Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A considered socialist slant on our current predicament . . . (2020)

Originally posted on Facebook

. . .  If you were to compile a list of essential workers that your community is currently reliant on you'd very likely not include billionaires, CEOs, businessmen, bankers, economists or the royals or that class of people who live off rent, interest and profit. Your list would include workers we pass every day on the streets, whether medical workers, shop staff, bin men, delivery drivers, those working in power plants or working in front line maintenance of the technology society needs etc. — the class that sells its physical and mental abilities for a wage or salary in order to live — the working class.

This class, the working class, runs the world and it is important to grasp this fact. It is we who build the cities and railroads, the bridges and roads, the docks and airports. It is we who staff the hospitals and schools, who empty the bins and go down the sewers. It is we who fish the oceans and tend the forests and till the land and plantations. It is we, the working class, who produce everything society needs from a pin to an oil-rig, who provide all of its services. If we can do all of this off our own bats, then surely we can continue to do so without a profit-greedy minority watching over us and, more, in our own interests.

The ruling class of capitalists and their executive, the governments of the world, have no monopoly on our skills and abilities. These belong to us. Moreover, it is we who are responsible for the inventions that have benefited humanity and the improvements in productive techniques. Most inventions and improvements are the result of those who do the actual work thinking up easier and faster ways of completing a task, the result of ideas being passed down from generation to generation, each one improving the techniques of the previous. If those who work have given the world so much, in the past say 2000 years, then how much more are we capable of providing in a world devoid of the artificial constraints of profit? Needless to say, any vaccine for the Coronavirus will be the result of the hard work of salary earning scientists, not some fat arsed apologist for the profit system in the White House or Downing St or the class they're really there to pander to.

It is easy to cite the advantages of capitalism over previous economic systems. Many people believe that capitalism, though not perfect, is the only system possible. One thing is certain, though – if we follow the capitalist trajectory, we’re in for some pretty troublesome times. Capitalism has undoubtedly raised the productive potential of humanity. It is now quite possible to provide a comfortable standard of living for every human on the planet. But, to reiterate, capitalism now stands as a barrier to the full and improved use of the world’s productive and distributive forces. In a world of potential abundance, the unceasing quest for profit imposes on our global society widespread artificial scarcity. Hundreds of millions of humans are consigned to a life of abject poverty, whilst the majority live lives filled with uncertainty.

Our ability to imagine has brought us so very far, from the days when our ancestors chipped away at flint to produce the first tools, to the landing of someone on the moon, the setting up of the world wide web, and the mapping out of the human genome. Is it really such a huge leap of the imagination to now envisage a social system that can take over from the present capitalist order of things? Is it just too daring to imagine humans consigning poverty, disease, hunger and war to some pre-historic age?

Do we really need leaders deciding our lives for us? Do we really need governments administering our lives when what is really needed is the administration of the things we need to live in peace and security? Must every decision made by our elites be first of all weighed on the scales of profit, tilted always in their favour? A growing number think not and have mobilised to confront what they perceive to be the major problems of contemporary capitalism.

In recent years there has been a world-wide backlash against neoliberal globalisation, corporate power and the iniquities of modern-day capitalism. Everywhere where the world’s ruling elite have assembled to decide their next step they have been met with protests and demonstrations that have attracted hundreds of thousands. Demonstrations at Seattle, Gothenburg, Prague, Genoa and Gleneagles, for instance, have fuelled the ongoing debate on the nature of modern day capitalism. Thousands of articles have been written on the subject and hundreds of books have been published that explore the alternatives offered by the anti-globalisation movement.

What is now clear is that the anti-globalisation movement, however well-meaning, does not seek to replace capitalism with any real alternative social system. At best it attracts a myriad of groups, all pursuing their own agenda. Some call for greater corporate responsibility. Some demand the reform of international institutions. Others call for the expansion of democracy and fairer trading conditions. All, however, fail to address the root cause of the problems of capitalism.

One thing is certain: capitalism cannot be reformed in the interests of the world’s suffering billions, because reform does not address the basic contradiction between profit and need. The world’s leaders cannot be depended upon because they can only ever act as the executive of corporate capitalism. The expansion of democracy, while welcome, serves little function if all candidates at election time can only offer variations on the same basic set of policies that keep capitalism in the ascendancy.

