Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Glasgow May Day School (Saturday 9 May 1.00pm till 5.00pm)

May Dayschool 2009

Saturday 9 May 1.00pm till 5.00pm

Banks:Who needs them?

Community Central Hall 304 Maryhill Road Glasgow

Capitalism in Crisis:

1.00 - 2.15pm 2009: The Year of Economic Crisis.

Speaker Brian Gardner

Glasgow Branch.

This year has seen the collapse of banks, of building societies and the closure of factories and retail outlets. As millions of workers throughout the world face the re-possessions of their homes and the grow-ing fear of unemployment we ask why the economic bubble has burst. We look at the various "solutions" that are offered to alleviate the problems and analyse what can be learned from previous eco-nomic slumps. Previously abandoned by political econo-mists the old ideas of Keynes have made a startling come-back to the extent that many politicians are now espousing his ideas as a solution to the present economic woes. We look at the problem from a Marxist viewpoint and con-sider whether these ideas have value in today’s context.

2.15 - 3.30pm The Environment in Meltdown?

Speaker, John Cumming

Glasgow Branch

How serious is the threat to the global environment? Is the melting of the polar ice pack a product of global warming caused by natural causes or the over production of carbon gases? Is the growing water shortage as serious as depicted and is there any possible solution? Is man-made pollution the cause of the threat to the world's oceans and the possible destruction of the marine food chain? All these inter-related pollution problems are examined from a socialist analysis and some of the proposed solutions are examined.

3.30 - 3.45pm Tea break

3.45 - 5pm Can Socialism Solve the problems?

Speaker Paul Bennett

Manchester Branch

Modern society has produced immense social problems. We have millions of people existing on less than a $1 a day in-side a system that could produce enough food, clothing and shelter to satisfy all human needs. We have magnificent ad-vances in human knowledge but seem incapable of solving problems like world hunger, poverty and war. Wealth today takes the form of commodities - articles produced for sale with a view to making a profit. The Socialist Party is unique in that its only aim is world socialism - a society where everything is produced solely to satisfy need not make a profit. How would this new society based on common ownership operate? Could it solve the problems of capitalism?

Looking forward to seeing you all there.

For more information about the Glasgow Branch of the Socialist Party, please visit their Branch Website.

Weekly Bulletin of The Socialist Party of Great Britain (96)

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the 96th of our weekly bulletins to keep you informed of changes at Socialist Party of Great Britain @ MySpace.

We now have 1486 friends!

Recent blogs:

  • Anarchism and Marxism
  • What is Capitalism?
  • What is Socialism?
  • Quote for the week:

    "In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all." Marx & Engels, Communist Manifesto, 1848.

    Continuing luck with your MySpace adventures!

    Robert and Piers

    Socialist Party of Great Britain

    Socialism on drugs (2009)

    The Pathfinders column from the May 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard

    When young people ask if there would be drugs in socialism, they don't have in mind things like Seroxat and Prozac, they mean Skunk and Poppers. We can't say these things would be 'legal' or 'illegal', because the status of 'law' in a cooperative stateless community remains to be debated. What we can say is, if people need a drug and there is no good, scientific reason for not manufacturing it, it will no doubt be produced.

    Capitalism has a funny attitude to drugs, both the legal, medical kind and the illegal, recreational kind. Legal drugs with important medicinal properties are often not produced because there is no profit in doing so, often because the patents on them have expired and lie in the public domain. This is the problem facing the new 'Polypill', a cocktail of five very cheap drugs which evidence suggests may halve the rate of strokes and heart attacks in middle-aged people ('The polypill: Medicine's magic bullet', Independent, 31 March). It works, but it won't be produced because it doesn't make money. Much the same can be said of many other cheap, unexploitable drugs which would save millions of lives in developing countries yet can't turn enough bucks for the big boys. Instead the drug companies concentrate on research into diseases of rich, white Westerners, such as obesity and skin cancer.

    Where there's a wallet, there's a way, but even if you accept capitalism's own profit-oriented logic, its attitude to illegal recreational drugs still fails to make any kind of sense. From Al Capone to Afghanistan, the history of drug prohibition by capitalism continues to represent one of the most bizarrely stupid aspects of a social system never notable for its good judgment. The lesson of America's prohibition period should have taught the world that if you banned coffee today, you would create a coffee mafia tomorrow, in the process creating an unnecessary and, from the ruling class point of view, expensive 'war on coffee' simply to deprive people of something harmless that they like. We would also see a crime problem at every scale from coffee barons and their private armies to burglaries and back-alley shootings over a jar of Maxwell House in Manchester.

