Saturday, May 28, 2016

Socialism and Climate Change (2016)

From the May 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
That global climate change has been caused by the excessive emission of carbon dioxide, (CO2) since the Industrial Revolution is now accepted by the worldwide scientific community and (as the attendance at the Paris international conference, COP 21) in December last year indicates) by the ruling political class of all countries as well. Though there are still important reservations and much follow up work will be required, the agreement at the Conference to limit global warming to 2 degrees centigrade (2oC) above pre-industrial levels was a breakthrough regarding tackling the huge problem of climate change.
However, it does raise the question of how the countries of the world are going to go about this formidable task. One practical approach worth recalling is that proposed by Socolow and Pacala (A plan to keep carbon in check, R H Socolow and S A Pacala, Scientific American, July 2006). The key features of this are shown in the figure which is a graph of carbon (i.e. CO2), the dominant greenhouse gas derived from burning fossil fuel and released into the atmosphere over time. The straight line labelled BAU (business as usual) shows a fairly straight line increase from about 1.6 billion tons carbon per year (BtC/y) to 7 BtC/y* over the period 1956-2006 followed by a straight line extrapolation for the next 50 years. It is a basic assumption in Socolow and Pacala’s analysis that the level of production of goods and services will go on unabated and steadily increase as it has in the past. These emissions have led to a buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere from about 280 parts per million (ppm) before the industrial revolution to 375 ppm in 2006 to 400 ppm today and when it reaches about 500 ppm a rise of 2oC is likely to occur.
What Socolow and Pacala address is how to use existing technologies to bring about a reduction in the amount of fossil fuel (coal, oil and gas) used to power society and so limit the increase in global warming to 2oC. In the first instance the objective is to hold emissions at 7 BtC/y for the next 50 years. The area, marked ABC on the figure, between the BAU line and this steady level is called the stabilisation triangle. Socolow and Pacala further divided the stabilisation triangle into 7 wedges, each representing the same amount of CO2 emissions. (The wedge is a convenient unit because its size and time scale match what specific technologies can deliver). Socolow and Pacala identified 15 technologies each of which is equal to the task of removing a wedge of emissions of CO2. They were careful only to use tried and tested not 'pie in the sky' technologies and excluded improvements that are currently taking place. The idea is that one of the 15 technological solutions is applied in a controlled manner to eliminate a wedge of CO2 release.
So let us take for example one of the technological solutions proposed, carbon capture and storage (CCS). The process involves the capture of CO2 from coal fired power stations in a liquid solvent, then compressing it before transporting it by pipeline for burial deep underground, i.e. putting it back where it came from. In the first year this would reduce power station emissions by 0.5 Bt of carbon. In the second year more plant is introduced and a similar reduction is made so by the end of the second year, 1.0 Bt of carbon from coal-fired power stations would have been diverted from the atmosphere. And so after 50 years the target of no increase above current levels from this source of CO2 would have been achieved and a total of 25 Bt of carbon would have been prevented from entering the atmosphere. Socolow and Pacala’s work indicates that CCS plant would need to be installed at 800 large coal-fired power stations to achieve this target, a not inconsiderable engineering feat. The same approach can be applied to the other six wedges of CO2 emissions. The outcome would be that over the next 50 years or so CO2 releases/year would be held at the level of 7 BtC/y.
For this level of COrelease into the atmosphere, global warming as predicted by widely accepted climate change models, would continue to increase before levelling off at around 2oC above pre-industrial levels. After this, to ensure this temperature rise would not be exceeded, further wedges would be required to drive down CO2 releases.
Other technologies identified by Socolow and Pacala for eliminating a wedge of CO2 release include:
●       Increase fuel economy of two billion cars from 30 mpg to 60 mpg
●       Replace 1400 large coal-fired plants with gas-fired plants
●       Increase solar power from photovoltaic electricity to 2000 Gw of installed capacity.
●       Forestmanagement. Reduce cutting of primary tropical forest to zero over 50 years. Reforest hundreds of millions of hectares in temperate and tropical zones.
●       Cut electricity in homes, offices and stores by 25 percent by making them more efficient.
●       Increase wind power to replace coal with 2 million * 1mw peak wind turbines
Since the proposal by Socolow and Pacala in 2006 the release of carbon has now increased from 7 BtC/y in 2006 to 9 BtC/y today. This does not alter the basic idea of the wedge concept. But it does highlight the years wasted when little action was taken and it could mean that 9 wedges would now be needed. However the wedge strategy remains an eminently practical approach to the problem but one that would require an enormous effort and an unprecedented degree of cooperation worldwide to bring about.
The Red Wedge
The question is: can capitalism deliver? Or more pertinently what could be done in a socialist society? In socialism a similar approach could be adopted to the one outlined above with one big advantage. On the advent of socialism a considerable reduction in CO2 emissions would be obtained by ending the enormous wasteful economic activity and production inherent in capitalism. Principal contributors to this waste are the maintenance and preparedness of the armed forces and occupations and products handling money. The enormous sums of money spent on the military represent the use of land, facilities, machinery, materials and human resources to keep it in a constant state of preparedness for and participation in war. The Socialist Party's own publication From Capitalism to Socialism  provides a list of dozens of occupations and products for the financial system as diverse as accountancy, advertising, banking, income tax officers, VAT inspectors, stock brokers, stock exchanges, banknotes, armoured cars, gas and electricity meters, postage stamps, tickets and TV licences. Socialism would eliminate the need for these industries and thereby rapidly introduce a large cut in power generation and consequent CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. This would serve to relax the onus on (i) the introduction of the mitigating technologies discussed above and (ii) enable the power generation required for the pent up demand for improved living standards in the developing world to be met.
Following Naomi Klein’s analysis of the politics of climate change (This Changes Everything,  2014) it is difficult to believe that capitalism will heal itself, notwithstanding the apparent success of COP 21. It is hard to disagree with her conclusion that the opposition of the hugely powerful companies with vested interests in fossil fuels will be too great for any government(s) to overcome.
To conclude, in the first period of socialism clearing up this mess left by capitalism would be a priority project. However it is certainly the case that despite the reduction in CO2 emissions that would be brought about by socialism, the introduction of the wedge strategy would still be a necessary and formidable challenge, but surely one that would be grasped wholeheartedly in a sane, socialist world.
Finally to quote Socolow and Pacala regarding the future 'Critically a planetary consciousness will have grown. Humanity will have learned to address its collective destiny - and to share the planet'. Let us hope so.
Tony Gluck

