Thursday, June 4, 2020

Letters: What about Vietnam? (1970)

Letters to the Editors from the June 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

What about Vietnam?

Dear Sir,

As a practical expression of my personal disgust and repugnance I ask you to take the name of this organisation off your mailing list.

This protest is brought about by your article in your January issue which carries the odious title “The Issue at Pinkville”. To give to a Vietnamese village the same name as was given to it by the American aggressors is completely unforgiveable in a magazine which purports to be socialist. The lunatic right fringe may dub My Lai thus, they presumably know no better. You are supposed to be on the side of freedom and justice, yet you stoop to the same level as those who carried out the massacre.

Your references to the “Viet Cong” are also in bad taste and reflect the limitations of a mind which has been successfully brainwashed. “Viet Cong", for your information, was a term coined by Deim — a contemptuous term which dubbed anyone who opposed his bloody and dictatorial regime as “communists”. It is on a par with the name “Pinkville”.

You have the gall to speak of “ferocious Viet Cong atrocities". And who, may I ask., was responsible for this war which has forced the freedom fighters to defend their very existence? Do you equate the actions of a rapist and a murderer with a person who is being raped and murdered, and solemnly conclude that it is all a matter of which side you are on? Pity help the Vietnamese people if they have to rely on people like yourself for their moral support.

I cannot decide if your paper is a bogus front, unintelligent or lamentably ill-informed on the facts about Vietnam. I do not know if the writer is consciously reactionary or merely a poor deluded fool who has read too many Time magazines.

Not that I care very much. People who are ignorant enough to think in terms of "Pinkville" and "Viet Cong” atrocities may enjoy your paper. Those of us who are concerned with freedom and justice have better things to do than read it.
Stanley Moore 
(Minister, Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church. Melbourne. Aust.)

When we have sifted out the abuse from Mr. Moore’s letter we find that it has only one serious point. In the fourth paragraph he more or less argues that any atrocities committed by the Viet-cong are justified because it was the Americans who started the war. This is of course a very old argument — it was used to excuse the obliteration of Hiroshima and in fact has always been used by capitalist states as part of their war propaganda.

It is true that the Americans interfered in Vietnam — in the same way as the North Koreans did in the South, and as the Russians did in Czechoslovakia, Finland and so on. In each case the inference has been justified by counter-accusations of threats from the subject of the interference. And so we go on — all the time avoiding the real issue, which is why wars, invasions and international interference take place. Why are they sometimes (not always) resisted? What interests are at stake? In Vietnam, we are seeing a struggle between rival capitalist groups for the control of an area of great economic and strategic importance. The interests in the war are those of capitalism; the people on both sides stand to gain nothing from the war and their interests are in keeping out of it as far as they can. Whoever wins, the people of Vietnam and of America will lose.

Mr. Moore, who accuses us of being deluded fools, thinks the North Vietnamese are fighting for freedom and justice. Is it part of freedom and justice to commit mass murder among the Vietnamese people? In war no one side is alone responsible for all the atrocities and this is widely accepted, with only a few people like the John Birchites on one side and Mr. Moore on the other closing their eyes to the evidence.

We thought the names “Pinkville” and "Vietcong” had passed so finally into common usage as to be acceptable to even the most touchy lefty. After all, there are plenty of protest banners which carry the slogan "Victory to the Vietcong”.

Two last points. First, why does Mr. Moore get so upset about trivial matters and ignore the main argument of the article in question, which was that capitalism is the cause of war and since war and atrocities are inseparable it is capitalism which causes the atrocities? Second—and here we probably find the answer to our first question — why is Mr. Moore so anxious to avoid reading the Socialist Standard, when his only complaint against it is that he disagrees with it?
Editorial Committee


Dear Sir,

In the February issue of the Socialist Standard Noam Chomsky is accused of confused, muddled and wishful thinking. This description would be more aptly applied to your writers.
  “Principled opposition to capitalism necessarily gives rise to principled opposition to war, which—and this should always be made clear means hostility to both ‘sides’ in every war.”
  “Whatever the outcome the workers will have gained nothing on either side”
  "In part it (this confusion within the shell of Chomsky’s glittering erudition) is due to his overpowering abhorrence of the war, and the sense of urgency he feels about it. Everything must be subjugated to the task of stopping the war."
May we examine these statements in the light of some of the facts?

