Sunday, March 22, 2020

Enrico Ferri on Socialist Tactics. (1905)

Enrico Ferri
From the August 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

What is the essence of the great and fertile innovations of the revolutionary method of Marx and Engels, as distinguished from Utopian sentimental Socialism, and from Anarchism? It consists solely in the substitution of the genetic method, the investigation of causes, for the old empirical, symptomatic method, in harmony with the scientific doctrine of transformation or natural evolution.

In medical practice, as is well known, up to the middle of the nineteenth century, before the clinical methods of observation and experiment were tried, diseases were diagnosed and treated only by their symptoms, their outward manifestations. The discoveries of Pasteur, for example, and his followers, of microbe germs that caused infectious diseases, led to the replacing of the symptomatic cures, which were powerless against such plagues as cholera and typhoid fever, by the elimination of the causes for the purpose of preventing disease. And surprising results were obtained in this way. It is infinitely better to build water-works for a city suffering from typhoid fever than to increase the number of physicians for the treatment of the diseased, or to open public dispensaries and reduce the price of medicines.

In the treatment of the infectious disease of exploitation and misery, Marx and Engels have, therefore, said: It is useless to continue that empirical and symptomatic treatment, that more or less modern and rational charity, these social reforms for the so-called “amelioration of the condition of the working class”, and the like. It is necessary to eliminate the causes of poverty, and these are in the last instance found in the monopolization of the means of production and distribution as private property, that reaches its climax in that period of civilisation which is characterised by bourgeois capitalism. Against this rising tide of economic slavery, human misery and injustice, little bourgeois reforms from “soup kitchens” to “charity balls”, from laws on “female and child labor” to “boards of arbitration” or “Sunday rest”, are useless as the use of Anarchist violence, individual or collective, against this or that capitalist, this or that “economic tyrant”, this or that “political tyrant”, is senseless.

The work of the revolutionary method is much more tedious, tiresome and complex. We must combat and eliminate the fundamental causes of poverty, instead of the more or less apparent symptoms. And as the elimination cannot be accomplished by one stroke of collective or individual violence, nor by social reform legislation, nor by a dictator’s decree, we must form a clear and energetic proletarian mind and redeem it from ignorance and servility. Ideas travel in human boots, and proletarian evolution does not proceed spontaneously, nor does it descend from the providential heavens of government action. It rather takes shape partly through the natural agency of economic and political phenomena and partly through the pressures of the proletarian mind itself which struggles by legal means for the realisation of its revolutionary aims.

These aims are called revolutionary and cannot be called otherwise. Not that they preach the building of barricades or personal assaults, but because they aim at the complete transformation of the foundations of society, instead of limiting, weakening and entangling themselves in reforms which leave the basis of private property untouched, and which the ruling classes have always granted, not for our benefit, but in their own interest, for the purpose of retarding the progress of the revolutionary ideal.
Enrico Ferri in "Il Socialismo."

Palliatives and Practical Politics: An Indictment of Reform. (1905)

From the August 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are in the throes of another great agitation. The popular pulse has been quickened, the popular mind has been stirred, the popular spirit has revolted against the latest flout of the popular will and the popular fiat has gone forth in a yell of popular execration “Death to the House of Lords! Death!” Wherefore all the forces of progress have formed up in lighting array ; the progressive pulpit, the progressive press, the progressive politician, have all leaped to arms animated by one great popular principle, united in one great popular party, and have gone forth with “practical politics” inscribed on their banners to do battle with the pallid peers or, parenthetically, perish in the process. For the “Over the Bridges” Tramway Bill, fashioned by the mediocrity of Spring Gardens, after many exhibitions of practical statesmanship on the part of the L.C.C. M.P’s., has been incontinently kicked out of the House of Select Thieves after having passed
by the casting vote of that memento of mediaevalism, Mr. Speaker.

Hence these tears. Hence these wild and whirling words. Hence this display of frenzied determination on the part of professional politicians out of office, who, scenting the spoils from afar and calculating upon the short memories of the working-class, have rushed into the public places of the land in an endeavour to create a popular turmoil that will assist them into position.