Capitalism must be abolished if we as a species are to thrive, if the planet is to survive. No amount of reform, however great, will work. Change must be global and irreversible. It must involve all of us. We need to erase borders and frontiers; to abolish states and governments and false concepts of nationalism. We need to abolish our money systems, and with it buying, selling and exchange. And in place of this we need to establish a different global social system — a society in which there is common ownership and true democratic control of the Earth’s natural and industrial resources. A society where the everyday things we need to live in comfort are produced and distributed freely and for no other reason than that they are needed – Socialism.

It is now no utopian fantasy to suggest we can live in a world without waste or want or war, in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation. That much is assured. We certainly have the science, the technology and the know-how. All that is missing is the will — the global desire for change that can make that next great historical advance possible; a belief in ourselves as masters of our own destiny; a belief that it is possible to free production from the artificial constraints of profit and to fashion a world in our own interests. And how soon this happens depends upon us all — each and every one of us.
John Bissett

Questions about Socialism (1991)

From the March 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard


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. Our object and declaration of principles were adopted 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.


Capitalism is the social system which 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.


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 contradictions 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


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 a nationalised concern are no less the servants of profit than workers in privately-owned companies. 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.


No; and there never were, certainly not Russia under the dictatorship of the Communist Party. The system that has collapsed in Eastern Europe — and which is collapsing in Russia itself — was a system of state capitalism where social power was monopolised by privileged Party bureaucrats. It never had anything whatsoever to do with 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 sale. The only question 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, modem 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 lime ever the people of the world will have common possession of the planet earth.


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 in the world 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 satisfaction of needs. At the moment houses stand empty and thousands of building workers are unemployed; yet many people are homeless or inhabiting slums. At the moment food is destroyed and farmers are paid to take land out of food production; 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.


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.


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 steps to organise consciously for the democratic conquest of political power. There will be no Socialism without a socialist majority.


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 1990s 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.

If you agree with some or 
all of these points, contact
 us with your questions and 
ideas about what you can
 do to help speed the
 progress towards Socialism.
 Write to: Socialist Party, 52 
Clapham High Street,
 London SW4 7UN.

Crises, booms and slumps (1991)

From the March 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard
  Since its evolution out of feudalism, the capitalist system of society has ensured that there has been a long-term expansion in the productive capacity of the world. TVs, computers, weapons capable of mass wreckage at one stroke—all these things that were once unthinkable have become basic features of life, at least in the more developed areas of the planet where capitalism has been dominant for many decades, and in some instances, hundreds of years.  
  Although capitalism broke through the fetters placed upon production by the feudal system and has expanded the forces of production to an unprecedented degree in the years since, the expansion of productive capacity and output under capitalism has never proceeded in a straight line. Notions of steady growth and constantly increasing well-being owe more to the rhetoric of politicians than the actual reality of capitalist development.
As a system, capitalism grossly underuses the technology and potential for production that it has helped develop. On one level, this can be seen by the growth in employment of people who are not engaged in intrinsically useful activity—bankers, accountants, insurance workers, armed forces personnel and so on. But even when capitalism can be said to be working at “full capacity”, with expanding output, growing productivity and booming sales, a period of “under-use” is always around the corner.

Falling output
Capitalism in Britain has reached just such a turning point. The last few years have seen fairly steady growth, with rising productivity and increased investment in those expanding sectors of industry that were making the headlines in Thatcher’s last years in office—particularly microelectronics and information technology. Much of that growth and expansion has now been halted.

This has not, of course, prevented the present government from arguing that the downturn in economic performance is just a "blip”. Only in November 1990 was John Major (when Chancellor) prepared to admit tentatively that Britain is in recession. The government currently defines a recession as being a situation when there is a negative growth rate for two successive quarters, but this “official" definition hardly matters to the thousands being thrown on to the dole queue or the thousands of others forced into bankruptcy.

