Sunday, September 4, 2016

Why you should join The Socialist Party (1980)

From the December 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

Over the years the word socialism has been used to describe the aims and principles of many different organisations and the policies of numerous governments and regimes. Nowadays, in most people’s minds, socialism is associated with the Labour Party and the small organisations on its left-wing or with countries like Russia. China and Cuba.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always been completely opposed to all the above forms of ‘socialism’ and, alone of all political organisations, has always clearly stated what it means by socialism and how it can be achieved. Throughout its 76 years of existence it has defined socialism as a world-wide democratic moneyless society based on the common ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution in which everyone will have free access to all goods and services according to their self-determined needs. It has maintained that socialism can only be established by people consciously casting their vote in favour of candidates mandated to abolish the present social arrangements and replace them with new, fundamentally different ones. However, before our definition of socialism and the way it is to be achieved can be meaningfully understood, we must explain the views of the Socialist Party on the present system of society and state why we consider that this system has to be abolished.

Present-day society 
We call the present system of society capitalism. And by capitalism we mean a society based on the private ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution—a society of buying and selling. This exists all over the world, in Russia, China, Cuba as well as in the West. It has not always existed and will not exist for ever. It is not an evil conspiracy but a type of social order which has been necessary for human progress. It has developed science and technology to an undreamed-of degree, united the world in communications and educated more people than ever before to a high degree of knowledge and adaptability.

But capitalism has not fully applied its advances for the benefit of the majority of the population, and it cannot. It has not united the world politically — wars go on all the time and the threat of a Big War which would wipe us all out remains ever present. It has not used the knowledge and expertise it has created to ensure useful, dignified and happy productive activity. It has put a curse on work; for most people work is equated with what is most unpleasant in life.

What capitalism has done is to create a potential abundance of wealth capable of satisfying human wants on a vast, almost unimaginable, scale but without being able to realise that potential. This is because the capitalist economic system is geared not to distributing wealth freely but to rationing it by means of the market and the wages system. It reacts crazily to the threat of abundance, as can be seen from the enormous problem posed by millions of tons of ‘surplus' food in a world where at least 10 per cent of the population is starving.

And even in those economically advanced countries of the world (like Britain, France, Germany, Sweden USA) which wars have not directly affected for some time and in which the most abject forms of poverty have all but disappeared, capitalism operates, as it has always operated everywhere, by exploiting the majority of the population.

Yes, the majority of people are exploited. And by this we do not mean that they earn starvation wages or live in 19th-century conditions or that employers make “too much” profit. We simply mean that people are a source of wealth which is taken from them; that they produce a greater amount of wealth than they receive. This may seem fairly obvious but it is not difficult for most people, aided by the news media, to see the world as a place in which benign employers or caring governments somehow ‘give’ workers employment. The fact is that the world’s wealth is produced but not owned by that large majority who, in order to live, are obliged to sell their labour power to an employer for a wage or salary. And despite vastly improved conditions of life for that majority over the years, their percentage ownership of the wealth they produce is actually lower than it was in the nineteenth century. In other words wealth is less evenly distributed now than it was 100 years ago. In this country in 1976 (according to the government-appointed Royal Commission on the Distribution of Income and Wealth) 80 per cent of the population owned only 22 per cent of the wealth and 10 per cent of the population owned 61 per cent of the wealth.

The working class
This large majority of people who own a small minority of the wealth we refer to as the working class. To many people ‘working class’ is defined by occupation or education or even by such things as accent or table manners. These may be useful classifications for some purposes but in fact the working class is composed of those who do not own enough to live off their possessions and therefore have to sell their energies in order to live. The working class is a class of wage slaves and as such includes office workers, doctors, dentists, teachers, as well as manual workers.

Its interests are diametrically opposed to those of the other class in society, the employing or capitalist class, comprising those who own enough to live off their possessions without needing to sell themselves to an employer. Capitalists gain where workers lose and vice versa: the lower the wages the higher the profits, the higher the wages the lower the profits.

We have no personal grudge against capitalists either as individuals or as a class. We simply point out that with all the goodwill in the world their interests cannot be but opposed to those of the people they employ. To put it quite plainly the society we live in is a class-divided society and no number of appeals to ‘common sense’, the ‘national interest’ or ‘fairness’ can change this.

