Tuesday, June 4, 2024

A critique of political ecology (1987)

From the June 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

In last January's German elections Die GrĂ¼nen — the Greens — increased their representation in the Bundestag from the 27 seats they had won in 1983 to 42. This makes them the envy of "ecology" parties in the rest of Europe. Compare their success with, for instance, the performance of the Green Party in Britain in recent by-elections: 264 votes in Greenwich and 403 in Truro.

Even though ecology is a politically-neutral scientific discipline its particular field of study — the relationships of living organisms to each other and to their non-living environment — makes it one that has an important relevance for human social activity. This is because humans too are natural organisms, in fact the only ones, due to their particular biological make-up, capable of regulating and changing their relations with the rest of nature.

Ecological research has shown the present relationship of human society to the rest of nature to be damaging — both to the rest of nature and so in the end to humans themselves as part of nature. It seems reasonable that an ecologically-inspired movement should have arisen calling for social and political action to change this relationship. The German Greens present the argument for this in their Federal Programme in the following way:
A prerequisite of an ecologically oriented political view is the recognition of the interdependence between the balance of nature and life cycles, and an awareness of the consequences of human interference in nature. Our highest aim is therefore the enlightenment of the population concerning these relationships. The urgently needed communal approach to an ecologically oriented form of politics is still obstructed by powerful economic interests. An economically informed political policy which looks towards the future must replace our present profit-oriented mode of thinking. We must put a stop to the violation of nature in order to guarantee her survival and ours.

In the future economic goals should only be realised within a framework of ecological necessities. Our greatest imperative must be the least possible alteration of natural processes.
We can fully endorse both the ecologically-based criticism of present-day human society — capitalism, in its private form in the West and its state form in the East — and its conclusion that humans must take action to change it. Where we differ from the various Green and "ecology" parties and groups is over what action should be taken.

Briefly, we hold that what is required is a fundamental social revolution, to be carried out by democratic political action, to make the natural and industrial resources of the world the common property of all humanity. Only on this basis — the abolition of all property rights over nature and what is produced from it — can production be re-oriented from its present aim of profit-making and unlimited capital accumulation towards the satisfaction of human needs in an ecologically acceptable way.

Very few political ecologists see the establishment of a property-less society as the only way in which humans can consciously regulate their relations with the rest of nature so as to respect ecological imperatives. The vast majority of them see what the German Greens call “an ecologically informed political policy" as involving little more than trying to limit the damage the present economic and social system causes to nature. When they enter into the details of the "ecologically oriented" economic system they would like to see eventually replace the present one, it turns out to be a system which retains property, money, markets, banks, taxes and so on. In other words, they imagine that they can re-orient the wages-prices-profits system that is capitalism along ecological lines. But this is an illusion: capitalism can no more be reformed to respect ecological imperatives than it can be reformed to serve the interests of the wage and salary working class.

Green parties may be very good at criticising present-day society from an ecological point of view and in identifying what productive practices would have to be adopted to respect the balance of nature (such as maximum use of renewable resources, recycling of materials, interchangeable spare parts and energy conservation) but they go completely off the rails when they imagine that ecologically-acceptable productive methods could be imposed on the present economic system by public pressure, government intervention, laws and tax reforms. In other words, they are wrong when they claim that the present capitalist economy could be gradually transformed into an ecologically-oriented one.

Most Greens would probably object to being told that they stand for reforming capitalism in a Green direction. Petra Kelly, one of the more prominent of the Greens in Germany, has even claimed that almost all German Greens hold, with regard to the East-West conflict, that "there is a form of capitalism on both sides, state capitalism on the one side and private capitalism on the other" (Green Politics by Charlene Spretnak and Fritjof Capra. Paladin, p.62). And the German Greens' Federal Programme identifies clearly enough the link between capitalism and ecological damage:
People in the Federal Republic of Germany are also affected by the ecological and economic crisis threatening industrial societies. This crisis is characterised by the increasing destruction of the biological basis of life for human beings and the exploitation of one human by another. The ruthless plundering of nature causes long-term damage which is in part irreparable. This damage is seen merely as an unfortunate side effect in the search for short-term profits. The biological basis of life is endangered by nuclear power plants, by air. water and ground pollution. by the storage of hazardous wastes, and by the spendthrift waste of natural resources. The ruthless plundering of human resources is even worse. The physical and psychological burdens experienced at work mount up as industry develops and utilises technology without regard for human beings. Production is not oriented towards the needs of people, but towards the interests of investors. The ecological balance of nature is sacrificed on the altars of economic growth and profit-winning competition.
"Economic growth" (capital accumulation) and "profit-winning competition", however, are not seen as inevitable consequences of the system of buying and selling, wages and profits but as a result of this system being dominated by big private and state enterprises whose size orients them to pursue these particular goals.