Britain, in common with a number of other countries, is now in a situation where industrial production is falling and unemployment is rising. Although the official unemployment statistics have been doctored to the extent that they have become virtually meaningless as a measure of the actual level of unemployment in Britain, they do at least indicate trends—and the current trend is up. Manufacturing production has been falling since April last year and in the three months to November fell by 2.7 percent compared with the previous three-month period (Independent on Sunday, 27 January).

So far as governments and politicians are concerned, falling rates of growth and high levels of unemployment are signs that something has “gone wrong". When things start to go wrong for capitalist governments they often look for a scapegoat— like some hapless (ex-)Minister whose irresponsibility and recklessness is blamed for having brought the period of growth to an end. In Britain this role has been allocated to former Chancellor Nigel Lawson, a man previously described as "quite brilliant" by Thatcher and Major. But governments taking the credit when output is expanding and unemployment is low, and finding a scapegoat when things get rough is based on the mistaken assumption that the capitalist business cycle results from the policies they pursue. They may like to think that they are in control of the economy and that when things go wrong they can put them right again with the correct policies, but this is a fantasy.

George Meddemmen
What governments fail to realise is that an economic recession is not an example of capitalism “going wrong" because of some dreadful ministerial error. Economic recessions with stagnating production, growing unemployment and a further slide into poverty are entirely normal—and necessary—features of capitalist development. This is because of the inner logic of the capitalist system's drive towards expansion.

The conditions for the development of an economic recession are present even when the capitalist system is in a period of boom, or relative prosperity. One thing that is immediately noticeable is that the operations of capitalism are not planned at the level of the whole economy. Decisions about investment are made by thousands of competing enterprises operating independently without social control or regulation. This means that when business is booming and when profits and growth rates are high "over-investment" by some enterprises will inevitably occur. In pursuit of future profits they expand their productive capacity beyond what the market which they are producing for can absorb.

A particular industry over-investing and expanding its productive capacity beyond the limits of market demand in this way is the usual cause of an economic crisis and subsequent depression. If capitalist growth was to be achieved in a controlled manner, eliminating booms and slumps, then growth would have to be balanced in each sector of industry. But the growth of an industry is not linked to the demands of other industries—its growth is determined by the expectation of profit, and this inevitably leads to a disproportion in investment and a disproportionate expansion between the various branches of production.

When an industry has over-produced for its particular market, this will have a knock-on effect for firms operating in other sectors of the economy. For instance, if an enterprise is no longer able to sell the commodities it has produced on the market at a profit, production will be cut back thereby slowing output. This will provoke a chain reaction as the enterprises' suppliers will no longer be able to sell all their products either, which will in turn affect their suppliers and then their suppliers' suppliers, and so on. Such an overproduction for selective markets therefore only has to appear in a few key industries for a crisis to break out and spread—reducing overall growth rates and increasing unemployment. And it all arises out of the general anarchy of production inherent in the capitalist system.

Boom—slump cycle
After a period of generalised stagnation and high unemployment, capitalism will be able to move out of the slump phase of its trade cycle. Although a recession has devastating consequences for the working class, no slump is permanent and once many of the weaker capitals have gone to the wall—with their assets being sold off cheaply to their competitors—the prospects for investment and expansion improve again. Capital depreciation, coupled with reduced interest rates caused by reduced demand for money capital, and lower real wage rates in a recession, mean that the prospect for making profits improves and industries begin to expand once more, taking on more workers. The cycle then begins all over again. As Marx pointed out in the last century:
The factory system's tremendous capacity for expanding with sudden immense leaps, and its dependence on the world market, necessarily gives rise to the following cycle: feverish production, a consequent glut on the market, then a contraction of the market, which causes production to be crippled. The life of industry becomes a series of periods of moderate activity, prosperity, over-production, crisis and stagnation. (Capital. Volume I. page 580, Penguin edition).
Now that capitalism has become a world system the "sudden leaps" of production referred to by Marx are not nearly as immense as they were in the capitalist system's historical ascent when whole continents of the Earth still had to be brought into the "factory system" with its wage-labour and capital relationship. Indeed capitalism, having raised the forces of production to a level where a society of abundance is feasible, has outlived its usefulness for humankind, and its cycles of boom and slump are a testament to its inherent inability to utilise resources efficiently. Capitalism can only advance so long as there are periods of regression when workers are made redundant in increasing numbers. when growth stagnates and when poverty spreads—not merely in the "developed" areas of the world but in the weaker capitalist states also, where the effects of the capitalist trade cycle are often felt hardest.