Class struggle and the unions
As long as we have class-divided society we will have class struggle taking in particular the form of go-slows, works-to-rule and strikes. Such action is unpleasant but unavoidable if workers are to defend their living standards and occasionally raise them. Workers do not ask for it and socialists take no pleasure in it. It must be added however that strikes, although necessary for working-class defence, are a severely limited weapon, as the general level of wages is negotiable only within very narrow limits. And it must be stressed above all that trade unions in themselves do nothing to threaten the continued existence of capitalism. On the contrary, as bargaining organisations between employee and employer, they play an essential part in its operation.

Apart from the continual battle between employee and employer over pay and working conditions, capitalism produces a host of other problems, big and small, which it cannot solve. Among the bigger ones are war, unemployment, bad housing, shoddy goods, anxiety, loneliness, boring work, all of which add up to a society of strife and dissatisfaction and a generally insecure and frustrated existence for the majority. Suggestions for improving things come continually from the political parties involved in running the system. The reforms they advocate are often called ‘innovatory’, ‘dynamic’ or even ‘revolutionary’. But once on the statute book they rarely benefit the working class to anything like the extent claimed and, on close examination, can usually be seen to be designed for the smoother, more efficient management of capitalism and its profit machine. A prime example of this is the Labour Party’s post-war ‘show-pieces’, nationalisation (often mistaken for socialism), which has been of no tangible benefit to the working class, and the National Health Service which was, and still' is, a shoddy, back-to-work service designed to keep workers in efficient order for the task of creating profits for their employers.

Well-meaning individuals often say that you can favour socialism in the long term but still campaign for reforms in the meantime. We say that this is merely putting off the day and channelling energies that could be usefully employed in bringing socialism nearer into activities whose results are uncertain and which anyway are more likely to help bolster capitalism than get rid of it. In any case it is not the function of a socialist organisation to campaign for reforms or seek support on the basis of reforms.

So far it has been comparatively easy for the dissatisfaction of workers to be channelled in a reformist rather than a socialist direction. What most people want is a quiet, secure life for themselves and their families, but capitalism does not allow them this. They are constantly denied it by wars, crises, job reorganisation, government economics, day-to-day violence and all the perpetual agitation and change of the dynamic competitive system that is capitalism. They react apathetically to all this because they are used to decisions being made for them, arbitrarily, by ‘higher authority’ and feel powerless to do anything themselves. They may take refuge in television, drugs, working for charities, feverish pursuit of ‘success’, and delude themselves and others into thinking they are ‘happy’ in this. Yet things will not get better and, ultimately, they will have to tackle the problem at its source and take collective action to establish socialism.
Socialism comes from capitalism 
What makes us think they will ever do this? Well there is certainly no guarantee, but certain long-term trends in capitalism do make it increasingly likely. Capitalism has already created a large, organised, highly trained working class which carries out by itself all essential productive, administrative and educative activity throughout the world and which is inexorably driven because of its subordinate social position and its conditions of work, to challenge the status quo. Capitalism has also produced, and carries on producing, the material conditions necessary for the establishment and the practical organisation of a united world-wide society rapid world-wide communications and a potential abundance of goods and services. Furthermore many of the problems of modern capitalism (pollution, threat of nuclear war, terrorism) are world problems which can only be approached on a world scale and which therefore spread among workers a consciousness of the need for global solutions.

How to get socialism 
Because socialism will be a fully democratic society in which the majority will get its way, with full rights of dissent for minorities, it follows that it can only be set up democratically. That is to say socialism cannot be handed to a majority of people by an elite which thinks it knows what is good for them. The result of minority revolution could only be minority rule under capitalism as in Russia, China and so on. And being a majority concept socialism excludes the idea of violence. The street fights and barricades vision of revolution so typical of today’s romantic Left is pure nineteenth-century. Today no barricades could possibly stand up to the might of the modern state and, in any case, there is no need, for in the economically advanced countries of the world, where workers are most numerous and highly trained, capitalism has been forced to give them certain elementary political rights, in particular the vote. So when a majority decide they want socialism they can organise themselves as a leaderless democratic political party (just as socialists at present have organised themselves in The Socialist Party) and use the ballot box to send their delegates to parliament with a mandate for abolishing capitalism and establishing socialism.

Sceptics often ask: ‘Will the capitalist class allow this to happen?’ Our reply is: ‘What can they do against a politically conscious majority from all sections (police, army included) of the working class?

What socialism will be like 
What will socialism be like once established? Well we obviously cannot provide a blueprint as the precise details of its organisation will be democratically decided by the majority who in the future will establish that society and live in it. But we can make certain general statements about its nature.

We can say that it will mean the end of buying and selling, the end of money and the wages system.

We can say that, with the disappearance of such factors as cost and competition, it will mean people planning production democratically according to their wants and taking what they need to consume from the abundance of resources made available by modern technology.