This mistaken economic analysis leads the Greens in a quite different direction from socialists. While we advocate an end to the wages-prices-profits system through the establishment of a world of common ownership and democratic control, they advocate that "large corporations should be split up into manageable units and administered democratically by the people who actually work there" and that these "smaller, more medium-size", self-managed units should practise ecological, as well as financial, accounting. In other words, they advocate that the wages-prices-profits system should be run by smaller, worker-controlled and ecologically-oriented businesses. This, however. is no solution to current ecological problems because it is completely unrealistic.

It is not decentralisation, smaller productive units and democratic control of work in themselves that are unrealistic (as defenders of the economic status quo would claim) , but their achievement within the framework of the wages-prices-profits system. In other words, they could be achieved but not within this system. As Karl Marx was the first to show clearly, in a situation where everything is produced with a view to being sold, where everything including human mental and physical energies is subject to buying and selling, economic forces come into operation which impose profit-seeking and capital accumulation on economic decision-makers whether these be individual property-owners, private corporations, state industries or workers’ cooperatives. It is not the internal structure of an enterprise that is important in this respect but the fact that it is an institution producing goods for sale on a market. These same economic forces also lead to the concentration and centralisation of the control of industry and to the short-term economic goals that result in monetary profits taking priority over longer-term ecological considerations.

We are aware that most Greens are suspicious of Marxian economics due to its association with the self-styled socialist regimes in the East which represent all that they reject in economics (productivism, gigantism, pursuit of unlimited economic growth) but these regimes are in no way socialist; rather they are examples of what Marx would have called state capitalism.

If the Greens can overcome this prejudice they would find that Marx’s analysis of the wages-prices-profits system of capitalism explains both why the ecological laws that ought to govern the relationship between human society and the rest of nature are not respected at the moment and how there is no way of this happening as long as this economic system, whose very essence is the externally-imposed pursuit of profits and unlimited capital accumulation, is allowed to continue.

Reinforced with such a knowledge of the economic laws of capitalism, the Greens’ understanding of the ecological laws of nature would lead them to realise that the political action demanded by the findings of ecological research is one aimed at replacing private and state property by common ownership and democratic control — replacing production for sale and profit by production solely for use. Socialism alone provides for the decentralised, non-hierarchical and non-exploitative society in harmony with nature that the Greens are searching for.
Adam Buick

Economics Exposed: Ownership and control (1987)

The Economics Exposed column from the June 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

The whole of human history has consisted of a series of social systems. Each of these social systems has been seen by most of the participants as a way of meeting human needs, by producing and distributing wealth. Those who have been prominent in the introduction of new types of social relationships have claimed that their movements were a step forward for humanity, a dramatic improvement in the organisation of wealth production.

In reality, however, we can now look back and understand that in each case what was really happening was that a particular class of wealth owners or would-be wealth owners were in fact pursuing their own interests, as a class, and simply dressing up this interest as being "the public interest". This was more than ever the case with the rise of the capitalist class in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. At that time, the conflict was between the needs of the "modernising" mercantile and manufacturing interests on the one hand and the landed aristocracy on the other.

The key choice facing humanity in the twentieth century, in contrast, is that between capitalism and socialism as systems of society. The socialist movement is unlike all previous movements for change. It emerged over the past hundred years as an expression of the interests of the working class. And unlike all previous classes, the working class forms a vast, dispossessed majority across the world which has no interest at all in developing any "property" base of its own. Indeed, any utopian schemes to turn all workers into small-time capitalists themselves, are in fact doomed to failure for just this reason; the survival of workers within capitalism depends on selling, at the best price possible, the only resource which, by definition, a wage or salary-earner can control — our own ability to work.

The interests of the majority class in society have therefore become identified more and more obviously with the destruction of all property relationships, rather than with their perpetuation. Even after decades of reformist theory and practice from both Tory and Labour parties in post-war Britain, for example, the existence of capitalism still guarantees that wealth becomes increasingly concentrated in the hands of a minority, as we shall see below.