Most importantly of all, there is nothing that politicians can do to eliminate the boom-slump cycle—it will be around as long as capitalism itself. Capitalism cannot be efficiently planned as anarchy of production and uneven development are at the very heart of the system. All attempts at planning capitalism have ended in disaster—most notably in state capitalist countries like Russia and China where production seems to be in an almost chronic state of stagnation and where unemployment has. at least until recently, been masked by overstaffing.

The only way to take the abundant resources of the Earth and use them in an efficient manner is to establish a system of society based on common ownership and democratic control, where articles of wealth will be produced solely for use and not for exchange on a market with a view to the profit of a minority. Only then will crises, booms and slumps be a thing of the past and only then can production be geared to satisfying the needs of the inhabitants of the Earth.
Dave Perrin

A quote from Gavyn Davies which accompanied the article:
  “Around July, companies began to complain in private that demand had suddenly fallen away without much warning . . . What we are now observing is the flip side of the boom in confidence which led to so much borrowing and investment from 1985 to 1989. In those years, output growth was persistently stronger than anyone expected, initially because consumers were so willing to dip into their savings . . . As consumers threw caution to the winds companies decided it was time to invest, and the level of capital formation rose to heights which had never been seen before, relative to GDP. Companies continued to press ahead with expansion long after consumers had started to rebuild their savings and for quite a while that kept employment rising, and the economy afloat.
  It was not until the middle of 1990 that companies suddenly realised their expansion plans were not supported by the prospects for demand . . . Companies are now in the full throes of a major adjustment which is designed to correct their over-borrowed condition. And the main casualty over several years is likely to be capital spending, since productive capacity has run ahead of demand."
—Gavyn Davies, currently chief UK economist at Goldman Sachs International, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, 27 January 1991.

Is a fourth world war inevitable? (1991)

From the March 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

Let us start on some points we can agree about:

  • The war in the Gulf is about oil and profits. not freedom, justice or decency.
  • The right of the Kuwaiti rulers to exist as a nation-state is of no concern to workers anywhere; nation-states represent the interests of the rival capitalist gangs that exist under the profit system not those of the wealth-producing majority.
  • The “allies” who now attack the dictator Saddam Hussein are hypocrites who used to arm the Iraqi dictatorship when they thought it was in their interests to do so.
  • The soldiers on both sides in this war are wage slaves in uniform, dying pointlessly for their masters' interests. Workers have nothing to gain from fighting on behalf of the capitalists.
  • This war is causing deaths, injuries, suffering and fear which a sanely organised world would avoid.

Socialists are not alone in recognising these points. Despite the mind-destroying propaganda of the pro-war media, there are hundreds of thousands of workers in Britain, across Europe, in the USA and in the Gulf states who know that the Gulf war is a war for the control of oil. which has little to do with what the ruling class say it is about.

It is fundamentally important that socialists are not lone voices in a global wilderness in which everyone else is totally conned by capitalist lies. The existence of a vocal anti-war movement is proof that we workers have brains of our own and will not always fall prey to the lies of our rulers.

The problem is that so much of the anti-war rhetoric is confined to the futile hope of ending wars within the capitalist system. This is as hopeless as trying to end street crime in the midst of urban slums and mass poverty. The hard fact is that wars—all wars—are effects of a cause. Just as the mugger is the effect of the brutalising, alienated social environment of urban capitalism, so war is the effect of a system of persistent rivalry over raw materials, resources (including oil), markets and exploitable territories and populations. This persistent rivalry is inherent to the world capitalist system. The profit system without competing, plundering and—when push comes to shove—fighting rival gangs of capitalists could not exist. If you accept capitalism you must accept that there will be wars.