We can say that it will mean voluntary cooperation, work as pleasure not toil, and all men and women as social equals.

We can say that it will mean complete democracy in all departments of life with freedom to choose one’s activities and occupations without being pushed around by decisions from above or by any kind of arbitrary authority.

We can say that socialism will be world-wide—it cannot be anything else; ‘British Socialism’ is a contradiction in terms and anyway the world is now so closely united in terms of communications, fashions and the rapid flow of ideas that if people in one place were ready for socialism the rest of the world could not be far behind.
Howard Moss

Why didn’t I think of that? (1980)

Quote from the December 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard
"The people of Mozambique still, apparently, maintain that monkeys refuse to speak for fear that, if they do, they will be put to work”, from Modern History of Europe (Eugen Weber)

Political Notes: Tut, Tut (1980)

The Political Notes column from the December 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

Tut, Tut

“The Unions Are Angry” was a headline in the Guardian (15.10.80). Well, we all feel angry at times when things are going badly. The anger in this case was directed against ICI, the largest industrial concern in the country, who had announced they were going to lay off another 4,500 workers in their fibres division. This is of course very sad news for the workers concerned and their families. But what good does it do for the unions to be angry? No doubt King Canute was angry when the waves refused to obey his orders, but who cared? In the present case, the report tells us that ICI had lost £100 million in this division in the last five years and had actually lost a further £38 million in the last six months. No firm can carry on in the face of such figures without courting bankruptcy. And just in case anyone imagines that this problem is peculiar to the workers and management in this country, the report also mentioned that another country — Italy — which is very advanced in textiles, is losing in its fibres industry the trifling sum of half a million lire every minute. It is likely that synthetic fibres have produced synthetic anger among union leaders. They should know by now that not even genuine anger can make a scrap of difference to the normal workings of capitalism in one of its periodic crises.

What does he mean?

The words of political pundits are often as meaningless as those of the Oracle of Delphi. No doubt that helps to veil their ignorance. Here is Peter Jenkins of the Guardian (29.10.80): “The mix of the economy ought not to be an important question. A variety of mixes have succeeded in post-war Europe ranging from the dirigiste (but non-socialist) French version to the market (but social democratic) German model.” It seems to us that the spread of this “range” is from the same to the same. Just your ordinary capitalism. And what does our pundit mean by “succeeded”? Who succeeds? The million unemployed in West Germany? The million and a half in France? Still, he has managed to stumble across one spot of truth that French capitalism is non-socialist. It may even be dirigiste, only I neither know nor care what that is supposed to mean.

French lesson

Last month on French television, Michel Rocard of the French “Socialist” Party, so-called, announced that he would be contesting the presidency. Rocard, mayor of Conflans St. Honore, was educated at the elite National School of Administration.. Mitterand, his party leader, will also stand, but the cautious political manoeuvring between them is typical of the sordid power struggles of capitalism’s leaders, even if these men have the audacity to call themselves socialists. Mitterand made one statement suggesting he would not stand, and another suggesting he would. Rocard appealed for patriot votes by accusing Giscard d’Estaing’s policy of renouncing the great role France has played in history. “If he can get enough Gaullists, plus some disgruntled Communists, plus the Ecologists”, the Guardian (21.10.80) explained, “he might win”. Rocard claims to want to “get rid of the deep inequality that spoils and dishonours our society”, and he is therefore bidding for one of the most flagrantly privileged, almost regal offices that capitalism has to offer the politicians who ride roughshod on the backs of the working class. In contrast, socialists have consciously decided what they want and how to get it, and are able to organise democratically, without leaders, to that end. These confused clowns can keep their hypocritical circus acts.

Potential abundance

“Farmers have been paid between 2p and 5p a pound since the summer for fruit and vegetables which have been officially destroyed . . . The produce destroyed represents only a small part of a British food “mountain” which is growing fast as the EEC faces record crops and poor demand. The Home-grown Cereals Authority said yesterday that it expected the British share or the Community grain “mountain” to rise from less than 300,000 tonnes to 750,000 tonnes. . . Of the 12,204 tonnes of fish taken off the market this year, most has been ground into fish meal to be fed to farm animals, the rest has been used in petfood. Britain’s official food “mountain” in in tonnes: barley, 246.695; butter, 26,380; beef, 20,287; oilseed rape, 3,527; wheat, 3,152; milk powder, 2,383; rye, 300. Source: Stocks now held by the intervention board.” (The Times 10.10.80.)