In this column last month it was stated that this minority "possess” the working class as part of their assets. This reference to possession must, of course, be interpreted loosely, since capitalism has no use for the customs of ancient Greece and Rome, under which the wealth producers were the permanent property of slave-masters. Today, when employers invest in the productive power of wage-earners they still, like their ancient counterparts, enjoy the right of ownership over all wealth created by those wage-earners and yet they are not responsible for housing or feeding their wage-slaves outside any specific periods within which they are contracted to be employed.

What then, are the key differences between capitalism and socialism as economic systems?

1. Ownership and control
Capitalism is the dominant system of society throughout the entire world today. In every country, a minority class own and control the productive resources. Farms, factories, industrial plant and machinery, transport and communication networks; all of these are effectively in the hands of a small minority and controlled ultimately for their benefit, rather than for the free use and benefit of all. According to the official statistics published in the Social Trends survey (HMSO, 1987) the most wealthy ten per cent in Britain in 1984 owned more than half of all marketable wealth. This minority ownership and control of society's productive resources of course takes various forms. In the case of nationalised industries, the former shareholders now enjoy regular interest on the state bonds they were compensated with, so they continue to profit from the wealth created by the workers just as they did in the days when they were explicitly the owners. And in the case of Eastern-bloc style state control, or of "nationalisation without compensation". we see a new class of state bureaucrats, fulfilling the role of owning, controlling and profiting from production within that sector of the world capitalist system.

Socialism, by contrast, means the common ownership and democratic control of all productive resources. Factories and farms would then become the common heritage of all humanity, no more hived off or labelled with title-deeds than is the air we breathe, and freely accessible for the use of all.

2. The motive of production
On the socialist basis of placing these resources firmly in the hands of the human race as a whole, rather than allowing them to be owned and controlled by a minority group, it would then for the first time become possible for us to change the basis on which wealth is produced. At present, wealth production is likely to take place only if the goods and services which would result are likely to be profitably sold for cash on the world market. The level of production of everything across the world today is therefore tailored to meet market requirements rather than human needs.

Because the primary aim of production under capitalism is the generation of profit and the accumulation of capital, rather than purely to meet the needs of humanity as safely and comfortably as possible, it therefore follows that human life itself almost always comes a poor second to the pursuit of profit, as these two clash daily within the present. global social system. Examples of this abound, so here we present just one recent example, of the ironically named Herald of Free Enterprise:
Commercial pressures have prevented design changes in roll-on roll-off ships which might have saved the Townsend Thoresen ferry which sank off Zeebrugge harbour last Friday . . . Captain Nic Ruthford of the International Federation of Ships' Masters Associations, which has long expressed worries over Ro-Ro safety, said he would press for all Ro-Ros to be redesigned. He said: "The big problem is that one owner is not going to make expensive alterations that would put him at a disadvantage compared with his competitors until he absolutely has to".
(The Independent,10 March 1987)
Just like the millions who die each year of starvation or hunger-related disease while politicians dream up schemes for cutting back on production to restore profit levels, or for destroying the so-called "surpluses", likewise those who died in the ferry disaster were also sacrificed on the altar of profit.

3. The lives of the majority
One of the most important myths of capitalist economics, which must be exploded, is that workers are free-acting, independent agents, each "seeking their fortune" as best they can within the economic competition of the capitalist jungle. In fact, it is a key feature of the economic system we currently live under that the working-class majority are forced, through economic necessity, to take their own ability to work on to the labour market to be sold as a commodity. As a result of this, we are compelled to subjugate all of our human qualities of individuality and freedom. to give up our own creative needs and impulses, to cut out any individual style we may have, and present ourselves as neatly packaged and reliably productive machines for the consumption of our employers.

Consider, for example, the following passage from an official report which was attempting to persuade international employers to invest in British workers, by stressing the exploitative potential of what is on offer:
Not only does Britain's work-force perform well, its costs are remarkably low for what is one of the world's most highly developed countries. US Department of Labor figures show that British wage rates are among the lowest in the Western world. In addition, "on costs" (i.e. those labour costs which are additional to wages, such as state social security schemes and the financing of voluntary sick and pension schemes) are very low in Britain . . You will find the British work-force of today disciplined, motivated, skilled and ready for work. 
(BRITAIN, The Preferred Location, prepared by the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Central Office of Information. 1985)
It would appear, from such brazenly degrading statements, that the British ruling class believes they can talk about workers "behind our backs" without our knowledge. Perhaps they were forgetting that mass literacy has been predominant in Britain for some time.

