Saturday, September 2, 2023

Communist Party tactics exposed (1958)

From the September 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists are often told by members of the so-called “Communist” Party, in their endeavours to excuse the strange somersaults of a Party professing working class interests that such behaviour is merely “tactical manoeuvres” on the political front.

The latest sample of—“Tactics, Comrade” comes from the upheaval in France among the ruling clique over their difficulties in Algeria. It shows just what anti-working class actions this tactic can lead to.

We take the following extracts from their own beloved organ—that fighter for working class CONFUSION—the Daily Worker of May 17th: —
“The special powers asked for by the Premier Pflimlin— which would automatically lapse if the Government fell— gave the authorities the right to close any public buildings, to impose a curfew, the right of search, the censorship and control of the Press, Radio and other means of communication, the right to order house arrest, to forbid movement of traffic or people.

“The group of 150 Communist M.P.s decided before the National Assembly Meeting this morning to vote for the powers under the present circumstances. Jacques Duclos, leader of the group, told the National Assembly! . . .

“The danger is great—the government of the Republic must present a solid front. The Communist Party will take part with all its forces in the defence of the Republican institutions. Considering the circumstances, the Communist group will vote for those special powers." (Daily Worker, 17th May, 1958.)
If voting for such powers of coercion as outlined in the Daily Worker report has anything to do with the struggle of the working class for Socialism—then the moon certainly must be made of “green cheese! ”

One more indictment of the Communists is contained in the following telegram sent by the British Communist Party to the Communist Party of France:—
"In this hour of grave menace of the renewed offensive of Fascist and Militarist reaction in France, we express to you, dear Comrades of the French Communist Party, our solidarity with you and with all people in the fight for the defence of democracy.

“The shameful attempted coup of the same reactionary militarist elements who betrayed France to Nazism and who torture Algerian Patriots, has aroused universal anger and disgust in Britain.

“The immediate response and leadership of the French Communist Party has won Universal admiration. The interests of the French and British peoples are indissolubly united in the fight against Fascism.
“Signed by—John Gollan, Harry Pollitt and R. Palme Dutt.” (Daily Worker, 17th May, 1958.)
Little remains to be said. From the above it will be seen by all workers understanding Socialism that the signatures to this telegram could just as easily have been —Winston Churchill, D. Eisenhower and Earl Attlee! Indeed, the phraseology is remniscent of the Churchillian exhortations in the days when “Comrade” Stalin was his ally.
G. R. Russell

SPGB Meetings (1958)

Party News from the September 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Party News Briefs (1958)

Party News from the September 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Outdoor Propaganda. When the reports are all to hand, it is hoped that they will make good reading for the propaganda work done in London and the Provinces during the summer, despite the very poor weather. A brief report of the Nottingham visit by the Central Organiser which was presented for the Delegate Meeting shows that excellent work was done and that the members in Nottingham have put in some good ground work.

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Camberwell Branch now meets on Mondays at Head Office—usual time, 8 p.m.

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Delegate Meetings this year will be held at Head Office on Saturday and Sunday, October 4th and 5th. A notice of times is shown elsewhere in this issue.

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Sunday Film Shows will again be given at Head Office in October and a programme of the first series will be given in tho October Standard.

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Bloomsbury Branch. Another reminder that on the first Thursday in each month from September 4th discussions will be held at 8.30 p.m. at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, W.C.1. The first will be on Crises and the discussion will be opened by Comrade Hardy. On October 2nd Gilmac will speak on “Can the Military get Control?'’

Chelsea and Fulham Branch. During the spring and summer the branch have held a number of very successful discussions with the aid of L.P. records. A number of queries and suggestions have been received and on one occasion the Branch was visited by a member of the Socialist Party of New Zealand. For the autumn and up to Christmas the Branch will be holding a series of educational lectures. These will be held on alternate Thursdays to Branch, nights; so that the lectures and discussions will not be encumbered by branch business. All readers of the Socialist Standard living in the district will be more than welcome.
Phyllis Howard

What price reform (1958)

From the September 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many a social reform since embodied in legislation became law not because the ruling class or its political representatives were moved by the plight of certain sections of the population, but primarily because advantages accrued to capitalism. Not benevolence but the profit consideration was the motive.

A great deal of evidence is available to substantiate this view, and that it actually accumulates almost daily is evident from what follows. In two days’ issues of the Manchester Guardian were found the following three examples.

One: Speaking of the position of young widows with children and the inadequacy of their Widows' Allowances so that “ they simply had not enough money to live on ” and were being forced to put their children in nurseries and go out to work, Dr. J. C. Heenan, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool, commented: “It need hardly be said that it costs the country more to maintain nurseries than it would do to give widows adequate allowances.” (March 27th, 1958.)

Two: On the 25th of March the Maintenance Orders Bill was before the House of Commons. Now, this Bill is ostensibly designed to ensure that any man who deserts his wife and has had a Court Order for maintenance made out against him will not be able to bilk payment by simply moving about from place to place. The method by which it is hoped to ensure this is by an attachment of the man’s earnings, a form of P.A.Y.E. The essential point here is not the advantage that there may be for the women, but again the L.S.D. motive. Mr. Renton, Joint Under-Secretary to the Home Office, moving the third reading of the Bill, stated that the Bill dealt with the problem of a woman who could not get maintenance and a man who drifted into prison because he had failed to keep up regular payments more by incompetence than by malice. Continuing, he said: “More than 3,000 prisoners were now sleeping three in a cell. Prisoners are costing us (sic) nearly £6 per week per head and we ought to try and avoid sending thousands of men a year to prison for defaulting payment.” (March 26th, 1958.)

And, three: In 1955 a Committee was appointed by the Minister of Labour to investigate “industrial health.” The Report of this Committee’s first survey was published on the 26th of March, and it was given some prominence by the Manchester Guardian devoting an editorial to it, headed, “ Keeping Well at Work.” Among other things, the editorial informed us that in over one in four of nearly 800 workplaces visited in Halifax (employing some 7,700 people) washing facilities and general cleanliness were considered unsatisfactory. And Halifax was chosen not because its regarded as particularly unhealthy in any way but because it is “a concise industrial town with a fair diversity of industries.” The editorial’s summing-up paragraph is a little masterpiece of simple, lucid Guardian language. “ It is both more profitable and more sensible to spend money on keeping people well than to grant sick leave; and the best work is usually done in the best-kept places.” (March 26th, 1958.)