As capitalism staggers on from crisis to crisis these “surpluses” are the natural result of the system of producing food to be sold in the world market at a profit. Roughly one third of the world’s population is malnourished, with millions starving to death. It is not profitable to satisfy demand which is not supported by money; the “demand” referred to in the quotation above is potent demand, from people who can “afford” food. Somebody starving to death might want food, but that does not count as demand in a system which operates on the basis of the profits of those who monopolise the food resources of the world. The alternative is a society where those resources will be commonly owned and used directly to satisfy all human needs and wants without the restrictive barrier of the monetary, profit system which can only ever work to the benefit of a minority.

Fraternal greetings

During the debate on democracy in the Labour Party Conference at Blackpool, there were certain people—called “fraternal observers”—given passes to watch the proceedings. Now these observers were doing their fraternal observing of a debate on democracy while a strike was taking place in Poland against the corrupt, totalitarian government of the Communist Party. Whose representatives were the “fraternal observers”? Not a single voice was raised in the Conference suggesting there might be something wrong in giving special invitations to these people. No doubt the leaders of the Labour Party (as of the equally obnoxious TUC) will expect similar red-carpet treatment in Warsaw in due course. From the oppressors of the working class.

Turkey: Background to a Failed Coup (2016)

From the September 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
A personal view of the recent attempted coup in Turkey based on talking to people there.
Writing three weeks after the attempted coup d’etat on 15 July 2016 in Turkey, my initial reaction was one of complete rejection of its validity – it had to be a ‘false-flag’ because, based on early reports, the Turkish armed forces are quite simply not that inept!
As the days passed reports and information emerged that explained why the coup had failed so quickly and dramatically. It was clear that many in the higher echelons of the armed services and MIT (state intelligence service) were not aware of the plotting and would not have supported the plotters if they had been.
Young conscripts when faced with orders to shoot on crowds of civilians protesting against the coup refused, laid down their weapons and surrendered to the people or police. The mistreatment and even murder of these conscripts by the crowds and the failure of the police to prevent it were in many ways astonishing.
A sergeant shot himself dead rather than obey an illegal order to fire on a crowd.
A junior officer, when he realised what was happening, shot dead a brigadier who was a senior commander on the ground for the coup plotters.
Thousands of people answered the call from the president via social media and the mosques’ loudspeakers to fill the streets and stop the coup. Tanks were stopped by people laying down in front of them or by having socks stuffed in the exhaust pipes. Even so, hundreds were gunned down or died in the bombing by helicopter gunships and F16 fighter aircraft.
Perhaps the single most telling reason for the failure of the coup is to be found in the actions of the Russians. Relations between Turkey and Russia nose-dived after Turkish aircraft shot down a Russian plane over Syria (eventually even NATO agreed that the Russian aircraft had not crossed into Turkish airspace). Erdoğan’s bombast and refusal to apologise led to crippling sanctions that have deeply damaged the Turkish economy. Such was the damage that eventually Erdoğan swallowed his pride, admitted responsibility, apologised and agreed to pay the Russian government and families of the dead crew compensation.
Russia’s advanced electronic warfare and surveillance post at the Hmeimim Air Base in NW Syria intercepted communications between helicopters that indicated that a coup was about to be launched against the government of Turkey. That information was channelled to President Putin via the FSB (formerly KGB) who authorised that it be passed to MIT (Turkish Intelligence Service). Russia’s action has been ignored by Western media but has been openly acknowledged by the Turkish government. The head of MIT, Hakan Fidan, a staunch Erdoğan loyalist, immediately met with the chiefs of the armed services and an order grounding all aircraft and forbidding any movement of troops or armour followed.
The coup plotters, realising that they were exposed and would face a long jail sentence whether they surrendered or not, decided to bring their plans forward by six hours and execute the coup. Russia’s timely warning enabled those opposed to any coup time to prepare. The president was evacuated from his holiday hotel and rushed to an aircraft just forty minutes before renegade troops backed by helicopters attacked the hotel. His plane was escorted by two fighter aircraft from Dalaman in the South West to Istanbul on the advice of the General Staff as Ankara was too dangerous. En route two putschist F16s locked their weapon  systems on to Erdoğan’s plane but for whatever reason failed to fire.
Who was behind the coup?
I doubt that there is a single Turk who does not believe that the US was behind the coup attempt. Why? They will tell you . . .
•           History! It is hard to find a coup anywhere in the world that the US was not behind. All previous coup d’etats in Turkey were backed by the US.