Within the anti-war movement there are some serious misconceptions. There are those who call upon the capitalist owners of the Earth to act morally. The United Nations is seen as a moralising force, coming along to capitalist gangsters who take their rivalry too far and telling them off. This does not work. No force on Earth can make the capitalists relegate commercial advantage to humanitarian concerns. At a recent anti-war demonstration in London a group of Christians on the outskirts of the crowd were praying for peace. They might just as well play dominoes for peace; war is not a matter for mythical spirits in the sky to solve. Then there are the left-wing sects whose own Leninist theology is akin to religious dogma, who argue that any enemy of the American and British ruling class must be a friend. So it is that the SWP have stated that they hope Saddam gives America a bloody nose (as if it is Saddam doing the fighting rather than the poor, frightened Iraqi conscripts, and as if the recipients of the bloody nose will be the parasites of Wall Street) and the RCP urges workers to take sides with Iraq. What utter confusion these self-appointed leaders of the working class cause.

War will not be ended by wishing it away or by taking sides. For the effect to be removed its cancerous cause must be destroyed. This is the case for socialist revolution. Nothing short will lead to a peaceful world.

After this war
With naivety and hypocrisy combined, the politicians talk of how the defeat of Saddam will lead to peace. Do they expect us to have forgotten the First World War which they called ‘‘the war to end all wars”? The British Empire and its allies won; Germany was humiliated and the Kaiser overthrown. In the aftermath of war the League of Nations promised a new world order of peaceful national co-existence. In 1939 the world was at war again. Once more, we were told that Hitler must be defeated at all costs. Victory for the Allies would mean no more Hitlers. One of the Allies was Stalin and. after the defeat of Hitler, his dictatorship controlled vast areas of Europe that had not been its victims before the war. Was this a defeat for dictatorship? Of course not. After the Second World War came the United Nations with its grand promises. In reality, the UN has been a tool of the most powerful capitalist nations and that is why its resolutions. ranging from that condemning the Israeli occupation of the West Bank to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, have been worthless. In Vietnam the American Empire claimed to be making the world safe for democracy. Today the Vietnamese workers live under a hideous dictatorship and the Cambodians live under constant threat from the vicious Khmer Rouge now armed and funded by the West.

George Bush, who was head of the CIA when Saddam began massacring the Kurds, and who was an oil multi-millionaire in his twenties, speaks of the New World Order which will follow the defeat of Iraq. Is this new order going to benefit the unelected, tyrannical monarchs of the Arab states who are Bush’s allies in this war? Will it benefit Gorbachov, the most centralised power-holder in the Russian Empire since Stalin? Will it benefit the butchers of Tiananmen Square who still rule over a fifth of the world’s population? Will it benefit the Turkish rulers who have locked up trade unionists in hellish prisons, but are on "our" side because they allow bombing raids on Baghdad from their air bases? Will it include the Israeli rulers who have imposed a curfew on over a million Palestinians for over a month? And if these are to be the beneficiaries of this "new world order", then one thing is for sure: times will be even worse for the workers of the world.

Worse to come
World capitalism is completely out of control. It is. as the Socialist Party has always said, a system of economic and social anarchy. Only a year ago the more naive capitalists were rejoicing at the coming of peace in our time. The Cold War was over; the good items were here; there was Eastern Europe to plunder and the future looked rosy. No sooner had the talk of the "peace dividend" made the headlines than war was on the agenda. Once again high dividends are to be derived from arms investment. Capitalism has no power to prevent wars from happening or from predicting when they will come. There is a reason for this

Capitalism is an unplanned system. Each company chases after profits, quite without any care of how this affects others. Each nation-state (which is a gang of capitalist thieves dominating one territory) carries on regardless of the rest. International treaties count for nothing when it comes to it. Iraq is party to the treaty forbidding the use of biological and chemical weapons. The USA has signed treaties making nuclear war illegal and this makes not a scrap of difference to the implicit threats of nuclear attack which they have made. Likewise, treaties of international friendship count for nothing: Jordan is committed to alliance with Britain, but this has not stopped Jordanian support for Iraq; the so-called European Community has fallen apart in the fragmented national responses to the war. Capitalist "agreements" are as reliable as one between Al Capone and Bugsy Malone.