And there you have the Holiest of all Holy Trinitys— Church, State, and Press—lamenting the plight of young widows, deserted wives, and the working-class in general; yet withal their reforming zeal and burning fervour against injustices never leaving out monetary calculations, but all the time carefully weighing the price of one reform against another.
Chris Walsh

Voice From The Back: Another Labour failure (2001)

The Voice From The Back Column from the September 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Another Labour failure

In 1997 the new Labour Government claimed they were going to make fundamental changes in society and would wage war on poverty, or “social exclusion” as they preferred to call it. A recent official report shows that for all their bombastic confidence, the years from 1997 to 2000 have seen no real improvement for the working class. “Details published yesterday by the Department for Work and Pensions show that a quarter of the population was having to live on less than half the average income in 1999-2000, the same proportion as in 1996-97. . . The share of total income received by the poorest 20 percent of the population, for example, fell from 7.9 to 7.6 percent between 1994-95 and 1999-2000. Amongst the richest 20 percent it rose from 41 to 42 percent.” Times (14 July)

Hard times

Times, we are told, are hard in the City these days. The FTSE 100 seems to be in a constant nosedive and millions are being wiped off the stock exchange value of companies. Time for the high-rollers to tighten their belts? Hardly, for many of the capitalist class it’s still a case of let the good times roll. The owner of the restaurant Petros in London’s St. James was astonished at the lavish wine bill for a table of six. “His restaurant had sold three of the oldest bottles of the stunning claret from which it takes its name: a 1945 Chateau Petrus at £11,600, a bottle of the lesser 1946 at £9,400 and one of the 1947 – regarded by many as the greatest single bottle of the last century – £12,300. Plus a 1900 vintage of Chateau d’Yquem at £9,200. Oh, and a 1982 Montrachet at a paltry £1,400.” Observer (15 July)

Make my day, punk

A recent 10.9 percent annual rise in house prices in the South East of England has led to reformers of capitalism discussing all sorts of schemes to stop low paid public sector workers like schoolteachers quitting their job for better paid ones. Citing the case of the town of Reading, The Times (1 August) provided alarming figures. “The average price of a flat is £105,441 and the Institute for Public Policy estimates that a household needs to earn £25,000 a year to survive. Nurses earn an average £21,000 a year and teachers £24,000.” Tough times indeed for British schoolteachers but it could be worse; they could be American workers at the chalkface. “Pity the poor American teacher, besieged by classroom violence. School shootings are now so frequent that the largest teachers’ union is to offer $150,000 to families of members who are attacked and killed. Since 1992 there have been 29 such killings.” Times (4 August)

North Korean Newspeak

George Orwell’s 1984 invented a language called Newspeak that made clear thinking impossible. Thus the Ministry of War became the Ministry of Peace. He was satirising the current use of such euphemisms as the Ministry of “Defence”. Carrying on this tradition of capitalist cant the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and the Russian president Vladimir Putin have issued a declaration on the subject of “peace”. “A declaration signed by Kim and Putin called their meeting a “historic landmark in efforts to strengthen peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region and the world”, and dismissed US fears of Pyongyang’s nuclear missile capability. “North Korea asserts that its missile programme is peaceful in nature and does not present a threat to any nature respecting North Korea’s sovereignty” the proclamation said.” Observer (5 August).

Vote catching SSP

At a press conference the Scottish Socialist Party revealed its latest recruit – a Roman Catholic priest! Father Steve Gilhooley was welcomed into the SSP by its leader Tommy Sheridan. “Mr Sheridan, however, spoke of his admiration for Father Gilhooley and said he had been extremely struck by his “incredible warmth and compassion”. “Steve deals day in day out with some of the ravages of our so-called free market in terms of broken families and broken communities and tries to fix them, so from that point of view he is very well equipped to be a member of the SSP,” he said. Herald, 2 August.

And we are asked to believe that this sort of nonsense has something to do with revolutionary socialism.

The problem that never went away (2001)

From the September 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard
Unemployment has not gone away because, as Eddie George has admitted, the labour market needs unemployment to function properly
At the beginning of August it was announced that the UK manufacturing sector had finally fallen into official recession, that is two consecutive quarters of negative growth. Given that capitalism tends to be at the height of what it is capable of immediately before it goes into crisis, it is worth examining what conditions the height of British capitalism constituted.

It is particularly pertinent to examine employment, both as an index of the scale of modern capitalism, and in terms of the fact that recession will inevitably cause unemployment to rise from whatever levels it still stands at. Unemployment has come to be seen as a long term feature of capitalism. Indeed, the Governor of the Bank of England, Eddie George, got into trouble a couple of years back for stating what is widely known in professional circles to be a fact: that the labour market requires a degree of unemployment among workers in order to be able to function properly.

Even during the long post-war economic stability, full employment was always taken to mean a margin (in the hundreds of thousands) of unemployed people. It is a notable fact that during Labour’s first term, Gordon Brown, in the light of favourable employment figures, decided to proclaim once more that full employment was their aspiration. Of course this time full employment meant a much higher margin of unemployment than it did in the 1960s. In the context of the routine millions of unemployed in the economy since then – with up to three million unemployed in the UK as little ago as 1992 – getting it below one million would do.

In recent months the media was able to announce the headline that unemployment had fallen below one million for the first time in twenty years. This figure was arrived at by the governments preferred method of calculating unemployment – the claimant count. It is obvious quite why they should prefer to measure unemployment solely in terms of how many people are claiming unemployment benefits, largely because these people are costing the state money, but also because it produces a generally lower result, since not all unemployed people are claiming benefits. The UN recognised International Labour Organisation (ILO) measure of unemployment – using a survey to find people who are out of work and have sought work in the previous four weeks and able to start within a fortnight – places unemployment currently at 1.48 million.

This level of employment still represents a record high, with 24.4 million people currently in work. The intensive exploitation of workers up to April this year was also very high. With a total of 920.6 million hours being worked a week (as compared with 850.3 million in 1992). This works out at something like an average of 38 hours per week for the average full-time worker, with some 24 percent of the workforce working 45+ hrs. The UK economy requires a massive amount of effort to operate. These figures represent an increase in work being performed above that which would stem from a simple increase in the number of workers.

