Saturday, August 26, 2017

World View: Capitalism down under (1995)

From the April 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

The political and economic situations in Australia and Britain are remarkably similar. Both have had the same party in power after several elections — in Britain since 1979 and in Australia since 1983. The oppositions in both countries now have substantial opinion poll leads, and so look forward to winning the next general elections, probably in 1997. The size and power of the trade unions have been reduced in both countries. The gap between the rich and the poor has been getting wider in both countries. Both governments have presided over the highest unemployment rates since the Great Depression of the 1930s. But there is one difference: the long running party in power is Conservative in Britain; in Australia it is Labor. To those who are naive enough to believe that Labour — or Labor down under — is the party of the working class, the point about the widening gap between the classes in Australia may come as a surprise. It shouldn't do — the facts show it to be true. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports "increasing inequality in earned income received by both male and female full-year, full-time workers over the period 1981-2 to 1989-90". During that period the highest 10 percent of income earners enjoyed a dramatic increase in their real income, but all other income earners experienced a dramatic fall.

Further evidence of inequality comes from an international study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Britain came third and Australia fourth (behind Norway and New Zealand) in the growth of inequality in the 13 years 1979-92.

In the Australian weekly Bulletin (28 February) spokesmen for the Labor and Coalition (equivalent to Conservative) parties debated the question of the income gap. For Labor, Peter Baldwin argued that the Henderson poverty line has increased by 16 percent in real terms over the past decade. He was therefore able to assert that "the poor are certainly not getting poorer". But Peter Costello, for the coalition, was more impressed by the relative than the absolute: "While the rich have got richer under Labor, the poor have got poorer."

Both sides did, in fact, agree on the widening gap. Baldwin admitted that "it is true that there has been an increase in inequality of market incomes, both in Australia and other developed countries. This reflects the phenomena of globalisation and technological change, as well as the successful restoration of business profitability during the 1980s". Note the word "successful”. From all their efforts the workers have got a bit more money. Thanks to Labor, the capitalists have been "successful" in getting a whole lot more. And the cost to the working class as a whole has been enormous: an unemployment rate of nearly a million (fluctuating between 8.5 and I I percent) and a new underclass of some 350,000 long-term unemployed.

The lessons are clear. Labour, Conservative, Liberal and any other aspirants to run capitalism do so in the only way it can be run — in the interests of capital. The cake made by the workers gets bigger but we get a smaller share of it. Business "succeeds" in making more profits as it forces more of us to join the reserve army of the unemployed.

But no-one forces us to vote for one of the capitalism-supporting parties. We can say "no” to them and their system and replace it with one where we'll all succeed.
Stan Parker

The Party was for turning (1995)

Book Review from the May 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

The British Communist Party and the Trade Unions, 1933-45 by Nina Fishman (Scholar Press. 594 pages. £45.)

At the beginning of the period covered by this book, the Communist Party was committed to what amounted to an anti-trade union position; the "reformist" trade unions were denounced for betraying the workers who were urged to struggle for better conditions under the "independent leadership" of the Communist Party. In fact the Communist Party saw itself as a rival to the established trade unionsand even to unofficial, rank-and-file ginger groups which they themselves did not control; they even set up two or three breakaway "red" unions. Needless to say. they made no headway with this policy.

According to Fishman, the Communist Party leaders Harry Pollitt and J.R. Campbell never really accepted this line and as soon as it was toned down by the Comintern in 1934 they pursued the policy of getting their members to work within and through the existing unions. CPers were urged to get themselves elected to union posts at all levels. As a result, by the time the war broke out they were well-established within the official unions as branch officers, shop stewards and full-time officials.

It is not too difficult to understand Fishman's claim that "by 1938 any young man or woman whose shop floor experience impelled them towards militancy was attracted to the CP". Nor is there any reason to doubt that CP shop stewards and union branch officers were not loyal trade unionists who really did want to fight the bosses and get a better deal for their fellow workers (even if they did have bizarre—very bizarre—ideas about Russia under Stalin being a workers’ paradise).

What is more difficult to understand is why anyone initially attracted to the Communist Party by its trade union militancy would have stayed in it for any length of time, especially in view of what was to come: the notorious double U-turn on the war (first supporting it. then, on instructions from Moscow, opposing it. then, after the German invasion of Russia, supporting it again) and collaboration with employers in "joint-production committees" to reduce absenteeism, oppose strikes and get workers to work harder.