There are over 160 nations in the world today. All of them are capitalist; there could be no such thing as a "socialist country". Each is armed. Each will fight for its economic interests. As world capitalism develops, more and more of these nations will threaten other nations. More will obtain nuclear technology and other awful weaponry with which they can threaten the rest of the world. In the long run, it seems very unlikely that nuclear and chemical weapons will not be used, by design or accident.
In addition to the multitude of legalised national gangs, there are vast numbers of would-be national groups. These are referred to by the legalised gangsters as terrorists. In fact, all warfare is terrorism. As world capitalism continues, more of these will obtain the capacity to blow up larger and larger areas. Today the IRA can bomb Downing Street; who is to say that five years from now the IRA, ETA or the PLO will not have biological or nuclear weapons? Certainly, the current holders of these disgusting weapons are in no moral position to tell their weaker power rivals that such weaponry is a bad thing to have.

With the ending of the Cold War, when the world was largely threatened by two giant superpowers, the planet Earth is not more secure. We are far less secure. Now we are entering a period in which the right to be a world power is spreading; weapons of mass destruction are escalating; the possibility of passing arms limitation agreements is less credible than ever.

It may be that the war in the Gulf will be the first act of a Third World War. If Saddam is defeated only a fool could be cheered by the likely rise of Assad of Syria as a new Middle Eastern super-ruler. The extent to which this conflict will destroy vast areas of the world is unknown. In one sense, it is almost too late to worry about that. More important is the prospect of the next war after this one. We can be sure that there will be another war if capitalism goes on. We can be sure that the more world battles there are the more unthinkable military results will become compulsively thinkable. The question is not whether there will be another war. but which of several likely areas it will be in and when it will commence.

It is important that workers oppose the current war, but such opposition alone amounts to crying in the dark. Only by dealing at root with the cause of war can the world ever be safe. Only an anti-capitalism movement can be an effective anti-war movement. This may sound like too huge a task. The awful consequences of failing in that task should motivate every reader to play their active part in ridding the world of the war-creating system before the system rids the world of humanity.
Steve Coleman

Quotes about the war (1991)

From the March 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard
“The colonial powers drew the boundaries of the Middle East within living memory, with nothing in mind other than their own strategic interests". 
 “US insistency upon respect for international law merely serves to safeguard a capitalist world order based on the burning of ‘liquid gold’”.
  “One wonders if Mr Bush has lost his marbles in the propaganda war he is intent on waging? Almost everybody knows it is oil. and oil alone, that motivates him in the Gulf'.
  “It is breathtakingly hypocritical for countries such as Britain and the US to talk about curtailing Saddam Hussein's aggression when these two countries among others were responsible for selling armaments to him in the first instance”.
  “Saddam is one of many political gangsters armed and supported by the Western (and Eastern) powers. He is now threatening the economic interests of the United States and its allies and they have decided to eliminate him”.
  “This war is not about the ‘liberation of Kuwait' but for the liberation of Kuwaiti oil’".
  “After the slaughter of previous wars in this century it is heart-breaking to see human lives sacrificed in a conflict between US global business interests and the regional aspirations of a brutal despot, who until recently was propped up by those same interests”.
  “Last July if you killed an Iraqi you would be guilty of murder. Now if you kill an Iraqi you are a patriot. Somebody decided we were going to war and what were ordinary people going about their business became an attacking force killing people they never met before”.
—Extracts from letters that have appeared in the Irish Times since the outbreak of the war.
Blogger's Note: 
It's pretty obvious that the above were written by Irish comrades.

This selection of quotes appeared alongside the 'Is a fourth world war inevitable?' article.

SWP give critical support to Saddam Hussein (1991)

From the March 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard
  "If it does come to a bloody land war, we argue Bush and Major are to blame and hope their forces are defeated. Some people see this simply as uncritical support for Saddam Hussein."
Socialist Worker Review, February 1991

Blogger's Note: 
This wee dig at the vanguardist Socialist Workers Party appeared alongside the 'Is a fourth world war inevitable?' article.