How many of these great agitations for the same old and hoary object are contained in the memory that can encompass the last 25 years? And how many times have the working-class risen like gudgeons to the bait, only to find their energies wasted and their interests sold in the result?

As though the House of Lords mattered. As though it were not an institution built up upon the same system of
buttressed by working-class ignorance to which can be directly traced all the economic evils that working-class flesh is heir to; an institution that must go down with the system upon which it depends, before the pressure of an educated, well organised proletariat.

The House of Lords, the Monarchy, the State Church and the rest are all so many embellishments of the capitalist system, so much embroidery of the ugly basal fact. The destruction of such embroidery would not effect the working-class position in the smallest degree. The abolition of the House of Lords would not necessarily have effected the passing even of a trumpery Tramway Bill. If the measure was one that materially affected capitalist interests, in the event of the non-existence of the House of Lords, it would never have passed the House of Commons. As it is the House of Lords plays the game of the capitalist members of the other House. The latter know that their titled confreres can be relied upon to
and therefore under some circumstances they will indulge in something that savours of working-class legislation, and secure the kudos of enhanced political standing in the eyes of a purblind people. In other words they succeed in conveying the idea that they are friends of the working-class, and so strengthen their position at the hustings what time their non-elective fellows in the House of Lords look after the swag. And then with tongue in cheek they conduct abolition of the House of Lords agitations while the workers cheer them on.

Well, the workers will cheer until they understand. And until they understand, that cheer is all the cheer they will get. But presently they will appreciate the fact that they are poor and wretched because they are robbed, and they will know that the
sit in the House of Lords and the House of Commons alike, and on both sides of both Houses.

There is no greater barrier to working-class emancipation therefore in the House of Lords than exists in the House of Commons. It makes no difference to the working-class whether their exploiter is the Lord Dudley or the plain Mr. Smith. Plain Mr. Aird was no less an exploiter than Sir John Aird now is. Consequently an educated and well organised proletariat would concentrate upon the central fact upon which all else depends, and the measure of their determination will be the measure of the concessions they will obtain. Subsidiary obstacles to working-class advance, such as the House of Peers is supposed to be, will be removed by the capitalist-class in the hope that the glamour that once magnified them into matters of importance in the eyes of the working-class will still be sufficiently strong to dazzle their understanding and induce the belief that the capitalists are prepared to make large sacrifices for the benefit of their poor brethren of the lower orders.

That is the position of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, both in regard to

We hold, and can produce evidence ad nauseum to show, that to focus the working-class mind upon two or three or a dozen palliative proposals, simply plays the game and saves the face of the capitalist-class. Every palliative measure (when they are such) can be conceded to a working-class so concentrated, without endangering the central position. Because, except the workers are class-conscious, they will, and do, treat such concessions as evidences of the friendliness and concern of capitalism for labour. The class position is, for a time at any rate, abandoned. The class struggle is obscured. That is the lesson that the history of reform movements teaches. That is the reason, and the only justification for the existence of parties claiming to be socialist. Moreover, and this point merits all the emphasis that can be applied to it, many of these palliatives are directly advantageous to capitalist interests. In such cases the workers are at
of being seduced from their class position and being the more easily manipulated as instruments of profit production.

On the other hand, with the workers educated and organised on the basis of their class position and alive to the perennial, irreconcilable antagonism of interest existing between them and their exploiters, any palliative measure secured would mean the strengthening of their position and the facilitation of their advance.

To the objection that the working-class are not prepared to assimilate the whole Socialist philosophy and must be brought along on the milk of reform before they can be fed on the strong meats of revolution, the answer is that the comprehension of the simple facts of Socialism involves no great mental exertion. Indeed, the absorption would have been an exceedingly simple process for the normal person had not an army of half-loaf politicians and reformers with the baseless fear of the inability of the average mind to understand more than their
in their hearts, spread their wares like the pedlars they were, before the untutored gaze of the workers. Honestly or otherwise they manufactured a man of straw, a bogey, and having done so, called upon all good men concerned for the true advancement of the poor to scream with affright. And to this day honest and dishonest reformers and palliators have screamed and fled before the miserable straw-stuffed effigy they themselves created.