First, here is a description of North Vietnam (‘no paradise” as you insist) in the time when it was a French colony:
   "Translated into the policies of empire, the French presence made of Vietnam at once a prison and a museum. Exquisite French scholarship explored the ancient history and archeology of Vietnam; exquisite French cruelty made it the most savage colony in Asia. In my youth in Asia, I remember it as the place where I first saw grown men strike other grown men and watched the stricken cringe —white Frenchmen had the right to slap awkward native waiters who spilled the soup, or slap native rickshawmen who argued about the fare. It was a place where the state monopoly’s purchase of opium exceeded by five times French expenditures on schools, libraries and hospitals combined . . .”
It is from Theodore White’s The Making of a President. But it is mild in comparison to Edgar Snow’s reports of Vietnam under French domination where there was a guillotine in every village.

One does not even need to go to communist sources—one has only to read The Peasants of North Vietnam by Chaliand—Mission To Hanoi by Atheker, or Cameron's or Burchett’s accounts to see that although it is not paradise, it is a new and better life for the people since Vietnam won independence from the French.

Would you have the Vietnamese still exploited by the French because we must oppose both sides in every war and the workers gain nothing on either side ?

Would they have the Vietnamese remain slaves under the French because in struggling for indpendence they might not achieve paradise and might fall under the influence of China or Russia? (Incidentally Jean Lacouiure in his study of Ho Chi Minh has described the diplomacy of Ho and his government in keeping a middle course between these two communist powers).

And what of South Vietnam:
  "The Army’s area handbook for South Vietnam (1967) says 2.5 percent of the landowners held half of the cultivated land, and more than 80 per cent of the land was cultivated by peasants owning no land at all whom the landlords could dispossess without cause . . . Former Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman told a reporter recently (Richard Critchfield in Washington Star March 16 ’69) that the US Embassy in Saigon ‘informed Washington it opposed land reform on the grounds that it would create political instability’.”
The NLF may not be creating paradise but it is doing something about land reform for the land hungry peasnats. Left in peace it would be able to do more. Are you aware of the corruption, exploitation, oppression and terror resulting from the series of Saigon regimes which America has backed financially and militarily? Were the people of the South to accept this because all wars are equally wrong and therefore both sides equally bad—all governments equally corrupt and all leaders equally bad?

Meanwhile, to have any sense of urgency about opposing the war, which we see as American aggression—to have any sense of guilt about what is being done to Vietnam is to have been hypnotized by some ‘immediate’ issue and to have indulged in the guilt of the flagellant!

The trouble with your writers is not that they are looking for paradise but that they think they have found it in their pure principles which are totally removed from realities. These socialists of Great Britain are very British in their outlook. Fair play, chaps—never take sides, and whatever you do, never get ruffled! This is the same attitude which permeates the British Government, the BBC, television and press whenever the war is mentioned. In the face of what Chomsky has rightly called "an enormous pattern of devastation which, if seen in its entirety, would have to be described as one of the most evil acts committed by any nation in modern times”, it is simply not done to take sides.
Yours sincerely
Jo Janet

Of course we would not have the workers and peasants of Vietnam exploited by French colonialism. Nor do we say that the people of South Vietnam should put up the series of corrupt American-imposed governments there. We are fully aware of what the world capitalist system has done, and is doing, to the people of Vietnam. The question is, however, how to deal with this: Is it by supporting the rise to power of a new state capitalist ruling class or is it by struggling to establish world Socialism?

The Socialist Party of Great Britain argues that capitalism (including the state capitalism of Russia and China) as a world system has become reactionary and that it has no progressive role to play anywhere in the world. This is because Socialism, the next stage in social development which will involve the emancipation of all mankind, is possible. Only Socialism is progressive, and this alone is what workers everywhere should strive to establish.