NHS priorities (1991)

From the March 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

In recent years the National Health Service has suffered as a result of reduced expenditure. District health authorities have closed wards and reduced services to stay within their dwindling budgets.

These cuts in income have led to announcements that a further 3,500 beds will be closed to the public as hospital administrators are ordered to clear existing debts before the implementation of the government's changes to the NHS that begin in April (Guardian, 26 January).

Despite the government's attempts to reduce the politically embarrassing waiting list for treatment of a million people this has continued to grow. North East Thames regional health authority with the worst waiting list, for its size, in the country has found an answer to the difficulty in reducing its huge waiting list: in the future certain categories of patients will be prevented from joining the queue.

There have been informal restrictions for some time and it is claimed that a million operations have been cancelled in the last three years (Radio 4, 4 February). Screening for cancer could save an estimated 1,250 deaths a year by the end of the decade but the programme may have to be curtailed in some areas because surgeons are unable to cope with the extra work that would be involved (Guardian, 31 January). The women most affected by breast cancer who could be helped by the screening are in the 55-69 age group and, from capitalism's point of view, at the end of their economic usefulness.

The operations for which it is now difficult to even join a waiting list tend to affect people’s well-being rather than their ability to work. These operations are still available privately for those who have the means to pay. But the poor will have to live with uncomfortable disabilities.

In January the NHS was provided with more money to open beds for certain categories of patients—casualties from the Gulf War. Some districts have opened beds which had remained closed due to underfunding from previous years. Professor Angus McGrouther, head of surgery at University College Hospital, London, has stated that the NHS is fully prepared for the chemical injuries, burns or conventional war wounds that may arise from the Gulf War (Daily Telegraph, 28 January). These type of injuries are not new to British hospitals. There were many burns and war wounds sustained during the Falklands' War and victims of chemical weapons from the Iran-lraq war in the 1980's. The chemical disaster at Bhopal also provided grim experience of chemical poisoning on a large scale.

The effects of sulphur mustard gas are well-documented as it was extensively used by both British and German armies during the First World War. The continuous development of chemical and biological weapons in Britain has enabled knowledge to be accumulated, and provides deadly materials ready for offensive use.

War casualties
Two psychiatric patients have been staying in a doctor's office at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, because of a shortage of beds. A hospital spokesman, while denying that this was a result of accommodation being set aside for war casualties, stated: "It was thought appropriate to create additional space" (Guardian, 28 January).

At a time when the government is urging workers to settle for smaller wage increases. members of the armed forces have been offered a 12.2 percent increase to encourage them to kill others and risk being killed themselves for oil and profits. Nurses have been offered a 9.2 percent pay rise instead of the expected 6-7.5 percent. Student nurses have even been offered 11 percent. This is because nursing skills are going to be in short supply if the expected 500 casualties a day start to arrive from the Gulf War. The government cannot afford to have a repeat of the strike action taken by North Manchester General Hospital's night nurses in January 1988.

Security in British hospitals has been increased on the advice of the Ministry of Defence and employees are being issued with identity passes. There have been an increasing number of assaults on patients and staff in recent years but attempts by nurses’ unions to obtain better security have been largely disregarded. The Gulf War has changed all that and money has been found very quickly.

Although poverty is the cause of the greater degree of ill-health and premature deaths suffered by the working class the NHS does help relieve some of the misery of illness. The resources to run an efficient health service are available as the response to the Gulf War has shown. The preservation of workers' health in a recession is not important under capitalism because there is always a supply of unemployed labour which can be used to maintain production. But keeping workers in uniform fit enough to kill those who have temporarily been designated as “enemies” is. The provision of beds to assist in the prosecution of a war for oil and profits while the rest of the NHS is slowly being dismantled shows capitalism’s anti-working-class priorities.
Carl Pinel

Letters: Housing problem (1991)

Letters to the Editors from the March 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

Housing problem

Dear Editors,

A few years ago I gave a talk on housing at a Socialist Party branch. I pointed out that the housing problem can never be solved as long as houses are built for profit and not for human need, and quoted statistics on homelessness and the numbers of people in sub-standard accommodation. In order to illustrate the consequences of bad housing at a personal level. I cited a newspaper article (Guardian. 18 December 1982) about a man living on a council estate in East London who set fire to the flat where he lived with his wife and small daughter in a desperate bid to get rehoused. (Capitalism was able to solve his accommodation problem, in the short term at least, by sending him to prison for nine months).

