Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Letter: Rubel and Marx (1982)

Letter to the Editors from the October 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

Rubel and Marx

I write in response to an article by ALB (Luxemburg) in the June Socialist Standard. He makes several comments that I find difficult to understand.

According to Rubel, says ALB, Marx saw the working class as having an "ethical" or "historical" mission to abolish capitalism. ALB later goes on to say that apart from the word "ethical" Rubel's position is similar to the SPGB’s in that if the working class do not make the conscious choice to abolish capitalism or make this "ethical decision" to do so then capitalism will continue.

I believe ALB to be wrong when he assimilates the words "historical" and "ethical" because the ideas these words represent are not compatible. The "historical" mission of the working class is the materialist understanding of its position as a class in society and the pursuit of its own material advantage through the political struggle with the opposing class. This specifically excludes any ethical or moral considerations which to a materialist are irrelevant to the politics of socialism. And so surely when a socialist speaks of the "conscious choice" for socialism he is most definitely not thinking in the “ethical" way that both Rubel and ALB seem to think.
Andrew Westley, 
Sawston. Cambs.

Of course the "conscious choice" of the working class to establish socialism will be based on a recognition that it is in their material interest to do so and not on some abstract moral principle and we never meant to suggest otherwise.

We don’t however want to get into an abstract semantic argument about the relative meanings of the words historical, ethical and moral. Suffice it to say that some people argue that any situation in which there is a choice involves a moral or ethical decision; in other words, they are using these words virtually to mean the same thing as choice. We don’t use these words in this way. Rubel does. But there is no need to make a fetish of mere word-forms where the meaning is the same: that socialism can only be the outcome of a deliberate, conscious choice on the part of the working class, in pursuit, as we said, of their material interests — but a choice nevertheless.

Letter: The Path to Socialism (1982)

Letter to the Editors from the October 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Path to Socialism

Dear Editors.

Your literature does not seem to offer an acceptable path to socialism. Obviously socialism must be worldwide; once you are elected you seem to think that socialism will just "happen". Possibly, in fact probably, most other countries will not have socialist governments. So what will you do in Britain whilst waiting for our friends abroad to come into power?

In Steve Coleman’s article "Class v. Class” (July 1982 Socialist Standard) he says that "Some misguided workers who call themselves socialists, but are in fact the most backward of social thinkers, actually organise processions demanding the right to be exploited". I presume he refers to the right to work campaigns. These are an essential part of the fight for socialism. When the people see us helping them they will join us. Yours is the misguided view, criticising every quest to better our conditions, workers will look upon you as fools and supporters of the capitalists. Please stop your ridicule of workers' fight for better conditions under capitalism, these are necessary and will precede the formation of a socialist world.

Militant's views are much like yours, although they say what they will do whilst awaiting the world socialism they want, when the right wing of Labour move out to the SDP Labour will again be a Marxist party and able to bring about world socialism. I am sorry, but I cannot see your party gaining any significant support in the near (100 years) future. Not because of your views but because of your size and lack of opinions relating to day to day issues.
Chris Cooke 

As any reader of the Socialist Standard is aware, the SPGB has very clear, definite opinions on day to day issues; Chris Cooke confuses opinions which he happens to disagree with with having no opinion. Our policy on day to day issues is that workers must struggle to defend and improve their wages and working conditions under a capitalist society; that is an essential, inescapable part of the class struggle. But we recognise the limitations of these struggles; they cannot bring about a comprehensive, permanent solution to the workers' problems. That can only happen by the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by socialism. We also insist that much of the “day to day struggle" has nothing to do with working class interests. It is often for some ephemeral, inconsequential reform within capitalism or even at times for some blatantly anti-working class aim like "national self-determination". Workers everywhere should avoid such "struggles" like the plague.

Socialism will not be the work of any government and it will not take place as the result of a majority of socialist MPs behaving just like Labour and Tory members now — legislating on issues of capitalist reform. It will be a very different process — it will arise from the democratic action of the international working class in a deliberate, conscious decision taken in full knowledge of the nature of socialism and of how it will end the problems of capitalism. A socialist working class will not need — or want — anyone to set themselves up as leaders and to "help" them to socialism; they will know thoroughly how to get it for themselves. They will elect socialist delegates to the various seats of parliament throughout the world mandated to take over the state machines and transform them into agents of working class emancipation.

