Tuesday, January 2, 2018

I Am, Therefore I Think (2012)

Book Review from the February 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Philosophy Book. DK Publishing. £16.99.

This is a compendium, in chronological order, of philosophy throughout the ages and the men and women who were the key figures in shaping philosophical developments and movements. In hardback A4 size, it is packed with graphical representations, images and quotes in an attempt to make sometimes difficult issues more accessible. It succeeds in this well enough, as it is both highly readable and thought-provoking. If you’ve ever wondered about the ways in which Aristotle developed the thought of Plato, or of the main points of difference between empiricists like Locke and Hume, then this is the book for you.

Such an endeavour is always going to be contentious though. What is written about each of the philosophers under consideration and the choice of who should be included and who shouldn’t in such a book, are the major issues here, though it is probably true to say that it has carried it off better than most. Baudrillard is mysteriously absent and perhaps the biggest omission (especially when other postmodern and post-structuralist thinkers get their own entries –Lyotard, Foucault, Derrida, etc).

The entry on Marx is always likely to be a particular bone of contention. It attempts to explain his ideas without too much jargon, and while it neglects to mention the Materialist Conception of History and the theory of surplus value by name, they are there by implication.

While we’ve seen worse, the section explaining how Marx envisaged a socialist revolution occurring is certainly not as clear as it might be. Writing of socialism, it says ‘Marx thought this perfect society would not require government, but only administration, and this would be carried out by the leaders of the revolution: the communist ‘party’(by which he means those who adhered to the cause rather than any specific organization)’. While the book goes on to explain that the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ was envisaged by Marx as being a transitory period before political power as currently understood and the state disappears, this passage is open to misinterpretation. 

Marx did not regard socialism or communism (he used the words interchangeably) as likely to be a ‘perfect society’ and he certainly did not regard a socialist society as being one where administration would be carried out by anything other than society as a whole. Indeed, for Marx the key task of the working class of wage and salary earners was to win ‘the battle of democracy’. This was to capture control of the political machinery of society for the majority so that production could be socialized. Then the coercive powers of the state could be dismantled as a consequence of the abolition of class society. The idea that the dictatorship of the proletariat was a new kind of state dominated by revolutionary ‘leaders’ was primarily to be found in Lenin and his followers, rather than in Marx.

Otherwise, this is a useful book in the main, a good addition to any library of political thought, and written in an open, accessible style that is to be commended.
Dave Perrin

Marxist refutation (2017)

Pamphlet Review from the October 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
'Why the Russian Revolution Wasn't a Socialist Revolution - Julius Martov's The State and the Socialist Revolution'. The Socialist Party. 100 pages. £2.
The Socialist Party has reprinted this classic Marxist refutation of Lenin's distortions of Marx's views on the state.
Lenin, who considered himself a Marxist and did in fact know his Marx, was concerned to justify in Marxist terms the Bolshevik coup and subsequent dictatorial rule in Russia. He claimed that Marx had advocated that the state should be 'smashed' in an armed uprising, that 'dictatorship of the proletariat' meant the dictatorship of a vanguard party acting on behalf of the proletariat, and he justified the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly on the grounds that the soviets were a higher form of democracy.
Julius Martov (1873-1923) was a long-standing member of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party and had been a member of the editorial board of its publication Iskra alongside Lenin, Plekhanov and others. However, he and Lenin fell out over the issue of how Russian Social Democrats should organise themselves that was debated at their congress in 1903. Lenin had proposed that the party be organised as a disciplined, top-down body of professional revolutionaries. Martov was among those who favoured a more open party along the lines of other European Social Democratic parties. Lenin's view won the vote and the party split into 'Bolsheviks' (the majority) and the 'Mensheviks' (the minority). Martov was, then, a 'Menshevik' though this was not how he described himself as 'Menshevik' was a Bolshevik term of abuse. Basically, he was an orthodox Social Democrat.
This pamphlet is a collection of articles Martov wrote in 1919 and 1921 and was originally published in Germany in 1923 under the title World Bolshevism. Most of it was translated into English and published as a pamphlet in 1939 as The State and the Socialist Revolution.
Martov denied that Marx had argued for the violent smashing of the state, but rather for its take-over, peaceably if possible; what was to be 'smashed' was not the whole state but only its 'bureaucratic-military' aspects which were to be 'lopped off' after its capture, leaving a democratised state as the instrument to use to dispossess the capitalist class and usher in socialism.
On the 'dictatorship of the proletariat', Martov pointed out that 'dictatorship' meant the exercise of full powers and that 'of the proletariat' meant that these powers were to be exercised, necessarily democratically, by the whole proletariat, not merely by a minority of them. In short, the term meant the rule of the working class, using the democratised state to effect the socialist revolution from capitalism to socialism. His article is a clear explanation of what Marx meant, even if the term itself is unfortunate as in some respects as inviting misinterpretation, an aspect Lenin exploited to the full.
The whole Russian revolutionary tradition had called for Tsarism to be replaced in the first instance by an elected Constituent Assembly which would decide Russia's future constitution. An election to one did take place in November 1917, after the Bolshevik seizure of power, but  as the Bolsheviks failed to win a majority of seats they dissolved it. Martov, without denying that the soviets were makeshift democratic bodies, dismissed Lenin's claim that they were more democratic than a central assembly directly elected by direct, secret and universal ballot; they were not elected by secret ballot and the only direct vote its members had was at local level, the higher levels being indirectly elected. In practice, it was even less democratic as they were manipulated by the Bolshevik party.
This edition has a new introduction and contains, as an appendix, the first printed translation of the opening chapter of World Bolshevism  in which Martov sets out to explain the attraction of Bolshevism amongst some sections of the working class in Europe. Also included are two reprints from the Socialist Standard: the review of the original pamphlet in 1940 and a review of Israel Getzler's biography of Martov.
Adam Buick

Marxist (2018)

Book Review from the January 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

'Comment je suis devenu marxiste', by Julius Martov (Editions Lumpen)

This is virtually a French version of our new pamphlet on Martov, containing the same series of articles in which Martov demonstrates how Lenin and the Bolsheviks were distorting Marxism to justify the dictatorship over the working class that they were establishing. The title – 'How I became a Marxist' – is a bit misleading in that this is not the main article nor the whole of Martov's draft autobiography. It does, however, have the merit of identifying the author as a Marxist. In the extract published here, Martov recounts how he became a Marxist, as someone who relied on the working class to overthrow Tsarism (as opposed to the Narodniks who relied on the peasants), while a student at St. Petersburg University in 1892. Other short articles are included, a couple on the aftermath of the 1905 insurrection in Russia and Martov's denunciation of the Bolshevik government for bringing back the death penalty. One minor criticism: the articles are not dated so it is left to the reader to work this out from their content.
Adam Buick

The Strike Weapon (1976)

From the May 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

The original basic idea of the strike was for the workers in a single factory to stop production and thus bring pressure to bear on the employer to make concessions on wages and working conditions or see his profits turned into losses. Later, as unions became organized nationally, the aim was to hold up a whole industry or several industries simultaneously. A further development was to organize a strike covering several essential industries as a means to force the government to alter its policies or even to force it to resign, the so-called General Strike. Britain had its “general strike” in 1926. Others had already taken place in various European countries, and in recent years there have been dozens, in Italy, France, Japan and elsewhere.

Looking first at the straightforward wages-and-conditions strikes, how much do they achieve and what are the conditions governing their success or failure? Karl Marx, writing about the conditions of more than a century ago, held that the over-riding factor is not whether trade unions do or do not organize numerous strikes but whether trade is booming or in a depression.

If the former, the employers have urgent reasons not to see production halted; if the latter, they may prefer to have a showdown. And cases are not unknown in times of bad trade of employers themselves provoking a strike, as was the complaint of strikers at Massey-Ferguson in 1975 (Financial Times, 22nd May 1975) and the statement of a union official at Ford’s: “You almost feel that the management are looking for a punch-up.” (Sunday Telegraph, 24th April 1975.)

A management spokesman at Ford’s was quoted as saying about “militants”:“These men have given us a rough ride since a similar dispute in 1972. We should have crunched it then but we gave way because business was booming.” (Observer, 25th May 1975.) Marx’s view was echoed by Hugh Scanlon of the engineering union in an interview given to the Sunday Times (12th May 1974): “The union movement is only strong so long as there is relatively full employment . . .  so long as there is not a crisis of capitalism. I’ve never fooled myself that once the economic boot goes on the other foot, those who preach about getting round the table to settle our disputes would be as ruthless once again as they were in the ’thirties.”

Scanlon was speaking from experience. Efforts by his union to enforce concessions on wages and hours had been meeting stronger organized opposition from engineering employers, and settlements had to be accepted far below the claims that had been lodged. And in the past two years engineering wages, like wages generally (after allowing for the big increase in prices) have fallen. One lesson was entirely lost on Scanlon and the TUC. Along with the Labour Party, they have for years believed that the capitalist crises he feared could be avoided by the policy of so-called “stimulating the economy” — that is, inflation. They still believe it in spite of all the evidence that it has been a total failure.

Governments always play a role in strikes whether purely industrial or partly or wholly political: the role of curbing pickets and protecting the property of the employers. If a strike affects food supplies or other essential services the government will intervene actively as they did in the 1926 general strike. They decided then to fight it to a finish and quickly succeeded though the miners stayed out for months, fighting a lost battle.

A similar ruthless determination was shown in the 1974 railway strike in India by Mrs. Gandhi’s government. They brought in the army, arrested thousands of union officials and strikers and served notices of eviction on the families of railwaymen living in railway housing estates which are subsidized by the government. The strikers were forced back to work.

But just as employers, in line with the state of trade, sometimes do not choose to fight to a finish, so on occasion they will make it clear that they do not want the government to take extreme measures. This happened under the Heath government. Having won the 1970 election a policy of “standing up to the unions” (he said he was prepared to face a general strike if necessary), and having pushed through the Industrial Relations Act, his government found that influential employers did not want a showdown with the unions — it was before the depression had developed seriously.

This produced the strange situation of an anonymous donor paying £65,000 into court to avoid a threatened engineering strike over the fine that had been imposed on the union (The Times, 9th May 1974), and the offer of £2½ million by a secret group of businessmen to persuade the miners’ union to end their strike (The Times, 12th February 1974). And most big employers took no notice of the clauses in the Act making the closed shop illegal.

What of political strikes and general strikes? Under the Heath government numerous one-day strikes were organized having as their object such things as to prevent the enactment of the Industrial Relations Act (all without the slightest effect) or to prevent rising prices, or in protest at “wage restraint”; while in other countries there were general strikes to force a change of government policy or a change of government. What happened in this country shows the futility of them all. The government was indeed changed at the 1974 general election and the Industrial Relations Act was repealed, but it merely replaced a Tory government running capitalism by a Labour government doing the same, a government forced to grapple with the same problems in much the same way. Prices and unemployment rocketed to post-war record levels, and a new “wage restraint” scheme was introduced in flat disregard of election pledges.

A general strike can produce conditions of chaos. But chaos is not Socialism, and so long as the great majority of the workers do not want Socialism, Socialism cannot be the outcome. Strikes as defensive weapons serve a useful purpose within the limits imposed by capitalism, but the only road to Socialism is the political road: first that the working class become predominantly Socialist, and then that they gain control of the machinery of government, including the armed forces.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Welsh Scene (1976)

From the June 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent unrest in the steel industry was inevitable to anyone with just a little knowledge of the nature of capitalist economy. In Wales, as elsewhere, workers have been rudely awakened from their dream that full employment would last. The logic of the message that the Socialist movement has propagated over the years is once again amply demonstrated. Unfortunately it is not at all palatable to workers who, for a considerable period, have depended on the unstable structure of additional pay from overtime and shift work.

Now the employers have had to shed many thousands of their work-force as well as cutting out the various forms of overtime. At a recent press conference in Cardiff the British Steel Corporation’s chief executive, Bob Scholey, said: “We do not think the funding of this luxury at public expense is fair.” Apparently he was serious about the world “luxury”: he was referring to the workers’ demand for work in an industry which, from the bosses’ point of view, is overmanned. A new blast furnace capable of increased output but requiring fewer men has been accepted by the unions on condition that the wages for manning it are increased, and this has been agreed to by the employers. So a section of the workers will be seen as retaining their jobs at the expense of the others—a hint of “divide and rule”.

It is indeed a sorry pass to which the workers have come, to be told that working longer hours is a “luxury”—that it is in some way associated with the quality of one’s life. Overtime has been the provider of holidays abroad and the host of knick-knacks which workers have been led to believe are indispensable for the good life. It is not that we are against the acquisition of more and better artifacts. We may condemn the shoddy and inferior things foisted on the workers; but even that supply can be diminished at any time when the capitalist system can no longer allow the means to enjoying them.

Some steel workers are attending the job despite being told there is no work. The masters claim it is unreasonable to demand work when it is unprofitable to employ them; they own the factories and they know the situation. It is the workers whose thinking is wrong, in imagining there is some divine law which entitles them to jobs. When are they going to wake up to the fact that all they have is their labour-power—and when that is not wanted they have to take it elsewhere if they can? The steel industry, like any other, exists to make profits.

There is no logic in workers’ giving their masters the legal authority to exploit them, and then kicking at the results. The constantly repeated crises of capitalism can only be overcome in one way, and that is for the working class to take—legitimately — the ownership of the means of living. This relatively simple, democratic measure will put and end to the sit-ins, strikes and the other acts which manifest the miseries of the present system. Society can be transformed into a structure wherein its resources will be utilized solely for human needs. This can happen when men desire it. The task of Socialists is to urge the working class to be conscious of itself and its potentialities.
W. Brain

Obituary: Eddie Stirling (1976)

Obituary from the July 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have recently been informed of the death of our Comrade Edgar (Eddie) Stirling. He joined the Party around 1935, and was for several years a member of the Bloomsbury Branch. Later, he and several other members formed a Branch in Marylebone, which met at 13 Thayer Street, Wl.

For a period during the war he became General Secretary of the Party. He was to a large extent responsible for the Party obtaining its first “West End” address at 33 Gloucester Place, Wl, a few doors away from Eddie’s naturopathic clinic. He was a generous man and provided hospitality for a number of members who were on the run from the army during the last war.

Perhaps the highlight of Eddie’s efforts in the Party was when he was appointed to the Parliamentary Committee which organized the first election campaign in the 1945 General Election — the first election the Party ever contested. Clifford Groves was the candidate. This was a historic occasion. The best times are still to come, but no campaign since then carried the impact or generated the enthusiasm which this one did, and much of this was due to the gargantuan efforts of organization put in by Eddie. His rather tragic domestic circumstances prevented him from being as active in the Party as he would have chosen. It is our regret that we did not learn of his death until some time afterwards.
Jim D'Arcy

The Future of Unemployment (1976)

From the August 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

In all countries there are numbers of economists and politicians whose job it is to analyze unemployment and try to forecast future movements, mostly without much success.

A more successful sideline is open to those who work for governments because as the governments control the publication of the statistics they do from time to time manipulate the figures to make unemployment appear to be less than it is. One such case was the decision to exclude the “temporarily stopped” from the official definition of the unemployed; up to the end of 1972 they had been included. Normally the effect of this exclusion would reduce the total number of unemployed by only a few tens of thousands. But in January 1974 when “three-day working” was in operation and unemployment under the new definition was given as 606,000 it was reported by The Times (25th Jan. 1974) that if the old definition had still been in use the total of unemployed would have been 1,526,000. It is more than likely that governments will look for additional ways to present the figures favourably.

The forecasters of unemployment (just like the forecasters of population) have repeatedly been misled by assuming that because a certain trend has shown itself for several years it can be counted on to continue. Round about 1900, and again from 1945 to 1955, unemployment was consistently at low levels and it led many observers to the conclusion that low unemployment was here to stay. And every prolonged depression has revived the theory that unemployment would go on rising indefinitely. In the nineteen-thirties the followers of Major Douglas advised the Labour Party to change its name because there would soon be no “labourers” — only unemployed. And in 1963 in USA a “Labour Committee for Full Employment”, supported by trade union officials and economists, was assured by a self-styled expert that by about 1974 98 per cent, of the workers in USA would be out of a job and only 2 per cent, working. As it turned out, the level of unemployment in 1974 was not even eight per cent.

Even Frederick Engels, with all his knowledge of the way past depressions had eventually given way to renewed expansion, fell into a similar error. In his 1886 Preface to Capital he announced his theory of “permanent and chronic depression”. In the previous six years unemployment in Britain had climbed from 3.5 per cent, to over 10 per cent, and Engels could see no way out. In fact in the four following years it dropped to 2.1 per cent., and Engels had to see that he had been wrong.

Trying to forecast how capitalism will behave, and in particular trying to foresee at what point in a depression a sufficient number of capitalists will decide that profit prospects are good enough to warrant more investment in old or new industries, is a difficult business as all the failed attempts by official and unofficial bodies over the years have shown. In the past thirty years a new misleading factor has come on the scene, the belief that governments, by applying Keynesian theories of expansion, actually have control of the situation and can fix unemployment at whatever level they choose. The ten years of low unemployment after World War II encouraged them in this mistaken belief, and they have all been baffled by the continuous upward trend of unemployment since about 1955.

Peter Jay, Economics Editor of The Times, summarized the situation in a lecture in December 1975:
After the writings of Keynes, and even more after the simplified popularization of his writings and their endorsement by governments, the politicians and the public have also assumed that the means of securing high employment always lay to hand.
(The Times, 5th December 1975)
To say that the followers of Keynes are now in disarray is to put it mildly. Some have concluded that it was all a mistake and The Times in an editorial told its readers that “unemployment . . . will decline as fast and as soon as we all forget Keynes” (13th Feb. 1976). Like The Times Mr. Healey, after being a Keynesian expansionist all his political life, is now pinning his hopes for reduced unemployment on his policy of keeping wages down:
In fact wages will be coming down while our competitors’ are going up. That is the best possible news for exports and unemployment. I believe we are going to get unemployment down faster than any other country.
(Speech reported in The Times, 11th May 1976)
The Tory leaders are divided between those who still follow Keynes and those who have deserted him. Jeremy Thorpe, at that time still leader of the Liberal Party, forecast in 1974 that unemployment would reach 20 per cent, unless prices and wages were held down (Sunday Times, 29th Sept. 1974).

One interesting case is Jack Jones, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union. In 1971, under a Tory government, he claimed that unemployment had been prevented from going up by the action of the unions in pressing for “high wages” and thus “boosting the economy” (Financial Times, 13th July 1971). But six months later, though wages were still going up, unemployment had gone over a million. Under Labour government in 1976 it went to 1,400,000, but Jones had by then changed his line and had agreed to the government policy of limiting wage increases to keep unemployment down.

The question still remains: What is likely to be the future course of unemployment? One thing is certain. Keynesian methods of conducting government policy have not and cannot secure full employment, or enable capitalism to avoid the cycle of expansion, crisis and depression that has marked two centuries of capitalism. Why then was unemployment low for ten years after World War II in this century? A useful examination was made by Professor Matthews (Economic Journal, September 1968). Among the factors were wartime destruction that had to be made good, a backlog of capital investment, and the fact that many employers, anticipating that any depression would be small and short-lived, kept workers (especially skilled workers) on their payrolls.

None of these factors now apply: pointing to the likelihood that in coming years unemployment may revert to the kind of levels shown before 1914, that is averaging well above the 2 per cent, of 1945-55 and reaching occasional peaks above the 6.1 per cent. (1,400,000) of January 1976. It remains to be seen.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Productive and the Unproductive Worker (1976)

From the September 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

The descriptions “productive” and “unproductive” worker have nothing to do with the specific functions of labour power in the creation of use value; that is, the production of goods and services which satisfy human needs, and in which the worker has deposited the energy of his brain, muscle and nerve. All wealth is a combination of nature, which supplies the necessary materials, and men’s energy. This simple relation of man and nature forms the basis of all human activity, and we will see this clearly in a socialist world when our aim will be the production of wealth, and not the production of capital.

The terms ‘productive’ and ‘unproductive’ have a very narrow definition which only holds good for capitalist society. The proper meaning of the word would convey that productive work was creative and that unproductive work was wasteful. This is not the case in capitalist society, and workers need not be affronted by being called “unproductive”. The perpetually unproductive class in society (the capitalists) are held in the highest esteem.

From a capitalist standpoint the productive worker is one who produces capital; that is, in addition to reproducing the value of his labour power (his wages) he produces a surplus value. Out of this surplus value the capitalist derives his profit, and this, less overheads and expenses, provides further capital for repetitive transactions for the exploitation of the labourer. The expansion of capital is based on this principle, and the greater the accumulation, the greater the pressures on the capitalist to extend the avenues of investment; more markets, more machinery, and greater intensification of the exploitation of the worker. The productive worker is one employed by capital who produces capital, in the form of the commodity. Capital on the surface exists in the monetary form, but this money represents a sum of commodities of equal value, which when brought into the productive process produces a greater sum through the agency of human labour alone, when an additional value is created.

The unproductive worker, from the point of view of the capitalist, is one who consumes more than he reproduces. One who is paid out of revenue, wages and profits, and whose services are exchanged directly against revenue. Most domestic servants who provide personal services for their employer come into the category of unproductive worker, as do most civil servants, all High Court judges, the whole of the armed forces, priests, parsons and bishops, etc. A capitalist may employ a chef, or a gardener, for his own personal needs, and pay them out of his property income. The chef or gardener does not reproduce the value of his labour power, as he is merely concerned with the production of use-value, i.e. meals or herbaceous borders and lawns for the private consumption and amenity of a man who incidentally is a capitalist. He is not employing them in his capacity as a capitalist, and they are not producing capital, but use-value. If, on the other hand, the capitalist is a director in Hilton Hotels or Holiday Inns, he employs the chef and gardener in a wage-labour-and-capital relation, and in this respect they produce a surplus value over and above the wages they receive. The meals prepared by the chef are sold at a profit, and the floral arrangements, cultivation of grounds or vegetable garden, the work of the gardener, are likewise sold at a profit to the hotel guests. The use- value of the labour performed in both cases has not altered at all, but the economic relation under which the labour was performed has changed, and it is this economic relation which determines whether work is productive or unproductive, irrespective of the useful character of the work. The number of such workers who can occupy the position of being productive and unproductive under different conditions of employment is very restricted.

Useful or Not ?
All politicians, the legal profession, government officials, judges, generals are unproductive — in fact the entire State machine is an unproductive institution. Not only are they not productive, they are essentially destructive, yet they manage to appropriate a substantial portion of material wealth. The state is a consumer of revenue which it compulsorily levies through taxation by the political parties who control it.

There is obviously a distinction between useful labour in the real sense and productive labour. A doctor maintains the health of labour-power, keeps it in a reasonable state of repair; but a doctor is not a productive worker any more than is a musician or an artist. The absurdity of this is apparent when, for example, a writer producing books of fiction, or a journalist, is a productive worker. One enriches the publisher, the other the newspaper proprietor. What they write may be absolute bilge, but that is not the criterion, which is: do they add value to the original sum advanced in payment for their work?

The definition of “useful” labour in capitalist society is a different matter. Useful means that the product of labour must be socially necessary. That which is socially necessary is useful; that which is socially unnecessary is useless. Socially necessary means that useful labour has gone into the manufacture of a commodity or service; socially unnecessary means that “useless” labour has gone into the product. The test within capitalism which determines whether a thing is useful or useless is when you try to sell it. If it cannot be sold it is useless. An armoury full of firearms, shells and ammunition is considered useful, as is a nuclear submarine. The whole range of the killing instruments come into the “useful” category. Present-day society has a need for killing instruments. On the other hand, a scheme to remove slums, irrigate the Sahara desert, or the extension of education into the proper study of history, sociology, anthropology and political economy, would be considered useless, although the capitalists would always pay lip-service to the idea. In effect, socially useful means that there is a profit, socially useless means loss. The merits or desirability of the way in which man’s energy and natural resources ought to be deployed have no place in this economic and social arrangement.

What is Wealth ?
Wealth comes into existence at the point of production and only through the application of human labour. The industrial capitalist may appear to be the direct appropriator of surplus value, but there is a whole background of interwoven ruling-class interests struggling for their share of the surplus product. The banker seeks his interest, and the landlord his rent — both are consumers not producers. The landlord does not produce, nor does the banker produce interest. Wealth is not made by Stock Exchange transactions, financial transactions, or any other form of dealing on the commercial markets. It is not made by buying and selling either, although it may be transferred between individuals. Money does not make money. Only labour-power can do that, in the sense that it creates the things which money can buy.

It is precisely the essential circulatory nature of capital, and the great division of surplus value into rent, interest and profit, that leads to the mystery behind the relations of production and the artificial distinction between productive and unproductive labour. With the development of labour-saving machinery and other advances in technology, there is a relative decrease in the number of workers engaged directly in the productive process. On the other hand, there is an increase in civil servants, local government officials, and other types of clerical workers. One of the problems facing the capitalist is how to control this expensive and unproductive bureaucracy which he has created and which he has to pay for. But without the unproductive worker, certainly at local government and national levels, no revenue through rate taxes, etc. could be collected, and no public services could be provided. The whole system would be in a state of chaos, and every capitalist representative knows this. These “necessary evils” are built in to the system and form part of the superstructure.