It remains true that the best Communist is an ex-Communist, at least one who continues to think in terms of furthering the interests of the working class and once they realised they had been duped about Russia. In fact quite a few of our past and present members came from such a background.
Adam Buick

Internet: Forum or Marketplace? (1995)

From the June 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Most people, by now. will have heard of the Internet. It is one of those jargon words that have entered popular consciousness. For those unclear as to what it is, the Internet is basically a computer linked by the telephone system to millions of other computers around the world providing an easy and relatively cheap form of global communication. (Provided, of course, that you have a computer in the first place.)

Most people who access the Internet do so through so-called "gateways" which in effect are companies who sell software necessary to log on, along with a subscription to several megabytes of computer storage space, for downloaded information like e-mail letters or news. Some companies like CompuServe aren't gateways but run their own exclusive network accessible again through a subscription. With a rapidly expanding number of people—30 million at the last estimate—with access to the internet, the attraction of this market, and its potential for commercialisation by gateways and proprietary networks is obvious.

Computer exponents have been promoting the Internet as the most important breakthrough in communications since Gutenberg printed the first bible in the vernacular, and on the surface they are right. Anyone with access to a computer, a modem and the necessary software can send electronic mail (e-mail) or log on to news groups discussing anything from Anarchism to The X-Files.

The benefits of this technology have not been lost on various political groups. Neo-Nazis in America have for years had their own network. Anarchists also see the organisational rewards of the Internet and many wax lyrical about the non-hierarchical, democratic nature of the "net". But in reality the Internet is just like any other information forum in capitalism.

The Internet operates like a market-place, interest groups all pitch in willy-nilly. Because of the relative newness of the Internet this swirl of babble can be mistaken for an electronic Greek agora, but already even this rose-tinted view is being dispelled as the big corporations move in. The Rupert Murdochs of the world aren't fooled for one minute by the anarcho-tech’s talk of the Internet being a window into a libertarian future. Literally billions of pounds are being invested into ways of capturing the 30 million-plus people who have access to the internet, these people aren't contributors to a brave new experiment in global communication. They're a Market.

As with all development in capitalism access to the technology is unequal and market-driven. Even though the number with access to the Internet is rising rapidly, there are untold millions who will never have access, or at best a restricted one. because their ability as consumers is limited. Even those with purchasing power cannot evade the logic of capitalist market culture. In the next few years the Internet will be superseded, as the technology improves, by combining television and computer into a wider, corporately-controlled medium, in which all the fake, superficial culture of capitalism will be pumped into people’s homes on an even more unrelenting level.

The Internet provides us with another example of the technological dynamism of capitalist development being restricted by its own economic laws. Time and time again technology has been developed with the potential to liberate humanity from want, but instead has been used to maximise profit for a small minority. Just think what benefits the Internet could bring in a socialist society for the global assessment and distribution of needs as well as the spread of information. 
Jonathan Meakin

Socialism versus Islam (1995)

Party News from the July 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

On 18 May Richard Headicar. on behalf of the Socialist Party, debated the issue of "Islam v Socialism" with a representative of the Luton Cultural Islamic Society before an audience of 300 or so.

The University of Luton Islamic Society, who organised the meeting, however. did not have the common decency to stick to the agreed title in the tendentious leaflet (right) it put out for the meeting.

The agreed title had been, as advertised in the Socialist Standard, "Do We Need God: Which Way Forward for Society?" Obviously we would not have agreed to debate "Man-made Law Vs God's Law", since we don't believe in "law" nor do we think that human social institutions should be solely "man"-made. This last point probably never occurred to the Islamic Society as, at the meeting, the women present were all segregated in a separate area at the back of the hall.

Nevertheless, Richard Headicar stuck to the original title and argued that humanity doesn't need the concept of an abstract, all-powerful supernatural being to achieve a better world: we could do this ourselves by our own efforts, aimed at achieving the framework of common ownership and democratic control within which the present state of human misery could be overcome: the concept of a god and god given laws was a diversion and a hindrance to this, all the more so since there is in fact no god. Humans made god in their own image not the other way round and we alone can help ourselves.

Jamal Harwood, for the Luton Cultural Islamic Society, argued that common ownership was against God's law because some passage in the Koran favoured private ownership. Since we don’t accept the Koran (or any other book) to be Holy Writ the argument didn’t get very far.

Hopefully, however, we will have sowed the seeds of doubt in the minds of at least some of those present. Other-wise they are in for a life of submission and self-debasement incompatible with human dignity.