Any differences there may be in the timing of this event in the various parts of the world will be so slight as not to affect the matter. Socialism is a process of changing ideas and ideas spring from prevailing material conditions. In terms of broad social concepts they keep pace and as the means of communication develop this tendency will increase. At present, for example, there is a general acceptance throughout the world of the capitalist system of society, of its preconceptions, principles and morals. Workers everywhere offer the same arguments in support of capitalism and the same objections to socialism. It can thus be said that the development of socialist ideas will follow the same pattern; capitalism will be questioned, rejected and finally overthrown more or less simultaneously all over the world.

Campaigns like Right to Work have always been justified on such grounds as “an essential part of the fight for socialism" or that they will "precede the formation of a socialist world". In fact they have if anything delayed socialism; they have misled and confused workers into a belief that they must divert their attention from an uncompromising, immediate demand for a social revolution into campaigns for reforms of capitalism. None of these have any useful, permanent effect on workers' lives except that, by delaying socialism, they worsen workers’ conditions. Unemployment does not happen because of an absence of demonstrations against it and it cannot be removed as a result of such demonstrations. It happens as a direct consequence of the anarchy of capitalist production and the only permanent solution is to struggle, not for the Right to Work (whatever that may mean), but for an end to the social system in which class exploitation is basic.

Militant has the absurd ambition to change the Labour Party while leaving untouched its basic nature as a party of capitalism. It was never a Marxist party; it never propagated Marx's analysis of history, economics and politics (which in fact effectively destroy the case for muddled reformists like Militant) so it cannot "again" be a Marxist party. There is already such a party and any workers who are interested in propagating Marxian ideas should be in it. That party is the SPGB.

Promised Land (1982)

From the December 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

The “promised land” of Biblical myth is so-called because, for all the impoverished Jewish and Arab workers who are trained to kill over it. “promised” is all it will ever be. Investors, capitalist employers of one side or another will continue to dominate, or come to dominate, the lucrative industry and markets there as long as world capitalism remains.

Class division among Jews was typified towards the end of the last century by the reaction of the “Cousinhood” of established Anglo-Jewry to the wave of poorer Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. For example, Benjamin Cohen, the Conservative MP for Islington at the time, supported the 1905 Aliens Act to limit further immigration. The historical tendency towards international integration and class polarisation makes Jewish nationalism, like its Palestinian counterpart, a pointless and reactionary response to the exploitation and oppression of the past and present. There is no Jewish “race": Israeli and British workers share the same interest in i breaking down national boundaries and forming a democratic, socialist society.

In the nineteenth century, Zionism developed as a nationalist movement similar to many others involving the setting up of capitalist states. Because of the banning of Jews from many fields of work in the Middle Ages, and the Christian ruling against taking part in money-lending, many Jews ended up as moneylenders. This was used as part of the vicious campaign of persecution directed against Jews over centuries, as they were used as a scapegoat for the problems of poverty and conflict which were endemic to the rise of capitalism. In the twentieth century, the idea of giving the Jews a country where they might be safe from the painful discrimination and attacks they had suffered was harnessed to the need for Western capitalism to have an outpost in an area of great strategic importance, the Middle East.

As early as 1840 Lord Shaftesbury, anxious to ensure an overland route to India, proposed a scheme of Jewish colonisation to use “the wealth and industry of the Jewish people for the economic development of a backward area”. In the nineteenth century Rothschild invested £2 million in Palestine, and the French government showed an interest in colonisation. The first Zionist conference was held in 1897 at Basle, at a time of violent anti-semitism in Germany and France. Herzl originally advocated a Jewish settlement in Uganda, but the congress decided on the area of Palestine, because of its religious significance. For thousands of years, it had been a crucially situated trade centre. The pogroms in Russia since the 1880s had sent thousands of Jews fleeing across Europe, and the prospect of a Jewish state seemed welcome to them.

During the First World War, as pact of its contradictory war-bribes, Britain promised the Jews a “national home” and the Arabs independence throughout the Middle East. In 1940 Joseph Weitz, then heading the Jewish Agency Colonisation Programme, wrote in his diary:
Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in this country . . . the only solution is Palestine without Arabs (Quoted in Socialist Charter, February 1979).
Indeed, the attempt to solve the problem of anti-semitism within a nationalist framework demanded that Jews should remain in a majority in the newly created state, with all of the immigration restrictions that implies, if the exercise was not to lose its point.