*A billion tons is 1000 million tons. As in reference 1 the units of release are expressed as carbon not CO2. One ton of carbon is contained in 3.67 tonnes of CO2.

Figure: Carbon emitted against year

Obituary: Harry Morriss (1993)

Obituary from the September 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

We regret to report the death of Comrade Harry Morriss of our Bournemouth group at the age of 77. He was born in the area, in Christchurch, but during the war was sent to London to work at the Woolwich Arsenal in his trade of fitter. There he encountered the Party, joining the old Lewisham branch in 1945 before moving back after the war.

Later he emigrated to Australia and New Zealand and in the late 1960s and early 1970s was an active member of the Auckland branch. After his return to England he became a founding member of our Bournemouth branch. While in New Zealand he had been one of those who argued for the party to change its name to the World Socialist Party, which the SPNZ eventually did. Comrades in Britain proved more conservative: when Bournemouth branch initiated a poll of the membership on the matter in 1986, the proposition was defeated by a 3-to-l majority.

In recent years illness prevented Harry from being as active as he would have liked to have been. Our condolence's go to his wife Dorothy, a member, and the rest of his family.

What is democracy? (1993)

Editorial from the August 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

In all probability the most distorted and misused word in common use today is the word democracy.

The attempt to make world-wide capitalism and political democracy compatible, is a major exercise in deception and futility.

Capitalism is a class structured society, divided between the working and capitalist classes, whose interests are always in a state of conflict (hidden or open) with one another. Strikes, lock-outs etc prove it.

The capitalist system is economically and politically organized so that the means of life—the natural resources, the industries and the wealth produced (goods and services) are owned and controlled by a minority, and not by all the people.

Those who own do not produce. Those who produce do not own. Obviously, the major social decisions are made to benefit the owning, capitalist class. Governments (who are the servants of the capitalist class) process these decisions. enforce them by law, and the working class does the leg-work to carry them out. The vote is incidental, because as yet the working class always votes in favour of capitalism. They have been so trained. All the current claims of a democratic society by both the rulers and the ruled are spurious. A free society is for the future—not of the present.

Meanwhile, there arc none so appallingly enslaved as those who think they are free.

The “public” does not elect the captains of industry, the generals of the army, or the judges of law and order.

Governments are always in the business of liberalizing or imposing restrictive laws, and the rights of the capitalist class always come first, which includes the right to make war. We live under a plutocracy—not in a democracy.

The age-old right of the few to exploit, expropriate. use and abuse human beings is never seriously challenged by most people; that the wages system exists proves this, and it is disgustingly healthy.

For a democracy to be meaningful, a necessary requirement is that the means of life are in the hands of society as a whole, and democratically controlled in the interest of everyone.That means being informed, involved and participating in the decision-making of all social issues. That’s when the vote comes of age.

A formula for success could be initiated by a politically class-conscious majority to capture political power—to transfer the means of life from private to common ownership—to dismantle capitalism and to establish a democratic society. That’s when a detailed social plan will appear, and the cynics and pessimists disappear.

A true democracy would not have a class structure, and would not exploit, expropriate and abuse human beings. There would not be the need to lie, cheat, thieve and prey upon one another; to rob, ravish, oppress the weak, cringe before the strong, prostitute for a pittance and traffic in all things—good and bad.

Isn't it high time to make democracy safe for the world and to replace the governing of people with the administration of things?

We have nothing to lose but our political ignorance, and a world to gain.

Disorderly house (1978)

Book Review from the October 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

The House the Left Built: Inside Labour Policy Making 1970-1975, Michael Hatfield, (Victor Gollancz, £8.50)

After its defeat in the 1970 General Election, the Labour Party set about formulating a set of policies to ensure its speedy return to power. It eventually produced what Hatfield calls “its most left wing programme in thirty years”, and his book aims to trace the process whereby these policies came to be adopted. As a study of the day-to-day exigencies of capitalist politics, The House the Left Built is mostly unilluminating. It does reveal the unprincipledness of Labour politics and the lack of democracy in the Labour Party, but it is hardly worth paying £8.50 to be reminded of this.

The most interesting point to emerge from the book is the extent to which Labour’s “left wing programme”, — a commitment to more nationalisation and state intervention in the economy — is not a monopoly of the Labour Party but rather a policy common to all those who try to administer capitalism. In 1973, Wedgwood Benn wrote that various Acts of Parliament passed by the Heath government “constitute the most comprehensive armoury of Governmental control that has ever been assembled for use over private industry, far exceeding all the powers thought to be necessary by the last Labour Government”, and he spoke of Heath’s "Spadework for Socialism” (meaning state capitalism). Hatfield makes the point that the watershed to a major extension of state intervention was actually crossed under a previous Tory government, in 1962, with the creation of the National Economic Development Council and the National Economic Development Office. After noting that Conservative governments have, for instance, nationalised the electricity grid system and brought London Transport under state control, he says, quite correctly, that “Labour Governments have brought in nationalisation measures for reasons not dissimilar to those that motivate Conservative Governments: the rationalisation of inefficient and bankrupt private enterprise”.

