Sunday, September 29, 2019

Russia: Leftists in Dispute (1976)

From the January 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

In 1968 was published an English translation of Ernest Mandel’s monumental work of Trotskyite orthodoxy, Marxist Economic Theory. This was reviewed in International Socialism and led to an exchange of pamphlets between I.S. and Mandel’s supporters in Britain, the International Marxist Group. IMG have republished this controversy with the title Readings on State Capitalism, which has a certain interest for Socialists as discussion centres on the view that Russia is State capitalist.

Mandel, Kidron and Harman (who took over the IS banner half-way through the controversy) agree that Russian society is not Socialist. Mandel, however, maintains that Russia is a very degenerate workers’ state, which has begun a transition towards Socialism with an economy “marked by the contradictory combination of a non-capitalist mode of production and a still basically bourgeois mode of distribution”. A capitalist mode of distribution on the basis of a non-capitalist mode of production is not only contradictory but, from a Marxist point of view, an absurdity; for it is the mode of production which in the end determines the character of all other aspects of society, including the mode of distribution (i.e. the way the social product is divided).

Kidron and Harman describe Russia now as state capitalist, but think that “Russia in the 10 years after 1917 . . . was not itself capitalist”. What then was it?

Discussion about the nature of Russian society is discussion about the meaning of both capitalism and socialism, and Mandel has well grasped the nature of Socialism as a moneyless, wageless, stateless society, with the “free distribution of goods and services”, existing on a world scale: “Socialism means a classless society. It therefore presupposes not only the suppression of private property of the means of production, henceforth managed in a planned way by the associate producers themselves, but it also calls for a level of development of the productive forces which makes possible the withering away of commodity production; of money, and of the state”.

Kidron, on the other hand, describes “socialism” vaguely as “workers’ control of production”, with the implication that this could be control of the production of commodities.

So we have Mandel denying Socialism properly, but saying that a world Socialist revolution is an impossibility and that instead the working class of each country should aim at establishing “a society in transition from capitalism to socialism”, based on nationalization under workers’ control; and we have Kidron saying correctly that no transitional society between capitalism and Socialism is possible (“socialism is a total system; it cannot grow piecemeal within the interstices of a capitalist society”), but defining Socialism wrongly and meaning by it precisely the same as Mandel’s impossible “transitional society”!

If Mandel were claiming that Russia cannot be described as capitalist, but some new form of exploitative society, then his argument would be stronger. But he is claiming that Russian society is better and more progressive than what exists in the West: basically a society which workers should support. This is dangerous nonsense. To suggest that Russia, where trade-union rights like strike action and democratic rights available in the west are denied, offers a precedent for future working-class development, is to mock the sufferings of the working class there.

But the main reason for saying that Russia is capitalist is the existence of the wages system there. As Marx pointed out, wage-labour and capital presuppose each other. Wage-labourers produce value, some of which returns to them in the form of wages, the rest going to those who monopolise the means of production as surplus value; this surplus value is re-invested in production and so becomes capital, wealth invested in production with a view to profit.

That capital accumulation out of the surplus value produced by wage-labour has never ceased in Russia since 1917 should be obvious enough, but Mandel puts forward the view that what has governed production in Russia has been “the consumption desires of the bureaucracy”. He paints Russia as a society where usurpers (the bureaucracy) have come to power and live off the workers who continue to produce under non-exploitative conditions. Mandel actually says that Russian workers, though paid wages, are not exploited at the point of production as in the West; but that they are robbed as consumers by a “parasitic and pilfering” bureaucracy

Mandel says the IS view is essentially a Menshevik one. According to Mandel the Mensheviks held that “a socialist revolution in a backward country is impossible and that whatever you do, capitalism, and only capitalism, can flower there,” and that “whatever one did, capitalism was on the agenda in that country (as long as it would not have been overthrown in all or most of the industrially advanced countries of the world)”. The Mensheviks may have held these views, but the fact remains that it is an analysis and in accordance with the Marxian materialist conception of history. Socialism can only be established on a world scale and on the basis of an advanced industrial economy; in the absence of the Socialist revolution all that can develop in so-called backward countries is capitalism.

We in the Socialist Party of Great Britain have always been logical on this point. Yes, we reply; Russia is state-capitalist and, yes, the Russian revolution was not a Socialist revolution, but a seizure of power by a political party which later came to form the nucleus of a new state-capitalist ruling class. This was inevitable, given the absence at the time of Socialist consciousness amongst the majority of the workers of the world. This is what we said at the time and subsequent developments in Russia have proved the soundness of the Socialist Party’s analysis.
Adam Buick

Unite for Socialism (1970)

From the November 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has only one purpose, that is to establish a Socialist system of society. We define this as “a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community”.

The system of society now in existence throughout the world is capitalism. The productive resources, land, machinery, materials and so on are owned and controlled by a minority of the population. The overwhelming majority of people are propertyless and can only get access to the necessities of life by working for the minority as wage and salaried employees. This is the latest and by far the most efficient form of the master and slave relationship. Workers fending for themselves on wages and free to roam the earth in search of employment are far more productive than their predecesors were as serfs or chattel slaves. Capitalism is run from top to bottom by the hired labour of the working class. It is a society torn by antagonism, the most important being that of the class struggle between capitalist and worker.

The capitalist class continue to dominate society by having control of political power and so having at their disposal the power of the armed forces, police, judiciary and so on. Political parties are at present returned to power by a majority of the electorate to run capitalism. This is what parties such as Conservative, Labour, Liberal and Communist stand for. So that Capitalism with its rich and poor, production for sale and profit, its strife and warfare keeps going because the majority of people who are exploited by it accept it as being the best of all possible worlds. Socialism, where production will be solely for use, where strife arising from a multitude of social divisions will have given way to peace based on social unity; can only be established once a majority understand it and are organised politically to get it.

The War in Vietnam (1970)

From the November 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

American troops are not in Vietnam to defend Peace, Democracy, Liberty or any other high-sounding ideal. They are there for the same reason they are in Korea, Okinawa, Formosa, the Philippines, Laos and Thailand : to defend American domination of the Pacific Ocean. This was why America fought the second world war, but no sooner had one rival, Japan, been beaten than another, China, arose. The Vietnam War, like the Korean War, is just an aspect of the conflict between American imperialism and Chinese imperialism for control of the Eastern Pacific. Not an issue in which Socialists take sides.

Nor do Socialists support the many demonstrations that are said to be “against the Vietnam War”. The organisers of most of them do not try to disguise the fact that they are for a continuation of the war until the so-called National Liberation Front, the side they support, has won. In other words, these are pro-war, not peace demonstrations.

In any event, given the balance of power in South East Asia, “peace” would only be an armed truce which would give both sides the chance to start fighting somewhere else, in Laos or Thailand perhaps Whichever side wins the poor people of Vietnam will lose as the war is basically over who is going to govern and exploit them.

Too much of a good thing (1970)

From the November 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The current problems in the apple market are highlighted in this report from The Guardian (25 September):
  Fruit growers throughout Southern England are dumping thousands of tons of apples or leaving them to rot on the trees because of a disastrous slump in prices.
  Piles of rotting apples can be seen from Worcestershire and Cambridgeshire to Kent.
  The slump began when Australian and New Zealand apples, held up by the dock strike, came on the market much later than usual, just as the English season began, said Mr. Robert Miller, chairman of the National Farmers’ Union fruit committee.
  “For some reason the market has just not picked up since. We have had a big crop of fruit of excellent quality, but we can’t sell it.”
  “Every English apple and pear sold at the moment is being sold at a loss.” 
Perhaps few people are going to be disturbed by the thought of dumped apples. But the same thing happens to other food, more essential to human health, and to other forms of wealth, if the market is in the same depressed condition. This is capitalism at work — the market is an essential part of it, but it is something capitalism cannot control.