The state of Israel was founded in 1948, and by 1968 the annual influx of capital invested in the area was equivalent to about one tenth of the total world “aid” bill. Most of this capital was owned by British, French and American investors who did not live in the Middle East and for whom the religious ideals of Zionism meant nothing, other than a pool of labour inspired by those ideals to work hard to produce a substantial return for such investors.

Did the formation of Israel solve the problem of anti-semitism? Clearly not, and for three reasons in particular. First, the only real binding factor between people calling themselves Jewish is the acceptance of Judaism. Like other religions, Judaism is a reactionary dogma with its own implicit racism, in its reference to the “chosen people”. Second, capitalism generates racism and divisiveness because of its class divisions, and the competition between nations over world markets and between workers over jobs. The problems of poverty, unemployment, state violence and war are as evident in Israel as anywhere else. Israel is allied to the segregated state of South Africa. At least three Israeli trade unions bar Palestinian Arabs. The elements of Jewish culture which have attracted some to Zionism are all but wiped out by the demands of the capitalist state. Shops are opened on Saturdays, despite the religious ruling against it, to compete more aggressively for the market. Yiddish has been all but suppressed.

Thirdly, there is the creation of a new, Palestinian "diaspora” around Israel, and a Palestinian minority within Israel. The search for a scapegoat for the problems of the area, in the form of “Arab terrorists”, or the official anti-Jewish policies of some of the surrounding Arab states, are yet another way in which Zionism has generated racism, rather than ending it.

The persecution of Jews over many centuries, culminating in the Nazi genocide of the ’thirties, led many Jews sincerely to hope for a better future in the creation of a “humane” Jewish homeland in the Middle East. Such hopes are dangerously idealistic, and have themselves proved divisive and reactionary. The Zionists and Palestinian nationalists who argue over the borders in the area hardly own between them a single acre of that territory. As workers, owning no substantial property, they are arguing about where and by whom they will be exploited. The solution to the oppression which Jews have suffered is not to build “Jewish” prisons, tanks and bombs. The truncheons in the hands of Israeli police feel no different to those wielded in Germany, Russia or Ireland. In this respect, Israeli nationalism is basically no different from dozens of other nationalist movements with their roots in the nineteenth century expansion of capitalism. Each has its own myths, its own religious sanction, irrational loyalties, violence and senseless support for capitalism.

One final way in which racism is still being generated is in the reaction towards Israel’s recent military policies. Liberal newspapers like the Guardian, for example, have tried to interpret events by unsubstantiated racist myths:
Most opponents of the government are Ashkenazi, and most supporters of the government are oriental. "And those people don't understand peace or compromise.” said the journalist, "they understand dominance. And that's what Begin promises them.” For much of this constituency, the arguments about Palestinian purposes don't matter. (Martin Woollacott, 2 September 1982)
Like every other state, Israel is a political unit for the accumulation of capital. From 1948 to 1968, productivity increased nine-fold. Lacking natural resources, Israel imports more than 67 per cent of its raw material requirements, uses its pool of labour to work these up into finished products, and then exports nearly half of the resulting industrial production to earn foreign currency. In 1981, about 5 billion dollars was received from industrial exports, and 7.5 billion dollars spent by Israel on the world market. Since the early ’seventies there has been a high technology boom, which has largely replaced textiles and other industries of the ‘fifties. The general way in which the profit system functions across the world has been very clearly summed up in the ease of Israel as follows:
That magic ingredient (“added value”) is the difference between the cost of raw materials, plus transport and related costs, and the same price after the raw materials have been turned into highly sophisticated equipment . . . the higher the added value, the more foreign currency Israel earns. With diamonds, for example, the added value is between 20 and 25 per cent; in many electronic and other highly sophisticated products, it can reach between 45 and 70 per cent.
British Israel Trade, journal of British-Israel Chamber of Commerce, May/June 1982.
The wages and salaries on which the majority of Israelis depend in order to live are simply one of the "related costs" which this process seeks to minimise.

Seventy per cent of capital in Israel is owned by private investors, ten per cent is controlled by the state and about twenty per cent is owned by Hevrat Ovdim, the industrial holding company of the Histadrut, the main trade union, which is otherwise known as the General Confederation of Labour. In any of these cases, the same extraction of "added value” from the subordinate class of wage- and salary-workers is carried on in the interests of capital; 35 per cent of the budget goes on arms. When the Sinai Peninsula was evacuated it still had over 17 billion dollars' worth of military bases and armaments invested in it. It was Israeli and American shareholders who lost out as a result, not wage-earners or peasants.

