Friday, March 12, 2010

Weekly Bulletin of The Socialist Party of Great Britain 138

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the 138th of our weekly bulletins to keep you informed of changes at Socialist Party of Great Britain @ MySpace.

We now have 1564 friends!

Recent blogs:

  • What is common ownership?
  • The social revolution
  • America and the S-word
  • Quote for the week:

    "The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost invariably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And if he is not romantic personally, he is apt to spread discontent among those who are." H.L. Mencken, 1880-1956.

    Continuing luck with your MySpace adventures!

    Robert and Piers

    Socialist Party of Great Britain

    Pieces Together (2010)

    From the March 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard
    "President Obama is planning to increase spending on America's nuclear weapons stockpile just days after pledging to try to rid the world of them. In his budget to be announced on Monday, Mr Obama has allocated £4.3billion to maintain the U.S. arsenal - £370million more than George Bush spent on nuclear weapons in his final year. The Obama administration also plans to spend a further £3.1billion over the next five years on nuclear security. The announcement comes despite the American President declaring nuclear weapons were the ‘greatest danger’ to U.S. people during in his State of the Union address on Wednesday. And it flies in the face of Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to him in October for ‘his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples’." (Daily Mail, 29 January)
    "There has been a huge rise in the amount of money that banks are writing off as bad debts on their credit cards. Bank of England figures show that the total value of the write-offs doubled to £1.6bn in the third quarter of 2009. In each of the two preceding quarters, the figure had been about £800m. It totalled £3.2bn during 2008. The figures reflect the impact of the recession and are an acknowledgement by the banks that the money will never be repaid by defaulting borrowers. By contrast, the value of mortgages written off in 2008 was just £408m, and has averaged £260m in each of the first three quarters of 2009." (BBC News, 19 January)
    "The richest 10% of the UK population are now more than 100 times as wealthy as the poorest 10%, according to the Anatomy of Economic Inequality. The study shows that by 2008 Britain had reached the highest level of income inequality since soon after the second world war. Household wealth (including cars and other possessions of the top 10% amounts to £853,000 or more, while the poorest 10% amass £8,800 or less." (Observer, 31 January)
    Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer has compared giving people government assistance to "feeding stray animals." Bauer, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor (of South Carolina), made his remarks during a town hall meeting in Fountain Inn that included state lawmakers and about 115 residents. "My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better," Bauer said." (Greenville News, 23 January)

    Socialist Guide to Marx’s Capital (1. Intro)

    Cross-posted from the World Socialist Party of the United States website

    This series of short articles will examine the first volume of Marx’s Capital from a “socialist perspective,” which is to say, with an eye to how an understanding of capitalism can contribute to our understanding of socialism.

    I should recognize the obvious fact, right away, that a worker hardly needs to read Capital to arrive at an anti-capitalist position. Life under capitalism is negative advertisement enough for that social system.

    Who knows, there may have been a budding capitalist at some point in time who mistook Capital for a how-to guide, and part-way through reading it saw the error of his ways and converted to socialism. But it is not a polemical work aimed simply at fostering a hatred of capitalism (even though there are memorable passages throughout that attest to Marx’s own steady-burning hatred for this class-divided system).

    Capital is not a book in which Marx simply lists up a bunch of social problems under capitalism to stir up the reader’s moral outrage against that system. Rather, he clarifies how problems (for workers) emerge inevitably from the fundamental nature of capitalism; from its irresolvable contradictions and insurmountable limitations.

    One might wonder, though, why socialists would need to exert such effort to better understand a social system they are seeking to replace? Doesn’t it make more sense to concentrate on explaining socialism than wasting time analyzing capitalism?

    Certainly it is true that some Marxian economists have carved out a nice career for themselves as experts on capitalism, to the point where they might even be reluctant to bid farewell to that object of study. Revolutionary socialists do not necessarily share the mania of some academics for examining capitalism in its minutiae; nor do they think that such scholarship offers tremendous benefits to the revolutionary movement.

    Yet socialists do need to have the clearest understanding possible of the nature of capitalism as one historical “mode of production” among others that have existed up to now. This is because once we have arrived at a deeper understanding of the capitalist system of production, to the point where we have a clear idea of its essential limitations, we will be well on our way to a better understanding of what socialism means and how this new form of society resolves problems that can never be resolved (even though reformists never give up trying!) under capitalism.

    So it is not a question of choosing between examining capitalism or explaining socialism — the two tasks are completely interrelated. This series will attempt to examine and explain some important aspects of Marx’s analysis of capitalism presented in Capital as a means of arriving at a better understanding of what socialism means, how it is a realistic possibility, and why it is so necessary.

    Michael Schauerte