The common ownership of the means of production (1970)

From the November 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The source of all wealth is the application of human labour power to materials found in nature. As William Petty put it, Labour is the father and Nature the mother of wealth.

There was a time when the workman owned the simple tools with which he worked. He was, in fact, a working-owner. But in time, with the development of expensive and complicated machinery, the worker became separated from the instruments of his labour. The ownership of these instruments became concentrated in the hands of a few. The worker, now virtually without property, had to sell his working ability to those who owned the instruments of labour. This is the situation today. Production is a vast co-operative effort, involving the world-wide division of labour. Production is carried out by process workers, managers, technicians, clerks and cleaners — all of whom are equally necessary to production. Yet despite this co-operative effort, the products belong to a section only of society.

Profit is the monetary expression of that part of the wealth which those who monopolise the means and instruments of labour have after paying out wages and the cost of buying raw materials, etc. Its source is the unpaid labour of those who work.

The change Socialists advocate is this: The means and instruments of labour should cease to be the monopoly of a few and should become the property of the whole community. The community, organised on a democratic basis, could then use them as it thought fit to meet the needs of its members, individually and collectively.

In such a society buying and selling, prices and money would be superfluous. These are features only of a private property society in which wealth is individually or sectionally owned. In a socialist society the wealth, produced by social labour, will belong to society as soon as it is produced. After setting aside wealth to renew and build up the instruments of production, the rest can enter directly into the consumption-fund of society. The problem of distribution will be the technical one of how to move the wealth to where it is needed.

Putting a price on items of wealth and issuing people with round metallic objects and pieces of coloured paper will not arise. Nor will there be any other kind of rationing since Socialism will be a society of abundance. The productive resources of the world, with the most modern productive techniques, are quite capable of providing enough for all. Society can go over to free distribution just as soon as there is production for use on the basis of the common ownership of the means and instruments of wealth-production. With free distribution people will want more, and certainly better goods. But, once the barrier of profit has been removed, these demands can be met.

What exists in the world today has nothing in common with such a system. Everywhere, a privileged few enjoy the best of everything while the consumption of the majority is restricted within the confines of their wage or salary.
Adam Buick

Putting on the style (1970)

From the November 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fashion, in its very nature, must constantly be changing. At times, praise be to Georgie Best and Jean Shrimpton, it changes more violently. There is more to it than whim or the inspired flash of a struggling courturier. The gaudy boutiques may try to hide a fact so sordid and worldly but there is much money to be made in “fashion” and changes can bring such rich dividends that change can be represented as a virtue in itself.

Naturally, politicians have seen the possibilities in this. Not that Wilson or Heath has yet come out in flared trousers and a tie-dyed shirt. But they seem to agree that style is important and changes of style vital.

That was why at the last election Heath promised us a new style of government. The details of this were suitably cloudy but we were given to understand that it was all something to do with taxes and integrity and giving business men more say in the running of British capitalism from Whitehall and getting rid of the Wilson gimmicks which have been such an entertainment over the past six years.

This was all very well — many people were fed up with Wilson and he had lost his glamour for the voters — but it took no account of the fact that Labour had themselves come to power on the same sort of promise. It is almost like a history lesson, now, to look back on those days when Wilson, as soon as he had taken over the Labour leadership, launched out on his promises of a new style of government.

Then we were told that we needed to throw out the men who held their power as the result of friendly deals over a glass of old port or during a day out on the grouse moors and replace them with thrusting, ambitious technologists. We needed a plan — in fact a National Plan, no less — which would take care of absolutely everything. And of course we were going to get a new method of collecting taxes, because every political party should make some sort of gesture to the frustrations of the workers who sigh each week when they check the deductions on their pay slip.

This Labour propaganda is now so stale and discredited that it seems incredible that it was ever tried and even more that it came off. And now the Tories are trying the same trick although their new style seems to be that, while Wilson started off with a bang, threatening to devour us all in the white heat of his energy. Heath has projected an image of self-effacement and inactivity.

As the day-by-day problems and crises of capitalism blow up, the government seem determined to give the impression that they are allowing the ship to drift before every wind and current. They have been in no hurry to get out one of those emergency budgets with the object of telling the working class that they have been living too high and must reduce their standards. Problems like Ulster remain sore and festering; a crisis like the skyjackings, which was a great chance for Heath to emerge as a strong man who could be relied on to teach the lesser breeds where they stood, was let pass. The Heath government seems to be sunk in lethargy.

Perhaps this will turn out a successful (in the sense of a vote-winning) style of government. But the people who vote for capitalism usually do so within the assumptions which are necessary to the system and one of these is the assumption that leadership is indispensable. There are few experiences more threatening to the supporter of capitalism than the feeling that his leader, voted into power with such high hopes and confidence, is impotent. Nothing is more comforting than the feeling that the leader is strong, capable, honest . . .

Whatever the mass of the voters are thinking about Heath's image of inactivity, we can expect the Conservative Party to become restive, perhaps even rebellious, under such stress. There was a similar situation soon after Eden took over as Premier, when the frustrations of the Tories eventually spilled over in the famous “smack of firm government'’ article in the Daily Telegraph. Eden, it was said, was quite unhinged by this attack (he was never famous for his patience and in any case at that time was a very sick man) and conducted much of his subsequent policy in that same angry, impulsive mood.

Perhaps Heath would not lose his composure under such an attack; we do not yet know whether he has the nerve needed by a Prime Minister. Previous Tory Premiers who have affected an air of indolence were figures of comfort to the working class, who showed their gratitude by voting them into power again and again. There was Baldwin, who sucked his pipe and gazed at his pigs and who came over as the humane father figure who would keep us all safe from harm. There was Macmillan, who would not (at least for a long time) allow himself to be flapped and who seemed to have persuaded millions of workers, with their council schooling and in their council houses, that they were as prosperous as he with his Eton background and his sumptuous home in Sussex.

Beneath the lazy, courteous exteriors of these men there was a ruthless, calculating concern to win and keep power. They were both very clever at this; perhaps too clever, because their exposure was quick and cruel and those who had found them once such assuring father figures turned on them with the wrath of betrayed sons. (There is a theme here for a Freudian essay — the Oedipai factor in politics). Baldwin in the end wondered why they hated him so; Macmillan confessed tremblingly to being out of step with the times.

No Labour government has ever felt able to present the same relaxed image as a Baldwin or a Macmillan. Like the car hire firm they have always been Number Two and so have had to try harder. Labour governments have been periods of intense gloom and apparently endless crisis with Labour leaders working hard to cripple the working class with an outsize guilt complex over their alleged indolence and extravagant living.

Our first experience of this was in the MacDonald governments, who added to the gloom a fair measure of buffoonery and panic. It was never possible to think of those governments as being in touch with events and when they finally went down in confusion they left the Labour Party — what was left of it — with a reputation for irresponsible stupidity when all they deserved was an exposure for promising to do the impossible and for prostituting the name of Socialism.