Earlier this year, the President of the Israeli Bonds Drive attended a London lunch given by Bank Leumi for “business people and financiers”. He reported that Israel’s stock exchange, currently valued at over 11 billion dollars, is growing "by leaps and bounds" and is second in profitability only to Singapore, with an average rate of profit of 18 per cent. Israel Bonds are now the third most widely held security in the USA, after US government bonds and shares in AT and T. The President of the Bonds Drive stressed that Israel Bonds were “making an important contribution to peace". They are in fact doing so no more than Israeli bombs.

Some of the more idealistic of the early Zionists thought that it would be possible to establish a separate country which would be insulated from the conflicts and crises of world capitalism. This hope has also been shown as ill-founded by the course of history. Ernest Japhet, Chairman of Bank Leumi, said at the Industrial Club in Israel in January 1982, that “the Israeli economy, more than many other national economies, is dependent on developments in the world economy” and he went on to list problems such as fluctuations in markets and prices, and the uncertainties of market demand for Israeli exports.

The only practical way in which the majority of Israelis. Palestinians and others in the Middle East are going to come together in harmony and solidarity is through the recognition of their common class interest against their border-drawing rulers. How many Arab workers and peasants sat at the Arab summit conference of oil-sheiks and princes, which proclaimed the PLO the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”? How many Israeli workers, their wages and salaries trailing desperately behind the spiralling cost of living in Israel, are among the millionaire shareholders in high- technology industries, or American and French arms and firms?

Hundreds of thousands of Israeli workers have recently been involved in the Peace Now movement against the war in the Lebanon. If they are to make their dream of peace into a practical reality, they must be prepared to throw off their ideological chains of religion, nationalism and support for the profit system in any of its many forms. They could do worse than to follow the advice given nearly a hundred years ago. in the Yiddish socialist paper Arbeiter Freund (“Workers' Friend"). January 15, 1886:
We say again that no colonisation, no land of one's own and no independent government will help the Jewish nation. Jewish happiness will come with the happiness of all unhappy workers, and Jewish emancipation must come with the general emancipation of humanity.
Clifford Slapper

Blogger's Note:
A correction to an item in this article appeared in the January 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard.

Editorial: Nineteen eighty-two . . . (1983)

Editorial from the January 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

However 1982 is remembered, it will not be as a time when the human race progressed towards a resolution of any of its problems. It opened, as does every year, to a fanfare of wishes and prayers that it might be a period of prosperity, peace and happiness. It closed, as does every year, leaving memories of only poverty, fear and misery.

It was the year when unemployment in Great Britain topped the three million mark. There are very few politicians now who are eager to offer the Norman Tebbit explanation for unemployment — that it is nourished by the workers’ lack of will to find an employer. In that total of three million are young people fresh out of school or college, trained and conditioned to take their place in the galleys of wage slavery. To them, viewing their prospects, life on the dole is now as natural as life in employment is to their parents. Unless, that is, their parents are also out of work. The three million include a significant and growing number who have abandoned all expectation of ever again finding a job. Many have accumulated an impressive library of letters of rejection. The conclusion they draw, along with those economists who, mistakenly, argue that high unemployment is structural to capitalism, is that they will spend the rest of their life scrimping a miserable existence on the dole.

It is however important not to lose sight of the reality of this sorry situation. Unemployment is not the scandal which so many ambitious politicians, for example in the Labour Party, would have us believe. It is not some unnatural curse, to be exorcised by the high priests in a future Labour government. It is in fact quite natural to capitalism, a part of the system’s anarchic-cycle of boom and slump. Labour’s record in this is no better than that of the Tories; they have been no more successful in ordering the chaos of capitalist society.

The Labour Party’s present campaign on the issue seeks to gain from the popular belief that plentiful employment means security and prosperity. This belief is a long way wide of reality. Workers suffer poverty of varying intensity throughout their lives; it is an inescapable feature of their social status as members of the class which needs to sell labour power in order to live. There are times when this is easier than at others — in the heyday of a boom, for example, workers can exert more effective pressure in wage negotiations. At other times wages may be forced down, as is happening in many cases now, under the pressure of unemployment in a recession. But all such variations, up or down, do not affect the basic standing of the working class.