To summarise, then. Past history has been a series of conflicts between classes, with each successive system serving the needs of a different minority class. Socialism means the total abolition of all property relationships, and is therefore the solution to the problems currently facing the working-class majority. Under capitalism, a minority own and control productive resources and production is geared to their profit. In socialism, productive resources would be owned in common by the whole of humanity and democratically controlled, so that production could be geared to human needs rather than the needs of the market. Under capitalism, the lives of the majority are dominated by the need to survive by selling our working ability on the labour market. The misery which results can only be ended by socialism, in which human beings would cooperate together consciously, to produce wealth with the sole aim of meeting human needs themselves.

Next month, we shall examine the precise mechanism by which capitalism functions, the exploitation of wage-labour.
Clifford Slapper

50 Years Ago: The Reason for the Show Trials in Russia (1987)

The 50 Years Ago column from the June 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Moscow correspondent of the Economist (February 27th, 1937) provides the answer to the question why did the Russian Government need the recent trials? It had to explain the breakdown of the grandiose five-year plans. This breakdown made it necessary to fend scapegoats, since no dictatorship ever dare let the population know that the dictator and his advisers may themselves have pushed their plans to a point where they became top-heavy and unworkable. Only, now that scapegoats have been found, is the population being told how badly some of the plans have worked:
Now that veteran Bolsheviks have confessed to deliberate sabotage in several major industries, the Government permits its people to learn of distressing conditions hitherto kept From them. Sabotage explains everything; revelation of gross inefficiency need not cast discredit upon central planning, which without some such explanation, might come into disrepute.

Official newspapers now reveal that conditions are most unsatisfactory on the railways. and in the non ferrous metal and chemical industries. Plants were designed hastily without an adequate knowledge of raw material resources. Capital was invested in the "least advantageous fields and those which presented the greatest difficulties for exploitation." For example, where lead and zinc ores were found together, only one or the other was utilised, Plans for new factories were altered locally, which resulted, according to one official newspaper, "in complete irresponsibility and confusion."
[From an article, The Reason for the Russian Trial, in the Socialist Standard June 1937.]

Obituary: Ernest Guy (1987)

Obituary from the June 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is with regret that we report the death of Comrade Ernest Guy at the age of 81

Ernie was a member of the Party for 54 years, having joined Southwark Branch in 1933. When he moved to Bellingham he transferred to Lewisham Branch then to Central Branch.

He was always an active member of his Branch and in the days of the local outdoor meetings would be found selling literature while his son Ray, also a Party Member, was speaking on the platform.

Included in his activities was membership of the Executive Committee over a long period, only ceasing to accept further nomination when he was 70 years of age.

He worked in the printing industry as a proof reader and the Party benefited from his expertise in this field. He did the proof reading for the Socialist Standard for a number of years and also worked for the Pamphlets Committee.

Although less active in his later years. Ernie maintained a keen interest in Party work especially in the new printing facilities at Head Office.

He was a comrade who did his share, and more, to spread the ideas of socialism.

We extend our sympathy to his wife Ethel, a familiar face at Conferences and meetings, and to his sons.
Grace Wood

Obituary: Ron Nicholson (1987)

Obituary from the June 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

We regretfully announce the death of Ron Nicholson, a member of West London Branch. Ron was a socialist for many years and became an active organiser in his branch, recently working hard in the combined activities of West London and Hammersmith Branches. His death came suddenly and he will be sadly missed.

Letters: SDP rewrites D of P (1987)

Letters to the Editors from the June 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

SDP rewrites D of P

Dear Editors.

As a committed and active Social Democrat, you may think that I have nothing to offer the socialist debate. On the contrary, socialism is seen by many to be out of date and out of touch, and ripe for extinguishment by Mag T. In a true democracy. this should not be allowed to happen.

