Saturday, April 1, 2017

Another Club in Financial Crisis (2017)

The Action Replay column from the April 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

Leyton Orient is facing a winding-up order over an unpaid tax bill and could face the threat of liquidation if they cannot settle their debt to HRMC, thought to be in the region of £250,000. This would be a disaster for the crisis-hit club who would therefore face exile from the Football League after 112 year's membership. An Orient spokesman has declined to comment on either the winding up petition or the size of the unpaid bill. A Football League spokesman said only ‘we are aware of the situation at Leyton Orient and in contact with the club…’
Members of the Leyton Orient Fans Club (LOFT) have set up a fund to raise a £100k rescue package to protect the club, should current Italian owner Francesco Becchetti decide to sell up or if the club goes into administration.
Becchetti is unwilling to part with Orient for anything less than £4 million he paid to Sports Promoter Barry Hearn to purchase the club in 2014.  Hearn became Chairman of Leyton Orient in 1985 after the club was put up for sale for £5 by the then chairman Tony Wood. He has admitted that he now regrets selling the club to the Italian businessman but has ruled out buying it back. He has also remarked ‘thank goodness I kept the ground because otherwise goodness knows what would have happened.’ Leyton Orient's home ground was originally called Brisbane Road but is now officially known as the Matchroom Stadium after Hearn's sports promotion company.
Much has been made about Becchetti’s ‘malign’ influence over the club as a 'foreign owner' despite the fact that several clubs in the English Premier League are owned by foreigners, e.g. Manchester United and Liverpool (American) Chelsea (Russian) Manchester City (Arab) and Leicester City (Asian). The nationality of the owner makes no difference.
It is short-sighted and stupid nationalism to blame foreign owners for a football club's decline. Football, as well as being a sport, is also a business that attracts investment from foreign or home-based capital if there is the prospect of a profitable return on investment. Football operates within capitalism as does any business enterprise and that’s why profit and loss has precedence over a long term ‘footballing strategy’ and why the balance sheet is more important than where the club plays, especially if that provides a chance for property speculation.

Fifty years of "independence" (1997)

From the October 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

In August Indians celebrated fifty years of independence from Britain, or at least some of them did. Socialists in India didn't, as Binay Sarkar of the World Socialist Party (India) explains

There were festivities down to the village level with flying colours displaying the logo to rekindle nationalism as “a people's event”. Fifty years previously, our class-elders had paid a high bloody price for the "Independence" that couldn't end their dependence.

National independence is a capitalist business. Feuding factions of the selfsame class that win and control territories for profit, their politicians, media chiefs and paid hacks—Indian, Pakistani as well as "the imperialist" British, and maybe their global compatriots—got the show in motion on Friday 15 August 1997 to celebrate the occasion that occurred on a Friday fifty years ago.

In the middle of the present millennium the search for markets, sources of raw materials, cheap labour power and most profitable locations for business gave rise to "colonialism", having transcontinental ramifications into all pre-capitalist formations. This indicated capitalism’s global dimensions right from the beginning. It was British merchant capital which navigated Job Charnock. who on 24 August 1690 arrived at the village of Sutanuti that later developed into the capitalist city of Calcutta, the first capital of British India.

Capitalism in India began to spread with the building of harbours, roads, railways, mills factories and banks—no matter what race, religion, language and territory capitalists and workers originated from. For capital is not a personal but a social force. Its movement in India accorded to its intrinsic alienating, uneven and competitive laws of motion. Battles, mutinies, marches and proclamations have well recorded this course in India as elsewhere.

Two centuries later in an atmosphere of great unrest due to poverty, famine and oppression, a populist platform became necessary to channel people’s wrath. Indian capitalists, intellectuals and their associations were encouraged by some British officials. Hume, Wedderburn and others with support from The Statesmen’s founder-editor Robert Knight in inaugurating the annual gathering of the nationalist movement called the Indian National Congress on 28 December 1885. The British government required it to work as a safety-valve, because by then a more confident and secure British capitalist class were learning to rule more with words than with swords.

In the 1906 Congress a group led by Tilak which favoured self-government secured a majority. Meanwhile on 30 December 1906 the Muslim League was founded by a group of well-to-do Indians claiming to represent the Indian Muslims with their "Pakistan" plan for separate states.

By 1920 the Communist Party of India was formed in Tashkent. On 15 May 1922 it launched its organ The Vanguard of Indian Independence, later changed to The Masses of India, on I January 1925. Right from its inception the CPI clearly accepted Lenin’s fatal reversal of the class position of Marx and Engels—that the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself, and that proletarians have no country—to the ideology that workers are to be led by a minority vanguard party, that workers are the true patriots, and that "socialism" secures nation-states, and further that the struggle in the world is not between workers and capitalists but between imperialist and anti-imperialist states. However, "No party can serve two masters,” as the saying goes: a party serves the interests of one class or another.