The post war Labour governments were not thought of as buffoons, whatever sport the Tories made of bread rationing and snoek. But they too were a doleful bunch; Stafford Cripps with his vegetarian’s face and his hair-shirt speeches; Wilson grumbling about the longer skirts; Shawcross going for strikers. And over them all Attlee, like an austere head master wielding the cane over us for not learning our lessons and for smoking behind the gym.

The style of a government is in many ways its surface appearance — what the public, the voter, sees. Whatever differences in style there may be between one government and another, they are all determined by a basic similarity. Government exists to organise the affairs of capitalism and to make its own capitalist class as secure and prosperous as can be. But capitalists cannot be run on the basis of free hand outs to the working class; for example, industry cannot compete profitably without some check on wages. The property basis of capitalism must be preserved and protected; workers who are propertyless must be persuaded that they can get the goods they need only by the legal method of paying for them. The international trading and investments of a capitalist class must be protected and fostered. All of this, and more, is the concern of a government, whatever its party label and whatever its pretensions.

It is an uncomfortable fact, for politicians, that none of this can be made attractive to the subject class in capitalism. The working class dream of a society free of the restrictions and poverty of capitalism but the feeblest memory should have no difficulty in recalling that working class problems persist in spite of all the pledges to get rid of them. Every government says that it can do something about poverty, every one promises to clear up the housing mess, every one has a policy for ending the threat of war. Yet nothing effective and permanent is ever done about these things. The simple fact is that governments can’t do anything about them.

At the same time the politicians are caught in their own trap; they can’t admit to their impotence, they can’t tell the workers not to vote for them and to start thinking about a fundamental change in society. So they are driven to make false promises; they write a selective history, and. simply, tell them lies. They put on the style, they change the style.

When Heath, then, says that the Tories will brings us a new style of government what he is really saying is that they will try to tell us some new lies. These may be different from the lies which Wilson told us but the effect will be the same, the promises equally empty, the future equally grim.

If there is impatience with Heath it would be better directed at the social system which needs leaders and which lives on lies. Capitalism has had its day and it is time for the fashion to change to give us a new society and a new style of living.

Capitalism in Poland (1970)

From the November 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

There are about 500 zloty millionaires amongst Poland’s big market gardeners, according to the Financial Times (3 October). As a zloty is only worth a few pence the wealth of a Polish millionaire is "only" £17.000. but their existence shows that there still exists a privileged class in Poland. Says the Financial Times:
  Wealth here shows itself in tight bundles of 500 zloty notes, town houses, seaside villas, expensive Western cars, lavish parties, and other more blatant manifestations which from time to time draw bursts of criticism from the official Press. Friends of Pani Barbara estimate that she spends more in one month on massage and beauty treatment than a computer programmer earns in the same period.
It would be a mistake to think that Poland's wealthy individuals are all private-enterprise market gardeners. Others will have amassed personal wealth out of the bloated salaries they are paid while occupying the top posts in the government, army or industry.

Nor is the existence of millionaires in an allegedly socialist country new. During the last war supporters of Russia were shocked to learn that some people were contributing millions of roubles to Stalin’s war loan. In Britain the Russia Today Society had to rush out a special pamphlet, Soviet Millionaires by Reg Bishop, to try to explain this away. Apparently the first Russian millionaire, Berdyebekov, was. like Mrs. Barbara in Poland today, a farmer.

Bishop never did succeed in explaining what wealthy individuals were doing under "socialism”, but that was because he avoided the obvious answer: there are capitalists in Poland and Russia because these have never ceased to be capitalist countries.

A Study in Hypocrisy (1970)

From the November 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Don't mix politics and sport", say the supporters of the cricket tour. "It was the South African government that first brought politics into cricket”, reply the tour’s opponents.

Certainly, sport ought to be played for fun and, certainly, the South African government applied their racist policy to cricket when they barred D'Oliveira. But we must say that this discussion has revealed great hypocrisy on both sides.

Take those who say you should not mix politics and sport. Where have they been living all these years? They cannot really think that international, competitive sport is played for fun. Quite apart from the fact that profession football clubs are commercial institutions employing wage workers to provide entertainment for sale, they must have noticed that every time England plays some “foreign” team is the occasion for patriotic outbursts in the sports pages and on the sports programmes.

The sports pages are perhaps the most dangerously political part of a newspaper. They churn out the crudest patriotic nonsense helping to sustain the illusion that Britain is a community all of whose members share a common interest. In identifying ourselves with “our” national team we are supposed to forget that we live in a class divided society. Oh yes, national sports teams have long had a very important political role to play. It is sports-page patriotism that paves the way for politicians to dupe us into fighting wars or accepting wage restraint in the bogus “national interest” (in reality the interests of our ruling class).

Those who want to stop the cricket tour because they, quite rightly, object to apartheid are no less hypocritical. The Right Reverend David Sheppard, former Test cricketer and the current Bishop of Woolwich, writing in The Times on 25 April on “The Cricket Tour and Christian Conscience” tried to explain why “the churches should speak out against a South African team, but not, for example, against the visit of a Russian football team”.

South Africa, he said, was specially relevant to Christians as apartheid was said to be “a defence of western Christian civilization”. This may explain why he would not demonstrate against a Russian football team but not why he would not protest at the visit of a Portuguese or Spanish or Greek team, all of whose governments justify their dictatorial rule as Christian (we are not inclined to quarrel with them on this in view of Christianity’s record).

The Bishop also argued:
There would only be a parallel if, say, Jews were rigorously excluded from selection for the Russian football team.
Now, as everyone knows, modern Russia like its Tsarist predecessor is the prison house of nationalities. If it is national oppression that the protestors are worried about they should be demanding that no Russian sportsman gets anywhere near Britain.

Luckily America does not play much cricket or football because its imperialist policies should make its sporting teams obvious targets for protest. Come to think of it, in view of Britain’s immigration colour bar our protestors ought to be ashamed that British teams go to India and the West Indies. They should be demanding that they stay at home.

Enough of this trivial nonsense. We have better things to do than get involved in arguments about whether the cricket tour should go ahead or not. We have enough to do working for the establishment of a frontierless world community which would liberate all mankind.

Voice From The Back: Youth Unemployment (2012)

The  Voice From The Back column from the June 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

Youth Unemployment 

The economist Paul Krugman paints a frightening picture about youth unemployment. “In Spain, the unemployment rate among workers under 25 is more than 50 percent. In Ireland almost a third of the young are unemployed. Here in America, youth unemployment is “only” 16.5 percent, which is still terrible — but things could be worse” (New York Times, 29 April). Supporters of capitalism often laud its “efficiency” but it is difficult to think of anything more wasteful than debarring young workers from taking part in the production and distribution of wealth. Half of all young Spanish workers on the dole? Some efficiency!

The Plight Of The Elderly

It is only one case amongst thousands of how elderly men and women of the working class are treated, but it highlights the daily experience of workers everywhere. “A health board has been ordered to apologise to the family of an elderly man sent home from hospital in winter in his shirt, trousers, dressing gown and one slipper. David Spelman, 85, had hip replacement surgery at the Southern General in Glasgow after a fall in February 2011. Days after being discharged he fell again and died shortly afterwards” (BBC News, 8 May). An apology from the health board may satisfy some jobsworthy official.