Obituary: Merwin Orner (1995)

Obituary from the August 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

The death of Merv Omer, after a long and debilitating illness. is a loss to the store of humanity and knowledge amongst socialists in the USA. Even before having Parkinson’s Disease, Merv was a man of few words, but they were always carefully chosen and relentlessly principled. Born in New York City in 1921, Merv was the son of WSPUS member Sam Orner, the man upon whom Clifford Odets based the character of Lefty in his famous play about the New York taxi drivers’ strike, Waiting for Lefty. In his time Merv was to become co-producer of North Jersey Playhouse in Fort Lee. He married our fine comrade Rena, who has won the quiet admiration of so many people, socialists and non-socialists, for her ceaseless years of loving caring for Merv combined with an extremely active life in which no social activity seems beyond her strength. To her and her three children we send our fraternal condolences.

World View: Class Struggle in Poland (1995)

From the September 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

On May 26 160 busloads of people came to Warsaw from the Katowice district and staged a demonstration. The demonstration consisted of 10,000 miners and steelworkers, who were joined by striking workers from the Ursus tractor factory near Warsaw.

The demonstration was organised by the Solidarity trade union with the aim of drawing the government's attention to the problems facing Upper Silesia. They demanded measures that would create new jobs, a pro-family tax system and the appointment of a government commission to look into affairs affecting Katowice province.

The demonstrators assembled outside the Council of Ministers Office and threw bags of burning coal dust burning rubber boots, heavy machine nuts and eggs at the police, who were standing behind barricades. Firecrackers exploded constantly. Slogans were shouted such as "Down with the ’commies’", "Smash them with their hammer and sickles". An effigy of the prime minister sporting a Star of David was burned with shouts that both government and opposition figures should be sent to Israel.

When the demonstrators, who were armed with pick handles, overturned the barriers, the police used their truncheons. Water cannons were also used by the police with both police and demonstrators injured in the biggest demonstration since 1989. The prime minister Oleky believes that Solidarity leaders were behind the strike fuelling discontent, with Lech Walesa basing his presidential election campaign on such issues.

However, true as this maybe nothing can go off. as in this case, with so much venom and violence without discontent already being there. At the moment Poland is going through a period of social tension, while many workers just cannot make ends meet. But memories are short. Solidarity was voted out of office for much the same reason as the current government is so unpopular.

The former Communists were returned promising to slow down the privatisation programme because it was adding to unemployment and now the call is the other way round. Now we have the novelty of a right-wing trade union attacking a left-wing government. Who, besides socialists, would believe such a thing could happen? It seems that Solidarity are pretty naive in believing, now that they have experienced private capitalism, that it can work in working class interests. The phrase from the Ursus tractor factor workers that was shouted at a minister "Israel is yours. Ursus is ours", only shows how great the naivety is. Whether a minister is sent to Israel or not, it will not make the slightest difference to the Ursus factory workers — the Ursus factory will no more belong to them than any part of Israel will belong to the minister.

Anti-Semitism and Russophobia are not far under the surface in Poland. For many Poles anything that is not good or whatever they don’t like, is either Russian or Jewish. These sentiments must go. Poles should realise that the vast majority of Russians and Jews are very much the same as the vast majority of Poles, with not much else of worth but their ability to work. Their common enemy is the capitalist system, and the governments—right and left—that oversee the exploitation and misery of the working class. 
D. Szczescie

World View: What Future for Iraq? (1995)

From the October 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

In August, Middle East observers in the West came up with a whole host of explanations for, and consequences of the flight to Jordan of two of Saddam Hussein’s sons-in-law and closest aides, General Hussein Kamal al-Majid (Iraq’s former minister of military industry) and Gen. Saddam Kamal al-Majid (former commander of Saddam’s praetorian guard). The consensus was that the defection, along with that of another thirty officers, signalled the end of 27 years of Iraqi misrule with Saddam at the helm. That the two daughters Saddam dotes on most accompanied their husbands only added fuel to the “Hitler’s last bunker”-type rumour that loyalty to Saddam was dissolving and that those closest to him were absconding lest they be indicted when the regime falls.

In this light, the al-Majid brothers had every reason to flee. Between them they were responsible for a wide range of human rights abuses, the ruthless crushing of the Shia and Kurdish rebellions in 1991 and the build-up of Iraq’s chemical, biological and atomic weapons stockpile before the Gulf War. General Hussein had even pocketed 10 percent commission on Iraqi arms sales. Both have since informed Western intelligence experts that the regime in Iraq is falling apart and that they can help oust Saddam for good.

But does the West really want Saddam toppled? Both before and after the Gulf War Saddam served US interests; firstly by acting as a buffer to the spread of militant Islam and, secondly, being unpredictable, serving as a reason for neighbouring states to want state-of-the-art defence systems, placing huge order for US weaponry.