Strikes and riots
Two lak [200,000] Bombay workers went into the first Indian general strike on 2 January 1919. Later the Great Depression caused strikes in industrial India—in Bombay textile mills (16 April to 5 October 1928), Tata Iron and Steel. South India Railways, Lillooah Railway workshops, Bengal Jute Mills. Calcutta Scavengers, etc. The Calcutta scavengers’ strike (April 1928) showed that the nationalist City Council could be as repressive an exploiter as the British nationalists. The lesson of the Tata Strike (January 1928) was that leaders would do anything to end strikes on terms to their own gains. Subhas Bose, the nationalist leader, assumed chairmanship of one union and then betrayed workers by accepting the very terms which he had described impossible in an opening speech. This leader once declared “Give me blood: I promise you freedom."

In the Burma Oil Works in Bombay on 5 December 1928 a strike began and kept going with mass pickets. The owners began bringing in Pathans (backward peasants and hillmen) as strike-breakers. Bitter and bloody conflict eventually led as many as 100.000 workers to come out in a massive demonstration on Bombay streets. Meantime efforts where made to rouse antagonism between Muslims and Hindus. Whenever there was a strike capitalists’ agents started quarrels between Hindus and Muslims so as to turn struggles between classes—workers and owners—into strife between religious crowds, the old rulers' policy of "Divide and Rule".

In 1930 Peshawar was in the hands of the people for 10 days.Two platoons of a Hindu regiment refused to fire on the Muslim crowd and fraternised with the people. In May 1930 Sholapur town was in the hands of the people for a week and in July Bombay witnessed large demonstrations. But all were to fall, under the sway of nationalist illusions. At the same time the Bombay Mill-owners’ Association and the Chamber of Commerce (British and Indian businessmen) demanded “self- government" for India.

In 1943 The Great Bengal Famine took "some two to four million lives" (FAO calculation). However, the per capita availability (rice and wheat) index for 1943 was higher by about nine percent than that for 1941. Bengal was producing its largest rice crop in history in 1943. The biggest section of those killed in the famine were landless agricultural labourers. They produced the food, but couldn’t buy it back to consume, for they had no money to buy it with, because they only worked, but didn’t own.

Transfer of power
The Viceroy signed the "Indian Independence Order and International Arrangements” on 14 August 1947 dividing "British India” into two: the Dominion of India with Mountbatten as Governor-general and Nehru as Prime Minister; and the Dominion of Pakistan with Jinnah as Governor-general and Liaquat Ali Khan as Prime Minister. At a special midnight session the Constituent Assembly passed the Oath resolution promising "common prosperity". Rajendra Prased, President of the Indian Constituent Assembly pledged an endeavour "to end poverty . . . hunger and disease, to abolish distinctions and exploitation, and to ensure decent conditions of living”. Nehru said. "When the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new.”

But "the new" had no problem now with "the old", as Nehru expressed "grateful thanks" and assured the continuation of the "closest co-operation" with the British government in reply to Attlee's "greetings and good wishes to the Government and people of India".

Festivities followed: "volunteer rallies”, “route marches”, “flag hoisting", "gun-salutes", while Gandhi and Suhrawardy went to fast and pray after their joint peace mission in Beliaghate. Calcutta.

"The mass of India” got "lndependence’’.The public of Calcutta were ordered to enjoy “freedom” under curfew "due to disturbed conditions". And The Statesman (15 August 1947) headlined: "Political Freedom For One-Fifth of Human Race"—"Joyful scenes in Calcutta". Comment would be superfluous.

Pakistan was created comprising separate territories in NW and NE India on the notion of religious homogeneity. Yet India and Pakistan went to war in 1965 on the "Kashmir question" and in December 1971 on the "Bangladesh" issue. East Pakistan became "independent" Bangladesh in 1972 on the notion of linguistic homogeneity. Both were in ill accord with social reality. Then Bangladesh gave workers a famine in 1974.

The propaganda that "freedom" gave us the vote in 1948 is untrue. Workers had to achieve it.

In India the process started under working-class pressure with the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909. In 1935 the British government passed the Government of India Act—called the New Constitution—enacting the right to vote for more than 30 million people (about 12 percent of the population). Provincial elections were held in 1937. It was thus that arrived the ballot. But democracy for revolutionaries isn’t just the ballot, but the participatory democracy, revocable—delegated—socialist democracy based on a world co-operative commonwealth.

From “Go back” to “come back” 
In 1942 Indian leaders shouted: "Quit India"—"Go back.” Today they invite: "Catch India"—"Come back”. Of course, not to rule, but to invest, in Indo-British, Indo-Japanese, Indo-American "joint ventures."

Again there are round table talks. But this time to talk "international interdependence" and not “national independence". Talk they must; they are talkers, because they are owners. They needn’t work, but talk—to tell us not to talk, but to work.Theirs is "talk-culture", and they are true to their ideology. But when they make a showpiece with profit-hungry gangsters who say they gear international investments around concern for our children’s upbringing and "decent conditions of living”, we observe that they are being deceptive and fear the truth.

“Now the youth must be the focus of the drive”—goes the central celebration call. The leftists asked youngsters to fight for "the right to work", just a "right" to be exploited!