The Pay Rises That Aren’t

One of the illusions beloved by supporters of capitalism is that while the system isn’t perfect at least there is a steady improvement of conditions. The Income Data Services has come up with figures that prove that is complete nonsense. “Of Britain’s 29.1 million-strong workforce around 80 per cent, or 23.1 million, work in the private sector. The vast majority of these received a pay rise which failed to keep pace with inflation, said the report by pay experts, Incomes Data Services (IDS). It said the average pay rise between January and March was 3 per cent, compared with inflation at 3.5 per cent. And 8 per cent of workers, typically those working in the manufacturing, construction or not-for-profit sectors, saw pay frozen” (Daily Mail, 8 May).

The Uncaring Society

As the government looks for more and more ways to cut support for the sick, the elderly and the disabled, recent figures show how it is affecting voluntary carers. “Almost six in 10 admitted that taking care of vulnerable family members had put them under so much stress and strain it caused depression, anxiety and nervous breakdowns. The same number said their caring responsibilities had harmed their careers, research by the newly-formed Carers Trust found. There are about six million unpaid carers in Britain looking after older parents or disabled children” (Daily Express, 8 May). Capitalism always seeks to cut overheads to increase profits and caring is just not one of its priorities.

Another Cunning Plan

In the BBC TV comedy series Blackadder one of the characters keeps coming up with a “cunning plan” that always turns out to be completely useless. The present government has a cunning plan to deal with the economic crisis. Cut the workers’ wages, increase their pension contributions, slash their pension’s benefits and increase the pension age to sixty-eight. This has led to hundreds of thousands of public sector workers taking part in a 24-hour, UK-wide strike in a dispute with the government over pension changes. “Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude said pension talks will not be reopened and “nothing further will be achieved through strike action”. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union – which estimates that an “overwhelming majority” of its 250,000 public sector members are on strike – said the UK would have “the highest pension age of any European country” (BBC News, 10 May). The truth is that inside capitalism slumps and booms are part and parcel of the system and there is no cunning way to plan it despite the efforts of Baldric or Francis Maude.

A Rare Flash Of Truth

Occasionally politicians have been known to tell the truth. This is such a rare occurrence that we feel we have to record it for posterity. “Education Secretary Michael Gove has attacked Britain’s class divide between rich and poor children, branding the split ‘morally indefensible’. In a speech at private-school, Brighton College, Mr Gove told teachers and pupils that Britain ‘has failed to tackle’ the widening parameters between the country’s social classes” (Daily Express, 11 May). “Morally indefensible” it may well be but as an out-and-out supporter of capitalism, an Old Etonian and a Conservative MP he has aided the day-to-day running of this “morally indefensible” social system.

Piety And Poker

It should come as no shock to socialists to learn that outwardly religious devotees are often dreadful hypocrites. We have, after all, had plenty of evidence of the Vatican covering up child abuse cases. The following news item nevertheless is an extreme example of religious hypocrisy. “Six leaders of South Korea’s largest Buddhist order have been forced to resign after being caught on video drinking, smoking and playing high-stakes poker at a memorial event for a dead Zen master” (Independent, 12 May). Well, at least they didn’t interfere with young children and unlike the priests they did resign.

National Ill-Health Service

Capitalism rewards the exploiting class and victimises the working class. A case in point is the treatment of the sick and the infirm. “Patients are being left lying on trolleys for up to 24 hours because hospitals are alarmingly short of beds, the union representing Britain’s nurses has claimed. Pressure on beds is so great that some people end up being treated in corridors, especially in A&E departments, according to a survey of 1,246 UK nurses and healthcare assistants belonging to the Royal College of Nursing who look after some of the sickest patients” (Observer, 13 May). This treatment only applies to the working class; if you can afford it you will get the most expert care quickly and efficiently.

Letters: World Without Money (2012)

Letters to the Editors from the June 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

World Without Money

Dear Editors

I remember the struggling “thirties” for my Mum and Dad, hard to find work and being abused by the capitalist system. Then with five children war took place and sent three of us to evacuation. Money I thought of was pounds shillings and pence and farthing and three penny piece Mum put in the Christmas pud.

Peace arrived and as time has gone by you heard of money crisis, tighten your belt, “you’ve never had it so good”, “a new beginning” and “we’re all in this together”, ” big society”, yes Cameron rich and poor!

Money blinds me with calculations I don’t understand, not pounds shillings and pence but millions, billions and trillions now.

The needs for people are to be fed well, sheltered and to understand to have the best of everything. Hospital, housing, schools and everything that provides a good living.

I don’t want to hear that I have an enemy today, I didn’t know him yesterday but my so-called country tells me and my family to fight him and his family. So where in the present money crisis we are unable to put money into every good and necessary need they can suddenly find millions and trillions for fighter planes and every killing machine you can think of.

Is this all insane or could there be another way to live on this great planet of ours. A global moneyless society for the whole human race. Co-operation not competition. We have the manpower, technology, resources and voluntary know-how. Capitalism has shown us how it could be but money gets in the way! So?

I’ve never been any good at understanding maths and missed out education during the war but am able to think about and see things that I hear and see. I don’t need leaders telling me what’s good or bad for me and at the same time dancing to the tune of capitalism putting profit before need.
Florrie Barwick, 
Aveley, Essex

What about the family?

Dear Editors

How do we see the Family and the upbringing of children in society after the transition from capitalism to socialism?

In the Kibbutzim in Israel from the 1950s to the 1980s people lived in a collective environment without private property where there were communal children’s homes and sleeping arrangements and the collective upbringing of children. Kibbutzim would ultimately fail as ‘socialist’ enterprises because they existed inside a capitalist framework.

In 1884 in The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, Engels describes how humanity in its hunter-gatherer stage of development lived in a primitive-communist society with female solidarity, a brotherhood of man and collective upbringing of children. It is with the end of the matrilineal clan and the beginning of patriarchy we get the beginnings of the family and private property. Professor Chris Knight’s 1991 book Blood Relations: Menstruation and the Origins of Culture follows on from the work of Engels and he states that for 95 percent of our existence, our species lived as egalitarian hunter-gatherers without family, private property and the state.

I am not proposing some return to primitivism-communist society but that the capitalist system has only been in existence a short time and is not the eternal state of things the bourgeoisie would like us to believe.

Wilhelm Reich in his 1933 The Mass Psychology of Fascism sees the family as one of the most important institutions that supports the authoritarian (capitalist?) state and is basically the centre for the production of reactionary men and women.

Following from Reich we have critique of the family in the writings of RD Laing in the 1960s, the seminal work The Death of the Family (1971) by ‘Marxist Existentialist’ psychoanalyst David Cooper, and volume 1 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus (1972) by Deleuze and Guattari.

Marxists have seen the family as an important conditioning agent in capitalist society, the cause of gender inequality and also the cause of much psychological damage to individuals. With the transition from capitalism to socialism will the family be redundant and collective upbringing the way forward?
Steve Clayton, 
London SW8.

Not free

Dear Editors

Regarding ‘From Handicraft to the Cloud Part 2’ (April Socialist Standard), when you say “Linux”, you probably mean the GNU operating system that I launched in 1983, in combination with the kernel Linux. People often call this combination “Linux”, which is unfair to us.

Linux is just one component of the combination. That component was developed starting in 1991 by Torvalds, who never agreed with the ethical principles of the free software movement. Thus, when people call the whole system “Linux” and give all the credit to him, they lead people away from our ideas of freedom.

Torvalds’ current version of Linux actually includes non-free pieces, and depends on other external non-free pieces. When we make 100% free GNU+Linux distributions, we have to remove those pieces from Linux before putting it into the distribution.

