Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What we stand for (1971)

From the November 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Great Britain comes under criticism from some left-wingers for engaging in a policy of peaceful action to establish Socialism.

These pseudo-socialists claim erroneously that it is near impossible to get a majority of class conscious workers who understand and want Socialism and are prepared to work for it. They prefer to side with Lenin who is reported to have said, "If Socialism can only be realised when the intellectual development of all the people permits it, then we shall not see Socialism for at least five hundred years" (From a speech in November 1918 quoted by John Reed in Ten Days that Shook the World) and that the working class is not capable of Socialist consciousness but that "exclusively by its own efforts, is able to develop  only trade union consciousness" (What is to be Done). They, therefore, favour insurrection and smashing the State and army by a professional elite and who will lead workers to the promised land.

We in the Socialist Party on the other hand hold that the emancipation of the working class can and must be achieved by the working class itself through capturing the State machine and not be a vanguard demolition squad (Marx and Engels held this opinion too as seen by their letter to August Bebel, Bracke, Liebknecht and others in September 1879). But we also realise that we face a difficult struggle considering the stranglehold the ruling class have over the ideas held by the working class. We face powerful weapons wielded by the State which operate from the day we enter this world until the day we leave it. Then the capitalists use the radio, television, newspapers, literature and films to spread capitalistic values.

These mind-controlling weapons ensure that the obedient wage-slaves pop down to the polling station to vote for one of the capitalist parties. They also provide willing recruits—and corpses—for inter-capitalist rivalries for markets in the form of war. "For Queen and Country" is a sentiment still prevalent among working class circles, although not always in such words.

Minority insurrectionists would fail in any attempt to overthrow the capitalist system while the masses are still conditioned in this way.

How will the Socialist Party counter these highly sophisticated instruments of submission? One way is to propagate the case for Socialism wherever and whenever it is possible. That is why we publish literature and hold regular indoor and outdoor meetings throughout the country urging workers to organise politically and send delegates to Parliament with a view to setting up world Socialism, in conjunction with the workers of the rest of the world.

But a more powerful force on our side is capitalism itself. The deprivations and contradictions of the present system of society must lead more people to challenge capitalist values. The uncertainty of the future caused by the spectre of war, pollution and starvation forces the workers to think. Some drop out of society and form isolated Hippy communes, others sink into an alcoholic or drug induced escape. But as they realise that man is not an island they have to return to the rest of the slaves. More people are being confronted with the economic scrap-heap and the dole queue. Salary earners of 5000 a year are sinking in the same boat as a man earning 500. No one is secure under capitalism. The system is its own gravedigger.

Material World: Desperately Seeking Safety (2014)

The Material World Column from the October 2014 issue of the Socialist Standard
Racism and xenophobia are not specifically Australian personality traits, for racism isn't biological or innate. It was created to rationalise and justify slavery and colonialism, exploiting pseudo-science to persuade people that racial superiority is natural. There is nothing natural about it. The attitude of today’s government contrasts with the reception given to the Vietnamese boat-people in the 70s and 80s. Back then, Australia honoured its obligation as a signatory to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The 2006 census recorded 173,663 Australian people of Vietnamese ancestry who were first or second generation Australians. The logistics of accommodating newcomers is something that Australia has repeatedly demonstrated it is capable of achieving.
Hamid Kehazaei, a young Iranian asylum seeker, has been declared brain-dead following his emergency medical evacuation from the Manus island detention centre. Dr Peter Young, the former director of mental health services at IHMS and one of the most senior doctors working in immigration detention, explained he would not be surprised if there were delays to Kehazaei’s medical care.
'Whenever people are placed in a remote place like this, where there isn’t access to local services on the ground, it inevitably creates a situation in which there are going to be delays when people have deteriorating conditions and when higher level, tertiary care is required. That’s just a characteristic of being in a remote location and that’s leaving aside the issues of the logistics when someone needs to be moved out and the bureaucratic delays when approval needs to be sought through multiple agencies' (theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/03/).
Draconian immigration policies are increasingly being imposed by various countries around the world. Australia detains refugees who arrive by boat to seek political asylum on Christmas Island and in camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Australian governments, both Liberal and Labour parties, have demonised boat people for 15 years, defying international law.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the new United Nations high commissioner for human rights, accused Australia of causing human rights violations through its policy of detaining asylum seekers offshore:
 'Australia’s policy of offshore processing for asylum seekers arriving by sea, and its interception and turning back of vessels, is leading to a chain of human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and possible torture following return to home countries. It could also lead to the resettlement of migrants in countries that are not adequately equipped... Human rights are not reserved for citizens only, or for people with visas. They are the inalienable rights of every individual, regardless of his or her location and migration status.' he declares (Sydney Morning Herald, 7 September).
Admiral Chris Barrie, responsible for border protection under the Howard government, said the demonising of asylum seekers in Australia's detention centres was a central concern for him:
'I'm not sure we should continue to use the term 'mandatory detention' when we actually mean jail. At least in Australian jails the incarcerated have rights of access to legal support and representation. In these jails no such rights exist.' He continued: 'Australians are doing their utmost to extinguish hope, the most powerful of human emotions' (Sydney Morning Herald, 4 September).
Why do some Australians 'hate' asylum seekers? Many are led to believe they are one of society's biggest problems. Little wonder. The media claims Australia is under siege from asylum seekers and they are blamed for higher taxes, increasing crime, rising house prices, longer hospital waits, cheap labour, as well as terrorism and disease. Mainstream politicians promote such stories.
Even if all the boats were stopped, even if they were all sent back into Indonesian waters, even if all asylum seekers were locked up in detention camps situated in puppet countries, none of that would increase wages or pensions, increase the numbers of nurses and doctors in public hospitals, make the education system any better, or make more affordable housing available. The campaign against asylum seekers won't lead to a single affordable house, a single hospital or a single school being built. Everybody knows this deep down, yet asylum seekers are the scapegoat for the ignorant and aggrieved. It is a campaign of fear to cover-up the failures of capitalism.