Small wonder therefore that the workers, fed for so long upon the diluted wash that answered for mental food with propagators of procrastination, should regard with suspicion the real and satisfying viands (to persist with the food simile) the Socialist offers them.

Had it been otherwise, had the real causes of, and only remedy for, working-class poverty been preached clearly and consistently by those who knew the truth, we should have
to tell to-day. Our tale would have been of a rapidly growing and solidly welded working-class party such as few if any countries could excel.

I repeat that the normal mind, cleared of the confusion that the dissemination of futilities has largely caused, can easily understand the simple proposition that the poverty and misery within their daily experience, is due to the fact that the wealth they create is not theirs; that it is not theirs because the land and machinery by the aid of which they have been enabled to produce and distribute wealth, are in the private possession of a comparatively few people ; that the non-possession of these means of life (by and through which alone they can produce the things necessary to their existence) reduces them to the necessity of selling the only thing they have their power to work—to those who do possess the means of life; that therefore they are themselves
(because they cannot dissociate themselves from the labour power which they sell) and are bought and sold as other commodities are bought and sold; that just as the price of other articles is determined by the supply of and the demand for those articles, so is the price of labour power determined ; that just as competition causes the price of other articles to revolve about the cost of their manufacture, so does competition cause the price of labour power to revolve about the cost of its manufacture (which is, of course, the cost of the keep of the worker and his family); that therefore the existence of the unemployed is necessary to capitalist interests because while the market is flooded with labour, competition for work will keep the price of that labour (wages) low, and because if labour was scarce its price would rise, to the detriment of course, of profits; that therefore the capitalists, whatever their professions, will never do aught to materially affect the unemployed problem. And finally and because of this.
for working-class poverty and the unhappiness arising from it is the destruction of the system of the private ownership in the means of life upon which the whole evil rests, and the substitution of common ownership and control, that is ownership and control by the whole people, of those means.

This, we claim, is simple enough for the wayfaring man, though a fool, when his mind has been cleared of the stumbling blocks assiduously created by the agents of the capitalist-class, acting in that capacity unconsciously or deliberately. Among these agents we include of necessity
and all others who by act or word contribute to working-class confusion because they, in so doing, are buttressing the capitalist system which depends upon working-class ignorance.

And that is briefly the explanation of the clause in our Declaration of Principles (at which so many cavil) which says that we are in opposition to all other political parties, whether avowed capitalist or alleged labour, because all as we show—as we have shown—(see the Manifesto of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, just published) contribute in act or word or both to working-class confusion.

Therefore are we opposed to farcical anti-House-of-Lords agitations and the like.
We show that the capitalist as such can never have interests in harmony with the worker as such. We hold up Socialism as the only hope of the workers. We urge the futility of palliatives (except to the class-conscious worker) while the central fact remains unaffected. We refuse to be scared by the wretched bogey which reformers have created. We are out to keep the issues clear as a pike. We preach Socialism— we, THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN.
Alec. J. M. Gray

Answers To Correspondents. (1905)

From the August 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

H.W.P. (Birmingham).—The words used by Lansbury at the 1896  Conference were, "Any few men and women can run an organisation if plenty of money is found, but it requires a principle and a real steadfast belief in principle to make a man or woman sacrifice both time and money for a movement which, in the main, is for the benefit of those who will inherit the future." But that was before the S.D.F. admitted pro-monarchial aristocrats to membership, and devoted its energies to the establishment of "bob-a-nob" boot clubs.