See for more explanation of this issue, and about the name question.

If you were thinking of the complete system that people use, that is GNU/Linux or GNU+Linux.

If you were thinking of Torvalds’ program, I never particularly supported that.

Dr Richard Stallman, 
President, Free Software Foundation, 
Boston, USA

Halo Halo!: Why Jesus Wasn’t a Socialist (2012)

The Halo Halo! Column from the June 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

News stories about the stupidity of religion are sometimes just too bizarre to take in – despite the often serious consequences of the events they describe. A woman facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia after being arrested for witchcraft for example (Guardian 19 April). The Catholic Church in India that had a sceptic arrested for blasphemy after he revealed that the cause of its ‘miraculous weeping cross’ was a leaking drain (Richard Dawkins website, 14 April). And again from the Guardian of 21 April, the latest antics of Terry Jones the nutty pastor from Florida who stokes up equally nutty Islamic fundamentalists by burning Korans.

Depressing stuff so lets leave the loonies alone this month and look at another widely repeated but mistaken idea often bandied about by trendy vicars and religious lefties: the idea that Jesus was a socialist.

In short, no, he wasn’t. Nor could he have been. Two thousand years ago the material conditions required for socialism simply didn’t exist.  More important from a Marxist point of view, the conditions that did exist (primitive productive forces, slave labour, widespread illiteracy and superstition) meant that he would not have been able to imagine a socialist society of common ownership and free access – had he existed, of course, which is doubtful.

Ideas don’t spring from nowhere. Before ideas of a new society can be contemplated, material conditions that can give rise to those ideas must be in place. As Marx put it, “mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, it will always be found that the task itself arises only when the material conditions for it’s solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation” and “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness” (quotations from the preface to ‘The Critique of Political Economy’ 1859).

A light-hearted example of this is provided by one of the dialogues of the ancient satirist, Lucian. In his True History (of which he admits not a word is true) he describes an imaginary trip to the moon. Although he was a clever and witty storyteller, he was writing in the 2nd century CE, and the most technically advanced forms of travel familiar to him and which he could have imagined were powered by horse, oar or sail.  Living nearly 1,700 years before Stephenson’s Rocket, therefore, he was unable to imagine or equip his characters with even a steam-driven sky rocket, and so his moon voyage was made in an ordinary sailing ship which was whisked into the air by a powerful whirlwind and blown through the sky for seven days.

An excellent pamphlet dealing with Historical Materialism and a Marxist analysis of religion is John Keracher’s How The Gods Were Made originally published in 1929 (and, if you haven’t read it, now available from The Socialist Party).

Right! That’s quite enough classical culture and Marxian theory from the Halo Halo column. Next month it’s back to ridiculing the ridiculous again.

Brief Reports (2012)

The Brief Reports Column from the June 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Leicester secondary school headmaster was under fire last week for mounting an 88mm howitzer on the roof of the school hall during the annual school egg and spoon race. Local parents complained that their children were being enlisted as gun crews when they had only volunteered for the 100 metres hurdles, and councillors expressed alarm at the unprecedented cost of ramping up school security. The headmaster, Mr Geoffrey Barking, said in a statement: ‘It’s a rough area. If it’s good enough for the Olympics, it’s good enough for us.’


Education Secretary Michael Gove is to examine claims the Gay and Lesbian Teachers Association broke impartiality rules on the topic of Catholicism. It emerged this week that the GLTA wrote to nearly 400 state-funded schools inviting them to back a petition against Catholics.  Schools and teachers are forbidden to promote one-sided political arguments. The GLTA has denied breaking any laws, saying gay views on Catholics are personal, not political: ‘It is central to gay culture to treat everyone with respect, even people who commit unnatural acts in churches.’


Labour is demanding that David Cameron makes a Commons statement on the row surrounding the Transport secretary, Jedi Walker. There have been calls for Mr Walker to resign after it was revealed that he appeared not to be doing his job properly. Mr Cameron told Newsnight last week that: ‘It may be true that Jed has not been taking bungs from BSkyB, that he has no special advisor working with the Murdochs, that he has never been to one of their parties, that he has no directorships in Murdoch-controlled companies and that he has never in any way been dishonest in the Register of Members’ Interests. However, I wish to put on record that in spite of this I have every confidence in him as a politician of my own calibre.’


It was announced this week that the Home Office was to simplify the induction process for new members of MI5 and MI6 following an internal survey that revealed that recruitment was dropping because the BBC series ‘Spooks’ is not on anymore. A spokesman said: ‘We now ask applicants if they want to join the secret service, and if so, whether they can lock themselves successfully into a hold-all while lying in a bath. If they can do that, they’re in.’


James Naughtie the Radio 4 presenter who famously introduced the culture secretary during a coughing fit in 2010 as ‘Jeremy Cunt the Hulture Minister’ has publicly apologised to listeners for publicly apologising to listeners. Mr Naughtie, 60, is seeking to assure Radio 4 fans who may be annoyed at his gaffe: ‘I wish to reassure readers that I was right in the first place. I hope nobody was offended by my unforgivable retraction’.


Business Secretary Vince Cable has condemned proposals to make it easier for firms to sack under-performing staff as “the wrong approach”. Mr Cable told reporters: ‘There’s no sense scaring the pants off workers when they can’t afford pants. Besides, we don’t want to go round saying that incompetence is a sackable offence. People might get ideas.’

Greasy Pole: A Kick in the Worst Nightmares (2012)

The Greasy Pole column from the June 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

A few weeks ago Nadine Dorries, obsessively thespian Tory MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, sneered that David Cameron and George Osborne are two arrogant posh boys who don’t know the price of milk.  This was aimed to hit Cameron where it should hurt – his determined campaign to convince us that being an Old Etonian heir to a posh-boy family fortune need not get in the way of his being sympathetic about the emergencies of survival confronting what he and his clique condescend to call decent, hard-working people and their families. And as for what it costs to get some milk onto those stricken meal tables – well, he knows all about that from his regular shopping trips to Chipping Norton with his intimidatingly aristocratic and solvent wife. It would probably be comforting to Cameron in promoting this self-image if he led a party churning out that same cant. But many Tories out there in the wide world insist on having other ideas: to be governed by harshly nostalgic concepts about society and who should represent them in Parliament.

SAS Training
The Honourable Jacob William Rees-Mogg is undoubtedly posh but says he does not regret it. He is the son of Baron Rees-Mogg whose time in career journalism peaked with his editorship during 1967 to 1981 of The Times, when he was a regular source of material for Private Eye. Jacob, who was gratifyingly precocious, wrote his first letter to the Financial Times when he was twelve and went first to Eton and then Oxford before spending 15 years in the City in his firm called Capital Management. It was unsurprising that he should have ambitions about getting into Parliament. 

This required him to survive an SAS-like training by first standing in the kind of Labour seats where Tories had become the rarest of species. His first such venture was in 1997 in Fife Central, which could be characterised by the fact that it had been the last constituency to elect a Communist Party MP – in 1935 and 1945 – and where unemployment stood at 9 percent. His campaign, feeble as it was, could not have been helped by his canvassing with his nanny (who had, he said, come to Eton “ . . . to change my sheets every week and bring me anything I needed”) and his unwavering accent (“. . . whatever I happened to be speaking about the number of votes in my favour dropped as soon as I opened my mouth”). As for the result, ‘obliterated’ would be a more useful word than ‘defeated’ and he hung on to his deposit by a whisker. He was given another chance at The Wrekin – a key seat – in 2001 where the outcome was close enough to give him some optimism about his future in politics.