    Most of the arguments against illicit drugs are bogus, unscientific and politically oriented. In particular, the idea that legalisation would create a massive social problem of a drug-crazed free-for-all is not borne out by the experience of Holland, or more recently of Portugal, which decriminalised illicit drugs in 2001. There, it turns out, drug usage and associated behavioural pathologies are among the lowest in all the EU countries, especially when compared to those countries with very restrictive drug laws (Cato Institute White Paper, 2 April).

    While the drugs 'problem' is not a make or break issue for socialists, it does illustrate how capitalism tends to operate in defiance of any logic, even its own. Even leaving aside more pressing issues like poverty, war or climate change, it ought to be obvious from this that it is simply not clever to leave major decisions about production and supply in the hands of an unelected and uncontrollable minority. The capitalist ruling class are making the whole planet ill, and there's no magic pill for that.

    Arthouse socialism
    One accessibility issue about which there would be no question whatever in socialism is that of copyright, so the young Swedes recently convicted of copyright infringement over their Pirate Bay file-sharing site would have no case to answer in a society of common ownership ('Court jails Pirate Bay founders', BBC Online, 17 April). Their defence, that their web server did not contain illicit material, was always a long shot. True, they weren't handling 'stolen' goods themselves, but the court took the view that they were doing the equivalent of standing outside a house full of silverware and directing passers-by towards the open windows.

    Socialists, as indeed many workers, have little sympathy for the fat cats of Hollywood and the music industry. Most writers, actors and musicians make no money out of their creativity anyway, so the property laws do nothing for them. Indeed, by giving workers so little respite from wage-slavery, it could be argued that capitalism prevents much art and science from ever being born in the first place, as well as narrowing the full spectrum of human creativity to a thin channel of bland commercial profitability. Who can say how many Mozarts, Mendels or Modiglianis the world has killed or incapacitated through poverty, wars or sheer overwork?

    The Swedish defendants are probably too busy organising their appeal to note an amusing story in the British papers which shows that even the police don't take music copyright seriously. The Wiltshire police have just had a £32,000 bill from the Performing Rights Society for the playing of music in Wiltshire nicks ('Music bill forces police off beat', BBC Online, 17 April). Now the boys in blue are banned from their boogie boxes. Presumably now they'll just have to use their whistles.

    No-spam socialism
    Trivial point maybe, but socialism wouldn't see much in the way of spam, the background white noise of online capitalism, since commercial advertising of products wouldn't exist, nor any dodgy Nigerian money scams. So most emails would presumably be legitimate, apart possibly from those tedious 'Hey, this is hilarious, send it on!' posts which in any case only prove that workers under capitalism will resort to any tactic to waste their bosses' time at work. The environmental significance of this irritating feature of cyber-capitalism has now been highlighted by a new report which for the first time relates spam to carbon emissions. Every year, says the report, 62 trillion spam messages are sent globally, representing 33 billion kilowatt hours of energy and 17 million tonnes of CO2 emissions (BBC Online, 16 April). When a spam site was recently closed, the resulting 70 percent drop in global spam was equivalent to taking 2.2 million cars off the road, according to the antivirus company McAfee. Next day, of course, another site was up and running instead. On with the show.
    Paddy Shannon

    Banks, who needs them? (2009)

    From the April 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard

    If there was production directly for use we wouldn’t need banks
    Are the banks and greedy and incompetent bankers to blame for the current economic crisis? That’s what a lot of people think and what the media seems to want us to think. Certainly, bank directors generally are greedy – awarding themselves huge “salaries”, bonuses and pensions – and some of them are incompetent on their own terms. But blaming them is to let the real culprit off the hook: the capitalist system of production for profit.

    Capitalism inevitably brings about from time to time a fall in production (despite plenty of unmet needs). Banks and bankers are no different from other capitalist enterprises and their directors. When there are profits to be made they go for them and the devil take the hindmost. In the real economy this results in overproduction relative to market demand; in the financial sector it results in the overexpansion of credit, fuelling speculative bubbles. Both of which inevitably eventually end in tears. Overproduction leads to cut-backs in production, factory closures and redundancies; overexpansion of credit leads to not all loans being repaid and to bank losses and credit crunches. In fact, normally it is overproduction that brings about the contraction of credit and the pricking of speculative bubbles. Which is where we are now.

    If the capitalist system of production for profit is to blame, the only way to avoid periodically-occurring crises is to get rid of it and replace it with a new and different system. But what? Socialists advocate that production be carried on purely and simply to meet people’s needs. Production for use instead of production for profit, or rather, production solely for use since even under capitalism what is produced has to be useful (or at least seem to be useful), otherwise it wouldn’t sell and there’d be no profit to be made out of arranging for it to be produced.