The extensive increase in the workforce can be seen from the actual decline of self-employed workers as a trend. The statistics for self-employment are liable to distortion at the best of times due to the numbers of contractors who, whilst bureaucratically self-employed for tax purposes, actually simply sell their labour power to firms on a temporary basis. Although the changes to IR-35 have seriously affected their tax status, it still remains a significant part of corporate culture. The position of these contractors highlights the contradiction that lies between the trend of proletarianisation and the fantasy of self-employment (and thus freedom) as propounded by Thatcherism. Yet again, a seeming way out within capitalism turns out to be a blind alley.

These levels, of course, although aggregated nationally by the Office for National Statistics don’t reveal the uneven character of these levels of employment. The spread of this variety is quite wide. In the North East unemployment (ILO basis) was 7.7 percent, compared to the south-east (excluding London at 6.4 percent) which had 3.3 percent. Even these figures do not tell the whole story, since within these regions it is possible to find specific areas and estates where unemployment soars: since, after all, unemployment and poverty tends to cluster, for reasons of housing costs if nothing else. Of course, the simple measures of unemployment do not cover the exact extent of economic inactivity within a specific area.

The clearest problem within this context is that of rising long-term sickness. Labour ministers have managed to incur the wrath of disabilities groups by trying to clamp down on the rise in long-term sickness benefit, largely by claiming that many of those who are on that benefit are simply the unemployed cynically re-designated by the Tories to remove them from unemployment statistics. It has to be asked why Labour did not draw attention to this callous behaviour in the 1997 election, rather than waiting until the time came to lower their budgets. Perhaps the beneficial distortion of the statistics served their purposes too for a while? Nonetheless, it is clear that a huge growth in long-term sickness benefit has occurred, from 414,000 recipients in 1993 to 727,000 in 2001.

The real measure of unemployment as a problem can be found in long-term unemployment. Over a third of the currently unemployed have been unemployed on a long-term basis (over 6 months). As of April this year 222,000 had been unemployed for over two years. Many of those people will probably never find employment again. Within the context of clusters of unemployment, it becomes possible to see how such areas can become charged with desperation and misery.

That even at the height of economic prosperity capitalism can leave so many members of its society in abject misery and poverty demolishes absolutely the lie being propounded by Tony Blair that “economic prosperity” is automatically in everyone’s interest. The anarchy of the capitalist market lies at the heart of the problem. In April this year there were some 395,000 (and rising) job vacancies that could not be filled due to the disproportion between the use-value of labour power required and the quality of labour available. This relentless and blind pursuit of the market has led to the utter denial of ability for over a million workers.

In this context, it becomes understandable why the government places so much emphasis on training and directing labour in an effort to bridge this gap. It is, though, a wasted effort since the problem lies with the subordination of labour to the needs of capital accumulation, rather than its own self-development. The subordination of human beings to the law of “no profits, no work” means that we live in a society irreconcilably opposed to our interests. The presence of large-scale unemployment even in times of relative economic boom and super-high profits alone proves this. If a slump is round the corner, we can possibly look to a return to three million on the dole (or maybe more), as in the recent past. Only the removal of the wages system itself will free us from the threat of its inevitable consequences.
Pik Smeet

Public services—for whom? (2001)

From the September 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard
Who are the public services run for, and why all the fuss about public-private partnerships?
“Education, education, education” was the slogan Blair gave priority to in the 1997 general election campaign. This was a pledge not to improve education but to make it worse, and he duly delivered. The intent was to increase pressure on kids and teachers by bringing in more exams and more league tables, so as to supply British capitalism with workers who had already experienced and absorbed the competitiveness that is a key element of the prevailing enterprise culture. At the same time the doors of schools were opened even wider for business enterprises to penetrate; some schools were even handed over to profit-seeking enterprises to run.

During this year’s election Blair’s emphasis was on “public services”. He never actually sloganeered “Public Services, Public Services, Public Services”, but this too was a pledge to make things worse. To most people, a public service will be a service provided to people by. Blair, however, has spin-doctored the words to make them mean something else. For him, a public service is any service provided to people, irrespective of whether this is by a public body or by a profit-seeking private enterprise.

We Socialists have never been particular fans of the public bodies set up to run these services. We have seen them more as providing services for the capitalist class. Schools to train their workers. Hospitals to patch them up and send them back to work quickly. Public transport to get them to and from work. We knew, from our understanding of how capitalism worked, that under capitalism they were inevitably only going to be run on a cheap, utility basis providing for the needs of capitalist industry as cheese-paringly as possible; they would never – could never, given capitalism’s priorities – provide a quality service for their users.

Even so, it is true that some of these reforms did benefit workers. For instance, the 1870 Education Act which introduced free primary education and the 1948 NHS Act which introduced free medical treatment on a national scale. However, no reform is secure under capitalism. In fact, the workings of capitalism continually undermine any reform that has been introduced. It was the same Labour government that had introduced the NHS that, faced with the need to find money to finance a rearmament programme to protect British capital’s interests abroad, first re-introduced health charges. And the bodies set up to run these services under capitalism were required to make a “surplus” to pay interest to the bondholders or the government who had provided their capital (as we explained in our 1946 pamphlet Nationalisation or Socialism?).

Since the end of the post-war boom in the early 1970s, it has been downhill all the way for all public services as successive governments, Labour as well as Tory, have cut back on their spending so as to leave more money for capitalist corporations to retain as profits. Things were by no means perfect pre-1970 but there were a lot more services provided, especially at local level, than there are today.

Actually, the capitalist class have been in somewhat of a dilemma here. Public education, hospitals, transport and the like are primarily a service for them and were brought in as such. In other words, they are useful to them and so it is in their interest to maintain them at a reasonably efficient level. On the other hand, they cost money to run and this can only come in the end out of taxes, which ultimately fall on profits. The dilemma, then, is that if they let these services run down too much they will suffer in terms of a less efficient and more discontented workforce, but to pay for them they have to be prepared to hand over some of their profits to the state so that it can run them.

The capitalist class, and their politicians, have been split on the issue, some choosing the short-term benefit of less taxes, others warning that in the longer term profits will fall if these services are not properly maintained because the competitiveness of British goods on the world market would suffer. In the 1980s the Tories opted for “short-termism” with a vengeance: giving priority to short-term profits even if this meant running down the services that the state provided for capitalist industry. A good example of how such short-termism harmed the capitalist interest was the cut-backs in spending on training and apprenticeships in the Thatcher years which have now led to shortages of certain types of skilled labour.