I offer a Social Democratic alternative to your Declaration of Principles. Make of it what you will.
  1. The ownership of the means of living is not in the hands of a human master class, but in the jaws of a faceless machine enslaving even those who believe they control it.
  2. The antagonism of interest lies between those who collaborate with this machine, and those who do not.
  3. The antagonism cannot be solved by the emancipation of particular collaborating classes, but only by abolishing those classes and enabling those trapped within to escape. The renewed vigour of those freed, working co-operatively for the benefit of each other, will lead to the downfall of the machine.
  4. The “working classes" are being corrupted and abused by the machine which created them. True emancipation can only occur by relinquishing all class distinctions.
  5. Every single person has the capacity to emancipate themselves by relinquishing his or her class, and recognising the common humanity of all.
  6. The wealth and power of Government, when controlled by those who have relinquished class, will no longer maintain and serve the machine, but will exist to protect all people and to enhance their lives.
  7. Political parties serving the interests of the collaborating classes are themselves bound together to the machine, and should be opposed as one.
  8. The SDP of Great Britain therefore exists to create and defend an open, classless and more equal society which rejects prejudice based on sex. race, colour or religion.
I look forward to the day when my party and yours can stand against each other at an election. Until then. I hope your readers will vote for our Alliance.
Yours sincerely.
Jeremy Morfey

We do welcome all contributions to the debate about socialism, especially from people who express thoughtful concern for democracy and an "open, classless society". Incidentally, the debate has been going on for well over a hundred years and countless politicians, like Margaret Thatcher, have dismissed the subject as closed, irrelevant or out of date. Yet it will not go away because it inevitably springs up again and again out of the conditions under which we live.

Our correspondent tackles the question head-on by arguing with our Declaration of Principles and substituting eight principles that he considers to be more true to reality. Let us examine these. The crucial clause in the alternative D of P is number Five, which says that it is possible to escape from ones class position by “relinquishing'' it. Well, it may be possible for an individual capitalist to relinquish their wealth. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us cannot relinquish our poverty. We may not all be starving or destitute but we cannot live on our wealth. However wishful our thinking we shall still be forced by our economic circumstances to sell ourselves to employers throughout our useful lives. This is what determines our class. Our function in society, and hence the pattern of our lives, will be as workers, whether we work in overalls or lounge suits; whether we are bossed around by others or are part of the management hierarchy ourselves. We are unable to relinquish our class position while capitalism lasts because our wage enslavement is the necessary condition for its continuing. It is out of the wealth that we produce, collectively as a working class, that the capitalist class in every country goes on expanding its wealth and the power of its state.

One of the ways of ensuring that virtually all society's wealth remains firmly in the hands of this minority is to keep the majority confused about it — ideally to persuade the working class that there is no capitalist class. All the major political parties are devoted to this objective. In this the SDP is in resolute agreement with Margaret Thatcher's party, as well as with the Labour and Liberal parties. They are unanimous in trying to deny the incontrovertible fact that society is forcibly divided into two unequal and inevitably conflicting sections of people.

Mr Morfey acknowledges that all is not well and offers his own explanation. In six of his clauses he refers to a "machine" — a machine with jaws but no face; a machine with which some people collaborate. and which others are "trapped within". but which can also have a "downfall". Obviously this is a metaphor; but metaphors should correspond closely with the reality they denote. Otherwise they lead to very faulty thinking. We use a metaphor in our Clause Six — the word "machine" to refer to the combination of people, organisations and equipment used by the state to defend and further the interests of the ruling class — this is the "state machine".

No one would claim that it is easy to understand. let alone describe accurately, the way modern society functions and is structured. Socialists rely heavily on earlier writers and thinkers, especially Marx and Engels. But we examine all ideas, even theirs, with ruthless scepticism. We try to make sure that the ideas correspond with our real, everyday experiences. Although our D of P was written in 1904, and its language shows this, it provides the basis for understanding what goes on in the modern world far more consistently and accurately than the theories which are produced with money provided by government or capitalist sponsors. We understand quite well why political parties such as the SDP hope to become involved in an interminable merry-go-round of forming governments. being thrown out. becoming a vociferous Opposition, campaigning to get back into office — and all the time real life for the great majority of us. the working class, is almost totally unaffected by it. A look at the government's own statistics about the ownership of wealth in Britain shows that our Clause One gives the facts, as opposed to expressing concern about a vague threat. This applies all through Mr Morfey's Declaration, but that is not good enough. The "political arena" is far too dangerous a battle ground to enter without knowing precisely what is happening and what is at stake.