For years the US sided with Saddam, giving him covert support and turning a blind eye to atrocities. During the Iran-Iraq War, the US gave Iraq co-ordinates on Iranian troop positions. This support lasted until the end of the year, not even being interrupted when Iraq attacked the US frigate Stark in 1987. In July 1991, one month before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the CIA even gave Saddam the tip- off that senior Iraqi officers were plotting to assassinate him.

Washington is also concerned that, should Saddam be toppled, a lesser tyrant might not prevent the country fragmenting into its constituent parts—Shia, Kurd and Sunni, opening the back door to militant Islam and creating further problems, threatening, for instance, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (both US-friendly) with the export of a philosophy that views the US as the “Great Satan”. Some of Saddam’s fiercest opponents are aware of this and have resigned themselves to the maxim “better the devil you know”.

Ranged against Saddam is the Iraqi National Congress—an umbrella organisation consisting of 19 political parties. However even these appear to pose no present and substantial threat to Saddam. Seven of the groups have either withdrawn recently or frozen their membership and two Kurdish organisations are fighting amongst themselves.

Saddam, though, is still vulnerable. The effects of international sanctions and the oil embargo now means he is deprived of the bribes he could use to stave off a coup and buy support. Whether he genuinely feels that his days are numbered is anyone’s guess. But late August found Saddam appeasing international opposition to his rule and offering fresh information regarding Iraqi weaponry— germ warfare and missile programmes— to UN weapons inspectors. Furthermore, following the defections of his sons-in-law, Saddam carried out an army purge and arrested 10 high-ranking officers— just in case they harboured illusions of deserting him too. Being no idiot, Saddam is also aware that the US presidential elections come up next year, and with Clinton having only exacerbated the situation in Bosnia an overthrown Saddam could provide him with a foreign policy success to lay before voters.
Saddam, all said, is cast in the same mould as all national leaders—out to line his own pockets and to run his regime according to the dictates of profit regardless of the consequences for the people he rules over.

While Western commentators discuss the politics of power, and while the politicians ponder which option will generate the most profit, the Iraqi people, still recovering from a war that blasted them into a pre-industrial age, continue to suffer the effects of the obstinacy and self-interest of those who have the biggest say in their affairs. They continue to hunger and die of curable diseases. They have suffered so much and so long that many don’t care who has power so long as something resembling stability appears soon. Perhaps, like Socialists, they are beginning to realise that no matter who administers the capitalist system, they are all tarred with the same brush.
John Bissett

A Real Gentleman (1995)

A Short Story from the November 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Albert had fought in the war. On a Saturday evening, when he had sunk a few pints, he always fought his way again across North Africa. His friends were, mostly, familiar with the towns and oases that were the prizes of the Eighth Army and the Africa Corps as, back and forth, they slaughtered one another with great gallantry and aplomb across the length and breadth of Libya.

Cold sober, he still talked about the war; nothing else of consequence had happened to him in the street of back- to-back houses and its immediate hinterland that had represented the totality of his emotional and environmental experience before the war. Nor, still, in the council estate that was a hero’s reward for escaping death was there anything to eclipse the fantastic experience of killing and dodging death in battle.

Of course, despite the enjoyment of the war, he hated the Germans for starting it. They’d all been responsible for the war; they’d all been bloody Nazi! What about the concentration camps where millions of yids had been put to death? You can’t hide things like that! They knew all right, every bloody housefrau of them! Thought they were the the bloody master race but we showed them different!

Albert, back in the land fit for heroes, met Annie and they got married. For a time they lived in a miserable two-roomed flat in the north of the city but after their first son was born, their luck changed for the better. Annie contracted tuberculosis — it was a scourge in those days — and got a medical certificate that, eventually, earned them a new house in an estate not far from where Albert had spent his childhood. Two more children had followed, one a girl, and Albert got himself a steady job in the brickworks.

So life was pleasant: experience brought no expectations beyond frugal living and there was a little left to buy the few Saturday pints and to allow Albert his regular trips into military introspection.

A Labour Government, bent on solving the housing problem, ensured that there was plenty of work at the brickworks — indeed, so many houses were going up that some of the hands began to worry in case the housing problem would be solved and they’d all find themselves on the dole. It didn’t come to that, however: there were still thousands of homeless and millions living in slums when something called Public Spending Cuts latched onto the life of Albert and his workmates at the brickworks. The Shop Steward, himself a supporter of the reforming government, explained that it was all the fault of some group of foreigners known as the International Monetary Fund. It all sounded very plausible at the time and the Shop Steward sounded very reasonable when he claimed that the reforming government could not do anything in a situation like that. The slum dwellers and the homeless and the unemployed — over a million of them — could hardly blame the government. It was this International mob that had caused all the bother.