1982 was the year of the Falklands war— the year when anyone who thought that the bigotries, the bombast and the phraseology of Victorian imperialism were dead, fit subjects only for the satirist, had to readjust their ideas. The mindless jingoism which the government, supported by the official spokespeople of the Labour Party in parliament, was able to stimulate was soberly instructive to anyone who looks for signs of a developing enlightenment among the working class. The Falklands war showed that the crasser notions which prop capitalism up are alive and well and at their noxious business.

And by crass we do not just refer to the jingoism of Thatcher and her crew. The bombers were at work in Great Britain again in 1982, provoking a response as nasty and illogical as the theories which energise the bombers. The Irish nationalists, in their outdated bigotry and historical redundancy, are a prime example of those who, ignoring all reality and reason, insist that capitalist society would be more tolerable if some slight adjustments were made to it. In their case, Irish workers are recruited to kill and terrorise other members of their class in order to persuade the British government to withdraw their troops and to help organise Ireland into a single capitalist state. No working class interests are involved in such conflicts, although it is workers who pay for them with their blood.

There was, lest we forget, one event in 1982 which, we were informed by the media, was positively joyous. While millions throughout the world starved, two famous members of the parasite class, having first got married, together produced yet another parasite. Expensive doctors were there to ease the parasite into life and the great organs of public opinion (for such they like to regard themselves) rolled out their carpets of words in frantic celebration of the event. Socialists stand aside from all this; the birth of this new prince emphasised the class divisions of capitalism, the superiority in riches of the one class and the humiliation in poverty of the other.

And how, in 1982, did those humiliated workers react to the poverty, the fear and the degradations of capitalism? When they gave their verdict, it was depressingly hopeless. At each by-election there was solid support for the system to continue. The votes may have been redistributed a little from one capitalist party to another — from Conservative to Labour or Scottish Nationalist with the SDP picking up a few thousand from people under the delusion that they were voting for a fresh, original approach to politics. But the votes never threatened the theory that the society of class ownership of the means of life is logical, essential, efficient and therefore eternal. The security of the ruling class remained untouched.

Disappointing though this is, it does not weaken the socialists’ resolve to struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by a social system based on the communal ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution. We work for this not because we are blind optimists nor because we are inspired with a religious faith in an Armageddon of the intellect. The case for socialism rests on the evidence of history, that people bring social systems to an end as they outlive their historical purpose. Typically, the events of 1982 gave much support to the socialist case that capitalism is no longer of use in the process of social evolution and is now a bar to human progress. It is time for the revolution to establish socialism and the need grows more urgent with each passing day.

and three . . . (1983)

From the January 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

New Year. Recover from the hang-over in time to confront the lingering stench of capitalist reality. Another twelve months of 1982, but in a different wrapper.

What will dominate the news in 1983? Hollywood romances; Chelsea fashions; Labour does the splits; wars in unpronounceable cities; SDP debates its fisheries policy; cabinet reshuffle; Miss World contest; Mary Whitehouse complains about too much reality on TV; someone who is someone dies; Princess drops a baby parasite; more Hollywood romances. 1983 will be one of those years that could have been a month if it was made by a skilled worker.

What will not dominate the news in 1983? Grown men crying because they’ve lost their jobs and rents/mortgages need to be paid; the last shiver of a dying pensioner who is too old and too poor to keep warm; children looking in shop windows and knowing what they cannot have; thirty million deaths by starvation, with corpses rotting in the shadow of potential plenty; frightened kids dressed up as uniformed men fighting senseless battles for complacent parasites; the silent suffering of the lonely and alienated; the slam of thousands of prison cell doors; the endless grinding of poverty — the left-overs of 1982's poverty being made to last for 1983.

The year ahead will see success for some. New jobs; scouting badges; holidays in Benidorm; new hats; promotion; marriage; cats having kittens. It will also see success for others. Increased profits; evictions of “unreliable" tenants; new weapons of murder; six month holidays, anywhere but Benidorm; multi-million pound inheritances.

January is a deceptive month. It is like the first day of school or the first night of the proms. Everyone anticipates; everyone knows what it will be like. They know what to expect, but go through the ritual of hoping for something different: "Well, that’s bloody 1982 over . . . now let’s . . . er . . . do it all over again”. The ongoing march of pathetic history.