The pet idea of the Labour “left” during the period reviewed here was that of a state holding company (realised as the National Enterprise Board), which was modelled on similar European institutions; they did not publicly acknowledge this, however, on the opportunist grounds that to do so might weaken their case against British membership of the Common Market. The main Continental model was the Italian Industrial Reconstruction Institute, which, among other things, wholly owns the car firm of Alfa Romeo. The IRI illustrates well the fact that state control is a method which capitalist governments of all tinges must be prepared to employ: it was set up in the nineteen-thirties by Italy’s Fascist government as a “temporary” salvage company when three of the main private banks were threatened with bankruptcy.

State ownership, whether through direct nationalisation or by the government acquiring large blocks of shares, is a way of running, not abolishing, capitalism. Workers who believe nationalisation to represent an alternative to capitalism should reflect on the fact that it does not alter the worker’s status as a wage-slave, and consider the possibility of Socialism. The House that Socialists Will Build will not be a jerry-built slum but a sturdy mansion constructed out of the best materials and on the firm foundation of common ownership.
Paul Bennett

The Old Bill and the new Tony (1993)

Ilustration by George Meddemmen.
From the July 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the traditions of British politics is that the Tories are in favour with the police, the prison officers and all aspiring hangers and dispensers of corporal punishment because they believe they take a strong line on Law and Order. Another tradition is that the Labour Party are not popular in those same quarters because they are soft on crime and criminals, in accordance with some theory that we live in a class-divided society and the penal system is there to protect the interest of the ruling class and keep the working class in their place.

So how do we explain the fact that Kenneth Clarke, in one of his last public appearances as a Conservative Home Secretary, was so frostily received by the Police Federation conference in May while on the following day his Labour shadow, Tony Blair, was rapturously applauded? Blairs speech was described by the Federation chairman as “superb"; one of the Federation officers thought he had come close to the ultimate achievement of a standing ovation. In contrast, Clarke was described by one policeman as “an arrogant, rude Tory snob”. Since arrogant and rude is how many people experience police behaviour we can infer that Clarke had dared to disagree with the delegates.

It was not through any penetrating analysis of the causes of crime and the role of the police in capitalism that Blair won his applause. What he did was to reassure the nation’s finest that a Labour government would be tough on crime and would give the police, who are feeling a trifle beleaguered at the present time, a lot of what they have been asking for but did not look like getting from Clarke. On one issue. Clarke seemed to be bent on making it easier to support allegations of misconduct by the police. Now this is a matter of—how shall we put it?—some delicacy, as hardly a week goes by without some fresh revelation about innocent people being stitched up by the police and clapped behind bars as a result—sometimes for very long periods.

As a barrister Blair might have been expected to recognize that, even by the corrupt and decadent standards of capitalism, something is seriously wrong with the police. After all, it is not beyond imagining that a shadow minister might one day find himself on the receiving end of planted incriminating evidence or apparently signing a confession to some heinous crime they haven’t committed. But no: he assured the massed ranks of the Federation that he is not in favour of tampering with the present set-up. Before they began clapping, the police heaved a huge sigh of relief.

The Old Bill
Then there was the matter of crime—or rather that bit of it which finds its way into police records. Year by year it goes up and up, no matter how many more police there are or how many new laws or how much harsher the penalties. Blair had to tread a wary path here—after all it is a Labour Home Secretary that he hopes to be and he has to think about his reception at the next party conference where some of the delegates may have felt police truncheons on their heads on the picket line or on a demonstration. So while he makes a passing acknowledgement that the extremes of poverty, unemployment and poor housing have their effect on crime—which even the police have recently come to accept—he modified this:
no one but a fool would excuse the commission of a crime on the grounds of the individuals upbringing.
And then, criticizing the current disarray in what is known as the criminal justice system he gave an implied promise which would not have come amiss from Thatcher herself:
It cannot be the right way to start by imposing a freeze on (police) recruitment.
No wonder they cheered him. And in case there were any lingering doubts about whether the Old Bill really do love the New Tony, Blair said he supported testing the side-handled batons as seen on TV when the Los Angeles police were shown beating up Rodney King—tests which Clarke had refused.

There is a simple answer to the question why the police should be so much keener on this prospective Labour Home Secretary than they were on the Tory who held that office. Blair has made no secret of his view that the Labour Party must be ready to make whatever changes or abandonments to its policies which are necessary to win power. He knows—he would be insensitive to his audiences in a way for which barristers are not famous—how strong are the prejudices which arise from that tradition about Tory strength and Labour weakness on Law and Order. So he makes adjustments. This twisting may infuriate some members of the Labour Party. If so, it is time they faced the fact that they support a party which stands for capitalism and that winning power to run this society does not come from holding to principles.

Home office
They might also learn that there is no evidence to support that prejudice about Labour being soft on crime. For example, the "short, sharp shock” (which really meant mindless brutality and repression) was to be applied in the detention centres that were the brainchild of the 1945 Attlee government. Labour was in power when the Metropolitan Police—for which the police authority is the Home Office—introduced the notorious, rampaging Special Patrol groups. A similar development in the prison service, again under a Labour government, was the MUFTI squads, which quickly established a reputation for fearsomely dealing with recalcitrant prisoners. One of the achievements of the ever- so-cultured-and-liberal Roy Jenkins as a Labour Home Secretary was the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which did not prevent terrorism but which did restrict many of the safeguards of the rights of people under arrest by the police. What it amounts to is that no Labour Home Secretary has ever shirked doing whatever capitalism has demanded of them.

