Friday, January 6, 2023

Shamima Begum, the Demon Bride (2023)

From the January 2023 issue of the Socialist Standard

‘Jihadi bride’ Shamima Begum and her fight for repatriation are back in the news. This time there appears to be evidence to suggest she and her two companions were trafficked, with various newspapers carrying the latest story. It may come as no particular surprise that Shamima and her two school friends Khadiza Sultana, now dead and Amira Abase, presumed dead, were recruited and helped with their journey from the UK via Turkey to Syria in February 2015. All the girls were between 15 and 16 years old.

A BBC online news article on 30 August reads ‘Shamima Begum and her two friends were smuggled into Syria by an intelligence agent for Canada’ ( In Reuters Europe (21 November) it says: ‘Likely a victim of child trafficking her lawyers also said that Begum and her friends entry into Syria was “facilitated” by a Canadian agent working for ISIS’ ( It seems that the information for those articles comes from a claim made in the book The Secret History of Five Eyes by Richard Kerbaj. Five Eyes is the network of intelligence sharing between Britain, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This information may have been known as early as 2015.

There was a Reuters (Ankara) news article on 12 March 2015 by Tulay Karadeniz in which the writer states: A spy who worked for a country in the US-led coalition that is fighting Islamic State had helped three British girls to cross into Syria to join the militants has been caught, the Turkish Foreign minister said on Thursday’ ( This information came only a month after the girls left the UK. The British public will have heard about this only recently.

Shamima is now 23 years old and is still languishing in a detention camp in Northern Syria. Her UK citizenship was revoked in March 2019 by the then Home Secretary Sajid Javid. The British government is not in theory allowed to deprive a British citizen of their citizenship if that is the only form of citizenship they have. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘Arbitrary deprivation of nationality which means deliberately moving to make a citizen stateless is prohibited under these instruments’.

The UK government contended Shamima could apply for Bangladeshi citizenship as her parents were Bangladeshi nationals and as she was under 21 at the time she supposedly could automatically qualify for Bangladeshi citizenship. Bangladesh has continuously denied that possibility. In any case Shamima was born in the UK and has never even been to Bangladesh, her culture is British.

Shortly after arriving in Syria she was married to a Dutch fighter and convert to Islam and went on to have three children who all died young. Her youngest was born in a refugee camp and died within a month of a lung infection. The conditions in these camps were appalling, with temperatures reaching 50 degrees Celsius in summer and below freezing in the winter, bad sanitary conditions and almost non-existent healthcare.

Responding to the death of her last child in the camp Jeremy Hunt stated ‘Shamima knew when she made the decision to join Daesh she was going to a country where there was no embassy, no consular assistance, and I’m afraid those decisions awful though it is, they do have consequences’ ( But how could a 15-year old have had any idea of what was in store for her when she left the UK?

What makes a girl not yet 16 willingly leave her home, travel to Syria to marry a man she had not even met? Is it romantic notions of marriage and children of her own, a life away from the boredom and monotony of Bethnal Green, or the seduction of going to help her religious compatriots in the face of perceived injustice and alienation, or was it just an ill-thought-out teenage adventure? Shamima maintains she was just a housewife looking after the house and children and said she was assured they (Isis) would take care of her and she would have a perfect family life, but whether she was just a housewife as she claimed or she allegedly sewed explosives into suicide bombers’ vests we probably will never know.

The hypocrisy of accepting that girls of the same age and older were trafficked and abused in the Jeffrey Epstein case but not for Shamima and her even more unfortunate school friends is striking. She has been vilified and demonised in the press, and the British public seemed to be in agreement with her being made stateless. Could it be that women are traditionally regarded as the caring nurturing sex and Shamima was an abomination, or was she made the scapegoat, an example of the government showing it was doing something, picking on the easy target of a young girl?

Since the fall of the Caliphate, the international community was faced with dealing with more than 52,000 ‘foreigners’ stranded in Syria. Thousands returned to their respective countries independently and unmonitored and thousands of others were repatriated to some, including women facing arrest and imprisonment. Out of more than 400 former fighters believed to be back in Britain only about 40 (in 2019) have been prosecuted, most have been placed in rehabilitation schemes. It not as easy for women and children to make their way back home.

The Guardian (26 November 2020) reported that 35 children and 15 British women were being held in barbaric conditions at a camp in Northern Syria. A report by the Rights and Security International charity described conditions as inhumane and degrading, unsafe environments, physical violence common and psychological trauma. Children living in the camps suffering from malnutrition, dehydration and hypothermia with the effect on these children of starting the whole cycle of alienation again. You have to wonder what kind of society turns a blind eye to deliberately causing suffering to women and children, somehow making them responsible for nationalism and war.

The Shamima Begum situation brings up so many issues. The fact that the government can take away what we consider fundamental rights but which turn out to be mere privileges which can be given or taken away arbitrarily. What constitutes a danger to security and the state, your political beliefs, like being a communist in McCarthy’s America? What constitutes an illegal organisation, one that is contrary to the status quo? The misogyny of not only the Islamic fighters wanting what could be described as ‘comfort women’ and the attitude of the British government towards making an example of a young girl. Islamophobia and nationalism rearing its ugly head, seeing them as the savages, fanatics, the ‘other’, dividing workers with god on both sides. The state’s lackeys, the media, constantly pushing the official narrative, hiding news from the public, guiding our opinion to suit the state agenda. We have no idea what is ‘fake news’ anymore.

