Thursday, February 20, 2020

Seriously pretending (1994)

From the February 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

For a very serious reason, we would ask you to pretend for a moment. Just allow your invagination to take a short journey from where you are now and look at how your life would change if what you are pretending actually happened.

You are living in a world where money does not exist. When you want something you go to the store and take it. There isn’t someone to tell you what you can take or when you can take it; that decision is yours. And everybody else has the same right to avail themselves of what they need as you — so there are no criminals wanting to rob you.

Of course, all the things that people freely avail themselves of have to be produced. Food has to be grown and processed; things have got to be made and houses and other buildings have to be built; a thorough and efficient health service has to be run as well as emergency and other services. In the world where you are pretending to be there is plenty of work to do.

But because money and all other forms of ration tokens do not exist, millions of jobs that used to use the skills and energies of people no longer exist. There is no need for banks, insurance offices, advertising and promotion services, sales people of all the different sorts, mortgage services, dole clerks, security personnel, judges, lawyers and criminals. The list is a very long one and includes armed forces and all those munition workers, scientists and others employed in the killing industry — as the competition for markets, trade routes and other material interests that cause wars and conflicts would have disappeared. All in all, it would be safe to say that, in the world in which you are pretending to be now, there would be at least three times as many people to do the necessary work as there are in the world you are pretending to have left.

In the pretend world there is no government because there are no conflicting interests and no need for people to be controlled by a coercive state. Instead, there are democratically-elected bodies at local, regional and world level whose function is to organize production and distribution. You may be elected to one of these bodies. If you are you will not receive any special favours — of course, you won’t need to for, like everybody else, the things you need are freely available to you. Those elected to carry on public administration can be recalled by those who elected them and no-one is coerced into fulfilling any task.

In this pretend world, neither you nor any other person will ever endure poverty or insecurity; you will never be homeless or badly housed; you will not die in warfare or civil conflict for the basis of these evils will have been abolished and, since there is no need to steal, crime and offences against the person do not now exist. Automation and new productive processes, instead of creating unemployment, simply make necessary work easier for all and, like the fact that all the wasteful occupations of the old world have been abolished, give more leisure to those who wish to travel in a world where frontiers do not exist or to pursue other work, hobbies or interests.

Back to reality
Let’s stop the pretending there and deal with "reality”! Because reality is a world where everything carries a price tag, where millions die annually of hunger, millions more simply "get by" and only a relatively few people are wealthy or enormously rich, we think of this terrible and frightening reality as the natural order of things, as natural as the seasons.

In fact, we are told that this awful reality reflects our "human nature" and that this nature would not permit us to live in a world such as you were just now pretending to live in. In other words, that because we are human we cannot all have free and equal access to the abundance of everything that it is now possible to produce. On the other hand, despite us being human, we can accept a reality where the members of a minority class can freely avail themselves of their needs from the wealth we produce. It is not too difficult to see why the ruling class, who control our "education" and our social conditioning, tell us that our "nature" would not allow us to cooperate in the sane organization of society.

There exists now the economic potential to create a world where everyone has free access to their needs without wages, money or any other form of rationing. Unfortunately, the political will to establish such a world is absent largely because we have been conditioned to believe that the present capitalist system is, as we have observed, the natural order of things, despite its endemic problems and that there is no alternative to capitalism.

The world we asked you to pretend to be living in at the outset was the world envisaged by the early socialists. Unfortunately, that vision was deliberately corrupted by politicians acting in ignorance or in the interests of the ruling class. Thus, state capitalism, a brutal and anti-democratic form of capitalism operating in so-called communist countries, was claimed to represent the ideas of socialism as were the failed reformist policies of Labour parties.

But socialism has not failed; on the contrary, it has never been tried and the growth of a genuine movement to bring it about has been deliberately frustrated by Establishment lies and misrepresentation. It is because the case for socialism is so overwhelmingly logical that those who oppose it out of narrow self-interest use their wealth, their power and their privilege to distort its meaning and to deny valid arguments about its nature and its feasibility a place on the political agenda. These are interests that have successfully pretended to you that you have to put up with capitalism and its disgusting abuse of humanity because there is no alternative to that system.

Because socialism and democracy are indivisible, the task of the Socialist Party is to build the political means of convincing a majority to opt for Socialism. We do not pretend that it is an easy task but, confronted with capitalist reality, it is an urgent and essential one.
Richard Montague

Go for a million (1994)

Party News from the February 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nationwide, the Socialist Party is putting up four candidates in the European Elections in May and June. This is unprecedented. Not many have heard of us; fewer will know what we stand for.

What we aim for is a practical — and ecologically viable — alternative to the market and the state, a new way of living in which we can all give according to our abilities, and take according to our needs. The means to achieve this must be in harmony with the end itself: democratic, peaceful and without leaders trying to run society on our behalf.