That, after all. is the function of all the organs of government among which the Home Office is of first importance. The name, so comforting, is misleading because the Home Office is responsible for a massive coercive machine—the Law, police, prisons, control of “aliens” and the like. In its wilder moments it might see itself as the guardian of public morality and safety even if it is difficult to see people like Kenneth Clarke in that role. Anyone—like Clarke who gets the job of Home Secretary is supposed to be very close to becoming Prime Minster, except that there are plenty of examples of ambitious politicians—Rab Butler. Roy Jenkins. Leon Brittan are just a few—for whom the job was close to their political grave.

But, no doubt, Blair takes a more optimistic view of his chances. There is no lack of media encouragement to him to do so. Christened Anthony Charles Lynton Blair he decided—like Anthony Wedgwood Benn—that plain Tony was a name much more voter-friendly. He rose through choir school, Fettes College and Oxford to became a barrister in 1976. He got into Parliament for Sedgefield in 1983, when Michael Foot was laying waste to Labour’s dreams of ousting the Thatcher government. His clubs—a nice thoughtful touch this—are not Brooks or Whites or the Athenaeum but Trimdon Colliery and Deaf Hill Working Men’s and Fishburn Working Men's.

Blair burst onto the political scene as a bright-eyed, irrepressible young debunk specialist on TV. Perhaps his boyish looks were considered too youthful to reassure the voters because recently Blairs manner has been more subdued and weighty, as would be expected from someone who wants to be minister in charge of arresting workers who break the law, locking up tens of thousands of them and keeping the numbers of immigrants at a level acceptable to the prejudices of the voters. That is why Blair has come up with that statement which although suffering from an in-built inconsistency is crafted to appease both sides of the argument about crime—he wants to be tough on crime and tough on its causes.

Blair would not be the first politician to evade his party’s policies while appearing to implement them. That is how he won the approval of the police and how he hopes to win the approval of the Labour Party, who will doubtless give it to him if they see that he attracts the votes. And then all he has to worry about is winning the approval of the voters, who remain vulnerable to so many kinds of trickery and deceit. Then this one-time choirboy can sing in the bath at Number Ten.

The IRA bombing campaign (1993)

Editorial from the June 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Apart from a few genuinely looney lefties such as Red Action and those who produce Dead Leninism (or “Living Marxism” as they have the check to call it), the recent murders of working-class men, women and children committed by the IRA in their current bombing campaign in England have, rightly, been condemned by ordinary people, in Ireland as well as on the mainland.

Life under capitalism is difficult enough without having the additional worry of wondering whether you—or your children—are going to be killed by a bomb when you do your shopping or go for a drink. Making life worse under capitalism is all the IRA achieves by its bombing campaigns. But then terrorising the population is what terrorists set out to do.

As the physical force wing of Irish nationalism, the IRA does have a political objective: the establishment of an all-Ireland Republic. This, as the record of the regime set up in the South in 1922 shows, would be of no benefit whatsoever to workers in Ireland.

Despite so-called independence, mass emigration, unemployment, bad housing and a lower standard of living than on the mainland continued unchanged. In one respect things got worse. The power of the Catholic Church to interfere with people’s lives was strengthened though, thankfully, this has been changing in recent years.

Apart from this, the only difference was that government power passed out of the hands of the parasite Anglo-Irish landlord class into that of wheeler-dealer politicians of the likes of Reynolds, the present Irish Prime Minister, and Haughey, his predecessor. And the IRA is murdering children just to extend the rule of such politicians to the North of Ireland! Can political murder ever have been employed in pursuit of so utterly worthless an aim?

Most workers in the South know this anyway. They have no sympathy for the IRA or its political wing Sinn Fein and at election after election they have repeatedly repudiated its claim to be acting on their behalf. Without being socialists they know that changes to the political constitution make no essential difference to their lives and are certainly not worth killing anybody to bring about. Once again, ordinary people have demonstrated a higher degree of understanding than those who have appointed themselves to act on their behalf.

The only degree of support the IRA is able to claim is amongst a minority of those of Catholic background in the North of Ireland. Certainly, workers there have plenty to complain about— no job prospects, low incomes, bad housing, etc, etc—but they are terribly mistaken in imagining that a united Ireland would in any way improve their position.

They are suffering because they are property-less workers in a world where the means of life are owned by a privileged minority. Their problems are caused not by British rule but by capitalism; which Irish independence left intact. Just as ’’Irish Unity” would.

The solution to the problems facing workers in Ireland is the same as that to those facing workers the world over. We must organise together to replace capitalism everywhere with a system based on democratic control and the common ownership of the planet’s resources. The struggle for such a socialist society has to involve implacable opposition to nationalism, of whatever variety, whenever it rears its ugly ahead.

Here we go again? (1993)

From the May 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the mid-1970s workers had to be put up with double digit price rises and falling real wages. Is this coming back?

Among those with the least understanding of the capitalist system are invariably those who are appointed to “manage” it. This looks like being amply demonstrated in the coming months as the present Conservative government resorts to the ill-conceived trick of capitalist politicians of currency inflation. True, inflation of the currency in Britain has been accruing since the onset of the Second World War or thereabouts. but it looks likely to be given an added impetus.

With a Public Sector Borrowing Requirement (PBSR) projected to run to around £50 billion, or over 3 percent of GNP (Sunday Times, 21 March), the government is looking for ways of financing its massive debt. The normal way to do this is for the government to sell gilts and bonds to private investors and institutions like pension funds. However, with such a huge government debt, which is currently consuming £17.5 billion in net interest payments, the government is wary of crowding out investment from the slump-ravaged private sector of industry. In the March budget Chancellor Lamont nodded in the direction of the obvious option of tax increases to wipe out some of the debt, but has made provision to finance it in another way—by printing money to pay for some of it.