We do not deny that the NLF in Vietnam as carrying out land reforms and other changes necessary for the development of (state) capitalism there. What we do challenge is the assumption that, now Socialism is possible, Socialists should support this. What workers everywhere should be striving for is Socialism, not national state capitalism.

Our correspondent’s final paragraph is typical of the self-righteousness of many of our critics. Because Socialists do not support their pet struggles we are accused of being unconcerned about the suffering capitalism causes human beings. We could turn the tables on them by saying that in concentrating on single issues it is they who are prolonging the suffering capitalism brings by diverting attention from the struggle to over it.

Note also that our position is to oppose both sides, not neutrality as our correspondent suggests.
Editorial Committee

Food production for human need (2020)

Book Review from the June 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard

Carolyn Steel. Sitopia. How Food Can Save the World. Chatto and Windus. 2020

In 2008 Carolyn Steel published Hungry City, a book that explored how, since early times, people in cities found food for themselves, what that food was and how it influenced their history and development. Now the same author has written another substantial and more ‘political’ volume, in which she ranges expertly across both both time and geography to trace the history of food, its consumption and its intersection with the concept of nature of work. Sitopia. How Food Can Save the World draws upon wide-ranging and well-integrated research to show the history of homo sapiens as largely one of group cooperation and human beings as natural collaborators and ‘infinitely inventive and adaptable’. Her clearly expressed desire is to see a world in which adequate resources for a decent life can be available to all.

This is something she sees as eminently possible, pointing out that enough food is already produced to feed everyone on the planet, since ‘farmers worldwide currently provide the daily equivalent of 2,800 calories of food per person – more than enough to go round, given an ideal food system’. She also refers to Tristram Stuart’s book, Waste, published in 2009, which illustrates ways in which one third of the global food supply could be saved, enough to feed the world’s hungry 23 times over. However, the reservation implicit in her ‘given an ideal food system’ is made clear when she shows how far from ideal the system of food production is in modern-day society. She explains how, in its drive to produce and sell food at a profit and its compulsion to grow and continually expand, capitalism’s combination of industrial agriculture and market forces, while making food as cheap as possible through the need of producers to compete, fails to take into account the wider costs, for example to the environment and to human health. She sees food production as an integral part of the scenario whereby the whole future of humanity is threatened by ecological destruction, climate crisis and increasing obesity. But at the same time food for the author is a potentially important means to remedy the situation. She says: ‘If we are to free ourselves from money’s grasp, we need a way of thinking that transcends it: an economy based on values grounded in reality. Food can give us this.’ That, in her view, is the case because food is, as she puts it, ‘by far the most powerful medium available to us for thinking and acting together to change the world for the better’. She goes on to say: ‘Descartes might just as well have said: “ ‘I eat therefore I am”.’

So, while recognising that existing resources are not in themselves a limiting factor to a better life for everyone, she also sees it as vital to ensure that ecological considerations and environmental balance are in the forefront of any such project. As she puts it: ‘We already know how to feed the world, warm our houses and cure disease; what we lack is the capacity to put our ideas into effective practice.’ She goes on: If our goal is to create a world in which everyone can flourish, then our common task must be to plan what form such growth would take.’ She then reveals that she has a plan (‘Plan B’, as she calls it), the centrepiece of which is non-industrially, cooperatively, locally produced food: ‘local sustainable production, ecologically produced organic food in which the market would favour foods that nurtured nature, animals and people’. In this context she mentions, for example, organic box schemes, community kitchens and gardens, forest gardens, microbreweries and bakeries, food co-ops and community supported permaculture.