Albert’s frugal affluence collapsed along with millions of others who had never been had so good. For a time he blamed his idleness, the denial of his Saturday pints and his military memories, on the International Monetary Fund. At the general election he was convinced that the reforming government were a load of sops who were allowing foreigners to put one over on the British people. Strong government was the answer! He voted for the other lot but the situation got even worse and several more millions joined the dole queues.

It was then that Albert saw the real root of the problem. It was clear to be seen all around him and he readily agreed with the fellow from the National Front. Look at them! They were everywhere! They were taking all the good jobs because they were prepared to work twice as hard for half the bloody wages! And the houses . . . no wonder people couldn’t get houses — they were a lazy, shiftless bunch who didn’t want to work and only came here to live on the dole. They were everywhere; they’d live in any sort of cheap dump — aye, two or three families of them! They were even in the pubs where their jungle music had taken over from our cultural heritage!

It was the blacks; the bloody niggers, brown and black, who were responsible. They were the cause of the problem — well . . . apart from the bloody Jews. They were up to their usual tricks. He was not surprised to learn, from the National Front fellow, that they were the International Monetary Fund!

Of course knowledge brings its own relief and now Albert’s anger and frustration was crystallized into a feeling of utter loathing for people with dark skin. Nor was the feeling hard to fuel: the tenement slums abounded with them; uniformly poor but, slyly, hiding their poverty behind a screaming rainment that Albert, in the boiler suit that he continued to wear to save his good suit, found quite disgusting.

By telling Annie that his weekly social security cheque was actually less than it was — no, Annie daren’t have opened the envelope for Albert, despite the fact that he was quite fond of her, always made it clear that he was the boss in the house — Albert managed to reinstitute the practice of enjoying the Saturday pints again. Now, however, he seldom talked about the war; the younger element in the bar were no longer tolerant of the feats that had kept their country great. But they listened to him when he talked about them; they gave him space and substantiated his obvious erudition with anecdotal experiences of their own.

It was just after such a session in the bar that Albert had his accident. He had been engaged in a lengthy conversation with a navvy who had fallen on lean times because, as he put it, his boss had got a ‘black bastard’ to work for exactly half of what he had been paying him, or, as the navvy succinctly put it, ‘half bloody nothin’!’ Albert had listened sympathetically and had even implied that the brickworks was full of them. When he left the bar he was feeling a little depressed; he had not eaten since morning and the few pints had made him tired and less perceptive than usual.

He was crossing the main road when the Porche hit him. Fortunately, it was a glancing blow that sent him reeling back towards the pavement where he fell in a frightened bundle. The Porche braked to a standstill, the driver’s door opened and a young man got out. He was tall and slim and elegantly dressed in dark trousers topped with a black tuxedo; his shirt was a brilliant white, enhancing the neatness of the black bow tic, and his fresh-smelling face glistened in the moonlight.

A few bounding steps brought him to Albert where, unmindful of his grand clothes, he knelt down on the pavement and sought expertly for evidence of injury'. ‘There now, everything seems all right . . . ’ It was the slight accent that made Albert look up into the shining black face.

Mr Uboto insisted that Albert get into the plush passenger seat of the Porche. ‘Just routine, you understand, but I’ll run you over to St Michaels and make sure everything’s okay’.

At St Michaels, where Mr Uboto was a senior consultant, the staff fussed over Albert while Mr Uboto satisfied himself that X-rays were unnecessary.

Of course the story was good for an audience in the bar the following Saturday. Albert was wearing the fine tweed suit that Mr Uboto had given him. ‘I was only wearing my boiler suit at the time but he insisted that my suit would have to be cleaned and brought me home to his flat and gave me this’. The suit was long for Albert but, long or not, he knew he had never really worn a suit like it before and was never likely to get a replacement for it. He showed it off with obvious pride and the others fingered it approvingly.

‘Jesus! You should have seen his flat! It was at least three times as big as my house. You’d have sunk in the carpet and the furniture and the pictures were like what you’d see on T.V. An’ he got his wife, a bloody luvely thing! to make up a meal. Great big lumps of roast meat surrounded with fruit an’ things I’ve never seen before. Absolutely bloody marvellous! Fantastic! Brought me right back to m'own door in the car, too. An’ he worked me a tenner into the bargain!’ 

One of the regulars, friendly in Albert’s hospitality, said, ‘Bloody great! And this Uboto fella was a nig, Albert?’