Rear View: Dumb and dumber (2020)

The Rear View Column from the March 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dumb and dumber

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Needs to Learn Economics (, 26 January). Indeed. But so does the author, Ben Shapiro. He objects to AOC’s claim ‘No one ever makes a billion dollars. You take a billion dollars.’ But that was one of the things she got right. ‘According to AOC, the very mechanisms of capitalism mandate such theft. In her view, successful businesspeople simply exploit their workers while maximizing their profits.’ By contrast, the Conservative Shapiro believes ‘consumers determine the value of products; producers do not. The diffuse informational system of the free market, which rewards the power of entrepreneurship, rather than punishing it…’. Socialists assert that profit can be traced to the additional value generated in the production process. Consider, a US factory worker’s output $73.45/hour vs. hourly pay of just $23.32 (, 6 December 2017) and ‘Almost 80% of US workers live from paycheck to paycheck’ (, 29 July 2018). This ‘surplus value’ is the difference between the labour time workers actually expend in the production process and the amount of labour time embodied in the commodities the workers themselves must consume to reproduce their capacity to labour, which Marx terms ‘labour power’. Even a ‘fair wage’, or co-operatives, which AOC supports, do not change the source of Shapiro’s ‘rewards’. He actually quotes approvingly from the Guardian with regard to the Spanish Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, whose worker-owners have ‘learned to think like the shareholders of any other global business.’ Exploitation of labour as the basis of profit accounts for the merciless drive of capitalists to extend the working day, so as to suck out every last drop of surplus value.

Do no homeopathy

Capitalism is parasitic, seeking out profit wherever it can be made and leaving war and want in its wake. There is potential profit in the coronavirus. ‘The virus appears to have originated from a Wuhan seafood market where wild animals, including marmots, birds, rabbits, bats and snakes, are traded illegally’ (, 30 January). Imagine the conditions for animals and workers involved with illegal farms and markets. The Indian government is doubling down on the damage done by promoting homeopathic treatment. ‘Far from being a “prophylactic medicine,” as the ministry suggests, this miracle concoction is, in reality, a super-diluted form of arsenic trioxide. Not only is the compound known to be fatal if improperly used, but there’s also no evidence to suggest it works on the coronavirus, or any other condition for that matter. If it weren’t for the Dalai Lama recently telling his followers to chant a mantra as protection, India’s purported tips to fend off the coronavirus might be the least effective advice offered yet. Now, the two will have to battle for that top spot, and India’s ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa and Homoeopathy) has even more nonsensical suggestions to offer in the fight… a drop of sesame oil in each nostril upon waking, and a “light and soft” diet…. Ayurveda and other traditional medicines, like Unani, are seen as a legitimate and burgeoning industry. The Prime Minister… wants to make them “a way of life”… and as holistic medicine becomes ever more profitable, the government has started promoting traditional remedies more and more’ (, 30 January).

A world to win

We live in a sick society, yet a small minority continue to thrive. ‘The richest Americans are set to inherit a staggering $764 billion… The study noted the US has one of the lowest levels of upward mobility, which now “heavily depends” on the circumstances of birth’ (, 28 January). Who runs things from top to bottom? Who grows the food, who builds the houses, who mines the minerals, who transports them, who processes them, who fashions them into useful things, who does all the administrative work for this, orders the supplies, draws up the designs – who other than the working class`? The shareholding capitalist and the fat-cat company director are completely redundant as far as the actual work of wealth production is concerned – and new wealth can only be created by the application of human labour to materials that originally come from nature, not by speculating on the stock exchange or planning take-over bids. Their social role is purely parasitic – a mosquito that banks the blood it extracts, part of the wealth created by the rest of us. This is the system which AOC and Shapiro, with more or less governmental intervention, support, and which only a majority of us can end.

Material World: Africa’s food potential (2020)

The Material World Column from the March 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard

The perception of many in the developed countries is that Africa is always associated with poverty, disease, famine and war. It is as if the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have made the continent their personal domain.

Yet Africa has considerable riches.

Africa has long been known for its resource abundance in both agriculture and mineral resources. The ore deposits are so abundant that some of it has yet to be discovered. To date, though, Africa has struggled to translate these resources into shared wealth and sustained economic development. South Africa’s potential mineral wealth is estimated to be around $2.5tn, while the mineral reserves of the Congo are thought to be worth $24tn. In natural resources, Africa is still largely unexplored. There is so much natural wealth on the continent that a great deal of it is as yet untapped.