•           Silence from the US as they awaited the outcome of the coup. Russia and Iran, for example, condemned it immediately.
•           The refusal of the US to extradite Fethullah Gülen from his self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania to face charges of conspiracy and sedition. Gülen is seen as a tool of the CIA, his application to reside in the US was backed by three senior CIA officials.
Many Turks believe that either the US government, or the CIA acting as a rogue element, whilst happy to keep the AKP government in place wants rid of Erdoğan whom they see as erratic and unreliable.
Fethullah Gülen is central to much of what has happened in Turkey since the AK Party came to power. The Gülen Movement is known as Hizmet which means Service and it can be divided into two distinct parts.
The part that is seen and openly supported by millions around the world promotes tolerance, openness, moderate Islam, acceptance of differences, education, etc., transparency in all things. It operates thousands of schools and colleges in many countries. It raises billions of dollars annually from its business operations, donations, gifts, legacies and tithing – it is immensely wealthy.
The part that you do not see functions in a very different way and has very different objectives. Turkey has been the target of Gülen for many years. In a leaked video of one of his sermons, which is still available on YouTube, he can be seen and heard saying the following: ‘You must move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all the power centres. You must wait until such time as you have gotten all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the constitutional institutions in Turkey’.
As the Gülenists patiently infiltrated all the components of the Turkish state from the army to the judiciary to the police to the education system to the general bureaucracy they were able to facilitate the rise of their own into the highest posts. After the video came to light many accused Gülen of infiltrating the state with an illegal organisation. Soon after Gülen fled to the US Hanefi Avcı , who was a police commissioner at the time, stated: ‘People spoke about the presence of Gülen’s followers inside the police force, but there was no apparent criminal activity. Only after 2006 did certain police officers start to show deeper allegiances to the movement than to the state’.
When the AK Party came to power in the 2002 general election it allied itself with Gülen and together they set about drawing down the power and influence of the secular military. The sensational Ergenekon (Deep State) and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) investigations purported to expose what the military were up to. There followed a series of show trials of the officer corps on trumped-up charges. Many spent up to three years or more in prison without trial. As the secular Kemalist officers were weeded out the Gülenists filled their boots. The military was devastated and deeply wounded. Throughout other elements of the state the same process was going on.
As the AK Party government established its writ throughout much of the country the ambitions of then Prime Minister Erdoğan began to dominate. He no longer desired the ‘guidance’ of Gülen and the two fell out very publicly.
When Gülenists inside the system, almost certainly acting on Gülen’s instruction, leaked evidence of massive corruption within the government and Erdoğan’s family the rift became total and a war of attrition began. The generals and senior officers of the armed forces were pardoned and released with an apology from Erdoğan and an explanation that it was the corrupt elements of Hizmet that had infiltrated the judiciary that were to blame for the huge miscarriage of justice. Many were reinstated because Erdoğan now needed different ‘friends’ within the system.
Purges of the Gülenists have been ongoing for some time and no doubt many of them saw the coup as a last-ditch chance to retain influence. Many outside of the Hizmet organisation believe that had the coup succeeded Gülen would have returned to Turkey rather like Ayatollah Khomeini to Iran in 1979.
Hizmet Structure
The structure of that element of the Hizmet organisation that functioned secretly within the state apparatus is interesting. Most organisations are hierarchical – they are ‘up-down’. The secret, deep-state Hizmet structure is best described as horizontal. A member of Hizmet will know only one other person. This person is his abi or older brother and his instructions are to be followed through without question. Secrecy is paramount to protect the organisation and the people within it. So, within the military for example, one can find the interesting example of a senior non-commissioned officer issuing instructions to a general and those instructions being carried out to the letter. This level of secrecy contributed to some of the disarray during the coup attempt. If there is no ‘abi’ to pass on changes of plan then chaos can reign. Add to that the ineptitude of the putschist use of the Whatsapp social media application and you have a recipe for failure. That said, the coup attempt came within a forty minute ace of succeeding. Without the Russians passing on the information they had intercepted Erdoğan would likely have been killed or captured.
State of Emergency