The fact is present-day society cannot be run in the interest of the great majority. It does not matter what government we choose, they must dance to the tune of capitalism. The problems they grapple with are self-evidently endemic to the system itself. They are normal and necessary features of how it operates. Why else are people homeless while, in this country alone, over 600,000 homes remain empty? Why else do people starve in shadows of the global food mountain?

Present-day society is massively wasteful and inherently destructive — not just of our environment and resources but of our hopes and aspirations. It is time to organize for a real alternative. Why not join with us to make this a reality?

The amount in our Election Fund is now £19,084. If you have not yet contributed please send your cheque (made payable to "The Socialist Party of Great Britain") to: Election Fund, The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN.

Letters: Profound Disequilibrium (1993)

Letters to the Editors from the December 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Profound Disequilibrium

Dear Editors.

The article “World Recession Closes in Quickly” (October) makes the undeniable point that "the capitalist economy is in a period of profound disequilibrium". However, I feel that coupling this with the statement that it would get better may suggest to some readers that the Socialist Party holds the mistaken view that equilibrium is the normal state of a healthy capitalism, that is, one of boom.

Traditional bourgeois economic theory leans heavily on the concept that production serves consumption, and that equilibrium is achieved as all factors of production receive their just recompense in the market, which is supposed to regulate technical/organisational decisions necessary for this alleged balance.

Marx’s value theory demonstrates that capitalism's normal state is, in fact, disequilibrium. Quite apart from the anarchy of production, this arises from the fact that on the level of the whole economy capital accumulation can proceed only through the realisation of surplus value by reinvestment in new means of production, capitalists' and workers’ personal consumption being met out of the remainder of surplus value and by wages respectively.

This reinvestment is made by individual businesses under competitive pressure, and in anticipation of a market demand over and above that currently existing. It must bear a favourable relationship to the mass of capital already accumulated if the economy is to expand and they are to stay in business. Whether the rate of profit is maintained, and slump deferred, depends firstly on whether this new investment enables a corresponding increase in surplus value production. But this competitively-compelled investment in new means of production is a permanent feature of disequilibrium normal to capitalism, driving it forward beyond current market bounds and ultimately to a period of over-investment, declining profits and slump. Incidentally. I believe that it is only in this sense that Marx’s contentious reference to crises being ultimately caused by the restricted consumption of the masses can be seen as relevant.

As capitalist production is essentially production of and for capital, it is enabled to proceed only when it can produce enough surplus value to satisfy its accumulation needs, and ceases when it cannot. No equilibrium state is involved.
W. Robertson,

We didn't really suggest that equilibrium is the normal slate of the capitalist economy, did we?


Dear Editors,

As a great fan of "free" radio stations. I read your "Death of a radio station" article in the October issue with great interest.

What great news it was to hear that LBC has lost their broadcasting licence. I’m overjoyed.

The moronic prattlers at LBC and other licensed radio stations have a damned cheek to start shouting "unfair — disgraceful" when they have found out that the Tory Party they have grovelled round have had happen to them what happens to most of us working-class people — being shit upon (when they lose their licence).

What really annoyed me was when I read in your article that LBC groaned that the Government has no right to say who. and who may not, broadcast. LBC and the "others" didn’t have this view when on Saturday August 19 1989, somewhere in the international waters of the North Sea. Radio Caroline, from the MV Ross Revenge w'as being wrecked — not by gale-force winds but by Dutch and UK government officials, with no doubt the likes of LBC gleefully hearing about the events where DJs on board were assaulted, transmitters violently smashed with sledgehammers and the ship’s record library confiscated. Everything on board that ship was either "stolen" by UK officials or smashed to pieces. We are talking about a vessel being in international waters where the UK authorities had no jurisdiction over.

The likes of LBC were responsible for this raid. They protested (since 1983) that Caroline had no right to broadcast etc etc.

Now LBC — poor dears — are “in the same boat" so-to-speak. Well isn’t that tough.

The ILRs wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for the likes of Caroline and the ’60s stations that broadcast offshore. Surely everybody has the right to broadcast. The airwaves are just that — air isn’t that free?

"We live in a democratic free society". So says Johnnie and his boys. Well, you could’ve fooled me!

Thanks again for the excellent article. Steve Coleman is certainly on my "wavelength".

Best wishes and thanks for an excellent journal.
Doug Sharrard,

“Emotional Man"

Dear Editors.

The October editorial headed "Cure for the fascist cancer" while expounding some fundamental truth, also contained the persistent and basic flaw that is always present in the advocation of your arguments. Your editorial stated: "Do those who seek to ban them (BNP) believe that workers are so stupid as to fall for fascist nonsense when it is countered in public by clear and logical opposition?"