The world is divided with constantly changing borders, constant wars. The arms industry is the second biggest industry in the world. How many other Shamimas are out there? It does not have to be like this, we could live in a borderless, stateless moneyless society where we co-operate rather than compete. All it takes is a little imagination and the belief that we humans are not the greedy aggressive creatures we are told we are. We are family after all.
Carla D.

A world without money (2023)

Book Review from the January 2023 issue of the Socialist Standard

It’s encouraging that the free access moneyless system of society that’s fundamental to socialism has recently been the subject of several books from different parts of the world. The Socialist Standard has already reviewed Beyond Money. A Post-Capitalist Strategy by Anitra Nelson from Australia and Description of the World of Tomorrow. A World Without Money or Barter or Exchange: a Civilisation of Free Access by Jean-Francois Aupetitgendre and Marc Chinal from France. And now we have another new book on the subject, a sort of ‘blockbuster’ from the United States, Moneyless Society: the Next Economic Evolution by Matthew Holten.

How we live and how we could live
The author has let it be known that he worked on this book for five years. So perhaps it’s not surprising that he succeeds in bringing together a detailed and well-researched set of arguments for getting rid of the inefficient life-destroying system we live under – capitalism – and replacing it with a new efficient life-affirming one based on cooperative production and distribution and free access to all goods and services. We would call this socialism (the author doesn’t, but never mind). His book moves from a thunderously powerful critique of the current world system to a well-explained and thoroughly credible scenario of a different kind of life for the earth’s population, one in which no one need fear poverty, want or futility. It dismantles the profit system and then moves to constructing in its place a compellingly believable world without markets, without buying and selling, without rich and poor in which all lead comfortable lives based on from each according to ability to each according to need. His arguments are a thoroughly convincing model of ‘How We Live and How We Could Live’, signposted in clearly labelled sections and expressed in down-to-earth eminently readable language.

The problem
The author divides his book into two broad parts: ‘The Problem’ and ‘The Solution’. In the first part he sketches a history of money across the various human societies in which it has been used right up to present-day capitalism. He then focuses on how the money and profit-driven nature of the capitalist system has created – and continues to create – a whole range of negative, and often unforeseen, consequences for the planet and its people. At a very basic level, he points to the ‘exploitative relationship between employers and employees’ and ‘the never-ending struggle that many of us endure daily to work, pay our bills, and survive’. That is, of course, he goes on, if we can find paid work at all, since many can’t, and, he continues, ‘according to the UN, 25,000 people die from hunger every day’ and ‘one out of every three people on the planet still lacks access to safe drinking water’. This ‘scarcity’, he concludes, is entirely artificial and due to the chaotic nature of capitalist production and distribution.

At the same time, he has much to say about what he calls ‘resource overshoot’, the way in which ‘capitalism exploits and destroys the Earth and everything that depends on it’ and how such ecological devastation, which includes deforestation, overfishing, and desertification, leads to phenomena such as ocean dead zones, bleaching of coral reefs, biodiversity loss, pollution, wildfires, droughts and climate change. He talks, with compelling rhetoric, of ‘the roar of anguish of burning forests, the animals who cannot flee infernos and flooding, sea creatures drowning in oceans of plastic and chemicals’. Even when capitalism seeks remedies, at best, he says, it ‘treats symptoms’ and even then ‘often exacerbates issues it may seek to address’. Above all, he sees it as militating against ‘two of human society’s core elements, cooperation and empathy’. This is a theme he will take up in more detail in the second part of this book where he lays out his plan for change to a society based not on money but on those ‘core elements’ and for how that society might be established and operate.

The solution?
So the second part focuses on how a new moneyless society could be established and work and how many features of that society can already actually be seen existing in the world today – in spite of the constraints the current system imposes on their optimal use. He refers to these features as ‘future systems in action’, focusing in particular on the way capitalism’s advanced technology, which has built a world ‘ripe for the next phase of our socioeconomic evolution’, can be put to use. It can develop for example, he argues, a ‘super-grid’ (i.e, ‘a large-scale electric grid… enabling the transfer of renewable generated electricity over long distances’), automatic manufacture and assembly of goods by 3D printing, and democratic organisation and decision-making by use of advanced, user-friendly data systems. He is insistent that ‘we already have the systems and technology to create real, lasting abundance and sustainability’ with resources capable of providing ‘all necessities and more for every living person on the planet’.

Witheringly critical in particular of the way in which capitalism plunders the environment in its search for profit, he sees a moneyless society as capable of establishing what he calls an ‘ecological balance’, building ‘a life-supporting ecology’, which would ensure ‘a world that respects the limits of nature, the interconnectedness of everything in our environment, and the dignity of all life’. He expresses conviction that ‘new and existing technologies, managed with care and with respect to maintaining balance in our environment, can provide all our necessities and more’ and also ‘create real, lasting abundance and sustainability’.

Objections and call to action
He goes on to discuss the ways in which he sees the transition to a moneyless society taking place and then poses and answers, in convincing fashion, some of the most common ‘objections’ (many of which socialists are used to hearing) to a free access society of voluntary cooperation without money and wages. These are objections such as ‘don’t we need money as a motivator?’, ‘aren’t human beings intrinsically lazy and selfish?’, ‘would there be enough to go round?’, ‘how could we operate an economic system without a pricing mechanism?’, etc. Finally, he issues a ‘Call to Action’ urging those who agree with the need for a moneyless society and see it as possible to share their views with others and ‘get this information into the world’, thereby helping to put into the mainstream an idea that may currently seem ‘extreme’ to many. He also encourages people to communicate, cooperate and associate themselves with other movements with similar ideas, listed in a ‘Resources’ appendix to the book. Here he includes some 50 organisations, including the World Socialist Movement, as well as, for example, his own ‘Moneyless Society’ group, the Auravana Project, the New Zealand Money Free Party and the Zeitgeist Movement.