By the 1990s sections of the capitalist class were already complaining about the effects of such short-termism. So the cry went up “Bring in Labour. They’ve always served us well on such occasions in the past”. Thus, the Financial Times supported Labour even in 1992 and of course again in 1997 and this year. Eventually, the voting public too got fed up with the Tories and booted them out. Many capitalists were delighted.

The newly-elected Labour government hasn’t specially increased government spending on the public services, but they have now been given a remit by the capitalist class via their media to put these services – whose primary purpose is to serve the capitalist interest in having a properly trained and productive workforce – in order.

Since Labour, no more than the Tories, now believe in trying to solve a problem “by throwing money at it” (by which they mean “by throwing a part of the capitalists’ profits at it”), their plan is to develop an idea hatched by the Tories to help their business friends: involving profit-seeking private enterprises in the running of these services. Under the Tories this was called “Private Finance Initiative”. Under Labour it has been renamed, typically, “Public Private Partnership”. The idea is that the government signs a contract with some private enterprise to invest in and run a part of a service for a given period of time.

Naturally, the contract contains a generous provision for profit, based on the comparable rate of profit in ordinary capitalist industry. These private contractors can increase their profits if they can reduce costs even further. One way of raking in such extra profits is to cut costs by worsening working conditions and driving the workforce even harder. This is one of the main advantages for the government: they don’t have to employ the workers to do the job on existing public service terms, and nor do the new profit-seeking employers.

This is why the public service unions are opposed to such privatisation. They fear a worsening of conditions, and they’re right. One of the aims of PFI/PPP is precisely to worsen the wages and conditions of the workers. In fact, in some cases – the negotiations for the PPP-isation of the London Underground, for instance – the City financiers behind the firms interested in running the public service insist that the government first weaken the power of the unions before they will sign any contract. Hence the series of strikes on the London Underground, relatively successful to date. This is not a case of the public service workers in being bolshie, but simply of them resisting attempts to worsen their conditions.

National and local government contracts have always notoriously been a source of easy profits for capitalist enterprises – and of corruption. The directors of firms that have obtained or are seeking PFI/PPP contracts frequently use the word “lucrative” when describing such investments to their shareholders. And all this is being promoted by the Labour government.

Clearly, the Labour Party has come a long way since the time when some of them saw the introduction of free public services run by national or local government on a non-profit basis as stepping stones to socialism. Though those Old Labourites were wrong – socialism cannot emerge gradually from a series of piecemeal reforms enacted under capitalism – they were right on one thing. In a socialist society education, housing, telecommunications, water, gas and electricity supply will be run as free public services on a non-profit basis, but as genuine services to people not as services primarily to provide capitalist employers with a trained and profit-producing workforce. And within the context of a society based on common ownership and democratic control with production directly for use not profit.
Adam Buick

A socialist trip to Belfast (2001)

Party News from the September 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Inspired by our trip last year to Derry, we returned to the north of Ireland this year for an enjoyable and educational week in Belfast. No lounging on beaches for us — within hours of landing, we found ourselves at a meeting of trotskyists from Militant, where we took the opportunity to both listen and learn from their perspective and to explain our own position. They were amused — and seemed pleased — to meet the SPGB, presumably because they had only heard of us through the wrangles with us over the name of their party.

Naturally, a large proportion of the meeting was concerned with the euphemistically named “troubles” and the current political situation vis a vis the “peace process”. Militant explained that, from their perspective, they hope that the new institutions will carry on working as this will enable them to “expose Sinn Fein as anti-working class in practice”. Militant obviously hope that if this period of detente continues, young radicals will join their ranks as cultural sectarianism becomes a historical anachronism.

From the point of view of orthodox trotskyism, Militant have always been considered to be quite “wet” on Ireland as their analysis has tended towards “economistic left labourism”, therefore ignoring the “national question”. That they have not been drawn into the sectarian madness that pervades Irish politics is to their credit, but as we pointed out to them, their politics do not go beyond capitalism, nor as does the whole of the trotskyist milieu. Trotskyism is objectively anti-working class — subjective intentions notwithstanding. Indeed, even after explaining this clearly, and denouncing their state- capitalist programme, we remained on cordial terms for the rest of our week. This was probably the first time that they had heard such opinion, so hopefully, we were not the only ones to learn from the meeting.

Later on in the week, we also met up with a group of anarcho-syndicalists (Syndicalist Solidarity Network), whose meeting was based upon their live experiences from frontline duty in Genoa. This, in itself, was quite interesting, and the ensuing discussion was based on “what are we to do now that the state is shooting at us?” What indeed?

The interesting thing about some of the anarcho-syndicalists present, was that, despite appearing to be non-leftist at first glance, scratch the surface and this is what you find. This became clear when the issue of the Socialist Workers Party, and its current attempts to portray itself as anarchists (in order to hoodwink and try to control the anti-capitalist movement), was raised. One person present (a member of the IWW) argued that, although political differences existed, for now we should be on the same side as the SWP as the police and the state were the real enemy. After the acrimonious practical history between leninists and anarchists was pointed out, others present nodded in agreement that the like of the SWP could not be trusted.

As an example of the SWP”s opportunism, we were shown an SWP leaflet where the circled anarchist A symbol was used! This should leave nobody in any doubt as to the nature of such organisations. But even after this, we could not get them to draw a class line in the sand. Apparently, the anti-capitalist movement needs as many people as possible, so best not to upset the applecart, some argued. We countered that such equivocation could well prove to be their own undoing.

This said, members of the World Socialist Movement are always going to feel more at home with anarcho-syndicalists than with trotskyists, and we left having enjoyed the meeting.

One cannot visit the likes of Derry and Belfast these days without sensing the relief that the conflict is now, hopefully, in its endgame. Virtually everyone we spoke to indicated that the quality of their lives had improved dramatically in recent years and dreaded the possibility of a return to “war”. From a purely capitalist point of view, places like Belfast, with its traditional industries dying, need new investment and, indeed, due to the “peace process”, this has started to happen. However, one gets a timely reminder of the “old world" over in parts of west Belfast. While we were there, we witnessed stones being thrown over the “peace line" separating the Catholic and Protestant areas (we were reliably informed that our voices must have been heard!). During the night, petrol bombs were used instead. It was so sad to see the poorest members of the working class blaming each other for their poverty. The murals definitely become brighter and louder as the social conditions got worse.