Massive government debt
In the budget Lamont announced that the Treasury had dropped its “full funding" rule whereby all government debt in a financial year had to be fully funded by sales of bonds and gilts to investors. Now the government can resort to the practice of financing part of the PSBR through sales of 90-day Treasury Bills to the banks.

In this situation what is likely to happen is that a point will arise when the government is selling Treasury Bills to the banks at a time when the cash reserves of the banks are depleted and they don't have the liquid assets available to buy all the Bills the government wants to sell to finance its deficit. The Bank of England, as the bankers’ bank and the lender of the last resort, will in these circumstances passively make more currency available to them. They are then effectively in a position to buy the Treasury Bills offered for sale, and can thereby lend to the government. It is in this way that the Bank of England tends to make available enough cash for the banking system to be always able to lend the government the amount it requires. Through this rather roundabout manner an excess issue of notes helps to finance part of government borrowing and, ultimately, government expenditure.

Governments have previously gone in for this tactic and there is every indication that the Tories may do the same again. In the mid-70s in an earlier slump the Labour government under Wilson and Healey financed part of its budget deficit and helped to increase its expenditure in this way. During the financial year 1974-5 it inflated the currency by a post-war record of 17 percent, amounting to about £700 million worth. This additional £700m financed almost half its additional real expenditure for the year.

Rising prices
The temptation for the present Conservative administration is just as great. Re-elected with the mission of reducing the amount of tax taken out of capitalist profit, and with limits to the extent of genuine government borrowing, the printing presses may yet seem like an attractive option. There is an important additional reason for this in that the present government—like all the other post-war governments before them—do not realise that expanding the note issue beyond that amount warranted by increases in production and trade will cause price rises. The fact is that prices have risen wherever and whenever currency has been issued in excess; the note issue has risen from £450 million before the war to about £16,000 million now while the price level has increased almost thirty- fold.

Instead the government has continued to blame price rises on a multitude of erroneous factors including wage rises (when wages are themselves prices) and low interest rates (when interest rales are prices too). The government has also recently reverted to its previous idea that inflation is caused by increases in the level of bank deposits in the economy. In this theory bank deposits are viewed as money, and when deposits increase this is seen as having the same effect as an excess note issue.

However, this theory ignores several important factors, principally that when there is an excess note issue this causes an artificial bloating of monetary demand in the economy as a whole. Prices then rise in response to buyers offering larger amounts of money in the same way that, say, prices of accommodation and other things rise in holiday resorts during the summer season when holidaymakers arrive in large numbers. With an increase in bank deposits nothing of the sort happens. There is no artificial bloating of demand since bank deposits add nothing additional to it, being monetary transfers of demand rather than a spurious injection of it as with excess currency. So when the government resorts to blaming price rises on increasing bank deposits. as it surely will if prices take off once more, it will be again demonstrating its own ignorance of the subject.

None of this gives justification to the view of Chancellor Lamont that the government has defeated inflation. Since governments don't understand the causes of inflation and are periodically influenced by factors which make large-scale inflation look attractive, price rises are again likely to become centre-stage politically in the coming months.
Dave Perrin

The future for socialism (1993)

Editorial from the April 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many people on the left are bitterly disappointed. The past ninety-plus years of left-wing “successes” have left capitalism firmly in power. Labour governments did not enact socialism, but sought to reform capitalism and all too often were indistinguishable from intentionally pro-capitalist governments. The communist regimes had nothing to do with working-class power and socialism, but were monstrous tyrannies presiding over state capitalism.

Today many people on the left feel defeated. The Labour Left is marginalised and irrelevant because they are an embarrassment to the Smiths and Blairs who want their party of profit-system accountants to be just as respectable as the Tories. The Communist Party, ashamed of its Leninist past of echoing the lies of the Kremlin dictators, has given up the ghost. A few Trotskyist sects remain, spouting the old nonsense of the vanguard and insurrection—as if any workers in their right minds would follow these pastiche Bolsheviks in a new Leninist revolution.

It is quite obvious that all the old struggles of the Left have failed. But now is certainly not the time to give up on opposing capitalism. What we need is clearer thinking and more genuinely revolutionary organisation.

If ever Marx’s analysis was being proved correct it is now. This is no time to cast aside Marxian analysis.

Capitalism is in a global crisis. The international market is in a condition of anarchy which is beyond the control of governments or economists. As well as the increasing poverty and mass unemployment, the system faces widespread environmental destruction, numerous nationalist wars, the growth of the racist virus, uncontrollable urban violence and the existence of huge piles of nuclear and chemical weapons which are up for grabs to the highest bidder. If this is not a system in need of total abolition, then what else is there to do with it? Reforming capitalism is a waste of time.The only way ahead is out—to a new, untried social system.

Global production for profit must be replaced by production solely for use. The ownership of society's productive resources by the super-rich minority must give way to common ownership. The dictatorship of capital, which tramples relentlessly upon human lives, must give way to democratic control. These are not new ways of running capitalism. These are ways of running a sane society without capitalism.

Now, as ever, the socialist alternative cannot be imposed by leaders or legislated for gradually by reformers. The revolutionary act of overthrowing capitalism and establishing socialism must be the conscious and democratic act of the working class: the vast majority of us who do not live on rent, interest or profits.

The Socialist Party exists to win a majority of workers for socialism. We are neither a vanguard nor a would-be government. We assert that the future belongs to the working class majority and that only world socialism offers the hope of democracy, security, comfort and dignity for all.

Capitalism and mental health (1993)

From the March 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

If people are your lifeboat then schizophrenia is not for you. As you may find out, the boats talk back and cannot be trusted. I was living in Hulme in 1988 when I first became seriously ill. It was after a holiday in Greece which turned sour due to my oncoming illness.