Gradualism or the ballot box?
All this is immensely encouraging to organisations like the World Socialist Movement which have the same fundamental objective as the author. There is one area, however, in which the WSM would have to part company with Matthew Holten. That is in his view of how the objective can be achieved. The author of Moneyless Society sees that in terms of a gradual transition over several generations within the capitalist system. He anticipates a relatively long period of the ‘winding down of capitalism’ during which ‘the disparity between the least and most privileged will largely vanish’ but ‘people will still be paid to work’. He posits a model for this to happen incrementally, calling it ‘The Five Stages of Transition’, seeing it as a period during which support for a global moneyless society increases and plans for its operation are being laid out.

While socialists too would foresee plans for the operation of a socialist society being made within capitalism ahead of the establishment of socialism, we would not, for example, see this, as the author does, as being assisted by ‘world leaders’. Rather we would see ‘world leaders’ doing their best to head it off by offering all manner of reforms within capitalism to try to deflect and restrain the growing spread of socialist consciousness and the call for a new society. After all, the function of governments is to be the executive committee of the capitalist class, to manage capitalism as well as they can in the interests of those who own and control the means of production, not in the interests of society as whole. This can never be any different, but in the end they would have no choice but to succumb to the outcome of elections which saw candidates advocating a moneyless, wageless, leaderless society based on voluntary cooperation and free access to all goods and services gaining majority support and then taking control of society and putting into practice the democratic organisational forms which the majority has agreed.

It does not seem to have occurred to the author, highly commendable as his vision is, that a mass democratic movement using the ballot box to win the political control needed to coordinate the change effectively is the most likely and most practical way to achieve a moneyless, marketless society. This once the necessary spread of consciousness has been achieved and plans to democratically organise that society are in place. However, this divergence between the author’s view and that of socialists can perhaps best be seen not as a difference in overall vision but rather one of strategy. And in that sense what we have here is an important and highly refreshing book putting centre-stage ideas and discussions about how to dispense with capitalism and establish a new society based on a sustainable balance between cooperative production for use and ecological stewardship of the planet.
Howard Moss

How political power works: what we can learn from the fall of Truss (2023)

From the January 2023 issue of the Socialist Standard

The short-lived tenure of Prime Minister Liz Truss is a case study of how political power works in the United Kingdom. By any institutional measure, Truss was in a strong position: her party had an unassailable majority in the House of Commons, she could wield the power of the Prime Minister over the civil service and the power of considerable patronage was hers. She also had the option of the Prime Ministerial megaphone: everything she could have said would be newsworthy and reach every home in the country. All she had to do was play the cards she had been dealt tolerably well and she would have been set for a minimum of three years in office.

As she misplayed that hand, though, it became clear how the might of political office is constrained by a series of golden chains, each interlocking and pulling together to ensure that political power (backed, ultimately, by the military force of the state) does not threaten the dominance of the section of society that owns its productive wealth. These same chains ensure that no one individual or faction gets to turn the state into its private property.

The Establishment
To be clear: there is no secret cabal of capitalists directing the state – different groups and factions of wealthy individuals and institutions compete to try and bend political power to serve their interest. Which means, incidentally, that the space is open for the working class, organised consciously and politically, to wrest control of that same machinery and convert it to our own ends.

Truss came to power after an election among Conservative Party members. Thousands of ideologically motivated people joined the political party to advance the cause they believe in. She won because she promised them the policies they wanted – most importantly, lower taxes. In this case, the wishes of the lay membership did matter, and their expressed preference was conveyed by Truss into government policy. She could, indeed, have reneged on that promise, but activists matter because they operate the machinery of competing for elections on the ground: they can only be disregarded so far before it starts to have an effect on the electoral chances of a party.

Truss was, herself, a relative outsider within the networks of UK power. She was a former Liberal Democrat activist, who went to a Leeds comprehensive school. She did, however, go to Oxford, and gained the advantage of the network building opportunities there. By contrast, her Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, was educated at Eton, just like two of the last three Prime Ministers before Truss. The small number of elite schools providing for the upper class in the UK helps build the personal and social bonds and networks that lead to common understanding and a form of trust between them. Truss herself supplemented these general networks by specific links to the Tufton Street set of libertarian lobby groups whose ideas she put into place.

The wider electorate
Politicians, however, also need the votes of the wider electorate: and so, rather than cut government spending to allow tax cuts, with all the economic and social pain that entails, Truss and her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng chose to cut taxes and borrow to maintain government spending. They argued the tax cuts would incentivise economic growth (and thus allow the spending levels to be maintained medium term, even as the tax take falls as a share of the national effort). This argument wasn’t entirely without merit, and could, in theory, pay off.

Cutting taxes would raise savings and mean there would be more money in the system available to invest in growth. Likewise, cutting taxes might make what had previously been unprofitable business models work (for their owners, at least), and so spur economic activity. The downside is that by borrowing, the government would still be soaking up a lot of the investable wealth (probably pushing up interest rates across the board), and the rate of profit for businesses might remain so low as to continue deterring growth and investment. Truss and Kwarteng might have been able to sell such a plan, given time, but their proposals were put forward as a response to a weak position in UK government finances, and so it looked more like a panic response, rather than a considered and carefully prepared plan.