Finally, it is 20 years since the republican hunger strikers died, and, in certain parts of Belfast and Derry, you cannot seem to escape their happy, smiling faces staring at you from murals wherever you go. Too bad, we thought, that such young men should give up their lives for the capitalist dead-end of Irish Republicanism when they may have made fine militants for the socialist movement. What a tragic waste.
Dave Flynn/Stuart Watkins

The case of the decorated donkey (2001)

From the September 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard
Suhuyini reports on the African Union – the brainchild of Col Gadhafi – and in whose interests it can be expected to operate
The Zambian capital played host to African Heads of State for three days from 9-11 July. Their mission? To bury the dead Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and give birth to an African Union (AU). It took African leaders almost four decades to realise that their continental body was a woeful failure. But the sad aspect of the Lusaka summit is their inability to understand that they only met to enact a farcical scenario of a decorated donkey which still remains an ass.

Created in 1963 ostensibly to address problems of the people of the continent, the OAU ended up only serving the selfish interests of African Heads of State, their foreign ministers and the staff of the secretariat in Addis Ababa like Salim Ahmed Salim. The masses of the African people still wallow in poverty and disease, die in senseless wars whilst illiteracy and ignorance are on the increase. The toothless bulldog that was the OAU looked on helplessly.

These leaders were able to see the hopelessness of the body. What they failed to discern, however, is the reasons for its uselessness. If they did, they would not have deceived themselves in renaming it as AU. The OAU could not stand the test of time for one main reason. The reason was because it was founded on the basis of money. Member States were to contribute money to run the affairs of the organisation. The resources of every country are controlled by a few very wealthy individuals. Even military regimes are not free from the influence of the owners of capital. Thus, having been formed with the resources of the rich, what else could the OAU do if not working in the interest of the owners of capital and not the poor masses? Is it not the one who pays the piper who calls the tune?

The OAU would not, for instance, take firm measures on the numerous conflicts and wars in Africa because wars are a matter of big business. Producers and distributors of arms and weapons make super-profits in war situations. Part of the money they make is used to sponsor governments’ contributions to the OAU. So, how can the OAU bite the finger that feeds it? In other words, the OAU was a reformist organisation, seeking to work within a world system which puts profits first and people second. Nothing can ever go on for the benefit of humankind as long as money is around. Only those who own capital can be free from want for they have the purchasing power.

And the AU?
The AU is to be modelled on the European Union and is the brainchild of Col Gadhafi, the life-president (or dictator?) of Libya. Reports have it that he has already given one million US dollars to fund the transformation. It is therefore not suprising that at the summit he was seen by the other Heads of State as the boss. In fact he reportedly (and surely on the basis of his cash) wanted the house to maintain Salim Ahmed Salim, the outgoing secretary-general, in the seat to effect the transformation.

Another VIP (“Very Ignorant Personality”) at the summit was the outgoing chairman General Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo. A ruthless military dictator who took power in 1967 and has since been on top there. Then there was the host, President Frederick Chiluba, who reneged on his promise to abide by the constitutional demands to step down at the end of his second term. It was only through mass protests and resignations by his party’s bigwigs that it appears he will now back down. And even only three days before the summit his former close ally was assassinated and it is rumoured that the government had a hand in it.

This throws some light on the nature of the people promoting and ushering in the AU. We are told that this time a central bank, a parliament and a court will be established. The idea of an African Central Bank is a novelty, even though we have seen the African Development Bank based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Like any other bank, the ADB and the one to be set up by the AU have one purpose—to create profits for the shareholders who part-own the company.

As regards the continental parliament, the following example will give us an insight into what it will be doing. In Gambia the average worker earns about 600 Dalasis a month. A member of parliament gets 7000 Dalasis a month though most of the decisions taken in all parliaments the world over are anti-working class. Therefore a Gambian in an all-African parliament will undoubtedly receieve more than what they are getting now. All at the expense of the poor masses.

Finally, who is an African court of justice going to try? Even those in the Hague and Arusha (Tanzania) have not done anything to the benefit of the people of the world. So what is the farce being staged?

Where parliaments and courts are institutions of oppression under the profit system, banks are the places from where all evil transactions are carried out with the intention of defrauding the masses. No wonder that the Heads of State said they were turning the OAU into a “larger trading bloc”.

Which way for Africa?
The operations of the AU can be predicted by considering the main programme the leaders discussed at the summit on the way forward for Africa. It was a plan called “The African Initiative” which is a merger of “The Millennium African Recovery Programme” (MAP) championed by Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and “Omega Plan” spearheaded by Abdoulie Wade of Senegal. The two main points of the Initiative are that democracy be consolidated and that the West should increase investment in Africa.

In our money-dominated world of today democracy can only mean the right of the rich to dictate to the poor. In the same vein increasing investment in Africa means pumping in more money to reap more profits. Investors are in search of profits, they are not humanitarians seeking to help the poor. The call for democracy and investment which the AU will implement means that governments should hold down the masses so that the rich can pillage and plunder without any hinderance.

Consciousness has many stages. The lowest stage is centred on people who think only about themselves. Selfishness. Others are a step higher. They are concerned only about their family. Then, there are those who check only their tribe mates, tribalists. Then there are the many nationalists defending their national flags no matter what. We also have the so-called Pan Africanists, the pax romana, the white supremacists, etc. But the highest stage of consciousness has to do with those who are internationalists. These are socialists who are not limited by space. They see every issue from a global perspective. Therefore whether it is ECOWAS, OAU, AU, Commonwealth, name it, no problem can ever be solved unless the money system is booted out and a moneyless system put in place where every one has a free access to any product or service. It is only then that Africans and humankind as a whole will be free from want.

World View: We have been here before (2001)

From the September 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard
A look at what lies behind the recent protest and police killings in Jamaica
Jamaica, with a population of just over 2.5 million, has witnessed 550 murders and 75 killings by the police between January and the end of June this year. At least 40 people have died in the last three months.

The recent spate of killings began on Saturday evening, 7 July, after police searched homes for guns in the Tivoli Gardens district of Kingston. The police said that their officers came under attack from snipers and people throwing homemade bombs. Initially, two policemen were said to have been killed. On Monday, the Prime Minister, PJ Patterson, the leader of the People’s National Party, announced that he was calling out the whole of the island’s army, adding that he might seek reinforcements from neighbouring countries.

Troops in trucks and armoured cars, backed by helicopter gunships overhead, patrolled the streets of mainly the Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town, impoverished areas of west Kingston, strongholds of the opposition Labour Party, led by Edward Seaga, the local MP for almost 40 years. Within three days at least 20 people had been killed and 30 injured. Protesters blocked the roads with burned-out cars, while gunmen strafed some streets with automatic weapons. The violence, however, also spread to other areas.

