Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Editorial: Blatchford, War and Socialism. (1910)

Editorial from the January 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

Upon the cue of the General Election, the Conservative party has acquired the services of (for the moment) a most useful journalistic hack. We refer to Mr. Robert Blatchford, the idol of the multi-coloured conglomeration, the Clarionettes. An able writer or speaker who will (for a consideration) beat the big drum of "the country in danger," "the peril of invasion," etc, is sure of a large hearing in the present state of mind of the working class. This the Tories well appreciate, and their object in giving "Nunquam's" German War Scare and pro Conscription twaddle such enormous advertisement through their perhaps most widely read organ, the "Daily Mail," and elsewhere must be patent to all.

Meanwhile Socialists have an account to settle with Blatchford. This man has for many years taught in gentle phrases what millions have in all confidence mistaken for Socialism.

He gained the confidence and affection of thousands — only to betray them. For to invite the British workers to arm themselves to fight their German fellows—to ask them to give "the question of national defence" "precedence of every other question"—in a word, to ask them to drop Socialism, is nothing less than betrayal. However, the betrayed have not been without warning. Since its inception the Socialist Party of Great Britain has frequently demonstrated Blatchford's worthlessness as a teacher of Socialism, and his culpability in misleading the workers. So in passing we may perhaps be allowed the mixed consolation afforded by the reflection that their idol's flagrant jingo and anti-Socialist attitude will, for some "Clarion" worshippers at least, have the effect of breaking their mental bonds and set them to reconsider their position.

Blatchford appeals to "the evidence of facts." But what facts? The facts that most nearly concern this and every other capitalist-dominated country? By no means. Had he dealt with the facts of working-class misery and enslavement—the hideous facts of the capitalism his pen is to-day helping to perpetuate—his screed would not have been printed in the "Daily Mail" nor in any other capitalist daily. Not by helping the toilers but by their betrayal could he gain prominence in immense type, and for many days in succession, on the placard of a great capitalist paper.

The fact is the the working millions are impoverished and subjugated, whether under the Kaiser and his German Rothschilds et al, or under Edward and his English Rothschilds & Co., and consequently have no business to offer their blood and interest for the war service of either set of bloodsuckers. This is unwittingly suggested for the British workers by Blatchford himself when he says: "I got back from Germany and I saw the wretchedness and squalor of the Borough and Bermondsey and the rest of London's underworld. You don't see anything like that in Germany and I thought to myself "Is this how we are preparing to fight for the existence of our empire? What use will these ragged, famished spectres be?" (Italics ours.) Indeed, this language invites the reflection that if such is the case, conquest by Germany might, then, mean an improvement here.

So, then, in view of the simple facts we must invite our readers to do all they can to counteract the evil works of capitalism's ally, Robert Blatchford. We invite them to join the Socialist Party of Great Britain and this help render impotent all the misleaders and their pay-masters, and bring nearer the day when a people's dreams shall no more be haunted by fear of famine, rapine, and the shambles.

Christ as a Capitalist (1935)

From the March 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

On November 11th last year, there appeared in The People an interview with Mr. Ernest Thompson, the retiring Mayor of Louth, a "bustling" little town in Lincolnshire. Louth is a remarkable place for these pagan times. It is supposed to "bustle" with the Christian spirit. Mr. Thompson is also a Christian, but it is not the ordinary brand of Christianity. Mr. Thompson is a practical Christian. He believes that practical Christianity is the only remedy for present-day problems. "Not your so-called religion,: he says, with a frank smile, "but practical Christianity—applied to every-day life, can solve all our problems—even that of unemployment."

At last the saviour! After nearly two thousand years of searching, the true Christian doctrine has been discovered, and we have to thank the Mayor of a "bustling" little town in Lincolnshire.

Of course, Mr. Thompson must have told The People that the reason why the workers are poor is because they produce the wealth for the benefit of the master class, and not for themselves. Surely he pointed out that the profit-making nature of this system restricted the production of wealth and reduced millions of workers to the aggravated poverty of unemployment. There can be no doubt that he urged the establishment of a social system where goods shall be produced for use, and not for sale. What else could he say? Alas, no! What he said was:—
If employers would use their capital and possessions as Christ would have them used, then there would be no money lying idle in the banks and men would be trooping back to work . . . 
And how? As Christ had no possessions and despised them, the answer is obviously a lemon. But Mr. Thompson has solved the riddle. Mr. Thompson, you see, does not keep all his eggs in one basket. He is a contractor as well as a practical Christian, and from all accounts he is a very practical contractor. He has begun work on a new housing scheme to provide work for the unemployed, because he has been "guided by God" to buy the land for that purpose . . . And here is the gem—the master-stroke:—
The men I have employed are all working with the Christian spirit in their hearts—and that alone is going to have a sound practical result . . . It means that they are working harder and better than ever would have done. They are building the houses faster, and consequently, more cheaply than usual. And that means I shall be able to sell them at a lower price and develop the estate further . . .
Councillor Thompson smiled. "You see," he said, "Christianity can be practical . . . "