However, most of the continent’s existing natural resources are owned and exploited by foreign, private corporations. There is a common view that believes the wealthier countries are helping and aiding the undeveloped and developing nations in Africa, but such an outlook ignores the imbalance of trade and the relationship that exists with the extractive industries that dominate the African economy.

More wealth leaves Africa every year than enters it. It was calculated that African countries received $162bn in 2015, mainly in loans, aid and personal remittances. But in the same year, $203bn was taken from the continent through multinationals using subsidiaries to transfer profits into tax havens. Trade mis-pricing, that is, transfer pricing, and trade mis-invoicing, over-reporting of costs and under-reporting production output are the most common ways companies seek to maximise profits artificially through maximising expenses in high-tax jurisdictions and maximising income in low-tax jurisdictions. This enables corporations to minimise tax payments and transfer the funds abroad. This is compounded by overly generous tax concessions provided by governments, often under duress. Local political elites, in collusion with the foreign corporations, siphon off the proceeds from the continent’s wealth – lining their own pockets, to the detriment of ordinary Africans.

On a continent with an abundance of arable land, Africa imports billions of pounds worth of basic foodstuffs and still many parts there are not food secure. There is absolutely no reason for Africa to be food insecure. Farming in Africa could theoretically become a major breadbasket for the world. Africa has 65 percent of the world’s remaining arable land. Its vast savannahs are estimated at 400 million hectares, only 10 percent of which is cultivated. The Guinea Savannah, an area across many countries, has the potential to turn Africa into a bulk food producer.

Africa could feed itself and could help feed the world, too. The world is not winning the war against global hunger. Climate change is already worsening the situation, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The challenge is not a technical issue but rather a question of which type of society we need for production to take place. At the moment the techniques used to cultivate the soil still lag behind what has been adopted in other parts of the world. Improved grain varieties exist which produce harvests that are larger and drought and disease resistant. The structure of agriculture itself can be changed. Smart farming with the use of mobile phones and GPS can give farmers information and advice. New techniques in agriculture such as agro-ecology are proven to be more productive. We know it is possible to restore exhausted soils and damaged ecosystems. In many parts of Africa, the potential for restoration is enormous. Increasing climate change resilience requires greater irrigation and more efficient water management. Over 90 percent of agriculture depends on rainfall, with no artificial irrigation aid. Many small farmers lack access to mechanisation. Equipment such as cold storage and packaging can end the waste of food rotting and ease the transport to the cities and other regions. The technology and the techniques are there. All it requires to harness them is a change in the basis of society so that food can be produced to directly feed people.

We can end and we must end global poverty. We have the solutions for addressing malnutrition. Food produced in Africa could make a big contribution to this. Millions of African farmers need no longer be poor or endure precarious lives. Africa has the land, water and people needed to be an efficient agricultural producer.

Under capitalism and without a change in the economic structure there is good reason to fear the projected rise in Africa’s population. Nevertheless, such a rise should not necessarily be treated as a curse. The share of Africa’s working-age population is rising faster than any other region and it will have a larger potential workforce than either China or India. It is not a matter of an extra mouth to feed but an extra pair of helping hands and another brain to think.

The time is ripe for Africa to make better use of its natural resources but capitalism’s drive for capital accumulation and profits at the expense of people’s consumption precludes long-lasting, sustained prosperity in Africa and will not permit it to bear fruit. Looking at Africa from a socialist perspective, we see the situation is far from hopeless. Africa is one of the most important places for the future and its people among the most useful and needed in the world. The potential is enormous.

Pathfinders: Stories from the city (2020)

The Pathfinders Column from the March 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard

People ask a lot of questions about socialism in practice, some we can answer, some we can’t. But nobody ever asks what the architecture would look like.