Politics of violence
Patterson said that “the government cannot stand by and allow criminal elements to hold the country to ransom”. He denied that the confrontations were politically motivated. But Seaga, the leader of the Labour Party, said that the trouble had been deliberately instigated by Patterson and the People’s National Party in advance of next year’s planned elections. “This is a ploy to turn popular opinion against us,” he said. The Labour Party currently has a large lead in the opinion polls.

The police commissioner, Francis Forbes, denied any political motivation for the raids in west Kingston. And he hinted that the attacks on the police has been centrally organised. “There’s someone there who can turn it off,” he said. That there are criminal gangs, and that drugs are involved, no one denies. But, as Julian Borger observed in the Guardian (11 July), “Jamaica’s political parties have fought a proxy civil war through street gangs” over the past 30 years, adding that “gang violence is epidemic in Kingston, now one of the most violent cities in the world”. The Times (11 July) commented that “Jamaica’s two main political parties are blamed for helping to set up and arm rival gangs 30 years ago in poor neighbourhoods of Kingston”. Indeed, Patterson’s predecessor, Michael Manley, turned the Jamaican political system during the 1980 election into a low-level civil war, in which more than 700 people were killed. But the People’s National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party have not been the only villains of the piece.

American involvement
During the 1972 election campaign the United States ambassador, Vincent de Roulet, warned Manley not to make the US-owned bauxite industry a nationalisation issue, otherwise he would “oblige” the opposition Labour Party to take up the issue. Manley kept quiet. He had, however, upset the American government by supporting the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which the United States government was attempting to destroy, and had established diplomatic relations with Cuba and the Soviet Union.

In December 1975 US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, arrived in Jamaica to “suggest” that unless Manley change his policies Jamaica’s request for a $100 million trade credit “would be reviewed”. The Jamaican Prime Minister chose not to toe the Kissinger line, and continued to support the Cuban army presence in Angola. The Americans moved into action. By 1976, prior to the election in Jamaica, the CIA station chief in Kingston, Norman Descoteaux, drew up a destabilisation programme. Covert shipments of arms were sent to the Jamaica Labour Party. In one shipment alone, which was aborted by the Manley government, there were 500 submachine guns. Pro-Labour gangs began to use such tactics as arson, bombing and assassinations. And a wave of strikes in the transport, electrical and telephone industries hit the island, provoked largely by the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), the CIA’s principle labour “front” in Latin America and the Caribbean. The AIFLD also provided covert financial support the Labour Party, as well as infiltrating the Jamaican government’s security service.

Propagandists also arrived from the United States, including evangelists and faith healers, preaching against the “evils of communism”. Locally, the Daily Gleaner poured out a stream of anti-Manley propaganda, who, in the October 1980 elections, was defeated mainly due to the continuing deterioration in the standard of living of the workers, but, in no short measure, due to the intervention by the United States.

Problems for the Jamaican working class did not, however, begin in 1980 or 1975. Writing in 1969 (World Socialism 69), George Dolphy, a member of the then Kingston socialist group, stated that while 20,000 kids leave school every year, it was estimated that there were 150,000 unemployed on the island. Factories were closing, and the sugar industry, one of the chief users of labour, was in decline. Moreover, an emerging Black Power movement was preaching violence, particularly against “Chinese and people of a fair complexion”. He concluded: “The situation in undeveloped countries like Jamaica is tense, changing, and difficult to forecast. One thing is certain: their development need not be a transition period as often believed, but can be a permanent state. Looking around, the task that faces a socialist seems overwhelming. With communication so advanced, however, who can tell how people will react to events throughout the developed world? The restriction and waste of capitalism will become obvious to them. Spreading socialist knowledge may not be so difficult after this.”

In Jamaica, as elsewhere? We hope so.
Peter E. Newell

To the workers of Zambia (2001)

From the September 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard
We publish below the text of a speech delivered at a recent meeting by one of our comrades in Zambia, Kephas Mulenga:
We have been deceived by the government, the trade unions, the banks, the employers and the newspapers.

Let us stand still and reflect: why does the whole horrible social system seem to repeat itself? Why are the majority on the losing side? We vote for what we don’t know. Our vote is powerless to restrain inflation and unemployment. Your Christian hopes and freedoms remain couched in millenniums of divine perplexity – a reality that can only come to maturity after we are dead. It is us, the ordinary working people, who have helped so much to prop up the sickening wages system.

We have accepted without complaint the modalities of a class-divided society and we have laboured to make the system succeed through our dedication and stubborn discipline – matched with a flamboyant reverence for intellectual mediocrity, romance and criticism. But still you keep on to vote for the political system that only implements its promises when a general election is around the corner.

The government surrendered council houses to sitting tenants and hiked civil servants’ salaries and the electorate thought here is a government to trust. But capitalism is not a social system that you can fool – not for too long. The consequences of these measures are not foreseen and shall result in long-term poverty. Capitalism is not a system that can love and care for you. It only thinks about you when a general election is round the corner.

Let me warn you now that hefty salaries awarded to civil servants would cause necessary side-effects upon the income and expenditure of the country. The side-effects would pronounce themselves so hard upon unemployment, and public spending on education, health and social services would decrease in proportion to the increase in public expenditure on civil service related emoluments.

The strike by teachers, nurses, doctors, magistrates and council employees fully endorsed and sanctioned the working-class expression of political resentment against the government’s failure to uplift the declining standards in the civil service.

The strike by the civil servants is the latest expression of working-class-organised militancy against state exploitation. The civil servants are seeking to negotiate wage increments from the government as a section within the working class – but not for the non-unionised working class. Thus the hefty salaries accorded to the public workers does not in any manner signify the immediate appeasement of the entire working class in Zambia.

The Civil Servants Union of Zambia has succeeded to win the class struggle on behalf of public workers – but what about those engaged in the private sector? It is time the workers engaged in the informal sector started to think about intensifying the class struggle by increasing pressure upon the private economic sector.

The failure of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions to spearhead a working-class-organised labour resistance against the forces of oppression has led to the disintegration of the labour movement. The ZCTU has disintegrated into splinter unions because it has placed so much faith in compromising its principles with the objectives of the state.

The nullification of the constitutional amendment referendum consequent upon the ratification of a third-term presidency has led to the emergence of the Forum for Development as another new opposition party in Zambian domestic politics.