We all have a certain amount of paranoia. Generally it is fairly harmless. However when you slowly drift into illusions much like an unconscious dream or like you have taken LSD, then things can get very nasty. Voices and feelings of persecution take over and unlike a dream or an LSD trip you do not recover without drugs, hospital, etc to take the edge from the nightmare-like torment.

Schizophrenia can creep up on anyone ever so slowly. Perhaps if you like yourself, you will not succumb. However if you do like yourself you have further to fall. Presently genone7 is said to be the genetic reason, but whatever the cause schizophrenia can either ruin the rest of your life or if you are fortunate enough to recover it can stigmatize and label you. They reckon one third have only one attack and one third have more than one and one third do not get better even with the drugs.

To recover is often seen as temporary sanity. Many people see the sufferer always through the doors of the asylum. At the moment I am back in Hulme having made a reasonable recovery. I have a job and I feel fortunate considering just how ill I was.

There are many reasons why people end up in mental hospitals. The main one is that they disturb family and friends so much that these are unable to cope.

We all learn from our experiences and "going mad", as it is called by some people, certainly gives you plenty of experiences most of which you certainly would not choose. The way back from schizophrenia—and I can only give a personal viewpoint—is to aim to control things again. Often this is very difficult when you have spent months in hospital but the approach should be gradual; think about the level of support you need and work towards more independence.

The world is often not a very understanding place and there are day centres which can help take the edge off things and fill the time in. As to the drugs which most people are on when they get released from hospital, if you can, get the dose reduced gradually (if that works) as the drugs themselves have effects on your ability to think quickly and they have other side-effects which can usually be controlled.

You do not only lose things when you fall ill you also gain things when you come out of it. You lose things like self-confidence. Often people have this to a great degree which really is a form of acceptable insanity, yet to get a measure of self-confidence back is a good thing for self-preservation. What you gain when you come out of it is a perception about schizophrenia which most people do not understand. You also gain humility and understanding about what it is like to be mentally ill. You may develop a healthy dislike of mental hospitals and psychiatrists. Someone once said if you want to see a psychiatrist you must be mad!

The thing to remember is that you have a reasonable chance to rebuild your life and self-esteem, given favourable circumstances. Not everything is in anyone’s control. More understanding and more help is certainly needed where mental illness is concerned. In general the people who lived in Hulme were supportive when I was ill and after I began my recovery. That counts for a lot.

I am one of those strange people who advocate a democratic socialist revolution to sort out the worlds problems. While we still have present-day society we have to survive as best we can by giving people respect and understanding especially if they have or are having mental health problems.

Looking to the future I hope to stay well like most people, I also hope to enjoy life no differently from anyone else. Mental illness can strike anyone. Not everyone can survive the experience. With schizophrenia one in ten people kill themselves. Perhaps that’s a reflection on the nature of the illness but it is also a reflection on society. Recently a doctor writing in the Observer said if he could give one piece of advice on how to avoid illness he would advise you to be rich. He was not talking specifically about mental illness but illness in general, although I believe it to be sound advice. The only way we can all get rich is to establish a society where we all have free access to what society can produce. Then, perhaps, there will be fewer casualties of all types of illnesses and better treatment. Well it’s worth thinking about, I believe it’s worth working for—what do you think?
D. McLellan

Sting in the Tail: Tory Think Tankers (1993)

The Sting in the Tail column from the February 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Tory Think Tankers

Run for cover, folks, there’s some mean-lookin' hombres in town and they're a-gunnin’ for one another!

A scene from High Noon or Gunfight at the OK Corral? No, merely that
Opposing Tory think tanks are set to wage a battle for the soul of the Conservative Party in the coming year. Party right-wingers led by the No Turning Back group are to demand fresh Thatcherite reforms, and the left-leaning Social Market Foundation will seek Keynesian intervention to end the recession.
The Guardian (28 December 1992) 
We know who the Thatcherites are but who are the Social Market Foundation? Remember David Owen and his "social market" guff? Well, the SMF are mainly ex-members of the Social Democrats who have joined the Tory Party.

So no blood will be spilled, only lots and lots of ink, but what a bunch of think tankers all these Tories are when the best they can come up with to save British capitalism are the failed ideas of Thatcher and Keynes with the arch-failure Owen thrown in for good measure!

The Dismal System

You would think that Sainsbury's plan to make its "biggest and best ever” cuts in food prices in January would have been widely welcomed, wouldn't you? No chance. Instead of Sainsbury's competitors accepting this challenge gladly, they all denounced it.

What about the City of London? After all, everyone has to eat, but the City feared that a supermarket price-war would reduce profits so the share-prices of Sainsbury, Tesco, Kwik Save and Argyll all tumbled. Capital doesn’t hunger for food, only profit.

True, consumers were happy at first but came January and "instead of massive savings, the much- anticipated price cuts brought disappointment to shoppers" (The Guardian 4 January). Capitalism may provide events which bring widespread pleasure but not very many.

Not Our Scene

All those who become Involved in the running of any social system based on private property will inevitably find themselves doing nasty things to people.

This particularly applies to capitalism: the holocaust, the bombing of cities and the cynical poisoning of the environment are obvious examples, but there are less dramatic crimes committed by governments every day.

Look at the Israeli expulsion of the 400 Palestinians or the Tories' callous pit-closure programme, but this readiness to inflict misery cuts right across party lines. Labour's record in office is a grim one and we have seen what Lenin, Trotsky and other "communists”all over the world have been prepared to do in defence of their power and privilege.