It’s not a pressing social issue, after all, like food or disease prevention. In fact it’s rarely discussed at all, except to complain about some new local monstrosity. When you think about it though, there’s something a little strange about this. People who live in rural areas often have a great familiarity with their landscape and its features, right down to individual tree and plant species. They know the language and vocabulary of their environment, and this knowledge undoubtedly adds to their appreciation of it.

The majority of the world lives in cities, and the built environment has its own language and vocabulary, that of architecture, but most of us don’t know much about it. We know ‘door’, ‘wall’ and ‘roof’ but not ‘quoin’, ‘corbel’ or ‘voussoir’. We rush past buildings every day without really noticing them. We might acknowledge that some grand buildings are beautiful, but we can’t really understand or appreciate what’s interesting about them because we don’t have the words.

Architecture is applied art on a giant scale, and it’s immersive, because you live in it. Some of the art is good, some terrible. It’s also a living historical record of the past, its moods and crazes and fads. It has a function, obviously, but it likes to make statements too, sometimes grandiose political or aspirational statements, that tell us how ruling class ideas have changed over the centuries. If you know how, you can read these messages as plainly as words on a page. Learning even the rudiments of this language can be a revelation. Your own city reveals itself in a whole new light.

It’s not hard to pick up some basics. Just four category words virtually encompass the past thousand years of building in Britain. They are Gothic, Neo-classical, Vernacular and Modern.

Gothic started with the Normans and became de rigueur for churches and cathedrals, and often for colleges and legal institutions. It was all about the power of God, so it features a lot of pointed arches, lofty verticals and spires reaching heavenward like arms in supplication. The point was for commoners to gaze upward with their jaws on the floor, mutter a reverential What the Fuck? and vow never, ever, to argue with the beings who could create such soaring marvels.

Neo-classical is anything that looks like it’s from Ancient Rome, such as pillars with a triangular ‘pediment’ on top, or rounded triumphal arches. Empires didn’t come more bad-ass and macho than Rome, which is why the growing empires of the Renaissance revived its styles and it finally arrived in Britain with Inigo Jones in the 17th century. Instead of piety, it was all about muscular statements of state power. You often see it on banks or theatres or museums, as well as government buildings. Not surprisingly, the Georgians and the Victorians, who had a high opinion of themselves as rulers of an emerging globally dominant power, couldn’t get enough of the neo-classical style, and neither could Mussolini later on. But changing political priorities could change tastes. When the Houses of Parliament burnt down in 1834, a discussion ensued about what to replace it with. Neo-classical was the obvious choice, however the Americans had just finished rebuilding the White House in the neo-classical style after the British had burnt it down in 1812. Relations were still somewhat frosty, so to avoid any connotation of republicanism the architect Charles Barry was tasked with producing a Gothic design, which in turn kick-started a Victorian Gothic revival.

The Victorians, incidentally, were exuberant mash-up artists who would throw caution to the winds and chuck in any feature from any style they liked without the least concern for artistic or historical integrity. The more you learn to read their architecture, the more you start to understand their mindset. They were world conquerors in matters military and scientific. Rules were for other people.

‘Modern’ architecture is a catch-all for anything post-World War 1, when looking forward started to seem better than looking back, so that revivals went out of the window and modern capitalism was anyway more interested in making money than making grandiose and costly statements. Trends did exist though, like the short-lived Futurism of the 1920s, which swiftly looked dated, and the Brutalism of the 1960s, a distinctly Orwellian statement that said unattractive things about encasing populations in hideous concrete boxes and gave architects a notoriety they’ve never really recovered from.

What’s always gone on in the background and is also hot today is the ‘vernacular’ style, which is designing buildings in local materials and in the local or regional style, so that they fit harmoniously into their surroundings instead of clashing horribly with them. In theory anyway.