Resolutions made — and broken. "In 1983 I will not . . . drop crumbs on the carpet, watch Blankety Blank, steal staples from the office, disobey the Ten Commandments". For most wage slaves the resolution is unstated: "I resolve to be a good worker, not think too much about the society I live in, and produce the profits which keep my exploiters in idle comfort". Then there are the fraudulent and the naive: Margaret Thatcher — "I resolve to make all Britons free, happy and prosperous like they used to be in the good old Nineteenth century”. Ken Livingstone — “I resolve to turn London into a nuclear-free, fully-employed, semi-demi-socialist zone”. Arthur Scargill — “I resolve to run the system of exploitation to the benefit of the exploited".

1983 need not be this way. Just as the horrors of the past were not inevitable, so the horrors yet to come need never trouble us beyond our imaginations. To stop them, though, we need more than resolution; to stop them requires revolution. Beyond wishful thinking there is a need for practical political action. The revolution must be a conscious one, carried out by men and women who oppose the system of capitalism, where needs come second to profits, and understand and want socialism. We need a revolution

BECAUSE the present world social system, capitalism, is based on the ownership of the means of living (land, factories, offices, mines, farms) by a minority elite and the consequent enslavement of the working class by whose labour alone wealth is produced.

BECAUSE there is an antagonism of interests within capitalism, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce, and those who produce but do not possess.

BECAUSE the class struggle can only come to an end when the working class is emancipated from the domination of the capitalist class, by the conversion into the common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.

BECAUSE, if you are a worker the present system can never run in your interests. You are just one member of a class whose energies and talents are sacrificed to the needs of the profit system.

Reality is for people to make, turning dreams into weapons. Let’s create a good reason to be happy: not the new year, but a new stage in human history — world socialism.
Steve Coleman

Capitalism or Socialism? (1983)

From the January 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard
The following speech was made by Clifford Slapper on behalf of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, in a debate against Richard Blausten, a prospective parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party. The debate look place on 2 December in Islington.
Earlier this year, Margaret Thatcher told a group of Conservatives at Cheltenham that "We have ceased to be a nation in retreat. We have instead found a new confidence, born of the economic battles at home, and tested and found true 8,000 miles away". Several months before, a 44-year old Birmingham woman with two children had reportedly killed herself after being caught shoplifting (Guardian, 10 September). She was just one casualty of the economic battle glorified by Margaret Thatcher. The official Coroner’s Statistics for 1981 reported nearly 5.000 suicides in Britain in that year — an average of one every other hour. Of those they leave behind, in the hour of Thatcher’s speech, sixty were made redundant in Britain alone, and in the world as a whole 3,500 people starved to death.

The subject of this debate is whether production is to be for the profit of a minority who possess wealth without having to work to produce it. or for the use of all, to satisfy human needs directly. Defenders of capitalism argue that present property relations, class rule by a privileged minority, and dependence on market forces can be made to run in the interests of all. The daily experiences faced by all of us prove otherwise. My opponent in this debate can defend capitalism only by distorting our experiences or by knocking down false and mythical images of “socialism". The Russian regime, for example, was opposed by the Socialist Party as part of the capitalist world before Mr. Blausten was born and yet he takes it as his model of socialism.

Throughout history, people have come together to produce and distribute wealth. Society moves through successive forms, and capitalism is just one stage which arose out of earlier conditions, and gives rise to new conditions. The present world-wide society of capitalism is based on the ownership of the means of wealth production by a minority class. Through private shares or through the state, the factories, farms, mines, newspapers and so on are in the hands of a minority. In Britain, for example, according to Inland Revenue statistics, only seven per cent of the adult population have any shares, one per cent have four-fifths of all privately-held shares, and the richest one per cent possess more accumulated wealth than the poorest eighty per cent of the whole population. The majority class of workers have little or no capital and are forced to work for wages or salaries, producing and distributing wealth. When goods and services are sold on the market, a surplus is accumulated by the owners of capital, arising out of the difference between the wealth produced and the wages paid as the minimum living costs of the workers involved. For example, in 1981, Whitbread made £66 million profit on a turnover of £782 million. With earnings per share of 23p a holder of a million shares would have received £230.000 unearned income. The “value added”, that is, the wealth created by each worker, was £12,082. and yet the average wage was less than half that amount. This is the legalised robbery on which capitalism is based; rent, interest and profit derive from the unpaid labour of the working class.