Such simplicity is positively staggering. Mind you, no mention is made of profits. But, remember, Mr. Thompson insists that the necessary condition for producing cheaper houses is harder work from his wage-slaves. Strange as it may seem, the Practical Christian, like any other sort of employer, wants to squeeze the utmost out of the workers. If this pious gentleman is only eager to find work for the unemployed in Louth, he would give them a five-hour day and urge them to take it easy. What should it matter to the Practical Christian if he gets no profits on his capital so long as it is used to make people happy? . . . "I do not profess to be a saint,"  said Mr. Thompson, "but I am convinced that here is the solution the world is looking for . . . "

Mr. Thompson is certainly no saint. He is just a plain, simple, ordinary capitalist exploiter.

Socialism Now (2003)

From the November 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

Today, in the first years of this 21st century, we can look back on the climactic events of the 20th, and see that indeed, that was the defining century of capitalism. Capitalism as an economic system has existed in tiny segments throughout history, but it was not until the 19th and especially the 20th that it became the truly global system it is today.

With the triumph of capitalism over feudalism, many thinkers analysed the new system and saw how it could be converted from the system of continued class tyranny and exploitation into an instrument of global prosperity and progress for all. While Marx was frustrated in his yearning for communism, it was probably not a practical possibility during his time. He died with Europe firmly enthralled in capitalism, and the rest of the world soon to follow.

Now however, in the 21st century, after many years of capitalism as the definitive world system, we have seen at first hand how despicable and outdated the system is. Two massive world wars, with workers butchering each other for the interests of global capital, have caused millions upon millions of deaths. Since then it has been near endless war in some part of the world or another, all perpetuated by the endless demands of capital to accumulate more and more. Untold amounts of resources have been squandered by the rival capitalist states in new and more powerful means of suppression and destruction in order to protect their interests. It has come to the point where they possess the weaponry to destroy all life on the planet.

The Earth's atmosphere itself is becoming less and less hospitable to human life, as pollutants are released because rival capitalists desperately compete with each other to cut costs and gain greater profits. Millions of people are starving amid plenty even as food is destroyed to drive up prices on the markets to yield continued profits. People across the world endure terrible and alienating working conditions, with claims of a “classless society” spouted by the reformists a laughable and unrealisable utopia within the present system. Poverty has not been eradicated in the “developed world” and poverty in the “third world” is not a product of some unassailable trait of human nature, but a matter of the productive system that is capitalism. All this and more assaults the human race as a vast unsolvable problem, a nightmare with no end, and apathy soon sets in. In fact there is a solution; never in history has socialism been so relevant as it is now.

No matter how much it has been lied about, ridiculed and twisted from its original form, scientific socialism is now, more then ever, needed to solve the crisis humanity finds itself in.

Socialism is common ownership. Socialism is production for need. Socialism is real democracy.

Socialism is for the global working class, who can use the vast productive powers for the free development of all. We, in the 21st century, now have that potential. It is possible to house everyone. It is possible to feed everyone. It is possible for everyone to live a decent and fulfilling life as real people, and not just as objects on the labour market. The only thing stopping this is the outdated profit system that constrains production to the will of private property and privilege.

The productive powers have been increased to a vast degree, yet people are still idle, starving, poverty stricken, and homeless, while the machinery of production is misused or neglected. This must change. This will change. This, the 21st century, can be the true century of revolution, of true socialist revolution. We must abandon the faith misplaced in the leaders and apologists of capitalism and move on, ourselves, to our new global society, where the free development of each will be the condition for the free development of all. These words have never been more relevant than they are now, and we have nothing to lose but our chains, and a world to win. Workers of all countries unite!
Dan Read

TTIP: Putting Profits Before People (2015)