Though the Forum saw delegates from all walks of life, its motif is the building of a new political opposition embracing religions, trade unions, civil servants and women. It is mostly dominated by the 22 members of parliament dismissed by President Frederick Chiluba.

But like every Zambian opposition party the Forum for Development lacks a working-class following. Both UNIP and the MMD originated from the grass-root level – the strength of their leadership was derived from popular and charismatic credentials. Both UNIP and MMD strengthened their popularity by consolidating the evident tribal allegiances obtaining in rural areas.

In Zambian domestic politics antagonistic class interests are not very pronounced compared to tribal prejudices and do not determine the priorities of political parties. Voter apathy denotes an electoral boycott of parliamentary and constitutional legality. Political parties and hence governments are assessed on the degree of mass support.

Thus the existence of voter apathy depicts a boiling point in Zambian political history. It illuminates working class self-realisation independent of party allegiances.

The MMD is a clique of political thugs and hoodlums. It has prolonged itself to power through amendments to the constitution and well-timed presidential donations. It is a government that has failed thoroughly in all its dealings.

We in the World Socialist Movement call upon the entire working class in Zambia to rally behind us in our efforts to create a socialist consciousness, detached from the contradictions taking place in the political struggle between the contending traditional political parties whose political and economic manifestos manifest the prolonging of tribalism, nepotism and neo-colonialism.

We strongly believe that the historical conditions are omnipresent within Zambia which can lead to a working class inspired socialist revolution.
Kephas Mulenga

The allotments (2001)

A Short Story from the September 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

They had been there for years. My wife had had one for at least 25 years. The soil was terrible; it had taken years of applying compost to make it anything like half decent. By age-old custom and probably some by-laws from before the industrial revolution councils are obliged to provide sites for allotments for those who want one, but that does not mean that they have to care about what sort of ground you get.

In the beginning we all paid our rent directly to the Council. This was not particularly satisfactory since they had a whole list of rules and regulations and were very strict about keeping at least two-thirds cultivated at all times, otherwise you were not renewed. This could be difficult in cases of illness or adversity. I remember there was a rather nice little gorse bush which I wanted to keep to shelter a hedgehog and a small pond for the frogs, but these had to go.

Then the scheme was mooted for self-management which we had to vote on. There was a distinct possibility that we would all be chucked off to make way for developers, especially as there were so many vacant lots. For the Council the benefits were obvious. They were relieved from all the paperwork and inspections and dealing with individuals and could work through the committee. Just as employers often prefer to work with trade-union representatives who talk the same language, so the Council could put pressure on a committee who, they hoped, would keep us in order. Complaints from neighbouring houses about bonfires for instance.

The overwhelming majority vote was “for”. Would it work?

The result has been impressive. In fact you wouldn’t recognise the place. The paths have been smartened up, we have collectively bought power tools; cultivators, lawn-mowers and strimmers, which are hired out for very little money, we have an arrangement with a stables for straw and dung which they deliver, and we now have a very handsome shed for committee meetings, outdoor table and chairs and the facility to make tea for those who like to live down there.

We have a member who runs a skip business who supplies us with all manner of odds and ends of wood and junk that come in handy and all for free. Add to this a much-improved watering system with adequate tanks close enough for everybody. There are very few plots left that are not taken up now and should a plot lie empty for a while it is ploughed and rotovated so that newcomers don’t have a daunting mass of weeds.

Left to ourselves things are well organised, democratically run and, although we have a few minor problems from time to time these are sorted out harmoniously.

Very much like society could be if we wanted it.
Cyril Evans

50 Years Ago: Growing Unity of the Lab.-Cons. (2001)

The 50 Years Ago column from the September 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Listening to the Labour and Tory parties trying to explain the points of difference in their respective policies reminds one of that popular ditty of a few years back, “You say ‘neether’ and I say ‘nighther.'” There is no basic idea now held by one of these parties which is not held by the other, though each may express it in different words. Whether or not this tendency, which is almost daily becoming more marked, is viewed by either as a sign of the correctness of its policy, it should certainly be of the greatest interest to those who imagine that any fundamental change would result with the advent of a Tory government.

Generally Labour politicians are inclined to adopt a rather smug attitude towards the inability of the Tories to advocate any radical change. When referring to any of their doubtful achievements, such as the now legendary “free” teeth and specs, they chide their opponents for being unwilling to oppose them openly, at least to a degree greater than the Labour Government has since been forced to do so. They offer their supporters, in consolation for the hardships that Capitalism inevitably imposes on the working class, the comforting thought that anyway the Tories could do no better.

(From front page article, Socialist Standard, September 1951)

Causes of Nazi anti-Semitism (2001)

Book Review from the September 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Anti-Semitism & National Socialism. By Moishe Postone (Chronos Publications.)

It may seem odd that the release of an essay on the historical material causes of Nazi anti-Semitism could be timely; but this re-issue of Moishe Postone’s 1986 essay certainly is.

Postone’s effort is to locate the material causes of Nazi anti-Semitism neither in simple irrationalism or racism, nor in functionalist terms of fascism as the ally of big capital. Instead he locates the cause through Marx’s theory of commodity fetishism: that relations between people appears as relations between things.

While the commodity hides real social relations, it also carries its own inherent contradiction between use-value and exchange-value. That is the physical objects of capitalism are also accompanied by an abstract monetary content. Postone postulates that the core of Nazi thinking lay in a Romantic favouring of the physical object over the abstracted monetary content, i.e. favouring use-value and physicality over exchange-value and ideas. This approach is flawed in as much as it still sees the concrete commodity in place of the social relationship that lies behind it, i.e. it continues to accept the basis of capitalism whilst rejecting only a part of it, the money side.

Postone contends that this can account for the fact that despite their anti-Modern tendencies, the Nazis could still favour and employ advanced technology, most horrifically in the attempted industrial destruction of a group of people. Having found the Jews as a convenient focal point for their anxieties regarding the abstraction of commodities under capitalism (Jews being themselves world-wide and seemingly apart from the communities in which they live). Thus, the Holocaust comes to be figured as an attempt to render the abstract Jew physical, firstly by slave labour, and then the stripping of their material worldly possessions, before the final annihilation of their “abstract” content through the industrial gas chambers.