‘He was a doctor, you twit! A specialist. Oh aye, he was a real gentleman alright. He knew how to behave; class, no shit! No, a real gentleman and, you know, he just treated me like an equal’.
Richard Montague

World View: Workers have no country (1995)

From the December 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

On 30 October 1995 the Quebec Sovereignty Referendum failed by the slimmest of margins— 50.6 percent NO, 49.4 percent YES. Nothing has been resolved, the sovereigntists say that they'll keep trying, and the federalists hardly got a resounding show of support. The issue remains, and it's an issue that spans the globe. Everywhere, it seems, people want 'their own’ sovereign country.

There are two ways to look at Quebec sovereignty.The first is an emotional, irrational approach that considers ideas of power as opposed to the reality of power, and uses claims (long proved false) of how the economy functions.

The other is to consider what will really change if Quebec, some day, decides in favour of sovereignty.

Both sides, YES and NO, chose the emotional and irrational approach.

The Yes side argues that Quebecois will be inherently better off in a nation governed by Quebecois. They have not shown any real benefits to the Quebecois working class. Nor has the history of "independence” around the world been supportive of the Yes claim.

The No side predicts the most dire results for Quebec, ignoring the fact that Canada would suffer if it did not trade with Quebec. The No side lined up an impressive list of company owners, directors and such. Some sovereigntists responded, without justification, that if the rich oppose “independence" then "independence" must be good for those who aren’t rich.

The necessities of life
Most sane people are more worried about the necessities of life: putting food on the table, a roof over their head, and other such mundane—and ultimately far more important—considerations, than the name of the state they happen to live in.

History has shown, without doubt, that the Yes or No choice is a choice of which politicians get to sit next to the steering wheel as the ship of state careers back and forth in the winds of economic reality.

“Independence" is a word used to stir up emotions. An "independent" Quebec will be no more independent than it is today. It will still have to conform to global economic pressures which govern how much food will be on the table of the average person. The current economic system doesn’t play favourites based upon national, ethnic, or cultural sovereignty.

Capital investment and migration is based upon the likelihood of making better profits, not upon which of the largely irrelevant politicians form the government.

Nationalist, quasi-racist"issues" such as Quebec "independence" are not the issues that will solve the problems that working class people in Quebec, Canada, and the rest of the world face every day. The fundamental differences are far greater between rich Canadians and working class Canadians, than between working class Canadians and working class Quebecois or working class Peruvians, or any member of the working class anywhere.

Different languages, skin tones, sexes, and customs pale next to the economic differences in a single country or ethnic grouping. The working class will never be served by nationalism or its bed-mate, racism. Since the referendum failed, several prominent sovereigntists including the, now resigned, Premier of Quebec, have blamed the “ethnics” for the defeat of the referendum. Their racist undercurrent for the white descendants of the original French conquerors of Quebec has come out.

It is no surprise that the “International Socialists" (same as SWP in the UK) supported Quebec "independence" just as they support most such inherently racist "independence” movements, while claiming to oppose racism.

If Quebecois, in the future, decide to separate, they should not expect it to improve their lives. Capitalist economics has a very forceful way of ensuring that the world remains class-divided, and that the working class is at the bottom of that division.

Quebecois, and the rest of the world's working class don’t need a change in politicians. we need an end to class division. 
Steve Szalai (Socialist Party of Canada)

Is Greed a Barrier to Socialism? (1978)

From the January 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

The short answer to that question is “No!”. The objection “human beings are greedy, which will prevent Socialism working” forgets the crucial division of capitalist society—the division into classes. That is the cause of greed, and the removal of class society will do away with this so-called problem.

Basically capitalism is divided into the capitalist class and the working class. The great majority fall into the latter category: those who produce wealth by applying their ability to work to raw materials, either in the state in which they are found naturally or already transformed by human labour. The minority, the capitalist class, are those who purchase this useful activity and employ it to increase their own wealth.

How is the capitalist class able to buy the abilities of the worker? Because the division is based on ownership. The capitalists are the owners of all wealth of social significance. In comparison to them all previous owning classes—feudal lords, slave-owners, churches and ancient potentates—appear like paupers. The capitalist class have grabbed all the earth’s resources and will maintain their ownership until the working class decides to take it away. The workers own practically nothing, and as a consequence of this fundamental fact the worker is forced to sell his ability to work.

It is quite true there is greed in present-day society—the capitalists are the greediest class in history. They insist that the workers continue to produce more and more wealth; not for the purposes of human satisfaction but solely to increase the profits of the capitalists and enable them to increase their ownership of wealth.