Following the failed coup great swathes of the armed services and the bureaucracy are being purged. All government employees have had their passports cancelled and are forbidden to leave the country. Within the judiciary anyone who voted against Erdoğan’s ‘reforms’ of that element of state structure has been automatically fingered as a Gülenist and suspended until investigated and proven innocent. All private universities, colleges and schools have been closed or taken under state supervision whilst their affiliations are examined. Any member of the bureaucracy whose bank records show they have made donations or gifts to the Hizmet or its various subsidiary organisations has been suspended pending investigation. Many of those who have made donations will have been fulfilling their obligations as Muslims unaware of the links to Hizmet and will be innocent of any ‘disloyalty’. They could also very well be AK Party supporters.
Although tens of thousands have been detained or suspended there is a steady flow of those who have been investigated and released or reinstated.
The Future – is Erdoğan Weaker or Stronger?
There are no crystal balls and Turkey is a very complicated and fractured society at present. What has united people across the board is their opposition to the coup attempt. Erdoğan was as bombastic and belligerent as ever immediately after the event. His position has mellowed considerably since he no doubt realises that he is hated by half the country’s population, all of his so-called NATO allies and most of the populations of the neighbouring states. He has withdrawn all of the thousands of libel actions against those who have ‘insulted the president’ (with the exception of the largely Kurdish HD Party – a tactical failure that he may live to regret). He has started a process of rapprochement with two of the main opposition parties but again his obsessive hatred of all things Kurdish has clouded his judgement and he has excluded the HDP. He has stepped back from reintroduction of the death penalty. He has drawn back from his plans for forcing through constitutional change and an executive presidency. He is heading to Russia for private talks with Putin. There are now friendly overtures towards Iran. The prime minister has said that Turkey wants to mend fences and normalise relations with Assad and Syria – Erdoğan has not contradicted this. If, or more likely when, this happens it will nail the lid on the coffin of the US’ project to Balkanise the Middle East and secure Kuwaiti gas pipelines to Europe which would have undermined Russia. As a result of his recent toning down I think that Erdoğan believes he is in a weaker position, at least in the short term.
Within a fairly short time frame it is possible that Turkey might leave NATO and, together with Iran, accept a Russian invitation to join the Eurasia Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. The officer corps that is rising within the armed forces after the abortive coup is most definitely not Atlanticist like the Gülenist-CIA faction. They believe that Turkey’s future lies not in the EU-NATO-Western alliance but eastwards within Eurasia. This is a vision of the future that I believe Erdoğan shares.
Turkey has applied for Gülen’s extradition (again) and has presented the evidence that they have accumulated. If the US fails to comply then it will confirm the Turkish government’s view that the US/CIA/Gülen was indeed behind the coup. If they do extradite him then it will show that his ‘sell by date’ has passed and the NATO Gladio Operation in Turkey is at an end.
In closing it has to be said that Turks of every political persuasion seem optimistic about the future. ‘Things will be much better in Turkey now’ is a constant refrain. There are some who believe that Erdoğan will face charges in court for his corrupt and illegal practices within three years. Turks are amazingly optimistic people! That this coup attempt and Erdoğan’s counter-coup would lead to such an optimistic outcome was hard to understand. There is a feeling that ‘democracy’ and the people have triumphed. People believe that Erdoğan realises that he was saved not by those who support him but by those who support democracy. He was saved because of the people who laid down in front of tanks or paid with their lives for resisting on the streets as bullets flew. He was saved because an army sergeant killed himself before he would fire on his countrymen and women. He was saved by the young who used Facebook and Facetime to inform their fellow citizens of the coup threat (perhaps now he will reconsider his opposition to – and constant attacks on – social media). He was saved by the Chief of the General Staff who was kidnapped by his Gülenist ADC and, when invited to speak with his ‘older brother’ Fethullah Gülen, flatly refused. Above all, he was saved by Russia and President Putin who saw an opportunity to drive a wedge between Turkey and the West, and in doing so relieve some of the unrelenting pressure by NATO at Russia’s borders.
For the majority of the population life remains ‘normal’, on the surface nothing much has changed. Behind the scenes much is changing and as the country moves forward more will follow. In the West the media has distorted, exaggerated and lied about what has happened and is happening. Erdoğan is authoritarian and autocratic and his political involvement is contrary to the existing constitution, according to which power should really lie with the prime minister and cabinet. That said he is not a dictator and he is the first directly elected president of Turkey. If, as seems likely, his erstwhile friends and allies in the various western alliances are indeed found to have been involved or even neutral to the events leading up to his attempted overthrow then the break up and realignment that will surely follow will be monumental and game-changing. US Secretary of State Kerry is due in Turkey shortly, his welcome is likely to be very cool!
(Name supplied but withheld)