Steel sees the spread of such activities as a response to what she calls ‘the blandness and destructiveness of industrial food’ and goes on: ‘It is also symptomatic of something far deeper … Food is something we can make, that brings us together and grounds us …Food, in short, is something through which we can root ourselves in the world, both socially and physically.’ She continues: ‘Since food affects virtually every aspect of our lives, adopting such an economy would have an immediate, even revolutionary effect. By changing the ways in which we produce, transport, trade, cook, share and value our food, we could transform our landscapes, cities, homes, workplaces, social lives and ecological footprint. She argues that society should aim for a low or zero-carbon steady-state organic system of production of food and other goods and is especially concerned by the loss of biodiversity caused by capitalism, seeing it as an even greater threat to life on earth than climate change. As she puts it, ‘everything in nature is connected’ (quoting Darwin’s insight), and ‘in order to live, we must manipulate nature, yet must seek to do so without diminishing it’. She is hopeful of progress too, comparing the new food movement to ‘a deep ocean current: invisible on the surface, yet steadily gathering pace and strength to the point where it can effect real change’.

For the change in society which would bring this about, her political prescription is an avowedly anarchist one. She declares support for what she sees as the vision of anarchist thinkers Proudhon and Kropotkin, a vision characterised as ‘small groups of territorial collaborators without formal leaders, a society whose very existence depends on common ownership’. However, to achieve it, she sees the need for ‘a social vision that transcends the fatal duality of neoliberalism and totalitarianism, one capable of engaging with and connecting with us at every scale from local to global’, since ‘anarchism’s core message, that we should embrace democracy while sharing our goods more in common could not be more apposite’, and, ‘by accepting our duty as political animals … we can become more effective, empathetic, fulfilled social beings’.

Despite the author mistakenly equating Marxian socialism (or communism) with the authoritarian state capitalism of countries like Russia and China, there is a lot in her book that socialists can agree with. Examples of this are her trenchant critique of capitalism and its contradictions, her insistence that humans are a collaborative species, her liking for ‘common ownership’ and her desire for a society of ‘empathy, equality and ecological longevity’.

It is only a pity that she doesn’t quite go far enough and, despite recognising and condemning the iniquitous and socially divisive effects of money and the market (‘for most of human history money didn’t exist … humanity had social bonds instead’), she allows her imagination to be limited by the idea that money and the market are nevertheless somehow inevitable, at least on some level, and bases her project on the hope that that they can somehow be made to work against their inbuilt nature, i.e benignly and cooperatively. We would obviously disagree that this was possible. Only in the kind of moneyless, marketless society of free access and voluntary cooperation advocated by socialists can food production, and indeed all other production, take place in a truly cooperative, balanced and human-centred way. Only in that kind of social context will it be possible, as the author puts it eloquently as ever, ‘to reimagine the landscape as a canvas for human flourishing’.
Howard Moss

Wood For the Trees: Responsibility (2020)

The Wood for the Trees Column from the June 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard

Human activity has changed our planet profoundly. Vast swathes of urban development, agricultural clearance, industrial complexes and military installations have impacted the ecosphere which in turn has affected the other species we share the Earth with. Although all of this is indisputably the consequence of human activity can we, as a species, be held responsible for the effect it has had on our environment and ourselves? Some may find it an absurd proposition that we can somehow be innocent of the consequences of our actions as a species. But we would not prosecute a child of criminal acts in the same way we would an adult; similarly as an incredibly young species (in geological time) can our actions be considered as merely the immature destructive anarchic play of Hominids?

We like to contrast our behaviour with that of other species by pointing out our ability to imagine the consequences of our actions within an ethical and moral context; for this reason it would be irrational to hold a tiger or a gorilla responsible for the consequences of anything they do. They act primarily on instinct in nature and to do otherwise would seriously compromise their survival. They are ‘programmed’ to respond to stimuli in a way that natural selection has determined. Although we may believe we can impose moral constraints on our actions as individuals because of a different level of consciousness is this true of our actions as a species? Can we claim the ability to direct our development according to any ethical principles or are such aspirations merely a result of an idealistic conceit that any serious study of history can discard?