Market forces
This in turn brought the great machine of class rule into play: market forces. Investors and speculators responded by moving their money away from the UK: fewer people wanted to do business or hold assets denominated in pounds, and so Sterling fell against the Dollar. This, in turn, led to the Bank of England putting up its interest rates to try and attract them back, and to restore (or at least defend) the value of the pound. Had the Bank failed to act, it would have meant significant increases in the cost of imported goods (and the UK economy depends on imports very much). Although UK exports would have become more competitive, that would not necessarily happen fast enough to offset the immediate pain and cost of living changes people would have experienced.

Again, there was no meeting of capitalists to decide this although undoubtedly, the common ideology, background and prejudices of fund managers may have played a part. They would have met and discussed this in the course of their daily activity; but, fundamentally, they would be acting in the interests of themselves, their funds and their clients by responding to the British government’s policy in this way. By forcing up interest rates, with the government planning to borrow more, this was a devastating blow. The national debt, and the requirement for governments to behave in a manner which will satisfy lenders, is a key means of ensuring the general financial probity of the state.

Another related – and nearly disastrous – consequence of this was that the Bank of England was also forced to intervene to protect the UK pension fund markets. Pension funds have to hedge against a potential fall in their incomes, since they must guarantee pensions to their beneficiaries. The rapid rise in interest rates led to a nominal fall in the value of the bonds they were holding as security (so called Liability Driven Investments, LDIs). So they had to start selling off assets in order to pay the collateral on their hedges, since there was immediate demand for funds. As this happened to many valuable funds at once, this led to systemic risk to the whole pension industry: in turn, the Bank of England had to spend £65 billion in order to shore up the system and prevent collapse.

This was a devastating reputational blow to Britain’s financial system, and also to the Prime Minister, since her policy had endangered the pension provision of much of her core electorate.

The Members of Parliament
This brought into play Conservative MPs. Prime Ministers, although nominally appointed by the monarch, in reality serve at the confidence of their party in the House of Commons. Truss did not have the support of the majority of Tory MPs in the first place, leading some liberal commentators to opine that allowing party members to elect the Prime Minister is an affront to democracy and the Tories should go back to a leader simply ‘emerging’ from within their ranks, or having MPs only voting in a ballot. Keeping the pool of electors small promotes stability and predictability, and benefits the ruling class, but the demand for party members to be involved has drawn that power away, and it looks unlikely that it will be done away with completely – if and when possible, instead we’ll probably get ‘managed’ coronations, like that of Sunak or Brown before him.

Added to this weakness, in Truss’s case, was that the Tory MPs feared that their seats were now at risk en masse, and that Truss was a threat rather than an asset to their political careers. This is a feeling that would have been reinforced financially as various Tory donors made their displeasure felt. In the UK, the party that wins elections is usually the party that spends the most money. This isn’t necessarily a direct result of spending, because the party that looks like winning attracts the most donors and so has more money to spend in any case, but it is clear that funding of political parties is another means by which the wealthy section of society can exert influence over the political direction of the government.

In this case, they were helped by changes in the positions of the opposition party – the fact that Labour was now, again, a safe party for business people to invest in, means it could be used as a threat to the careers and aspirations of Conservative politicians. After all, it doesn’t matter what party is in power, for the truly wealthy, as long as their policies are at least congenial. During the Corbyn years, they could not be sure of the Labour Party, and this helped solidify elite support for the Tories, whatever their other misgivings about them. Now Starmer is in place, and Labour is ‘Pro-worker, pro-business’, they can be used to discipline the Tories. Some large Tory donors even came out of the woodwork to support higher taxes, as necessary to stabilise the economy, ie looking at their long-term interest, rather than the short-term rewards of tax cuts.

The mass media
Finally, the mass media, particularly the newspapers, played a big role, both before and after the rise and fall of Truss. The Daily Mail played a significant part in getting her elected in the first place, emphasising that she was the front runner (and exaggerating her support in the wider party, compared to the actual rather close race between her and Sunak). The Times and The Sun, the Murdoch papers, were typically more sceptical, and intensified their periodic attacks when she was elected. The focus of the press on the failure of her budget exacerbated the crisis, and clearly indicated that they would turn their considerable fire power against the Tories at any coming election while Truss was in charge.

Most people rely on the mass media for their information on how to place their votes. It is indicative that Boris Johnson, who just one year ago seemed utterly invincible, vanished in a puff of smoke the second the press began to focus like a laser on his behaviours. The press is certainly not all powerful, but it typically generates the headwinds which can push up and pull down political careers.

Elections and voting are thus, contrary to the anarchist saying that ‘if voting changed anything, they’d get rid of it’, key to political success or failure, and they involve considerable management to win the ongoing support of the majority of the public for government policies.

To take a counter-factual: if Truss had just won an election, her MPs would probably have stood by her longer. If she had a more connected background, she might have been able to ask informal favours of people in other institutions, or had more trust from important market agents. She would have been able to face down the press more convincingly and might even have been able to stand up to the market pressure (blaming spivs and speculators for the short-term harm) and stabilise the situation. If there had been an election’s worth of debate and policy documents talking up the planned budget, the markets may even have reacted differently. But she had none of that – she had a party divided, a press divided, and a risky, short-term emergency response to the situation with the public finances.