Cosy Electioneering
This optimism seemed to have been justified in May 2006 when he was selected by the Tories in North-East Somerset as their candidate for the next election. The fact that his sister Annunziata was selected soon afterwards as the candidate for the adjoining Somerton and Frome might have made for cosy family electioneering except that the effect was seen by those closer to the scene as rather less comfortable for Cameron. One correspondent likened the selections as “a kick in the cobblers … for Cameron’s new-look Tories”.  After Rees-Mogg had compared pupils of state schools to “potted plants”, a friend admitted that he was “not an expert media performer”. That same year he strayed into the field of economics with his analysis that it was “…about time we had a recession”.  The remark was not apparently based on any world-wide assessment but on the assumption that it would not affect his gold stocks. In March 2009 he was again instructing us on economics and finance when he sent round his constituency a newsletter mentioning the “crashing pound” and “soaring unemployment”, The newsletter’s content was revealed to have been substantially lifted unacknowledged from an article in the Sun – of all newspapers – by Trevor Kavanagh, the Associate Editor.

Another Rees-Mogg effort at leafleting, ironically entitled Honesty On The Economy, contained a picture of him as the candidate talking to “a lady in Midsomer Norton”. The implications of that title were intriguing because that “lady”, assumed to be a constituent, was in fact an employee in his London office, allowed to make a 206-mile round journey to take part in that feeble deception. Another photograph probably intended to prove his credentials as a devoted countryman tackling a farmyard stile (in a smart city suit) looked as if he had been caught out urinating on the obstruction rather than climbing over it. Considering Rees Mogg’s obdurate tendency to attract such damagingly negative publicity it was little wonder that during the 2010 election – he won the seat in North-East Somerset by 4914 votes – The Times saw him as threatening to turn out as “David Cameron’s worst nightmare”.

Well, in his public appearances Cameron does now convey the impression, too often for his own reassurance, of being under a degree of stress typical of a political leader striving to dress up his party image – the presentation of outworn, discredited policies – as the offspring of fresh and effective thinking. This dismal aspect of managing our lives is part of what is called politics, a politics in which there is also Rees Mogg, known as “a toff beyond caricature”, struggling to assert his obsolete style of the privileges of capitalism against those already in operation in Westminster. A clash between these two methods is not due to any divergence of principles, for they are solidly together in support of this cruel, stagnant society. Anyone concerned with a valid remedy for progress must stand aside, and move on from this sterile squabble in which our lot is to be kicked where it most hurts.

France: No Socialist President (2012)

From the June 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard
   Despite what the media said, France has not elected a “Socialist President”.
What did happen on 6 May was that a member of the so-called “Parti socialiste” (PS), which is not a socialist party but a party of capitalist reform similar to the Labour Party in Britain, won the presidential election there.

François Hollande finished top in the first round of the election in April, but as he polled less than 50 percent a second round took place in which he beat the outgoing President, Nicholas Sarkozy. In the first round 6.4 million (18 percent) voted for Marine Le Pen of the National Front and a further 4 million (11 percent) for Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the Left Front.  This means that some 30 percent voted for isolationist nationalism. It seems that the history of the 1930s may be beginning to repeat itself.

Mélenchon, a one-time PS minister (and a former Trotskyist – of course), left the PS in 2008 to form the Left Party. He has been seen as more “socialist” than Hollande but the Guardian came up with some more accurate descriptions. Seamus Milne (3 April) described him as a “radical left populist” (comparing him to George Galloway) while for Philippe Marlière (19 April) he was a “radical reformist”. He certainly employed a more anti-capitalist rhetoric but, while he is opposed to “neo-liberal”, corporate capitalism, what he stood for was an isolationist, state-capitalist France.

Record of failure
The PS was formed in 1971 as a result of the merger of the old, reformist SFIO (which, believe it or not, was the French for “French Section of the Workers’ International”) and various other groupings, under the leadership of François Mitterrand, who was to be elected President of France ten years later.

In its founding declaration, the PS proclaimed its equivalent to Labour Party’s former Clause IV:
  “Socialism fixes its object as the common good not private profit. Progressive socialisation of the means of investment, production and exchange constitute the indispensable basis for this”.
It went on:
 “The socialist transformation cannot be the natural product of reforms correcting the effects of capitalism. It is not a question of re-arranging a system, but of substituting another one for it.”
This was just rhetoric. When Mitterrand was elected President of France in 1981 he made it quite clear that he had not been elected to bring about a change of system, but only to bring about a change in the existing system. It was the same distinction that had been made by the pre-war SFIO Prime Minister of the Popular Front, Léon Blum, between “the conquest of power” (for socialism) and “the exercise of power” (within capitalism).

Like François Hollande, Mitterrand promised “growth”. His government immediately drew up a plan to reduce unemployment by growing the economy 3 percent a year through increasing both popular consumption and government investment. The government did increase the minimum wage and benefits and it did employ more people as well as nationalising the banks, but the economy didn’t grow by 3 percent.

Instead, the workings of capitalism forced the government to devalue the franc three times within two years, the first as early as October 1981 (Mitterrand had only been elected in May of that year). A second followed in June of the following year. The third, in March 1983, was accompanied by a programme of austerity which clawed back the increase in wages and benefits introduced in May and June 1981. (For those who can read French, there’s description of what happened and why here: )

In short, the Mitterrand government’s attempt to grow the economy by increasing government and popular spending failed miserably. It failed because governments can’t control the way the capitalist economy works. It’s rather the other way round:  the workings of the capitalist economy oblige all governments, whatever their original intention and whatever they might prefer to do, to give priority to profits and the conditions for profit-making. In a slump such as today, this means imposing austerity, as President Hollande will find out, despite the fact that the people of France have just voted against it – yet another demonstration of how the workings of capitalism frustrate what people want.

Bid to reform capitalism
Like Mitterrand before him, Hollande only wants to “exercise power” within the context of capitalism and its rule of “no profit, no growth”. On a visit to London in February he blamed financial deregulation for the crisis and said this needed to be reversed. Ed Miliband, who was with him, chipped in:
 “We need to reform the way finance works and to reform the way that capitalism works. He is absolutely right” (Times, 1 March).
It’s clear, then, that Hollande wants to try to reform “the way that capitalism works”. He has set himself an impossible task. We can predict here and now that he won’t succeed in making capitalism work in the general interest, and that, like the last so-called “Socialist” President of France thirty years ago, he will fall flat on his face.  He will then have to pick himself up and accept the economic realities of capitalism and keep austerity to facilitate profit-making. TINAUC. There is no alternative under capitalism.
Adam Buick

The Greek Tragedy: A Tourist-Eye View (2012)

From the June 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

Re-visiting Athens after twenty-odd years and in the middle of a severe economic crisis I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect or how visible signs of the crisis would be. The drive from the airport gave few clues and once within the city there seemed to be plenty of large stores full of expensive clothes and all the latest electronic technology for those who could afford them.

Approaching the city centre though it became clear that numerous large shops and businesses were permanently closed and shuttered up. There was a heavy police presence on the streets too and the police motorcycles roaring about, usually two up and with blue lights flashing were a constant sign that all was not well. Angry looking graffiti and political posters began to appear, almost covering entire buildings from one end of the streets to the other. A sure sign of widespread anger and discontent.