This pamphlet is timely in that it relates Nazi ideology both to capitalism, and to a wider form of seeming anti-capitalism (such as the British Labour movement) which has historically counterposed industrial capital to finance capital. Indeed, this process is going on today in terms of the street anti-capitalist movement, with its opposition to the WTO and the World Bank, counterposing globalisation to a concrete localised (possibly national) capitalism.

Whilst Jews are no longer functioning as a convenient focus for this fetish, this breed of thought remains damaging and potentially dangerous. This pamphlet demonstrates the imperative for getting across a clear understanding of what capitalism is, and using that as a means to combat it, rather than attacking surfaces.

Although written in difficult and academic language, Postone has managed to get a very powerful argument across in this remarkable short essay.
Pik Smeet

A happy ending (2001)

Book Review from the September 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Millennium. By Upton Sinclair, Seven Stories Press, 2000.

Now this is a story with a real happy ending: “The last capitalist . . . starved to death . . . and the Co-operative Commonwealth reigned forever after!” As propaganda The Millennium (first published 1924), is hot stuff. Sinclair deals with such heavyweights as the revolutionary transformation of consciousness and the materialist conception of history, by concrete (if ludicrous) examples in an interesting and readable way. Yet the one basic problem is that, despite his relentless materialism, Sinclair was a utopian. It was the inevitable failure of Sinclair’s previous venture, an experimental commune called Helicon Hall, that led him to write The Millennium as a play in 1907. Sinclair brings the woolly utopian ideas, such as the broad-based “humanitarian” appeal to all classes, forward with him. The most noticeable aspect of this is that his co-operative commonwealth (which is as socialist as we could possibly demand) is formed by a policy of withdrawal from capitalist society. It is, and always has been, our view, supported by historical evidence, that this strategy is doomed to failure. Useful as such communities are as examples of the possibilities of co-operation, in the long run they do not enhance the prospects of socialism.

Beginner’s guide (2001)

Book Review from the September 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marx: a beginners guide. By Gill Hands, Hodder & Stroughton.

As a basic introduction to Marx’s ideas for 10- to 16-year-olds this short book could, with some reservations, be recommended. It is rather unfortunate that this age group is not specified as it would provide a useful resource, especially for schools.

Brief summaries of Marx’s ideas on philosophy, economics and history are particularly well-written. The most serious errors are in a paragraph regarding the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. For Marx, this was a very brief period in which the proletariat as a whole are able to dictate to the bourgeoisie. Since the working class is the vast majority such a stage could not be undemocratic, as the author states.

Similarly, the communist (or socialist) party as the “vanguard of the proletariat” is not a concept found in Marx’s writings and is entirely a Leninist product. While Marx did envisage a purely political period of transition before the creation of communism, he did not refer to this as “socialism” since in his works the terms “socialism” and “communism” are used interchangeably to refer to the new system of society following capitalism.

These and some others are common mistakes and do not detract too much from a generally useful work.

Corporate takeover (2001)

Book Review from the September 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Captive State. The Corporate Takeover of Britain. By George Monbiot, Macmillan.

The British state was traditionally seen by liberal commentators as one of the most “well-established” parliamentary democracies, relatively free of corruption. But this perception is changing, with much talk of a “disconnection” between the interests of the people and the activities of government. George Monbiot’s book is an important contribution towards this shift of opinion.

The reluctance of many a Labour voter at the recent election can quickly turn into outright regret, after a few minutes of picking up this book. Monbiot takes the reader beyond the run-of-the-mill media illusion of politicians’ and their supposedly all-important press conferences and five-point plans. This is about the incorporation of corporate interests into the machinery of government.

Monbiot shows many cases where the business agenda determines the ground rules to which government is expected to adhere. Large retail firms and construction companies, for example, are shown to have acquired a strong grip over planning and development policy. Nick Raynsford’s 1998 withdrawal of Labour’s pledged right of appeal against town planning decisions is one of numerous examples of broken promises and contradictions in Labour policy exposed by Monbiot.

This reviewer had a recent, first-hand experience of the absence of democracy in local government – at a council planning meeting to consider a proposed “development” behind the garden where I live (actually the removal of some old woodland to make way for a car park). All Labour party councillors voted in favour without any of them even bothering to speak in defence. Local residents had found out about the meeting in spite of it having not been officially publicised and scheduled during a holiday period. They expressed the many arguments against the plan: pollution, noise, environmental quality etc but the shameful-looking Labour councillors did not reply, knowing that they had a majority over the Conservative Party minority who opposed the plan. “And this is supposed to be a democracy,” said one resident afterwards. “It was all a stitch-up – planned weeks ago,” said another.

Monbiot shows that commercial interests are paramount at all levels of state decision-making. He shows how they influence government regulatory bodies and the research agendas of British universities (everything from the Environment Agency to the Biotechnology and Biology Research Council). The “Fat Cats Directory” lists many business people who have served industries such as biotechnology and petroleum, whilst also having a role in the government-run institutions that supposedly regulate these industries.

Socialists have consistently said that the State never did exist to represent the interests of the majority of us (even if a majority of voters did elect the governing party that resides within it). The picture from Monbiot of corporation-dominated government is really the logical outcome of a class-divided society where the state must serve the owning minority. So what do we do about it? Monbiot calls for
“the peaceful mobilization of millions of people in nations all over the world. Globalization, in other words must be matched with internationalism: campaigning, worldwide, for better means of government” (p.357).
“Better” government, for Monbiot, means government that is held “accountable” and actively regulates corporations. Monbiot envisages this democratisation of government as occuring on an international scale through multilateral agreements. This book still points to the willingness of transnational corporations to relocate to more favourable climates for profit-making, as well as their capacity to change government policies to suit their interests. Yet Monbiot does not reach the conclusion of socialists that the profit motive will undermine reformist attempts to restrain it.

Monbiot’s vision of a political culture of “permanent agitation” is, at least, an implicit recognition of this built-in tension within capitalism. It is outlined in the final chapter entitled “A Troublemaker’s Charter”. The international campaign against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment is offered as an example of a successful international campaign. (This was a World Trade Organisation proposal for reducing the scope for national regulation of investment decisions; it was eventually withdrawn.) Yet, just a few pages on, the more recent Transatlantic Economic Partnership (involving the US and the EU) is introduced; a more gradualist move towards the same kind of goal, says Monbiot. So, the trouble-making should not ease up. More of it is needed as the problems of capitalism continually spill forth.

Monbiot does not consider the possibility that, when peacefully mobilised, the people of this world might seek to permanently end the cause of the social divisions he describes.
Dan Greenwood