What is clear is that although the power of the state is very great indeed, in practice it cannot challenge the overall balance of class power, international market forces and the inbuilt advantages that accrue to the owners of capital. No secret cabal, no grand conspiracy: but the collective capitalist class lost confidence in their chief executive, and so as a result she was removed by the management board.
Pik Smeet

Material World: The pimps of war (2023)

The Material World Column from the January 2023 issue of the Socialist Standard
Come, you masters of war
You that build the big guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs

You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks
                 (Masters of War, Bob Dylan)
For a capitalist, Winston Churchill’s saying ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’ has never been so apt as in the case of the Russia-Ukraine war. Businesses are making profits from the conflict in Ukraine from the increase demand for liquefied natural gas. Cheniere Energy, America’s largest LNG exporter, says about 70 percent of shipments from its facilities in Texas and Louisiana have gone to Europe, compared with roughly 30 percent last year.
‘The country that is most profiting from this war is the US because they are selling more gas and at higher prices, and because they are selling more weapons,’ observed a senior European Union official (
As Europe attempted to reduce its reliance on Russian energy, the reduction in gas from Russia meant acquiring new suppliers. In stepped the United States but the price the Europeans have to pay is almost four times higher than the price for American customers.

Beatrice Mathieu, head of the economy department of the French magazine L’Express, explains:
‘Washington’s unwavering support for Ukraine makes the United States the big winner in the global stage without a single soldier needing to set foot onto Ukrainian soil,’ with undeniable geo-strategic, economic, military and political gains, she said (
This view coincides with the Russian Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, who accuses the United States of prolonging the conflict because of economic reasons:
‘The desire to skim the cream through the mass sale of military equipment and LNG supplies: nothing personal, just business’ (
Mere Moscow propaganda, one could easily suspect, if it was not for the fact that President Biden has also rebuked oil companies for ‘profiteering’ from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:
‘It’s time for these companies to stop war profiteering… At a time of war, any company receiving historic windfall profits like this has a responsibility to act beyond the narrow self-interest of its executives and shareholders’ (
It’s all got too much for the EU. Germany’s economy minister has called on Washington to show more ‘solidarity’ and help reduce energy costs. French president Macron said high US gas prices were not ‘friendly’ and has talked of a ‘double standard’ being created by the ‘super-profits’ of energy producers (

The war in Ukraine has reinforced America’s role as the arsenal of the world. American arms manufacturers and many other armament corporations expect a big-time bonanza by providing weaponry to countries eager to boost their defences against Russia. There is likely to be a rise in orders to replenish military stocks, from various European countries, in particular for rockets and artillery.

Germany, for example, has announced an extra €100bn to modernise its military capability. Finland, an aspiring new candidate member of NATO, decided to grant an additional €1.7bn to arms and other defence material purchases this year alone:
‘A very significant share of it will go to purchases from the US’ Governmental Counsellor Iikka Marttila from Finland’s Defence Ministry said (
American isolationists such as Marjorie Taylor Greene have claimed too much money is being spent on Ukraine: ‘Under Republicans, not another penny will go to Ukraine’ and ‘Our country comes first’. But that is just exactly it. War is proving very profitable for the USA and its business leaders know it.

Russia’s war on Ukraine, both of them major food exporters, the effect of less abundant harvests in Ukraine, and the financial complications imposed by sanctions upon Russia have resulted in American producers increasing their exports of maize to Europe.

This calls into question whether food price inflation can be attributed solely to a shortage. The world is experiencing a food price crisis rather than a food supply crisis. Huge multinational food corporations are reporting record profits (

War tends to establish hegemony rivalries among nations in a certain geographic area. Russia paints the US and EU as its main adversaries with Ukraine portrayed as a pawn in a proxy war. In response Russia, as an imperialist superpower, used its military might to impose its will upon Ukraine to defend its ‘privilege’ to dominate the region. Western interests proclaim their ‘right’ to expand their influence where they deem fit, bringing nation-states into conflict. And while politicians prattle on about the morality and ethics of a ‘just’ war, corporate investors view the cost and pain through the prism of profits and dividends.

Bird’s Eye View: Quayle, Reagan, Carlin, Debs, Sade, Bukowski and Sanders (2023)

The Bird’s Eye View Column from the January 2023 issue of the Socialist Standard

’I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy, but that could change’ – Dan Quayle

Andy Borowitz’s new book Profiles in Ignorance divides America’s recent history into three phases. In the first, “ridicule”, ignorant politicians do their best to pretend they are smart. This is the age of Ronald Reagan and Dan Quayle. A fellow California politician said: “You could walk through Ronald Reagan’s deepest thoughts and not get your ankles wet”. Of Quayle — who, as George HW Bush’s vice-president, was most famous for having told school children to spell “potato” with an “e” at the end — one professor observed: “When I looked into his eyes I could see to the back of his head.” In an effort to appear smart, Reagan once tried to quote America’s second president, John Adams, on facts being stubborn things. Instead, he said: “Facts are stupid things”….’ (Financial Times, 3 November).

The sad fact is, before these jokers were born let alone elected by our class, socialists were already asking ‘In the light of experience, why should you vote for either the Republican or Democratic parties?’ (Eugene Debs, Quotations from Speeches Made on the 1908 Campaign Trail,

Today, the vast majority of the working class blindly support capitalism. None of them can escape responsibility for the consequences. For the power wielded by the rulers of world capitalism is a reflection of the political ignorance of the working class everywhere. Some dictators are homegrown and elected. They include the likes of King & Queen Ortega, Turkey’s ever power-hungry president Erdoğan, Rodrigo Kill ’em All Duterte of the Philippines and his replacement Marcos Jnr. Other odious examples include Hitler, the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front, Meloni, Orbán and Trump. Former Democrat Debs was clear: ‘I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition; as it is now the capitalists use your heads and your hands’ (1908).