Scepticism is dangerous

Dear Comrade,

In New Scientist (16 April page 51) Ian Anderson reports on the annual meeting of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal or SCICOP for short. The following is a quotation from his report which itself is a quotation from the meeting.
Polls have shown consistently that a majority of American teenagers believe in pseudoscience. Fifty-five per cent believe in astrology, for example. But reaching young people means changing the education system and Carl Sagan, in his talk, noted how hard that was going to be:

If we teach school children the habit of being sceptical, they may start asking awkward questions about economic, social. political and religious institutions. Scepticism is regarded as dangerous. It is the business of scepticism to be dangerous. That is why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools.
This interesting comment by Carl Sagan (a well known American astronomer) on education in capitalist sodety I feel certain would be of interest to readers of the Socialist Standard.
Best wishes.
Bill Williams
Wood Green

New Pamphlet: Socialism as a Practical Alternative (1987)

Party News from the June 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

This new pamphlet, published after wide discussion within The Socialist Party, is an important addition to socialist literature.

Starting from the position that a growing socialist movement will need to prepare programmes of action for transforming society and solving social problems in advance of the actual capture of political power, the pamphlet sets out a number of proposals for this with the proviso of course that it must be left to a greater number of socialists than at present to make a final decision on whether or not to accept them.

After the winning of political control and the formal abolition of all property rights, private or state, over the means of production, the immediate practical problem will be the setting up of a democratic decision-making and administrative structure and the gearing of the productive and distributive system to the direct supplying of goods and services to satisfy people's needs.

In addressing these questions the pamphlet points out that it will not be a question of starting from scratch — socialists are not in the business of constructing ideal systems — but of taking over and suitably adapting existing structures.

Thus, as regards administration, the existing machinery of political government would be converted by lopping off its coercive and class features while at the same time adapting and democratising its administrative ones. The basic unit of the new democratic decision-making structure is envisaged as being the local community which would elect its delegates to a local council having responsibility for local administration. Decisions affecting wider populations could be made by regional councils and global decisions by a world council composed of delegates from the various regions.

The organisation of production under capitalism today is also broadly divided into these three levels of world (raw materials), regional (industry and manufacture) and local (services) and this will continue to be the case after socialism has been established. Hence it would be a case of freeing the existing circuits of production and distribution from their subordination to value, cost and price considerations and of converting them into a system geared towards the direct supply of goods for consumption.

The pamphlet rejects the idea, sometimes
put forward by socialist writers in the past who had not thought through the question, of all production and distribution being planned by some "central directing authority". This is not only impossible how could all the millions and millions of decisions about production be "planned" from a single world centre? — but is also quite unnecessary. The mechanisms of the market and the use of money, says the pamphlet, can be replaced by what it calls "a self-adjusting system of production for use" which would operate on the basis of the communication of needs expressed, not as monetary purchasing power but directly as required quantities of materials and goods:
In practical terms, needs would arise in local communities expressed as required quantities of machinery, equipment, building materials, and the whole range of foods and consumption goods. These grammes, kilos, tonnes, litres, cubic metres of required materials and goods would then be communicated throughout the distributive and productive network. The monitoring and communication of needs, expressed as a demand on stock or required production, would be clear and readily known. The supply of some needs would take place within the local community (. . .) Other needs would be communicated to regional production units (...) Other needs would be communicated throughout the structure of production up to a world scale.
So in response to information about needs flowing from local communities the required goods and materials to satisfy those needs would flow back in the opposite direction. Such a flexible system would obviate the need for any central directing authority; the world level of the administrative structure would be limited to collecting statistics and organising the various world services (supply of certain raw materials, world communications and transportation, protecting the biosphere. space research) leaving the rest to be organised at local and regional levels.

It is true that capitalism will leave socialism with the problem of world hunger and misery. Solving this by ensuring that every person on Earth is adequately fed, clothed and housed will require a certain amount of "central planning", both for the immediate crash programme to stop deaths from starvation and for the development, in the regions of the world where the problem is concentrated, of the means for satisfying these needs (irrigation schemes, houses, roads, bridges).

However once this new infrastructure has been developed in the regions concerned, perhaps within ten to twenty years of the establishment of socialism, world production levels can be expected to platform off and the more decentralised self-adjusting system for supplying current needs described above can come into its own:
It can be envisaged that the centres of organisation. involved initially at the world and regional levels, could give way to more local administration for the work of providing for daily needs, the running of services and maintenance. What is possible here is a self-regulating society with work activity in balance with daily needs and in balance with the environment.
The pamphlet also discusses how the waste of capitalism could be eliminated, productivity increased and resources conserved in a socialist society.

(Socialism as a Practical Alternative, 45p postage paid, from Lit. Dept., The Socialist Party. 52 Clapham High Street. London SW4 7UN.)

SPGB Meetings (1987)

 Party News from the June 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard