The Rear View Column from the July 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Mosquito Knows
‘Ambrosia: This Startup Will Give You Blood Transfusions From Young People to Reverse the Aging Process. It Only Costs $8,000’ [£6275] (newsweek.com, 9 June). Only rich over 35s seeking the elixir of youth need apply. But such developments come as no surprise to socialists who have long understood capitalism’s voracious nature and how it seeks ever new ways to drain what it can out of the working class. Marx noted in Capital volume 1, chapter 10, section 1: ‘Capital is dead labour which, vampire like, lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks’. Production for profit rather than need has resulted in the untimely deaths of millions through war and want, but for the system to continue it must avoid eradicating its source of unpaid surplus value. Indeed, the introduction of welfare payments and improvements in healthcare etc. are primarily in the interest of the parasite, not the host.
A rich reformist
Joining the parasitical 1 percent is difficult for those not belonging to families who have had our blood in the bank for generations. But one who has managed to climb the greasy pole recently is none other than Bernie Sanders. cnbc.com (6 June) reveals that he ‘had a surprisingly good financial year in 2016’ as he supplemented his annual income of $200,000 [£157,000] – a paltry sum, ‘making him one of the least wealthy senators’ – with $858,750 [£674,000] from book royalties . We reviewed Our Revolution in the April edition of this journal, and berniesanders.com where he states ‘the issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time, and it is the great political issue of our time’. Our objection to him is not that he is rich, but that he is a reformist not a socialist.. The World Socialist Movement does not exclude capitalists from membership. Had Frederick Engels and William Morris lived long enough and demonstrated agreement with our Declaration of Principles, they would have been welcomed into our newly formed Party.
Here, there, everywhere
Capitalism exists throughout the world. We recently tweeted: Socialism has NOTHING to do with Venezuela, the Soviet Union, North Korea, China etc. That is a LIE capitalists and politicians want you to believe as it keeps them rich and powerful. Wherever there is a privileged elite in control of waged workers there is a capitalist economy. Socialism means a society with NO ruling class. Elites are found everywhere, including Angola. There the majority of our class exist on less than $2 (£1.60) a day and 90 percent of Luanda’s population must do so in slums. Yet the Angolan President’s son just spent £440,000 on a set of photographs. Daddy’s fortune ‘has been estimated at US $20 billion, which would put him among the world’s 50 richest people….José Eduardo dos Santos has not spared any effort in ensuring that his legacy continues through his family. The most famous of his children is businesswoman Isabel Dos Santos, 44, the only female billionaire in Africa. As well as being president of the Administrative Council of the state oil company Sonangol, she has investments in various multinationals, from banks to telecommunications, totalling a fortune of US $3 billion’ (globalvoices.org, 4 June).
Another old elitist
Socialists know that Simon Sebag Montefiore is a lousy historian (we reviewed his Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar in March 2006), so imagine the surprise when Catherine Merridale’s Lenin on the Train (2016), described by him as ‘the superb, funny, fascinating story of Lenin’s trans-European rail journey to power and how it shook the world ‘ (standard.co.uk, 17 November 2016), provides this gem. ‘But it was Lenin himself who made it clear that the Bolsheviks would reject democratic values.’ He ‘had not traveled back to join a coalition,’ Merridale writes according to the review of her book in the New York Times, but ‘to undermine the provisional government and establish a dictatorship in the name of the proletariat. It was Lenin who instituted severe censorship, established one-party rule and resorted to terror against his political enemies. Stalin took these measures to further extremes for his own sinister purposes.’ (nytimes.com, 9 June).