’It’s called the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it ’ – George Carlin

‘President Biden on Saturday said people holding signs calling him a socialist were idiots…’ (The Hill, 5 November, ).

Correct. Do his Republican opponents really believe that Joe understands and accepts that capitalism is based on the legalised exploitation of the wealth producers by those who own and control the means of wealth production and distribution, that the state only exists to protect the power and privilege of the exploiting class and that he urges workers to abolish the wages system and establish a classless, moneyless society? Is Joe nothing less than a social revolutionary who wants to destroy civilisation as we know it where war and want are endemic and billions are compelled to accept wage slavery? Of course not.

Actually, the Marquis de Sade, a contemporary of the Founding Fathers, who died over 200 years ago in an insane asylum, has better claim to the label socialist. He championed democracy, was opposed to every form of punishment (‘it is far simpler to hang men than to find out why we condemn them’), saw the class-divided nature of society and sided with ‘those who can only get a living by their labour and sweat.’ Indeed, Geoffrey Gorer in The Revolutionary Ideas of the Marquis De Sade (1964) points out that Sade stood in opposition to contemporary philosophers for both his ‘complete and continual denial of the right to property,’ and for viewing the struggle in late 18th century French society as being not between ‘the Crown, the bourgeoisie, the aristocracy or the clergy, or sectional interests of any of these against one another’, but rather all of these ‘more or less united against the proletariat.’ Gorer thus argued, ‘he can with some justice be called the first reasoned socialist.’

’Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors’ – Charles Bukowski
‘”at a time when half of American workers are living paycheck to paycheck, and millions of people earn starvation wages and struggle to put food on the table, the wealthy and powerful have never had it so good,’ wrote Bernie Sanders (Common Dreams, 4 November).
Fine sounding, but let us not be deceived. He went on in an email: ’What we are seeing all across the country and in every sector of our economy is that working people are standing up in the face of corporate greed, demanding fairer wages, better working conditions, and the dignity and respect on the job that they deserve’.

De Sade again: ‘you can only govern men by deceiving them; one must be hypocritical to deceive them; the enlightened man will never let himself be led, therefore it is necessary to deprive him of enlightenment to lead him as we want…’ Sanders’ occasional use of revolutionary rhetoric should not obscure the fact that he has voted with the Democrats 98 percent of the time. Let us put his qualified support for $18/hour into context:
1865: ‘Instead of the conservative motto, A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, Abolition of the wage system’ (Marx, Value, Price, and Profit).

1928: ‘Earning a wage is a prison occupation’ (Wages, DH Lawrence).

1965: Workers still ‘don’t realise that they can abolish the wages system’ (Socialist Standard).

2009: Current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour introduced.

2022: ‘Bernie Sanders Backs Historic $18 Minimum Wage’ (Common Dreams).

Ball and chain (2023)

From the January 2023 issue of the Socialist Standard

Cooking the Books: Profit restraint (2023)

The Cooking the Books column from the January 2022 issue of the Socialist Standard

If a group of workers demand and get a wage increase this doesn’t mean that the business they work for can then simply increase its prices to compensate. If businesses had the power to increase their price at will, why would they need to wait for a wage increase to exercise this? Why wouldn’t they have already done it? Wouldn’t that bring them more profits?

That’s not how it works. Businesses fix prices by what the market for their product will bear, ie, the highest price they can get that will secure them the largest profit. If they fix it above this level they will lose sales to their competitors and so make less profit, and if they fix it below they will not be making as much profit as they could. If the market will not bear it, they cannot raise their prices without jeopardising their sales and profits. Sometimes they may be able to raise them without doing this, sometimes they can’t; it all depends on market conditions.

With rising energy costs, business are currently in the same sort of position as they would be in the face of increased wages and so face the same dilemma of whether or not to raise their price in response and, if so, by how much. Writing in the Times (1 November) Ed Warner, billed as sitting ‘on a number of company boards’, gave the benefit of his experience:
‘I have seen businesses agonising over pricing decisions recently, wondering how much their markets will bear. Faced with a sharp rise in input prices, including labour, it’s understandable that these debates are about how big a jump is justifiable and achievable.’
No automatic ability, then, to pass on the whole increase in input prices (‘including labour’). What is likely to happen is some increase but not by the full amount of the increase in costs. This will mean that their profits will take a hit. In the longer run, they will find ways to reduce their energy or labour costs. In the latter case, they will typically seek to get their workers to work harder and/or introduce machinery to replace them.

While some, probably most, businesses will currently be taking a hit on their profits, others, especially those selling energy, will be reaping more profits than usual.

The TUC is calling for ‘profit restraint’:
‘Businesses had tremendous support from taxpayers during the pandemic. They should now help to counter inflation with greater profit restraint – especially energy firms’ (
This may be a good debating riposte to calls for wage restraint, but it’s not going to happen voluntarily and a Labour government, which the TUC wants to see in office, won’t impose it. Firms are not going to restrain their profits more than they are already forced to by what the market will bear. And the energy firms are going to make hay while the sun shines, even if they know the government will tax away a part of their extra profits. The logic of capitalism is that all firms seek the maximum profit they can and that’s what they will do. But that does not mean that they have a free hand in fixing what profits they make by raising their prices at will.