From the October 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a free trade and investment treaty  being negotiated in secret between the European Union and the USA. The main goal of TTIP is to remove regulatory barriers which restrict the potential profits to be made by transnational corporations on both sides of the Atlantic.
The British government claims TTIP could add £10bn to the UK economy, $80bn to the US and €100bn to the EU every year. It says consumers would benefit by the removal of EU import tariffs. And reducing regulation would help UK small businesses export to the US. Tariffs between the EU and US are already low, averaging around 3 percent but both sides foresee they will be eliminated under the agreement. The main focus of negotiations is on harmonising regulations, reducing 'non-tariff barriers' to trade, or abolishing them if they're deemed unnecessary. US and EU regulators have different requirements for testing the safety of products. Going through the different tests is expensive for business but TTIP aims to reduce those costs by bringing in common standards.
TTIP is championed by the capitalist class. Cameron has described it as 'the biggest bilateral trade deal in history' (Guardian 17 June 2013). John Cridland of the CBI added 'with the UK already trading more and investing more with the US than any other country, there are real advantages to drive home particularly for smaller firms. TTIP would be the biggest free trade deal ever negotiated' (CBI News 18 December 2014).
Godfrey Bloom, the ex-UKIP MEP commented:
'For the conviction Free Trader, the international classical liberal TTIP is very natural progression in a global society especially between two great trading blocks the USA and the EU. It begs the expectation of such supporters of 19th Century advocates such as Frederick Bastiat that 'when trade crosses borders armies do not'. A qualified welcome therefore from such idealists was fairly immediate, rightly so. One might carry forward Bastiat's theory to fit with more pressing international concerns such as migratory refugees: 'when trade crosses borders migrants don't'. Liberal societies with free trade agreements prosper.'
Bloom concluded 'the theory of TTIP is noble and worthwhile but in practice is doomed to failure. Does anybody imagine for a moment the regulators both sides of the Atlantic will not protect their turf, that they will voluntarily give ground, that big business in the world of crony capitalism really want to see increased competition from small and medium sized businesses?' (Huffington Post UK 11 June).
Trade and investment deals
The EU has been negotiating a similar trade and investment deal with Canada, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). One of Canada’s key negotiating aims was to promote the use in Europe of oil from its tar sands. In 2012, the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) proposed that oil from tar sands should be given a 20 percent higher carbon value than conventional oil. This reflected the greater pollution caused by its production and was designed to steer companies away from using it in the EU. However, a few weeks after CETA was concluded, the final version of the FQD had been watered down, and lacked the earlier requirement that companies needed to account for the higher emissions from tar sands, effectively neutering it.
Another free trade agreement is the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) which would further consolidate transnational corporate power. TISA covers 52 countries including the EU, North America, some South American nations, Japan, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan. It is set to affect up to 70 percent of the global services economy. It includes the removal of restriction on moving 'natural persons' from one country to another which will mean the capitalist class can use migrant workers to drive down wages and conditions. For some countries their only 'comparative advantage' is cheap labour. TISA would allow multinational corporations to exploit migrant workers with impunity.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is considered by the US as the companion agreement to TTIP.  This agreement covers the US, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Japan. TPP is one of the primary goals of the trade agenda of the Obama administration in the US.
Right to sue governments
TTIP also consolidates the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) which gives transnational corporations the right to challenge a country's laws. ISDS allows transnational corporations to receive compensation for the absence of a 'predictable regulatory environment.' Already under existing WTO free-trade rules this type of argument has been used to attack clean energy, mining, land use, health, and labour rights. More than $14 billion in 16 claims are now under litigation in the US. Under TTIP, a transnational corporation could sue a Government if their profits might be affected by food safety standards or wage increases. ISDS creates a parallel legal system, independent of national law, allowing transnational corporations to sue governments in secret corporate courts over laws or regulations that might prevent or reduce profit, what they term 'indirect appropriation.'
In 2012, the government of Ecuador decided to terminate its contract with US oil corporation Occidental, after Occidental sold 40 percent of its production rights to another company without abiding by its legal obligation to obtain government approval. Occidental turned to the ISDS provision in the US-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty. This allows companies to sue governments through international courts for policies that threaten their profits. Occidental won and, as a result, Ecuador was forced to pay out $1.77 billion to Occidental, the highest compensation awarded to an investor through ISDS to date.
The government of Slovakia moved to restrict the powers of private insurance firms in the public health system which led to a number of health insurance companies successfully suing the Slovak government for their loss of profits. The Dutch firm Achmea attempted to use the same powers to block the Slovak government from setting up a public insurance scheme that would provide health cover to all the country's citizens. Achmea lost but because the scheme had not yet been adopted. If it is, no doubt they will try again.