The truth is that all humans, even if they start with the best of intentions, are capable of such cruelty if they put themselves in the position of having to defend private property. And socialists are no different: it's just that we know better than to get ourselves into that position.

Appeal of Socialism

The whole thing about nationalism is its stupid delight in some accident of language, accent or local behaviour. The whole horror of nationalism is its resolve to hunt, maim and kill any creature in its way if such a creature doesn't share its particular language, accent or local behaviour.

Of course, every human being on earth today enjoys community. We all love to sing together. We all love to dance together. We are human.

This doesn’t mean that we kill those who are different. We enjoy differences. That makes us human. Politicians, generals and other functionaries of capitalism are without community. They exploit our fears to make themselves great. Our brothers and sisters in Iraq, India or anywhere else have our best wishes and hopes.

We are without nationalism, religion or racialism. We are socialists. We are in the process of becoming truly human. That is the appeal of socialism.

Accidents and Cost

As the people of the Shetland Islands count the cost of the oil spill It is worth recalling that like all "accidents" of this nature inside capitalism, cost was the major factor.

The ship was old because It is cheaper to buy an old ship - the ship needed repairs because it is cheaper to skimp on repairs - the route was through an area that could have easily been avoided but it was a cheaper route and of course the crew were ill-trained because that’s the cheapest way to run a ship.

Accidents will occur in socialism but they won't be accidents like the Shetland oil spill which wasn't really an accident at all. It was the logical outcome of trying to operate transport the cheapest and most profitable way.

Twice Bankrupt

We are indebted to a Scandinavian reader for drawing our attention to the following item that appeared in a Norwegian newspaper:
The Finnish communist party went bankrupt yesterday after having lost millions on the stock exchange . . . The economic trouble of the communist party is due to unsuccessful speculation on the stock exchange - capitalism's stronghold - with many hazardous investments. Among the more exotic investment objects was a fashion shop in Helsinki and a stable of racehorses called "The Hot Trotters"
Aftenposten (16 November 1992) 
This financial bankruptcy is of course matched by the complete Intellectual bankruptcy of all the Leninist parties.

The Dying Game

Socialists spend a great deal of their time pointing out how awful the buying and selling system of capitalism really is. But surely even the most dyed in the wool defender of capitalism must be concerned at the following information that appeared in The Independent (12 January):
Life assurers are paying out 10 times more on suicide than they were 12 years ago, raising fears that the way policies are written may be encouraging people to kill themselves to ease their dependants' financial worries.
According to a report published today in Money Week, the payouts on suicide-related claims, increased from £4.3m in 1979 to £44.6m In 1991.
The desperation that leads workers to committing suicide can only be guessed at. The crass ignorance that leads workers to support this crazy system can only be wondered at.

Sting in the Tail: Food for thought (1993)

The Sting in the Tail column from the January 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Food for thought

Fancy a nice juicy steak? The Meat and Livestock Commission want to make sure that you do and have issued a booklet to assure us that eating meat is both physically safe and morally sound.

The booklet (available in supermarkets) dismisses most vegetarians as either bogus or having "a misconception about a healthy diet”. This doesn’t help veg sales but supermarkets know that people spend a lot more on meat than they do on veg.

We are then told that meat is good for just about every part of us, and be warned -
Britain has the highest rate of heart disease among EC countries, but the second lowest meat consumption per head.
No mention is made of the 74,000 cattle which have died in Britain of mad cow disease since 1985.

All this we can expect from any organisation trying to boost sales but just look at what follows under the heading "Does eating meat deprive the third world of grain?" - 
There is already a world surplus of grain and so if it was simply a matter of availability of grain supplies then there would not be a problem. THE PROBLEM OF HUNGER LIES IN POVERTY AND NOT AVAILABILITY (their emphasis).
THAT we don't expect, but we welcome having the socialist case against capitalism backed-up and especially from such an unlikely source.

False prophets

After the Tory election victory the British holiday industry's market forecasters were convinced that the foreign holiday market would grow again because of the expected boom, so more hotel rooms and aircraft were booked.

Sadly, the boom went bust and Thomson, the biggest package holiday operator, estimated in June that there were 500,000 too many holidays on sale.

Yet only five months later the industry reported a 5% increase in demand in 1992 (Ceefax 15 November). Having- been let down by the boom that- wasn't they had been saved by . . . the recession!

Apparently, many redundant workers are spending their redundancy money on a foreign holiday in the belief that it may be their last for a long time.

Can readers think of a more futile job in capitalism than market forecasting? Answers on a postcard please to Scorpion, address at the bottom of this page.

Raving Mad

The news that 5 young people have died in Greater Manchester since 1989 from dance floor dehydration and heatstroke accentuated by drugs such as Ecstasy, has alarmed the local city council.

Their concern is understandable when it is realised that one of the contributory factors has been the dance hall owners trick of charging £2 for a drink of water.

The money conscious entrepreneurs turn up the heating, cut off the water supply in the toilets and wait for the dehydrated drugged dancers to stump up the two quid for a glass of water.

If the dehydrated youngsters can't afford the two quid and drop dead - well, that's just market forces at work, isn't it?

Useless Money

Currency speculators have been on the rampage recently with "runs" on the pound, the French franc and several other European currencies.

Nowadays the world's money markets have immense sums of money at their disposal. Ex-Labour chancellor Dennis Healy estimated that only one fiftieth of this money is required for world trade settlement ("Greed" Channel 4, 8 November) so the rest is available for speculation.

So any "weak" currency is singled out for attention and the speculators know they will win. Sweden lost almost all of its foreign reserves trying to defend the Krona while the Bank of England lost £11 billion of "our” foreign reserves in a bid to defend sterling. The attack on sterling was led by the City of London and there wasn't a patriotic scruple in sight.