The answer unfortunately is yes they can. There is sufficient evidence to show that millions of people are incapable of rational thinking.

The cause is not because people are “stupid" but because they are subject to early emotional experiences that can thwart mature development of their objective capabilities to fully overcome repressed and infantile fears in later adult life.

If this were not the case, the countless numbers who have, over many years, heard the Socialist Party, with its "clear and logical" position, would have not only rejected their own previous views but, at least most, would have joined the SPGB.

On the contrary, the observations are that millions not only flock to and vigorously support reactionary political philosophies, but in addition millions more become obsessively addicted to religious rantings of the most primitive and irrational kind.

While I am in agreement with the Socialist Party in its desire for a truly democratic world community, based on common ownership, I find that its lack of a deeper and more positive understanding of “Emotional Man", as opposed to its fixation on purely "Economic Man", is its weakest essential link.

Human beings — this should be self-evident — are not robots and mechanical, but living organisms of much complexity in their inner emotional life.

Political reactionaries (including fascists) and religious advocates always make their appeal to the irrational in "Emotional Man" that repeatedly and successfully recruits millions in each generation to their ranks. Despite the fact that those millions, as a result, act contrary to their own rational interests.

This constant seeking after substitute strong symbolic parental images, in the form of Gods, leaders and powerful nation states of "Motherland" and "Fatherland", should give a conclusive indication of the infantile and "lack of confidence" evident in the human psyche.

The source is not in his "nature" but in the "nurtured" early emotional experience. "Fascism" is not merely a political attitude but the outward expression of inner conflicts that we are all capable of living under certain anxiety conditions.

The increasing demand for Sado-Masochistic style movies and violent horror "comics" by vast numbers of young people worldwide, as some attempt at release from inner conflict, should be of great concern.

Trends are also observed in the presentation style, over the last twenty years, in the music of the young, behaviour at football events, drug-taking and drinking habits. All are symptomatic of outward and inward drives of destructive aggressive behaviour.

The development of new religious cults shows an increase in the infestation of mysticism, particularly in the young.

The danger is that these tensions can be projected onto reality with "fascist" values. As a guide to the difficulties Socialists face, if we are ever to secure a genuine and lasting democratic society, may I recommend two two works: The Mass Psychology of Fascism by Wilhelm Reich and The Psychopathology of Everyday Life by Sigmund Freud. Until Socialists fully understand and tackle these deep matters, little progress, if any, can be made for a sane society. Failure to recognise this could have the most serious consequences, in this technological age, for the future of our planet.
Lionel M Rich,
London NW6

Who says we are fixated on "economic man"? Socialism is about improving all aspects of human life. We even have members who like the ideas of Freud and Reich (though others reject them as unsubstantiated speculations, not to say unscientific nonsense). The point is we all agree that the task of Socialists today is to make more Socialists, by reasoned argument and democratic persuasion. What are you suggesting we do in addition? Organise a campaign of mass psychoanalysis? 

Religion and Birth Control

Dear Editors,

Termination of pregnancy and contraception are very difficult. It is misleading to link the two as the article on religion and birth control did in the October issue.

Contraception enables an individual to control family size and fertility if they wish to make this choice. Termination ends the life of another, although very small, individual.

If people stopped linking termination and contraception then maybe religious leaders would stop linking the two and hopefully realize that contraception is a good thing and that by more people having access to it without all the guilt there would be less terminations, less women dying in back-street clinics, less women becoming worn out at an early age from having many children, less deaths of infants, etc, etc.

The only religious people who will not be convinced by separating the two issues are idiots like the Pope who do not care about the unborn child, because once it is born it is then condemned to a life of poverty and even early death. The Pope and his cronies want to control the sexuality of worshippers and keep women uneducated and producing kids until they wear out.

Most Catholics I know do not agree with termination as the life of a baby is ended, however they nearly all use contraception, thinking that if the Pope cared about babies he would stop condemning contraception and positively encourage it.

It will surprise many with stereotyped views on pro-lifers that most of my religious friends support abortion and my humanist atheist friends are mostly against it.

The only way to stop termination is to make contraception easily available, give all kids a good sex education with an emphasis on equality, relationships, love, safety and respect for each other, an end to poverty, equality and choices regarding jobs and education for girls and women all over the world.

Also it is not just religious cultures that oppress women. Secular Western cultures have sick attitudes to women, on the whole we are just sex objects who must be slim and available for the use of men whenever they demand it. Women in the West are still lumbered with child care, have little choice about careers or staying at home. Capitalism forces us into crappy, underpaid jobs and at the same time we have to hold a family together. We can’t even choose not to go out to work because of capitalism. (And who wants to work for this system anyway?)

So it is not just the fundamentalists of the Vatican, Iran and the American Bible Belt who oppress women.
Ali Browning,