The class struggle between capitalist and worker carries on as an inevitable result of this conflict of interests. We are urged by our employers to produce more and consume less by absurdly illogical arguments, such as when Campbell Adamson, then director-general of the CBI, was quoted in 1976 as saying: "We believe that the lower the increase we can give ourselves as a nation next year, the better off we will all be". The people whose interests he was representing do not have to worry about bills and mortgages. Last July, Tiny Rowland's wealth increased by £7.5 million in one week. Earlier this year, the Bolivian tin magnate, Patino, died leaving a fortune said to be incalculable — as early as 1947 he had inherited one billion dollars from his father. Richard Northcott was recently paid £17 million by Woolworths for his DIY shop chain; he had inherited a chain of shops in 1974 from his father; 23-year old Dena Al-Fassi has filed a divorce action for three billion dollars against her husband. Sheik Muhammed Al-Fassi. State capitalism also allows a minority to profit. In 1981. British Telecom made £1 billion profit, over £550 million of which was paid as interest to capitalists investing in the business.

In April 1981 the government issued guidelines for officials searching for social security frauds, advising them to investigate those with a "suspiciously high" standard of living. This did not refer to Tiny Rowland, but to those in the impoverished and subordinate class which produces all wealth. The Dl ISS has recorded nearly one thousand deaths from hypothermia each year recently. Norman Fowler has referred to NHS strikers as "cruelly irresponsible" but in July, thirty-four children, most of them dying, were turned away from Guy’s Hospital. London, because the hospital could not "afford" enough nurses to care for them. Increasing poverty leads to frustration, domestic violence, racism and drug addiction. A recent report has estimated that there are now 40,000 drug addicts in Britain.

The anarchy of market competition means that capitalism can only expand by fits and starts, with periodic crises which cut production back. This leads to the waste and the misery of mass unemployment. Unemployment benefit has been cut by about five per cent in real terms for each of the last three years. Instead of pooling resources in order to satisfy needs, we are regimented into the separate productive armies of companies and states competing for profits in the world market. At the moment, on average, one person dies of starvation each second. That is. one "Hiroshima" (120.000 dead) every other day. This is not because of any natural or inevitable scarcity. Farmers in America are being paid by the government not to grow wheat. A feature article in the Financial Times refers to “this paradox of rising malnutrition amid rising output in agriculture" and states that "gifts of free food, which can undermine local markets, can disrupt the process" (7 August 1979). The process referred to is the accumulation of capital by a minority through the market system. This is the warped logic of an anti-human system. Reports from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Bank show that there is no absolute scarcity of resources which would prevent us from producing enough for all.

In every field of life, capitalism has to place profit before human need. There are now 50,000 homeless families in Britain, but fewer houses are being built than at any time since the Second World War. Indeed, there are 600,000 empty houses in Britain, and plenty of adverts for houses each week in the Sunday Times — for hundreds of thousands of pounds each. Thousands of unemployed building workers are told that it is not profitable for houses to be built at the moment. Then there is the threat of final destruction. on which the government’s advice has become very well known: “If a death occurs while you are confined in the fall-out room, place the body in another room and confine it as securely as possible. Attach an identification" {Protect and Survive). The governments of the world are spending one million dollars a minute on armaments, and not a day has gone by since 1945 without a major war taking place somewhere in the world. Why have millions of people been slaughtered in this way? Those governments themselves admit that they have to compete over trade routes, mineral resources, territories and markets: all sources of profit for the owners of capital within a particular nation. Such are the priorities of capitalism.

Produce for use
What. then, is the alternative to all this? Socialism would be a democratic system of production purely for use, not for profit. It can be established by a political, democratic and conscious movement of the world's workers, organised without distinction of age, race, sex or occupation. The present capitalist states of the world must be taken over democratically and dismantled, in order to create the alternative which has been historically produced by capitalism itself. Socialist society, being based on the common ownership of resources, would have no need for police or armed forces, national boundaries, wages, profits or any monetary system. In place of the exchange of property there would be free access for all to the wealth we produce. We can save on the waste of the advertising industry which tells people what they need, by deciding democratically what we wish to produce and consume. The duplication of the market, where rows of shops compete to sell the same shoddy items, and in which nuclear bombs and thalidomide can be produced because they sell, while 3,000 die for the lack of a kidney machine in Britain alone each year; all this can become a thing of the past.

If wealth is produced freely to satisfy needs without any buying, selling or “barter”, a whole range of coercive and commercial jobs essential to the present system would become unnecessary. Ticket collectors, security officers, accountants, bank staff and many others could enter useful, productive occupations. All of the present talk about “work-sharing" as the answer to unemployment cannot be implemented under capitalism, since the interests of profitability demand that a weekly "living wage" be paid to the minimum number of people, to work the longest possible hours, and produce the maximum amount of wealth within that week.