And after all the frenzied activity in which millions had been won and lost, society had not one whit more food, clothing, shelter or health care to show for it.

A Star Is Born

And now for our showbiz update! The word is that professor J.K.Galbraith, Keynesian economist and new comic genius, was a smash in his London one-man show.

The Guardian (25 November) reports him joking that in future "the social left" must give up "socialist principles” and is "no longer in search of an alternative economic system" to capitalism! His deadpan irony would have any audience in stitches.

The prof, surely had them rolling in the aisles when he hit them with such show-stopping vote catchers as "reasonably full employment", "more equitable distribution of income" and "needs of the underclass". Only proves once again that the old jokes are the best jokes!

Ben Elton, Rowan Atkinson, Paul Merton and co., have one hell of an act to follow!

A Royal Mess

The Queen has had a pretty shitty 1992. Well, we’re sorry to hear it, but then it was hardly a wonderful year for the rest of us either.

Commenting on the Joseph Rowntree Trustee report on what a family needed to live on, The Independent (15 November) noted that a single parent bringing up two children under 11 on income support received £25.12 less than the Low Cost Budget of £110.72. This Low Cost Budget was reckoned to be the basic minimum necessary to live in 1992.

The newspaper reported the position of Kathleen Elliot who receives £85.60 to bring up Kirsty eight and Stacy three in a working class estate in Gateshead.
"Some nights I just cry myself to sleep. We live in a three bedroomed house, but at this time of year we all sleep in the same double bed and throw Kirsty's duvet on top as well. It's warmer that way. I can't afford the heating. . . .  I just buy essentials like bread, tatties, beans. Can’t afford meat, though sometimes I get sausages."
Not only are Kathleen, Kirsty and Stacy living in abject poverty and misery, but even the Queen is pissed off. Let's get rid of capitalism for all their sakes!

Redundancy strikes again (1991)

From the November 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Where are you going, daddy?" asks my daughter.

“Daddy’s off to be exploited. sweetheart". I reply.

I make my au revoirs and set off on the daily return to wage slavery. Return to wage slavery? When were the working class ever away from it?

The day begins badly. As do most days in a society where work is an economic necessity and not a function carried out for the benefit of society as a whole. When things are bad they can only get worse. Trade union officials tend to smirk when they say that their members are revolting. If our class consciousness was sufficiently developed, we certainly would be. Let’s be honest about it The working class worldwide puts up with a lot from capitalism But begin to present said members with the facts of their economic exploitation by a minority ruling class and you rapidly come to a deep and meaningful understanding of the term banging your head against a brick wall.

For the moment, even the mildest of my fellow band of wage-slaves has transformed into a militant. I can’t take any credit for this outbreak of class solidarity and outrage at their capitalist masters. If a fraction of the fervour generated on this occasion were channelled into understanding and fighting politically for the socialist alternative, we would all be casting off the fetters of capitalism today.

My colleagues' revolt is a short-lived-one. In the face of the overwhelming economic power of the bosses, it is decided that there is no choice but to accept the imposition of cashless pay.

In the sixteenth century Nostradamus looked into a bowl of water to forecast events with some stunning successes. In 1990 economists using all the latest techniques in economic modelling did not forecast the recession at all”. (Share tip sheet).

Perhaps someone, somewhere, is already engaged in producing an academic dissertation upon the use and effect of the euphemism in late capitalist society. In the status-conscious times in which we live, where millions prefer to call themselves middle class (a sociological definition) rather than admit to the reality of belonging to the majority, propertyless working class, it is thought preferable to be “unwaged” rather than unemployed. Whether made redundant, let go, or sacked, the effect upon human lives in a society based upon production for profit, not need, is a devastating one. As I and my fellow wage-slaves were about to discover.

Considerable time, effort and money is expended by the capitalist class in persuading the rest of us that the present system of society is now, was then, and always will be. The effectiveness of this strategy is self-evident. Despite creating society’s wealth, and running society from top to bottom, the working class continue to allow economic and political power to remain in the hands of a minority class. Not even capitalism’s slumps and recessions, which occur with an unavoidable regularity, appear to dent the continuing support for a social system responsible for most of the worlds ills. Without an understanding of the economic exploitative nature of capitalism and, as importantly, an understanding of the socialist alternative, workers continue to view life from a distorted perspective.

Low esteem
Faced with the prospect of losing our jobs altogether, the issue of not being paid the price of our labour power in cash, assumes insignificant proportions. The prospect now is of finding ourselves having no money at all with which to pay the mortgage, pay for food, heat, light and shelter. The previous assent to the notion that businesses close because of “greedy" and “lazy” workers no longer applies. The prospect of being on the dole horrifies my colleagues. They themselves still hold to the myth that thousands enjoy a life of luxury and ease on unemployment benefit. This is, of course, perfectly true. But those enjoying the fruits of others' labour belong to the minority capitalist class whose unemployment benefit is known as profit.

In a capitalist society self-esteem, and the respect of others is determined by the amount of money you have. When, as a member of the working class, your only sellable asset, your labour power, is no longer required, your self-respect is one of the least things you stand to lose. “You lift sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. Brother don’t you call me I can’t go. I owe my soul to the company store” (Folk song). You work sixteen years and what do you get? Redundancy.

The capitalist class knows where its interest lies. When “boom” times reappear they will still be the only individuals to really benefit from it. How long will it be; how many slumps will the working class have to endure before it decides to make capitalism redundant?

The nationality of the toilers is neither French nor English nor German; it is toil, free slavery, sale of self. His government is neither French nor English nor German; it is Capital. His native air is neither French nor English nor German; it is the air of the factory. The land which belongs to him is neither French nor English nor German; it is a few feet under the ground” (Karl Marx).
Dave Coggan