If the capitalist class is the greediest in history, the working class is the most charitable—the most “ungreedy”. Having produced all this wealth they allow it to be appropriated by another class, whilst they live in various degrees of poverty. There has never been such philanthropy in the history of the world!

If greed were something inborn in all of us, as the objection given at the start of this article supposes, the working class would not have stood for this system for so long. The system of production for sale at a profit is the cause of greed. As Marx explained, money has become the object of greed: “Money is (therefore) not only the object but also the fountain head of greed. The mania for possession is possible without money, but greed itself is the product of a definite social development, not natural as opposed to historical". (Grundrisse, p. 222.). In other words it is behaviour which occurs at a given stage of development of society.

When the working class establish a society of cooperation in their own interests as distinct from the interests of others, the problem of greed will appear as relevant as the problem of inflation. As a step towards that society the workers should stop calling one another greedy, and point to that class for whom the label is completely justified.
Ronnie Warrington

The Failure of Reforms (1978)

From the February 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

The socialist attitude to programmes of social reform is central to our political position. It is a matter of crucial importance that this attitude be clearly understood. The Socialist commitment is to the solution of working-class problems confronting mankind. The two are inseparable. Socialist policy is not arrived at through obstinacy nor by a deliberate selection of difficult paths. Socialist policy is determined by the facts of the situation as we find them. Our analysis of society is directed first towards a description of the way in which social problems arise and then to a programme of political action which would lead to their solution. This is an objective analysis of the reality of everyday human experience, which leads to principles of action given by practical necessity. If social problems can be shown to be inherent within capitalist society then it follows that capitalism must be replaced by different social arrangements which will not generate the same problems. Programmes of social reform leave the basic structure of capitalism intact. Therefore programmes of social reform cannot hope to solve social problems. This argument is supported by theory which is proved valid by the evidence of real experience.

On the face of it the Socialist attitude of opposition to reformism may seem harsh. We are often accused of being unsympathetic to worthy causes or removed from the centre of important action. Neither charge is true. These charges are superficial responses to a thorough assessment of social reforms which are at best irrelevant and most of the time dangerously diverting. We do not doubt that there is much sincerity and indignation in reformist campaigns, but by itself this is not enough. Of course it is important to care but sincerity can be misdirected and therefore illusory. When indignation is made sterile, it is tragic. Socialists want to avoid this.

The state apparatus has a technique for adapting the aspirations of reformists to its own purposes. This is usually achieved by those who temper sincerity with so-called “pragmatism” — a respectable word for tawdry activity. They often say that politics is the art of the possible. This attempt to justify compromise corrupts art and politics since both require integrity of purpose and action. Socialism is the science of what is possible, and the surrender of principle is totally self-defeating. Whether it be through well-meaning ignorance or opportunism, one thing is certain, the present chaos shows that after a century of social reform, basic social problems remain unsolved. The clear fact is that reformism evades the political logic of economic reality.

Capitalism cripples human possibilities. It does this in every way in which life is important. Materially it limits production to what is profitable. To maintain this human needs are sacrificed. At the level of relationships capitalism is exploitative, men and women are objects to be used, their best potentialities as cooperative human beings remain unrealized.

The condition of our lives is given by the productive relationships of capitalism. This material condition is circumscribed by economic laws which are not merely a product of capitalism, but are inseparable from its nature. Under capitalism the working class must secure its material standards within the limitations of the class ownership of the means of production, and the production of commodities for sale on the market with a view to profit. Within this system the possibilities of employment and the ceiling on wages is determined mainly by the expectation of profit.

In all the circumstances of class struggle in capitalist society, capital and labour pursue their interests against a background of competition and the struggle for markets, control of trade routes and resources, continued capital accumulation, strikes and other industrial action and the expansion and contraction of production which is the trade cycle. Our social possibilities are confined within the general anarchy of capitalist production with all its artificial scarcity.

The total amount of wealth that becomes available in the form of commodities (the social product), is given not by political processes but by economic processes within the framework and limitations of capitalism. The options or governments are as much as any other organization or individual set by existing economic factors. For the most part governments respond to economic pressures which are beyond their control. For example, regardless of their ostensible political complexion, governments cannot control the state of trade. It is the state of trade which mainly determines the social product. It therefore follows that political attempts to improve material conditions within capitalism cannot work.