Before the development of science our species did not possess the knowledge and information to understand the impact that our economic activity would have on the ecosystem. Those indigenous cultures that did practise some level of integration with their environment were ruthlessly swept aside by the juggernaut of capitalist industrialism and farming. Although primarily motivated by the greed of a tiny minority it was always justified in the name of ‘progress’. Even if those concerned had sought to control it this mode of production, once set underway, could not be directed. The idealists who sought to impose limits on it because of moral or environmental concerns always failed, not because of any lack of integrity but because they did not understand that humankind’s productive activities controlled it – the capitalist mode of production, like the other forms of private property that preceded it, created a profound alienation between producers and any control of what and how they produced. Like other species responding to the natural environment humankind had created a cultural environment that it responded to. There was no possibility of control either through an ability to imagine consequences of economic activity or, even if this had been possible, any ability to do so. Our species was not responsible for its own development.

This is clearly exposed in the ideology of those who defend the system – they think of it as ‘natural’ and unchanging. Some go as far as to make a religion of free markets and their faith in its ability to make our lives better. Both stem from the essential mystery (to bourgeois economists) of alienated human production. Capitalist development is indifferent to the needs of those who serve and create it. This fact has been known by a minority for over 100 years now. This is why socialists struggle for a revolution to sweep away capitalism because we know that it cannot be controlled – it is anarchic and destructive.

 Those who realise this and do not help in the struggle are indeed responsible for its continuance. But without such consciousness entering the lives of the vast majority (who, out of political ignorance due to ideological manipulation do not support the struggle) the destruction will continue. Some may despair of our species and even long for our demise but such emotions are merely self-indulgent moral outrage based on the idealistic conceit that humanity has the ability to impose rational and moral control on capitalist production or the idea that many maintain a wilful rejection of the political imperative of socialism even if they understand it. 

 The simple fact is that most people do indeed want an end to the environmental destruction, not just for their own sakes but for other species as well. Most still believe it to be a scientific and rational problem that has to be resolved within a capitalist context. Far from believing themselves to be ‘lords of creation’ in terms of the relationship with other species most feel themselves to be victims of mysterious economic forces out of their control. In this they are entirely correct but to realise that they are merely puppets of their own productive activity is a profound affront to an identity forged by the ideology of individual moral responsibility.

Modern Times (2020)

Book Review from the June 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard

Matthew McManus ed: What is Post-Modern Conservatism? Essays on Our Hugely Tremendous Times. Zero Books £14.99.

This is probably not a question most people have asked, and in any case it is not clear that the answers given here will be all that satisfying. The book consists of a large number of shortish pieces, mostly written by the editor but some written or co-written by others, so it is rather repetitive and there is little sense of a sustained argument being built up.

McManus describes post-modernism as an epoch in human history, a culture defined by globalisation and massive technological changes. Traditional conservatism is mutating into post-modern conservatism, exemplified by such as Trump and Farage. It is ‘ascendant across the Anglo-Saxon world’ and is supposedly characterised by a number of features, including: indifference to the distinction between truth and falsehood, affiliation with a powerful identity seen as under attack, use of modern media, and cracking down on other identity groups when in power. ‘Post-modern conservatives largely come from the most privileged groups in history’, it is stated, but this appears to mean white people in Western countries, not the truly privileged, the one percent, the capitalist class. At one point, post-modern conservatism is equated with right-wing populism, but this is not argued properly, nor is there any discussion of populist ideas in general. No suggestion is made that post-modern conservatism claims to be opposed to an elite, which is usually seen as a main tenet of populism.

The last section of the book is a criticism of the ideas of Jordan Peterson, such as his views on ‘post-modern neo-Marxism’, which illustrates the kind of jargon found not just in these pages but in many of the writers discussed here. One good point is made: that Lenin and Mao launched their revolutions in poor developing countries, in contrast to Marx’s view that communism required the means of production to be highly advanced. The final article, by Borna Radnik, refers to the abolition of private property but notes that the Left have failed to propose an alternative to capitalism. To which we can only say, never mind the Left, look at the publications of the World Socialist Movement.