Socialists cannot encourage the youth to ask for "rights". Instead we urge them to forget the crumbs from the dishes of their masters’ feast, but instead organise to take the whole feast for themselves by replacing the capitalist logo: "One Nation—One State" with the socialist one: "One World—One People". The obstacle only lies in our minds—the "fear of freedom". Remove fear. Be free to be one to the Movement. Don’t feel you need to be led.
Binay Sarkar

Intoxicating spirit (1997)

Book Review from the January 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Price of a Cigar by Peter Wood,  Anchor Books, £9.95.

Books written from film scripts and from the texts of plays are comparatively rare, but here is one. Based on the play The Strike of 1889, which ran for 26 sell-out performances in 1994, The Price of a Cigar, tells the story of the London dockers' strike of 1889.

I didn’t see the play but the book makes easy, often compelling. reading. The author claims that the events took place much as they are described and this seems credible.

The story traces the life of one docker and his family, describing in touching detail the squalid, crushing poverty of life in the East End of London. We follow the beginnings of the strike, and its subsequent development, through the actions of the strike committee, the rapacious behaviour of the London Dock Employers, and an American reporter employed by the Times. If the dialogue is sometimes less than convincing, with common language of the late twentieth century occasionally intruding into nineteenth century speech patterns, this seems not to matter very much. Wood tells the story with drive and gusto, and manages to capture something of the intoxicating spirit which drove the strikers on.and which finally led the employers to climb down and accept the strike committee’s demands.

But it was a pyrrhic victory. Nothing really had been changed. Over a hundred years later, in 1994, the remnants of the once vast army of Liverpool dockers were sacked as they protested against the return of precisely the conditions which had led the London dockers to strike in 1889. Their union seemingly powerless to intervene— hamstrung by the anti-trade union legislation of the 1980s.

Writing about the book John Monks, the present chairman of the Trades Union Congress. describes it as "A moving and truly memorable account of ordinary lives that changed history.’’Moving and memorable"? Well yes. But "an account of ordinary lives that changed the course of history"? Not really. The capitalist class remains in power; workers continue to be exploited; the essential social relations which obtained before the 1889 strike remain in place.

Workers understandably fight to improve their conditions under capitalism, but the burden of their efforts, strategically, must be to change history by replacing capitalism, not by reforming it or concentrating on defensive struggles alone. Nothing less will do.
Michael Gill

Author’s note: 
As he has no wish to needlessly swell the coffers of W.H. Smith, Dillons, etc., the author intends to forward the profit from all books sold as a result of this review to the fund for the families of the Liverpool Dockers The price of the book is £9.95. Any reader requiring a copy should send two cheques, one for £5.55 payable to Anchor Books to cover the cost of the book plus packing and delivery, and one for £4.40 payable to the Merseyside Dockers Family Hardship Fund. Post both cheques with order to: Anchor Books, Anchor House, 54 Whiteadder Way, London El4 9UR. Copies will be signed by the author if requested.

Capitalist Health Warning (2017)

Editorial from the April 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
On 4th March 2017, tens of thousands of people marched through London in support of the National Health Service. This winter, hospital waiting times had grown and in the Accident and Emergency (A&E) wards, patients were stranded on trolleys while waiting for beds to become available. This has been exacerbated by the crisis in social care, where elderly people have had to be cared for in NHS hospitals, because of a shortage of places in care homes. Last year, there was a dispute with the junior doctors, who objected to new contracts, which would worsen their working conditions. This is against the backdrop of a squeeze in government funding made in response to the economic downturn in 2008-2009.
The NHS was established in 1948, ostensibly with the principle that health care would be provided free to all regardless of their ability to pay. Although hailed as a great ‘socialist’ achievement at the time, it arose out of the recommendations of the Beveridge report. During the Second World War, many in the ruling class believed that the working class should receive some payback for their sacrifices. However, they were not entirely driven by altruism, as they hoped that the workers would become healthier and more productive. Around this time, there was the beginning of the post war economic boom based on the reconstruction of industry, which made commitments, like this one, affordable.
However, like every product or service in capitalism, health care has to be paid for, which is funded mainly from general taxation and national insurance, the burden of which falls ultimately on profits. Charges for prescriptions were introduced by the Conservative government in 1952. These were abolished by the Labour government in February 1965, only for them to be reintroduced at a higher rate in June 1968 by the same government, albeit with a wider range of exemptions.
In 1990, the Conservative government attempted to control costs by introducing an internal market into the NHS in England, with the establishment of NHS trusts. In 1992, the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) was introduced, in which private firms would be contracted to provide funding for public sector projects. The Labour government supported its use for the NHS and it also established NHS Foundation trusts, which provided more scope for the involvement of private companies. Under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, NHS primary care trusts and strategic health authorities were abolished and more control of NHS funds given over to GPs, who have the freedom to engage private contractors.
Many campaigners blame the Conservative government for the woes of the NHS. However, as experience has shown, Labour have no more solutions to the problems of the NHS than have the Tories. The problems lie not with the Tories, but with the capitalist system itself. The quality of health care depends entirely on the vagaries of the market. If profits are running high, then extra crumbs can be thrown at it, but if profits are falling, then the health service will be squeezed. Only under socialism can the best health care be guaranteed.