Even a non-Greek speaker like myself could tell that this was not the kind of stuff we have decorating railway bridges and derelict buildings at home. The anarchist logo and the hammer and sickle were daubed up everywhere, and non-Greek speakers were well catered for. “Wake up-Rise up”, “Fuck the politicians”, “Fuck the Police” were scrawled intermittently between Greek slogans. The message of one anarchist poster pasted up every few yards, although written in Greek was perfectly clear. It’s artwork showed an angry looking muscular man, standing on a high ledge overlooking the city, hurling a ballot box far away into the distance.

My hotel, behind Omonia Square in the city centre turned out to be very close to the main office of KKE. The Greek Communist Party. And it was quite an eye-opener to see the constant activity and stream of people, young, old, male and female purposefully filing in and out at all hours of the day, seven days a week.

Obviously with drastic cuts in wages and massive unemployment, the main concerns of most people on the streets was going to be how to feed themselves and keep a roof over their heads – if indeed, they still had one. Discussions with KKE members though, I hoped, would give some idea of their view of what communism was, and how it was to be achieved. Unsurprisingly perhaps, I was told that KKE would first establish communism in Greece. This would happen when workers, through their unions, took control of their workplaces and the state. The process would then be repeated throughout Europe.

One of their slogans in both Greek and English, “Down with the Dictatorship of the Monopolies European Union” had been reproduced on a massive banner hanging from the acropolis and was intended, apparently, to pave the way for this.

Syriza too, who’s supporters I spoke to, described themselves as “Marxist Leninist” and, who assured me that their aim was the establishment of socialism, held a massive rally in Omonia Square. Their “anti bailout” message was certainly popular and seemed to have attracted vast numbers of converts. These converts however, have only been attracted by Syriza’s hopes to reform, or to scramble out of, Greece’s current economic mess. Most probably have no knowledge of what socialism is, or any hopes or ideas for its establishment.

My main reason though for going to Athens though was not to see Greece wrestling with its economic crisis. I was here for the history. And to visit the Agora, the market place and centre of activity in classical Athens. And the Pnika (or the Pnyx as the guide books have it). This is the place where the people who came up with the idea of democracy in the first place met to address their fellow citizens, to listen to each others arguments, and to discuss and vote on them.

It’s a long, hot, uphill climb to the Pnika (it took half an hour just to descend to the ancient market place again) And it was quite sobering to reflect on what the Athenian citizens who regularly made that trip to engage in direct democracy would have thought of our idea of democracy, where we are just offered the chance to elect a new leader every 4 or 5 years. And what would they have made of that poster in today’s Athens showing the angry and frustrated anarchist hurling the ballot box away?

Breivik’s Philosophy of Hate (2012)

From the June 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard
We look at mass murderer Anders Breivik’s attempt to imitate Mein Kampf.
On 16 April the trial of the Norwegian right-wing terrorist Anders Breivik started and is scheduled to conclude by the end of June. Breivik has confessed to the bombing in Oslo, killing eight, and the shooting of sixty-nine at the Norwegian Labour Party’s youth camp in Utoya.

Like young, white, male right-wing terrorists before him, such as Timothy McVeigh and David Copeland, Anders Breivik (despite his claims to be part of the Knights Templar) seems to have acted alone. Like McVeigh and Copeland, Breivik became disillusioned with co-operating with anyone in larger far-right organisations preferring a kind of messianic narcissistic individualism.

All grew up under the capitalist system, but with varying provision for welfare. McVeigh became transient after the leaving the army, and ended up in a dead-end job with long hours. Copeland struggled through a series of failed jobs before working on the London Underground. Breivik perhaps enjoyed the best welfare provision growing up, McVeigh quite possibly the most meagre. All were alienated from society and all found familiar scapegoats for their degrees of alienation. McVeigh expressed some of this in writing before the bombing and after in a 1,200 word essay. Only well-educated Breivik, however, seemed well-paid and not precariously employed (traditionally the far right exploit unemployment), and took a language other than his first and wrote a 1,518 page manifesto entitled 2083: A European Declaration of Independence by Andrew Berwick. This somewhat troubles those keen to label anything outside the political mainstream as “extremist” and medicalise his condition as insane. He wrote that his main motive for committing the atrocities on 22 July was to market this manifesto.

The far-right scapegoat which finds the most traction post-9/11 happens to be Islam. It used to be Jewish immigration or Afro-Caribbean immigration. While Copeland talked of a Zionist conspiracy, the far-right, after 9/11, switched support from Palestine to Israel. In any case, like European efforts of the English Defence League, Breivik is more pan-nationalist than nationalist. He writes:
  “One of the reasons why hardcore anti-Semites (David Duke would be a case in point) are unreliable allies is that they hate Jews so much that it shuts down the rational parts of their brain and they end up making common cause with Muslims, based on mutual hatred. The same logic applies to hardcore anti-Europeans, of which there are many even at ‘conservative’ websites such as LGF. They have an irrational hatred, a dark cloud in their minds which prevents them from seeing the world clearly. In a way, some LGF-ers thus have more in common with David Duke than they’d like to admit. If mindless anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism should be considered a problem then so should mindless anti-Europeanism.”
What matters chiefly is that the group persecuted by fascists is in a position of weakness. Breivik implicitly acknowledged this “If I was a bearded jihadist there would be no question of insanity”.

Only about half of the manifesto was written by Breivik and the rest is compiled from other sources. “I’ve spent a total of 9 years of my life working on this project. The first five years were spent studying and creating a financial base, and the last three years was spent working full time with research, compilation and writing.”

The introductory chapter of the manifesto defining “Cultural Marxism” is reprinted from Political Correctness: A Short History of an Ideology by the right-wing think tank, Free Congress Foundation. Very early on, the fabrications and leaps of logic jump out. “Political Correctness now looms over Western European society like a colossus.” then “Political Correctness is Marxism, with all that implies: loss of freedom of expression, thought control, inversion of the traditional social order, and, ultimately, a totalitarian state.”

By the end of the introduction, Political Correctness and other restrictions of freedom of speech or language are treated as synonymous with Cultural Marxism. The conclusion then is to get rid of both, which somewhat discredits later claims to defend free speech.

It should come as little surprise then that Breivik’s particular bête noire was “Marxists”. He is reported to have repeatedly shouted during the shooting, “You are going to die today, Marxists!” and the badge on the left arm of his diving suit read “Marxist Hunter”.

A lot of what follows is tortuous, wrongly interpreted, one-sided opinion, or just plain invented. Long-term demographic projections, an old favourite of fascists, make an appearance despite being notoriously dubious.

Book 1, entitled “History and Islam” focuses on largely historical disputes about genocides, falsification and apologism.  Islam and its adherents are selectively demonised while religion generally gets a get-out-of-jail free card.  The manifesto states “Negationism in Europe is practised with the most prowess by historians and writers who are under the spell of Marxism. Lenin had wanted to use the Muslims against the French and British colonialists. Modern Leftists with Marxist sympathies see Islam as an ally against Israel and the US.”

Book 2, entitled “Europe Burning” is dull speculation about a conspiracy theory of “Eurabia”, and some reprinted rambling about Feminism. ‘Cultural Marxism’ is also used interchangeably with multiculturalism and becomes a phrase for any bad thing you can think of.