In a socialist society only the best would be produced for all. Without class, there would be no point in “lower price”, second-rate goods for people who cannot “afford” any better. The only limitation lies in the natural and human resources available to us, and the problem to be faced by socialist society will be how best to produce and distribute goods and services in accordance with freely expressed human needs, on a world scale. Without commercial competition and restraint, we need not be artificially hindered in our efforts to care for those who might be too young, old, sick or weak to care for themselves. In socialist society, work becomes voluntary and cooperative and the foundation of social organisation is a harmony between individual and social self-interest. Communications can be organised on a democratic basis, using the technology which is already developed. People can participate in production initiatives on a local and regional basis. The end of property society will be the beginning of consciously made human history. Cultural diversity can flourish in a world of harmonised aims without the arbitrary divisions of national policing boundaries. The economic dependency of children on parents, wives on husbands and elderly parents on children would be replaced by a social dependency of mutual aid, in which security can be based on the stability of society itself.

What is the reaction of the social conservative to this prospect of liberating the productive forces of society from the fetters of profit? The present round of pollution, waste, poverty and war, it seems, is preferable. People may want houses to live in, clothes to wear, but why should investors allow us to build and make them if it is not profitable to them? “Market forces deliver the goods"? Four tons of explosives for every person on earth, while thirty million starve to death each year. “Individual enterprise”? In 1980, twenty small businesses went broke each day. If a worker were to save £5 each week to buy the Duke of Westminster’s London property alone, it would take 7.5 million years. “Freedom”? For those who monopolise wealth to continue to do so.

What is the lory, monetarist Utopia? Let the crisis run its course, they say, to restore profitability. There should be no inflation, little state intervention, weak trade unions, they say. Just like during the nineteenth century, which culminated in the Great Depression, mass unemployment and the First World War. Capitalism cannot be made harmonious, humane or even efficient. Unemployment is at three million and rising in Britain (and twelve million in the USA) because of world capitalism's inevitable periodic recession. Labour and Tory defenders of this system engage in futile arguments over whether private or state spending is most capable of regenerating the wage-slavery of employment. The Left neglect a key point of Marx's economic work, that the trade cycle of booms and slumps is inherent to world capitalism.

The present system is incompatible with genuine democracy or serving human needs. When faced with the alternative of socialism, defenders of capitalism dismiss genuine social democracy as impossible. As one famous statesman put it: “history has demonstrated that throughout time and space . . . there have forever been two classes of persons . . . one dominating and the other dominated . . . has it not always been a minority, through the machinery of government, that imposes its will on the great mass?” These were the words of Mussolini, the founder of Fascism. This argument, borrowed from religious mythology, that people are innately evil, unco-operative and incapable of organising themselves democratically is disproved by the course of human history.

Human supremacy over the earth was achieved by mutual co-operation, not competition. The classless, primitive communism of hunter-gatherers existed until just the most recent 15.000 years of human life. Capitalism over the last few centuries has been the culmination of this period of society, in which the institution of private property has been used to increase production to a level which makes world socialism a practical alternative. Capitalism has developed technology rapidly, but unevenly and with waves of waste and destruction. It has united the world through international trade, but divided it through economic and military conflict between rival nation states. It has produced two final, universal classes of capital and labour, and the potential for producing enough for all, which is constantly frustrated by the law that without profit, there must be no production. There are brutal state dictatorships across two-thirds of the world and a dictatorship of the boardroom in the remaining third. There is a constant danger of frustration leading to fascist responses, for example in the frightening rise of physical attacks on Asians in Coventry and other places over the last few years.

There is an increasingly urgent choice between the continuation of hunger while food is destroyed or not produced at all, and of escalating militarism alongside the almost universal desire for peace, and the alternative of socialism. What is needed to harmonise society is a social revolution based on the desire to direct change in our own material interests, rather than letting it direct us.

An employer, writing in the Chicago Daily News on 16 June 1906. justified his policy of providing benefits for his workers as follows: “When I keep a horse and I find him a clean stable and good food, I am not doing anything philanthropic for my horse". Since then, class consciousness and understanding among workers has forced the ruling class to become more discreet. But the moulding of millions of human beings into units of profitable production, our consumption of wealth minimised as "labour costs", will continue until we change the basis of production. Defenders of capitalism tell us that we are incapable of organising democratically to change society. In conclusion, we urge you to join with us in proving them wrong.