And as for what is meant by the hugely tremendous times mentioned in the subtitle, the book is silent.
Paul Bennett

One world or many states? (2020)

From the June 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard
We have been asked for our view on the movement for West Papua to gain independence from Indonesia. Here is our reply.
The Socialist Party and wider World Socialist Movement in various locations throughout the world, consists of individuals who have come together for one purpose: to assist in the urgent task of establishing world-wide socialism. We define socialism as a society in which all the resources of the world are used in common to meet all the needs of all the people of the world, without any distinction whatsoever, including the distinction of so-called national identity. It follows, then, that we do not concern ourselves with either the destruction or the creation of national or territorial borders within capitalism. This is a policy that we have upheld from our formation in 1904. During that time, we have, of course, been admonished to recognise the seemingly vital need to defend this national group against that one; to support the imposition of this territorial border or the dissolution of that one; to denounce this act of nationalist aggression or to excuse that one. Our reply has always been that while capitalism exists, such disputes and conflagrations are unending and it is not the role of socialists to act as adjudicators over the rights and wrongs of conflicts that are endemic to capitalism. 

To talk of self-determination is to play with words. Past circumstances notwithstanding, the world is today so integrated that no country can be genuinely independent in how it acts. Usually, it can’t even independently decide how it behaves within its own ‘borders’, for fear of criticism or censure from international bodies, or, more usually, powerful outside interests.

World capitalism always has been, is now, and always will be a quagmire of different competing interests along national, religious and ethnic lines. But all such differences are artificially created by artificial scarcity. Only world socialism can finally put an end to this fight for resources – a sordid fight that, in order to acquire a semblance of decency, hoists coloured rags on poles and conscripts evolved human morals and ethics into ‘national’ armies and risibly ordained ‘national’ interests.

Socialists don’t deny the value of human culture, of course not. What we abhor and oppose is the culture of all the people of the world – which ‘belongs’ to and should be accessible to us all – being turned into nothing more than ruses to corral the working class of the world behind artificial borders, the real and sole purpose of which is to enlist us into fighting for and protecting world markets for ‘us’ and not ‘them’.

Historically, West Papua is little different from any of the countless other regions that have been colonised and invaded over centuries. Today, a population of less than a million in West Papua contains 6 ‘ethnic’ groups, practises 5 religions and speaks a variety of languages. Yet, the twin issues of personal poverty and the human rights of the individual are the main concerns in West Papua, just as they are in West Ham in London or West Bronx in New York. Why should the members of the human family who happen to be born in the particular part of the world named (by ‘foreigners ‘) West Papua limit their horizons, in this day and age, to West Papua? Why shouldn’t an inhabitant of West Papua not see themselves as a citizen of the world, free to live wherever they choose on the planet? Why shouldn’t anyone have the right to go and live in West Papua if they so desire?

Capitalism, of course, can never allow for such a world at peace with itself, of personal universal rights and personal self-determination – the only form of genuine self-determination and the only form that socialists care a hoot for. Only in capitalism is it necessary to construct borders around a designated area arbitrarily created by history, to keep certain people in and keep other people out. Socialism, the only universal solution to ‘borders’ will require no such artificial distinctions between the world’s people and will have no borders. And since this is the goal of socialists, why would we do something as illogical as interrupt or postpone our endeavours to create a borderless world in order to advocate new borders that we aim to abolish?

Material World: Guns before healthcare (2020)

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

The recent pandemic highlighted the shortages of vital medical supplies even though the need had been anticipated. Under capitalist logic, spare hospital bed capacity and stockpiles of personal protection held in storage for medical staff represent wasted resources and, rather than addressing the deficiencies in healthcare, investment in military equipment to prepare for future wars are considered money better spent.

Max Mutschler from the Bonn International Center for Conversion, a peace institute, explained, ‘Military expenditure is based on worst-case scenarios.’ He explained that the threat of military conflict always remains present in the background: ‘With regard to the tension between the US and China, we do not know if there will be an armed conflict or not. So the militaries in both countries are preparing for this eventuality, and they’re very good when it comes to lobbying for more funds’.

Global military expenditure reached $1.9 trillion in 2019 according to the latest figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Of the 15 countries in the world with the highest defence budgets, six are NATO members: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. Their combined military expenditure makes up almost half of the world’s total figure. In 2019, the total military expenditure of NATO’s 29 member states was some $1.04 trillion.