The Vattenfall Corporation, a Swedish energy company is using an ISDS clause in an energy treaty to sue the German government for €4.7 billion following its decision to close its nuclear power stations in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. This case has not yet been decided.  Corporations don’t win every time but merely suing is an attempt to stop governments acting. As TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady has pointed out, it represents the spread of ‘compensation culture’ to the international level. Addressing the European Commission Trade Policy Day in Brussels in June, she said that ISDS identifies 'the compensation culture that is building up in multinational companies, where suing democratically elected governments becomes more remunerative than actually providing a service' (TUC, 23 June).
Screening regulatory measures
All new US or EU proposals for legislation or regulation would have to be screened first for their impacts on trade and business. 'Mutual recognition' means that the EU would recognise US standards as 'legitimate' and would therefore allow US exports into the EU even when they don't meet EU standards.  TTIP is not to stimulate trade through removing tariffs between the EU and USA, as these are already at minimal level. The main goal of TTIP is to remove regulatory 'barriers' which restrict potential profits to be made by transnational corporations. The EU has much stricter regulations on GM crops, pesticides, food safety, and the environment than the US. TTIP deal could open the EU market to cheaper products with poorer standards such as hormone-fed beef rinsed in acid, genetically modified oil from pesticide-soaked crops, and butter laced with antibiotics. In the EU, the precautionary principle is paramount to policy-making, meaning that a business must prove to government that a product poses no threat to human health or the environment. In the USA, a product is presumed safe, and for it to be banned government must prove that there is a threat to human health or the environment.
If global temperature rise is to be kept below 2 degrees and the most severe impacts of climate change mitigated, around 80 percent of known fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground. The EU is pursuing a trade deal that would undoubtedly lead to even more money being poured into fossil fuel extraction. One of the key aims of TTIP is to push the US to reduce or remove current restrictions on the export of crude oil and shale gas.  This would facilitate the export of tar sand oil, mined in Canada and refined/transported via the US. A EU 2014 report by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate confirmed that high-carbon investment over the next 15 years will only serve to lock in the risks of dangerous climate change.
TTIP would allow private firms running NHS services to sue the government. The NHS is a 'public service' (the 1993 General Agreement on Trade in Services Treaty defines a 'public service' as one supplied 'neither on a commercial basis, nor in competition with one or more service suppliers') but as a result of the 2013 Health and Social Care Act, more health services in the UK are being put out to tender in a competitive market by Clinical Commissioning Groups. This commercial competitive element means that large parts of the NHS will not be protected from TTIP.
The EU has admitted that TTIP will probably cause unemployment as jobs switch to the US, where labour standards and trade union rights are lower. Examples from other similar bi-lateral trade agreements around the world support the case for job losses. The Economic Policy Institute in Washington DC estimates that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the US, Canada and Mexico caused the loss of a million US jobs and shrinking real-terms wages for millions more workers. The Centre for Economic Policy Research concluded in a study commissioned by the European Commission itself that TTIP could cause between 680,000 and 1.3 million job losses in Europe and between 325,000 and 715,000 jobs in the US.
The US also has lower labour standards and employment rights than EU countriesThe US has not ratified a number of the most important International Labour Organisation Conventions, including the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. The US has also passed Right to Work legislation in 24 states, most recently in the traditional union stronghold of Michigan, which clamp down on unions capacity to bargain and organise. European companies may take advantage of the ease of market access created by TTIP to relocate to the USA, and take advantage of the weak labour regulations. There is also the possibility that American companies may be encouraged by TTIP to relocate to EU states such as Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia where incomes are low and trade unions are weaker than in other parts of the EU.
For transnational corporations, barriers to trade are things that restrict their profits such as labour rights, food safety rules, regulations on the use of toxic chemicals, the minimum wage, health and safety laws, and environmental regulations. TTIP is a charter for profit before people. The casualties will be working class people the world over, who will end up as collateral damage, more powerless and more vulnerable than ever in the face of global capitalism. TTIP is a race to the bottom, to the lowest common denominator that will further the interests of global capitalism.
Marx in his Speech on the Question of Free Trade in Brussels in January 1848 pointed out that 'when you have torn down the few national barriers which still restrict the free development of capital, you will merely have given it complete freedom of action... every one of the destructive phenomena to which unlimited competition gives rise within any one nation is reproduced in more gigantic proportions in the market of the world.' He concluded 'the Free Trade system works destructively. It breaks up old nationalities and carries antagonism of proletariat and bourgeoisie to the uttermost point. In a word, the Free Trade system hastens the Social Revolution. In this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, I am in favour of Free Trade.'
Steve Clayton