In describing the economic limitations within which wealth becomes available under capitalism we are at the same time describing forces which prevent capitalism from operating in the interests of the whole community. In reaction to these conditions various protest movements and reformist organizations become active in the hope that either as pressure groups or political parties they can improve the material conditions of life. We have ruled out the idea that such organizations can lead to a greater availability of wealth under capitalism. The organizations best suited to achieve a distribution of the social product more in favour of the working class are the trade unions. But even with their muscle and the pressures that they are able to apply they have to accept that there is little they can do. When trade is expanding trade unions can negotiate marginal increases in wages. In the present time of recession with a high level of unemployment, even trade unions have to accept a lowering of workers’ living standards. They can only wait now until their negotiating hand is strengthened, whenever that may be. This by itself is a sad comment on the way in which capitalist economics is beyond any rational control.

In British political history the Labour Party came to be the organization which held out the highest hopes of becoming a great reforming party. Particularly in the post-war election of 1945, the Labour Party talked about social equality, and a world where unemployment and poverty would be abolished. The history of the Labour Party is not only a lesson in the futility of reformism, it is a good example of how capitalism adopts reformist aspirations for its own purposes. Thus nationalization, which ardent labourites thought of as having something to do with common ownership, was adopted by capitalism as a technique whereby important basic industries and services, which showed no immediate prospect of making a profit, could be taken over by the state, and made a charge on the capitalist class as a whole. In this way the overall viability of British capitalism was improved.

With the welfare schemes of the post-war years, such as family allowances, improved old age pensions, sickness and unemployment benefits etc., the state became more involved in the distribution of the social product. These schemes are part of the distribution of that portion of available wealth which goes to the working class as a whole. These measures were supposed to herald the dawn of a new era of social equality. The only equality about them was that the state organized and administered the more equal distribution of working class poverty. Regardless of the hopes of reformists, these schemes were introduced and are maintained by governments for the purpose of stabilizing and augmenting the general pattern of exploitative relationships. It is important to emphasize that what becomes available for this kind of distribution is given by the general level of exploitation over the whole economic field and again this is beyond the control of reformist governments.

Likewise, comprehensive education was thought of as a measure which would assist a breakdown of social divisions. In effect, comprehensive education, by facilitating an easier mobility of pupils from one grade to another and by concentrating more pupils in larger units, has created a more efficient and cheaper way of producing the next generation of workers.

Successive Labour governments have made no impact on the nature of class relationships, nor even on the distribution of wealth. Can anyone doubt now' that the present Labour government is doing a first class job in steering British capitalism through this recession with minimum disruption. Doubtless, the capitalist class are grateful.

Despite the hopes that have been invested in the Labour Party by its members over the years, its r├┤le has been to corner discontent and render it politically sterile. Apart from that, the Labour Party has provided a fund of ideas which capitalism has adapted to suit its needs.

With some exceptions, on balance history does not show that capitalism has unwillingly absorbed reform. On the contrary, capitalism generates reform in its own interests. Reform is part of the normal pattern of political administration, its function being to stabilize capitalism. Social reform is the political process through which capitalism continues its own economic development and since government and the state are the political expression of capitalist ownership, social reform will preserve that class interest. Reformism, inevitably then, involves an endorsement of capitalist productive relationships.

If it can be shown that in the aggregate there have been absolute improvement in working-class standards over the years, this again would not be attributable to political reforms. To the extent that workers through technical development and the greater efficiency of their labour, have created a greater pool of available wealth then they are able to negotiate for themselves a portion of that extra wealth.

This does not alter the overall proportions in which wealth is distributed, which is a reason why capitalists approve of productivity deals. In effect they say that provided workers produce more wealth with the same labour then workers can have some of this wealth for themselves. In this way it can appear that workers’ standards are improving, but this stems from the workers’ own productivity and not from the activities of political reformists.

In formulating a political policy our starting point must always be economic reality. It is an undeniable fact that under capitalism man cannot control the productive process. We cannot set up productive objectives and then organize social resources to achieve those objectives. For example the Labour Party has been powerless to act against mounting unemployment and lowering working-class standards. This is the price we pay for private ownership and the profit motive.

The solution is to bring productive relationships into harmony with human needs. The means of producing wealth must be commonly owned, the earth’s resources must be at the free disposal of the whole of mankind. In these relationships, freed from the economic barriers of capitalism, man can co-operate to simply produce the wealth that humanity needs. Socialism will not only achieve productive efficiency, but will establish a pattern of relationships in which the dignity of man’s coming together will be enhanced through equality and co-operation.

This is a positive objective that we can all work for. There is no way in which the internal structure of capitalism can be altered by reform so that it works in the interests of the whole community. We can only break away from the self-repeating failures of reformism by recognizing that the problem is capitalism itself. We can replace disillusion with effective action by working to establish Socialism.
Pieter Lawrence