Michael Foot: more of the same (1980)

From the December 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

So Michael Foot is the new leader of the Labour Party. For some this is very good news, a new leader is just what the sheep require. “Foot is my shepherd, 1 shall not want . . .”. For others this signals a move to left-wing domination of the Labour Party which could lead to a party split. However it’s regarded, the fact is that to many workers the battle for the leadership, and its result, are very important issues. But cast aside the glib outpourings of the the “political experts”; cast aside the extensive coverage by the media of the two-ballot lead-up to the result and let’s examine this power scrummage through our own eyes, not those of the people who write Anna Ford’s script. When a uniform political analysis is pumped out of every media outlet in Russia this is correctly condemned as a symptom of totalitarianism. Yet when, for instance, an almost identical analysis of the same dozen news items appears on all three television channels on any given evening in Britain, there are only a small number who reject this brainwashing.

Imagine a fictional person who, not having been exposed to the media coverage of the Labour leadership contest, and unfamiliar with some political institutions, seeks an explanation of the issue from a socialist:

Q. The battle was over the leadership of the Labour Party, but what is this party? 

A. In Britain, as in all industrialised countries including Russia, there are two classes of people. Those who own and control the places where wealth is produced and distributed—the capitalists—they live off of rents, interest and profit, and those who work in those places—the workers—who have to survive on wages or salaries. Those two classes are pitted in a continuous conflict, and the Labour Party claims to be on the side of the workers.

Q. Does the Labour Party successfully promote the interests of the workers?

A. No, the Labour Party only has plans to administer this social set-up. This means first, that it intends the continuation of a class system where the label “worker” will still be applicable to those who are not “investors” or “industrialists”, and second that it has constantly to comply with the economic laws of the system it works within (the profit-system) which is inherently loaded against the workers. This is why Labour governments have had to re-introduce prescription charges (1965), withdraw free school milk, support wage-restraint policies, use troops to break strikes by dock workers and firemen, spend millions of pounds a day on armaments and in 1979 preside helplessly over 1,600,000 unemployed and 53,000 registered homeless as it cut public spending by 6.3 per cent.

Illustration by George Meddemmen.
Q. How was the leadership election run? 

A. The struggle at the top echelons of the Labour Party is characterised by the same back-stabbing and “bargaining” which must exist in any organisation operating on the basis of leadership, hierarchies, smoke-filled rooms and a hotch-potch of political persuasions chasing, apart from ambitions, a wide range of political objectives. Their political manoeuvrings are insulting to the people they ask for trust. Speeches by Foot and Healey in Northern constituencies a couple of days before the final ballot “. . .  used carefully chosen words designed more for the ears of the few Labour MPs who have not cast their vote than for their audiences”. (Guardian 7.1 1.80) After the first ballot “campaign managers” from both camps were desperately trying to capture the support of those who voted for Shore and Silkin in the first ballot. What sort of promises or persuasion can be used by a campaign manager to secure the vote of a waverer is anybody’s guess, but an appeal to principle is probably not a trump card.

The tension mounted, Ladbrokes and Corals declared their best odds and Michael Foot fetched up as Thatcher’s new sparring partner.

Q. What is Foot’s record as a Labour politician? Is there hope for the working class in his rhetoric?

A. In 1945 we find Foot as a Labour MP arguing insistently for nationalisation and the working-class tightening its belt and increasing productivity for BRITAIN to recover after the war. Good news for the Duke of Buccleuch who owned 268,000 acres of it, but not much incentive for the 90 per cent who had nothing but rent-books or mortgages. “If that abundant life is to be assured in the future certain immediate privations will have to be endured in order to re-stock capital industries. No Tory government could make this appeal, for the worker would suspect that the summons to hard work, discipline and abstinence would result only in fortunes for the few and the later wastage of unemployment. The new government is in a different situation. It also must appeal for hard work, discipline, and for a short period, continued abstinence . . . But a Labour government at the same time can give concrete proof of its resolve to use this wealth for the benefit of the whole community.” (Daily Herald 8.7.45) Concrete proof of “resolve” perhaps, but not concrete proof of results. We wonder whether Foot’s Tory-trouncing accusations, “fortunes for the few” and “wastage of unemployment” echoed to him in 1979 when after seventeen years of Labour government since his exhortations, the top 1 per cent of people in Britain owned more accumulated wealth than the bottom 80 per cent (Royal Commission on the Distribution of Wealth and Income) and 1,600,000 were unemployed.

Either you run capitalism, in which case you play the tune of the Stock Exchange, the Treasury and the IMF, bending to the profit priority, or else you organise the production of wealth to benefit the whole community. There is no half-way house, and Foot’s Robin Hood politics are doomed to failure.