The extraction of surplus value is a social process, and all workers, whether their work is productive or unproductive, play a part in this process. To that extent all workers are exploited, because they are under the domination of capital and have to sell their labour-power to whoever will buy it. Capitalist society cannot exist without its social bureaucracy, notwithstanding that this is becoming top-heavy. The problems faced by capitalists in trying to keep society on an even keel are nothing compared to the personal and social problems of the workers who have to live and work with it.

Capitalist production has stood the world on its head in every way. The most respected members of the community are a class of rich indolent parasites — the most revered institutions of law and learning are anti-social in that they exist to maintain the class of parasites to the detriment of the majority.
Jim D'Arcy

Protests Without End? (2017)

From the January 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

Most believe the sickness of war can be sorted out within the usual channels offered –either a UN force moves in or the troops come home. The former will only compound the problem. The latter can only leave the region concerned more unstable, with warlords and the varying shades of the region's religions vying for political power.

We need to address the root of the problem –the capitalist system itself and vicious competition for profits –and how the problems capitalism creates can only be solved when we abolish the capitalist system itself.

While it is important to oppose war, we need to recognise in whose interests wars are waged. It's hard to think of a single war that did not have its roots in the need of some small elite to make profits. All wars, even small-scale conflicts tend to be fought over resources, outside markets and areas of influence, trade routes or the strategic points.

To end war –and the need to demonstrate against it –capitalism has to be ended. It needs to be replaced by a global system where the resources of the Earth are common to everyone. Competition and conflict between elites over resources must give way to cooperation for the benefit of all the world's inhabitants.

If you lend your support to a political party or organisation that fails to oppose the real nature of capitalist society, how our world is organised for production and how power is distributed, then you are, in effect, supporting a system that breeds wars.

The Socialist Party asks: Do you want to protest endlessly against each new war as it arises? Or work for a new world of common ownership, democratic control, peace and human welfare?

If you are opposed to war, either oppose capitalism in all its forms or settle down to a life of protests . . .

So, You Vote? (2017)

From the January 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

Do you vote for Labour, the LibDems, the Tories? Maybe you don’t vote at all. Maybe you think voting is a waste of time because it doesn't change anything.

Politics seems to be about endless arguments over the same problems without anyone ever getting nearer to solutions. That is why a lot of people think that political activity is a waste of time, that politicians are liars and cheats whose first concern is to look after their own interests.

Voting is a waste, particularly, if you leave it there, at the voting, at the nose counting, and take no further part until the next election. Democracy means much more than a cross on a bit of paper: it means organising, debating, discussing and examining the world around us to work out how to change it for our benefit. Democracy is too important to be left to the professionals.

But even then democracy is not up to much unless you see that inequality of wealth means inequality of power. That as long as a minority own society, it must be run in their interest. Labour, the LibDems, the Tories, none of them want to do anything about that.

But there is another way.

At present we live under an economic system which can't help but produce wars, crises, pollution, overwork, stress, alienation . . . None of these is necessary. The world could be run on different lines which could get it out of the mess it is in.

That is why we campaign for common and democratic ownership and control of the wealth of the world, and we're asking you to join us in that campaign. If we do that, we can make democracy and equality mean something, and change the world so that it is run for our benefit, not the tiny minority's.

Capitalism will not collapse or breakdown of its own accord. It has to be consciously done to death by political action by the class of wage and salary workers. Until the working class are moved to do this capitalism will continue to stagger from boom to slump and back again.

Socialists urge that it is futile to try to reform capitalism – the whole system needs to be scrapped and replaced by something better.

The world could be run on different lines which could get it out of the mess it is in. People could organise their affairs so that everyone has free access to the things they need to lead a decent and satisfying life. If the waste and artificial shortages of capitalism were eliminated we could easily produce enough to go over to getting what we need on the basis of the principle from each according to our abilities to each according to our needs. In other words, free access to what we need without having to hand over coloured pieces of paper or to use cards or vouchers of any kind.