake in society. And it is capitalism–the system which commands the unwavering support of Blair and Hague alike–which creates such people by the bucketload.

All social systems adopt a code of morals, laws and regulations commensurate with the economic structure of that system and capitalism was no different. The codes that developed alongside the market economy were those entwined with notions of the sanctity of private property, the value of “enterprise”, and the importance of a stable hierarchy in society. Unfortunately for the system, it is the spread of the competitive buying and selling relationship into every aspect of human existence together with the “every-man-for-himself” culture that this promotes that has undermined the basis of the social stability that capitalism has previous been able to claim for itself. Nowhere is this expressed more obviously than in the nihilism and lack of respect for “authority” and “convention” in all its forms that has been a developing feature of youth culture, in particular, over recent years.

When community relationships break down, when individuals treat one another as stepping stones to social advancement rather than as equals, and when drugs to numb the pain of the daily rat race become the norm, then society is in serious trouble. Indeed, as it eats away at the fabric of its own existence, capitalism is in especially deep trouble because it knows no other way out of this problem other than more of the same. This means more competition, more rampant individualism, more big sticks and gang warfare (of both the legal and illegal varieties) and more social dislocation as a result.

The dispossessed youth of the inner cities and sink council housing estates are right to think there is no hope within the present system, but wrong to sit back and wallow in its excesses. Socialists say that society can be better than it is. The Damilola Taylors of this world needn’t be its unwilling and repeated victims. But to change things people have got to organise and organise with a purpose–to overturn the relationships and values that capitalism so ruthlessly and cynically promotes.

In other words we need to create a society where a real community exists once again that is truly fit for humans to live in. That can only mean a society of equality, built upon participation and mutual respect. And we contend that in turn that can only mean socialism, where a real community of interests based upon common ownership and democratic control can be established to eradicate most crime and anti-social activity at root, to be established with agreed rules and regulations necessary for resolving any hangovers from the destabilising and dehumanising days of capitalism.

We argue that today we stand at a juncture in history where only socialism can provide the framework for the eradication of the current malaise society finds itself in. For without socialism, tackling the “causes of crime” will mean nothing other than more empty words and broken promises, fuelling another, destructive, cycle of cynicism.

The Labour Party Marxist? Pull the other one! (2020)

The Cooking the Books column from the January 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Sun (5 December) denounced the prospect of ‘a Marxist-run coalition with Corbyn in No 10.’ This strange view that the Labour Party under Corbyn is Marxist had been repeated for months by Tory politicians. A headline in the Daily Express (30 March) proclaimed ‘Iain Duncan Smith issues warning over “Marxist threat” from Jeremy Corbyn premiership,’ while in July, in his bid to become Tory leader, Boris Johnson spoke of Corbyn as ‘the leader of a cabal of superannuated Marxists.’

This claim goes even further back, to Prime Minister’s Question Time in 2013, when according to a Daily Mail headline (9 October 2013) ‘Miliband wants to live in a ‘Marxist universe’, Cameron claims as leaders clash over Labour ‘gimmick’ to freeze energy bills’, while ‘Chancellor George Osborne claimed that the Labour leader had put forward the same argument that “Karl Marx made in Das Kapital”’. Cameron’s case was that Marxists want to control prices while world market prices are beyond the control of governments; which, ironically, is the Marxist view.

But what is a ‘Marxist’? Marx himself didn’t like the term and would have preferred his theories to have been called ‘communist theory.’ Nevertheless, after his death, ‘Marxism’ came to be the term used even by those who agreed with his views to describe the body of his theory: the materialist conception of history, with technology and class struggles as the driving forces; his analysis of the economic workings of capitalism as a system of uncontrollable capital accumulation in fits and starts; and his insistence on the need for the working class to win control of political power in order to establish a communist (or, the same thing, a socialist) society based on the common ownership of productive resources and production to directly meet people’s needs rather than for sale with a view to profit.

The Labour Party falls at the first hurdle. It does not stand for socialism as Marx did, even though at times it has claimed to be socialist. The first time it did this was in 1918. Before that, it saw itself as merely a trade union pressure group in parliament. But what it called socialism was nationalisation, or production for profit organised by state enterprises, the correct term for which is ‘state capitalism’.

The present Labour Party has abandoned even this, accepting that the commanding heights of the economy should be in the hands of profit-seeking private enterprises. It talks now of an ‘entrepreneurial state,’ which is just another form of state capitalism.

The Labour Party has never understood how the capitalist economy works. It has never accepted Marxian economics, preferring Keynes who taught that capitalism can be controlled by state intervention and made to work in everybody’s interest.

A previous Labour Party general secretary, Morgan Phillips, famously said that ‘the Labour Party owes more to Methodism than to Marxism’, which is true. Its philosophy, insofar as it has one, is do-goodism rather than Marx’s view ‘the emancipation of the working class has to be the work of the working class itself.’

One more intelligent Tory, Robert Halfon, newly re-elected MP for Harlow, warned them to ‘stop calling Corbyn a Marxist’ as ‘such terminology means very little to most ordinary folk’. It doesn’t, but there might be an upside to this – more people seeking to find out what it does mean.

Football TV rights: Amazon joins the game (2020)

'You don't know about The Casa?'
From the January 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard

By the time you read this, ten English football clubs will have played seven competitive games stretching from 3 December to 27 December. The TV rights for showing these fixtures were purchased by Amazon Prime in a three-year deal struck in June 2018. According to CityAM (3 December), if Amazon, the biggest company ever to have bought English Premier League TV rights, is to make its mark it will have to sign up plenty of new customers to its Prime membership.

At present, this intervention does not threaten the current status quo, under which Sky Sports and BT Sports dominate the current televising of Premier League fixtures, with a few smaller competitors including DNZA who are interested in the procurement of streaming rights, etc. Having dipped their toes in the water, Amazon Prime will surely consider increasing their investment by procuring more broadcasting rights in the near future. However, there is so much money sloshing around in the EPL at the moment that there will definitely be a future feeding frenzy in which all of the competitors will attempt to grab what they can.

If we liken the current EPL to a large cake – we can say that there will be plenty of cake to go round but not sufficient for everyone’s wants or needs. So there will be losers as well as winners. Capitalism will separate the rich from the not so rich, rewarding as ever those that pay the most, by allocating them a place at the table. The unfortunates who were unable to bid enough for inclusion will just have to sit out on the bench. Like the working class have to all the time under capitalism.
Kevin.