According to the SIPRI report, in 2019 the USA was responsible for 38 percent of global military expenditure, totalling $732 billion. The increase over its 2018 budget alone amounted to the equivalent of Germany’s total expenditure in 2019. China ranked second place after the US when it comes to military spending. Its budget contributed 14 percent of global military expenditure in 2019 and rose by more than 5 percent to $261 billion. China’s military budget has jumped by 85 percent since 2010.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed what the priorities are under capitalism. Keeping citizens safe ought to be the greatest responsibility of any society. Since 2003, the world witnessed the SARS, H1N1, MERS, Ebola and Zika virus outbreaks. States, in other words, had ample warning time to prepare for the possibility of a pandemic. But governments’ priority was to spend on armaments rather than readying for a potential pandemic disaster.

Military spending leads to states diverting money away from health care systemsIta fact long acknowledged even by capitalist politicians. US President, Eisenhower, aid in 1953:
  ‘Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children’.
Nation-states have failed to recognise the biggest threats to our safety: pandemics, climate change and environmental destruction, and prefer to safeguard global trade routes and sources of raw material for capitalist industry.

A new report by the National Priorities Project (NPP) at the Institute for Policy Studies, examined the connections between the climate emergency and the US military.

The report, entitled ‘No Warming, No War: How Militarism Fuels the Climate Crisis—and Vice Versa’, says that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic ‘has utterly changed life as we know it’ and warns against working toward a return to an old normal which was ‘defined by unfettered capitalism that thrives on the devastation of our planet, the devaluation of human life, and the use of military force to perpetuate both.’

The report also takes aim at the military contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman that reap massive profits from the devastation of war.
‘On a local and global scale, humanity and community have been co-opted by profit and violence. This ‘normal’ has now brought us to the brink of an existential crisis as climate change continues nearly unabated,’ co-authors Lorah Steichen and Lindsay Koshgarian write in the foreword. ‘In the face of both COVID-19 and the climate crisis, we urgently need to shift from a culture of war to a culture of care’.
Half of all international wars since 1973 have been linked to fossil fuel resources, particularly in the oil-rich Middle East. According to NPP:
‘The US military spends an estimated $81 billion a year to protect the world’s oil supplies—even before accounting for the Iraq war.’
It is ‘among the biggest polluters’ on the planet, producing about 59 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, more than countries such as Sweden, Denmark, and Portugal, according to the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. A B-52 consumes as much fuel in an hour as the average car driver uses in 7 years.

The interests of working people are best promoted by a society based on common ownership of the world’s resources, with no national barriers. Then, global production system can be geared not to the interest of profit, but to serving human needs. Rational economic decision-making can replace the present chaotic market. Coordination and planning will aim to benefit the people. The main task of socialist society will be to satisfy people’s needs. That is the goal to socialists strive for.

Capital's Strangle-Hold. (1922)

From the March 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

In an article published in the review of the International Federation of Trade Unions a flood of light is thrown upon the question of the capitalists holding up production. It appears that the International Labour Office, acting upon the instructions of its governing body, instituted an enquiry as a result of a meeting held at Genoa in June, 1920. At this meeting a representative of the employers' group said:
"The cost of living has increased in every country to an alarming extent; this phenomenon is due to many causes, but under-production is certainly one of these causes. Under-production is in its turn a result of several causes, some of which (scarcity of raw material, lack of shipping, disorganisation of land transport, etc.), are not within the scope of this body; but it would be interesting to consider whether and to what extent conditions of labour (such as the adoption of the 8-hour day, the frequency of strikes and lock-outs too, if you like, opposition to methods of remuneration proportionate to individual or collective production, etc.) have influenced production."
After some discussion on this point, it was finally agreed to, that the enquiry should be of a general character and not exclusively confined to the conditions of labour.

The enquiry was entrusted to Professor Milhaud, of the University of Geneva, and the first volume of the "Enquiry on Production—General Report" is now to hand, and forms the basis of the article, "An Enquiry into the Causes of the Decrease in Production," from which we quote.