In seeking material for another talk on housing recently, I came across an article (Guardian, 17 November 1990) about a man who set fire to his house, killing his two-year-old daughter as a result. This time the man “owned” the house himself, but after being made redundant could no longer keep up the mortgage payments. To stop the building society from repossessing the house, he burned it to the ground, with tragic consequences.

Such acts of desperation are only the extremes to which people can be driven. But with the number of homeless increasing, with record figures for mortgage arrears, with the unbelievable squalor of inner- city council estates, with three building workers being killed on site every week, it is clear that capitalism is utterly unable to meet people’s housing needs. The earlier claims of reformist politicians to have solved the housing problem are exposed as hollow, and nobody would make such outlandish statements now. The truth is that the “housing problem” is really a poverty problem, and will not disappear until the cause of poverty— capitalism—has been abolished.
Paul Bennett

East Timor

Dear Editors.

Having read your November 1990 issue about the Economic Causes of the Gulf War, may I say that you should not trivialise the economic significance of East Timor.

The key to understanding Australia’s support for the Indonesian takeover in 1975 was that their oil companies knew of enormous oil reserves under the Timor Sea. Hence, well before the Indonesian invasion in December 1975, the Australian ambassador in Jakarta reminded Canberra to take this factor into account when determining its attitude towards East Timor’s future status. Australia gave de jure recognition of Indonesia’s "integration” of East Timor in 1979 and from then on entered into negotiations for the joint exploitation of these reserves. Its reward is the conclusion of the Timor Gap Treaty in December 1989 which will provide a bonanza for Australian petroleum companies. The reserves in the Timor Sea are thought to exceed reserves in the Middle East.

The oil question worked in reverse for East Timor as compared with Kuwait, i.e. that it was in the West’s interest for Indonesia to control the country.

Even without oil, East Timor produces a great deal more than carrots. Its crop of high quality coffee has always been a great world market attraction. Since the invasion, the coffee trade has been taken over by the army and has profited people like General Murdani who commanded the invasion operation and continues to take a keen interest in Jakarta's policy of colonial control and exploitation of East Timor.
Carmel Budiardjo 
Indonesian Human Rights Campaign 
Thornton Heath, Surrey

William Morris

Dear Editors,

DAP (January) agrees with my general point that there are attempts abroad to “confuse William Morris's Marxist heritage’’, but suggests that the new book, William Morris and News From Nowhere: A Vision For Our Time is not amongst them. DAP goes on to suggest that I should back up my “generalities with some facts and evidence’’. It seems to me, however, that swopping textual analysis of the book is unlikely to clarify the point at issue. This can be done without the need to quote too much chapter and verse.

News From Nowhere is probably the finest example of a number of utopian socialist works written in the last years of the nineteenth century. The motivation for their production is easy enough to see. There had not at that time existed anywhere “socialism in power". Therefore there was a need to speculate on what socialist society might be like. That does not of course make Morris a utopian socialist himself.

News From Nowhere therefore is about a vision of socialism and to focus specifically on it is to run the risk of avoiding the question of how that vision related to Morris's political practice. In this sense the book skews matters from the start.

What is needed is not to use News From Nowhere as a starting point for further utopian explorations but to tie it back to the debates in the socialist movement at the time. Some chapters in the book, for example Jan Marsh's "Concerning Love" on the woman question do this very well indeed. Although I do not, of course, agree with Marsh’s actual treatment of the subject. But others, for example. Paddy O’Sullivan's “The ending of the journey” (which DAP also criticises) which uses Morris as a stick to beat opponents in a debate about late twentieth century ecological politics, quite clearly do not.

The book is a political curate’s egg and in so far as it tries to claim Morris for some form of utopian socialism quite muddle-headed. That is not to deny that it is an interesting book. But if socialists wish to revive the memory of William Morris, and that would be no bad thing, another vehicle will be needed.
Keith Martin
London, N11