Letters: Transgender Issues and Capitalism (2023)

Letters to the Editors from the January 2023 issue of the Socialist Standard

I’d like to take up a couple of points made in the ‘Transgender Issues and Capitalism’ article from the December Socialist Standard.

Whilst I agree with the first half of the article that gender is a social construct and gender roles are learned, I would argue that biological sex is significant. Women the world over tend to be smaller physically, obviously with exceptions, and is the sex that, if she chooses to, carries a pregnancy and breastfeeds a child, which, certainly in this society affects an equal place in the workforce.

Further into the article, I read what appears to be a contradiction. ‘Many binary transgender people often seem to not challenge capitalist gender at all but rather perform its stereotypical features aggressively to make themselves the gender they identify as’. But the writer then goes on to say ‘A person who is willing to cross the lines of socially conditioned gender is revolting against ideas of womanhood and manhood’ As if being transgender is a revolutionary act.

I also agree with the latter part of the article in that ‘capitalism as always sets people against each other’, but the writer gives a one-sided example of this with the story of Lily Cade calling for the lynching of transwomen. No mention is made of the hundreds of death and rape threats from trans activists against prominent feminists whose crime is to fight to preserve women-only spaces.

The mainstream media and capitalist hegemony deliberately endorses and encourages identity politics as a way of dividing the working class. Instead of obsessing over personal pronouns workers should be promoting class consciousness with a view to ending this oppressive and divisive system that we live in.
C. Dee

A defence of Christmas

Call it Yuletide or Winter Solstice festival if you like. I am aware that many socialists don’t celebrate Christmas. Do they know that in disdaining it, if for different reasons, they are behaving like the evangelical protestants today, and the early Christians too?

Every society cosies down for Winter and marks the season with festivity. In the Roman world, Christmas was the Saturnalia, where revelry was practically compulsory. Christians disdained it, and the Church Fathers banned Christians from garlanding their homes with holly, ivy and mistletoe. Pagan homes were lavishly garlanded.

In the Middle Ages Christmas lasted the whole Winter, from November 11th until February 2nd. All garlanding was in, including Christmas trees, holly, etc. No one did any work, except for castle servants, and to replenish firewood. The serfs had got in the harvest and, unlike today’s wage-slaves, had no clock to tick, but plenty of time for festivity.

With the rise of the bourgeoisie came Christian puritanism and the cutting down of Christmas. Wage-slaves cannot be allowed too long without producing surplus value for their masters, whose only god is money. The churches complied.

The old festival was always about excess and revelry. People today who moan, ’Christmas has lost its meaning’, blah, blah, are Christians who want a Christian-based memorial to the Jesus myth along Puritan lines. They are not, in their moaning, going back far enough! Yuletide isn’t Christian.

I don’t see why socialism wouldn’t retain Yuletide. Regions of the Earth will have inherited cultural traditions, and I don’t see why those which are harmless wouldn’t continue – especially the universal one of being cosy and festive over Winter.
Anthony Walker

We tend to agree. Socialists for obvious reasons concentrate their current fire on the ills of capitalism, but we are not the fun police, and think it very likely that people in a post-capitalist free society will find any and all excuses for festive celebrations, whether based on celestial calendars, harvests, anniversaries or some other pretext.

Pathfinders: More Tales from the Crypto (2023)

The Pathfinders Column from the January 2023 issue of the Socialist Standard

In autumn last year youthful fintech whizzkid Sam Bankman-Fried, proprietor of FTX, one the hottest crypto-exchange companies in the world, was boasting about pouring billions of dollars, yes billions, into the Democrat war chest to fight the 2024 US presidential election. Then his chips got fried in ‘one of the largest corporate collapses in history, including the implosion of Enron in 2001’ ( FTX stock value went from billions to nothing in the blink of an eye. Hundreds of thousands of customers lost their money. The aftershock hit other crypto exchanges like Swyftx and Bybit who immediately laid off nearly half their staff ( And all this followed a gigantic crypto market crash in May after South Korean firm Terra-Luna went down, resulting in two thirds of global crypto value – about $2 trillion – being wiped out including for market ‘bluechips’ like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Though the currencies were virtual, the disaster was real enough. 20 people reportedly committed suicide and South Korean police were ordered to patrol known suicide bridges in Seoul to stop more people jumping.

To borrow a crypto phrase, the worldwide trade in crypto ‘went to the moon’ in 2021-2, with $275bn traded daily in over 16,000 currencies on more than 400 exchanges and platforms ( Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), crypto art tradables considered a nerdy joke a year before, ballooned into a $40bn global market, not far off the $50bn value of the total fine-art market (Bloomberg, 6 January, 2022). How did all this happen? Essentially it’s Tulipmania or the South Sea Bubble, based on ‘next sucker’ logic, where people invest in ‘assets’ on the assumption that they will be able to sell on to the next sucker at a higher price. Forget the original rationale of crypto as digital money alternative, that was never very practical anyway and is now irrelevant. Forget the silly notion that speculator commodities ought to have some intrinsic value. That matters not one jot. One of them, Dogecoin, was created by software engineers as a joke solely to poke fun at Elon Musk, but was subsequently endorsed by Musk and wound up becoming the world’s fourth-largest crypto, valued at $80bn. The runaway momentum behind this global Ponzi scheme is not real wealth, but that it can make some people fortunes. Until, one day, it doesn’t.