There are two lengthy quotations from well-known capitalist representatives, such as M. Millerand and Mr. Herbert Hoover, the American organiser, both of whom during 1919 and 1920 delivered speeches in which they called upon the workers for increased efforts towards greater production. Of course, neither of these gentlemen called upon the capitalist class to produce more, they apparently being well aware of the fact that it was useless, since the capitalists not only do not work, but have no intention of so doing.

Then follows several lengthy extracts from the report, showing the fluctuation of prices during December, 1919, and June, 1921, concerning such "products of primary importance" as silk, cotton, cast iron, wool, etc., which, reaching their highest price point in May, 1920, fell considerably between that date and June, 1921.

We insert this point because what follows shows that the writer of the article in question must have favoured the demand for increased production, for in commenting upon the great fall in prices, he (or she) asks as follows :
  "Was not this fall in prices just the very remedy of which the whole world was in need ? Was not the general high level of prices the scourge under which the world had been groaning ? Was not the return to normal prices the factor from which increased production was to be expected ?"
How the workers were to benefit by the great fall in prices, he does not show; in fact, although the attempt might have been made, it must have proved a failure.

When the markets of the world are glutted with the wealth produced by the working class, and a fall in prices takes place, it follows that the labour market is subject to the operation of the same factors as operate in the other markets, for besides producing a larger army of unemployed and thus increasing the competition for jobs, a decline in the cost of living cheapens the cost of producing the commodity labour-power, and consequently its price (wages) tends to fall.

The main point of the article to which we draw attention is, that with the fall in prices the writer seems very disagreeably surprised to find that something else had happened, and with an air of injured innocence he laments :
"The fall in prices gave rise to a crisis in production such us the world had not yet witnessed."
Strange ! For it was then discovered that this crisis brought forth a universal restriction of production, a huge systematic plan all over the world to hold up the production of wealth and thus maintain high prices. This was not the policy of the wicked workers in the Trade Unions, who, we are very often told, are guilty of slowing down and "Ca' Canny." On the contrary, it was the capitalists who, when faced with falling markets, decided upon restricting output.

Under the heading o£ systematic restriction the article gives several examples taken from Professor Milhaud's report, as follows :
  "In the first place there is the restriction of the production of Rubber, in which movement the Rubber Growers Association took the initiative in its circular issued on September 24th 1920, the result of which was a reduction in production amounting to 30 per cent.
"The situation with regard to cotton has been exactly the same. In December, 1920, the production of Japan was already reduced by 40 per cent., and further reductions were contemplated. In Egypt it was the public authorities themselves who took the initiative. The provincial councils unanimously decided to restrict the cultivation of cotton for 1921. In accordance with this decision the Sultan signed a decree on December 7th ordering that the area under cotton should be reduced by two-thirds and prohibiting the cultivation of cotton in upper Egypt except in the parts irrigated by the Nile."
"The American Cotton Growers Association succeeded in bringing about the largest percentage of reduction on record in the production of cotton. This Association boasted of the firm and vigorous attitude of the bankers of the whole of the cotton-growing districts, who refused to grant the necessary advances and credits to enable the cultivation of enough cotton to ensure a normal crop.'' 
The "Cotton News" of June 1st, 1921, refers, furthermore, to the radical restriction of the use of artificial manures in the old cotton-growing States along the east bank of the Mississippi,
  "which means to say that the growth and ripening of the new crop will be impeded and. furthermore, that the crop, already greatly restricted as regards the area under cultivation, will be seriously handicapped during the growing season. That applies even in those cases where the climatic conditions would be otherwise favourable."
"A similar policy has been applied by the International federation of Linen Manufacturers, comprising the linen manufacturers of France, England, Holland, Belgium, Ireland, and Denmark, who declared at their meeting held at Brussels on November 18th, 1920, that the most important consideration was to restrict production and stabilise the market."
Many more examples of this kind are given, showing to what an extent the capitalists have their grip on the world's resources. Figures are also given concerning the amount of unemployment in various countries.
Robert Reynolds