    But before there can be production solely for use, we – society – will have to be in a position to control production, to decide what (and how and where) things are produced, and we can only do this if the places where things are produced and the materials to produce them are no longer the exclusive property of rich individuals, corporations and sovereign states. They must have become instead the common property of the whole of society. Which is not the same as state ownership, or nationalisation, as states never represent the interests of the whole of society but only of a privileged minority within it.
    Common ownership is in fact the same as no ownership. It means that nobody or no group can exercise ownership rights over any productive resource. These will simply be there, to be used to produce what people need. But how? It will simply be a question of finding some way of deciding what people want and then of arranging for this to be produced. “Simple” not because it really will be that simple, but simple compared with what has to happen today under capitalism where money – and the drive to make more money – complicates things.

    The aim of production under capitalism is for those who own and control workplaces to make a monetary profit, to end up with more money than they started off with. This involves selling what has been produced and at a higher price than was paid for the resources, including the working skills of the actual producers, used in producing it. Everything has a monetary value. To calculate profits, the cost of everything bought and the income from everything sold has to be recorded. In other words, a whole superstructure of monetary accounting is imposed on the actual process of production. Banks come into it as gatherers of funds to lend to other capitalist enterprises.

    Of course, with production solely for use, a record in physical quantities of the resources used in producing something will have to be kept too. But under capitalism this is duplicated by parallel records of the monetary value of these quantities. In socialism, with production solely for use, this second recording will disappear, so simplifying the organisation of the production of wealth. After all, all that is needed to produce wealth are materials that originally came from nature and humans with the skills to fashion these into useful things.

    Production for use
    Even without money and monetary calculation it will still be necessary to co-ordinate the relations between the different workplaces. One suggestion that has been put forward by socialists is what has been called “self-regulating production for use” which, for goods and services for individual consumption, would operate on the same basis as the market is supposed to operate today.

    According to economics textbooks, production today is initiated in response to how “consumers” choose to spend their money. They “vote” for what they want to be produced by what they spend their money on. Those who own and control workplaces producing particular types of consumer goods and services respond by organising the production of what people have chosen to buy. If people choose to buy more, they get their workers to produce more; if people choose to buy less, they get their workers to produce less. These workplaces producing consumer goods order the materials to produce them from other workplaces and they from their suppliers and so the initial paying demand works its way through the whole network of workplaces, through those producing machinery to mines and farms producing the original materials from nature.

    Of course this ignores the fact that the money most consumers have to spend is limited by the size of their wage or salary, the total amount of which depends on how much labour those who own and control workplaces want to employ. Which depends on how much profit they think they can make by selling their product. In other words, it is the prospects for profit-making, not consumer demand, that initiates production and determines what is produced; the level of consumer demand, and its ups and downs, is a consequence of this. But, leaving this aside, it is true that under capitalism signals as to what to produce are conveyed via the market.

    With socialism, and production solely for use, the consumer really will be the start of the process leading to the production of things and services for individual consumption, only the message will be conveyed not by what they can afford to pay for but what they actually take to satisfy their needs. We can imagine that they go into a super-store as today and take off the shelves what they need. What is taken off over a given period will be recorded and transmitted to suppliers. If stocks are down, this will be a signal to produce more; if they are slow to move that would be a signal to produce less those who own and control workplaces those who own and control workplaces those who own and control workplaces – and so on throughout the whole productive network. It will be more or less self-regulating like today except that the messages will be conveyed as required amounts only and not this and their monetary value.

    This is only one suggestion as to how the production and distribution of wealth, or at least of consumer goods and services, could be organised without money. Other more directly planned arrangements would have to be made for expanding productive capacity and infrastructure projects as well as for introducing new products.

    But whatever the arrangements, with production solely for use, money will have no place. So neither will the complications that it brings to the organisation of the production of wealth. Money may make the world go round under capitalism but it also, from time to time, stops the world going round, creating unused resources alongside increased unmet needs.

    With production solely for use, overproduction could still occur but only by accident (and it would be overproduction in relation to real needs, not in relation to paying demand as today) but this would not have the consequences it does today. It would not clog up production and lead to its interruption. Production in other sectors would continue as before. So would consumption since what people can consume would not be tied to working for a monetary income as today. Everybody would be able to satisfy their needs, irrespective of whether or not they were currently working, without being restricted by the amount of money they have.

    No money means of course no banks either. Saving, borrowing and lending will have no more sense in a production-for-use society than buying and selling. So, what we say about the banks is not regulate them, nor nationalise them, but make them redundant. Abolish them, along with all the rest of the complicated, financial superstructure of the capitalist production-for-profit economy.
    Adam Buick