The May 2022 crash should have been to crypto what the R101 was to hydrogen airships, but market disasters never dent the faith of the capitalist faithful. And crypto traders have a vested interest in not letting crypto die. Instead they’re desperate to keep promoting it in order to draw in the next consignment of gullible buyers, so they’re not left holding the bag in their own multi-level marketing trap. Meanwhile governments have been slow to regulate this crazy casino despite it being a gift to money laundering, smash-and-grab hackers, ransomware and organised crime. Indeed even the politicians have got pound signs in their eyeballs. In December the UK government introduced a set of gloves-off banking deregulation measures including a ‘nod to developing the UK as a centre for crypto assets’ ( ).

But crypto advocates aren’t just about the money, they are ideologically motivated, hailing crypto as the future of money and even the future of the internet. While real revolutionaries ask the big question, what if we abolished capitalist trading and money entirely, crypto fans obsess over the pseudo-radical question, what if we have a money system that’s not mediated through any centralised state agency, and what if we roll that peer-to-peer architecture out to other centrally controlled systems like the web. They are essentially techno-libertarians, in love with the screw-you-Jack premise and get-rich-quick promise of capitalism, but with a deep-seated animus against the state regulatory apparatus that normally goes with it. They want football without the referee, the Wild West without the sheriff, trusting in invisible Adam Smith woo-woo to make it all work. Now they also want Web3, a decentralised blockchain version of the web which supposedly frees it from the power of the Big 4, Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon, who reap the benefits from user-generated content while cutting the artists and creators out of the revenue stream. The fact that the Silicon Valley venture capitalists behind the Big 4 are the same ones now backing Web3 should be a big clue that the technology might be decentralised but the power certainly won’t be. If anything it will be the opposite, as Web3, just like the crypto casino, is based on using blockchain tokens. As web blogger Molly White points out, in a podcast series by Financial Times journalist Jemima Kelly, ‘When there’s a token involved, there is a speculative financial component’, to which Kelly adds ‘Web3 isn’t really about making the internet any fairer, or less easy to exploit by fatcat Silicon Valley investors, it’s… about introducing yet another layer of financialisation to the web’ ( None of this apparently matters to crypto ideologues with their warped notion of freedom. To them, the blockchain has become a fetishistic emancipatory totem.

To recap, the blockchain is simply a ledger system distributed across multiple computers that records digital transactions. All participants have a copy of this ledger, making it theoretically (though not actually) impossible to alter afterwards. The point of this is to prevent double accounting without relying on some central checking mechanism. What use is this in capitalism, a system entirely built around centralised hierarchical control? Many would say none at all, given that the technology is currently grotesquely inefficient in terms of energy use, requiring at least eight orders of magnitude more energy than a standard centralised alternative ( Might it be useful in socialism, perhaps as a way to reduce the load on central administrative hubs involved in production and distribution? It’s possible, because the heavy power consumption involved is mainly caused by the current need for crushing layers of encryption, hash functions, public-private keys and all the rest of the paraphernalia of capitalist secrecy. Socialism, being a trust-based sharing cooperative, wouldn’t need any of that. Even then, blockchains might still be seen as overpowered, over-engineered and overcomplicated in a society that may set more store by keeping it simple, stupid.
Paddy Shannon

Editorial: Sweep away capitalism (2023)

Editorial from the January 2023 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the beginning of another new year we in the Socialist Party express our solidarity with all those striving to resist the attacks and cuts from capitalism.

Working people are bearing the brunt of capitalism’s multiple crises around the world. Time is running out for the planet and there could be a risk to human civilisation itself. Capitalism divides people rather than unites them — worker from worker, men from women, blacks from whites. It teaches competition not cooperation.

The world has a capacity to bring forth riches beyond the wildest imagination of people. Instead, this prospect has been used primarily to bring death and destruction. As in Ukraine, where capitalism has set workers to fight workers, to kill, maim and destroy in order to determine which set of bandits should prevail and rule over those living there.

Our use of terms like ‘production for use’, ‘moneyless society’, ‘abolition of the wages system’ and ‘free access’ may sound like a word-salad to people. But all we are trying to do is to describe the society we are aiming to see achieved. While we can accept that for some people it may sound somewhat abstract, we would be remiss if we did not make it absolutely clear what our objective was. But the question is not what words to use to describe what is needed, but how to put it into practice.

Workers possess the potential to change the world and the ability to run it in the interests of humanity where freely-associated men and women share the means of wealth production and use them to supply the needs of all, freeing everyone from the source of their sorrows.

We wish to see a mass socialist party but we reluctantly acknowledge that our own limited attempts can’t hope to make a great impact. But the development of socialist consciousness does not depend solely on our small numbers but more generally on the conditions people live under in capitalism and the need to change those.

We do not submit to the notion that it is impossible for workers to reason for themselves about where their interests lie. How did ideas of socialism develop in the first place at a time when they were illegal and savagely suppressed?

We are socialists because we hold that socialism is the sole hope of working people. Our New Year’s commitment is to take revolutionary politics to workers everywhere and to do what we can to hasten the coming of the socialist world cooperative commonwealth. That is our New Year message to all our fellow workers. Is that so hard to understand? It is in fact the very essence of simplicity.

So, we deliver this New Year message as we have done before to say to working people that they can control their destinies once they have shed their delusions about capitalism, and cast off the burden they have carried upon their backs for so long.