When you start thinking about the socialist architecture of the future, you realise that all bets are off. First you would have to ask how people wanted to live. Would they stay in settled communities as now, or move around constantly, exploring the entire world and ‘working their passage’, in the sense of helping out with odd jobs wherever they happen to be? Would the current global urbanisation trend continue, or go into reverse, with cities becoming depopulated? There are pros and cons to this question. Would there be a need for public buildings, perhaps to house representative decision-making bodies, or is this an obsolete democratic methodology when everything can be done directly and online? What weight would be given to aesthetic statements, if it meant more expenditure of work and resources? Perhaps socialist architecture would be plain and functional as people found pleasure in things other than the built environment, or perhaps it would surpass the exuberance of the Victorians, or even the Gothic period, with no effort spared in reflecting the magnificence of a new and free social era. Even the design of the simple domestic dwelling is open to question. The practice of having separate rooms for specific purposes only really started with the Victorians. Would people still want to live private and secluded lives in their little walled space, or would sharing of lives and living space become the new normal? There might be a revival of something like the ancient Roman model, where people use public baths and eat out, and only go home to sleep. Perhaps even the concept of ‘home’, in the sense of a permanent personal abode, could become obsolete.

All of these questions will certainly shape the architecture of the future. And let’s not forget emerging technologies like translucent wood for windows, hydro-ceramics for zero-energy air conditioning, light-generating sulphur concrete and self-repairing concrete, high-insulation bricks, nano-alloys, phase-changing materials, gels, carbon-fibre, aluminium foam mouldings, clear solar panels and much more. In the end, nobody can really answer the question we started with, what socialist architecture would look like. Maybe the best response we can give is: what would you like?
Paddy Shannon

Resource War: Oil, Gas and Aphrodite (2020)

From the March 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard

Another Regional Resource War?

For decades the relationship between Turkey, Greece and the divided island of Cyprus has been volatile. Now with the discovery of gas fields and the development of pipelines to supply the lucrative markets of Europe, the eastern Mediterranean is growing increasingly more unstable. The gas field off the southern coast of Cyprus is called Aphrodite, named after the Greek goddess of love, but there is no love lost between the rivals for possession of that energy.

Cyprus was divided in a Turkish invasion in 1974 in response to a Greek-inspired coup. Turkey is the only nation to recognise a breakaway state on the island, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Cyprus’s internationally recognised government subsequently discovered offshore gas in 2011 and has granted licences to multinational companies for oil and gas research, commissioning international energy companies, including the French multinational Total and Italy’s ENI to explore allocated blocs off the island for underwater resources.

Turkey claims that some of the drilling operations are either on the Turkish continental shelf or in areas where the TRNC has rights over any finds and has called for a fair and equal distribution of the energy resources. Starting last summer Turkey deployed two exploration and drilling ships accompanied by military escorts. Turkey has called for a fair and equal distribution of the energy resources discovered, insisting that they should not be excluded and stress that their drilling activities are legal and within territorial waters.

Also featuring in the strategic rivalry is the 2,200-kilometre pipeline, called the EastMed, which is planned to transport gas from Israel through Cyprus and Greece into Italy, where it would be distributed to the rest of Europe. Turkey is already part of the TurkStream pipeline which feeds Europe with natural gas coming from Russia. This has provided both Turkey and Russia not only an economic benefit but geo-political leverage as well. If the EastMed pipeline becomes a reality then Turkey and Russia will stand to lose something many in the EU are eager to see – a loosening of that dependency.

The possibility of a military conflict cannot be ignored. The Greek defence minister, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, recently warned that its armed forces were ‘examining all scenarios, even that of military engagement’ and rejected Turkish demands that Greece demilitarise sixteen Aegean islands. He accused Turkey of displaying unusually provocative behaviour such as the rise in the number of violations of Greek airspace by Turkish fighter jets.

France’s President Macron pledged he would strengthen the alliance with Greece. France has dispatched frigates to the eastern Mediterranean as the stand-off with Turkey intensifies and the feud over exploration rights has deepened. Although supposedly to participate in the war against ISIS, the French aircraft carrier will make port at Limassol in Cyprus. The French Ambassador to Cyprus Isabelle Dumont said the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier’s presence was intended ‘to stabilise the region’. France is also planning to enlarge its naval footprint in the eastern Mediterranean and last year signed an agreement with Cyprus to use the Evangelos Florakis naval base in Mari, on the island’s south coast.

