Monday, 18 August 2008

slavery

The other day I had a very interesting but challenging conversation with an individual; about slavery, Cuba and the old Soviet Union that was. This person was convinced that Cuba and the Soviet Union under Lenin, but not Stalin, were the worlds first ever "Socialist States". In vain I tyred to point out that both countries were in fact Sate Capitalist controlled, with the means of production owned and run by the government and a replaced ruling class. Such conversations really do help to develop one's ability I feel, to take the socialist case and cultivate coherent arguments based upon fact and alternative. The harder the opposition and resistance, the more shackle's to knock off - the better. It's amassing the things that people perceived the world to be, and there concepts of what socialism is and how it would come about. In this case my equal thought that it would only be achieved in one country at a time, like it had been in Russia and then Cuba, and that it was necessary for a country like Cuba to trade with the rest of the capitalist world, in order to survive. He also thought that wage labour was not as bad as the black African slavery of 15th century. This was all fascinating and for days I have thought and gone over in my mind all the arguments and questions of that conversation. I like to think I know my own mind, and I like to think that I act on my principles. This has led me, at times, to work harder at politics. Knowing my mind, I also know that a good mind must be flexible and open to change. The older I get the more I realize that there are few absolutes and many perspectives, but no substitutes for socialism. I didn't learn easily. I argued, confronted, scoffed and denied. But in the end what the Socialist Party (SPGB) has been propagating for over a hundred years, blew my mind. Out of a sense of "yes let's get on with it.

"Slavery lives and thrives under capitalism as it has always done, as the terms wage slave; and slave to the job implies. No one will argue that Slavery (also called thralldom) is the same, the social-economic system under which persons - known as slaves - are deprived of personal freedom, compelled to work, held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, deprived of the right to leave, or to refuse work, or to receive compensation (such as wages) in return for their labor. Today it is estimated that 27 million slaves work without pay under threat of violence and unable to walk away, its not legal anywhere but happens everywhere. In the US 90 cities have been found to have labour slavery, they are enslaved cleaning houses, working on farms and coerced into the sex industry. Feudalism and the Peasants Revolt come to mind and the shout of King Richard to the peasants "you shall have no captain but me." Karl Marx described feudalism as the economic situation coming before the inevitable rise of capitalism. Marx defined feudalism as the power of the ruling class (the aristocracy) that rested on the control of arable land, leading to a class society based upon the exploitation of peasants who farm the land, typically under serfdom. So serfs were bound legally, economically and socially, whose labour landowners held property rights too, and if that was not bad enough spare a thought for the serf slave, they had the fewest rights and benefits and were given the least. They owned no land, worked for the lord exclusively and survived on donations and handouts from the landlord.

What we find the more we look into history and the past, is that slavery predates the written record and it can be found in almost all cultures and continents. Both Athens and Rome had slaves, at the same time, to be a slave in ancient Greece or Rome did not necessarily involve degradation. Unlucky slaves were sent into the army or the mines; lucky ones might serve as a tutor to children. Capitalism made the modern slaves that developed the nation, it forced rural people to move to the cities due to the loss of subsistence agriculture, and the theft of land.

I read that Kirk Douglas, the actor best known for his role in the 1960 film 'Spartacus' is campaigning for an apology for slavery, and that in July the US House of Representatives passed a resolution that apologized to the Black Americans for the inhumanity, injustice, cruelty and brutality of slavery. A similar bill is being considered for the Senate. But apologies are nothing new. They apologized to Japanese-Americans for confining them in concentration camps during World War II. And the US government apologized to the people of Japan for dropping the atom bomb on them. Earlier this year the Senate apologized to the Native American Indians, for the genocidal atrocities committed against them. However the damage and the deplorable conditions created by those atrocities are still being felt today, especially on reservations. A few years ago the Senate also apologized for the governments failure to intervene and put a halt to lynchings of approximately 4.000 African-Americans. What's that saying - "better - late - than - never"? But have better - late - than - never apologies and acknowledgment of wrong doing, made any difference.....

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