The “closed shop” is of doubtful assistance to the working class in the industrial struggle against capital. Workers compelled to join a union will not make good members and many employers prefer such an arrangement because it strengthens trade union leadership and thereby improves union discipline. Yet Mr. Foot is a firm supporter of the closed shop. When six men were dismissed from Ferrybridge Power Station in 1976 because they violated a one-union agreement by joining a breakaway union, and were refused Unemployment Benefit under the “misconduct rule” in the Social Security Act, Foot as Secretary of State for Employment issued a statement that he found nothing wrong with the procedure. Not satisfied with this, Foot decided to really put the boot in, and he tried to engineer an amendment to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act (1974) removing all “safeguard provisions” against the closed shop. The principle safeguard was the right of appeal to an Industrial Tribunal which had the power to award compensation for unfair dismissal. Foot’s amendment was designed to leave a worker who had been sacked for not joining a specified union, denied the dole and without recourse to a tribunal.

Q. What does Foot now plan as prominent Labour Party policy?

A. According to his speeches leading up to the leadership election he believes that the Labour Party should seek, if it gets office in time, to stop the arms race through a “unilateral British lead”. Don’t stop the cause of nations producing weapons, don’t put an end to the profit-system, the cause of war, but stop the arms race as there are already 4 tonnes of explosives for each person on earth. Also Mr. Foot, along with Enoch Powell and the National Front, would like to lead British capitalism out of the Common Market.

Q. Is there a glimmer of hope for the working class in either of these policies?

A. No. Whether Foot cares to admit it or not, wars are fought to capture or protect markets, territories rich in natural resources and manpower, trade routes or strategic areas on the trade map. You cannot keep capitalism and request that the owners of capital desist from protecting their markets, by whatever means they choose, and forget economic expansion. Rather than plead with the owning class, or more accurately their representatives in the state machine, to make the right decisions we must remove the privilege of the few that enables them to play havoc with humanity. At Vienna, the governments of the world have been negotiating a reduction of conventional weapons of destruction. After six years they have not agreed on the removal of a single rifle. Canada claims to have disarmed its most devastating armaments, but what good is this if the cause of war is left intact? International ferocities in warfare are no respecters of such political gestures any more than they are respectors of pious prayers (except perhaps when the padres bless the bombs) or signed pieces of paper.

What of the EEC? Begotten as an economic bloc to compete with America and the Eastern bloc, it has produced all of the miseries of capitalism elsewhere poverty, inflation, unemployment ad nauseam—and solved none of them. While 28 human beings die from hunger across the world every minute of every day (1977—The National Academy of Sciences Research Project) the EEC is annually destroying thousands of tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables which cannot be sold at a profit—not to mention the mountains of butter and beef and the lakes of wine. Foot, forgetting the plight of the international working class and performing his theoretical role as a guardian of the interests of British citizens, believes our condition would stand to be improved if we withdrew from the EEC. Do he and his disciples forget so easily the years [1924], 1945-51, 1964-70 when Britain was not in the EEC (it was only formed in 1957) and Labour, in the seat of power, was just as incapable of solving the problems of the working class as it was from 1974 to 1979 when we were in the EEC?

While Foot and his opponents in the Labour Party bandy words about whether British industry and farming (British industrial investors and land owners) are best served by membership of the Common Market, we are campaigning for our fellow workers to organise democratically to establish Common Ownership of the places where wealth is produced and distributed.

Q. Where do Foot and his supporters go from here?

A. Mr. Foot does not seem to have learnt much after nearly half a century of political experience, even if he learnt nothing from the history he has read. He announced after his triumph that he intends to lead a gigantic Labour demonstration against unemployment, in Liverpool in late November. What was gained by the Jarrow marchers? Why should the owners of Capital invest in production, if goods, if they were to be produced, could not be sold at a profit? Foot was also emphatic that the Labour Party was not in favour of withdrawal from NATO. A peculiar allegiance for a man, and a party, so ardent to “maintain” what is labelled “peace”, (ignore: Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, The Middle East, Northern Ireland) except of course when Labour has to lend a hand with recruiting workers to butcher their fellows abroad, as it had to in the last two world wars.
The disastrous failures of once wild- eyed militants (Attlee, Wilson et al) to make capitalism operate in the interests of the working class may be receding beyond memory. They should not. There are no instant solutions to the profit system. No one-man remedies. The Socialist Party of Great Britain and its companion parties abroad are democratic instruments to be used by a politically conscious, leaderless working class to organise to take control of the means of life. Everyone is of equal standing in this party, young, old, male, female, black and white as we campaign co-operatively and actively for more support. Will you devote your energies to the giddy task of trying to bring order to this system of relentless chaos or will you dissent and act to change the basis of the society in which you live? We are in an agonising crisis and under the threat of another war. There isn’t time to put a foot wrong . . .  
Gary Jay