Turkey retaliated in early December, 2019, by signing a maritime border deal with Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), making a military commitment to send military support in the form of Syrian mercenaries to help in the fight against forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar who has the aid of Sudanese mercenaries plus the diplomatic support of several foreign powers such as France, Italy, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The December deal, which would expand Turkish influence in the region, has been deeply criticised by Libya’s neighbours in the Mediterranean. A maritime border agreement between Turkey and Libya’s U.N-backed government is ‘unacceptable’, violates international law and flouts the sovereign rights of other countries, Luigi Di Maio, the foreign minister of Italy, declared. Egypt called it illegal, denouncing the Turkey-Libya deal as infringing on waters where they claim economic rights.

Fuat Oktay, Turkey’s Vice-President, answered that ‘Turkey will not permit any activity that is against its own interests in the region,’ adding that ‘any plan that disregards Turkey has absolutely no chance of success.’

So once again the world is faced with the possible threat of war. The Socialist Party maintains that modern war is an inevitable consequence of capitalist competition for the domination of markets, trade routes, favourable treaties, and possession of valuable resources. Our opposition has a simple basis: wars are fought over issues of interest to the capitalist class while it is workers, either in uniform or in civilian clothes, who are the cannon-fodder. The global working class has no interests at stake worth shedding a single drop of blood. Why should we die defending what is not ours and which we will never benefit from? The only war that need concern us is the class war between the parasites who possess and the workers who produce. Mere moralising against the war is not enough. What we advocate is a war on war to be waged on the battlefield of ideas, for the hearts and minds of the world’s people. And once we unite there will be no force that will stop us.

Environmental Problems (2020)

Book Review from the March 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard

Hostile Environment: How Immigrants Became Scapegoats by Maya Goodfellow (Verso £12.99.)

In a world full of euphemisms, the term ‘hostile environment’ really does describe the government’s policies towards migrants. The Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016 made life much tougher for those who had migrated to the UK, threatening to deprive them of health care and housing or even deport them, if they could not provide the right documents. But, as Maya Goodfellow shows here, complemented by examples of the plight many migrants find themselves in, this is all just part of a much longer history of hostility towards immigrants.

Britain, she says, was made by migrants (see The first inhabitants came from southern Europe, and there were plenty of people of different origins here before the Anglo-Saxons arrived in the fifth century. Migration did not always result in prejudice and opposition, but this began to change, especially as many Jews arrived in the nineteenth century, fleeing pogroms in eastern Europe. The Aliens Act of 1905 was the first substantial piece of legislation dealing with immigration, and was aimed at restricting the number not just of Jews who came here but of the poor as well. Irish immigrants, too, were often regarded as inferior to ‘white Britons’.

The 1948 British Nationality Act made it easier for people from the ‘white Commonwealth’ to come to the UK, in contrast to those with black or brown skins. This was passed under a Labour government, and both Conservatives and Labour were responsible for much legislation that limited immigration and even made it harder for those born here to get citizenship. The regulations relating to migrants are complicated and frequently change; legal help to navigate your way through them is expensive and not always reliable. The Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1968, says Goodfellow, was one of ‘the most reactionary immigration acts that has ever passed through Parliament’; it was brought forward by a Labour government.

A number of other good points are made, among them the following. There is no evidence that immigration has a negative impact on wages. A smaller percentage of migrants than of the general population claim benefits. Racism is not ‘a mistake or a consequence of demographic change; it is a product of history’. The tabloid press consistently peddle lies and exaggerations about migrants. People have inflated ideas about the proportion of migrants in the UK (it is about 13 per cent). If immigration is discussed in terms of numbers, there will always be ‘too much’.

Towards the end, Goodfellow refers to a world ‘without the borders or the immigration controls which give rich people the right to move but treat this same freedom as dangerous in the hands of the poor’; a world without global inequality or climate change. There is much of interest in these pages, but it is a pity that such ideas are not developed further.
Paul Bennett