One chapter is entitled “Why the discipline of Sociology must be completely removed from Academia”. As far as Breivik is concerned, the reason for this is that it is Marxist. He suggests replacing it with ideas from The Bible, Machiavelli, George Orwell, Thomas Hobbes, John Stuart Mill, John Locke, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Ayn Rand and William James. The selective philosophising is tedious and tiresome to read. Perhaps because he knows he is on shaky ground with capitalism and democracy, the chapter on “Globalised Capitalism” gets a mere four pages and in any case is traditionally code on the far-right for anti-Semitism.

In the rest of Book 2 he writes chapters entitled “Discrimination and harassment against cultural conservatives” and “ ANTIFA/Labour Jugend – State sponsored Marxist lynch mobs” where he states, “These brave Leftists or ‘anti-Fascists’ do, for some curious reason, seem to behave pretty much like, well, Fascists, a bit like the Brown Shirts in the 1930s, physically assaulting political opponents to silence them.” Some of this unfortunately can be levelled at SOS Rasisme and Blitz in Norway.

The manifesto concludes in Book 3 with a mixture of practicality and pure fantasy. One of the final chapters oddly reproduces a ‘Marxist’ study course.  Breivik also credits Wikipedia. All in all, the manifesto represents years of wasted time, money and effort and, most important, wasted lives.  It reads as a hotchpotch of prejudices, has little nuance and is full of generalisations, principally about wrong assumptions. As if to remind us where these prejudices come from, U.S. conservative commentator Glenn Beck came out with the most offensive stupid response. He compared the victims to the Hitler Youth before being reminded that groups affiliated with the Tea Party movement and the Beck-founded 9-12 Project also sponsor politically oriented camp programs for children.

The trial continues.

About Socialism (1988)

From the March 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

1. What is the Socialist Party of Great Britain?
It is a political party, separate from all others, Left, Right or Centre. It stands for the sole aim of establishing a world social system based upon human need instead of private or state profit. The Object and Declaration of Principles printed in this introductory leaflet were adopted by the Socialist Party in 1904 and have been maintained without compromise since then. In other countries there are companion parties sharing the same object and principles, and they too remain independent from all other political parties.

2. What is capitalism?
Capitalism is the social system which now exists in all countries of the world. Under this system, the means of production and distribution (land, factories, offices, transport, media, etc.) are monopolised by a minority, the capitalist class. All wealth is produced by us, the majority working class, who sell our mental and physical energies to the capitalists in return for a price called a wage or salary. The object of wealth production is to create goods and services which can be sold on the market at a profit. Not only do the capitalists live off the profits they obtain from exploiting the working class, but, as a class, they go on accumulating wealth extracted from each generation of workers.

3. Can capitalism be reformed in our interests?
No: as long as capitalism exists, profits will come before needs. Some reforms are welcomed by some workers, but no reform can abolish the fundamental contradiction between profit and need which is built into the present system. No matter whether promises to make capitalism run in the interests of the workers are made sincerely or by opportunist politicians they are bound to fail, for such a promise is like offering to run the slaughter house in the interests of the cattle.

4. Is nationalisation an alternative to capitalism?
No: nationalised industries simply mean that workers are exploited by the state, acting on behalf of the capitalists of one country, rather than by an individual capitalist or company. The workers in nationalised British Leyland are no less the servants of profit than workers in privately-owned Ford. The mines no more belong to "the public" or the miners now than they did before 1947 when they were nationalised. Nationalisation is state capitalism.

5. Are there any “socialist countries”?
No: the so-called socialist countries are systems of state capitalism. In Russia and its empire, in China, Cuba, Albania, Yugoslavia and the other countries which call themselves socialist, social power is monopolised by privileged Party bureaucrats. The features of capitalism, as outlined above, are all present. An examination of international commerce shows that the bogus socialist states are part of the world capitalist market and cannot detach themselves from the requirements of profit.

6. What Is the meaning of socialism?
Socialism does not yet exist. When it is established it must be on a worldwide basis, as an alternative to the outdated system of world capitalism. In a socialist society there will be common ownership and democratic control of the earth by its inhabitants. No minority class will be in a position to dictate to the majority that production must be geared to profit. There will be no owners: everything will belong to everyone. Production will be solely for use, not for sale. The only questions society will need to ask about wealth production will be: what do people require, and can the needs be met? These questions will be answered on the basis of the resources available to meet such needs. Then, unlike now, modern technology and communications will be able to be used to their fullest extent. The basic socialist principle will be that people give according to their abilities and take according to their self- defined needs. Work will be on the basis of voluntary co-operation: the coercion of wage and salary work will be abolished. There will be no buying or selling and money will not be necessary, in a society of common ownership and free access. For the first time ever the people of the world will have common possession of the planet earth.

7. How will socialism solve the problems of society?
Capitalism, with its constant drive to serve profit before need, throws up an endless stream of problems. Most workers in Britain feel insecure about their future; almost one in four families with children living below the official government poverty line; many old people live in dangerously cold conditions each winter and thousands die; millions of our fellow men and women are dying of starvation — tens of thousands of them each day. A society based on production for use will end those problems because the priority of socialist society will be the fullest possible satisfaction of needs. At the moment food is destroyed and farmers are subsidised not to produce more: yet many millions are malnourished. At the moment hospital queues are growing longer and people are dying of curable illnesses; yet it is not "economically viable" to provide decent health treatment for all. In a socialist society nothing short of the best will be good enough for any human being.

8. What about human nature?
Human behaviour is not fixed, but determined by the kind of society people are conditioned to live in. The capitalist jungle produces vicious, competitive ways of thinking and acting. But we humans are able to adapt our behaviour and there is no reason why our rational desire for comfort and human welfare should not allow us to co-operate. Even under capitalism people often obtain pleasure from doing a good turn for others; few people enjoy participating in the "civilised" warfare of the daily rat-race. Think how much better it would be if society was based on co-operation.

9. Are socialists democrats?
Yes: the Socialist Party has no leaders. It is a democratic organisation controlled by its members. It understands that Socialism can only be established by a conscious majority of workers — that workers must liberate themselves and will not be liberated by leaders or parties. Socialism will not be brought about by a dedicated minority "smashing the state", as some left-wingers would have it. Nor do the activities of paid, professional politicians have anything to do with Socialism — the experience of seven Labour governments has shown this. Once a majority of the working class understand and want Socialism, they will take the necessary step to organise consciously for the democratic conquest of political power. There will be no Socialism without a socialist majority.

10. What is the next step?
Many workers know that there is something wrong and want to change society. Some join reform groups in the hope that capitalism can be patched up, but such efforts are futile because you cannot run a system of class exploitation in the interests of the exploited majority. People who fear a nuclear war may join CND. but as long as nation states exist, economic rivalry means that the world will never be safe from the threat of war. There are countless dedicated campaigns and good causes which many sincere people are caught up in, but there is only one solution to the problems of capitalism and that is to get rid of it, and establish Socialism. Before we can do that we need socialists; winning workers to that cause requires knowledge, principles and an enthusiasm for change. These qualities can be developed by anyone — and are essential for anyone who is serious about changing society. Capitalism in the 1980s is still a system of waste, deprivation and frightening insecurity. You owe it to yourself to find out about the one movement which stands for the alternative.

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If you have read this set of principles and agree with some or all of them, contact the Socialist Party with your questions and ideas about what you can do to help speed the progress towards Socialism.